In South Asian or “desi” culture, the pressure to impress and keep your in-laws happy as a daughter-in-law is drilled into most desi girls from the get-go. Don’t get me wrong, when I do get married, I would want to make my husband’s family happy. I would want them to like me. But what’s the acceptable extent to go to make them happy? And should it cost our happiness?
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been a people pleaser. I hate the idea of disappointing and upsetting other people. So much so that many times in my life I have put the happiness of others before mine. Anyone who knows me will tell you that one of my worst habits is my inability to say ‘no’ to people who need help or want something. Now, whereas, this is sometimes great, for the most part, it means that people who notice this habit of mine often walk all over me. This is commonly what happens to many newlywed Asian brides when they are thrown into this alternate universe where their happiness comes second to their in-laws.’
I can assure you that most, if not all, desi people can tell you a horror story about someone they know and her relationship with her in-laws. A lot of desi newly-wed women are expected to cook three meals a day, clean the house, do the grocery shop, contribute to household costs from their own hard-earned money, she has to schedule with her mother-in-law when she can go out to meet friends or go to visit her family, dress the way her mother-in-law wants her to etc. My question is this: Is this girl your daughter-in-law or your puppet? Imagine this girl has married the love of her life, only for him to be blindsided and allow his parents, especially, his mother make this woman their slave. Tell me, has she married you or your son?
It honestly drives me insane how it is deemed okay or ‘normal’ for the husband to spend the entire night out with his friends, dress how he pleases and then not to lift a finger when it comes to housework. Instead, they’re probably adding to the pile of chores their wife is expected to complete by the days end. How can you sit and play FIFA as the non-existent role as a member of the household whilst watching your wife tirelessly slave away to keep you and your family happy?
The saddest part, however, is that more often than not no matter what the daughters-in-law do, no matter how many meals they cook, floors they mop and plans they cancel they will never be able to make their misogynistic in-laws happy. As we all know all too well that the minute most Asian aunties come together they will not miss a chance to compare their daughters and daughters-in-law and how many dishes they can make. Your daughter-in-law wasn’t born to impress the whole world. She has her own identity it’s not her fault that she doesn’t meet your unrealistic standards. Let’s not forget how aunties like to complain about how their “daughters and daughters-in-law don’t help around the house enough because they spend too much time on the phone, outside or in their room.” Whilst their lazy, grown-ass baby sons can do no wrong.
When was the last time you saw him cook for the family? Or iron his own clothes? These men practically get worshipped the minute they wash a dish on their own. You’re okay with your son waking up late but if your daughter-in-law does you raise your eyebrows or make a weird face. You’re expecting your daughter-in-law to uphold all of the household and family responsibilities as well as being a jobholder but, you’re okay with your son continuing to avoid any responsibility whatsoever. Why is that? Is it because he is a so-called “MAN” and it’s “unmanly” or obscure for a ‘man’ to do household chores or help out his wife? Last time I checked a “MAN” can look after himself.
The truth of the matter is, you have bought someone else’s beloved daughter into your house and she was probably super excited to start a new chapter of her life with her new family and a husband who she’s hoping to spend the rest of her life with. But, instead, she’s tired and probably lonely because she is working hard, endlessly to keep her in-laws and husband happy. She’s putting them before herself. But, how can she be expected to keep high spirits and everyone else around her happy when the same people are breaking her spirit and she, herself is not happy? This girl is someone else’s daughter, yes, but when she marries your son she becomes your daughter too, not your puppet or slave. So, stop excusing your lazy sons from doing their part around their house.
Yes, not everyone is born to be a chef but, last time I checked, changing the bedding or doing laundry is a basic ‘life skill’ and a person’s gender shouldn’t make them qualified or unqualified to complete basic household tasks. Why aren’t desi sons being taught from a young age that one day they’re going to have to help their wife make a home? Why aren’t they being taught to clean up after themselves and make chai for their parents and wife? Lose this mentality that you “are the in-laws, and so she is bound to lead her life in OUR way, otherwise, she can leave.” Stop this unrealistic expectation that your happiness comes before your daughters-in-law’s. Stop expecting so much when you’re not willing to meet her at least half way. Stop thinking that you are the centre of her universe and entitled to her full obedience. She is human. She has her own identity and certainly wasn’t born to impress everyone. She has a life. Don’t take that away from her.