Have you ever thought of how little credit we give our loved ones as opposed to a random stranger? For example, you see a young woman aiding an elderly across the streets. If she were a stranger, you’d think ‘wow what a nice person’ – yet if you were told they were related, your perspective of the young woman may change. Some of us may think it’s her duty or responsibility to help that old woman. When did family and responsibility become synonymous?
I can’t speak for other cultures, but I was raised in an Asian household and typically, children never grow up. They age and become adults and get a job, but even if they move out of the house, parents continue to be parents. They make the rules, you follow. No matter how old you are, your parents are always right and it is your responsibility to take care of them when they get older. I have time and time again needed to reassure my parents that I will take care of them. The only difference is, and I don’t think they can understand, I want to care for them because I want to and out of love, not because I’m supposed to or out of responsibility.
Recently, my extended family has been overwhelmed by mixed emotions and so, I’d like to share a story I read. The original story was written in about language and I will try my best to translate and paraphrase.
Mrs. Smith is 88years old. She lives with her son, daughter in law, and grandkids. The multi generation family live in a friendly neighborhood. Mrs. Smith had knee surgery a few months ago and has been recovering.with her daughter in law’s assistance. From feeding, to bathing, clothing, and exercising, the daughter in law is glued to Mrs. Smith’s sides.
Because of this, they’ve become the talk of the neighborhood. Many mother in laws are gossiping about how lucky Mrs. Smith is to have such a kind, caring, and wonderful daughter in law – let’s call the daughter in law, Emmy.
One day, a friendly neighbor catches Emmy coming home from the grocery store and they chat for a bit.
Emmy explains that she’s making soup for her mother in law because it should help with recovery. The neighbor commends her for her thoughtfulness and tells her everyone is absolutely jealous of Mrs Smith because no one has daughter in law that could even compare to Emmy!
“Thank you,” Emmy replied. “You say that my mother in law is lucky to have me because you’ve seen me take care of her. But what you have not realized is that when I had just given birth to my first born, I wasn’t allowed to do anything. My mother in law believes that this is the weakest time in a woman’s life and she required me to stay in bed for a whole month. For that entire month, she cleaned, cooked, bathed, dressed, and helped me walk around the house. She talked to me every day because she thought I’d be bored. She cared for my baby, day and night, because she didn’t want me to exhaust myself. So no, my mother in law isn’t lucky to have me and no, I’m not lucky to have her. We are blessed that we both want this relationship to work and we put a lot of time and effort into making it work.”
So there you have it. The age old tradition and innate rivalry between a mother and daughter in law does not have to exist.
Some cultures make it almost impossible for family to treat each other with love, understanding and respect. But if we just take a step back and realize what it is we want – what it is we value – we can put our differences, pride, and ego aside and create a fostering environment that may just work.