From the U.S.: Hi, I am a 32 year old Indian woman living in the states. I have been married for 4 years and have a 1 year old boy.
My in-laws live in India and visit us every year for 4-5 months. They haven’t been very kind to me and have always treated me like a second class citizen. They don’t let me travel alone to India, so whenever we go to India it is for 2 weeks, out of which I get just 2-3 days to spend with my parents.
Last year when my son was born, they came to visit us her in the U.S. and stayed here for 4 months. So when we went to India after that I wanted to stay with my parents but they did not let me do that either.
This year I planned for my parents to come and live with us for 2 months. As soon as I booked their tickets, my in-laws started insisting on coming too. Now they want to come for the 4 months, completely over-lapping the two months my parents are here.
We live in a small one-bedroom apartment and there is no space for these many people in the house. This is really under-handed and insulting. I don’t know how to live with people like these anymore. Please help me.
This may be a cross-cultural issue I don’t entirely understand. From my point of view, the problem isn’t with your in-laws. The problem is that you and your husband haven’t worked together to draw boundaries around your own family.
The two of you are letting the older generation make decisions that, from an American’s point of view anyway, aren’t their decisions to make. I understand that the grandparents want to spend time with their child and grandchild. But I can’t imagine relatives announcing (not asking) that they will stay for months at a time in an already crowded apartment.
I strongly urge you and your husband to talk seriously and calmly about to what extent you are going to continue doing things that are perhaps traditional in India, but are not at all the way western families operate. From an American point of view, you and your husband are adults, not children who need to do whatever his parents think is right. Your in-laws can only come to visit if the two of you let them. People can only stay with you as long as you agree to let them stay. Your in-laws should not have the power to decide when and for how long you will visit your own parents. It’s your husband’s job to tell his parents to treat the wife he loves with respect. It is your job to calmly but firmly tell them that their insults are not appropriate. But those are all American responses to their behavior.
It doesn’t have to be one way or the other; Asian or America: You can decide on compromise positions. You may have to make changes gradually. As examples: You could limit visits to a month a year or state that relatives can certainly visit but they need to stay in a nearby hotel. You could decide to alternate visits between his family and yours to make things fair and even. You could ignore your in-laws dictates and decide your own travel schedule so that your family gets to spend as much time with you and your child as your in-laws.
Change is never easy. But neither is the current situation. You are caught between two value systems — the one you were brought up with and the one you are living in now. I hope you and your husband can figure out how to balance the two, even though his parents probably won’t like it.
I wish you well.