Being Women

Your MIL Is The Mother Of The Man You Love: Always Remember To Give Her Due Respect

Relooking at our Mothers-in-law from a different persspective.

Calling my MIL, ‘Amma’

My mother was giving her soon-to-be-married daughter instructions.

“I will never call my MIL “Amma,” I said furiously, scowling and muttering angrily at her, who, like all the other mothers, bore the brunt of badly behaved children the world over.

“It’s only in the TamBram community that we call our MIL “Amma,” and she can never be one!”

The dilemma of every daughter’s mother

My long-suffering mother brushed aside my protests with her characteristic ‘That’s the way of life’ shrug, which always rubbed me the wrong way. My parents, like scores of others, were caught up in the norms that were dictated by societal expectations. They wanted to educate us sufficiently to get ourselves a job and stand on our own if need be, yet they wanted to complete their responsibility of getting us married and ‘settled’ as early as possible with a suitable groom.

Parents, particularly my own, were concerned enough to look for finances, familial support, education, and lineage but rarely for wavelength and ability to get along. They presumed, like in most arranged marriages, that love and affection would be the natural outcomes of proximity.

My dilemma

Being educated enough to want the moon yet not equipped enough to get it was the youngsters’ problem, and I was no different.

Closet feminist that I was, the dictates of “then” society did not enchant me. I was neither brave enough to come out of the closet nor able to actually be the girl or woman I was supposed to be. So I was caught in flux.

Becoming an Aide to my MIL

Then I got married and entered a more traditional family. Full of dos and don’ts, I was sometimes guided, sometimes chastised. My nose was kept firmly on the grindstone. My mother was also traditional, but my MIL was much more so. Clad in a nine-yard sari, she gave me jitters. Formidable cook that she was, her culinary skills were legendary. Her rasam used to be the talk of the town, and I was all thumbs and needles in her presence.

My resentment was more because I was like her ‘chief aide,’ running to do her bidding but never at the receiving end of the compliment. On the contrary, any delay in serving was attributed to my inability to meet her demands!

Being the third daughter and with my father’s heart trouble raising its hydra head in my pre-marriage days, I was actively encouraged to carry out chores that involved banking, booking railway tickets, going to the post office, and other activities that would ease my father’s chores. Hence, my culinary skills were limited but sufficient enough to feed myself and others who had less exacting models to emulate.

That was in 1988.

The truce

My MIL breathed her last in 2011. Till then, we had an uneasy truce, for we were both connected by the same man. I took care of her through all her surgeries, and she, in turn, taught me to be a versatile cook. All through, I was under the impression that I put up with her out of a sense of duty, but now, at the ripe old age of 58, I realise that she must have also put up with me, out of her love for her son, and for the fact that I was after all her choice!

Why, then, this post?

The realisation

I suddenly realised that despite the joke, “Please don’t tell me how to bring up my children, dear MIL,” I am living with one of yours that would do with improvement; her son is indeed a blessing to me, warts and all.

When my father died, it was my husband who did the last rites diligently, and now that my mother is bedridden, our house has been made welcoming for her. All through 2018 and 2019, I had been travelling frequently to be by her side with nary a protest. Both of these qualities in my husband are definitely not inherited from me! He is extremely responsible, loyal, and committed to our relationship.

Again, I have nothing to do with that quality. He has never once, in the past 35 years, left me without financial or physical help when I was hospitalised. Never has he refused to take care of me or our children, and again, I have nothing to do with that aspect of his character. Every morning, I look at my MIL’s photo and thank her for providing me with a man who was first and foremost her son and whom she had brought up with all the qualities that make me happy.

I wish…

  • I wish I had communicated with her more with the thought of ironing out differences rather than thinking that we would always be at loggerheads.
  • I wish I had seen the platform from where she operated rather than see it as a way to thwart me.
  • I wish I had told her that she did a fine job with her son and brought him into my life.

A message for today’s generation

Today, when I see girls entering a marriage like a war zone, willing to keep all relatives, particularly the in-laws, as out-laws, a small piece of advice comes to mind: ‘Your MIL too is a woman who has sacrificed for her family. 

  • Communicate your feelings.
  • There are bound to be differences, yet remember that she gave you the greatest gift on earth: the man you love and cherish.
  • Be the first to extend the olive branch. If thwarted, let it go, but try not to break your husband’s relationship with that woman who bore him for you to be with.
  • He is your husband and father to your children, but he remains your MIL’s son.

On this Mother’s Day, I thank the lady who gave me her flesh and blood to call him my own.


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One Response

  1. Only after certain period of marriage we do realise the place of our in-laws in our life. But better accept them as own people then rivalry…

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