Why do Nuclear Families face so much criticism?

Back in the day, living in joint families, having children early on in the marriage, etc buffered any minor discord in married life and personalities.

“In today’s nuclear setup (which I prefer for myself), there are no buffers….it’s one-on-one 24/7.” (Sabbatical Blogger’s comment)

How did the nuclear set up affect the Indian society?

1. The nuclear family gave the couple more time to interact with each other.

2. Women were able to cook, raise children, run their homes, decorate, pray, dress, read, talk, walk, travel and socialize in ways that  were often seen as nontraditional and hence unacceptable in Joint Families.

3. Young parents were also able to spend more time with their children.

For women less people to cook, serve, interact etc with, less socializing with spouse’s relatives, more time for husband and children.

For men more time with wife and children.

4. For many couples it became easier to have fewer children, and to not ‘try for’ sons.

For some, it slowly changed the way they treated their children. With more time and communication, and just one or two kids at home, many parents started understanding their children (including daughters) better. Many started seeing their children as little humans, deserving the same respect everybody else did. (Although some still want to raise Shravan Kumars)

5. Nuclear families made it easier for young couples to stop following customs they had always found regressive. This was difficult in a joint family.

6. The modern (or western?) ideas of mutual respect and equality for all family members became easier to demand, and to apply.

7. Daughters could be educated more than the elders permitted in Joint families, their marriages could be delayed, they could wear jeans and bring their male class mates home.

8. Rigid gender roles became difficult to follow. With no other female and male members available, it became easier for women to get out of the house for tasks which otherwise other male members would have done (e.g. school fees or bill payment). Men could contribute in housework and child care without being labeled Joru Ka Gulaam.

Nuclear families in general empower women.  And young men.

Then why do Nuclear Families face so much criticism?

Perhaps because it makes it easier for young couples to give up old customs? Living with a spouse from another caste or religion is easier in a nuclear set up, so is a refusal to see women as impure during their period.

Also because many parents of sons see this as a loss of their higher social position.

Some of the advertisements that we see as regressive today depict a life unimaginable for most women living in Joint Families, where the capability to decide which cooking oil to use could be seen as reserved for the elders in the family. Nuclear Families could question the ‘age+experience= always right’ rule. 

Women still needed to know that they were needed. Sexists advertisements fuel this need and these ads also stereotype men as generally helpless and incompetent.

Expert kaun? (Who is the expert?)

9. Apart from the above, the Nuclear set up also makes it easier for the parents of both the partners to visit them, and if need be, live with their children.

Being able to see their daughters as support in their old age will allow Indian parents to welcome girl babies. Families valuing daughters as much as sons is the only way to stop female feticide.

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77 thoughts on “Why do Nuclear Families face so much criticism?

  1. Am getting hammered because I wrote about vilifying youngsters when it comes to elder care. We all seem to want our cakes and eat them too. Change worries everyone, I think.

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  2. Nice post, IHM. I also fully support nuclear families, and children moving out of the parental home once they are grown up and earning. Of course, everyone’s circumstances are different, and there may be some elderly people actually requiring assistance of their sons or daughters. But unless this is the case, old people should also have active lives of their own and pursue their hobbies instead of worrying about whether their daughters would be giving birth to a son or what time their daughter-in-law gets up in the morning.

    This set-up also benefits the elderly people, in my opinion. They are no longer seen as natural nannies, once the younger generation have their own children. They can pursue their own interests and make friends to discuss their hobbies. They do not have to run after little children or worry about abuse from their children if everything is kept separate and there is a healthy interaction, instead of the parasitical co-dependency that is the joint family.

    Another point in favour of the nuclear family is that the children are not financially beholden to their parents. In many cases in joint families, where there is a family business, the parents take advantage of the financial dependency of their children, and keep them under tighter control.

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  3. Nuclear families also face the flak because elders would need the physical and emotinal attention as some point. Since India does not have good public support system (like good old age homes), children (sons and dils) are expected to do this favor. If couples are going to live by themselves, who will take care of the parents when they become physically handicapped?
    A good solution here, is to stay close by. Same aprtment complex or different floors of the same house but have different household setup. And ofcourse, when the old really need complete physical support then move them in with you.

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    • Whatever one person receives from another should be taken with gratitude and not entitlement.

      After marriage a son has a family of his own and is a part of a new unit. His parents, though important, should now take a back seat and not poke their noses in their son’s life.

      The whole problem arises because of the entitlement parents feels towards their sons and DILs. Even the best and most understanding of people can get frustrated if they are made to stay under the same roof. Each one needs their private space.

      If people do have to stay together for some reason, rules must be made clear. Since the husband is the common link between his parents and his wife/kids, he is the one who has to do this.

      Rules should be :
      NO INTERFERENCE by in laws in what goes on in their son’s family and vice versa. Each one’s space must be respected and no infiltration should be allowed. The husband/son has to make these rules clear if he wants his own sanity.

      Each person has a right to live their life, work/earn and pursue their interests freely whether it is parents, wife, husband or children. Children are their parents’ responsibility, not their grandparents’.

      Counselling pre marriage for post marriage preparation is the need of the day!

      If women in the west have a life of their own in their ripe old age, why is it that in India MILs become old the moment a DIL enters the family?

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  4. Nuclear families are criticised because now people can’t rely on custom and tradition to predict who will do what. Maybe the son will cook and clean and the daughter-in-law will bring home the bread. Maybe the grandson will live in with his male partner. Maybe the granddaughter will get two divorces. It’s all of course to be blamed on the nuclear family. Maybe the seniors will be taken care of by (gasp) a nurse or in an old age home. Basically, it’s a loss of the means to control and dictate terms by the elders and higher-ups. Everybody in a nuclear family is more equal and happier. How can that be right? :roll:

    It’s stripping people in the erstwhile joint family of unearned privilege and of the privileges of age and gender. How can anyone watch their power being taken away without protest.

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    • ‘It’s stripping people in the erstwhile joint family of unearned privilege and of the privileges of age and gender. How can anyone watch their power being taken away without protest.’ – Starry is spot on!

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    • So true and well said. I wonder who the thumbs downers are. They must be the ones getting insecure about losing their hold
      over other members of the family.

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  5. My 9-yr-old daughter brings back social studies worksheets and once even an english worksheet, where the role of the mother is that of nurse-cum-cook-cum-cleaner-cum-teacher-cum-DOORMAT!
    Every time she argues with her teachers saying her mother does not do all this, so she will not write, and even if she does write it, it will make her mother angry.
    And it makes me angry — not just the worksheet, but the gall of the teachers to force my child to learn or write stuff that is not true to her life.
    Idiots run our education system and draw the syllabus, that’s for sure.

    And IHM maybe you should do a post on the stupid stuff the textbooks teach our kids?
    She is learning about the North East, and the most important thing that comes out of Nagaland is colourful shawls!

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  6. Decline of joint family started with Industrial Revolution. Use of machines for production resulted in factories and big farms replacing joint families as unit of production. Workers began to get salaries and had to stay away from their native place to work. These events lead to nuclear families. As our current economic system is most suited for nuclear families it is going to stay.

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  7. Joint families already have a way of doing a certain set of tasks and the onus falls upon the new entrant- the DIL- to adjust and follow those since everybody else is used to them. I’ve heard of so many weird rules and regulations that joint families impose upon young couples from my mum and my MIL. For instance, everyone has to use the same soap, the wife has to take a bath if she spends time with the husband in the bedroom (whether or not they got naughty! Even if she simply stepped in for five minutes to ask him something in private), having to get up at a certain time, having to take permission to go anywhere etc etc. It was a system of control that often defied logic but under which so much time, energy, and talent were wasted.

    Beyond a point, it becomes difficult to stay with your own parents because even though they were so heavily involved in your upbringing, you are your own person and you have (and should have!) your own ideas about how to live your life. I have a much better relationship with my folks now that I live several miles away from them…we don’t step on each others’ toes about everyday issues and as a result, the relationship has mutual respect and understanding. They finally view me as an adult and take my opinions seriously. Which wasn’t easy for them to do earlier when I was living with them. When my in-laws visit, they take great care to ensure that they don’t disrupt our everyday life. They don’t expect me to wake up early or wait upon them. I work from home and they’ve never disturbed me during my work hours either. In fact, I look forward to their visits because they share the load of housework willingly and help us out too!

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    • “In fact, I look forward to their visits because they share the load of housework willingly and help us out too!” That’s the key. I was reminded of the SitCom here that used to air sometime back called “Everybody loves Raymond”. This was not a joint family, but the ILs lived next door and were always in Raymond’s home. In one of the episodes, when these tensions come to head, the MIL says something like “I never feel welcome in your home” and the DIL tells the MIL ” Yes, but you are always here and so there is no opportunity to welcome”. I remember thinking how true!

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  8. The helpless and stupid husband stereotype is quite prevalent in US media too (ads as well as sitcoms). So it’s not an Indian thing really.

    That said, I know a few Indian-American families where the husband is the primary earner (although the wife works too), and is also the primary home-maker (wife helps a little), and takes the lead role in looking after kids. Happy families if I may add. So in real life, there are men who can work and maintain the home/kids without needing guidance from their wives. It’s just that this won’t fit the stereotypical image of the helpless husband – hence those ads.

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  9. Nuclear families are a manifestation of the Individualistic traits of the members of society. Earlier people were expected to just fall in line and follow the herd. Now, people acknowledge their differing needs as individuals and go out to make their own little worlds.

    Does that mean that earlier, people were not as individualistic as the people now? Not quite. There are quite many visionaries from the older generation who stood up for their beleifs which were different from that of their respective herds.
    The good news now, is that the societal framework has changed considerably to accomodate nuclear families, the concept of many little different worlds. In earlier days, people just had to stick to their joint families because their identities were solely dependant on that of their communities. The world now lets people go out and create their own identities, rather than conform to the identity set by the communities/families they were born into.

    Having said that, I have come across many people of the younger generation still pining for the good old days of the joint family system. When I was a teenager, I remember visiting a friend whose ancestors ruled Kerala. At the dinner table, her older sister (all of 18 then) was pining for those good old days when they could have happily led the life of a princess, not having to worry about fixing dinners. ‘It could have been great if we could still live in palaces as princesses’.

    From what I have seen, the people who want the joint family system so badly are most often the people who dont have much faith in their abilities, and choose to go piggyback on the others in the family for their financial/emotional needs and support. The people who can, are not afraid of making their own little worlds. The people who cannot, are afraid of having to make their own little worlds, and find reasons to deter others from breaking loose. They have their own insecurities and personal agendas behind their arguments. Because, with the advent of nuclear families, no one can fancy a free ride anymore.

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  10. Nuclear families are criticized by those who think communities are more like identities and ‘family values’ and parampara should be carried on and on . Joint family is also seen as a community .

    If in joint families the ‘family values’ are not imposed and individuality not questioned , that would be the ideal setup , who doesn’t like the perks of a cooperative family…if a joint family confirms to that…

    Nuclear families are more functional , and people can always enjoy vacations and family occasions together as a large family …

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  11. I grew up in a joint family. I got married into one and I dislike everything about them. It is nice to see large joint families singing and dancing in movies and TV soaps, but reality is far from all this. There is a lot of jealousy, manipulation, group-ism, favoritism etc. Every joint family is a Mahabharatha in the making. Someday or the other, a Kurukshetra war will be looming in the corner.

    As long as children are young and naive about the world, it is okay for them to grow up in a joint family. In my experience, it is not healthy for young adults to grow up or live in joint families.

    There is nothing to mourn in the death of joint families, but a lot to rejoice in the emergence of nuclear families.

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    • Superb ! Bravo. Even I have live a joint family and have experienced the immense tensions in relationships. The younger brother and his wife is always favored by the in laws, just to keep their old age secured. It is nothing but politics to live a good life for themselves and deter others progress. The stress becomes unbearable and has an ill effect on our health. If we don’t keep good health our child’s progress will be adversely affected. The role of a wife/mother is so important for a family’s upbringing that the husband should be counselled for this at the time of his marriage.
      Also we need to secure our lives, create our own assets, a owned shelter on our heads.
      This is easily possible for a couple in their 30’s. Of course the young kids would suffer. For this we need to find solutions.
      With increased awareness of one’s health and appearance, we see in every lane of a metropolitan city, a health center, a beauty parlour and a spa. I hope the government encourages subsidised day care centers for kids. The grand parents may of course stay at home. But it is certainly a big no for the brothers and their wives staying together. Staying away can help build cordial relationship between the family members and a healthy mindset for our children.

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  12. This discussion in an interesting one, because coming from a culture where nuclear families are seen as the ideal, so as someone who comes from a single parent home, my family is treated like it’s “abnormal” because there wasn’t a father in my home. The nuclear family in the US is criticized by progressives and feminists because they feel it’s a very narrow definition of how you define a family. This of course doesn’t mean it’s bad.

    So I can really see how a nuclear family can be a good thing in India. Within nuclear families, the in laws can’t be involved in child rearing (if they are, only to very small degree). In laws also can’t involve themselves in their DIL/SIL affairs, because truthfully it’s none of their business. The in laws don’t have a lot of power in this arrangement.

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  13. I have experienced both. A joint family and a nuclear family both have its charms and challenges. None is completely satisfying…but so is life.
    If 5-6 adults or more can live in ‘almost’ complete harmony with a band of children then there is nothing like a joint family. If the adults irrespective of age, and/or relation, mutually respect each other, share failures, compliment each other’s achievements…a joint family can be a haven. Minus the harmony, respect and mutual admiration it becomes a living hell. Its worthless even making an effort to improve conditions once disharmony sets in.

    Nuclear families are more workable units…practical, efficient, instantly gratifying.

    But then people can be equally content or equally unhappy whether they live by themselves or jointly. All it depends really on is how well the family members get along, how far they are willing to go in order to maintain the peace and harmony. It is about what we collectively want for ourselves as a family….and also how we define a family as individuals.

    Absence of privacy is one big challenge for joint families. Indians usually have a poor sense of the word ‘privacy’ . They usually translate it for being selfish, rude, distant, snobbish, loner, disrespectful, ultra modern etc. etc. etc.

    ‘Disregard’ is another. Its the birthright of Indians to disregard or disrespect anyone in the family who is younger to them even by a year. Kids have no voice, no say, they can have no opinion…and a 30 yr old is still a kid if he/she happens to be the youngest in the family.

    Ideally, I would prefer a nuclear family, but with the added pleasure of having a joint family somewhere in the hills (anywhere in the world) so I could visit them and have a blast for a few weeks and get back rejuvenated!! :)

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    • a 30 year old or a 40 year old will always be a kid to their parents. because the kid is their baby. they dont expect you to drink milk from bottles but they dont expect you to live with them either. they are concerned and care about your well being that’s all.

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  14. I think a happy family is what’s important, irrespective of whether it’s a nuclear or a joint family.

    I’ve lived in a joint family as a child, and I cherish every single moment of that life. I therefore do not agree with generalisations about joint family set-ups, just as I would not agree with generalisations about the nuclear family set-up. There are pros and cons to everything, and there’s no denying the advantages of a joint family as well, albeit a happy joint family. A lot of people who criticise the joint family set-up probably do so because they haven’t had the best experience being part of one. Or have seen the worst of it around them.

    But I cannot emphasise enough what a joyful experience I had living with my extended family. And ditto for my parents, I can say on their behalf. I never introduce my cousins as cousins, because there are as dear to me as my only sister. My granny wasn’t easy, but she loved us to bits. My grandfather continues to be an inspiration for all his grandchildren. I travelled more with my father’s brother and his wife than I did with my own parents (and my parents did not grudge it). I would love my child to be part of such a set-up too.

    I could go on. And for the reasons said and unsaid, I do not agree with almost any of the 8 points you’ve made here. All of them belie my experience in a joint family.

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    • Children usually love joint families, as it gives them so much attention and they feel loved. It does not mean it is good for adults. Also, my main objection to joint families are that they propagate patriarchy as the woman always moves into the man’s house.

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      • Like I said, I can speak on behalf of my parents too. My mom and aunt are good friends today. They work, party, shop together. My dad and his bro have stood up for each other innumerable times. There’s no apparent show of affection, but enough love. Perhaps it’s rare, but it’s not impossible.

        Like I said, I’m an advocate of a happy family. If it happens to be a joint family, I see no harm. I understand unhappy joint families can create difficult situations, especially for women, but don’t women in unhappy nuclear families have a raw deal too? Can all nuclear families claim equal status for the husband and wife?

        Through my experiences, all I want to share that joint families don’t necessarily equal to unhappiness.

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        • A woman would prefer to stay in an unhappy nuclear family to an unhappy joint family. It is a choice every woman should have. No choice should be thrust upon her.

          D, I am curious. Are you a female? If you are one, are you married into a joint family?
          If you are a male, I can understand where this mentality comes from.

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    • I was brought up in a joint family too. While I do have happy memories of playing with my cousins and not needing friends outside home, there were some clear negetives. The men ruled. All decisions came from them. My adolecense was pretty tough because now I was expected to start doing what women are groomed for – marriage. Cooking. Doing household chores. There was absolutely no freedom. I was rarely allowed to visit my friends even if my parents were ok with that because some other bro of my dad was not ok with it. I hated and resisted all that. I used to be perpetually on the firing line of elders. By the time I was 18, I was waiting to escape home. Luckily I got into a reputed residential institute and then there was no turning back.
      Personally I think , joint families = clipped wings. There’s one head (a man ofcourse) and he calls the shots.

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    • What about your mum’s parents? Could they stay with you? How does that work in a joint family? How does it work for parents who have only girl children? Which “joint family” would they be part of?

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    • It is one thing to appreciate the joint family system as a child, and another thing to live in it and appreciate it as a DIL. Both perform different roles.

      I got married and realized only after my wedding that my husband’s people would be staying with us forever, four of them permanent and many temporary ones. People from their village, friends, relatives,colleagues, boss’s son…anyone and everyone were given our address and they would land up with a letter in hand written by my elder BIL (husband’s brother). It was my duty to look after everyone and their needs.

      It was not just a joint family, it was a joint family with a violent SIL, a pampered and bratty nephew, mad as a hatter MIL, an egoistic and insensitive husband who kept away from me and preferred to spend time with his family members, proving to them how much he did not care for me. Also throwing temper tantrums at me for anything and everything that went wrong. Everyone in the family behaved in the most unreasonable manner. I had to leave my job to maintain peace in the house and do the duty of taking care of everyone’s needs.

      My children have learned their lessons well having grown up in this joint family. Today, 3 decades later, we are no more a joint family. Lots of water has flowed over the bridge and we are trying to pick up the threads of our life and move on. We are starting our life from scratch, all money gone down the inlaw drain, lots of debt, tottering health and still in laws wanting to come close and feast on our blood. We have closed our doors to them forever and are having a hawk eyed control over our door knob lest my husband opens it for them again.

      Ladies, those of you who are going to be married, if you want to protect your sanity please do a thorough check on what the staying arrangements will be after marriage. You will never get a proper answer to this question because the boy himself would not know what is going to happen to his life. You will have to be clever enough to figure out the scenario there. If you sense that the boy is but a puppet in the hands of his people, I would suggest that you run as fast as you can, as far as you can, never turning back to consider marrying such a person.

      To those who have a case for the joint family
      system…….all the best!

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      • Oh wow…looks like you had a really bad experience in a joint family…Hope you are happy now after getting out and best wishes to you!

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  15. I realized a long time ago that I couldn’t stay with my own parents. I’m an adult with my own way of doing things/living life and they still think of me as a child. So living with someone else’s parents, siblings and THEIR spouses (I’m assuming by joint you mean patriarchal-joint families) is out of the question for me. The dysfunction and codependence and oppression of women prevalent in such set-ups is intolerable to me. The only people I know who crave for these “good, old times of joint families” are people who’ve recently acquired MIL/FIL status and who think it’s now time to reap the harvest.

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  16. I havent lived in a joint family system but I have done my share of watching. I realize that there are pros and cons to both- Joint and Nuclear families. Joint families can work very fabulously if(and this is a very big IF) the One who is the Head is Benevolent, Wise and Understanding AND the ones lower down in the Hierarchy know how to Humbly submit(read very Low sense of Ego) to the rules of the House AND there is a great degree of Mutual respect, Space, Privacy and sharing of chores. When there is Harmony, there is always a sense of belonging, a groundedness within the “culture and traditions” of the family, the children in the family have a trusted circle within which they grow and the elders have someone they can lean on in their old age. Most often this is not so.

    The Nuclear family is what I would prefer, especially when I know that my way of doing things will constantly be at logger heads with the In-laws and I am averse to fixing something that isnt broken in me.

    The Ideal solution would be to have the family live in nuclear format, in separate houses within 5 minutes distance from each other. Is that a new Idea for the Architectural Firms?

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    • I agree.
      I vote for nuclear families living within hailing distance of each other, but not too close to tread on each other’s toes.

      Flats in different floors of a multi-storeyed bldg are a fine example.

      I have experienced both joint and nuclear families in my childhood and adult life.
      I agree that both have merits and demerits.
      To each his own.
      As long as one is living willingly in a nuclear family or in a joint family, I see no issue.
      Regards
      GV

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  17. Joint families are just preferred because young kids get a lot of attention. I am not sure if nuclear families are truly criticised. i think that most Indian families have a happy compromise – the in laws stay seperately, but close enough to be there for each other.. Personally, i dont have a preference. I cannot stay in a joint family for very long, but also dont think they are necessarily good or bad for ppl who like them.

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  18. I am not in favour of joint families, it is a disgusting way to live, it seems the ‘props’ in such a miserable state of existenence cannot exist without each other. When my elder brother was getting married my parents tried every manipulation, tactic, emotional blackmail to keep my elder brother close to herself so she could be fully aware of all dynamics of his married life. She made it mandatory that my brother and his wife visit her everyday, this was aptly used to smother them and pump them for information.

    It’s sick control, nothing else, the sons parents want to be dominant, the sons are usually idiots with arms and legs, they dance to the mother’s tunes and pretend to have a marriage. It’s a real sham, the sooner this system is destroyed the better.

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  19. Being a part of a nuclear family and having observed my friends who live in a joint family, what i did observe was a certain kind of formality and obligation in the parent-children relationship. Parents are confined to just their bedrooms for their personal freedom. In my family i observe the careless banter and a certain freedom in how my parents interact with each other. Over the years i consider myself very lucky, to have a set of parents who are open in their communication and who involve me as well. I behave the way i want to, wear what i want to and the same applies to my parents too. We live in our own space with full freedom without any restrictions or compulsions of so-called elders in a joint family set up.
    A nuclear set up facilitates a healthy relationship between parents, which goes a long way in impacting their children, and i couldnt have asked for a better thing going on for me, as it has established a future imprint on how i should carry on my relationships with others and especially when i get married.

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  20. I know of nuclear families, living in different cities, that are effectively joint families since theirs is a large family business and there is a great deal of financial control and several traditions are followed, including guidelines on how the daughters-in-law should dress, what kind of jewellery is appropriate etc..

    Many children have rich and secure and enjoyable childhood lives in joint family homes, and in large families generally, but the sibling rivalries among adult sons, the petty rivalries and jealousies between their wives and sister and co-sisters, the dominance of the older generation, and the lack of autonomy, all can be difficult to live with. There are a lucky few who love this way of living, but I’d say that that number is progressively diminishing. It requires exceptional personal skills to be able to successfully keep all members of a joint family reasonably happy.

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  21. Ah yes, the old debate – Nuclear family vs Joint family.

    In order to understand why nuclear families face so much criticism, we first need to understand WHO is doing the criticizing. Is it mostly older people? Younger people? Children? Parents? Who is it that finds such arrangements disagreeable?

    In my experience, it’s mostly older people who don’t; like nuclear families. The reasons vary, and the ones I’ve heard so far are:

    1. They are afraid of being completely alone when they are old and sick.

    2. They resent the loss of control that the ponzi scheme of elder worship would have given them.

    3. They believe that the kids feel neglected in a nuclear family.

    4. They are clingy and resent the fact that their son does not live with them.

    5. They simply resent social change and would like things to be the way they have always been.

    With the possible exception of the first one, I don’t think any of those is a legitimate argument against nuclear families (the third one is a myth).

    I grew up in a joint family, and my experience was completely horrible even by joint family standards. A lot of those memories still make me cringe . Now I freely admit that I am not a woman, and I also freely admit that my family is hardly the template for joint families in modern India, but I still find it very hard to imagine how the DILs in these families can ever hope to be happy. Even with a relatively non-interfering MIL, it’d be like living with the Headmaster. With a bad one… ah well.
    I don’t think I could ever actually live with my parents myself, let alone ask my wife to live with them too. I just can’t do it.

    Ultimately, the sort of family one wants to live in is a very personal thing. The DINK setup is working great for us right now, and it is my preferred way to live. But there really aren’t any one-size-fits-all solutions, and everybody has to find their own comfort zones. In the end, it’s all about finding your comfort zone, really.

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  22. First, there are two important factors without which the nuclear family could neither exist nor be sustainable: Accessible birth control, and Urbanization (availability of government/private sector jobs). These have only been around for about 50 years in India.

    Second, a nuclear family does not always ensure freedom or independence for the couple. Many couples support the husband’s family financially, brothers/sisters/relatives of the husband come to live for extended periods of time, elders can exert pressure from a distance and express their disapproval of the wife’s relatives visiting, technology makes it simpler for families to be intrusive (not even those living outside India can escape it), emotional blackmail knows no borders, and sometimes a visit from the in-laws can shake a marriage to the core.

    Third, gender roles depend more on mind-set than on a nuclear family. Haven’t we seen enough idiotic ads that tell us that a woman must have a job *and* do all of the housework?

    Nuclear families offer the couple an opportunity to implement their own ideas and values. They do not, however, ensure that the values are necessarily progressive. Call me cynical but without a huge change in mindset of people in general the nuclear family will not improve the Indian woman’s lot in life.

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    • “Many couples support the husband’s family financially, brothers/sisters/relatives of the husband come to live for extended periods of time, elders can exert pressure from a distance and express their disapproval of the wife’s relatives visiting, technology makes it simpler for families to be intrusive (not even those living outside India can escape it), emotional blackmail knows no borders, and sometimes a visit from the in-laws can shake a marriage to the core.” Exactly, I couldn’t agree more. But, how much worse would it be if the same in-laws had access to the brain of the son 24/7, 365 days a year?

      “Call me cynical but without a huge change in mindset of people in general the nuclear family will not improve the Indian woman’s lot in life.” I think that NFs may help in the process of change.

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      • I don’t disagree that nuclear families make life easier. The point I’m trying to make is that while a nuclear family can help, it’s not a magic bullet that can solve all problems. Some of the more fundamental problems persist and nuclear families only help you distance yourself from them. Not solve them. To solve these problems, we need a fundamental shift in attitude. I say this from experience.

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  23. First, there are two important factors without which the nuclear family could neither exist nor be sustainable: Accessible birth control, and Urbanization (availability of government/private sector jobs). These have only been around for about 50 years in India.

    Second, a nuclear family does not always ensure freedom or independence for the couple. Many couples support the husband’s family financially, brothers/sisters/relatives of the husband come to live for extended periods of time, elders can exert pressure from a distance and express their disapproval of the wife’s relatives visiting, technology makes it simpler for families to be intrusive (not even those living outside India can escape it), emotional blackmail knows no borders, and sometimes a visit from the in-laws can shake a marriage to the core.

    Third, gender roles depend more on mind-set than on a nuclear family. Haven’t we seen enough idiotic ads that tell us that a woman must have a job *and* do all of the housework?

    Nuclear families offer the couple an opportunity to implement their own ideas and values. They do not, however, ensure that the values are necessarily progressive. Call me cynical but without a huge change in mindset of people the nuclear family will not improve the Indian woman’s lot in life.

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    • First, there are two important factors without which the nuclear family could neither exist nor be sustainable: Accessible birth control

      Okay, I am curious as to what birth control has to do with a couple living alone vs living in a joint family scenario.

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      • I can’t imagine a woman raising 10 kids in a nuclear family setup. Can you? In my grandmother’s time (she had 10 kids), women were more or less pregnant from the time they got married till about age 40. Some babies survived, others didn’t but we’re talking about 6-7 pregnancies for a woman at a minimum.

        Do you think a woman in such a position can ever be empowered? Do you think she could raise all the kids herself? (the older girls usually took care of their younger siblings but there’s a lot more to it than that) Do you think she could ever step out of the joint family setup? Birth control revolutionized women’s lives in a huge way.

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      • @Nish, I personally know a woman who was dissuaded from taking birth control pills by her joint family by scaring her that she would become infertile! They even went to the lengths of getting one of the family who was a doctor tell her this. Not only did they tell her she would become infertile, they also told her she would get all possible body failures. End result was she ended up with a baby that no one wanted. Of course, people reconciled to it, but this is not what I see as the perfect scenario.

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      • Ok, thanks Fem and Simbly-Bored, although I am not fully convinced of this. Other societies did not have the joint-family-system and they did not have a problem in the pre-birth-control days. And they did not end up with a dozen kids either. But I kinda get the gist of what you are trying to say here.

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      • @Nish,

        All societies have had joint family system at one point or the other. Individualism is somewhat of a modern concept. Which is why I dislike it when people refer to it as “Western”. Traditional societies were governed by religion (mostly). For instance, the Catholic Church STILL forbids contraception, which is a raging issue today in Africa, South America and USA. So imagine the trouble women in the West went to when birth control pills were first invented. They DID have a dozen kids, and sons were of paramount importance. European history is full of such cases. It is no secret that Islamic societies also propagate joint families and having loads of kids. Barren women could traditionally be simply abandoned in both Western and Middle Eastern societies, just like in India. The birth control pill is believed to be one of the most conducive factors for women’s emancipation worldwide. So with all due respect, you have your facts wrong. :)

        Check out these links. The last one especially explains the importance of the pill in the women’s emancipation movement.

        http://thepill.umwblogs.org/invention/the-pill-and-the-womens-rights-movement/

        http://www.ehow.com/about_5052080_history-birth-control-movement.html

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sexual_revolution_in_1960s_America

        http://tgem.wordpress.com/2010/05/21/the-birth-control-pills-consequences/

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  24. My dad had 10 siblings and mom had 4. Elder aunts and uncles on paternal side have 8 kids (my cousins), some of them are older than my mother. Maternal side is much smaller and more closer to us. It was next to impossible for us to have a joint family set up (Thank god!).
    But there are these family functions, where all of us are required. The drama that unfolds would put the tv soap directors to shame. This affected me and my sister and a lot of my cousins too in a variety of ways. For one, we have learned the politics of the family and how not to get into a mess.

    I love the nuclear family set up, primarily because there was space and time for yourself. This was true for each member of the family. Dad and mom could distance us and themselves from constant elderly policing. We could debate with our parents. We had to get approvals from only our parents. My dad could kiss and hug my mom infront of us. We could call kitchen hartals. We bonded much more as a family :) My dad, mom and sis came before the rest of the family

    In the whole process, the elders lost the masses that would worship them. I guess that’s why they feel so bad.

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  25. Joint families are definitely dying. Most people from this generation want to live in a nuclear family. The ones resenting them are the previous generation who have lost their sense of power over their kids.

    The nuclear setup definitely helps the couple understand each other and also live by a set of rules that they are comfortable with as opposed o the ones set by the guy’s parents.
    The only form of joint system that seems somewhat popular is in the case where both the man & the woman are working and for the sake of children the woman’s parents live close by or visit them often to help out. It is not as common to see guy’s parent’s help out because it comes with a lot strings attached and hence is not preferred.

    I have also seen many many cases where the couple get along beautifully well with the woman’s side of the family(esp the parents),but have a so-so relationship with the guy’s parents. This is mainly due to the fact that there are a lot of expectations that the guy’s parents have whereas the woman’s parents are just happy to see the couple happy.

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  26. Saw the video. Gak! Sorry. I will come back with a mop and bucket and clean it up! Akhir expert kaun?
    20-25 years ago, when I was growing up, I used to be miffed at those sexist ads like the one that shows little boys get smarters when they drink complan (or sth like that) . This many years later, the production quality has improved, the mother has become slimmer, the Dad look likes he might even be working out a bit, but the sexism remains undiluted. BTW, why is this obviously young woman needing a backache cream already? May be if she just outsourced some of the tasks to her husband, she wont be needing the backache cream in the first place! Besides, the guy seemed to be happy enough doing what he’s doing. Let the Dad bond with his daughter for crying out loud!

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  27. What scares me is the emerging social scenario. At a time when when communication system is at it’s zenith, there appears to be a complete breakdown of conversation between family members. The Mom prefers catching up on her soaps, the Dad is glued to his laptop and the kids prefer Nintendo Wii to their parents.

    Dinner conversations are a thing of the past. Conversations between parents and children is centered around school curriculum and performance. The husband and wife prefer talking about office matters or their next dinner engagement.

    So does it matter whether we are in a nuclear set-up or a joint one?

    Like

    • Purba I feel the kind of people who prefer to be on their own, and who don’t like to be with their family have always found ways to do this (like being engrossed in reading novels/newspaper during meals; visiting kirtan/prayer groups, or gossiping with relatives/neighbors while children play with PS/Nintendo Wii; staying out with friends while wife and children watch TV) These people are the ones who now stay glued to the TV/social media/PS/Nintendo Wii etc.
      When the pressure cooker and cooking gas stove first came to be marketed, a lot of people missed the food cooked on chulha (traditional fire for cooking) in open pans.
      We always have the choice of using every new invention and gadget in ways that are productive or not. I remember the criticism of email in 2000-2001, by those who hated ‘one line emails’ and missed long letters, but today we are writing maybe more because of the internet…

      Like

  28. I remember it being a very big deal when my mom and dad moved out of his parent’s house in the late 80s, halfway across the city. Truth was, my grandparents weren’t bad people at all–just very different than what my mom was used to in her own house. They always saw her as a snobby brat and she always saw them as crude when they were all living under one roof. Luckily Nepali culture isn’t as rigid as Indian culture so she was able to spend a lot of time in her parents house without it being considered ‘bad.’
    After moving out of my dad parents house, my mom and my grandparents developed a much better relationship. My grandparents too had the chance to develop and spend time on their own interests–they enjoyed their privacy. Today, my grandmother lives with my dad’s youngest sister and once again, it’s not considered ‘bad’ that she’s living with a daughter and not a son.
    I think nuclear families get criticized in this part of the world because it’s seen as abandoning one’s parents [as opposeed to allowing one's parents to have their own lives and interests].

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  29. Sorry for being late.

    Are Nuclear familises being criticised?
    I thought joint families were being criticised.
    At least that is the situation today.
    Nowadays nuclear families have almost become the norm.

    I feel that when there is no compulsion from circumstances and the option to change over from one to another is always available either arrangment is okay.
    I have experienced both in my childhood, and also in my adult life and am experiencing it even now.
    My inlaws live with me. They have no option now to live on their own.
    They are too old and neither do they have the finances to do so.
    I am happy they have the resources to meet the expenses of their upkeep.
    I don’t find it necessary to spend my money on them.

    Besides after staying with me and my wife for over 28 years, we have simply got so used to each other’s presence that there is no friction.
    My children have never expereinced their absence and have never felt that the house was too crowded.
    It of course helped that my house was large enough (with two halls and four bedrooms and three bathrooms) so that each had living space of his/her own.

    I used my in law’s presence to ask my wife to take up a job as soon as my daughter started going to school.
    With my in laws permanently at home, my children were well taken care of.
    In the early days of marriage, my wife and I lived alone by ourselves.
    When my daughter was born, I just could not think of my wife being out of the house.
    It was a joint decision that she resign her job to take care of the baby.
    She resumed only 5 years later when my in laws moved in with me permanently.
    The joint family made this possible.

    As a child I have fond memories of another kind of joint family set up.
    My father and Uncle had just moved to Mumbai from Kerala in the 1940s.
    They were unable to afford two flats.
    They lived together in one flat with two bedrooms and my mom and aunt got along well.
    I clearly remember how the co sisters helped each other with the raising of the brood of 7.
    I lived with my two brothers and four cousins (two boys and two girls).
    We were 11 in all living in a flat and no one felt anything was amiss.
    We were just too young to need privacy.

    (I could relate to the movie “Piya Ka Ghar” due to this experience.)

    By the time I was 10 years old, my Dad was able to afford moving into another house.
    We then had a normal nuclear family for the next 18 years.
    We were five of us in that house, my parents , my two brothers and I.

    After my marriage I moved to another city.
    My younger brother and his wife continued to live with my parents even after my brother’s two daughters were born.
    My brother’s job involved long absences from home very frequently and he found it comoforting to have my parents living with him.
    May be my sis in law did not like having my mother around all the time but the alternative to live alone wtih the two young daughters was equally unacceptable to her. She compromised and the pair lived together under the same roof for nearly two decades with only occasional and minor friction which my brother handled tactfully.
    In the meantime, in a different city, my in laws lived with me.

    The arrangment worked well till it outgrew its utility.
    When my brother’s daugthers grew up to be teenagars, my parents moved to Coimbatore and lived peacefully their last 13 years away from us and the grandchildren but for occasional family get togethers.
    Only at the fag end of their lives, they moved back in with my brother and his wife as it was impossible to manage alone, considering their health.
    Fortunately by that time both my brother’s daughters had got married and moved out.
    There was no alternative for us but to have my parents move back in with my brother.
    My parents would visit me for a few weeks every year or two and then return to my brother.
    Likewise my in laws are permanent residents at my house but they occasionally take a break and visit their elder daughter in a different city.

    I recount all this just to say that both arrangements are okay as long as there is scope for changing over to suit circumstances.

    However, now times have changed. I have no plans to stay with my children in my old age.
    I may visit my children and their families but would not like to stay with them permanently.
    I will live with my wife for as long as I can and then move to an assisted living center if I find myself incapable of living alone.
    I understand many such centres are opening up all over the country.

    During my parents time, I could just not think of this arranegment.
    I could not get over the feeling that it was too cruel.
    Now I am open to this idea.
    I don’t know what my children feel about this.

    Regards
    GV

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    • Greetings Vishwanathji. :) I have taken your suggestion from the previous thread under consideration and am actively casting about for a new handle. Coming to the idea of assited living centres, I think a lot of practical minded folks are actively considering it. My parents are considering doing so since they are certain that they will not enjoy living with my brother and his wife.

      They like their independence and don’t want to cause friction in my brother’s marriage by living with him plus DIL for long periods. My uncle, who immigrated to the US forty years ago, is considering buying an apartment near his brothers’ houses in Bangalore so all three brothers can live close by in their old age.

      What I am getting at is that almost no one my parent’s age in my family and my parents’ circle of friends is comfortable with the idea of living with their children, even when said children (DILs and SILs included) are perfectly willing to have their parents live with them. I do not know if parents who value their independence are a significant demographic in India, but I do see a growing reluctance in people my parents’ age to consider their son’s home as a sort of permamnent retirement home. I also feel very sorry for people my parent’s age ( late fifties/ mid sixties). Like you, they are part of the sandwich generation. They had to live with/care for the older generation when young, but cannot expect their children to do so for them in their own old age. I often feel like they got a bad deal both ways. :(

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    • Greetings Vishwanathji. :) I have taken your suggestion from the previous thread under consideration and am actively casting about for a new handle. Coming to the idea of assited living centres, I think a lot of practical minded folks are actively considering it. My parents are considering doing so since they are certain that they will not enjoy living with my brother and his wife.

      They like their independence and don’t want to cause friction in my brother’s marriage by living with him plus DIL for long periods. My uncle, who immigrated to the US forty years ago, is considering buying an apartment near his brothers’ houses in Bangalore so all three brothers can live close by in their old age.

      What I am getting at is that almost no one my parent’s age in my family and my parents’ circle of friends is comfortable with the idea of living with their children, even when said children (DILs and SILs included) are perfectly willing to have their parents live with them. I do not know if parents who value their independence are a significant demographic in India, but I do see a growing reluctance in people my parents’ age to consider their son’s home as a sort of permanent retirement home. I also feel very sorry for people my parent’s age ( late fifties/ mid sixties). Like you, they are part of the sandwich generation. They had to live with/care for the older generation when young, but cannot expect their children to do so for them in their own old age. I often feel like they got a bad deal both ways. :(

      Like

      • It is really good to know that the taboo of assisted living is fading. The sandwich generation will either be our parents or us; depending on what our parents do.

        Like

    • @GV,

      All your experiences have been on the basis of requirements. But how many people actually consider their family options in this manner? I live alone now because I enjoy the solitude, but if my parents require my attention at a later stage, I would have them move in with me. Unless they prefer to live with my sister. The question here is that of choice and willingness. Why do people think I ought to live with my parents now even though there is no reason nor desire on either part to do so? That is the problem and the reason why I criticise joint families. So many women have no choice but to live with their husband’s families as a matter of procedure, whether they are comfortable with it or not. So many sons are brainwashed into believing they ought to “take care” of their parents, even when said parents are in perfect health, with all limbs functioning. Is this even correct? I too have good memories of family gatherings and used to want to live in a joint family when I was a child. But the moment I was a teenager, I realized how restrictive it would be with all the uncles and aunts poking their noses in what was not their business. That’s just the way it is. Living in a joint family should be a choice, not a duty.

      @BIG:

      My grandparents lived in a rented flat till they were about 82 and 76 respectively. They simply refused to live with someone else. Until my grandmother ended up in the hospital. My mom and her brothers then simply forced them to make a decision on whom they would like to live with, and if they are so fierce on independence, then to move into a good old age home in the vicinity of one of the siblings. They finally opted to move to my uncle’s home, but just saying that there are people in every generation who don’t want to live with their children. I think this was mainly because all three children of my grandparents moved out at a young age for various reasons and broke the umbilical cord, which most parents seem unable to cut off otherwise, no matter the age of their children.

      Like

  30. Thanks “Not so Bad” Indian Girl for responding.

    I will eagerly await the results of your re-christening.

    No, I don’t feel I got a bad deal both ways.
    My in-laws living with me never felt like a bad deal at any time in my life.
    Frankly, and to be honest, I have benefited from their presence.
    The stresses and strains that we usually see in these kind of families were absent.

    I frankly admit, if it had been my mother and father living with me instead of my laws, there might have been friction between my mom and my wife after the initial “honeymoon” period when everything seems all hunky dory. This was inspite of my mother not having to feel insecure from the fear that some strange woman from outside the family has come to snatch her son away from her. My mom had three sons in all, no daughters. She didn’t need to feel that way at all. The friction if any would be something natural because they belonged to different generations and there was a wide gap in their levels of education. My wife was a graduate. My mother did not even pass high school. Their thought processes would be different.

    Since my parents always lived apart and we met only once or twice a year for a few days, the relationship was cordial all through. Often my wife would berate me for being inconsiderate to my mother during the inevitable family arguments and remind me to drop her a letter when for days on end I was too pre-occupied with my career to write to her or talk to her over the phone.

    A wife can take a lot more liberties with her own mother than with her mother in law.
    There would be occasional clashes and kitchen quarrels between my wife and her mother, who lived with us.
    Sometimes it would be something as trivial as the selection of the menu for the day or the method of cooking adopted.
    In fact on many occasions, I have had to pull up my wife for talking rough to her own mother.
    But in spite of these petty differences, there was never ever a feeling that they should not have been living with us.
    Patch ups between a wife and her own mother are easier than between a wife and her mother in law.

    It was a reassuring and comfortable to us knowing that my little son, home from School by 3pm was well taken care of my inlaws My father in law who had four daughters trying to have one son, doted over my son. I would be off on tours for several days. I didn’t have to worry about my wife having to manage all alone in my absence.

    Besides we lived a house with plenty of space for everyone unlike flats in Bombay where you can’t avoid bumping into each other all the time.

    As regards the next generation, my daughter has tasted western culture and has been living in USA for over 10 years now. Living with her permanently will not be a pleasant prospect. Most of my friends and relatives who have experienced six month stays in USA with their sons/daughters have already warned me that we will become glorified baby sitters, be unable to move out of the house, have to depend totally on our children for our movements, and be forced to stay all day in a house which, with all its comforts will be just a five star prison. The social life that we are so used to in India will be absent. The roads will be empty. The crowds, noise, festivals and various other activities that we are so used to will all be missing from our lives. We will soon become bored and homesick.

    Therefore I will like to be with her only IF SHE REALLY NEEDS my presence. She has clearly stated that she will expect me and my wife to be with her when she has her baby. She has an irrefutable argument in her favour. “You used my grandparents to take care of me when I was a baby. So now it is my turn to use you”

    I have assured her we will be there in her time of need. I will call off my semi retired status and opt for total retirement when she serves notice. We have a 10 year multiple entry US visa already and I got a taste of life in California last year when we visited her.

    (I had blogged about my experiences in California in a series of postings. These were in Hindi. I will indicate the links to any one interested)

    Thanks for this opportunity to share more thoughts and experiences on nuclear/joint families.
    Regards
    GV

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  31. Just came across your post. Understandably , you have been influenced by the therotical perception of a joint family that you just read in books or hearsay and you have jotted down your points. I don’t understand how an obsession of a son is related to a joint family. Most educated people known to me ( and who live in joint families ) don’t want a boy. They just want a healthy baby – boy or girl. And, i have also known people from a nucleated family who had a third child, just because they wanted a boy. Sadly, for them ,the third is also a girl. I hope atleast now, they see sense.

    Just to quote another of your point, less socializing with spouse’s relatives? Doesnt the modern husband and wife socialize with their office colleagues, their parents of their children, apartment friends and above all, virtual socializing in the internet? When all this is present and we have learnt to accept it, what is wrong in socializing with one’s own relatives, i fail to understand.

    While i agree with some of your points like this – “Nuclear families made it easier for young couples to stop following customs they had always found regressive. This was difficult in a joint family.” i don’t see eye to eye in this . “The modern (or western?) ideas of mutual respect and equality for all family members became easier to demand, and to apply.” just for e.g, I fail to see how a nucleated daughter in law and MIL have more mutual respect for each other than one in a joint system.

    Some of your points are acceptable, but not all.

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    • Just came across your post. Understandably , you have been influenced by the therotical perception of a joint family that you just read in books or hearsay and you have jotted down your points. I don’t understand how an obsession of a son is related to a joint family. Most educated people known to me ( and who live in joint families ) don’t want a boy. They just want a healthy baby – boy or girl. And, i have also known people from a nucleated family who had a third child, just because they wanted a boy. Sadly, for them ,the third is also a girl. I hope atleast now, they see sense.
      Me – Male children are needed to keep a Patriarchal Joint Family going. Traditionally, in most parts of India, a married woman’s parents can’t even drink a glass of water in her marital home. They are not allowed to accept any help from her either, she is supposed to belong to her husband’s family and is supposed to take care of her his parents in their old age. Many Indians don’t like to marry their sons into families where there are only daughters, because they worry about the daughter being required to care for her parents in their old age. Many parents who have lived in Nuclear family still want their sons and their families to live with them (i.e. a patriarchal joint family).

      Just to quote another of your point, less socializing with spouse’s relatives? Doesnt the modern husband and wife socialize with their office colleagues, their parents of their children, apartment friends and above all, virtual socializing in the internet? When all this is present and we have learnt to accept it, what is wrong in socializing with one’s own relatives, i fail to understand.

      Me – Like you pointed put the ‘the modern’ wives are allowed to socialize (husbands were generally not restricted). A woman was (traditionally) discouraged to interact too much with her own family, because once married her husband’s family is considered her family. While the husband was expected to interact and to live with his family, the wife’s parents visiting too often is also seen as ‘interference’. They are restricted from making phone calls, visiting and letting her family visit her.

      Being able to work is a relief for women in such situations, even if they have to hand over their earnings to their in laws/spouse. Working does allow women a social life and maybe comparatively better opportunities to stay in touch with her own parents.

      While i agree with some of your points like this – “Nuclear families made it easier for young couples to stop following customs they had always found regressive. This was difficult in a joint family.” i don’t see eye to eye in this . “The modern (or western?) ideas of mutual respect and equality for all family members became easier to demand, and to apply.” just for e.g, I fail to see how a nucleated daughter in law and MIL have more mutual respect for each other than one in a joint system.

      Me – Patriarchal joint families expect respect, generally to be proved by falling at feet, obedience, servitude etc for anybody who is older or from the husband’s family. Living in their own homes allows young wives to avoid contact those relatives who do not treat her well, this makes life easier for her and for her husband too.
      Mutual result is a new concept, our traditional system is not respectful to the young. Children are generally treated like they ‘don’t understand anything’ and young adults as people who need to be controlled. And anybody older as automatically deserving of respect.

      Some of your points are acceptable, but not all.

      Like

  32. Don’t talk about joint families decades back.. Your thoughts have been fuelled with countless myths. Most of the thoughts that you present did exist in India, but since people have got educated and mingled with society, things have mellowed down considerably. Yes, there might still be pockets of back ward regions where the things you describe exist, but it is unfair to generalize them and say the same for all. The stereotypical appearance has long since changed, and it is good , if you ask someone the real state of things, before you take a stance. I live in a joint family myself with 10 people, and i say that most of your points are absolutely incorrect.

    I can see that you present points based on the traditional joint family system where it was like the daughter in law was almost like shackles and had to cut off entire ties with her parents and all that.

    Times have long since changed. Joint families can only survive today if they are flexible enough, ( else it would cause feuds resulting in nuclear families.) I have not know my mother having restrictions to call up her mother, or for that matter go and spend some time in her house, when her sister had a kid. Frictions do exist. There are 2 daughter in laws and a mother in law in my house. Fights do happen, but obviously, there is considerable adjustment on all 3 of them to keep the house running. It is easy to walk out
    and wish for a nucleated system, for petty squabbles like this. But ask someone who lives in a system, and the end results which it produces, such things won’t look so great.

    Please present contemporary comments and not justifications based on stereotypes.

    Both joint and nucleated families have their own advantages and disadvantages, but you seem to present only one side of the coin. While the nuclear family has the advantages of privacy, independent decision making , it also does not have a strong relation system with the extended family. It misses out on the experience of older people at crucial times, and at times, this simple factor has destroyed entire families in my home town. ( and trust me, i am not exagerating this.)

    “Patriarchal joint families expect respect, generally to be proved by falling at feet, obedience, servitude etc for anybody who is older or from the husband’s family.” – A sterotypic message. This culture is a ‘X’ Indian one, and not one from a joint family. As far as i know, this culture is never stressed in ‘Y’ India, whether they are from a joint or a nuclear family.

    “Mutual result is a new concept, our traditional system is not respectful to the young. Children are generally treated like they ‘don’t understand anything’ and young adults as people who need to be controlled. And anybody older as automatically deserving of respect.” – Please find out the real status of these statements today in 2011, from friends whom you know of joint families. They have always respected my views even as a teenager and I have not known anyone pushing something down one’s throat, the way you describe things.

    Most of the comments i can see that you make are based on the very 5 – 6 generation joint families which lived in India over the years. Almost all of them are gone now. It is also a question of education. The people of my father’s generations who were educated have mellowed down a long way. Yes, my great grandgrandma was orthodox, my grandma not so much, and my parents not at all.

    As always, i say both systems have their pros and cons. When you write an article, try to present an unbiased view on both sides.

    Me – Read response here, http://indianhomemaker.wordpress.com/2011/06/24/it-is-easy-to-walk-out-and-wish-for-a-nucleated-system-for-petty-squabbles-like-this/

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  33. Pingback: It is easy to walk out and wish for a nucleated system, for petty squabbles like this. « The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

  34. @Sugeeth, socialising with husband’s relatives is not bad per se. But someone laying a rule “you have to socialise with husband’s relatives because that’s your family” is bad. And the husband’s relatives following “I am the saas/nanad/tai, so I can judge you” philosophy violate the basic concept of “individual respect” . The “respect” that is expected from a girl’s sasural is “respect for the relation”, which goes against the basic concept of human equality.Everybody deserves respect. And respect is “live and let live” attitude, not the “I am older to you, so I know better” one.

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  35. I understand completely where this article is coming from. I am from a nuclear western society, but I know several traditional and nuclear Indian families, and I see the difference. They each have flaws. The traditional family is more restrictive and culture preserving in both good and bad aspects. But, the children rarely suffer neglect, and allow for different role models.
    The nuclear family is more modern and accepting of new ways… But it presses neglect on members of the family, particularly the children. If both parents w

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  36. Pingback: An email: My principal fear is my wife is not going to be able to love my parents as much as I do. | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

  37. Pingback: An email: This is the life Mr Shravan Kumar and Mr Scareddy Cat offer to their life partners. | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

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