“So, how many days for you,” asked my friend to me. She’s a newly married girl, settled in Mumbai with her husband. The question was to check with me the duration of my stay in my in-laws place for Diwali. (PS: She was dreading her first ever Diwali visit to her MIL who lives in another city.)
What was the rational of having that conversation? It’s festival time and that’s also a time for most married women, who live away from their mother/father-in-laws, to pay a visit and resume their roles as domesticated daughter-in-laws. No need to mention that it is also the time when you are required and obliged to forfeit your time off from work (that is, for women like me who live in Mumbai and travel to Delhi to visit family for Diwali) to invest it on your husband’s family.
I am okay to do so. After all, I am told I have two mummies and two papas.
So, why cant I spend time equally among the two?, I asked my mother. And her apologetic reply was, “Beta, they (referring to my in-laws) get the first preference…(a pause and then) plus, it’s your duty.”
I complained, “But Mom, if you are my mom and it’s my vacation too (as is my husband’s) then don’t we get to spend equal time with both parents. Why the preferential treatment?” I have never really understood why one papa-mummy (like in-laws) get VIP treatment over the other.
She replies (making no sense to me), “This is not how it is done and you cant change things.” The last bit of the sentence was when my mom got emotional and I could do nothing over the phone.
My parents, who have two daughters (me and my elder sister), have always driven into our heads that we are equal to other male cousins in our family, in every way. I chose my profession, married only when I figured the guy was right and take holidays only when I want to take time off from work.
My logic is simple – I am a working woman, earning and living my life just like my husband. We both leave home and come back at the same time. We both have job pressures and deadlines that eats up every bit of energy in us. So, when he takes a break to relax with his family, don’t I get the same liberty. Or is it to be decided by society that I should spend X days here and X-1 days with my parents?
Luckily for me, my MIL (a working woman herself) seemed to understand my situation. Being a journalist (and also someone who has just recently taken 41 days off for a vacation), I ain’t getting any Diwali holidays this year (this remains a fact) but I I do get the chance to work from my office in Delhi (which is also my parents home base).
Hearing about my lack of holidays, my MIL told me over phone, “It’s all right. You can come for the main Diwali day (which is on weekend) and go back before Monday to resume your work.” The big highlight of this conversation was that SHE UNDERSTOOD !
She understood that her daughter-in-law who’s mad after her job, will not take days off to spend them idling in Bulandshehar (my in-laws home base). She understood that I place my job first and my parents second in my life and would be very reluctant to change positions for anyone. And boy, am I grateful to her that she understood.
I must admit that this feeling comes as a big relief, almost as if I knew if she hadn’t said that then I would have spent long days fretting in Bulandshehar. I would have not stayed away from work for long in any case, but my MIL saying that its okay for me to stay over for just 2 nights during Diwali and then resume my work from Delhi made things much more amicable and definitely a lot more acceptable.