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Living in a joint family need not be a house of horrors, if only every member showed some understanding and respect for everyone, man or woman.
I live in a truly joint family. Besides our parents (my husband’s parents I mean, I don’t feel it right to call them ‘in-laws’ as they don’t behave like typical ones!), we also have my brother in law and my nephew staying together happily. And this, I realized surprisingly, has become a mini miracle, a topic of discussion among my friends and extended family recently. At least that’s what it seems to me from the shock-like reactions I get from them.
Recently, we had my ‘door-ki-didi’ staying with us over the weekend. After the initial pleasantries, with an air of surprise and curiosity, she asked me, “You all look so happy together. How do you manage your in-laws?”
I had to think before I could answer her. Do I really need to manage my in-laws? Is there actually anything to manage there with your in-laws? Do you manage your own parents?
With as much politeness and cool as I could manage, I explained to her that we really don’t manage each other. We just accept each other. She was not convinced and told me that many of our relatives didn’t think that we could manage to stay together much longer. It was great to start living together but not possible to sustain it in today’s age (whatever that means). Some of the ‘nasty’ relatives were nasty enough to tell her that they were actually waiting to check when the news of discord in my family will come out.
I smiled at the confidence of these nasty relatives and assured my didi that no such thing is likely to happen anytime in my life.
It has now been more than two years of us staying together, which we decided after I had my baby. We had our minor discomforts and problems at the start of our living together, which I thought was expected and normal. But after that, we have settled so well into our domesticity! The chores, the tasks, the timing, all have been divided well amongst ourselves as per everyone’s convenience. And I feel extremely satisfied and happy for taking this decision as I can enjoy its fruits every day now. The everyday sharing, caring, jokes, arguments, all make it a cherishing and warm life. And nothing can compensate the love my baby gets from her Dada-Dadi which I thought was the best thing to come out of the arrangement.
But what really surprises me is why people still think it such an impossible mission to stay in a joint family. Many of these people have never stayed in joint families themselves and create some concocted thoughts about it based on films, TV soaps and other people’s experience. We are Indians. We don’t need to be differently explained the importance of sticking together with the family. It’s in our culture and our very own blood. But it’s very sad that people today resent it without even experiencing it.
The fact is, living together can be the best experience for your soul if it wants to grow, evolve and be liberated. It can teach you tolerance, endurance, sharing, respect and many other things which you might miss out otherwise. And no one can challenge the strength and support it gives in times of emergencies. Of course, the personal space for a couple goes for a toss sometimes. But it’s a small price to pay for the other advantages it provides.
Recently, even one of my friends was in a dilemma whether she should start living together with her in-laws. I tried to explain her the best way I could. But given the option of putting it together, here are some of the misconceptions I wanted to clear about living in a joint family.
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This is so true! I am thrilled to read this post because it is very relevant today. The joint family system has definite benefits and downsides just as a nuclear family does. But both these can work equally efficiently if only members are on board willingly. The joint family was absolutely essential in earlier times when one’s support group was defined by family. However, in modern times the availability of help on hire, has made it possible to have a support group that performs those same functions at a cost. Joint families provide tremendous emotional and logistical support but can turn out rigid and autocratic and stifling too if narrow perspectives or moral/behavioural rigidities take hold of its members. On the other hand nuclear families may enjoy greater individual freedoms but for assistance they will need to rely on random, non committed individuals -for eg. exchanges of services with acquaintances like friends/neighbours OR strangers, at a certain cost- for eg. professionals like nurses and nannies. Modern families must deliberate what works best for them, taking into consideration the attitudes and outlook of its own specific set of members before concluding which way to go. Especially in countries like India with little professional old age care facilities available, our aging population needs support from family and joint families serve this need. Secondly working parents of young offspring too need dedicated supervision of their young kids, which is very well worked into the care giving offered by a joint family. The joint family can work very well, if only it can be remodelled to suit the comforts and conveniences, aspirations and expectations of all its members especially the younger generation. It can still be a wonderful way for families to live- if its members are committed to making it work -volunteering to sit together and take note of some of the points you’ve listed about its benefits and how to make it work.
Again thanks Sonia. I agree with all the points you mentioned. Nonetheless, its a choice one has to make depending upon the situation and then pull it up with complete commitment.
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