How I worked on my relationship with my mother-in-law and got back to a job

Susmita Barman
woman with older woman

My mother-in-law decided that I wouldn’t continue working

I was barely into my first job in Kolkata when my marriage got fixed. With my first salary came the sentence – I was to wed at the end of that year.

The men, my husband and father-in-law, were progressive and wanted me to pursue a career instead of sitting idle at home. However, the road ahead wasn’t easy. The deciding authority was my mother-in-law. She vehemently opposed the idea, citing baseless reasons. I, being a submissive newly married bahu, kept mum, shedding tears silently.

I lacked the guts to confront my mother-in-law and dropped the idea of working. Though restarting my career after the wedding didn’t happen soon, I never lost hope. I would keep reminding myself about possibilities and better times that would some day come my way. I challenged myself into altering my mother-in-law’s mentality. A tough task, but worth every effort.

Related reading: 7 ways working women living in a joint family balance their roles

The family ties changed

Two years into marriage we had a new family member, my daughter. Sadly, very soon and unexpectedly we lost my father-in-law. The daily scene in the house was that of my newborn wailing and crying, plus my widowed mother-in-law behaving like an inconsolable child. While attending and wiping both their tears I lost myself completely in the cacophony of sound and confusion. The only bright side is that my resilience and patience struck a chord with my mother-in-law. She realised I was a pillar of strength and support.

Time passed and my little one entered preschool. One day, while dropping her off, I overheard that the school was looking for substitute teachers. Immediately, I seated myself before Singh Aunty, the principal, and expressed my desire to work as a substitute Nursery class teacher. An opportunity had crossed my path and I wasted no time in grabbing it. How my mother-in-law would react didn’t deter me from plunging into action. This time I was hell bent on making it work. My career restart button was on and glowing.

Related reading: My in-laws want me to quit my job and stay at home to look after them

I decided to have it out with her

At the lunch table I shared the turn of events and my decision to work. With my husband in office, I wanted this to be a one-on-one talk. My mother-in-law remained mostly silent. Ending her meal she said, “Three hours part time shouldn’t be a problem.” Bingo! The rock solid very cold ice-like mind-set was melting…finally!

Having worked seven years in preschools across cities Kolkata and Noida, now I work from home as a content writer based out of Thane, Maharashtra. For almost 4 years I’ve been developing content for various projects. I’m earning, independent and what makes me happy is good client feedback. I’m the first woman in my family, on both parents’ and in-laws’ sides, to work from home on writing assignments. It’s a thing my folks love sharing with the world. What my mother-in-law does is totally another level – she promotes my work status with pride and a smile.

I began slowly and softly

Right from the time I married, my relationship with my mother-in-law was that of a Hitler boss and a dutiful subordinate. In boss lady style, she would pass judgements and treat me like her mirror image, which I wasn’t. Though I did give in to her whims and fancies in the beginning, with time I lost no opportunity to prove my individuality. She understood I was of different mettle and that I was like sand that slips out of a closed fist. My integrity towards her and the house was indomitable. All I demanded was some space, scope to work and a support system to find my ground.

All I demanded was some space, scope to work and a support system to find my ground.

I’m glad I was able to influence my mother-in-law in the correct way. Today, she not only enquires about my work, but also expresses happiness at my accomplishments.

My work status reveals the positivity and energy of women’s empowerment. My mother-in-law took notice of this unknown facet which she had ignored, because hailing from an orthodox super rich family, she and her sisters were prohibited from treading outside. Women supporting women wasn’t her idea. The shift in focus and change of mind-set made her accepting and liberal. It was a Herculean task, but I was adamant. It’s what levelled my relationship quotient with my mother-in-law.

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