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Tue, 03, 20

During the last 10 years, my mother-in-law gained a lot of weight as her routine is very unhealthy....

Dear Nadine,

I am a housewife, and have been married for 10 years. I have two sons and a daughter, and we live with my parents-in-law. My husband, T, has two older sisters, who are both married. T is a good husband normally, and a good son, too. Now, looking after three young children, plus the house work is in itself a tough, fulltime job. My mother-in-law is not bad with me, but only a couple of weeks after I got married, she gave me all the responsibilities and said it was my house as the only daughter-in-law and I must run it by myself.

During the last 10 years, my mother-in-law gained a lot of weight as her routine is very unhealthy. She gets up around 10 AM, and after having breakfast she watches TV till 1PM. Then she offers zuhr prayers, has lunch, and sleeps. She gets up around 5 PM, and always takes snacks with evening tea. Then she is back in front of TV till dinner. With no activity and bad eating habits, she has become very fat. Few weeks back, she slipped and fell and broke her collarbone and fractured her left leg. Now she is on bed, and I am supposed to nurse her as well. I don't mind giving her medicine and cooking what she wants, but cannot do the intimate stuff! Her daughters come together to see her twice a week, chat with her while I cook food for them. I mean to say that they add to my work because they don't lift a finger to help their mom. They say it's their mother's home and since they are married daughters, it's my responsibility to look after her.

My husband has engaged a maid who comes in at 8 AM and stays till dinner time. She changes my mother-in-law's pamper before leaving, so it usually works out. She is off on Sundays, and another maid is there to look after my mother-in-law's needs who has been hired for Sundays only. This maid is tricky; about three weeks back, she came for a couple of hours and then said she had a family emergency and went early. So my husband asked me to change his mom's pamper. I said I couldn't do it and he should call his sisters. He was not happy, but he called his sisters without telling them why. They came and were very angry. They did their mom's work, but told my husband that they are not 'masis' (maids) and he must not do it again. The problem is that I am also not willing to be the 'masi'! If they think this job is beneath them and they are the daughters, why should I do it when I don't even have any affection for my mother-in-law? What if her relatives say I am heartless? Do you think I am overreacting? What should I do?

Upset Daughter-in-law

Dear Upset Daughter-in-law,

The behaviour of your sisters-in-law, to say the least, was reprehensible. Taking care of their mother is not your responsibility; it's theirs, and it does not make them 'masis'. The concept that married daughters are absolved of responsibilities to their parents is not Islamic at all; our religion says that offspring are responsible for parents. Nowhere is it said that parents are sons' responsibility. However, it's not your mother-in-law's fault that she has such mean daughters. Since you don't want to do certain chores, you need to manage things in such a way that at all times you can call someone for emergencies. If you can pay well, you can find help. Besides, hopefully, your mother-in-law will be able to go to the washroom in six weeks' time. Till then, just make sure that you have cover if one of the maids ditch you. No one should judge you for not wanting to see to your mother-in-law's needs. As for relatives, don't care about what they say. If your sisters-in-law say anything to them, they will have to admit that they are not willing to be 'masis'. And your husband can hardly say anything since he has seen his own sisters' behaviour. Just make sure that someone is there to look after her. Best of luck!