Pakistani In-laws or Just In-laws

This piece from my old blog platform has been one of the most searched and read.  I thought I would revert back to it and add it onto this site for those that haven’t read it.  I am currently settling into my new place after a somewhat exhausting few weeks, almost there, new post will follow soon.

In every culture there are long running jokes about in-laws.  However, why do I feel Pakistani in-laws come with a different set of baggage?  Rhetorical question obviously, my own experience has made me believe that.  It isn’t only my experience though.  The majority of my friends are married within Pakistani families and experience the same pressures which I felt were expected from me when I got married.  I am interested in other people’s views on this and have taken a few issues that either I went through or my friends would talk about.

Firstly, like my own in-laws, why is it expected that the daughter in-law should live within the extended family?  My mother in-law would stony faced ask me who would look after my sister in-laws when they came to visit now that I didn’t live there.  Thus making me realise that perhaps the only reason I was expected to live with them was to be another live in maid.  My husband’s brother had married his cousin.  When we moved into our own home, she would bitterly announce that she was the only “knokranee” (servant) left.  I did feel sorry for her because she was viewed by the family as exactly that and brought over from Pakistan to be moulded by them into what they required of her.
 
I don’t really know of any other culture aside from mine that expects such a thing.  I fully understand that within Islam, it a right of our parent’s to be taken care of.  However, if they are fully capable or if there are already seven members living under the one household, then I don’t believe there is a requirement for the daughter in law to be moving in with the extended family.  Infact, Islam has made it clear that it is a right of the wife to have her own living space.  Indeed it is a religion which gives woman a lot more rights than what it is ever given respect for.
 
Secondly, why are daughter in laws expected to forget about their own family as though they are no longer part of it and are only supposed to cater to their husband’s family?  My friend’s mother had gone to Pakistan recently and she had decided to stay at her parent’s home to give her dad some company.  However a few days later, she was forced to come back to her in-laws after being told it was inappropriate to be away for so long (by in-laws not the husband).
 
Thirdly, why bother giving wedding gifts to your future daughter in law if you weren’t intending for her to keep them?  I have already mentioned my situation whereby I was given gold jewellery as part of my wedding gifts however it was kept by my mother in law.  I have since found out that is a common haraam (unlawfulness) which exists.  Gifts are given almost for show to the brides by the groom or his family and then taken away.  It was never intended to be worn or used by the daughter in laws.  I believe the Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) described this practice as being equivalent to that of a dog who licks his own vomit.  How repulsive such an act was found to be.
 
Fourthly, why is there such an issue about woman working or being educated?  Once again, I describe my situation.  It was made clear to me that I was expected by my mother in law, not so much the father in law to give up my work once I had got married.  However my husband and I had talked about my work and he was very much happy for me to continue.  This led to a lot of sour grapes.  Is it due to jealousy as none of the woman in the family were educated?  Is it due to backward tradition whereby I was expected to be at home and be moulded by my in laws?  Is it due to an issue about financial freedom?  This was a common topic brought up by friends on what their in laws expected.  They were expected to give up work, some reduced hours and shockingly some were expected to hand over their earnings to their in laws!
 
Last but not least.  When a son gets married, why does a mother feel like she is competing with the wife?  A lot of times, the mother chooses her son’s wife yet it still happens.  The role of a mother, no wife can take.  Similarly, what a wife can do, no mother can.  We each have our different roles.  I’ve known friends whose food has been scrutinised and deemed not good enough for “my boy”.  Others who have gone out on a couple’s night, only to come back to awful atmosphere and tension for not spending time with the family.  It is as though daughter in laws are seen as this being who will be separating a mother from her son.  If such a thing ever happens, rather than blame the wife, why not look at what your relationship with your son is like, what is was like before he got married and realise it is something which needs worked on.  It is all too easy to blame the daughter in law for the son not visiting, phoning, talking enough.
 
A lot of things in my experience have put me off marrying within a Pakistani family again.  I know this sounds ridiculous as I come from one and many might say “well, what about your family?”.  My uncle said to me once, our family’s thinking is a generation ahead a lot of Pakistani families in our town.  I didn’t think much about it until I got married and realised there was a degree of truth behind that statement.

3 thoughts on “Pakistani In-laws or Just In-laws

  1. It’s not just the Pakistani families that have issues with the in laws when two families merge there’s bound to be issues, however it seems that the issues you are describing are really extreme and unbearable. Even my friend N who is Bangladeshi was “speaking ” and engaged to this man but because his mum and sisters had not chosen her it fell through with lots of heartaches. They said the most horrid and untrue things about her and her family…awful ! Now she has recently married a different man she had to go and live with his parents but was allowed back with her parents while he is working abroad. Sometimes the sons are not strong enough to stand up to their parents. I don’t understand it in terms of Islam as it is an abrahamic religion because it says in Genesis 2:24: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” Genesis being in the old testament of the Christian bible is part of the texts in the original Jewish Thorah and therefore should be endorsed by the Q’ran?
    So a woman shouldn’t have to follow her husband but quite the contrary! Anyway people always use the religions for their own purposes ; you demonstrated it well when you describe the show of the jewelry gifts to the bride taken away , despite the Prophet saying it is hard am! Really all religions should respect individuals and that includes women sadly the followers do not apply this principle. And yes you should honor your father and your mother but you shouldn’t be their slaves. It should not be that the daughter in laws are the glorified servants…and to me it’s more natural that the daughter lives with her mum. Two women find it difficult to commend in one house that’s why a wife must have her own place. I am glad you’re out of it now. Hope everything is well with your project in Palestine.
    Barthola

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  2. Feel like this post hits the nail on the head. Thank you for reposting as I hadn’t come across it before. Don’t blame you for feeling put off Pakistani in laws for the future. So sorry of the experience you had. In sha Allah better things await xxx

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