When a Feminist Met with a Chauvinistic Father-in-law
(Minghui.org) I was born in the 1980s. Although I was an only child I was not spoiled, but I was very self-centered. Influenced by the modern trends in society, I believed that women should be strong and even stronger than men. At school, I could not stand it when my boyfriend did better than I. I had to study hard so that I could do better than him. Although my husband was very understanding, my in-laws were very traditional; my father-in-law believed that men should make all the decisions and my mother-in-law was very submissive.
Shocking First Meeting with Future In-laws
Six months after I met my husband, I was invited to visit my future in-laws. Many of my future husband's relatives were there. I politely addressed them, “Hello, Uncle. Hello, Auntie.”
My father-in-law said in front of everyone that I should address them as “Dad” and “Mom.” I was very embarrassed. I didn’t know what to do as we were not married yet. I muttered the words “Dad” and “Mom” under my breath in order not to offend them, but I was not happy.
Every time I met them, I had to refrain from addressing them as “Uncle” and “Auntie”, and call them “Dad” and “Mom.” I felt very uncomfortable and thought my future father-in-law was chauvinistic and overbearing.
My Baby Caused Conflicts
I was studying for my Ph.D. when I married my husband. After we married, my father-in-law pointed out the advantages of having a baby while we were still in school. We followed his advice and I got pregnant. I was ill during my pregnancy and could not cook. So my mother-in-law traveled from their hometown to take care of me.
According to my father-in-law, the husband is the head of the household and the wife must listen to him. Women are responsible for all the housework. My father-in-law held himself above everyone, while my mother-in-law worked, did all the housework and took care of the children while frequently being criticized by her husband. Sometimes, I felt sorry for her. But I thought that, since it had worked for them and they seemed to have no issues, I should leave them alone. To my surprise, my in-laws expected us to have a similar relationship. As a feminist and a modern-day woman, I felt challenged.
I was grateful to my mother-in-law who cooked for me every day and worked really hard. But the way she interfered with my housework and the way my father-in-law controlled us through phone calls really upset me. For example, he would tell us who should clean the pots and pans, who should do the dishes, who should do the laundry, and so on. Once, I had an argument with my husband. My father-in-law phoned and told my husband, “You're the head of the household. You make the decision.” Then he said to me, “You must listen to your husband!” I was infuriated, thinking, “Why should women listen to men? He should listen to me!”
After October 1, my father-in-law came to visit us for the holidays. We had many conflicts and neither of us relented. Once when my father-in-law would not budge on an issue I was so frustrated that I called him “stubborn.” He was very upset and left before the holidays were over.
After my baby girl was born, my father-in-law was not pleased as he wanted a grandson. My husband indicated that he also wanted a son. Two days later my father-in-law went back home. After his father left, my husband became very cold to me, it was a 180-degree switch from before the baby was born. I felt that my in-laws were mean to me. I cried for a month and was depressed. During one of my heated arguments with my mother-in-law, I threw things on the floor and I was so angry I shook. My husband was scared and hugged me tightly. When the baby was one month old, my mother-in-law went back home. I took my baby and went to my mother’s.
Dafa Awakened Me
I was very depressed and I became angry whenever I thought about my in-laws. I cried so much that I could not see straight. I knew that if I continued on this way, I would become ill. My mother practices Falun Dafa. I had learned early on that Falun Dafa taught kindness and purified people’s hearts and minds. I decided to practice.
From then on, I read Falun Dafa books every day and listened to Master’s lectures. I found that the depressing substance (I did feel that it was a substance) was constantly being cleared out. I became very calm. Reading the teachings, I realized that women should be gentle and virtuous. The modern society has turned ladies into “strong women,” and virtuous wives into “fierce women.” In addition, I understood that people are mean to you to resolve a karmic debt from the past. As a practitioner, I must look inside to see what I didn’t do right. Many of Dafa's principles enlightened me. When I examined the conflicts between myself and my in-laws from the Fa’s perspective, I understood.
I understood that my mother-in-law, who does not complain, is a traditional, virtuous woman, whereas my concept of women as the decision-makers is the product of modern society. When my father-in-law disagreed with me, I called him “stubborn.” I was not respectful of my elders. Actually, I was the one who was very overbearing and stubborn. My mother-in-law traveled a long way and left her home to take care of me. It wasn't easy for her. In contrast, I fought with her over trivial things. No matter how righteous I thought I was, how badly I was mistreated, measured against the criteria of Dafa's principles, I was very self-centered and selfish. I did not think about things from the perspective of my in-laws. Gradually, I had no complaints about them and thought of them as my own family.
Elevate Amid Conflicts
After six months of maternity leave, I had to go back to school. I was faced with the issue of childcare. Just when I was torn over my options, my husband told me that my in-laws called and said they would be willing to come and help if I phoned them and invited them. I was annoyed, but then I realized that I was a Dafa practitioner. I probably hurt them last time they were here and they had reservations about living with us again. So I called them up and sincerely asked them to come.
My father-in-law came as well. Before I began practicing Falun Dafa, I could not have lived with him for one week. Would I be able to live with him peacefully? I wasn't sure. As it happened, his male chauvinism soon surfaced again.
We lived on the second floor. We had to get our water from downstairs. My husband usually brought the water up as the bucket was heavy. One day, we were out of water. As my father-in-law had arthritis and my mother-in-law was tiny, I thought I would be able to do it now that I practiced Falun Dafa and my health had improved. Just when I was about to do it, my father-in-law grabbed the bucket and wanted to do it himself. I refused to let him do it because of his arthritis.
As we argued, my father-in-law said, “This is man’s work. You women are supposed to do the housework. I told your mother-in-law often, ‘You are incapable of doing big things, and you don’t even do light housework, why should I keep you around? Why should I support you?'” I was shocked. He picked up the bucket and off he went.
A few days later, we were out of water again. As he was getting ready to get it, I remembered what Master taught us, “...consider others when doing anything.” (Lecture Four, Zhuan Falun) Without any hard feelings, I said to him, “Dad, I know that you are kind to us. But you should not be lifting anything heavy. Please let me try.” He paused and agreed. With good health thanks to Dafa, I was able to bring the water up. Since then, my father-in-law never had to do it again. I passed this trial.
A few days later, I was chatting with him. We talked about daughters-in-law who were not filial to their in-laws. He suddenly said, “I would not keep her. I said to so and so (my husband), you must beat her if your wife doesn't listen to you.” He looked very proud of himself. I thought, "He's coaching my husband to beat me!!" Before I got angry, I realized that I was a cultivator and he was helping me elevate. So I smiled and said, “Don’t worry. I will be obedient to you.” He was taken aback and smiled.
One day, I went out with my in-laws to walk around and saw an ancient poem that said something to the effect that it was not good for women to manage the household. When my father-in-law saw it, he asked me to explain what it meant. I was embarrassed. I would have been very upset had this happened before; I would have refused to say anything or said something nasty. But I realized that I was a practitioner and should not act like that. So I explained to him kindly, “What it means is that women should not run the household, as women are often shortsighted.” I added my interpretation. He did not say anything else.
When situations like this happened too often, I still get upset. I was very anxious to outdo others in the past and would not have endured this. As soon as my resentment surfaced, I began reading Zhuan Falun and it would subside. I was fine again.
I tried to be like a “virtuous wife” and “filial daughter-in-law.” In the past, when I saw my mother-in-law washing my father-in-law's and my husband’s socks and underwear, I thought it was ridiculous. Now, I've started to do that. Every morning, before my in-laws are up, I've already made breakfast for the family. My father-in-law’s blood sugar is high so he eats few carbohydrates, so I prepare separate dishes for him. After lunch, I look after my child and let my in-laws rest.
My in-laws have become more and more accepting of me. Once, my father-in-law arrived a bit early and found my husband still sleeping while I was cooking with my baby strapped on my back. He immediately took the baby. I guess my chauvinistic father-in-law has changed a bit, too, a testament to how changing oneself is the best way to positively influence others.
I was very self-centered and self-righteous in the past. Now I realized that I was just being selfish. As I follow Dafa's teachings and work on becoming selfless and altruistic, the true me who is sincere, kind, and tolerant is gradually surfacing. The feminist me is disappearing and my once chauvinistic father-in-law has become more understanding. We are becoming closer as a family.
Thank you, Master, for giving me a harmonious family.