Listen to this episode with Priyanka Joshi to learn how each of us can contribute toward healthier marital relationships, whether you are the mother-in-law daughter-in-law or part of the extended in-law family.
Priyanka NLP practitioner, passionate content creator and mental health advocate. I have been using the power of my pen to raise mental health awareness in our society. We need more conversations, less shame, and stigmas attached to mental health.
With my consistency and dedication, today my blog Sanity Daily is listed among the top Mental Health Blogs and is read in more than 110 countries. As a single mother, I live with a passion-driven purpose to work on myself every day, as I have learned that self-improvement and self-preserving is the only thing in our control. I help my readers with the best ways to take complete charge of their lives.
We recorded this episode on September 15, 2022.
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Timeline of the Chat
[00:57] Building Marital Families (with In-laws)
[03:51] Take Time to Build Marital Relationships with In-Laws
[07:10] Managing Extended Marital Families
[08:40] Building Support in Marital Families
[12:26] How Each Partner Can Help in Marital Relationships
[15:31] Skills for Creating Healthy Environments in In-Law Relationships
[22:43] The Common Problem in Marital Families Everywhere
[25:29] Power in Marital Relationships
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Transcript of the Episode
Building Marital Families (with In-laws)
[00:57] Damianne President: So how might the marital family, these in-laws, be similar and different to your own family, to somebody’s own family?
[01:05] Priyanka Joshi: I would say that sometimes it’s about the adjustment, the area from where you are coming. Your own family and your marital family, I think, will always be different because there will be a time gap. There will be so many things that they don’t know about, and coming to that comfort level and to understanding how they are, how a family works. Because you and me, everyone, has a different set of rules, different living style, different kind of eating habits. And so it takes a lot of time to understand those things.
And I feel that essence of each and every relationship when it comes to families and in-laws, the basic thing is understanding and giving time to each other to understand. Sometimes we just rush into things and expect a lot from the other person. So yes, there is a difference in both the families, and giving time to each other helps.
[01:51] Damianne President: What I’m hearing you say is that a lot of it has to do with maybe differences in habits. So you might have to adjust and learn about habits of the other, the extended family, your husband’s, your wife’s family. And then also, maybe there could be some values differences, and those are also things that you have to negotiate in terms of figuring out where you fit and also how you work with in-laws.
[02:16] Priyanka Joshi: Exactly, so values, beliefs. Sometimes they feel that you are challenging their beliefs, but in general you’re not doing that intentionally. Even in friends, you can have different opinion, I can have different opinion. But in friendship it’s like, okay, right. Oh, I don’t agree with you. And you won’t feel bad about it either.
You can tell me, I don’t like this thing about you; you should work on this. I won’t feel bad about it. But when it comes to in-law, I don’t know why. Staying sort of friendly. Why do we start taking things so personally, and we start building some notion about each other.
So that is something I read a lot about and I try to understand the psychology behind that. In my blog, I try to write about it a lot, how we can work on ourselves to not see it that way.
[02:59] Damianne President: Yeah. And I think that’s interesting because also you mentioned about like, somehow it has a different weight when you get feedback from in-laws versus when you get feedback from friends or maybe even from close family members. And perhaps some of it has to do with you’ve had time to build that intimacy, or you’ve had time to build that trust.
Often I think people are kind of guessing, okay, what do they mean? What are they trying to tell me here? And maybe people don’t have the same amount of goodwill towards in-laws. So I wonder how much does socialization and we have a lot of images, like we have a prickly plant that people call mother-in-law’s tongue. And there are lots of examples in society of the not very friendly in-law family or not very welcoming parents in-law.
Take Time to Build Marital Relationships with In-Laws
[03:51] Damianne President: How do you think those things contribute towards the way that people relate to their in-laws?
[03:59] Priyanka Joshi: I think it’s different for different people. I come from India. So when a girl gets married, they go to stay to their in-laws house. So I feel that instead of assuming, and expecting that girl will become part of your family overnight, give her some time to understand and adjust with your environment.
Sometimes we expect so much. And like you said, we assume. She must be like this. Oh, she did a mistake. Oh, she is like that. No, give her some time. She is into a new environment, crossing some other boundary and getting into someone else’s place and understanding their family, who is who, what she likes, what she dislikes, so it takes a lot of time. Because even in our family with mother, father, brother, sister, sometimes we get into arguments, we don’t understand each other. So obviously it requires a lot of understanding and time.
So I feel when you give that welcoming environment that comfortable space to a daughter-in-law, she also feels a part of your family and takes those effort to understand how your family is, like you said, values, beliefs. Then she starts respecting. Give that time to develop that bond, at least. Okay, she is our family. Don’t make her feel left out. It’s your bit you can do. Obviously it’s a daughter-in-laws part also to adjust and try to be there, try to understand.
In India, there are more than 45 languages spoken officially. When you go to each city and stay there, it becomes so difficult to understand the language, what she’s trying to say. So I think giving that time to understand and develop that bonding is very important in relationships, any relationships, right?
[05:31] Damianne President: What I heard you say also was about the importance of communication and also of giving space, and maybe even supporting each other in terms of helping people learn how things are different and similar to what they’re used to.
This is true in India where you’re from, but this is true in many different places. Now people more and more are dating outside of their cultures perhaps or outside of what they may be used to, whether or not that might be across races or across cultures. We have a lot more immigration and the world is connected much more than we used to be.
so, one of the things that comes up is an opportunity to learn different ways of being, different approaches, but also to learn how to value those different approaches. And that needs to happen on both sides.
[06:22] Priyanka Joshi: Both sides, yeah. Everyone wants harmony and peace in their house. Even some mother-in-law, she’s putting in lots of effort. If daughter-in-law is not contributing or cooperating, then it won’t work. And if daughter-in-law wants to be a part of the family, but mother-in-law keeps on dismissing her or, you know, not making her feel part of her family, after sometime she will stop trying.
[06:45] Damianne President: I guess it also depends how often do you see your marital family. You mentioned, for example, in India, if daughters-in-law are moving in and living with their mother-in-law, then that’s a very different level of urgency than if you see your in-laws once a year or for only special events or holidays. But still, regardless of the frequency, there’s still a consideration what can you do? What’s your role in the relationship?
Managing Extended Marital Families
[07:10] Priyanka Joshi: So when you’re staying with them 24/7, and India, still there are families who are like joint family, husband, wife, elder brother, his wife, mother-in-law, father-in-law, younger brother, like eight to 10 people staying together. So it’s not only mother-in-law and father-in-law, it’s the sister-in-law, brother-in-law, managing expectations of everyone.
So it becomes really hard because people expect a lot from you, but give less. But if you are working, if you’ve got a job in another city, sometimes you move out and like you said, once in a while, once in a year, then you just keep that cordial relationship.
Okay, we are just meeting for the family gatherings. So you prepare yourself. Okay, fine, I’m not gonna say anything. Let’s be nice with that person. So it was different for different people and what kind of arrangement they are, but you brought up that communication. You need to have that open channel of communication. Like you and me, if we are not communicating, how will we know if we are holding something against me? Or maybe I said something and maybe I didn’t say it in intentionally. I hurt you. You need to tell me, and I need to acknowledge that.
So we don’t have that open channels of communication. We don’t talk, we indulge into cold war. Okay. I’ll give that cold vibes to you. I won’t talk. I’ll put on some snide remarks. I’ll say mean things to you, but I won’t talk to you directly, that kind of vibes we give to people when we stay with them and don’t and be around them. So it’s better to have a healthy conversation kind of environment and house.
Building Support in Marital Families
[08:40] Damianne President: What are a few things that people can do to help build this healthy environment. Of course it matters the other person’s response, but the only thing we can control is ourselves. And so what are some of the things that we could do to contribute towards this healthy relationship with in-laws?
[08:58] Priyanka Joshi: I always write about self improvement because I learned that I cannot control anybody else. I can only work on myself. So when I was married, mine was inter-caste marriage in India. I’m from North India and he was from South India. So obviously there was a lot of cultural differences, language difference.
The only problem was since the south Indian language is too tough, I couldn’t, uh, grab it. I couldn’t understand. And after a period of time, it becomes very difficult to learn and adapt to a language. And so I wanted some time. So, like you said, communication, they wanted me to learn, but they would never teach me. So how would I learn then? I wanted to learn, but since I wasn’t getting any help, because my husband was okay with it. You don’t have to learn. How we talk; that’s fine.
Why I’m saying this, that importance of communication is that you expect a lot of things, but you don’t tell them that you expect them to be like this, I’ll help you out. Like you said, support is very important. Okay, we want you to do this. Let’s do it together. I’ll help you out. I’ll teach you what we cook in the festivals. So that’s how it is.
Don’t assume things. Don’t expect her to be perfect. Walk her through the process and then make her learn things and then just leave her. Don’t expect and build that image in your that, oh, no, she’s not doing it. She’s not adjusting. It’s all in your mind. You’ve already built that picture of that daughter-in-law, and even sometimes a daughter in law expects too much.
I try to be very much neutral when it comes to mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationship, because there are mother-in-laws also who tried; their best and their daughters-in-law don’t cooperate.
Obviously, the ratio is higher side for the mothers-in-law, like we said worldwide. But I feel what we can do is that from our side, we keep open that channel of communication that I want to talk. Mom, I didn’t like it, what you said and[doing that] in a healthy manner, not sulking or like tripping about it.
Okay, mom, I didn’t like it. Please, can we do it like this? Can you please teach me? At least try your best. Leave this ego and all these things aside. At least you will have that closure that I tried my best. So after a few years, when you look back to those things, you have that, you know, that satisfaction that I tried, I used to talk, I used to reach out. So that’s very important for your inner peace.
[11:18] Damianne President: I guess that can get really hard to keep trying things if there isn’t reciprocity. And that’s something for each person to kind of decide at what level will you try and at what point will you stop or not? But I think what you’re saying is that each individual can contribute by removing some of the guesswork and actually opening the channels of communication.
Because sometimes what happens is we think, well, they’re not doing it. And we think it’s up to them, whoever they are for them to do something. But if you want something to be different, have you tried to change it in any way? Have you made any overtures to get together, to talk, to do some things to build that relationship?
[12:04] Priyanka Joshi: Very much, you don’t need to do that guesswork inside. You may continue to talk. You need to tell me Priyanka, I want this to be done in this manner. And if you don’t know how to do it, I’ll teach you. What’s the harm? I feel that if you indulge into healthy communication, if we keep that communication open, a lot of relationships will drastically improve. Don’t you believe that?
How Each Partner Can Help in Marital Relationships
[12:26] Damianne President: What is the role of the partner, so the husband, the wife, the person whose family it is, it’s not their in-law, it’s their family. What’s the role of that person in helping to build strong relationships with in-laws?
[12:41] Priyanka Joshi: What I’ve seen is that most of the time the husbands and wives, they just play the middle person and they get stuck and tired. They just want to stay away from all this. Husbands are usually, um, I don’t know, you sort it out. There are times when they’re either supporting mom or they’re supporting daughter-in-law/wife.
If he’s supporting a wife, he’s gone. And if he’s supporting mother, obviously things go bad. It’s not only a person you are married, you are marrying the whole family. It comes with the package, right? So you have to maintain some kind of at least respectful and cordial relationship with each and every person. You don’t have to necessarily like everyone. And it is not necessarily that everybody will like you, love you, but at least be respectful to each other. I think that is enough for that.
A partner, he has a major role because sometimes a lot goes unsaid and unaddressed because people don’t want to talk about it. They want to avoid the argument. They want to avoid a negative scenario in the home. So we don’t indulge into healthy and mature discussion.
We either fight, shout or get nasty. And that destroys relationships, obviously. So having a healthy discussion, sitting with mom and wife and talking and letting them get to know each other; there is a role to play.
If like I see my husband and my mother are not getting along, maybe I’ll try to talk them out. Sit, what’s the difference. Let’s sort it out. We used to do it when we were in school; we used to do it with friends. We do it with our siblings. I still do it with my daughter. What’s the problem. Tell me, I’ll help you out. Why can’t we do it with adults? Why is it like that barrier? We need to cross those lines and try to work on this because in the end, we all want some peace in our houses. And I don’t know why we don’t talk about things which need most attention.
[14:33] Damianne President: And that person in the middle, the husband, the wife, whatever, they’re the person who’s loved by both people. So they’re actually in a unique position of being able to have conversations. Maybe it can be challenging to be a mediator, but at least they could talk to each person and help build some understanding, help reduce some of the guesswork, help create some space and some grace to not always think the worst about the other person. Even if it’s not okay, let’s all sit down together and have a family meeting because that could be a big stretch for some people.
[15:13] Priyanka Joshi: It is not always easy to get into conversation, but at least you can nullify that negative impact. If I’m talking bad about my daughter-in-law to you all the time, you can just nullify without being disrespectful, because mom loves you. Your wife loves you. You are the contact person who has that authority to nullify that impact.
Skills for Creating Healthy Environments in In-Law Relationships
[15:31] Damianne President: What are some of those qualities or what are some of those skills that are helpful for creating this healthy environment in a in-law relationship?
[15:43] Priyanka Joshi: There’s a, a notion attached with mothers-in-law. Even if mother-in-law is not that arrogant or nasty, our initial image or reaction is that she must be like that. So we, as daughters-in-law, we also need to come blank slate mind. Do not have any perceptions developed. From the beginning, sometimes we come already hold so many, like she must be like that, I’ve seen mothers-in-law like that, brothers-in-law like that, fathers-in-law are controlling, rude.
Remove all those filters you used to see. From years, we have been seeing and listening to the stories. And there are very, very few stories which are shared of good relationship bonding of mothers-in-law, daughters, father-in-law, and brother and sisters. I won’t say that it’s the fault of daughters-in-law, because that’s how they have been listening and hearing from their childhood.
So what we can do as family members. Even I have a brother, and he’s getting married next year, so yeah, I have a role to play there. He just got engaged. So I’ll just share a short example with you. Maybe it’ll help you.
My mom had this habit of buying clothing for him and everything. So even she used to call me asking which one should I pick this shirt or this shirt? And this time, obviously they both went shopping. And my mom was like, oh, look at him. He has already changed. I just stopped her. No mom, we don’t need to talk about it. And she was like, oh yeah, I realize that. And then I told her that we need to step back. Now it’s them. So we did our part. Now let her handle him. So we had a great laugh. Okay, our job is done. It’s her job now; let her do it.
So this is a short example. We laughed out and I just nullified her. She was feeling something, so I just neutralized her feeling. So that’s what we can do. If someone is talking about someone to you, you can just neutralize. The intensity could be lowered when you use powerful words. Like that’s okay. It’s okay. Everybody does that. That’s fine. It’s part of family. She’s family. He’s family.
So when you talk, the person feels okay, maybe I’m thinking too much. When you indulge into talking, yeah, I know how she does it. Oh yeah, I know. Everywhere, every time, it’s the same. Then it creates more perceptions and more scope of negative communication for that person. So as a family member, like I said, you can utilize the conversation. You can just, okay, fine, it’s okay. It happens with all of us. You can just neutralize that.
You can always keep open channels of communication. You can be there for that person. You can be non-judgmental and non-biased also. Don’t judge people for following something, doing something, not doing something. It’s okay. Instead of judging and feeling angry and holding grudges inside, you can tell them here, can you please help me out? Can you please do this for me? Can you run this around for me? Why don’t you go and get some groceries for me? I am not feeling. It’s okay to speak up openly rather then holding grudges inside, and it troubles you as well.
It’s not that it is impacting the relationship with that person, but somehow it takes away your peace. So don’t do that with yourself as well. So what we can do is to keep a healthy environment in our house. Obviously stress is always going to be a part. If there are like four or five people staying together, there will always be differences of opinion. There will be always some room of negative conversation.
We might not talk for two days, but make sure third day when you talk, you forget about what happened two days back. That’s family. That’s how family works. Cannot be perfect. You just cannot be like happily ever after in movies when we see the end and they stayed happily ever after; there’s no end in real life, obviously. So you just have to work and continuously nurture each and every relationship you have, like COVID taught me that this is all we have. We have to live in the movement and hold closely and tighter the family members and people you love. So just be there for them and be less judgmental.
[19:18] Damianne President: If I can summarize the tips or the skills that you said, you talked about being less judgemental. And I think also what I picked up is about being empathetic, being empathetic to the different family members as well and what their experience is.
So yeah, you may feel of course, yes, your son is going to interact with you differently now that he has a wife, but it’s okay because this is a natural part of growing up, of getting married. So there’s that element of empathy and saying it in a way that is kindhearted, that is thoughtful, and caring as opposed to, oh, you are wrong, oh, why are you even worrying about that? These types of judgemental responses are much less useful, are much less impactful than building that empathy, acknowledging the person’s feeling and also helping them see the normalcy of happening.
[20:12] Damianne President: One of the big themes that have come up of things that are important is communication. If somebody is listening and they’re married, do you have an invitation or a challenge of something they can do to help build that stronger relationship with in-laws, whether it’s communication or something else?
[20:33] Priyanka Joshi: So, like I said, we. Spoke about communication. Communication is the key to any relationship. It is very important. Secondly, try not to do that guesswork; don’t assume things. And don’t have unrealistic expectations. We need to learn to manage our expectation.
I have seen in my family also women suffering. And then I feel if I have suffered, I won’t let that negativity pass on to my maybe future daughter-in-law. I’ll try to be the best version of myself and give her that space what I didn’t get.
I see women doing same thing with other women, what they have been through. So at least you need to, like we used to say in COVID, flatten the curve. Step out and be someone who wants to change that thing we have been doing for a while.
So yeah, managing expectations, don’t expect too much. Let her be, let her be. Give her some space, make her feel comfortable. If she is doing her part, try to help her out, support her and try to make her understand not everybody’s perfect.
And even as a daughter-in-law, we sometimes fall into the bit of people pleasing. We want everybody to be happy, right? We don’t say no. And we don’t say like, okay, I can’t do this. We take a lot of things, and after some time when you realize, no, I can’t do this, then you want to say no and you can’t say no. Sometimes you become rude when you are too overburdened with things because when your family grows, when you have children, when you have work and responsibilities, you are not available for everyone and everything. Then there are times when you need to learn to draw boundaries as well.
You need to know how much you need to do, and when you need to. That helps you to manage your expectations. You don’t have to be pleasing all the time and you don’t have to be disrespectful also. So balancing that act is very important. All these things requires you, not the other person, because the only thing in your control is how you manage things, how you manage people, how you are behaving with that person or your mother-in-law or your father-in-law.
I know that I have seen arrogant, disrespectful, toxic mother-in-laws. I meet so many people. I receive so many emails, I have never received an email from a mother-in-law talking about her daughter-in-law. Every time my daughter-in-law, you know, pouring her heart out and saying, asking me. I’m not a counselor. I just hear them.
The Common Problem in Marital Families Everywhere
[22:43] Priyanka Joshi: So I always see there’s only one thing, common even if you are based in India, US, UK, Prague, or I don’t know, Netherlands. It’s same everywhere. It doesn’t matter how educated you are. It doesn’t matter from where you are coming. It’s the same understanding problem.
Sometimes a mother-in-law feels that daughter-in-law is snatching her son. And sometimes it’s like, she’ll overpower her. It’s not like that. A lot of perceptual shifts are needed here. Obviously it cannot happen overnight.
[23:13] Damianne President: Today’s guest is Priyanka Joshi. Priyanka has been using the power of her pen to raise mental health awareness in our society. We need more conversations, less shame and stigma attached to mental health. With her consistency and dedication today. Her blog, sanity daily is listed among the top mental health blogs and is read in more than 110 C.
As a single mother, she lives with a passion driven purpose to work on herself every day, as she has learned that self-improvement and self preserving is the only thing in our control. She helps her readers with the best ways to take complete charge of their lives. And you can find her on Instagram, Priyanka Joshi and on Twitter virtual see Yahi. How do you say that would.
[24:03] Priyanka Joshi: Yes, it’s virtual CII.
[24:07] Priyanka Joshi: So what we can do is that’s what I said that I have learned. That only thing in my control is to work on myself, to tell myself, oh, no, this is not how it is. Like you said, guesswork. Even we do as a mother-in-law. We also have lots of emotions. We do that guessworking thing. Oh, she’s like that only, she’s not gonna listen to me. Try, at least try. Doesn’t listen? Okay. You did your job. That’s fine. It gives you, you know, sense of liberation. Okay. I’m very clear about it. So instead of holding things inside, getting into mental arguments and overthinking and disturbing your thought patterns, it’s important that you talk and let it out.
Don’t build up with the bottleneck and you feel so suffocated, and one day you just burst out and everybody’s like what happened to her? She has become so rude. She’s not cooperating at all. It’s important that you let her know this is something bothering me. I need to talk. Can we talk? It’s important that we talk. Maybe after some time she will also understand that. And if she doesn’t cooperate, fine. At least your partner sees that you are putting in effort
[25:03] Damianne President: Yeah, in my experience. With relationships in general, what happens is death by a thousand cuts, right? Like you think, okay, I’ll put up with it. Okay. It’s not a big deal. And eventually all of those tiny things, you get to the point where everything becomes a big deal. And so if you could kind of curtail earlier in the process by proactively dealing with things that come up, then I find that to be a much more effective method.
Power in Marital Relationships
[25:29] Damianne President: As you were talking, the idea that came to mind is that there really sometimes is a power imbalance or what people perceive as a power imbalance in the relationship where if daughters-in-law, I guess it’s usually daughters-in-law more than sons-in-law isn’t it, but if daughters are complaining or if they’re having a difficult time with mothers, in-law, it’s often because they perceive that the mother-in-law is more powerful than them in some way. Either they have more influence on the son or they have some ability to make life difficult, to make life complicated for the daughter-in-law.
[26:07] Priyanka Joshi: Yeah.
[26:09] Damianne President: Whoever is listening, you are probably involved in some way in a marital relationship. You might be the sister-in-law. You might be the mother-in-law. You could be the brother-in-law or the cousin, whatever, but we’re all parts of extended families that include people who are family by marriage. And I think each of us, whatever our relationship is, we can play a role in helping create a healthy environment when we are around.
What do you think makes a healthy or functional family?
[26:44] Priyanka Joshi: Families that eat together room together, stay together are happiest family. Obviously I love my parents. I love my brother and I’m staying away from them so I miss them so much. So I just try to stay connected with them via video call, Zoom call, each and every function. Sometimes I’m crying on the video calls because I’m so far away from them and I’m missing them. So you can just take small steps to make them feel loved and make them feel special. Like I told you, nurturing, just make them feel like I love you, and I am happy that you are with me.
Do some small gestures like mother’s day, father’s day. If you can just give them some flowers or cake; these small things won’t harm you, but they feel loved and special and they feel that you still care for them. So take those small steps to make your people feel loved and cared and don’t ever make anybody feel lonely, that no one cares about me. Because already we question our self worth and self image a lot. So if we get that boost and love from the people around us, it helps us. Each and everything has a ripple effect. If you are happy, everyone is almost happy. And if you are not happy, it impacts your children, your husband and mother-in-laws and everyone, and we don’t want angry mothers in law.
[27:57] Damianne President: As we end our conversation today, is there anything that I haven’t asked or anything that you wanna share, that you wanna make sure listeners take away from our conversation?
[28:09] Priyanka Joshi: Yeah, I would like to speak about relationships in general, like overall with your partner, with your child, with your in-laws and everyone. After a point of time, we stopped nurturing our relationships. Have you ever felt that? Have you felt in that way that we just stopped trying once we are married? Okay, now I’m married. Okay, I have a child. Okay, fine. Everything is there and we just go with the flow, but we stop nurturing the relationship. We stop embracing and appreciating people around us. Sometimes, just take out some time to let them know how grateful you are for having their presence in your life. Take out some time to be grateful that you are not alone. You have family members with you. You have seen how isolation troubled people during COVID times, how people were forced to stay alone in isolation and quarantine, how it has impacted brutally, how it has impacted their mental health.
So let’s just pray that no one ever stays alone. So please keep all your grudges aside. I know it’s not easy. I know people will say it’s easier said than done. It doesn’t happen with each and every family member. Obviously, we all have flaws; nobody’s perfect here. But if you can forgive someone, this is the time.
There is a quote, the only problem is that we think we have time. So if you can mend few relationships, it’ll give you that closure and put you at peace. If you can do that, do it. And even in your daily routine, just try to work on yourself. Keep yourself busy, engaged. Follow some passion, do things you love so that you’ll be in the most positive state of your mind. It’ll keep you happy.
And I feel as a woman, if you are happy, you keep your surrounding happy. Your children are happy. We talk about self care and self love a lot. So indulge into some activities which help you to stay connected with your inner ourselves, which helps make you happier and positive. Then you’ll pass on that positive energy to other people as well.
We have to live in the movement and hold closely and tighter the family members and people you love. So just be there for them and be less judgmental.Tweet