The following post was inspired by a recent story by feminist author Anubha Sawhney Joshi of the Times of India. See original article here (http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/life/relationships/man-woman/The-other-woman-in-mans-life–his-mom/articleshow/5705786.cms)!
The ‘other woman’ in man’s life – his monster-in-law!
Freud and Oedipus are both dead and gone. But grown daughters unwilling to let go of their mother’s pallu are the death of any happy marriage…
It’s a relationship that has spawned scores of criminal cases U/s 498A of IPC , made even stars like Prashant and Adnan Sami look like criminals (depending at which stage you started following the news about them) and taken an age-old tussle and put it out there on the street. It’s the maa-beti saga, where two women (on purpose and off it) are working to finish off an absolutely unsuspecting “bakra” – the son-in-law.
And while nobody’s taking away any credit from the ‘maa’ who bore and raised this fine specimen of femininity that some man has consigned his life to, let’s get some perspective here. Girls, it’s all very well to be your mother’s biggest fan, and love and respect and cherish her. But when you get your own man to have and to hold, it’s time to grow up and be a woman.
“My wife is a hotshot architect who has managed to bag quite a few prestigious projects,” says Bakshi, 29, an industrial designer. “But as soon as her mother enters the scene, she becomes this whimpering, brain-dead little child who cannot function without her approval. It’s so irritating.” Bakshi’s wife Rohini is the prototype for the Indian female, give or take a few exceptions. “Bakshi must understand that my mother, at her age, will not change her thoughts or actions. So he (Bakshi) must,” she says. But what about Rohini herself changing? “What’s wrong with me,” she irritatedly asks. “For one, her mother continues to buy her underwear, and now insists on buying mine too” Bakshi offers. Rohini glares at him and squirms. The example above is not a figment of our imagination. Both Rohini and Bakshi (names obviously changed) are real people and so is their strange situation.
Psychiatrist Sanjana Bagh deals with the ‘mama’s girl’ syndrome on a regular basis and it never ceases to amuse her. “It’s the same story that is told with such amazing regularity – that the girl will bend over backwards to do what her mother wants and her husband will grow to resent that,” says Bagh. “This statement is usually followed by the revelation that the m-i-l is constantly trying to manipulate the daughter and she’s the only one who is neither able nor willing to see that.”
When the Yuvraj of the Indian cricket team proudly announced on national television that he was a mama’s boy, he successfully alienated more than just a few PYTs. But why don’t Aishwaryas and Eshas of Bollywood have the same effect? In today’s age of economically independent, free-thinking women, no man is willing to ‘cohabit’ with his mother-in-law as the other woman. “Mothers really need to cut the virtual umbilical cord,” says Khushi Sharan, a college student. “Why are they so hell-bent on hanging on to their daughters? Don’t they have a partner of their own? And if not, don’t they just have friends? And a life?” she asks.
Advocate Mrinal Deshmukh, a divorce lawyer, believes that a mother’s interference and domination can – and does – lead to cracks in the marital relationship. “These can be overcome if there is a conscious balancing of relationships done by the female,” says Deshmukh, adding that extreme cases do end up in divorce.
Dev Challa was married to a mama’s girl. “I say ‘was’ not because she changed her ways but because the marriage ended. And I hold her bizarre relationship with her mother solely responsible,” says Dev. “Gauri didn’t have a father and was brought up by her mom. I should have realised there was something very wrong when she suggested we take her along on the honeymoon, just so she wouldn’t feel left out. But at that time, I thought the poor lady needed a holiday so there’s no harm taking her along.” When Dev and Gauri moved to Singapore, of course, Mummy moved with them. From then on, life was hell. “She would insist on cooking and cleaning for me, looking after me, tending to my every need. I felt like she was married to me and my wife was the outsider. And Gauri refused to see my point. ” Being the responsible man he is, Dev believed in an equal distribution of housework. “Juxtapose that with her mother, who would lovingly fulfill all of Gauri’s wishes and make sure our problems were never ironed out, and I looked like an incompetent fool in comparison. Most of our fights began with her coercing me to treat her mother’s intervention favourably,” he says.
Bagh is not surprised how that marriage turned out and has some advice for Gauri and others of her ilk. “Girls have to realise that after marriage, roles shift. And even if you have the same commitment (to your mother), your involvement in discharging those commitments might change. That is in no way a reflection of the love you have for your mother,” she says.
Sham Ronawalla, consultant psychiatrist at Jaslok Hospital offers a simple solution – space. “Even the best of relationships need it and mothers must realise this and be ready to let go of their daughters at a certain stage. In extreme cases, I have seen a mother manipulate a marriage by using dependence and control as synonyms for love. That’s just the worst thing a mother can do to her daughter, especially since she is not going to be around forever to look after her,” says Ronawalla. The good doctor advocates an ideal system where mothers choose to live away from their married children and take up an independent existence of their own. “A mother has to let her daughter develop a healthy relationship with her spouse. If not, sooner or later, the daughter will catch on to the fact that her mother is trying to interfere in her marriage and her reaction will be one of anger and resentment towards her.”
For girls, Ronawalla has one piece of advice: “Stop your mother constantly imposing herself in your married life, or you’ll no longer remain someone’s wife.” Touche.