Tuesday, September 30, 2014

And he's back!


We have had quite a month this September with family drama, cold season, and husband-ji being completely bogged down with work. Husband-ji was away on two business trips this month, and got his first-ever flu in the entire 9 years that I have known him! (Hmmmm.....looks like his Indian immunity is going down!)

I was on my own for most of the month... and forgive me for tooting my own horn, but I did quite well! Maya was an absolute angel and was perfectly behaved the entire time that he was gone (which totally proves my point that she is more naughty around her dad!) I really enjoyed spending time with her one on one, and we did lots of fun stuff like play dates with friends, trips to the Farmer's Markets, walks in nature, and hours of reading stories. Her favorite book right now is Mr. Tiger Goes Wild and she loves practicing her "Roar" for Halloween! She is also repeatedly saying to me, "Happy First Birthday mummy" - no idea why, but it reminds me of this sweet viral video. She is also completely obsessed with dogs and wants to pet each one that she sees. When husband-ji was away, she even let me take a shower in the morning by quietly sitting in her desk and coloring, like the little student she is! Her daddy likes to pamper her A LOT so I took the opportunity while he was away to work on encouraging her to be more helpful. It was an absolute success - she helped me load laundry, hold the door for me, helped me bring up light grocery bags and clean up all her toys at the end of the night. 


However, I am really glad he's back now and I really started to miss his company (or maybe I just selectively forgot all the ways he can annoy me...ha!) I missed him so much that I actually made him idly for breakfast! Normally I just let him starve in the morning, the poor guy. I am glad that he is back not only to have his company, but also to have my co-pilot-parent back. Now I can resume my morning exercise, and get back to my normal work schedule as well as working on my photography.

Motherhood was not too hard while he was away - it was really long days, totally non-stop, but it was manageable. Which kind of maybe makes me think that she was picking up on our stresses before, with her tantrums. Now I am pretty exhausted though, and can't wait to have a day to sleep in and also treat myself by getting a massage soon! I may just fall asleep and start snoring on the table!

We have a babysitter coming this week, which I am SO nervous about. Slowly but surely, we are building our little village and figuring things out! 

Monday, September 29, 2014

Unapologetic

Fights happen in every family. In our family, how we deal with the aftermath of fights is that we cool down for 1-2 days, and the next time we get a chance to talk - we apologize and talk through it. And then we move on. We cannot move on without the key apology. 

Apologizing for something, whether it is deliberate or not, forces you to take accountability for your actions and the way things come across. Even if you didn't mean to hurt the other person's feelings, sometimes you have to accept that you did and say sorry anyway just because it's a considerate thing to do.

One of the things that I struggle with in my husband's family is that nobody apologizes. Ever. 

Early on in my relationship, I had fights with husband-ji and often he would come to me acting like nothing ever happened. And it was awkward. I needed an apology. Husband-ji didn't even know how to apologize. But for me, I needed him to say it out of consideration, and I also wanted to know why he was apologizing. This not only made him take accountability for his actions, but also think more deeply about why we had fought and if he could have done something differently. Therefore, we fought less because we communicated better each time on what we did wrong. It is something that I have had to work on with him over the years. BUT...I can't change his family...

Over the years I have had many fights with both my MIL and FIL. Some big and some small. Several years ago I had a fight with my MIL, in which my FIL had to apologize for her. And then this year I had a fight with my FIL, and my MIL had to apologize for him. It was like a diversion and a lack of responsibility that I didn't like about this. It would just be so much easier if the person who said the wrong thing would just fess up and say a simple "sorry" and explain why and then it would be over. But for them, it would be "losing face". And an elder can never "lose face". Sometimes I think it is embarrassing for them to discuss their emotions. For me, I am a big ball of emotions all day, every day, ready to talk, whenever, wherever! But for them, so much is hidden, pushed under the rug and not discussed. There is pride. There is ego. There is the family hierarchy. In husband-ji's family they have these big explosions and then everyone goes around pretending nothing ever happened, meanwhile I have PTSD!

In other branches of our family, you will see other family members pretending the other doesn't exist or not speaking for years. I think it is so strange. Nobody ever takes the time to sit down and discuss things. It is either: a)pretending like nothing ever happened, or b)never speaking to each other again. Even though sometimes people live in the same city, or even the same house. They can hold grudges for years, even over the smallest misunderstandings. When I ask husband-ji about the no apology thing, he says that "the apology is more of an unsaid thing" (unless of course you are never getting spoken to again!) It's like playing Russian roulette in a language I don't speak.

As a foreigner, I find this absurd and puzzling. I feel that people should apologize no matter who did the wrong, talk it out and understand where the other is coming from. Apologizing humbles you, and it forces you to take responsibility. But then again, I come from a no-hierarchy everyone-is-equal mentality. For me, everyone is equal regardless of age or gender. Whenever family hierarchy is involved, ego is involved. And ego is not humble. An elder person will not apologize to a younger person, on the sole basis of ego. An elder sister-in-law will never apologize to a younger one, on the sole basis of ego. It is such crap!

It is awkward sometimes for me to be in India, and to be in a room with two family members who act like the other doesn't exist. The tension is like a pink elephant in the room. It is worse than watching an episode of the Real Housewives of New Jersey! It is awkward to me when an elder refuses to speak to another family member because of something that the elder said and refused to ever apologize to that person. For 30 years. It is awkward when we go visit our NRI cousins who both live in the same city, yet nobody knows why they do not speak to each other.

Sometimes I wonder if the majority of our Indian family drama could be solved with a simple and humbling, "I'm sorry"...

Sunday, September 28, 2014

"Your husband is your God" and other sexist notes

There is something about having a daughter that enrages the feminist in me. Becoming a mother to a young girl has illuminated to me a lot of sexist things that are suddenly not-so-subtle anymore - both in my culture, and husband-ji's culture. These mindsets really bother me!

For example...

"Your husband is your God" but the wife is not the Goddess.

The husband can complain about the wife; but when the wife complains about the husband, she is a "nag" or "a complainer".

After children, the man is supposed to work; but if the woman works, she is seen as "a bad mother and wife" or "too ambitious".

Men can roam freely with no limitations, yet when women think of themselves even once in a blue moon, they are deemed selfish.

Women are to be silenced and controlled.

Women are taught that "the way to a man's heart is through his stomach".

Woman boss = bitch. Man boss = powerful.

Women wear up to sixteen symbols of marriage; men wear next to none.

Women's faithfulness and devotion to their families are consistently and constantly questioned, yet a man's are not.

Women work tirelessly inside and outside the home; men come home to relax and unwind.

You can swear at a woman and call her a "bitch"; but when you swear at a man, it is reason for divorce a la "talaq talaq talaq".

If something bad happens in a family (death, financial crisis, problem with a child), the woman is to blame and the man is faultless.

A young woman having to choose between getting an education and getting married, because both cost as much.


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Just some things that bother me. That is all!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Daughters over daughters-in-laws

One of the more shocking things that I find about Indian culture is the double standard that is pushed upon daughters and daughters-in-laws within many Indian families. Basically, the daughter of the family can act like a spoiled brat and practically get away with murder; while the daughter-in-laws every move is watched and criticised. This is something that I have noticed within the branches of our own Indian family, as well as many others from completely different regions. When I speak of culture, it is patterns like these that surpass region, religion, caste, social and financial standing. Daughters over daughters-in-law is one of these huge patterns.

For example, let's say the daughter of the family is a working mother. She relies on a lot of different people to take care of her child, but it seems she tries to avoid her inlaws for various reasons. She is unhappily married but will not tell her parents that for fear of upsetting them. She has moments of being bratty, spoiled and generally not nice or considerate to her parents. She does nothing for her parents. She is very materialistic. In the same family, the daughter-in-law is a stay-at-home mother. She makes an effort for her inlaws by phoning them often, including them in her life, and making every effort for them. She is the sole caregiver of her child and does not rely on anybody else for fear of inconveniencing them with her child. In this family, the daughter can do no wrong and is completely idealised. The daughter-in-law is picked apart, criticised, and told she is not taking care of _____ (fill in the blank: her kids, her husband, her household). If you're curious as to who this family is - I can tell you I know 4 separate families with this same setup....talk about patterns!

If anything, the daughter-in-law is doing a better job but is treated badly simply because she is not the daughter and can never measure up to her. The daughter-in-law is treated not as well because the inlaws cannot be generous with their love, are unable to emotionally connect with her, constantly compare the two women, and are also subconsciously are mourning "the loss" of their own daughter.

In Indian culture - even in modern day - when a girl gets married she is seen as belonging to the groom's family. Sometimes she even must ask her inlaws' permission to do many things. She is seen as an object who is belonging to her husband's family. This is partly why Indian parents try to control their daughter's choices - they want to make sure she gets "married off" to a "good" family. Which is exactly where the problem lies - if Indian parents would let go of the mindset that the girl belongs to this family or that family, they would not be mourning the "loss" of their daughter. As they say, "the grass is always greener on the other side" and it surely reflects the comparison between the daughter and the daughter-in-law. The daughter is held on a pedestal because the parents wistfully feel she belongs to another family, while the daughter-in-law is a never-good-enough substitute for her. The inlaws may tolerate any kind of ridiculous and immature behaviour from the daughter, but constantly boast to the daughter-in-law, "Oh my daughter would never do THAT". The hypocrisy and the double standards can be quite astounding. When I witness patterns like these, I feel like shouting, "HELLO! Isn't anyone else seeing these unhealthy patterns?!?!

For example, the daughter may rely on many other people to watch her child constantly. When the daughter-in-law wants to go out for 2 hours, she is berated by an elder "for depending on other people to take care of the child". Oh, the irony....! (Is it just me or do Indian parents unleash on the daughter-in-laws what they feel they cannot dare say to the daughter?)

In reality, the daughter is not so different from the daughter-in-law. They are both women, mothers, and they both have inlaws to deal with. They are both trying to do the best they can and they are both women trying to juggle and balance it all. What the parents don't realize is that their daughter is also a daughter-in-law who is facing the same treatment - but they are just blind to it. And that the daughter-in-law is also someone's daughter. Daughters-in-laws are expected to be like the daughter, but if they did even half of what the daughter did, they'd be completely disowned. Many daughter-in-laws are not as valued, not as loved, and unappreciated - which means they often feel like they have to give up more to please the inlaws. A vicious cycle...

In their defense, the inlaws may not realize they are even doing this. But by doing this, the inlaws are creating an unsaid familial hierarchy in which the daughters-in-laws are at the bottom of the food chain. Because of all this comparison, the daughter and daughters-in-law - who are sisters-in-laws - may never get along or find a connection. Instead of being sisters and friends, they are pitted against one another. The daughter-in-law feels isolated and doesn't bother contacting the beloved daughter too much. The daughter may think her sister-in-law is aloof and may feel as if she is a little hostile. Instead of becoming close and sharing advice about motherhood, they barely speak. Everyone loses in these patterns, especially the women.

Daughters over daughters-in-law is a prime example of how patriarchy pits women against each other. One can only hope that our generation will be conscious of this and do it differently...

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