We all know how bad mothers-in-law can be! They are famous for torturing their daughters-in-law. There was one mother-in-law who took an oath that in her own life she would not allow this maxim to prove true. When her son reached the age where she felt that he should get married, she encouraged him to look for a wife. She vowed to be extremely, extremely kind to her future daughter-in-law.
The son said, “Mother, why, why? You are happy with me and I am happy with you. Why do we have to bring somebody else into the picture? You are still young enough to do the housework. Even when you are older, we shall have maids who can do your work and look after the two of us. If I marry now just so that you will have someone to help you with your work, then it will only create disharmony. You will torture the poor girl and I will feel miserable.”
The mother said, “No, I promise I will not behave in that way! If you find a wife and bring her here to live with us, I will be very kind and compassionate to her. Just wait and see.”
The son surrendered. He said, “All right. To fulfil your wish, I shall start looking for a wife. But I know my problems will start on the very day I bring her home to live with us.”
The son found a very nice girl to marry and she came to live with him and his mother. True to her word, the mother-in-law was extremely kind and affectionate to her new daughter-in-law. She would not allow the young girl to do any hard work in the house. All the cooking and cleaning the mother-in-law did herself. She tried to make her new daughter-in-law happy in every possible way. The daughter-in-law could not believe how kindly she was being treated. Before her marriage, she had heard so many bad things about mothers-in-law that she was frightened to death. Now she found that her own mother-in-law was just the opposite.
Usually the mother-in-law prepared excellent meals for her son and daughter-in-law. However, one evening, while the son and his wife were eating together, the son said, “Today the food is not as good as it is on other days.”
His wife said, “I am sorry that today Mother did not cook as well as she usually does.”
Her husband got the shock of his life. He exclaimed, “You do not cook my meals for me?”
“No,” said the wife, “your mother does everything.”
“My mother?” asked the son. “Then what are you here for? Who asked you to marry me if you were not willing to do any work around the house?”
“You asked me,” said the wife, pitifully.
“But why did you agree, if you do not even know how to cook?” shouted the son.”While I am at work, my poor mother has to do everything! And you have remained silent the whole time! When I think of how my mother must have been killing herself, my heart breaks.”
By this time the wife was sobbing. She said, “I wanted to cook for you, but Mother would not allow me to do anything. What was I supposed to do? She insisted on doing all her own work and mine also.”
Then the son became furious. He said, “My old mother has to do everything for you and you will not even lift a finger to help her with the cooking! You should have found a way to help her!” Then he got up and left the room.
The wife stayed in the room. She was utterly sad and depressed. After some time, her mother-in-law entered and found her looking miserable. With utmost compassion, the mother-in-law asked, “Why are you so sad, my child?”
The daughter-in-law remained silent. She did not want to bring any complaints against her husband and she could not blame her mother-in-law for being so kind. Seeing her weeping eyes, the mother-in-law thought, “The poor girl has not seen her parents for so many months. Perhaps that is why she is sad. She is still a young girl and it must be difficult for her, living in a strange place. I should have been more thoughtful.”
So the kind mother-in-law made all the arrangements for her daughter-in-law to visit her own parents in their village. When the time came for the girl to leave, her mother-in-law said, “Now you please go and be with your parents. After a short time, I will send someone to bring you back again. I know what it is like for you. I was also quite young when I was married and I used to miss my parents so much. In fact, I used to go quite often to visit them. I had forgotten that it can sometimes be very lonely for a new wife. I should have sent you long ago. Now please, please go.”
So the mother-in-law forced the young wife to go back to her parents’ place for a few weeks. On the one hand, the wife was happy that her husband would not be able to scold her anymore, but on the other hand, she was sad that her mother-in-law had to continue doing all the work.
When the wife arrived at her parents’ home, she observed the situation there. Her brother had recently married and his young wife was now living with them. Every day, from morning until night, this girl was being scolded and harassed by her mother-in-law. Nothing this girl did seemed to please her mother-in-law. Her mother-in-law was constantly saying, “Could you not have done this correctly? You could have done this properly. You could have done that infinitely better!” The visiting daughter felt really miserable. She said to herself, “How can my own mother be so bad? I see that this girl is trying to do everything as perfectly as possible, plus she is trying desperately to maintain a cheerful attitude, but my mother is only scolding her and criticising her.”
One morning she said to her mother, “Mother, why are you behaving like this? You know that I also have a mother-in-law now. My mother-in-law is so kind, so compassionate, so self-giving. But if news had reached your ears that I was being treated the way you are treating my sister-in-law, if you had heard that I was being scolded and insulted mercilessly, how would you have taken it?”
Her mother answered, “I would have gone there myself and scolded your mother-in-law. I would have asked her what right she had to scold and insult my daughter unnecessarily.”
Her daughter said, “Exactly! If I had been mistreated, you would have become extremely upset. You would have gone to challenge my mother-in-law. Now look at your own case. How my sister-in-law is suffering from your constant scoldings! If she goes and tells her mother how you are torturing her, what will happen? Naturally her mother will come and berate you. Perhaps she will even take her daughter away with her. So now I am begging you to stop treating her like this. Please give her the work that she is supposed to do and take her as your own daughter, the way my mother-in-law has taken me as her daughter. Try to offer her all your love and kindness. If you want happiness in your life, then take your daughter-in-law as your own daughter.”
The mother saw the truth of her daughter’s words and from that moment on she wholeheartedly embraced her new daughter-in-law as her own daughter. Meanwhile, her true daughter returned to her husband’s house and convinced her mother-in-law to allow her to help with the household chores in every possible way.
So this is how one mother-in-law, by being good, was able to make another mother-in-law good also. When one person in this world is good, automatically that goodness spreads to others.