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'How I befriended my mother-in-law'

August 26, 2009 14:30 IST

Get Ahead reader Asha Fernandes* sent in this interesting story of how she befriended her formidable mother-in-law. As the first part of a series, we bring you her experience:

Everywhere you look you're faced with stories of mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law not getting along (and that's putting it mildly) -- on TV, in the news, from family and friends. And that was precisely why I was not too happy about having to move in with mine after our wedding.

Sure, we got along fine before the wedding, but that was for an hour or two once a week, maybe. This would be everyday, for a couple of hours in the morning and a couple of hours in the evening (she's a working woman too) and every weekend. Disaster -- that's one word that came to my mind. Why? Because we had nothing in common!

She is Hindu, I'm Catholic. She's very religious, I'm not. She's vegetarian, I'm strictly non-vegetarian. She spends her time watching religious programmes, while I prefer English serials and comedies. She loves to chat, I'm a loner.

All these very pertinent issues were brought up in various discussions I had with hubby-to-be all through our courtship, but they always ended with him saying, "She'll be all alone if we don't stay with her."

And so I gave in.

As the wedding approached, I made my peace with the fact that the first year would be a bumpy ride. Putting any two people together, no matter how agreeable, will cause friction. And I was prepared for it.

It's been three years now, since our wedding and our living with Mum -- yes, that's what I call her now. And all I can say is: I adore her!

We started off being very polite to each other. I'd offer to make her tea, she'd offer to let me watch my TV shows. And that's how it continued for a few months. Then the religious functions began, first Christmas. I asked my husband to accompany me to Midnight Mass, fully expecting her to object. She didn't.

Then came Holi, and she expected me to hang back and not participate in the rituals. But I did, and with full gusto.

And that has been the story of our relationship -- politeness turned into understanding, and understanding into respect.

In the three years we've shared our home, I can't remember a time when we've quarrelled. My husband and I argue all the time, yet Mum and I never do.

Now neither of us is perfect. We're both fiercely independent and quite set in our ways. Yet, we found a way to get around the problems that we both expected. And this is how:

Respect: Respect each other, each other's beliefs, each other's space. When we return from work (she comes home about an hour before I do), she'll let me spend an hour alone, letting me unwind before the household chores begin.

Tolerance: Do not impose your beliefs (religious or otherwise) on everyone else. She's happy to let me eat what I like even if she's fasting. I'm happy to participate in all their rites and rituals (and there are a few) even though I don't understand them.

Teamwork: We are on the same team. We're family. We help each other in every chore, whether it's cooking or cleaning or shopping.

Of course there are times I wish hubby and I had a bit more privacy. And it would be nice to maybe not have as many functions and aartis and pujas. But at the end of the day, I consider myself lucky to have someone to lean on. And I hope she feels the same way.

Do you have a similar tale to tell? How did you befriend your mother-in-law? Did you experience any hiccups along the way? Share your story and advice with other readers. Simply email us at (subject line: 'My Mother-in-law') and the most interesting entries will be featured right here on

*Name changed to protect privacy.

Illustration: Uttam Ghosh

Asha Fernandes