The courtship, the marriage, the honeymoon…….after all the excitement of the whirlwind, that is inbuilt in our culture when it comes to the union of two individuals or rather two families, dies down and life settles into the routine of practicality, many couples are faced with the all-important question of whether to stay with the groom’s parents or to set up their own house, especially if the man in question has been thus far, living with his parents. A tricky question at best, with so many conflicting emotions and high level of sensitivities attached to it, that it quickly becomes a catch-22 where one feels no matter which option one adopts, feelings will be hurt and worse relations will be impaired. Both sides have strong arguments in their support and yet it has never been nor will it ever be an easily resolved issue.
To put it bluntly, every girl who gets married has a right to her own establishment. To set it up the way she wants to, to run it according to her judgment, to basically make it her own. This is generally not possible when she is living with her in-laws. For one, the lady of that house inevitably is the mother-in-law; furthermore, nothing could be more insensitive or disrespectful than to expect her to relinquish command over her home of so many years to someone else, who just happened to marry her son. Thus, evolves a situation where petty things start to rankle on everyone’s nerves. On the other hand, after a certain age parents become so much emotionally, if not also physically, dependent on their children that filial duty forbids rather is slighted at the thought of leaving them on their own. In face of such strong sentiments, any action taken without the involvement of the parents or spouse will end in unhappiness of one or more parties.
Our obligation to our parents is without par; however, this in no way undermines the rights of the spouse. There are quite a few advantages to a joint family situation, namely if the wife is a career woman and the in-laws are willing to take care of their grandchildren once her job routine resumes. It also allows the couple to occasionally go out with friends, without having to worry about the kids. Plus, for children themselves, the presence of grandparents in their early childhood completes their personality as individuals and teaches them the value of family. Then again in all such cases, if the wife feels her judgment with reference to the upbringing of her children is being undermined or her explicit ways are being shunned, this situation quickly turns into a quagmire, leading more likely than not, to either the kids being forthwith left exclusively with the maternal grandparents wherever possible or to confrontations offending everyone involved.
On the other hand, when the young couple moves into their own house, the parents are left with all the heartache that accompanies the isolation they might feel or the burden of counting every hour of every day just to set eyes on their children and grandchildren. Only when one becomes a parent, does one realise exactly what parents do for their child’s benefit, the innumerable sacrifices, the wakeful nights, the selfless struggle to provide them with the best in life. No words can do justice to all those years of raising your children to be responsible competent adults, so should at the culmination of that objective, parents be made to suffer the pangs of loneliness and separation. Or should the normal desire, the right of the wife to have her own house be trampled upon on the path of filial obligations.
There is no easy reconciliation in such a situation; however, keeping everything in mind there are ways by which a win-win situation might be achieved. The prerequisite to this of course, is the empathy of all parties involved with each other’s viewpoint.
Firstly, in today’s day and age it might not be possible for the young couple to afford a house of their own right away. In such cases, the arrangement that results is not only unavoidable, but also requires the understanding of everyone with reference to their limits and duties. The in-laws need to be cognisant of the privacy of their children and give them the space to adopt the lifestyle that suits their purpose without interference; in response, the newlyweds need to be mindful of small courtesies and gestures of affection that mean the world to parents.
Secondly, when the young couple is able to afford a house of their own, they should fully involve their parents in the whole process of selecting a house. This does not mean adhering to their choice per se, but to communicating to them that their opinion is invaluable. Another criterion should be to find a house as near to theirs as possible. Since the decision to separate should be based on the desire to have your own house and not on say geographical inconveniences (a long drive to work is worth the happiness of your parents any day), this will satisfy all parties in the best way possible; independent home plus proximity to parents.
It is not difficult to balance the relations we find ourselves bound to by birth or by love; it is, however, difficult to reconcile your conscience to the fact that you failed in doing your duty, in being fair to your loved ones, in being a good son or husband. If one looks at it from an objective viewpoint, it is as easily possible for children living under the same roof not to have an iota of realisation of what is due to their parents, as is for sons or daughters living independently to be mindful of the most commonplace of their parents’ needs and wants. Blessed are those who can boast of such children; may we never have to face any trials and tribulations concerning them.
The writer is a freelance columnist based in the US.