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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Moving to Our Own Apartment

After over a year of living in a joint family, we’re moving out. I came to India fully prepared to live out the rest of my days sharing a home with my in-laws, but it seems I was too optimistic. The things I thought would get easier, got worse as my need for personal space and a sense of control grew. People warned me that joint family living is hard, no matter how lovely your in-laws are. I carried on without taking much notice, assuming it would be different for me, and I could make it work. I was going to be with my husband and that’s all that mattered, right?

Wrong.

I have found joint family life extremely hard, this way of life doesn’t suit me. I came to India to be with the man I love, not to be a perfect Indian daughter-in-law. I gladly embraced many of the  traditions and customs, but I’m just not cut out to do this 24/7, I want to be able to spend some alone time with my husband without moaning about how isolated I feel.

As a couple, we need our own space and I need to feel at home in India, at the moment I still feel like a lodger in someone else’s house. Unfortunately, I’m not built for joint family life. We all feel this is the best move for us as a family. I’m not against maybe returning to joint family life at some point in the future, but we are newly weds who jumped straight into marriage. We haven’t experienced time alone yet.

I hope that having our own space will improve my relationship with my new family and just give us all the breathing space we all need! Proximity breeds contempt, living in a joint family has taught me that. I feel certain that a little bit of distance (less than 1km) will nurture my relationship with my new family as I am absolutely determined for it to blossom!

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Companion Dog

I haven’t been posting very much since the wedding because I have felt pretty low and fed up. I love living in India, I feel blessed when I wake up next to my husband every morning but life isn’t all marigolds and lotus flowers. My husband works long hours, six days a week and once he goes to work, I feel lonely and isolated. When I first moved to India, I was optimistic about living in a joint family, I was certain it would gradually become easier and I would adapt to the busy home. Unfortunately, it kept getting harder, especially when the humid heat started to stop me leaving the house during the day. Everyday when my husband left the house to go to work, my stomach sank, another nine hours of solitude. Another nine hours of counting down the minutes, pressing my forehead against the window like a caged bird, missing my family and friends, missing my husband! I am certain I was showing the early signs of cabin fever. Things had to change. So I found myself a companion.

We adopted Alfonso, the cutest little ball of furry rolls I ever did see.

pug puppy, I love you so dearly!
I am trying to find the words to express how much of a God send our little pup has been. When my husband leaves for work, I still don’t want him to go but no longer dread it. I have someone to talk to (even though he is only two months old, he already speaks fluent imaginary English), someone to cuddle, someone to care for. I no longer feel lonely or isolated. How can you feel down when you see these big brown eyes looking at you?

The first name we came up with for him was ‘Mr. Anderson’,  my husbands favourite movie is ‘The Matrix’, but we soon came across some pronunciation problems (something we will have to consider when naming our human children). It wasn’t long until we found a perfect name. He was born during mango season and Alphonso mangoes are the sweetest and richest, they taste like golden honey. He is the sweetest little guy, so we called him Alfonso.

alfonso the mango

It is a well-known fact that pets can make a real difference to the lives of anyone feeling down or stressed (unless you are scared of animals, then that may exacerbate the situation). Cuddling a fluffy friend can leave you feeling wonderfully calm and reduce blood pressure, stress levels and anxiety. They love us unconditionally, they make us laugh and they know when we are sad and try to comfort us. When you look into their eyes you can see their pure little soul full of love (especially if they are watching you eat).

My dog is not my whole life, but he really makes my life whole. I hope he knows how much we love him! I caught this cute little video just before he fell asleep, I am sure you will fall in love with him too:

Now the wedding is over, it is time for me to really work out what I am going to do with myself in India. Together with my little companion, we are going to find something to do with our day, use our time wisely, on something worthwhile. There is a big world out there, surely there is something for a foreign women and a pug to do.

How it Feels to be an English Wife Living with my Indian Inlaws

If I had married an Englishman and then went to live with my inlaws, people would think it was pretty absurd and assume we had financial difficulties. They would probably ask, ‘when are you guys getting your own place?’ or … Continue reading