One Studio, 2 In Laws, and 2 Stressed Out Newlyweds

This blog post is in response to GoriGirl’s post about hosting her inlaws. At the end of May, Satya’s parents came to the U.S. from India to visit and to attend our renewal of vows ceremony in August. The original plan was for them to stay with Satya’s brother and his wife, but plans changed in mid July.

When I heard that the in laws would be staying with us, I admit I freaked out a bit. How would it ever work? Could we all survive the next 6 weeks without severing relationships? How could 4 adults live in one room (it is 900 sq. ft. but still, no walls)?

Fortunately, we all made it through as a family. One benefit was that it allowed me to get to know my in laws better. I had never met them before May. Now, the studio actually feels a bit empty without them.

Below are my tips for living with in laws. Most are common sense and courtesy.

1. Give them as much independence as possible. For us this meant getting my father in law a senior pass for public transportation. It also meant checking out travel books from the library about our city, getting maps, and showing them how to find their way around.

2. Coordinate with other family members. Sometimes, Satya’s brother and sister-in-law would entertain the in laws for day or an afternoon. This gave us some time to ourselves.

3. Learn from them. My in laws were very generous in sharing their culture with me. My mother in law especially, made an effort to share her culture with me. She dressed me in her sarees, taught me some Kannada words, and told me about some Hindu festivals and practices.

4. Speak with them. I made an effort to talk with them and not ignore them. Every morning I tried to greet them with a smile and a “Good Morning” and in the evening I told them about my day and asked about theirs.

5. Do things as a family. Unfortunately, due to hectic work schedules and major stressful projects (planning a renewal of vows ceremony, doing paperwork for a green card) Satya and I didn’t have much time to do big, touristy things with them. Instead, we did things like play board games, and watch movies together.

6. Let go. My mother in law loves to cook and is fabulous at it. When she moved in, she took control of the kitchen. She cooked our suppers and even packed lunches for us!

7. Do little things to make them comfortable. Satya and I did things like install instant messaging and skype onto a home computer, bought flowers, told them about the local farmer’s markets (I think they enjoyed these much better than the grocery stores).

8. Plan time for yourself and spouse. Satya and I would take walks outside whenever we needed private discussion space.

Needless to say, I’ve been very blessed to have married into such a welcoming and easygoing family. My in laws truly treated me like a daughter. I realize though, that not everyone is as lucky. I don’t have any advice for situations where both parties aren’t cooperative.

Overall, it was a growing experience. We all got to know each other better. Also, having his parents here helped Satya relax during a very stressful period of his life. I’m looking forward to hosting my in laws again, although hopefully next time we will have a house!


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jessica
    Jan 11, 2009 @ 06:11:16

    Great post!! I can completely relate to the challenges and rewards of sharing a small space with the in-laws. #8 – Let Go is especially good advice. I was just told recently by an Indian aquaintance that she feels one of the main reasons why my MIL has been so crazy about me is because of how much reign I give her in the kitchen when she’s here. She told me that Indian daughter-in-law’s really resist this, and it makes me MIL soooooo happy that I so easily give her reign…and hey, why not?!?! Who wouldn’t for those delicious homecooked authentic Indian meals? : ) (okay, well it’s not *always* so easy, but I guess I don’t put up the kind of fight she might have expected).

    Great blog! Glad to have found you!

    Exactly! Why not? Towards the end I was getting a little tired of the same type of food over and over again, but I think that was a small price to pay for delicious, nutritious food.

    I think also think that sometimes the barriers of language, distance, and culture sometimes can help DILs and MILs respect each other more. It helps from taking things personally. Sometimes anyway : )

    Thanks for the compliment! Hope to hear from you again.


  2. Gori Girl
    Jan 11, 2009 @ 20:32:26

    I never saw this back in August, but Jessica is right that this is a great post. We spent a lot of time playing cards as a family when Aditya’s parents were visiting.

    Regarding the food issue – Maa & Baba did most of the cooking, but I tried to do a dish or two a week. I think they really appreciated the food I showed them that were “Indianized” versions of American home cooking, like chicken pot pie or sausage stew – close enough to their style of food that it wasn’t a shocker, but different enough that Maa wanted recipes.


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