There is nothing wrong in living with in-laws. There is nothing wrong in having guests over and entertaining them. It becomes a problem ONLY when people who do not want to live with in-laws or entertain guests feel guilty about their preference. I have some case studies to share:
Case Study 1:
One day, a coworker of mine, CO told me he was going back to India and was wondering why his wife is really apprehensive about going back to India. He said that she felt the schools for his kids in India weren’t good enough or the kids couldn’t do ice-skating, skiing, etc. She also felt he wouldn’t treat her in the same way in India.
“Are you going to live with your parents? ” , I asked.
“Yes, parents are the reason I am going back, so it doesn’t make sense to live separately”, he replied.
“Does your wife have a problem with that?”
“No, she doesn’t. She says it will be totally different, but she doesn’t oppose it. It will be different for me too; a different boss at work. But I will adjust and so will she.”
“I don’t think having a different boss at work is the same as having in-laws at home. As for me, at work, I have a work face that could change with different environment. At home, I want to be myself. Would you like to live with your wife’s parents?”
“I wouldn’t even like to live in the same building”. Thinking hard, he said, “If she doesn’t want to live my parents, why doesn’t she say so?”
“Because, our culture is very successful in inducing guilt in those women who feel that they need a place of their own. If a woman chooses to live separately, she is a home-breaker, not a heart-winner”.
I continued, “Your disposition is to take opinions from everybody. Your wife must be feeling that her opinion will not be valued. Did you make clear to her that going back to India was your decision, so to counter-balance, once you guys are in India, all decisions will be hers, nobody else’s? She will get to choose where she wants to live, which school your kids go to, what furniture you buy and what car you buy. She will live life as she wishes. Nobody gets to make a decision for her.”
Next day, he comes to me with a grin. “My wife is very happy. She is assured nothing much except her postal address will change.”
Why didn’t Co’s wife say what she wanted? Why this guilt, guilt di?
Case Study 2
T was a career girl whose parents came down to help her. They cooked food and took care of her kids while she and her husband continued growing in their career. This continued for a whole 4 years. Her parents had to leave because of other commitments. Husband’s Parents (HP) came down to help. They had to leave their hometown, their friend circle and even their part-time jobs. But they were not healthy enough to do both, take care of the kids and cook. This put strain on T. She had to come back from work and cook for the entire family an entire meal because HP were used to having maids in their hometown do that for them. Since this city was in a different state from the hometown, they couldn’t get the maids do cook the cuisine they were used to. Had T not had HP at her place, she would have made quick meals. Another issue was that HP did take care of the kids, but it was in a different manner than what T expected. She couldn’t tell them what to do, nor could she accept their way of upbringing.
Nobody was happy here. The husband couldn’t ask his parents to for the fear of sounding as if he is driving them out of his house. HP did not leave because they felt like abandoning their family in times of need. They all felt guilty of the urge for change. This guilt wouldn’t let them say, “This isn’t working. Let’s change the set-up”.
Why this guilt, guilt di?
Case Study 3
V lived in a big city with her husband. They bought a 3 bedroom house. Husband’s bro got a job in the same city. He and his wife moved in. The parents moved in too because both sons were in big city. Neither V nor her husband could say that the others need to look for a house for themselves, though they would have preferred it that way. They felt it was even wrong for them to have that preference.
Why this guilt, guilt di?
Case Study 4
Y lived in the US with her husband and a baby. Her husband’s cousin completed his education and was looking for a job. So, as long as he did not have the job, he stayed with them. That makes it 5 months. The couple left their baby in daycare and left for work. The Cousin did nothing towards helping the couple in cleaning or cooking and expected to be babied around. The couple used to order food from restaurants often, but this Cousin wouldn’t allow it, citing stomach problems. He wanted to be waited on hand and foot. Y was frustrated. She fought with her husband all the time. Her husband wouldn’t put his foot down. But what stopped her from setting ground rules at home for long-term visitors? It was this culture, “Atithi devo bhava” and the family ego: “Everyone is welcome to stay as long as they wish, and will be well taken care of”. There was guilt when she felt that the Cousin had no right to dictate terms in her house.
Why this guilt, guilt di?