In Indian society, in-laws who LET their daughter-in-law work are considered understanding, modern and the perfect in-laws in every way. Her right to do what she wants is basically portrayed as a privilege she’s given. In fact, she will be reminded about it every day! In this beautiful place called “sasural”, your success at being the ideal “wife”, “daughter-in-law” or “mother” is defined basis your ability and willingness to do household chores, your social skills, your dressing sense, and of course the length of your pallu.
There are certain levels in this game called “marriage”, and you level up according to your “modern in-laws”. Basically, the judgement criteria change from time to time. One day you might get judged for the taste of your tea, and the very next day, it could be your casual dress up. (But we’re modern, we don’t interfere in our children’s life). To level up in this game, you have to make sure you forget about your own life and work meticulously for everyone else.
If you are “privileged” enough to have found “the perfect in-laws”, the real game begins. You might be out there making millions and impressing your whole work circle, but you would only be respected at your “in-law’s” house if you do all the chores yourself—before and after your 10-hr shift.
You come back from work and immediately resume your duties as a housewife, while your husband rests after his 9 to 5 job because he’s tired. Your sister-in-law relaxing on the couch after her workday is tired too. So, marriage not only gives you all the duties and “updated” gender roles, but it also improves your strength and basically makes you a superhuman!
While parents expect their sons to work and earn and continue their legacies, the worth and respect of their daughter-in-law is mostly measured by how much household chores she does during the whole day, and apparently, the more the chores, the more is the bragging about “the ideal bahu”.
If you are a woman who’s acing in her career, you should still know that having a kid is your ultimate goal in life. If you have a kid, be ready to give up your job and dreams to become “the perfect mother”. If you fail to do so, you lose the whole game, and you have to start all over again.
Modern in-laws don’t complain about your job or you working from home, but, it will be more convenient if you would just put down your laptop and make lunch instead. They don’t pressurize you to do anything but “you know our neighbour’s daughter in-law works too, but she does all the chores of the whole family herself, oh! What an ideal bahu!”
But it’s not as bad as it seems right now, ‘coz it’s actually worse. If you come from a middle-class family like mine, then you might have already been brainwashed into believing that cleaning, cooking, doing laundry aren’t life skills but gender roles assigned to women. You’ve probably been taught that you don’t need to earn money, it’s a man’s job. You should study only to get a suitable, successful groom who can take care of you.
But how did we get here, or, better yet, why are we still stuck in this cycle?
The root cause of this problem is our social structure where men are conditioned to believe that they are worthy only if they have a respectable job and earn good money and women, on the other hand, are taught to take up the role of a ‘caretaker’. They should aspire to be a good housewife and a mother.
So, while our modern parents and in-laws “allow” their daughter and daughter-in-law to work according to their will, they still cannot open up to the idea that their bahus might not be interested in becoming a mother or doing household chores all day every day.
Once, I overheard a relative of mine saying “what’s the point of having a “bahu” if we have to appoint a maid or cook for the house?” Obviously, why would they pay for a maid and a cook separately when they have already bought, oh, I mean got a daughter-in-law for it? Even the so-called progressive in-laws need free labor from their bahus, what’s up with that?