Monday, October 04, 2010

Joint Families - an introspection

I have the habit of raving and ranting on social issues and this time it is about the possible reasons behind the lack of attraction to the joint family system. Who is to be blamed is my question? Following an introspection I realized that my generation is as much to be blamed for the situation as the current bunch of young parents. Read more about it here and give me your honest opinion.


Rohini said...

I don't know if it is a matter of blame, but really it is more about changing times. I think daughters are no longer brought up like in the article you linked - to accede to the MIL in every issue. They have a much more equal footing with their mothers once they grow into young adults and hence cannot suddenly learn to behave any differently with the mother-in-law.

Hence parents wanting to live with their kids do have to change their expectations a bit.

Also, there is a matter of continuity. It would be easier if there was no interim separation. But typically, the younger generation moves to another city for career-related reasons and usually quite a few years lapse before it's time for the parents to move in. By now, everyone has become quite set in their individual ways.

R's Mom said...

Lovely Post HHG...My in laws dont stay with me and I look forward to their visits...but MIL is very insistent that she will not leave calcutta and shift to mumbai because both MIL and FIL are comfortable there and they dont want to leave their familiar location...they are also clear that they will come to us whenever we need them (like when my daughter's day care is closed for a week for Diwali or something like that) but otherwise they prefer that we lead our lives by ourselves..on the other hand, my parents are perfectly okie to stay with my bro and SIL or even with me and hubby...I think the joint family is something that we really need..infact my mom just mentioned few days ago that the need for a joint family is more in this age than in her generation because most women in mom's generation were housewives and would stay at home to take care of kids but now with both the spouses working, having a grandparent around to take of the kids even if there is a full time maid around is something that is needed badly...gosh thats a long comment aint it :)

Renu said...

It is a very complex issue with no easy answers, earlier parents stayed with children because there was nowhere to go.and Children also conformed as they were duty bound. Today the times have changed..I know a family where mother has nevr taught her girl anything about adjustments in marriage or even taught her anything aout maintaing a realtionship or maointaining a house..such type of girls when get married, they break all the norms inadvertantly.
In our time parents asked us to respect inlaws, and they never wanted to interfere in our life after marriage, and we also nevr told the nitty gritty of everyday to them, today due to the easy communication, girls tell each and everything to their mothers, and then mothers guide them in their day today life, which nevr bodes well for their life, as they live with inlaws.

Sumana said...

Actually I have an aunt M who lived with her inlaws after marriage in a joint family. Inlaws were not that bad but they wanted control like you know in certain things. So when this said aunt had her son to be married, she always insisted and told her son to stay separate after he gets married. The son though not initially happy.

So the said aunt instead of blaming her MIL for anything always feared that she might also be a controlling MIL when she becomes one or reaches that age. She did not want her DIL to even undergo 1% of what she had gone through. This makes sense to me.

Having said that, I personally do not like to keep old and ailing parents who cannot conduct their daily activities be left all alone. May be upto an age where they can take care of themselves, it is fine to leave nuclear.

Haddock said...

All said and done, I feel the independent family life is more practical.

dr.antony said...

When I was young,we lived as a big parents, we seven sons, my grandmother,my father's sister and her daughter.There was always some one around for any kind of help.Every thing changed right in front of my eyes.A radical change of culture and attitudes. The 'self'has crept in to every day life.When my father died,no one was with him.All his children were unfortunately educated and grew their wings and flew off.

No one is to blame. Opportunities in different part of world, ease of travel,self found partners, working couples, higher education,...every thing has contributed. Finally,the joint family system is no longer suitable to the life style of modern families.No one has got the time,patience,and sentiments to keep it alive.Times have changed,and so have life styles.

Sue said...

I know I wasn't brought up to be as submissive as my mother or aunts. That was a deliberate step taken by my mother and most of my aunts who had their own reasons for doing so.

So, yes, they didn't want me to live like that. They knew it wouldn't suit my temperament.

hillgrandmom said...

In my view, in the old days, the economic factor was a big reason for the joint family. A large parcel of land to be looked after, from which came the wherewithal for life, meant that the more people there were to pitch in, the better and so women who were married into the wealthier families (the ones with the larger lands) felt privileged and therefore did not mind whatever they had to go through. Besides, for the efficient functioning of such a large household, one would obviously need a general who was obeyed unquestioningly by the subordinates--whether the Father/head of household for the outside work or Mother for the household work.
But with time, when this kind of economy changed and people were forced to move, to support families and women too joined the work force, then the strong need to stay together became diluted. Increasingly, the joint family was just a continuing tradition and not a necessity. Therefore, I feel, it began to be questioned by it's participants. Besides, with women's education, the woman began to think and was therefore less willing to be a subordinate.

Hip Grandma said...

Rohini:You've summed it up very well.We parents want our children to have excellent careers develop an independent thought process and yet complain that they have changed. One cannot have it both ways.

R's Mom:I think one's parent's should be allowed to lead their lives as long as they can but however much they prefer their set up both groups must regularly interact so that if and when they have to move in they are not made to feel left out or out of place.Having said that I must say i am impressed with your parents.

Renu:I don't think parents are to be blamed if their daughters do not adjust with their in laws. Girls are no longer teenagers at the time of marriage and know their mind. i know of aunt whose daughters will have nothing to do with their mothers in law.She keeps telling them to adjust but they just don't listen.

Sumana:It is very nice of your aunt to grant her DIL the freedom that she did not get herself. Yes, once an elderly person becomes infirm he/ she should move in to their children's home if not for anything else at least to save them the anxiety due to having an ailing parent manage on their own. At this point both groups need to compromise.

Haddock: may be it is, may be not. It depends on the persons concerned.

dr.antony: However unsuitable, both generations should show some flexibility.One cannot let children forget the fact that at some point of time parents will need emotional if not financial support. Even tho' physically apart a kind enquiry, an occasional visit makes a lot of difference. Similarly parents too should accept change and learn to deal with it.

Sue:Times have changed and what was okay for me is no longer okay for my children.If i realize this i may not have a problem accepting change. But a certain amount of rigidity does come with age.

hillg'mom:true, very true. Even now when brothers are involved in a family business they prefer a joint family arrangement. Such people feel like fish out of water when they have to lead an independent life later. I know a girl who has her afternoon meals at her MIL's place because she just cannot eat on her own!

However, in a changing world as dr.antony points out joint families of the earlier kind are not practical anymore.

Madhu said...

I think many things led to the current situation. There is nothing wrong in joint families or families choosing to live separately post marriage. The needs for various families are different and so are the situations.

For example, if a family has a big business/farm to care for, you usually see that they all live together and care for that business together (generally speaking). On the other hand, if the siblings are educated abroad and want to settle there, you see that the joint families are no longer practical.

Another thing is, women are educated today (compared to olden days). They are in a position to earn, take care of family, run a home etc. So naturally women tend to think that they have to be the 'lady of the house'.

radha said...

I posted a long comment at the other site, and do not know how to retrieve it. Can't find it over there for me to cut and paste it. But just thought I would let you know that I totally agree with your views. However much we love our children, and they us, it becomes difficult to adjust for both parties!! Besides, we are a generation that has adjusted to our parents, inlaws, elders like teachers... and as we grow older it becomes difficult to keep pace with their lives. It is best we live independently as far as possible and keep the relationship at its best.

Hip Grandma said...

madhu:There is no harm in leading one's own life as long as the responsibility of looking after aged/ailing parents is not compromised on for whatever reason. parents too want their space and the problem starts with sharing a common TV. parents who are hard of hearing increase the volume and the school going grandson wants to study. The DIL grits her teeth, slaps the child hard because she cannot show her resentment in any other way - this is the scene in most households. No I am not blaming any one. times have changed and as I pointed out neither group wants to adjust. even in families running a common business it is not uncommon for members to entertain friends in their own room at their own expense.

radha:i read your comment over there too and it is fine to comment there.As you have rightly pointed out I too feel that we've had our share of adjustments early in life and it is indeed difficult to keep pace with our children's lifestyle. The arrangement of staying closeby but not in the same house seems good enough.

Anonymous said...

Hey, I dont know if my previous comment appeared. But here goes:

I think joint family system is a system that is heavily biased against women. It is unequal and therefore breeds resentment among women. Of course, for men to preach that women has to be more adjustant and must be selfless is quite hyprocritical since men will reap the advantages of a joint family system.

Joint family system promotes what I call the traditional roles of a particular gender. It makes women ( working or not ) do all the cooking, cleaning and serving while men can get away without doing the household chores. While in a nuclear setup, the husband actually has to throw in his hand at least occassionaly, he can get away without doing much here.

- Also, when parents are old, in Indian setups, it falls on the women to be the primary caregivers - in terms of looking after daily needs of a sick/old person. In a joint family system, it translates to a DIL taking care of the in-laws while neither the sons or the daughters of the said in-laws will do much. What I am trying to say is that the children must be more involved than a spouse in giving care to their parents because of the nartual affection and bonding they share. Instead you will see that parents and sons put that entire responsibility on the DIL who might not be all too happy shouldering it all alone. She will then be critized for what is done or not done. I think it is not fair for women.

- The third and hte last point is htat it is always the guy's parents who get to stay with a couple - never or in very exceptional case, the reverse is true. In the good old days, one could somewhat reason with this arrangement citing the man's earning power ( though I dont think it is good enough ). Even if a woman has the same earning power as man, the system doesnt change.

With all this, I do accept that many families are thriving in the joint family setup. Good for them. But in cases when it doesnt work for certain families, it causes a lot of problems and then erodes any peace of mind. More often women pay a heavy price when caught on the other side of the equation.

Thats my opinion.
I was a bit apprehensive posting this since people who will argue against a joint family system will be categorized as family breakers, selfish etc etc.

Hip Grandma said...

anon:your previous comment did not appear and I almost missed this one.I agree with you on the fact that the joint family system is biased against women particularly DIL's if they are fair minded and take their responsibilities seriously.But then there are set ups where it works well too. I think it depends on the understanding or lack of it among the members of a joint set up.