9 Tips to Being a Great Daughter in Law

I married my husband after a long, happy romance. I was excited about getting married, and happy because we had none of the pre-wedding struggles that our Hindi movies have so scared us with. So here I was, believing I was living a dream till I woke up the morning after the wedding.

People weren’t talking to me much. They were stiff around me. And breakfast wasn’t ready yet. I was wondering what was happening when the help called me aside and told me I had to wake up earlier – because now I wasn’t in my parents’ house any more. Also, I had to be part of the breakfast-making. I stared at her in horror.

That was then, and today, I am a veteran at this whole daughter-in-law game. I still remember that morning’s horror though – and that is why I decided to write down all the things that have helped me get where I am today – you girls about to get married can thank me later!

1. I’ll never be a daughter and it is okay. No matter how warm and loving my in laws are, they will never replace my own parents for me, will they? Likewise, I will always remain their son’s wife, and not become their own kid. I’ll always be seen, interpreted and judged differently, and it’s really okay. This means that someday I, and I alone, will be able to give these folks the kind of security that only a bahu and not a beti  can.

2. The husband isn’t any help. I used to think that I could deal with my in law issues if my husband only stood by me. In fact, I’d probably not have as many issues if he only stood by me. But I realised later that he wouldn’t be any help at all. He’s my husband and her son, so either way, he is in a bad place. It’s best if he stays out of a situation that he, with his obtuse male understanding, cannot resolve.

3. Keep things in perspective. It may seem like a very difficult thing to do, but putting things in perspective can solve a lot of issues. I used to hate how my mother in law kept telling me to tie my hair in the house. How dare she tell me to put my long, flowy hair into a behnji bun? And then I realised, i was losing hair and it was all over the floor. I wouldn’t fight my mother if she told me to tie my hair at meal times, and I shouldn’t fight my MIL if she tells me that I was shedding all over the sofa. Perspective. Simple.

4. Learn to let go. For the sake of my own sanity, I learned to let go of a great deal of negativity. I don’t think I can ever forgive or forget the things my MIL did to hurt me, but the more I thought about those, the more painful those memories became. I learned to focus instead on the positives – the times she made got me hot water in a bag for my menstrual cramps, for instance. These things rarely happen, but they do help in taking a great deal of negativity away from my psyche.

5. Adapt and grow. You know, being a daughter in law is quite similar to working a high powered job. There are rules for how you behave, there are things you learn and there are things you do to keep your heads above the water. I think my father in law, for instance, is a little more fond of me today because I have learned just how much ginger flavour he likes in his tea. If nothing, this ability to adapt makes your transition into the new family easier. 

6. Learn to share. I think life got a great deal easier for me after I learned one very basic fact – that my husband is also someone’s son or brother. Keeping him to myself, or sulking when I wasn’t included in a family chat, or even feeling neglected when he chose to compliment his mother’s dosa and not my coconut chutney was making both of us irritable. Accepting that he’s also theirs is a lot easier, trust me.

7. Stay neutral. Your sister in law might be talking about how nosey her mother can be, but you have to be careful never to take sides. I made the mistake of agreeing with my SIL about things like this, but the next day, I was the devil for it. They always make up later, but that one stray comment I made stuck. Blood is definitely thicker than water, you know. Just as I wouldn’t like my brother’s wife dissing my mum, it’s safest not to say anything incriminating against the in laws, even if I am dying to.

8. Prioritise. Don’t phub them. Don’t stick your face into your laptop when they are around. I try to at least be around my MIL even if she is ignoring me. It’s about being there, so tomorrow, no one can blame you for ignoring them. Also, while we are talking about priorities, decide early on where you can bend and where you will fight. Not everything needs to be a fight. Like I said earlier, as much as I resented being told to put up my hair, I realised later it was sensible. I gave in, and everyone’s happy. But would I not let my dog around my baby for “fear of infection”? No. I would put my foot down at my dog being considered a bad thing and not being allowed around my infant. Politely, but firmly.

10. She is your husband’s mother. Accept it. Indian boys are exceptionally close to their mothers. He probably has more happy memories with her than you would care to admit. I know my husband does. He even insists he looks like her when he clearly doesn’t. The fact is, he will always have some extra cushioning for her whether or not I like it, and she will always be a little more protective/possessive about her cub than I like. Accept it, because that’s how it is, and sulking/fighting won’t change a thing.

There’s a lot more you can do to be a good daughter in law. But the most important thing is to be mature about the whole thing. Everyone will give you different tips, but it is ultimately your battle, and how you will go about it depends on you. But honestly, my experience has taught me that a little tact can go a long way in making the whole in-law deal bearable, if not nice.

What’s your secret to cordiality with your in laws? Do tell us in the comments.

Feature Image source: iDiva

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