I am Ayesha, 29 years old, mother of a 4-year-old son, Ayush. We live in a joint family and my husband is in the family business. My problem is that my mother-in-law is constantly interfering in all my activities. I could take it as long as it affected me, but it has now started to affect my child also. She constantly criticizes me in everything I do for my son. As a result, he has also started to devalue me and recently hit me. At that time, also my mother-in-law supported his behavior. I have become extremely irritable because of this factor. My husband is constrained as he cannot move out of the joint business and cannot protest against his parents.
What Ayesha is describing is a typical case of an interfering grandparent and mother-in-law. While most of them are a great comfort, a few of them have to be controlled. The faults of the mother-in-law are so apparent that perhaps you might not think it worthwhile to discuss them. However, an exaggerated situation makes it easier to see factors that might not be obvious at all in a more ordinary situation. However, when the quarrel is between two people, the parents may be unwittingly playing some part in the conflict, even though they may not be the aggressor. Often the main problem for Ayesha is to stand up to her interfering mother-in-law. She does hold her ground in some respects, but that she is surrendering too much is her tone of reproach and hurt feelings. Whether she wins or loses each argument, she seems to end up feeling the victim. This is not wholesome. Ayesha is afraid to hurt the feelings of the mother-in-law or afraid that she will make her angry. The mother-in-law is sharp in taking advantage of the Ayesha’s sensitivity. The parents who do not have enough confidence in their convictions or who get easily hurt or who are afraid of making the grandparents angry are a perfect victim for the grandparents who are overbearing and who know how to make the other person feel guilty. Any tendency of Ayesha to submit to the mother-in-law’s insistence encourages the mother-in-law to be still more dominating. In addition, Ayesha’s fear of hurting the mother-in-law’s feelings makes the mother-in-law shrewdly threaten to have her feelings hurt on every occasion. Ayesha does not know how to get out of it. As the months go by, she learns to do what all of us do when the pain seems inevitable – to get some perverse satisfaction out of it. One way is to feel sorry for us, to dwell on the outrages we suffer, and enjoy our own indignation. Another is to tell of our torture to others and to enjoy their sympathy. This painful satisfaction tends to sap our determination to find a real solution. They become permanent substitutes for real happiness.
What can you do?
How can the parents who have been submitting to their parents extricate themselves? It is not easy at first, but it can be done gradually with practice. Remind yourself that you are responsible for the child and you have to make the decisions.