BaeWatch: “My Mother-In-Law Expects Me To Handle The House Like She Does. I Can’t!’
When you’re living by yourself or with a partner, you can divide chores and do them according to your availability. Even if you are cooking yourself, you can make smaller portions and limited variety. There’s no pressure on you to make elaborate meals our Indian households are so used to. What people don’t realise is that the women who ran the house before us were essentially confined to the house, due to the work or due to restrictions placed on her. We are a different generation. We are financially independent, ambitious and used to a certain lifestyle. I don’t want to put cooking and cleaning before my career, especially if we can hire a help.
But some mothers in law don’t believe in that sort of a thing. They want their bahus to not just help around but do what they do. They want their bahus to cook breakfast, pack tiffin, make lunch and dinner. And this better be proper meals with dal, sabzi, roti and rice. Isn’t it unfair? They get mad if their son tries to share the load. Why should we face so many unnecessary obstacles to have a career? So you either do both or don’t work?
So when a woman wrote to us describing her situation, team Hauterfly decided to give her some advice.
It’s been hardly six months since I have been married to my partner. We fell in love and decided to get married because he’s an amazing and progressive guy but I knew his mother is not easy. She always preferred cooking on her own and whipped up elaborate meals, like we desis do. Which is fine and I would have rather appreciated if she didn’t force me to do the same. However, she has been a housewife and I am a working woman. Working from home right now has made things more difficult because the moment she sees me resting, she gives me a task. She expects me to take on from here and do domestic chores like she does. There’s no financial difficulty and we can afford a domestic help but she refuses. Now I am okay with helping around. Like sure, I can make breakfast but can I make every meal, and that too a proper Indian thali with multiple dishes? No! I have office work and this is not my choice to be so involved in domestic chores. What should I do?
“Let’s not run after the title of the world’s best bahu“
Mansi Shah, Managing Editor: “Ooooh, the thing that every desi girl faces in every desi household no matter how “progressive” they claim to be. Now, I do think that there should be equal distribution of chores, no matter whose primary responsibility it may be. You live in the house, you pull your own weight. That being said, most of us women aren’t willing to drop everything and become the susheel bahu the in laws expect. And when we are working, it can be taxing both mentally and physically. My first suggestion is that you sit her down and tell her what you are willing to do and not willing to do. Yes, she may get upset, since this is not what she was expecting but it’s okay. If she’s still adamant, say you’re busy when tasked with something. She should get the drift or she will finally scream out of frustration. You will have to outline what she can expect from you. Point is, don’t let the guilt and expectations make you get up every time she asks you to. Set the tone and you should be okay. Let’s not run after the title of the ‘world’s best bahu’ because we know except a mug, there’s not much to take from it.”
“Just hire a maid and a cook and tell her to take a chill pill”
Mitali Shah, Lifestyle Writer: “I’ve never been married but I have friends who are and they are all in the same boat. I think it boils down to the fact that MILs expect you to give her son the same treatment she has been giving him all his life. What they don’t understand is that you have a life and a career of your own. And it’s understandable that you might be apprehensive to say something considering you’re newly married but I would strongly advise you to speak to her. The sooner the better. Tell her that you are happy to help around the house but you can’t be making elaborate meals and doing household chores all the time since you have a job. And if she doesn’t understand, just hire a maid and a cook and tell her to take a chill pill and enjoy.”
“Talk to your husband and get him on board.”
Anjali Agarwal, Fashion & Beauty Writer: “Every desi mom wants her DIL to fill her shoes and yours isn’t any different. However, I sincerely hope your MIL is a nice lady who would understand if you sat her down and tell her it’s difficult for you to squeeze out time to make elaborate meals while juggling work. What you can do is come up with a system together where you could cook on the weekends and maybe mini meals on the work days since you said you don’t really mind that. As far as her giving you tasks anytime she sees you lounging goes, since she refuses to get a maid, you can suggest that everyone in the house can contribute towards household chores. Talk to your husband and get him on board with this idea before talking to her. After all, it’s not the job of only women to do all the house work.”
“In some situations you cannot completely put your feet down, you can draw boundaries.”
Akanksha Narang, Features Editor: “It’s very common for desi MILs to expect their DILs to contribute to household work even if she is a working woman. The son usually doesn’t have such expectations clawing at him. It’s not fair and while in some situations you cannot completely put your foot down, you can draw boundaries. You are willing to help around in the house but you do not have the physical and mental bandwidth to be heavily invested. And if you don’t stop now, it will become the norm. Eventually you will burn out and things can get ugly. Establish boundaries, make it clear that you can do certain chores and not more. Compartmentalise your time. After you get done with work, say it tires you out and you’d like to take some rest. Don’t push yourself too much; you’re burning the candle at both ends. You want to have a pleasant relationship with your MIL but you also want to have mental peace. Let your husband know that he must support you when this conversation has to be done. If he supports you, his mother may just back off. If nothing works, just make terrible food until they stop asking you to!”
Baewatch is Hauterfly’s weekly service to women everywhere. We are giving no-holds-barred, funny, interesting answers to your relationship problems. We’re not experts so you may end up married or broken up. It could go either way. *shrugs*