Sunday, February 10, 2008

Is mommy-in-law equal to mommy?

Among many south indian brahmin families - a new bride is expected to call her mother-in-law as "amma " (mom). According to the mothers-in-law, it sets the tone for a deeper relationship, but many educated daughters-in-law don't like calling anyone else other than their biological mother as "amma".

This is one of those rules and customs from the past, that made sense before, but not anymore. Just a few decades back, girls were married away at a very young age - like 8 or 12 years of age (Child marriages still happen in India, but many communities have come far along). As the young girl went into her in-law's household, even after puberty, she was still young, and it was probably comforting to look upon the mother-in-law as another mommy. Also, the culture was pretty much to follow what elders said, and expectations on individual freedoms were pretty low. This environment allowed her to accept someone else as an additional mom. Even a couple of decades back, though women married in their late teens or early twenties, many were still submissive due to the culture and upbringing, and this practice was still acceptable to most of them, though such comfort to look upon someone else as mom was not necessary.

Today. the girls are full grown adults in their early to late twenties or even thirties at the time of marriage, likely well educated, indpendent in their thinking, earning on their own, and don't need any comfort entering a household nor can be expected to be submissive. As such, an expectation to call someone else as mommy hardly makes sense - imposing such an expectation only hurts the relationship.

It should be left to individuals to agree upon how they'd like to call and be called. For mothers-in-law, the deeper relationship is established by setting expectations together - not imposing old practices that worked in the past. For daughters-in-law, it helps to remain flexible and find innovative ways to negotiate an acceptable term - perhaps "mom" in another language rather than "amma". Or call them "mummy" - they may not know what that means!

1 comment:

Radioactive Android said...

I couldn't agree more. I was faced with the same situation a while ago when an elderly woman wanted me to address my 'mom-in-law to be' as amma. I was lucky b'cos 'mom-in-law to be' just bailed me out of it saying that I shouldn't be compelled do that and it's only natural that it would take time :).

IMO it's not even about whether it makes sense or not, more importantly it's tough to call someone amma or something to that effect until you really make an emotional connection with them and accept each other and know for sure that this person is indeed someone that is sincere and trustworthy.