Exploring Patriarchy – Chapter 3
There was equality at home – at least as much as MM wanted for herself. The nuclear family gives those who are flexible and creative with finding solutions options. She was learning pretty fast.
Gender equality within the larger family was another story. There were differences with food and a hierarchy that decided who got the best. She was last on the list – a woman in a family where men ranked first when it came to food. And she was a woman new to the family. There were many other small slights made without intent to hurt – just a way of establishing the system firmly when new women entered the family. They hurt MM, but it was not a big issue in the larger scheme of things as she and her husband had their own home. She kept silent knowing it was better to let these truths reveal themselves in time rather than air differences.
Later, confidence in her relationship with her husband would teach her to speak up and stand up for herself. The daughter-in-law gets equality only to the extent that other women in a family do, and expecting more or reaching for more needs quite a bit of skill so it doesn’t create discord. As I said earlier, MM was learning pretty fast.
The nuclear family offers a lot of freedom when both husband and wife take decisions jointly, and put each other first. They had this and MM actually loved her mother-in-law for one big reason. Two actually.
One. Mother-in-law lived 2 hours away from them and absence really does make the heart grow fonder. This distance gave MM and her husband a lot of space to grow into a family in their own way, and find their own friends and support systems. Independence works both ways, so this means one doesn’t get the benefit of leaning on one’s family for support during times of ill-health and struggle. But this actually worked well. MM was the support system for her husband. And, when she was not well the support system for herself.
It was better this way, because MM had very different eating habits from her in-laws and their cooking was so heavy that it often made her sick. Plus, MM had a much higher level of independence when sick that shocked her in-laws and had them running ragged with worry, and this was just too stressful for MM to see. It was easier looking after herself.
Two. Her mother-in-law, with all her customs and traditions, had managed to raise a caring son. And this had earned MM’s gratitude because she had seen many Indian families where this is not the case.
Still, it’s really the distance that keeps the love going, because gratitude only goes so far when the daughter-in-law is treated as less than the son in the Indian family.
There would come a time when their parents and in-laws moved closer. When MM and her husband would need to look after their parents. All parents – because unlike in many Indian families, this Indian family felt that the parents of both husband and wife were equally important to them.
Would MM and her husband manage to support and look after their parents while holding onto the new ways that make them happy? They hoped so. They wanted to. And they would certainly try when the time arrived I think.
A Wonderful Woman
She’s a wonderful woman – that’s all I can say let’s us make our mistakes and find our own way. No protests when we make our housework easy with routines and ideas that would drive her crazy. She teaches us her wisdom when we’re sinking or stuck and we bring some change when she’s gotten into a rut. The old and the new – they slowly merge and become tradition over the years. Time will pass by and we’ll all grow older and that wonderful woman will need to live closer. Then, we’ll need some routines that keep the space needed to keep the love alive during this different phase. A Saas and a Bahu. But not like on TV. We'll look for routines that bring togetherness. With love. And with freedom.
I invite you to read all chapters of Exploring Patriarchy and walk with Microwave Madam as she explores the impact of patriarchy on her life and on society. And looks for solutions.