I am a 29-year-old married doctor, and I have a three-year-old son and an infant daughter. My husband is a banker and financially we are stable. I am doing post graduation training, which is a full-time residential training. I have to do 30 hours duty thrice a week, and have to leave my son with my parents. I am the only child of my parents and they don’t mind looking after my son at all. My parents have always supported me and they are still doing it. The problem is that I live in a joint family system with my parents-in-law and a brother-in-law and his family. Minor things that happen in every family system do happen here and at times become an issue. Since my mother- and sister-in-law remain at home they have a lot of time to think over these things and twist their meanings. These things disturbed me a lot when I was not working, but now I try my best to ignore them. My sister-in-law is quite cooperative and I share household work with her, but my mother-in-law constantly irritates me. She often criticises my cooking, and tell all guests and relatives that I don’t do anything because I go out daily to ‘enjoy’ myself. If I to go see my parents she says that since I go there every day to pick up my children, I should not go on holidays. During week days, when I go to pick or drop my son, I am in such a hurry that I don’t even go in. I just call my parents on cell and tell them to bring the kids out to my car, and my mother-in-law knows it. My husband is quite cooperative but has an attitude problem. He is fine and loving as long as I don’t bring up my problems with his father and brother, but if I tell him anything he gets annoyed. If I try to discuss anything with my mother-in-law, she starts crying. Once, when my mother-in-law told me not to visit my parents on Eid, I started crying and my father-in-law blew up his top and told my husband to divorce me. Since then, I have not done anything to make them angry because I don’t want to lose my children. My husband’s father and brother dominate him and when he tries to say anything in my favour they scold him in front of everyone. I used to share all these things with my mother, but it only makes her depressed and she feels guilty that she made a wrong decision for me.
I accept that these things go on in every family, but if my husband is good to me I can take it. My problem is that sometimes he praises me and tries to defend me, but sometimes he gets so angry that he vents out on me only. He apologises later, but it happens almost every week. My father- and brother-in-law say something against me and if I react the drama starts. The language they use is so bad that I just cannot remain quiet. Besides, my father-in-law never misbehaves with my sister-in-law. I don’t know what they have against me! I cannot think of leaving him because I don’t want to lose my children. I once asked my husband if he wished to leave me and he said he would rather die than divorce me. Besides, he is an amazing hands-on father and even if I get divorce and get the custody of children, I won’t be able to give them their father’s love. He does love me, but he cannot protect me from obscenities thrown at me by his foul-mouthed father and brother. I think of suicide but again my children will suffer and no one else. How can I make life bearable for myself?
Dear Powerless Mom,
The behaviour of your father- and brother-in-law is reprehensible, and it is very clear that they are mean bullies and dirty-minded at the same time. No decent man uses foul language in front of women, especially daughters and sisters. Your best bet is to slowly build your husband’s morale and courage. They have dominated him for a long time and he is in the habit of taking crap from them. He will not change overnight, so you have to really work at making him morally strong. Don’t tell him what his father and brother say to you: he knows it all. It is just his helplessness that makes him angry at you. The encouraging thing is that he loves the children and cares about them. Make him think about the effect of such behaviour on your children, especially on your daughter. Your daughter is too young to understand anything but at three years your son will soon be able to understand what is going on and it will have a bad impact on his mind and emotional development. How can a child become a confident and well-rounded adult if he grows up watching his parents being humiliated by other family members? It’s your husband’s duty to protect his children and you have to make him understand that he would fail as a father in his duty if he doesn’t take some steps to protect his children. Have you ever asked your husband to observe the difference with which your father-in-law treats you and his brother’s wife? Tell him that their children will have preferential treatment from his parents and your kids will compare the way they and their cousins are treated by their grandparents. Once your husband understands that if he doesn’t act now his children will grow up as unconfident and insecure individuals, he would be forced to do some serious thinking. He doesn’t mind the way his father treats him, but as a father he would feel different. Only you can make him realise how his weakness will affect his children. He does love you or else he would have divorced you at his father’s order, but he didn’t. This means that although he is weak, he is not totally spineless and you can build his courage. I hope you have the determination and courage to do what it takes to build your husband’s confidence. Best of luck!
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