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.

Attack of the Outlaws

I was looking forward to getting stuck into my book for half an hour before bed but instead I’m at the keyboard, venting out the frustration from today.  My ex in-laws reared their head via social media.  I don’t pay much attention to their lives so to see them commenting on a public profile of my brothers took me by surprise.

Irony was not even the word.  I realise the anger from my ex’s wife.  Essentially my brother helped me catch her, organised the meeting with her brother and ultimately supported me heavily throughout the cheating scandal.  The anger from his sisters however, I don’t quite understand.

They called my brother a “retard” which I find flabbergasting given the amount of stick they have had to take from society over their own special needs brother.  To use such an ugly word when it has been used in such an ugly way towards one of your own baffles me.

His new wife piped up in this bizarre online attack claiming to know my brother personally and adding her own words of venom.  I was tempted to ask if watching a video of her sucking off my ex suddenly made us all friends.  I refrained.

I’ve always managed to maintain the moral high ground, to this day, never retaliating despite the ridiculous number of things I’ve been subjected to.  People often mistake patience for weakness.  My patience is wearing thin.

Life in The Bates Motel

Image courtesy of Vacancy exists now that I am out.

What still amazes me about the piece I wrote called Pakistani In-Laws or Just In-Laws is how many times it is read in one day.  What I find upsetting however is the search results which bring readers to it.  I can only assume when I see those searches that people are desperately resorting to google to help them deal with their in-law problems and my heart goes out to anybody who is in that situation.  Today’s search included “desi mother in-law beats me”.

My earlier piece was a fairly general introduction to my own in-laws and problems which I perceived others must go through too.  My in-laws never beat me like the reader above however I was married into quite an emotionally destructive family.

I didn’t gel with my mother in law even before marriage.  I knew deep down that she would be difficult and I blame young age for my naivety of thinking that she would grow to love me.  Her heart was intent on marrying all of her children in Pakistan however after one ran away, she backed down.    As a side note girls, never marry a man whose mother insisted on getting him married in Pakistan, you will feel the backlash, just trust me on that one.

I wanted to give an insight into what life was like for five years with my mother in-law.  The more sinister elements were the lies (sound familiar?).  My MIL would regularly call our home phone, a fairly normal thing to do you may think, but any time I answered would bizarrely hang up.  I counted 25 calls registered on our phone in one day.  I would leave the house at night and my MIL’s car would be parked a few hundred yards up the road, lights off, just watching.  I waved to acknowledge her but not wanting to be spotted, she quickly drove away.  When you’re already somewhat of a scaredy-cat in the dark, this is terrifying.

After a year of this behaviour and trying to change it by talking to her, I asked my dad to intervene.  My father phoned her and explained that she was more than welcome to come to the house but to come inside rather than lurk around outside.  She denied any instance of having done this.  Also denying that she ever phoned the house.  It was maddening.

I remember her last visit when she actually ventured inside.  My ex was asleep upstairs and after laying out snacks, offering the usual tea/coffee, I went to wake him.  I was stopped by MIL who told me she would do it.  I had a mild panic about what delicates of mine were on display and asked her not to go into the bedroom trying to use the “he won’t be dressed appropriately” card which was met with a “I’ve seen it all before” card.  Even now, that makes me feel a bit queasy.

My MIL was definitely the driving force behind what the family were or were not allowed to do.  I was more or less given the silent treatment from the whole family for five years because MIL ordered it.  I would sit at the dinner table with everybody chatting amongst themselves.  Trying to insert myself into a conversation, I was ignored or if somebody felt generous, given a one word answer.  Even in our own home when I gathered the family, I wasn’t spoken to.  My food was never delicious and my effort was never any good.

The silent treatments existed because I didn’t tow the line.  Coming from a family where you can engage and question things, this was seen as insolence in my ex’s home.  An example; I was given gifts by my ex’s cousins when I was newly married but told to return them by MIL.  I explained that I felt it was rude and fifteen minutes later after MIL stormed off, I found her standing in a clothes cupboard wailing until I promised to do what I was told.  That was week two of my marriage.

I recognise now that my ex has all the markings of a sociopath.  A sociopath is formed through an emotional screw-up somewhere along childhood so by the time adolescence hits, you have one slightly messed up individual.  I ended a blog recently with the following words:

“I’m half waiting for that knock on the door to come.  Journalists gathered on my front lawn.  The police will want to know if I ever saw signs that my ex was a highly disturbed individual.  I have an eerie vision ten years down the line of my ex being involved in some frenzied psychotic attack on his mother where she lies butchered on the dinner table.  Everything normally stems back to the mother, doesn’t it?  In the case of my ex, there’s no doubt that it does.  However that is a post for another day”.

Here’s that post.