Introduction One Member of this website had suggested that this author write another article on "how to treat your mother-in-law as your mother" as a sort of balance to the earlier article on how to treat your daughter-in-law as your daughter in the new family to which she goes to.
There are other variables involved too. If one does take such such small baby steps, the results will always be very good. The entire family can have peace and harmony if we a) Cultivate the spirit of give and take as a rule b) Forget and forgive small lapses c) Celebrate the small success of every family member d) Give maximum importance to caring and sharing of new relatives and e) Network with the wider circle of friends and involve everyone.
At the very outset, let me explain that I have drawn only from some good positive experiences. In other cases, where the trend was negative certain actions were advised by elders and these were also implemented. Such references are also quoted in the following paragraphs. For reasons of space, the discussion is not complete. It is fairly indicative.
Cultivate the spirit of give and take as a rule Some 24 months ago, a week after the marriage of her son with a nice girl, employed in a bank, the college teacher mother-in-law, remarked: "irandu kai that tidal thanae oosai". This Tamil saying goes like this: don't you need two hands to clap? This remarkable wisdom was put into action. The young girl was never allowed to do cooking all alone. She had her mother-in-law's support. However, she was good at preparing some Punjabi vegetarian dishes. She was immediately praised for it by everyone. The father-in-law, who had retired, always encouraged the girl to do whatever she liked. For instance, he encouraged his son and the daughter-in-law to eat out every week. This encouraged the couple to open out and discuss any issue. The sister-in-law also settled in the same city, came calling and complained about the poor quality of food prepared. The mother-in-law immediately told her to check her words. The boy, whose expectations from his wife (and vice versa) was based on realities, enjoyed the experiences. Particularly the time they spent together on the dining table. Within six months, the girl had learned how to cook very well. The crux of this story is that the elders had allowed the girl to have her own way in the initial days until she settled down. When this is done, the good feelings are reciprocated. Since the family is distantly related to me, they narrated every single experience and the emphasis was always on encouraging the new entrant in the family.
There were a few nasty instances too. The daughter-in-law had a nasty boss from the Corporate internal audit department who barked at her for some small lapse. She was in a bad mood for almost four hours. The in-laws did not ask her a single word. She locked herself inside the air-conditioned bedroom. When the husband was back, the wife cried and narrated what had happened. This MBA husband, then into a middle management role in operations and marketing with an FMCG company, counseled his wife and made her understand the reason. Such opening out made a huge difference. Within two years, there is only peace in the family.
Forget and forgive small lapses In another case, a very close friend of mine, narrated this story. The daughter-in-law was peevish from day one. She wanted complete control over her husband. The in-laws just wanted love and affection. They never got it. The elders knew that by forgiving her, she will slowly realize her fault. It so happened that when the girl became pregnant, she wanted to immediately go to her father's house. The elders said yes and did not utter a single word. Six months after the child was born, the girl returned to join her husband. This guy was furious that she did not even call on her in-laws even once. A bitter quarrel followed. However, the elders counseled the son to be patient. Within two days, following heavy rains, the daughter-in-law herself became very sick. The child had to be taken care of. Not only did the daughter-in-law receive big medical attention, the mother-in-law simply took over and did all the work. The girl was stumped by the affection shown. In the meanwhile, the mother of the girl came calling. She understood the situation quickly.
When she was normal, the daughter-in-law asked for forgiveness for her bad behavior on all earlier occasions. Though the mother-in-law was just a matriculate of those good old days, she was so patient. One does guess that this patience is exactly what is a need in most cases. In very rare cases, where the girl cannot be changed at all, divorce may be the only solution. In most of such cases, after a lull period, the man or the woman get married happily and divorce is no more a strange thing at all. Much would depend on the situation. However, in most of the situations, some patience is exactly what is called for. It should be noted that this community is known for promoting harmony in their families. They are essentially non-vegetarian, but the elders are quickly giving up eating meat, mostly after the age of 50.
Celebrate the small success of every family member This may look deceptively simple, but it is not. The two-year-old child also wants to be appreciated for just moving a small ball. When parents encourage the child to be a free child by doing whatever he or she wants to do, and then quickly following it up with words of appreciation, a new world opens up for the child. It is commonly observed that such children are very positive and have a pugnacious attitude when they grow up. Every small achievement, like getting a prize in an essay competition, needs to be appreciated. The happiness and peace that results can be easily seen. It is the emotional intelligence that will come to play.
Give maximum importance to caring and sharing of new relatives This is another very important aspect. For, the family does not stop with the daughter in law or the son-in-law. From whatever I have seen, wherever the bonding is good and the caring of the in-laws on the other side is good, the reciprocation is also very good. They respond very well and the caring and sharing are very good too.
It does take some effort to do this. Constant queries on the well being of people on the other side will first lay the good foundation. Rendering whatever help is needed in any crisis situation will also help a great deal. Furthermore, at least one visit to the house of the people, even if they happen to live 2500 kilometers away, is a must. This gives way to good emotions and feelings amongst the boy or the girl or both. It may look like common sense, but this common sense is not common. The parents of the boy or girl stand on prestige and use every opportunity to find fault. This is absolutely ridiculous and can only spoil relationships. This is just not on. When there is caring and sharing, the good results will automatically follow.
Network with the wider circle of friends and involve everyone The wisest of people do not even stop with the relatives on the other side. They would get the phone numbers of all relatives and keep talking to them very often. For example, the sister of the mother-in-law on either side. When this happens, the relationships become very solid and peace and harmony is very good in the family. Within the family, every effort is made to engage with every friend who is known to the family and even visit their houses very often. This sort of networking is a very vital aspect of good relationships and can lead to peace and happiness in families.
Conclusion There is never a last word on human relationships. If it happens that the relationships are somewhat strained, some counseling may help. There is no magic formula for anything. Much would depend on the situation. The positive vibrations seen in the aforesaid true life experiences can offer some clues. However, there is nothing that is a full stop in most cases. How we bring about peace and happiness is a really challenging task, in any situation. Anywhere in India.