My family and relatives were happy to have me. They never said that we don’t want a daughter-in-law who is challenged. On the contrary, they said, “Great, you both can be together and support each other, and take care of each other.” And that’s what we have been doing.’
Jairunnisha, 34, polio-affected
How do I prove that I am a good daughter-in-law in spite of my disability?
Who is a ‘good’ daughter-in-law? The one who fulfils everyone’s expectations? Who caters to everyone’s needs? Who complies with all rules and regulations drawn up for her? You may have one definition of ‘good;’ your in-laws may have another. Psychologist Jyotti Savla says: ‘Haven’t you heard of nondisabled people having issues with in-laws? For some families, a woman may be a bad daughter-in-law irrespective of her disability.
Every person has her limitations. Your in-laws knew yours and they brought you in. If you think they are not happy, then ask is there something you are doing wrong? If yes, then what is it? Do they have some unrealistic expectations from you? Because the moment you want to fulfil all the expectations, you will be doing injustice to yourself. As I said, there is nothing called perfection. You can never be a perfect daughter-in-law for them.
It is your values as a person that help you define the role you play. Your definition and their definition are different. Do what your gut feeling says is correct. Make sure you are not hurting anyone, and you are not causing any damage. Even then if they are not happy, you can’t really do anything about it.’
Should I not feel obliged that my in-laws are making so many adjustments for me?
When people live together, they make adjustments for each other – both minor and major. Like you will adapt to the changes and adjust with your new family, they will similarly adjust with you. However you may feel like the adjustments related to your disability are adding some extra pressure. There is nothing wrong in expressing gratitude for assistance, but there is a difference between being thankful and feeling obliged.
Are you ‘feeling obliged’ because you think that there is something lacking in you? That you are not an equal family member? Yes, you may have an impairment, but you bring many things to your new family besides your disability. It could be your warmth, your kindness, your humour, your friendliness, whatever it is that makes you the person you are.
Shouldn’t I get some concession in shouldering responsibilities because I am disabled?
It’s your home, it’s your family. It depends on a shared understanding on how responsibilities are shared in the household. There may be some tasks you cannot do, but that doesn’t relieve you from your share of duties either. Do what you can. If you are on a wheelchair, you can’t climb a ladder and clean the loft. But someone else can. Instead, you can sort out whatever is brought down. If you are visually impaired, you may not be able to read a recipe book. But someone can read it to you while you prepare a meal.
The point is, don’t use your disability as an excuse – not to yourself and not to your family. You will feel and be looked at as an equal member of the family if you do your share.
Sometimes when my partner is not around, I am embarrassed to take other family members’ help on more personal matters. What do I do?
Request the family member with whom you are the most comfortable to assist you. If you have never taken help from them before, speak to them, and tell them how you need things done. If it is something personal like bathing or changing your sanitary napkin, you could check if they are comfortable doing it. The person whom you temporarily ask for help is your temporary caregiver. He or she may not be used to assisting you, so be patient.
Do not neglect yourself because your spouse is away. Your hesitation may lead to pain or discomfort. And no one, neither your partner nor your family, wants you to live that way.
Sometimes my family helps me too much, even when it’s not needed. What do I do?
It is possible that since they have gotten used to helping you or taking care of you, they may tend to overdo it. Talking to them and explaining things will help. You have to tell them that you may take time or make a mistake, but that is part of your learning process. The task may not get done as efficiently or as beautifully when you do it, but doing it gives you satisfaction.
If they think that something is too risky, they could supervise you the first few times. Slowly, their trust will rise and you can get rid of the ‘over help’ they offer.