Have you ever been in a situation where you’ve been judged for the simple choices you make as a woman and labeled as disrespectful for them? Well, I have, and today I want to share my tale of woe with you. It was back when I had just had my baby and had gone back to my in-law’s house. They were a family that followed strict rules, and my mother-in-law would wait for every slight chance she got to make it known to me that I was doing something wrong. After my delivery, I spent three blissful months in my mother’s house and was dreading going back to my orthodox in-law’s place. “How different would things be?”, I thought to myself, remembering all the times that I was expected to follow the “typical Indian bahu’s role”.
Just after my wedding, my husband and I wanted to move into our own place to start our lives together. But my mother-in-law was dead against it. She said that no one in her family has ever done it, and it would look shameful among her friends and family. We decided to stay with them for a few years because we didn’t want to cause a scene. But to be honest, I wish we moved.
Some issues would creep into our lives every day. My mother-in-law would comment on my upbringing every time I slept in for an extra hour. She would take a dig at my dressing if she saw me in my night shorts, and all hell would break loose if my husband (her precious son) cooked a meal for me. Every member of the household, especially my mother-in-law, had a mindset that belonged to the time when women’s roles were confined to the four walls of the kitchen and being a baby machine. That might sound harsh, but it was the reality, and I was sick of it.
When I was growing up, I saw how my mother was expected to wake up in the wee hours of dawn and prepare tea for the whole family. She had to shower, dress up and look “presentable” before the other members of the house woke up only because she was the bahu. I had always found these customs strange and questioned their stance. Little did I know that I would end up in a household with similar mindsets that I’ve fought all my life to stay away from!
After I came home with my little one, I was still expected to follow the “rules”. I had to look a certain way, act a certain way and dress a certain way. Being a new mom is challenging in itself, but now I had to assume the role of a 1940’s daughter-in-law? I had had enough, and I realized that it was time to put my foot down! One morning as I woke up and walked to the kitchen to make myself a cup of tea, my mother-in-law began to comment on my appearance. She said that a mother should wear a bindi and dress appropriately, not waltz around in pajamas, a tee, and a messy bun. I couldn’t take it anymore. This was the perfect time to speak my mind.
I finally mustered up the courage to speak up and called her out. I was asked to bite my tongue about many things, and I let her know everything I ever wanted to. I didn’t want my daughter growing up in a house with such a mindset, and I informed her that we would be moving out soon. It was our time to start a family with the values we want to imbibe. And trust me when I say this, it was the best decision we ever made!