Back home there is this unsaid rule, this expected norm, that the daughter-in-law that has wed into the family has to mould herself to the family; so much so that she is expected to forego herself completely and become “one” with the fabric of the “susral” – the new wedded home of the girl.
Now as much as one can think, “and?” as in what is wrong with that, especially someone who has been brought up in an environment where this is the expected norm, there is some very wrong things with this practice.
For starters she is an individual human being, with individual: needs, desires, dreams, visions, strengths, methods – everything. Remember no two people are alike. Not even two twins, they both have their own unique personalities. Secondly, asking someone to become something or someone else not only goes against every cell of their being, it also goes against the necessity of life. Life does not need 50 of one identical person, it needs each and every one of those 50 people to be their own unique and individual selves. No one can or should become a carbon copy of someone else. Otherwise Allah SWT would have created one “perfect” specimen of the human race and had us all “cloned”. But that is not the case. Just like each plant, each flower is unique and provides different things, each and every human being is INTENTIONALLY made to be different and unique BY DESIGN! It is necessary! Allah wants us to be exactly who he has made us to be and not forego our unique identity, and what it is meant to bring, to become like someone else. By doing so not only are we not being far upon ourselves, but we are neglecting to see what gifts Allah Subhan-o-Tala has given us, thus robbing the world of our unique offerings for the would that we are meant to bring.
No two people, no matter how similar in personality; no two people, no matter how similar in background; no two people, no matter how similar their life history may have been, are ever actually ever living identical lives. NEVER!
So why am I bring this up today? Well, there are two main reasons, firstly as mentioned above the health of the individual person, the “daughter-in-law” that has wedded into a family needs to know and understand this for her own health and sanity; and secondly for the health and wellbeing of the family that she weds into. BOTH are very important; as the age old saying goes: it takes two to tango, or you need two hands to clap.
The would-be effects on the health of the daughter-in-law is somewhat easy to understand, how this having to forego oneself and become someone/something else can be detrimental for one’s health – mentally, emotionally and physically, (explained further in lots of my other posts); but the health and wellbeing of the others in the family I think needs some light shined upon as well.
We, as the receiving family of a new person into our family, need to understand the importance of allowing the new person coming in to be themselves; both for their health and for our own. You see, often it is these misguided expectations, when failed to have been met, that cause dis-eases in both our beings and in the fabric of the household. This I’m sure is plain to see as therefore not being a good thing. Any dis-ease leads to disease; whether of the body of an individual human being or the “body” of the household – dis-eases in the fabric of the household can lead to diseased relationships! Yes diseases are not confined to just “physical matter”, it can find its way into “invisible” threads, the threads that bind together and create a fabric that holds a “family” together. Without this fabric holding us, we are but individuals living under one roof.
Coming back to the point at hand. When a mother-in-law brings in a daughter-in-law and expects her to live her life by the mother-in-law’s rules and ways, then she is setting up the relationship to fail! That is it! Plain and simple, the hard truth! It is a trap laid out by cultural dictates from which there is no escape!
Why, why do we expect this? Why do we want this? Why do we think we need this, and that it is the “right” thing that needs to happen?
My son already has me. I am his mother. I bring to him, to this family to this world everything that I need to. So why do I think that my son, my family, this world needs someone else to be me? I am not looking for my replacement when I seek a daughter-in-law. It’s not like my secretary who answers my calls is gone so I need a new one to do so. No. I am not looking for, nor do I or my son need a replacement for me. The reason why we try to make someone else live life like we are, or we think it should be lived, or we think our son needs it to be so, is AROGANCE! We think we are right, we think we are great, we think we have it all figured out, we got it all down. But that is the biggest and most ridiculous lie we are subconsciously telling ourselves and subsequently also believing! We are not the greatest to have ever walked this earth, we have not got ANYTHING figured out, we cannot even open our eyes and see the world without Allah SWT permission!
Allah has entrusted us with our children, for us to be there guardian, to be their guide to take care of them because we were the people that they needed AS PARENTS. No one else can be a better mother to my son than me. But equally no one else can be a better son to me than my own son (or daughter of course, it’s not about sons or daughters so let’s not side track).
But my daughter-in-law has not been sent to my son to be his mother! Either in kind or in personality. He already has me, dead or alive. I am me for him. Neither does he need more of me, wants more of me, or should have more of me.
No, his wife has to be her herself. She was brought to us because she was the person who was the perfect life partner for my son. She is meant to share and live life with him in only the way that she can. And that includes all: the way that she is, to the way that she wants to live her life, run her home, raise their children etc etc etc.
Just like my children are not carbon copies of me, and I never wish for them to be; how can I expect, think, want that my daughter-in-law should be anything like me, do anything like me, agree to anything in life with me. We can be standing either side of the number 6 or 9 and seeing a very different reality. No one’s reality is better or more correct than anyone else’s! They are just different but equally true and valid. That is not to say that if she wishes to learn something from me then there is anything wrong with that. But equally I should not be arrogant and think that I cannot learn how to do things her way and see life from her perspective. We are always, and need to always be open to, learning and growing; that is the only way that we can evolve otherwise we stagnate. A desire to learn should always be present in everyone, but remember no true learning can synthesis if it is externally forced. So yes, offering suggestions, recommendations, giving advice is not wrong; what is not appropriate is us expecting that those need to be followed through. Don’t imprison one in to your reality. Allow your realities to be free to sit as close to, or as far apart as they need to, in a healthy honouring way.
This all is not just something that I, “the mother-in-law” needs to understand, but my son, “the husband”; my daughter, the “sister-in-law”; my other son, the “brother-in-law”; my husband, “ the father-in-law”; all need to understand! We all create the fabric of family together, so together we all must understand and embrace for the betterment of the overall wellbeing and health of the family. We together make the fabric and together we must open our arms to embrace new threads as they are. They may be of a different raw material, they maybe of a different colour, they maybe of a different weight or thickness, they may induce a change in the tension of the fabric; and to accommodate it all, we all must have a level of “give” to prevent any thread from breaking!
I hope it goes without saying that all the above mentioned “people” are fictional and just stepping into these shoes for role play to better understand the matter at hand.
All these of course equally apply the other way as well, where the family accepts in a son-in-law into their household. Equally a son-in-law can be made to feel “not good enough”. But not good enough to what??!! Perhaps what you envisioned for your daughter? But we are limited to seeing life only through our own eyes, we cannot see through anyone else’s eyes, (don’t even think about bringing in organ transplant into the discussion here, JUST DON’T). We may think that our daughter needs to live life in a certain way, and no doubt it is most likely nothing short of life like a princess; however, Allah knows and ALWAYS does best.
It is hard to see why someone, anyone would need to live a life in “poverty”, hard to see how that would be “best” for them. But in all honesty, we can’t and never will be able to, because we think and feel from our hearts. But that is where faith comes in. That does not mean one has to reside to living a life of hardship, we have to keep praying and trying our best to better our life, but equally not fret too much over the shortfall between our dreams and realities. Remember, life on earth is not our ultimate goal, always keep the bigger picture in mind. It’s like fretting over the cleanliness and facilities at a service station! Um, it’s a service station. You are here to grab gas, maybe some food and use the loo; you are not here to make it into your permanent residence! Sure try to plan to stop at a service station that has maybe got a better track record for cleanliness, has the types of food that can better cater for your needs ,but you are not going to go to a service station that is on the border of Scotland if you are trying to go from London to Plymouth!
Not everything we think we want is actually something that we need!
So on that note, I hope you got all that you needed, even if it might not be all that you necessarily wanted! ;)
This space features my reflections, opinions, ponderings and from time to time announcements of what I am up to. It literally is me in my corner on my soapbox.
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