My sister and I are two girl kids in the family. My mom and dad stopped having babies after my birth since my birth was a tad bit complicated. I have heard from my parents the amount of talk that followed after this decision because they have not conceived a boy child yet. Later on, I would think – Is it easier giving birth to a girl child? Does the pregnancy pain scale go down from a 10 to say 8 for a girl child?
And, how does one set of parents turn more important than the other set of parents?
Childhood: Both me and my sister used to perform pretty well in school. During this time one of the most common phrases that I used to hear being told to my mom was that – It is easy for you to say because you have two girls. They study on their own because they are born that way. Right from that very little age a (not so good) privilege is bestowed upon the boy child. It is as if, their laziness to study is being justified by the fact that they were born in a different gender. The mom of the boy child further goes on to prove this by saying since he is a boy he wants to play all the time and he won’t listen to me when I ask to study. To which I used to think in my mind – I would also like to play all day and spend my time after school watching movies!
Teenage: It was one of my biggest wishes ever to experience hostel life during college. In fact, both me and my sister stayed in the hostel during our undergraduate studies. To this day I believe almost all of the life lessons I learned are because I stayed and experienced hostel life. However, in our country, it not uncommon to find parents of girl children worrying to send their child to a hostel. I have been told personally by some of the elderly ladies that being in a hostel gives you a bad reputation in the marriage business. One should wonder why is it not happening the other way around since boys are the most exposed to peer pressure and bad habits during hostel life. And yet in our culture, a guy who studied abroad and stayed away from home is a hero while the same accomplishment by a girl is considered a negative mark.
Then comes marriage, the most important phase, and the stage where the repercussions of all these unwanted privileges come to a full circle. Around four years back when it was time for my marriage, there was this hugely unsettling anxiety that built up in my mind. It was not because I did not love the man I was going to marry. It was because I was worried and sad about the fact that I now have to leave my family. In our culture, it is an ancient but unwritten rule that after marriage the bride belongs to the groom’s family. That once she has been married off, the groom and his family have the power to make her decisions. It is not written anywhere, it is not a hard and fast rule but it is the rule because it has been the tradition.
Over the years I have tried to find out plausible reasons for this tradition. In ancient times the girl was not sent to school, her only purpose in life (as per the minds of the then people) was to get married and serve a husband’s family. But is that the case now? Parents spent as much money as they spent on a boy child for giving their princess the best education ever. They give her the best in everything. Girls and boys in most households these days are raised as equals. Yet, even now in the marriage business, the bride’s family comes second to the groom’s. I have seen in wedding halls where the groom’s family walks around as if they belong to the King’s side and the bride’s family keep fussing to provide them every ounce of comfort. The priority is not to create any dissatisfaction to the groom’s side not even for a fraction of a second.
And the funniest part is how the bride, has to take charge and be the new daughter of this entirely new house where she has just entered from the first day. The bride is no longer introduced as a new member after week one. However, things are different for the groom. Even after 30 years of marriage, the girl’s family considers her husband as the newly wed ‘groom’. When he visits they go out of their bounds to make all the delicious dishes and make him comfortable! What has he done to receive that kind of respect? Everything he has gone through- childhood, teenage, education, job everything has been endured by the girl as well. And so the answer remains – Nothing.
Nothing has been done additionally by the groom to deserve that extra attention.
Sometimes I do feel it is the family of the bride themselves that keep these traditions alive. True, they have raised a girl but is it not an equally challenging task. So why does this one-sided respect happen? And my belief is that it is this one-sided respect that leads to the zillion family fights that happen afterward. For this article, I have tried to decode the thought processes of the various members of this tangled web created by marriage from their own point of view.
The bride – I have found my life partner. I am so happy now that I can spend the rest of my life with him. But why do I have to leave my family for this? I don’t want to push my parents down just because I want to be with my partner. They are and they will be forever my parents. My most favorite people in this world. Of course, I would love my in-laws and accept them in my life. They are not bad people but I would not let them diminish my parents ever. There is enough love in this world to be shared amongst all.
The mother-in-law – I have suffered so much from my own mother-in-law when I came here as a newlywed. (And to give credit where it is due, more than often the mother in law would have suffered greatly when she herself was a new member in the family) . I would not let my daughter-in-law suffer that much. I do not want to be the villain in their life. But I do have to teach her some basic virtues so that she can be a part of our family. After all, it is nothing when compared to what I have been through. I will just point out and correct her mistakes. And she is my son’s wife and new to this household, she must learn to respect us. But the daughter-in-law who has already heard and seen from the various sources how much trouble a mother-in-law could cause cannot bear the judgemental statements made by this new mother of her’s.
The father-in-law – I have to support my wife at least now because I was helpless and could not lend her my support when she came to this family as a new bride. And after all, someone should teach this new girl the systems of the house and make her a member of our family.
The groom – I know my mother sometimes makes life difficult for my wife, but I cannot blame my mom because I have seen her suffer so much. She does not deserve more suffering. This is how the system works. I do not want to meddle in these issues too much, instead, I would try and do my best to keep both parties happy.
Family of the bride – She is our little daughter and will be ours. It is sad that she has to leave us but it is the system and it has to be done. If not we will be alienated from this society. However we would not let her suffer, so we will continue to protect her in our own ways.
Now comes the most interesting scenario where the groom’s family themselves have a girl child who has been married off as well. The sister-in-law. This is that member of the family who is like the character in a movie that turns out to be unpredictable. Because she might have already gone through the same shit in another household. She might have suffered in her own way. And her own family is now, her main source of comfort and she does not want to lose that connection. She fears that this new member might jeopardize her position.
And the mother-in-law who has been brave and given her own little princess to another family does not wish to replace her with this new bride of her son. In her mind, her true daughter is always the one to whom she gave birth to. The one who had been by her side during all her worries and sad moments. Yet it is continued to be said out loud that the bride should be the new daughter of the family – only because society dictates so.
So see, no one wants to change the current relationship priorities but they are all willing to accept and add new relationships in their lives. The bride is willing to accept her in-laws as in-laws, her husband’s parents who deserve to be loved and respected. But she is not ready mentally to reduce her priority for her own parents. And the mother and father-in-law are willing to accept the bride as their son’s wife, a new member of the family. They are willing to love her but they can’t accept her as their daughter, at least not as soon as the marriage happens.
In the end, what both ends need is just TIME- Give it time, let each relationship blossom. Do not expect the bride to change in one day, to forget her habits and take charge and be a new daughter. She has come from a totally different family with different habits that have been a part of her life for the past 25 years. It is okay for the in-laws to take their own time to consider this new member as their daughter. It is practically impossible to build that kind of mental attachment from the first week. It takes time.
However, the sad truth in our society is that nothing is given the time.
Not even the relation between the couple themselves. To begin with, most marriages in our country still happen to be arranged, The couple might themselves not know of each other’s strengths and weaknesses. But even before they try to figure this out there is a unanimous pressure from the society to add an additional relation – to bring a child into this web. Suddenly all ends turn out doctors trying to keep up another tradition alive – that the girl must give birth before she turns thirty. Anyways most relations turn out to get even worse due to this baby pressure. Parenthood is not the ultimate result of marriage.
‘But this is how tradition survives -because people are willing to die for all these ideas.’
Let the relationships grown in their own time, until then do not push it. Do not force it. It will happen but not like magic. Above all respect should not be something that is given based on one’s gender, age or size even. Respect should be and must be for all.