Advice: Serving Food to my In-laws Feels Degrading

Hello Lauren, I am going to also be an English wife in India soon and I keep having a recurring argument with my Indian fiancé. His family has help to do with the house work, so he has told me the only thing I have to do when I move to India is cook, stand and serve the food to him and his parents. I feel serving food to my in-laws is degrading.

I’ve tried to explain to him if he’s working all day and his parents are out or ill, I would serve them food, and if I’m out vice versa. I told him I find serving demeaning and when I’ve seen his sister serve I felt really uncomfortable. especially as his parents aren’t old and his mom doesn’t work. I tried to explain to him what I meant by demeaning, but I don’t want to come across as a b**** and just keep being negative and saying no. I feel like he just won’t compromise or try to understand why I might feel that way, and I don’t know if I’m being out of order but it’s a gut feeling.

I do respect his culture, I don’t mind touching feet and the sindoor, but I just can’t get my head around standing there serving food. Would you have any advice?

Anonymous Reader

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It is traditional for an Indian daughter-in-law to cook and serve food to everyone else in the family, some must even wait for everyone to finish before she can eat. Why? Some would say it’s because a daughter-in-law is at the bottom of the family hierarchy, while others would try to justify it by saying it’s simply a gesture of love. Of course, a loving gesture isn’t compulsory…

I believe a daughter-in-law entering a new family (especially a joint family) should be made comfortable. This is a huge change (not only for foreign brides, but for Indian brides too). Everything is new for everyone, including the expectations everyone has for each other. It will take time to feel at home. For everyone to feel comfortable with each other. I know, I had a difficult time when I first moved to India and into a joint family. It takes a lot communication, discussion and determination to understand from both sides.

Your fiancé will need to be your advocate because your Indian family will have little idea about your expectations of an in-law-daughter-in-law relationship. He will have to explain the difference in culture to them and in turn, express their feelings about it to you. Your fiancé really needs to understand how you feel and respect those feelings. He should be ready to mediate and negotiate to find a middle ground that works for everyone.

I suggest you ask your fiancé why he thinks it’s necessary you to stand serving food to the rest of the family. Perhaps he hasn’t ever thought about as being unfair or maybe he wants you to do it to impress his parents? They might nervous or even upset about having a foreign daughter-in-law, you should keep in mind that they probably didn’t expect to have a firangi bahu.

When you start married life, you should feel like an equal member of the family, and if serving food makes you feel less than that, please express your feelings. Let me assure you, this isn’t something every Indian family does. Explain to your fiancé how important this is to you, because you don’t want to start life in India resenting your in-laws.

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