Home » My in-laws were supposed to move in for six weeks. It’s now been five years.

My in-laws were supposed to move in for six weeks. It’s now been five years.

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This week, Insight looks at how couples navigate relations with in-laws. Watch it from 8.30pm Tuesday 19 July on SBS On Demand.The values instilled in me growing up were that I should never marry someone from a different cultural background.Yet, my rebellious personality has led me, a Sri Lankan-born Hindu, to marry my ever-loving wife, whose parents are first-generation immigrants to Australia and are from a strong Shanghainese [Shanghai region, China] cultural background.

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After the birth of our first son, and at the request of my wife, my in-laws temporarily moved in with us to assist with the many joys and challenges that come with a newborn.

I primarily saw this as a huge positive as my in-laws were also there to provide her with the mental support required and were able to cook her many Shanghainese dishes, which I would miserably fail at.The temporary stay was meant to be six weeks. However, after a second child, we are currently at five years and still counting.My experience of living with the in-laws has been mostly positive, but the challenges always dent and overshadow the positive experiences.We are from varied cultural backgrounds and with it comes a language barrier. I am unable to communicate with my mother-in-law as she only speaks Shanghainese.

I’ll never truly know if she is entirely happy with her only child marrying someone who can’t converse in Mandarin or Shanghainese.

A selfie of Lalith on a bus sitting next to his wife Louise. Louise's parents sit in the row behind.  A selfie of Lalith on a bus sitting next to his wife Louise. Louise's parents sit in the row behind.

Lalith on a bus with his wife and his in-laws.

My father-in-law is a man of many traits: hands-on, always thinks he’s right, someone who adores our boys and I truly feel that he always wanted a boy of his own.We had no conflicts over the first few weeks and months, however as the kids became toddlers, the parenting lines started to blur.He would always, and continues to have a say in what he thought was best for the kids when it came to parenting, mealtime, childcare routines or how we should take care of the kids when they are unwell.Like most grandparents, my in-laws love the kids, and they often provide the kids with sweet treats and occasional fast food. Something I don’t always agree with as my parents are Type 1 diabetics and I fear my kids will get used to unhealthy eating habits.I feel these concerns can never be raised as we are living under the same roof, and any concerns raised would be perceived as a form of disrespect.

Even if I were to have a difference of opinion on trivial matters, such as what colour we should paint our kids’ room or what furniture to buy for the house, I’m forced to draw back as I’ll either end up offending my wife or her parents.

Lalith and his wife Louise holding their two children. They are standing behind a blue birthday cake. Lalith and his wife Louise holding their two children. They are standing behind a blue birthday cake.

Lalith and his wife Louise holding their two children.

I’m limited in how much I can influence an outcome in my own household and whether I’ll have the ability to parent my kids freely with no constant judgements.All I want is to be a good father and a good husband, but I just don’t have the independence to do what I feel is right and, in my opinion, you really can’t learn or progress unless you make your own decisions.I continue to live with the conflicts, but I feel we are comfortable enough to live together without getting too offended.I am extremely fortunate though to have in-laws who love and care for my kids. However, I feel it is also important to strike a healthy balance between caring and understanding who the primary caregivers are.

I never had the privilege of growing up with either of my grandparents, and I want my kids to enjoy the experience and guidance grandparents can provide.

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