For most people, living with their In-laws would be a nightmare come true. It has been 2 months since my In-laws moved in with us, and it has been nothing less than a dream.
Traditionally, most young newlywed couples (in India, at least) move in with the husband's parents as newlyweds, which can cause a lot of tension. There are loads of TV shows about joint family strife and drama. After getting to know my in-law's for the past 10 years and developing a solid friendship and rhythm with them, it is only now that they have moved in with us. And you know what? I don't think I would have appreciated their help as much then, as I do now. I used to like to be an independent woman and do everything by myself...until I had kids!!! After having a child, it's impossible to do pretty much anything at all. Even the most simple tasks like going grocery shopping or using the toilet in privacy is difficult. Forget about ever having a nap during the day. Having my in-law's help, and their companionship has been incredibly comforting.
Like many mothers of young children who live in nuclear families, I have found it extremely difficult over the years to complete all my household work, prepare fresh meals for my family, work on my own passions, and find time for myself on a daily basis. Living in a joint family has alleviated ALL of that stress because I now have two extra helping hands around the house. My In-laws' unwavering support has made my life so easy, as a woman, as a mother, and as a wife.
Just as I suspected (and hoped!), as soon as my mother-in-law landed, she hijacked my kitchen. She cooks 3 fresh meals a day and could arguably be one of India's top chefs. Her spicy home-style Andhra cooking is famous in husband-ji's family. Prior to her arrival, it has been a struggle for me for YEARS to cook for my picky-eater husband. Now all that stress has gone now that she has arrived. We are all extremely happy, well fed, and definitely plumpy!
(What dinner looks like!)
Probably the most surprising thing to me is how helpful my father-in-law is around the house. I have actually never spent so much time with him, as he has only visited us for a maximum of 1-2 weeks before because he was always working. I used to think he was one of the more traditional members when it comes to gender roles, however he has equally taken charge of household tasks. He takes care of the dog, feeds him, and walks him. He walks to the grocery store twice a day and buys everything we need. He is also obsessed with keeping the sink empty so he washes all the dishes and loads the dishwasher every day. Which means that my only responsibility in the kitchen is putting the soap in the dishwasher flap and turning it on. Yes, my only responsibility is pressing a button!!!
And that's not even the best part. Now that my In-laws are living with us, husband-ji and I can go on a date night any night of the week. My mother-in-law says we don't even have to ask her if we can go out. So far, we are averaging going out about 2-3 times a week, which is such a luxury. Before, we would have to pre-book the babysitter and eagerly covet our date nights, where we would basically be $200 broker after going to dinner and a movie (plus paying the babysitter). Not only that, but it was all limited in time and rushed, since we had to be back by a certain time so the babysitter could go home. My parents have tried to help out as best as they can over the years, but they are working full-time, both not in good health, and elderly. My in-law's are 10 years younger than my parents, so it's a completely different generation and they have a lot more energy.
I also don't feel any pressure to be the ideal bahu as I have felt in previous years. In years past, I have always wanted to impress my in-law's and have exasperated myself but now I feel like just being me is enough. I genuinely feel like they like me, and they are not judging me, and I can be comfortable around them just as if they were my biological parents. I really feel as though I am their daughter.
I knew when my in-law's moved in with us, that Maya would thrive the most because grandparents and grandchildren have such a dear, special bond. But I truly had no idea how much husband-ji and I would thrive...just as much as her!
Joint family life is definitely for me! I never want to go back!