I read with interest R’s mom’s post on joint families. The concept of joint families is dying a natural death. I would not know if it is good or bad but I see it happening. Like fashions that follow a cycle may be a few years from now the joint family concept may spring back in a different form. I may or may not live to see it but I can somehow sense it bouncing right back. Having said that I am not starting a new debate on whether the joint family of yesteryears was better or not. I am giving a few references and leaving it to my readers to arrive at an inference based on them.
Padmini (name changed) was not a newcomer in the Bhushan family. She had married the eldest son and was a great hit as a daughter in law. Her visits were eagerly anticipated and a whole lot of cousins in the joint family simply adored her. She was able to please grandmothers and grandfathers by abiding by rules laid down by them and would play ludo with school going youngsters, discuss romantic movies with the teen aged cousins and tease eligible brothers/sisters in law about their marriage prospects. She would fit into every group and her mother in law was proud of her. All went well till the grandparents were alive and uncles lived in the same house. Her parents in law were never free to visit her and all she had to do was to adjust for month in a whole year. However, after her grandparents in law’s death the family split and her own parents in law planned to move in with her since the ancestral house had been sold. Adjusting with them was not easy and differences cropped up. Both sides felt that the other was not adjusting well enough.
Rekha was given to understand that her husband being an only son would continue to live with them and she was the one who would have to adjust and she did. However, with time she began to resent their interference even those that were well meant. She hated to be pushed around as if she were a schoolgirl and urged her husband to accept a foreign assignment just to be allowed some freedom – so what if she had to wait for ten long years to obtain it. Parents tried everything in their means to stop them from going giving very valid reasons like children’s education and their own health issues. The assignment was for just a year and they relented agreeing to look after their school going grandchildren. When Rekha returned she was no longer the same person. She had tasted freedom and was not going to give it up at any cost.
Praveen had seen his parents caring for his grandparents. He told his girl friend that if and when they got married his parents would move in with them. His girl friend had seen her parents being pushed around by her dominating grandparents and thought otherwise. Parents could stay nearby but not with them she said. They broke up on the issue. Neither was wrong but they weren’t right either. Their view was heavily influenced by their personal experiences. However my own opinion is slightly tilted in the girl’s favor. There was nothing wrong in sharing an amicable relationship from a close enough distance and being there for each other when required.
Tricky situations isn’t it? In the present scenario it seems advisable for parents to live at a distance that allows regular interaction and for both groups to be available for each other when required without giving up their individual space.
I end with the example of a cousin of mine nearly 75 years old. He has two daughters. The older one stays in Chennai some 15 kilometers from where he stays. She visits them on alternate weekends and goes over to spend the interim weekends with her parents in law. Their second daughter lives in London and her husband is an only son. His mother is a widow. They’ve bought two adjacent flats in a locality that is close to local temples and offers good medical facility. The two sets of parents live in adjacent flats and are there for one another. When my cousin and his wife visit their daughter her mother in law takes care of the house, pays telephone bills receives mails etc. They do the same when she goes visiting. I am yet to see a happier set of parents. The second daughter checks on her sister’s MIL when her own parents are away. This speaks highly of the lady in question. Adjustment is the key. The message is clear. One needs to be happy with an arrangement that suits all concerned rather than settle for one that is suffocating in whatever manner.