Dear Nadine Khan,
I am a 31-year-old, married working woman. I have been working for the past six years at a good position. My husband, R, is 30 and we work for the same organisation but in different sections. We met at company events few times and fell in love. Two years back, we got married. My husband is a true gem, and he is very caring and considerate. We live in a joint family set-up, with two of my married brothers-in-law. The major responsibility for running the house is borne by my husband. The reason is that he was the last one to get married since he is the youngest among his siblings, and his two older brothers have children and their tuition fees and other expenses are considerable, but they also earn well and are at good positions. They don’t contribute to any household expenses like rent, bills, grocery, etc. My other two brothers-in-law went abroad when they were young and we don’t have contact with them. Despite all that he is doing, there are a lot of restrictions on my husband and me; like we are not free to come and go like normal people, especially if we are invited by my side of the family. I can go to work but if I am not back by 6pm, a big fuss is created by my mother-in-law. My husband does not answer back to his mother, so he stays quiet. The surprising thing is that if any of his brothers or sisters-in-law ask him to drive them somewhere, my mother-in-law has no problem with it. She hates it when I go to visit my parents. Even though my mother’s house is three-minutes away, she calls me two to three times.There are many other petty issues: on my first Eid, I got only Rs500 as eidi. But, right in front of me, my mother-in-law gave Rs5000 as eidi to my sisters-in-law. My husband also noticed this discrimination, but just told me to ignore it. He did, however, get me a diamond ring as eidi when the markets re-opened after Eid. His mother did not like the gesture and gave him a lecture on wasting money. She even told me that I shouldn’t have let him spend so much. The irony is that even the eidi money that she ‘wasted’ on my sisters-in-law was given to her by R, as she told him she needed Rs15000 to give eidis. Just to give me a tough time, she dismisses maids frequently. When I come back from work, I have to do the leftover dirty dishes from lunch and evening tea, and prepare dinner. I make breakfast for my parents-in-law before going to work as well.
Since past few weeks, she has started saying that I should resign as I am expecting. I have consulted with my doctor and she says that I am healthy and there is no reason to quit.
R is a very good guy, and he makes up for his mother’s bad behaviour, but I feel frustrated because I cannot say anything to her; R has made me promise to not answer her back. My sisters-in-law are ok, but then why shouldn’t they be? My mother-in-law is very affectionate towards them because they are her nieces, and she selected them for her sons. Just because we had love marriage, I have to suffer. Can you imagine how it feels to go out after my mother-in-law has gone to sleep like thieves? I guess the only good thing about my mother-in-law is that she goes to bed at 9 pm religiously. Still, it irks and I have to ignore the snide smiles of my sisters-in-law. They don’t tell her because so many of their errands are taken care of by R!
What should I do to make my husband realise that I can’t go on living under the same roof as her forever? I am sick of her negative treatment and want to separate from her. Please advise.
Dear Frustrated Person,
Your mother-in-law is maybe a very unreasonable person, but you are one lucky woman because your husband is a gem. My dear, you are understandably chagrined at the very unreasonable and discriminatory behaviour of your mother-in-law, but the reason you feel you cannot take it anymore could be your pregnancy. Hormonal changes during pregnancy can be pretty overwhelming and can impact the mood of the mother. Experiencing joy, anxiety, anger or depression is pretty normal in your condition. So don’t be too hasty in taking a decision that you might regret later. After the birth, if you wish to continue working, it would be difficult for you to cope on your own. Your mother-in-law may not like you, but she wouldn’t mind supervising your baby’s maid. And, there is always the possibility that she will thaw after seeing her grandchild. If this doesn’t happen and she continues to treat you the same way, you can always split. It’s your right to have a separate home and you can exercise this right whenever you want. But, the way things are nowadays it’s not safe to leave children on maids and babysitters alone, so for your baby’s sake, perhaps you can give it a try. Good luck!
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Write to Prof. Nadine Khan, c/o Editor ‘You!’ magazine, The News, Al-Rehman Building (4th Floor) I.I. Chundrigar Road, Karachi.