Life for the wife left behind

Hello everyone,

This post is about the lives and difficulties faced by those women left behind by their husbands who work abroad, most of the time with the guy’s parents.

There was a time when I was growing up that to get a groom for one’s daughter who was working abroad ( at least in my community) was considered the ultimate parental achievement. Everyone would congratulate the parents of the girl on finding the ultimate match.

This was because it was believed that the men who worked abroad would make more money than the men who lived and worked in India.  Now this wouldn’t have been too bad a thing if only these men could take their wives with them. But often they were left behind, as the man either did not make enough to support two families meaning his wife and future kids abroad and his parents and possibly siblings back in India. Sometimes, even if he had the  so called “family status” and could afford to live with his wife where he worked, she wasn’t allowed to accompany him. The reason for this being someone had to take care of the saas and sasur. So the bride would have to stay back with her in-laws while her husband went back to work after the 3 or 4 week vacation came to an end.

Day to day life for these women consisted of taking care of their in-laws and house hold chores. Since, I’m talking about times before email, social networks, mobile phones, the only communication they would have with their husbands would be a monthly letter addressed to his parents, or a phone call for 10 minutes at neighbors house. The in-laws would read the letter and inform the wife that the husband had written and that he was doing well. The MIL or which ever in-law accompanied her to the neighbor’s to take the phone call would admonish her saying that she was wasting her husband’s hard earned money (which  he supposedly could save for her and their kids) if she talked to her husband beyond the allotted time.

 A woman I know, who lives in India with her two kids, while her husband works abroad once told me that, when she was newly married, her husband once wrote a letter to her and when her MIL got a hold of it while she was visiting her parents, all hell broke loose. She was asked by her MIL to not return, it took her father a few trips to the in-laws home and her begging for forgiveness after which her MIL relented and allowed her to return home.

These women were never considered as human by the in-laws. They were  just free laborers. They had to cook, clean, wash all the in-laws’s clothes, be the first to wake up and the last to eat and sleep. If they did anything else apart from this  it was to wait for the 3 weeks of vacation  time when the husbands would visit.

Now this time too was not a happy peaceful time for the poor woman either, the man when not out visiting relatives or friends was supposed to spend quality time with his parents first. The wife would have to wait until it was time for bed, to spend time with her husband. If the husband wanted to visit his buddies, he could just leave, but if he had to take her out to the movies, then the in-laws would have to be notified and permission sought well in advance.

Another side effect of the husbands visiting every year would be the wives getting pregnant, so many of these women would have kids every year or so until the in-laws decided that she had had enough and put an to her reproductive capacity. Now if she did not get pregant, especially if there were no kids yet and it had been a couple of years since the wedding, or if she had a girl before she would be taunted and harassed.  Intimate details  about the possible working and non working parts of her reproductive system would be freely discussed with neighbors, relatives and anyone willing to listen.  New reasons will be conceived for her not conceiving and the poor woman many times will face threats of being replaced.

In short, these women lead lives like pseudo widows. The worst part is that this still happens in 2012 in some parts.

So, what do you think is the fascination with grooms who work abroad? Would really appreciate perspectives from those who’ve come across women/ situations  like this.

Leave a comment


  1. Why do these parents think this is a good life for their daughters? 😐

    • Beats me sometimes. Did you know that the parents /family of the groom who worked abroad could demand “extra dowry”.


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