I got married almost two years ago. Until that day, I was skeptical about marriage as you will have seen from my post on “The Wife I Want”. But guess what, people change and so did I. The truth is I have now become someone who actually quite likes playing the home maker. Shocked? Well, it’s all thanks to my awesome mother in law.
Asaad’s (my husband) mum taught me what empowerment really is. She is an accomplished lady with a master’s degree in Chemistry and has served as a lecturer at a prestigious Pakistan university. She’s a traditional Pakistani lady, who covers her head and lives alone in Karachi. My father in law is an engineer in the shipping industry who spends 6 months of the year at sea. Living in Karachi is tough, let alone being a woman living alone. But my mother in law is a trooper. She works for a non-profit organisation and delivers lecturers across the city on various topics in religion and education. Like most women she enjoys Pakistani dramas, dressing up and shopping. But what really struck me is the relationship she has with Asaad. They are like consultants. They both make their own decisions but always ask for each other’s advice and the banter between them is hilarious. She is one of the few Pakistani mothers I have met that makes fun of her son openly but their relationship is so strong that it doesn’t matter.
She stopped working to raise her three children. And many would think she sacrificed a successful career. But she doesn’t see it that way. She believes that men and women are equal in so many ways but the emotional strength a woman has is unrivalled. Consequently, she realised that her husband could cope with being away at sea for 6 months so she took the reigns inside the home and gave up teaching. She made her children emotionally sound, highly objective and wonderful human beings. Some children may resent their father for being out of the picture but my mother in law raised three children who are in awe of their father. She took the tough decision to move away from her parents home and lived far away from her relatives, a smart move in large families.
The relationships she has with her three children is truly special. They treat each other like adults and with so much respect. She has no expectations from anyone despite having the authority to ask of any of her children whatever she wants. She could choose to stay with us, she could demand that her son visit her every weekend but she doesn’t. She keeps herself busy and up to date with developments in the world so that she always has something to talk to her children and me about. She has three grandchildren through her eldest daughter yet she doesn’t expect her daughter to look after her despite living so close and alone. She didn’t make any sacrifices, she took a different opportunity and chose to raise a family that is hardworking, intelligent and successful in more ways than one. More importantly, she is a highly respected member of the family and is known for giving objective advice. The highest form of respect that I see for her comes from my father in law. He thinks the world of her and expresses it.
Recently, I made the decision to spend 5 days with her without Asaad. Nobody expects me to go to Karachi alone. My mother who grew up in Karachi was so proud of me – she is also a traditional Pakistani lady who feels that you can never do enough for your inlaws. Anyway, I was slightly panicked, not sure what to expect. Usually I just laugh and listen when Asaad and his mum are talking but this was my opportunity to build my own relationship. And it turned out to be the best 5 days ever. My friends, both eastern and western said I was such a “good daughter in law” but I would argue that Asaad’s mum is such a wonderful mother in law. She let me sleep next to her, she asked me for my opinion on things, we sat and had tea together and talked for hours about politics, science, relationships, my career, and so much more. It was such a stimulating experience. There was no visiting a million relatives or seeing if I had brought appropriate gifts for people, asking when I would give her a grandchild etc. We went Eid shopping and I was worried about overspending but she took me to the best shops and encouraged me to look for quality. We watched Pakistani soaps and she asked me if I was getting bored?! No mother in law I know has ever cared about her son’s wife being bored. She doesn’t need to entertain me but that’s what she said. And believe me I have seen mums who make it a point that their wishes be heard above and beyond anyone else’s.
I watched her study and research for her lectures that she now delivers free of charge. An educated Pakistani woman built a successful career as lecturer and a home maker. That is my mother in law. She learnt early on that the roles of men and women are defined and if she competed with her husband to grow her career things may have been very different today.
The lessons I learnt from that trip are:
- You can be career focused and family-oriented all at the same time – you just need to know when to make the switch
- Sometimes it becomes necessary to remove emotion from decision making. That’s when you can really think objectively.
- Education fosters wisdom, thoughtfulness and the ability to build healthy relationships
- At some point in life parents have to earn the respect of their children
- There are defined roles of men and women
I’d love to learn about your relationship with your mother in law and using some of your experiences to strengthen mine.
When I was looking for an image to support this post, all the images had negative connotations so I decided to use a real photo this time.