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Instructions For A New Mother-in-Law

I haven't posted lately as I've been preoccupied with a task in hand. Yash, the kids and me are supposed to be heading off to a wedding in another city at the weekend and there are some preparations to be done. Yash's cousin Krishna is younger than Yash by about five years, but he and his wife Manju are getting their son Ansh married and thereby becoming parents-in-law. From what I have come to learn about north Indian culture, becoming a mother-in-law is a bit of a 'coming of age' experience for a married woman. After a lifetime of service, you get to be someone's boss now. It seems to go to some women's heads. If the son and his bride are living with the parents-in-law, some mothers-in-law literally lose the run of themselves altogether.

Well I've never really had much of a conversation with Manju, the wife of Yash's cousin Krishna. She doesn't speak English, and my Hindi is not that good. But if she did know English and could read my blog, I would have dedicated this post just to her. Because my memories of being a new bride are a mere fifteen years old (late marriage, you know?) and I think I'd love to pass on a few tips to Manju about how to gracefully handle her new state in life. Okay, shall I begin?

The Rules (for modern mothers-in-law)

#1. Remember, your son has acquired a wife. She is his wife first and your daughter-in-law second. Her relationship with HIM is her priority.

#2. Getting a daughter-in-law in the house does NOT mean that you have acquired a maidservant. Do not suddenly lose the use of your limbs and think that it is automatically HER duty to make your tea or hang your clothes out on the line. By all means invite her to cook with you in the kitchen, but do not hang up your apron permanently and think that you are finished with all that now. Okay, do so at your peril. But she'll hate you. She may not show it, but she'll hate you.

#3. Do not enter the young couple's room without their permission. Knock before entering. Have a heart! Remember, in arranged marriages, there is no courtship period before marriage. They need time to get to know each other. Your continued presence 'in their face' will make them tense and edgy.

#4. Just as you respect their space, have them respect yours as well. Keep your interests and whatever hobbies you had before they got married. Spending your day obsessing over their doings and activities will turn you into a monster-in-law.

#5. Do not under any circumstances open the bride's bags and cases when she arrives. Let her do it herself. However long it takes.....

#6. Do not discuss the bride's cooking and homemaking skills - or lack of them - with neighbours and relatives. It's absolutely none of their business. Talk about your son's if necessary. But not your daughter-in-law's.

#7. Remember, the days when a mother-in-law's say so could kill a marriage are long gone now. Hindu marriage is, and has always been, for life. Long ago, when there were no photography or videos, and marriage certificates were non-existent, daughter-in-laws who failed to please, (i.e. not subservient enough or failed to produce a male child) could be shipped back home to their parents and their husbands could be remarried in a jiffy, the in-laws developing amnesia about their ever having been a first marriage. Not so today. Even in the absence of marriage certificates, photography and videography can give ample proof of there having been a marriage, and there is legal redressal towards aggrieved brides. So remember, the girl cannot be sent back just like that if you don't like her.

#8. Always use kind words when you speak to the couple, and always build up and support, don't break down. Do not, under any circumstances, complain to one about the others behaviour. Remember, in adult relationships, there are plenty of spaces for disagreement. Just accept it.

#9. If you want some help from your daughter-in-law i.e. tea, politely ask her if she is free. She is not sitting around waiting for your orders.

#10. If her husband is away from home, invite her to accompany you. But don't insist that she does. She may need some time to herself.

The summary of all this is: don't be rude and don't intrude.

Follow these rules, and you both are bound to get along fine. I promise you!


  1. Hi Gaelikaa,
    Nice to hear your having a change of scene,have a good time there.
    That's great advice! I'm not sure MIL's here would heed it.The son should help his new bride adjust in her NEW home....maybe you can give him a hint.

  2. This was a very intriguing read. I sense that you must have gone through some rather interesting experiences with your mother-in-law.;)

  3. Your ten points are very valid no matter where in the world or how close the young folk are with the seniors.

    I never knew my MIL, both of Jack's parents died before we met. My own Mother was over 100 miles away and I knew nobody in the place where I was coming to make my home. I suppose that made us sort out what I call 'the Toothpaste problems' very early on.

  4. I think these are great instructions to follow no matter where we live in the world and whether it be with a son-in-law or daughter-in-law. These should be printed off and given to parents when their children get married. Thankfully I had a most wonderful mother-in-law(she passed away but I know we would still be friends today even though I am no longer married to her son))in my past marriage. She taught me how I want to be with my daughters/son's-in-laws. Great post!

  5. wonderful list and a great window into the day to day life of people in modern India. Love it.

  6. A lovely post, again, Gaelikaa, very wise but sensitive too.

  7. This was lovely! If only it could be translated, perhaps many a home would be happier for it... :)))

  8. Good advice for any relationship!

  9. Wow!wish all MILs get to your post.Enjoyed reading it.Gonna follow your blog.

  10. I wish my mil would be like this. She constantly hovers around me. She followed me to the bathroom and kept talking!
    One time I made a difficult dessert for Hon and he raved about it to his mom and my first time to stay with his parents she made the dessert for him! She had never made it before! I feel like she steps on my toes. She is addicted to my husband and caters to him. When we last went back to visit i memorized my recipes so she couldn't see what i put in anything i made.

  11. When I say "be like this" i mean follow these rules.

  12. It sounds like great advice. How many MILs would be willing to follow it do you think?

  13. I can't believe that there are still arranged marriages going on. And people in America complain about their mother-in-laws! LOL!

    I think I will save this post and forward it to anyone that I hear complaining from now on. should write a book!

    I'm sure it would be a best seller. All the daughter-in-laws would by a copy and secretly place it in their mother-in-laws room.

    Have a great time at the wedding!

  14. This advice sounds good to me. New families need time to integrate - I liked your advice about doing it slowly.

  15. Sage advice, to be sure. I had a mother-in-law who did not support her son in marrying me and played a role in undermining our relationship. Mothers-in-law have a tremendous amount of power. We all do, and kindness can go a long way to making life good for everybody.

  16. Reading this made me realise how very lucky I was with my lovely Indian MIL (sadly, her son hadn't inherited her kind ways, but that's another story).


  17. Ditto,Grannymar's comments.

  18. great advice to a would be MIL. Very well sorted and bullet pointed. Most importantly they should not think that .. not it is my turn!!
    Probably the new bride reads your blog and would like to get some advice how to handle situations ... Defensive driving ... you know

  19. My biggie would be - if possible, don't live with them!

  20. I loved this post. It made me realise how I can vent all that pent up frustration about my mother in law's behaviour without actually writing a post about her and all the really annoying things she does. Yeah, since when did anyone ever just walk into someone's bedroom, especially a newly married couple's.

  21. Your post was so interesting. I live in the UK but my first mother-in-law was a nightmare. I remember once the family went out to look at a house they were thinking of buying and when I asked if I could go, she said no because I wasn't family, but that I could stay behind and do the ironing.

    Needless to say that marriage didn't work out.

  22. Gaelikaa, this was so interesting. I gives me a peek at a different world, although I think the advice you give is universal! As for me, if you check my blog you will see that my husband left me after 39 years of marriage for a woman 30 years younger. My mother-in-law moved 1,000 to live next door to me, and there she remains--my good friend--much to my husband's chagrin! So, Mother-in-laws can, indeed, become treasures! Love your site. C

  23. Your guide is a perfect one!! 'Cos things are almost pretty mush the same here in some parts of Pakistan. Mothers-in-law can turn into monster-in-law!! Good post!

  24. Oh, how interesting! The thought that my MIL could act in such a manner, if we were in another culture is amusing to say the least. I suppose if you are a kind, good person, you'd never consider treating someone as a servant; it sais everything about your actual frame of mind, don't you think? You'd hope that even if someone were so inclined, they'd realise logically how they would appear to others.


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