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The earlier joint families disintegrated slowly to give rise to nuclear families. Recently, a reverse trend of the urban joint family is seen, a sign of our times.
As a young and zealous independent India progressed, young men migrated from rural to urban setup in pursuit of occupation and settled to make nuclear families in the cities. There was a very small minority of women who stepped out and earned a living; hence the need of having help for raising children did not arise at all.
Time travel to the twentieth century and you see the reverse happening- suddenly an urban joint family concept is flourishing in most cities. Now with the double edged sword of double income families and a single child bearing norm, couples today plan a child based on the availability and feasibility of moving into a joint family.
One of the major reasons is a decreasing trust in hired or voluntary childcare. While some of us grew up with neighbors when our mothers were away for vocation, today times have changed, and people have become increasingly distrusting of others. A reason could be lack of in-person socializing which has gotten replaced by online socializing. So today most of us do not even know the names of our neighbours, and trusting a friend for childcare or adhoc babysitting is just out of question.
Another reason is that with delayed child bearing age, couples these days have to simultaneously take care of their kids and aged parents. Gone are the days when you could see three sometimes four generations of a family spend holidays together. And the simplest way to fulfill this requisite is to have aged parents take care of the babies, this way one takes care of both child rearing as well as elderly care.
An ancillary purpose is also to be able to pool your resources i.e., club the running expenses of two houses into one. After all a little economies of scale in this very rising inflation doesn’t hurt anybody.
The most mention worthy advantage is the moral support and closeness which a joint family can provide in times of crises. In this fast paced life with geographical separations, a joint family can be your savior in times of emergencies.
But to be a recipient of these benefits is not an automatic process. Settling into an extended setup does require a lot of patience and it is an effort which everyone has to make. It does call for adjustments to one’s lifestyle, coupled with sacrifices of personal space and privacy to certain extent. So all said and done it is not an easy task and does call for oodles of patience and perseverance. There will still be challenges and they can all be dealt with some tact (and of course a sense of humor).
One of the foremost challenges faced is the real life example of ‘familiarity breeds contempt’. Only once you co-live with someone do you realize their follies and falls. Only then do you get familiar with the innate difference in nature, attitude and behavior which may not have surfaced while you maintained a distance and lived in your own homes.
Another challenge is the lack of space for each couple- there are commitments to the entire setup and household which leaves one with little space, time and energy to pursue ‘us plans’. The same applies to nuclear families within the setup too. There are times when one might want to plan a parent-children thing but the extended family ends up making a whole platoon of folks who are in the final frame!
Also, varied interests make it difficult for plans to be executed without much back and forth. After all the family has to work like a democratic setup where every member’s whims and fancies are to be addressed in the same plan.
Another most common challenge is existence of unnecessary interference in running the show. Whether it is child’s upbringing or household chores or shopping decisions- most couples tend to have their own views and reasoning. Clashes are most common on frequent everyday things which create a tense atmosphere and tend to play mood spoilers. The elders tend to bring their own views (mostly from personal experience) while the younger ones rely on peer information and latest trends. These two hardly ever match and building a consensus always involves a lot of back and forth.
So while all the bumpy edges of an extended family setup cannot be roughened out, work arounds can help break the monotony and keep it evenly balanced for everyone.
Taking a mid-week dinner date helps keep the spark alive.
Keeping vacations a nuclear family concept works well for everyone as there is minimal difference of opinions and lesser burden of planning.
Maintaining clarity in domains of operation lessens opportunity of interference.
Money matters should be made clear and spends should be always keeping in mind the earner’s burden.
Encourage couple time for the elderly too, maybe annual trips with more like aged folks- pilgrimage, site seeing, adventure depending on their flavor.
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