Joint Family and Indian Daughters

This politically incorrect post is in response to Jottings and Musings‘s question (in response to my post on Uttam Dave’s article).

“I find the entire concept of a joint family strange and artificial and would never like to live in one. I think of marriage as two adults coming together to form a new home and family of their own, rather than a convenient arrangement for guys where the girl moves in and marries his entire family, so to speak!

As an older and wiser woman, I want to know your opinion IHM, is it strange or wrong to think like this?”

This will require a lot of tact jottingsnmusings… Let me take a deep breath.

Okay, in it’s traditional form???

I think the Joint Family System, in its traditional form, is extremely convenient for parents and grand parents of sons. In India when we talk about taking care of aging parents it is assumed that we are talking about parents of men.

Most young wives do not like it, because they are the ones with a lot of thankless (or conditional deification) responsibilities (including family honor) and not much authority.

For a young bride, a Joint Family means many eyes scrutinizing how she cooks her dal, is it time for her to provide the family with a grand son, her in-laws decide if they should find out whether the unborn is a girl or a much valued son and what to do with it. And so on.

What she eats, how she dresses, what time she wakes up (staying late in bed is frowned upon). Her children’s diet, education, values are all discussed by the elders in the in-laws family. They also decide whether or not she works. And even if she is ‘allowed’ to work she must come home and help her mother in law in the kitchen. Do they need a domestic help? Ask the Parents in law. A new dish washer? Parents in law decide. It does mean a loss of personal space and nearly no freedom for the DIL.

What about the Daughter in law’s husband? This system gets him the comfort of living with his birth parents all his life. He can sleep till late, he never needs to enter the kitchen, he can come home and sprawl in front of the TV after a hard day’s work, and be served hot tea and snacks by her. A daughter in law generally cannot watch TV if the mother in law is working in the kitchen. The days menu is nearly always the In-laws’ decision.

For a man, his aging parents are cared for by the daughter in law, he has no worries. Her parents??? What about this woman’s parents? Do our Indian family values include the care of a woman’s parents in their old age?

No they don’t. To the limit that even today, many DILs’ parents do not even drink a glass of water at their daughter’s married home (or her in laws’ home). Or if they do eat there, they pay for it. Unbelievable but true.

Most Indian parents can rightfully demand that their son looks after them, but if a daughter volunteers to do the same typical, traditional parents have inhibitions even today. But where does the girl even dream of volunteering for something so selfish. Her duties lie with her in-laws. I have heard women say, “I am good to my in laws, I am sure God will make my brother’s wife nice to my parents.” (It’s not the brother as much as his wife who is supposed to provide care giving)

They cannot even imagine that they can demand that they be ‘allowed’ to care for their own parents also. (Unless they live in a Nuclear Family).

It is not appreciated if she wants to think of, talk and or wish to maintain too much contact with her biological family. The biggest disadvantage of this is that she is not able to draw support from them in case of abuse. And there is a lot of abuse. Often leading to bride burning. Why is it accepted by the girl’s parents? It is accepted because they believe their daughter’s marriage is more important than her life. Most Indian parents do believe that a girl’s honor and her marital status are very important. Divorce in such families is a dirty word, a dead or unhappy daughter is more acceptable.

Who made such a system?
Why aren’t we changing it fast?
Aren’t our skewed family values pushing us towards killing unborn baby girls?

Does it sound fair and good to you? Yes? Then why do so many young wives take their own lives? (Many times they are not living with the in laws but the pressure is there all the same.)

The son faces no such harsh realities. He has a wife to take care of his parents, and his home and his children. He does not have to move in with strangers, and love them and obey them and be devoted to them. The best wayto see if it is fair or not is to ask a boy’s mother if she would be prepared to send her son to a girl’s house and train him to live with the same honor and dignity as a girl does, will she teach him to consider them his own family, and put them before his biological parents. Will she teach him that he must take their permission before visiting her.

Now for some good, practical, Counsel for IN LAWS in joint families. Read it, it makes great sense.
Added on Oct 23 2008 : Here’s some more counsel for Mothers in law, by a Mother in law.

Related posts:

An email: My principal fear is my wife is not going to be able to love my parents as much as I do.

“I am the glue in their marriage. They have come to have a largely perfunctory relationship without me.”


103 thoughts on “Joint Family and Indian Daughters

  1. As always a very wise response.
    I personally think that joint families are a very old-fashioned concept now. It is important for any individual to make their own homes by themselves- get away from the family mold and be your own person.Its essential in terms of striking out, growing up and finally of evolving as an adult.
    Regardless of gender- though the equation is over heavily balanced on the male side- it is important for anyone.
    I don’t think a person is old enough to get married- taking on its responsibilities, unless they have lived life alone for a while- men or women. ( Of course in my world one marries on one’s own, because one is ADULT enough to make that decision). Living alone is an important rite of passage to fully understand what it means to be yourself. To get comfortable with the individual, rather than the person who is with everyone else. Its about growing up. bout leaving the nest- a very natural thing- all animals do it.
    Being alone with only yourself for company, fending for yourself, taking on responsibility is important for anyone- after all in the grand scheme of things we are born alone, we die alone- we need to understand how to deal with ouselves.


  2. 😦 My comments seem to have a habit of getting lost on your site. Anyhow, this post is so close to my heart, I don’t mind retyping it! 🙂

    First of all, BRAVO!!! Thanks so much for taking my question seriously and putting in this effort to answer it.

    I think you’ve summarized the situation very neatly. Sometimes I wonder, do these guys ever realize the advantages they are literally born with and continue to enjoy (and take for granted) all their lives? (Lots of rolling of eyes here!)

    And you’ve raised a very pertinent about girls caring for their parents. As an only child this one is at the top of my personal angst. I’m glad I’ve made it absolutely clear to the husband what my plans in that respect are though…

    Thanks again – now I know my opinion was not so crazy or wrong after all.


  3. Imp’s Mom – looking forward to hearing from you…:)

    @lankrita I agree that we all do need personal space, and lots of it…but I do worry about our aging parents. My husband and I have told the elders on both the sides that they are welcome to rightfully walk into OUR house. I stress on OUR house, because then we are not taken for granted. My kids- both son and daughter are expected to be very nice and patient with me in my old age:)


  4. jottingsandmusings I know many, many girls, either only daughters or two sisters who are taking care of their parents. It’s a positive change, and what’s still better is that their husbands totally support them. Real life in India is very different from and much better than what we see in K-serials. Thank God for that!


  5. jottingsandmusings An error there, I know many daughters, even those who have loving brothers, caring for their parents. In my response above I made it sound like not having a brother was a requirement for being ‘allowed’ to look after your parents:)


  6. Dear IHM, very wisely put! Sorry for the long post, but here is another point of view. Joint family system, is merely older convenience that is unsuited for every body today. Ours is a land where once 90%of its population were agricultural communities. And elders immediately meant more experience and hence deserving more respect (though why I don’t know). It made sense to live in a large family set up even for a woman, because they functioned like a well oiled machine. On the outside, it meant that the land did not get divided. On the inside it meant distribution of wealth, and sharing of fortune and misfortune. A new bride did not enter the maid servant, cum chumcha post in the new family, because power was distributed in a family that held not just 2 generations but sometimes 4-5 generations. At a said time, she was not the only daughter-in-law of the whole household and could find support in other co sisters and other relations. More over she joined a household similar to her own, and knew how the story went. Her parents would be taken care of, whether they had sons or daughters. Its added advantage was the help and companionship it provide a woman who entered a new home. She and her parents did not suffer from loss of dignity or respect. But in today’s nuclear joint family, the power falls into only one place, whether the person wielding it is suited for it or not. There the amalgam of old tradition and new world, do not mix well, and enrich either them or the society. This along with a skewed view of women, becomes a big problem. It will take an effort on the individuals, to change the imbalance, and I am afraid that will take time. I will probably not see it in my life time.


    • You seem to have a very rosy view of days gone by.

      I have a huge problem with people speaking of “people” when they mean only men

      – which you do a lot in this comment. For example:

      > On the outside, it meant that the land did not get divided.

      Between MEN. Women were never allowed to own land.

      > On the inside it meant distribution of wealth

      Among MEN. Women did not own actual wealth; in most communities even the bride’s personal jewellery was handed over to the husband’s family.

      > A new bride did not enter the maid servant, cum chumcha post in the new family

      Really? You mean a bride did not have to be at her elders’ beck and call? You mean she did not have to work a typical maid’s duty roster of cooking, cleaning, washing, running domestic errands? You mean the men shared in these types of work too? I want to live in this world you describe…

      > Her parents would be taken care of, whether they had sons or daughters.

      Really? By whom?

      > Its added advantage was the help and companionship it provide a woman who entered a new home.

      The help is only needed because she’s being forced to enter such a large family! And the companionship is only needed because she’s forced to sever contact with the outside world! *rolleyes* Next thing I know you’ll be saying how convenient it was for women to not have to work outside the home and be breadwinners.

      > She and her parents did not suffer from loss of dignity or respect.

      How convenient that the rulemakers had decreed that marriage into joint family = good and respect-worthy, anything else = bad and not dignified. No, I think I like the “bad, bad west” a lot better with its embrace of all types of lifestyle choices, be it joint families (yes they exist!) or nuclear families or single parenthood or divorce or pure singledom!

      > But in today’s nuclear joint family, the power falls into only one place, whether the person wielding it is suited for it or not. There the amalgam of old tradition and new world, do not mix well, and enrich either them or the society. This along with a skewed view of women, becomes a big problem.

      This is the part of your post that I completely agree with. Well put.


      • Nandini you put it so well! I agree – all along one has heard it was a convenient system for the ensuring the land did not get divided, and although I sensed it was wrong, I couldn’t explain it so simply.

        And of course daughters in law were treated (and still are treated) like maids.

        “The help is only needed because she’s being forced to enter such a large family! And the companionship is only needed because she’s forced to sever contact with the outside world!” Absolutely!

        A male blogger had protested that men had their share of suffering and sacrifice when women bickered and the poor sons and husbands had to referee the fights.


  7. Thought room has said most of what i wanted to say. I’m a fifth gen in the joint family..though at present we do not live together any more..we moved out abt 15 yrs back..but the togetherness is still there.. we meet up for festivals and functions, or sometimes for no reason at all.

    Joint family has it horrors too, I can list many of them…all my mum’s and aunts stories..basically the eldest DIL’s, they are the worst hit..they get suppressed by their MIL and the aunt in laws too..and then its the co-sisters too, which make their lives hell..not all co-sis mum has a great relationship with her peers(the elder DIL’s) but not the younger co-sis, too much of back biting and bitching and making life hell for mum. It was one of the main reasons why we moved out, my mum could not simply take it anymore.

    I have seen a great sys where joint family exists in this time and very successfully. They all have their private lives and live together too…25 of them in one house. Its all about respecting yours the the others space and feelings. and not forcing or suppressing anybody. Works wonders.

    I’m going to stop here now, have taken too much of your space and also since this is one topic where I can go on and on…


  8. IHM, moving out of home and taking care are not two sides of the same coin. I am just as concerned about my mother, but she does not live with me. My feelings for her do not diminish. Its only about HER home- which she lives in and MY home that I have now. Indeed I feel that this mutual respect for each other’s place is vital in the parent child relationship in the case of adults.
    I think families whee space is given to all are able to survive as opposed to thos where the balance of power is unequal. In my personal experience I see that the most loving families ar the ones that do not advertise their “traditional, big happy clan” , but are adaptive to the demands of work. They evolve. Sadly the resistance to change is all too often more deeply ingrained.


  9. @lankrita Point Taken. …’moving out of home and taking care are not two sides of the same coin’ You are absolutely right:) …
    Did you notice my hesitation in speaking against this system? This is how deeply our biased ‘family values’ are ingrained. The thought in my mind was, ‘I know I am right but nobody’s going to agree.’
    Thanks for more than just agreeing:)


  10. Thoughtroom YES. Brilliantly explained. In this system, even if a couple was childless they had nieces, nephews and grand children to look after them. What we have today is oppression in the name of culture and tradition. Those who want to keep it going are not the ones who are made to keep it running 😦


  11. Imp’s Mom The worst thing is the girls have NO CHOICE. They HAVE to live in joint families. At least your mom came out of one. Think of those who can’t?? And I find it extremely annoying the way they assume that when we talk about senior citizens we are only talking about sons and daughters in law neglecting the parents. It is assumed that daughters should only care for their in laws, their parents are not senior citizens??


  12. okay, we are married for eleven years now and we have always been away from my parents (i am the husband here) and hers. our parents come visiting and my mom was always of the opinion that before getting married one should move out and it is foolish to expect a woman from another household to come and gel with the husband’s family in two days flat.

    we also made sure, when we visited West Bengal from Delhi or from Bangalore, that she stays with her parents and I with mine instead of my wife having to spend time here playing the role of a bahu.

    I guess men have to come forward and put their feet down in support of their wives instead of requesting them to adjust a little. That’s the beginning of all trouble, when one has to adjust against one’s wishes…

    And let’s hope all you women, when your children grow up, turn out to be emancipated moms-in-law to your children’s spouses… 😛


  13. Oreen – Congrats, you and your wife are very lucky. We all can easily end this oppression (I won’t call it adjustment, because only the girl has to go through it)…in fact I realised such a life was possible only after I got married. My husband is the coolest and he does not even realise it because he grew up in such a family, he hasn’t seen otherwise. When my brother got married my sister and I made sure his wife received the same surprise, (starting with) we have a custom (maybe you are aware of it) where husband’s sisters open the new bride’s stuff and choose whatever they like, say her favorite sari…, and they take it as their rightful gift. My in laws didn’t do it with, “We’d never do such a thing.” It made me respect them immensely, and we followed the same with my brother’s wife. It’s such a small thing, but I had seen newly weds finding it unpleasant that someone had a right to open their newly bought stuff and take whatever they liked from there!!! Doesn’t it reek of bullying a newcomer, a little like ragging??? All in the name of tradition. Sorry for this long response, I am glad that a husband has responded. It is very difficult to change these things without you guys supporting your wives. A little support from husbands can make things so easy for the whole family.


    • After I got married everything I owned was immediately snatched away by in laws who stayed with us. I was allowed to keep two cheap saris to cover myself with, that was chosen by them. They had all the rights and I had all the duties. My husband never ever stood up for me or my children. Every breath I took was because they allowed me those breaths. Occasionally I was allowed to have a 15 minute nap in the afternoon by my MIL. I was allowed to sleep for 3 to 4 hours every night….sometimes even that was not allowed because my MIL needed a massage that went on throughout the night. It is another matter that she was not happy with the way i gave her massage, saying I was not skilled at it. This is just the tip of the iceberg. This went on for 15 years till MIL died. Nothing ended immediately because extended in laws kept coming to visit us and often stayed back for months and months, refusing to go back. Till a few years back all this continued. They kept teaching me about the duties of a bahu and ensured I performed every family ritual and custom, never leaving my side for a moment. Those times are over now, but it took me more than 3 decades to cut off these toxic people…everyone of them from my life, including others who were innocent but played the trojan horse. All this happened with the support of my children. But lots of the damage was already done, to me and my children.

      My advise to all the younger ones who are going through this kind of hell…PLEASE ACT NOW! Don’t wait for more damage to be done to you or your children. It’s just not worth spending even a precious moment of your short life for a worthless cause. Times are different now. Take all the help you can, to come out of this rut. There are helplines and shelters. The internet can give you all the information you need.


  14. Awesome post.. enjoyed reading thru the whole thing.. I have always been fascinated by this concept of girl marrying into a new house, leaving behind everything that was hers and having to be happy about her new family till she dies…

    in my home(i live with my grandparents, no reason but a choice i made).. there are 2DIL’s(none lives here, DIL1 wanted to move out, so they did, 2nd uncle aunt are in delhi)… earlier, when DIL1 was here in this house, loads of tifs and arguments popped up… MIL n DIL both wanting to be right.. but now the relationship has blossomed, and they are both nice/caring with each other….

    guess certain amount of distance is reqd… gives people their space and lets them be…. 😀

    But there are times when gramma gets all huffed n puffed, esp when talking abt certain customs, traditions and starts off with “my in laws….”…. 🙂 people sometimes dont change~~


    • That sounds like a good solution – have young couples stay with their grandparents instead of their parents. I can’t imagine grandkids (or their spouses) getting too bothered by what the grandparents are saying 😉
      Unfortuntately, perhaps not really practical :/ unless the grandkids are old enough.


  15. Talk about marriages of convenience, convenient to everyone except the brides! The sooner we remove the weightage given to ‘ladkewaaley’ as opposed to ladkiwaale, there will be some progress. Yes,the joint family in its present avtaar is highly skewed in favour of the husband’s family.
    As for taking care of old parents, there are many more right-thinking men out there than ever before. My late brother lived abroad but came home for my dad whenever he was hospitalised. My parents have spent the last few years either with me or my sister, in our marital homes.


  16. I wrote a big, fat comment to say how much I relate to the post. Lost all of it because the internet connection failed 😦 Let it suffice for me to say that right now I agree with you so much I’m going to write a whole post on how superfluous I think this joint family thing is.


  17. Hi,
    What a brilliant piece this is. A new bride is indeed subject to utmost scrutiy from her in-laws, till the point of how regular (or not) her periods are!!! And how true, the husband manages to get away with his Peter Pan syndrome all life long, while the wife has to take on responsibilities of the new house, and forget her duties to her parents. Curse this Indian system !


    • Hi, I am Vimal. I need your honest opinion on the following about my family:
      A month ago my only son got married (arranged one) to a working girl. Till today he is transferring his salary to his father’s (my hubby) bank account excluding his monthly expenses. Whenever any need arises for money he use to communicate to his father nicely and there was no misunderstanding between them. All his shopping bills, credit card bill are paid by his father only. For better future my hubby has invested considerable amount in various investment schemes on our son’s name and its entire yearly premium being paid by his father. My son trusts his parents. We are very happy family and consider my son’s wife as our own daughter and we have told on her arrival at our home. We believe that she also consider us as her parents. Two days back my DIL received her first salary (INR 30K) after the marriage. She informed my son that we should open joint bank account so I can transfer the salary. She also set a condition that 15% of the amount of her salary will be invested in Recurring Deposit on her own parents name and 50% of the amount will be utilized by self also no amount will be given to IL unless they plan to purchase another separate house for them. Actually we own big 2BHK flat in prime location of the Mumbai city with all amenities and that too very near to her office. Also they are getting full privacy and already been given separate bedroom with attached toilet, TV, AC etc. etc. Now main thing is that my hubby is retiring after few months. He was getting huge salary and we were enjoying our life plentifully. There is no question of pension as he is working in private firm. My son is against the decision of his wife as mentioned above. We also feel hurt and disappointed on her decision. We will be facing big financial crisis post my hubby’s retirement. Kindly let me know how we can resolve the issue amicably without hurting our DIL and only son.


  18. aaarti You ask any family and there will be stories of women having been subjected to a lot of suppression. So many women attempt to kill themselves (with their children sometimes), burning, swallowing rat-killing poison, jumping in wells, hanging…and still we talk about our family values? Now that finally women are in a position to do that, they are walking out, with or without the husbands.


  19. Dipali I see many daughters taking care of their parents today. We will value our daughters more if they live in their own homes, because then they will not become ‘paraya dhan’, they will still be our children. In a joint family a bride’s closeness to her biological family is actually frowned upon! Think about it, why have we been accepting all this? And see how it has lead to Indian parents not wanting to have daughters at all.


  20. Pallavi Welcome:)
    Isn’t the period bit humiliating? Obviously then parents must feel that if they keep the in-laws happy with some dowry the girl will live in relative’s all a vicious cycle.


  21. D Welcome:) I look forward to reading your post…I really want to know what others think of this. Blog rolling you too!


  22. IHM… I feel like you are my soul sister… sometimes when I read your posts, I feel like its me writing them… there are lots of things I want to say about this too… though I guess in my case, my feelings will get the better of my logic and it wouldn’t be an effective post. Loved your post! Thanks!


  23. hey!

    guess u have touched a raw nerve somewhere…going by the comments… I just want to add one thing if everyone knows and respects each other boundaries, joint families can be fun too. The ‘joint’ however should be about hearts and not limitations.

    And I agree with Oreen the challenge is for the present generation to overthrow years of upbringing and teach our children the right attitude.


  24. I still live in one big joint family . Of the 17 members in my clan, 13 of them live together under one roof . And there are times when one craves for privacy and a little personal time, there are clashes of wills, and there are a host of other problems, BUT if you can make it work its worth it . I am glad that my grand-parents are the head of our family ,for their influence was very important in shaping me up.


  25. Kislay There can be no generalizations and I am sure you and many others, specially boys in our culture, are quite happy with the system. What about the girls/women in the family? Were they able to get equal opportunities, did they have a say in important decisions (marrying, education, dressing) that concerned them? If yes, then you will know why you were happy:) If your answer is “No, but… they did not mind/it’s to protect them/it’s for their own good/etc..” then you must put yourself in their position and ask if you’d be happy on similar situations. Independence for women can change the lives of a whole new generation.
    My mom had to put her foot down when my grand parents thought she was being wasteful by putting us in expensive schools. Luckily Dad, although he wasn’t totally convinced, let her have her way, seeing how sure/keen she was that this was the best thing to do. In his later years he told us a thousand times, how glad he was she fought for this.


  26. Agreed . I guess it depends from one family to the other . My sister is lucky to have parents like mine , she does get any unfair treatment . There are times when certain priviledges are deni0ed , but that has got more to do with the fact that my city is not that safe for women .


  27. Agreed . I guess it depends from one family to the other . My sister is lucky to have parents like mine , she does get any unfair treatment . There are times when certain priviledges are deni0ed , but that has got more to do with the fact that my city is not that safe for women .


  28. well, as much as id love to scream that most of the stuff ur talking about is of an age long gone in ‘modern india’, i must admit that have have seen instances of all of them around me!
    like the old woman who hates being looked after her daughter in law, but is not comfortable staying with her daughter because her son in law might not approve!

    i personally feel that, beyond a certain age, kids have to take care of their parents… because, thats the only way you can make old people feel loved.. and i guess it means a lot to them!

    and im quite convinced that the mom in laws have t adjust to their daughter in laws!…. and it isnt really a big deal, if we keep the antagonism outside… i mean, i may sound girlish, but if we just concentrate on how we can love people rather than be wary of them, life would be so much more pleasant for all concerned!

    and finally, all these things are realities, and we cant change it… wat we can do, like I was sdaying on Ds blog is make sure that as many people as come into our circle of influence, is treated ideally… like lets say, spouse, yr kids, yr in laws, and yr parents….!
    no point bitching about how perverted the world is!


    • So why oh why does it have to be mother-in-laws adjusting with their daughter in-laws. Why can’t the girls parents stay with them instead? Let the boys parents stay with his sister.
      No more antagonism towards the daughter-inlaws / mils.
      No more dramas.

      And no more ignored ill-treated parents ( esply girls family)
      why that would help eradicate the dowry and also reduce the demand for only boy child and the need to kill a gilr baby.
      Because now parents would see that the girl takes care of them.
      The society is very skewed as it is now.


  29. Pinku But the problem remains. What about those parents who do not have sons? This system no matter how pleasant needs major overhauling, or we’ll be a country full of unmarried men, or men sharing wives from North east and Kerala, as in Haryana. And girls in such cases are not pampered with many husbands as suitors, it is hell for the girl, who is generally literally sold into a family. When there are no women, there are no anchors, no families, just drifting men and a lot more crime.


  30. Avaran I think we need to accept that parents should be cared for by all their children. Sons in laws taking fathers in law to hospital for check ups is no longer a rarity and obviously we are changing but in our small towns, in joint families this is very difficult because parents from both the sides will find it impossible to accept it. Can you picture a DIL’s mother being cared for in her husband’s (Joint) family?? They don’t even drink water in their daughter’s marital home!
    Now if a couple lives in a Nuclear family and whichever parents need caring are taken care of, it works fine. The awkwardness of moving into a Boy’s house is drastically reduced. I have seen this happening in many families. A friend of mine, a Doctor, puts it this way, “We are very clear, although we both have siblings, if either of the ‘set of parents’ need caring, we will bring them here, and not wait for our siblings to do that.”
    If this is not done, then we will face a future that will be true kalyug.(Please do read my response just above this one).


  31. Excellent post ! They are my thoughts exactly on the topic.
    Somehow I feel its not easy for 2 women to co-exist in the same house, there are always disputes :).I wonder why there are never problems between the men, why is it always between the women? Is it because women are more emotional? I have always wondered about it.


    • Two men co-exist in the same house much less frequently. When they do, they can fight, too (for example, brothers in the same business).
      Co-existence is difficult when domains overlaps or are the same – for women, this often happens in the kitchen, the home. If the DIL works, and the MIL manages the kitchen, there is much less controversy than when the MIL is also simultaneously upset that the DIL isn’t doing much in the kitchen.


  32. IMH, you put thoughts so well. Am the only child to my parents and I have put this as the top priority that I would marry only if the guy allows me to take care of my parents. As his parents are important to him, my parents are also to me.


  33. I couldn’t agree with you more. i stayed ina joint famil for two years…I would do anything to stay away. I hate people who believe that takin care of parents is a man’s domain ( just like so many things)….a parent might have a lots of sons and daughters but as a child i just have one mom and one dad…i would like to take care of them. I just love your article….


  34. I like this post very much , will soon translate it and posT it on Chokher Bali .

    thanks for writing such a brilliant post !


  35. unmana Thanks!

    Priyanka Ask a boy to spend many, many hours caring for his father on law, and also some hours pampering his brothers in law. Advise him to put their needs before his own, to except minor rivalry, insults and tus win them over (typical Uttam Dave style advise) and you will find men can hate, backbite, quarrel as bitterly as women!And I must apologise for replying so late to your comment!

    Manasa Absolutely :)If all the girls put their foot down about this, we will have no gender based abortions!

    Anonymous Thanks:) I think all women feel that it is so unfair, (because it is so outrageously biased)if only we all refuse to accept it!

    Sujata Loved reading the comments on my last post in Chokher Bali. I really appreciate what you are doing. I have added you to my blog roll too 🙂


  36. with so many comments, I think what i am going to say will unnerve many, but i find the opposite of this everywhere. Today, I hardly find any girl who totally assimilates in a new family, she always say-I have two houses now, before marrying they always say that they will marry only if the boy equally respects her parents.Sometimes it goes to such an extent that boy’s parents feel like being an outsider.
    i always feel that our old system was better , like we laways felt that our sasuraal was our home and our first priority were inlaws, and everybody was looked after as my SIL looked after my parents, today the girls are putting foot in two boats—going to sink.
    There is no other harmonious way of living, either it will be patriarchal society the way it is now, or it can be matriarchal, then boys will say what the girls are saying today.


  37. Wow wow wow..Did you have a telepathy or something??All my thoughts are in oput there in your words..You touched even the slightest ,yet.gravest problems in our households…I was writing post on joint families as of today..and just saw your post,though im a regular visitor here..Sad that I can’t write it frank and straight as you do:( ..bcoz the day I started writing blog,my husband has ordered not to write anything he don’t feel ‘right’..Since posts are read by ‘public’,he don’t want to ‘disrupt’ so-called harmony..I love my in-laws..They are nice to a great extent.Mine was a typical arranged marriage,where meeting for the first time and wedding happened in a span of 2-3 weeks..I am a software engineer and I was doing my MBA then,where i got admission in a top-class business school with 16th rank in all india level..My family is a liberal and educated one and they brought up me with all freedom.Never mind,I had to skip my course and now im a stay at home mom..My husband’s fmaily is joint one where brothers and family with total 6 kids staying together.I had always tried my level best to nice and compassionate and caring..and always helped with kitchen with whatever i knew then..But the whole set up was disturbing to me..On one side i had my husband who is very conservative and always warned me “Don’t talk bad to anybody..don’t over-react as u do,no matter if it is right or wrong ” bla bla bla..My MIL is the king in the house and she decides what to make and to do etc etc..More annoyingly,my elder co SIL’s does every single only after MIl’s consulation..Its been 10-15 yrs since they got married,atill they ask everyday,”Is this much coconut ok,is this much turmeric powder ok”..Holy shit..I just couldn’t understand why they didn’t know how to amke a curry even after years of struggke in kitchen..When one day I asked her why she does it,the reply was disturbing,”I do this everyday sisnce I don’t want to hear comments like “ah,its spicy”,”ah,its salty” etc etc in front of everybody when on didnign table..I felt very sad and annoying,as the same is going to happen to me tomorrow..My co-SIL’s says that FIL and MIL doesn’t permit them go to their own house even once in 2 months..When they ask ‘permission’ FIL asks “you want to go?any special function there..No need to go if simply”..huh??? MIL doesn’t pass any comments,but keeps her face bulged and don’t talk..Very interesting..MIL keep murmering is irriation whenever SIL’s makes plans to go for movie or shopping..and they say its been years since they went out with their husbands in peace..I wonder why people think that girl’s old parents will be taken care by God and boy’s parents are to be taken care by bride..I love my in-laws,but i can’t resist being for taken granted..even when i am a so-called educated and enlighted lady..Now we are staying abroad,so we are alone..But in few months,we are going back..and its been months sicne i lost my sleep thinking of going back..I like them all and want the relation to be the same for ever..and THAT IS WHY I WANT TO STAY SEPERATE..bcoz when staying together,we may have talk bad over petty issues as amount of salt or turmeric powder..I never can be over submissive like my co-SILs as its not my nature..All those who know me even to the slightest says i am very good in nature,except for few of mt in-laws and i am very sad about it bcoz i had always been good to them..One SIL don’t talks to me bcoz my husband and she are cousins and they were in great company–until i came..I don’t know what did i do to their relationship..Ah,now i ahve grown immunity to all these stuff.Still deep inside i feel sad about it,as i want to ahve good realtion with all..Sorry for such a boring and long post..Tears are flowing down my cheeks,and i won’t have a post in my blog about this since i don’t want ot hurt my husband’s honour..In the end i have learned that being educated is no meand to be bold enough to say “YES” or “No” to want you want,bcoz society around is the same one as it had been 400 yrs ago..All i wish is some personal space..but sadly even my husabnd doesn’t give me that..So,what more to expect from in-laws..My husband is very loving and caring..But Marriage means much more to me..Being friends,appreciate,criticize..Ah,neevr mind,the show must go on..all I know is that i am not afraid to walk away,when its satutared level..I wish I could work when i move back.Again,an act against husband’s honour..I wonder why i spent so much time and effort on my degrees..I just shared my story to tell you that not all K-soaps are untrue..I am changing my status to anonymous..sorry for that..Sorry for all spelling and grammar mistakes..I am not re-reading it..Just my random thoughts..

    Responded here –


  38. @Renu First of all, I am sorry I'm replying so late…
    you say /I hardly find any girl who totally assimilates in a new family/ That's because, girls are no longer suppressed to the degree they were earlier, they know they have rights, they are more educated, they have a CHOICE. Would you rather they were forced to live a life in which they are not happy?
    Read the comment below yours to see how sad their lives are. They have NO LIVES, they live by rules they have no say in making.
    You say, /they always say that they will marry only if the boy equally respects her parents/ What's wrong with that?
    Now everybody wants boys, and you know what that has lead to!?(Female Foeticide).
    The older system was great for a son's parents. You have written/my SIL looked after my parents/ Now, what if you have no brother and hence no sister in law?
    In families where Joint Family system is strongly followed, girls are treated like paraya dhan from childhood, first of all they are not wanted, if they are allowed to be born, any money spent on them is considered wasted. Would you like to be a daughter in such a family? Or a dil?
    What is wrong with both girls and boys looking after the parents? Will you like to live in an India where there are no daughters? If our system is harmonious then why are our daughters in laws so unhappy?
    Bride burning, wife beating, girls being blamed for not having children or for not having any sons..they have no choice in whether they work or not, they cannot decide if they should have children or not (it's their body, but nobody seems to realise it)- I think the only people who will fight for patriarchy are those who benefit for it – those who have sons (even if they were acquired after aborting many baby girls).
    I am against JOINT families. Couples should live in their own homes. Sons and daughters – both need to be allowed to become independent. Let me tell you, even sons will prefer to live independently if they were not raised to believe that their only duty is to stay in the same house as the parents! Indian parents' insecurity makes them selfish, they only want sons, to have someone to take care of them in their old age..
    If both sons & daughters can take care of their parents, only then will we have harmony. I know many couples who do that. My brother's wife is an only daughter and it is understood that she will take care of her mother.
    You say,/There is no other harmonious way of living/
    Do you call our present system harmonious!!!!!!!!!!
    As mentioned above other better, happier, more fair and very harmonious system is already being followed, and everybody is happier with it. Many times, even the boy's parents 🙂


  39. I still feel that joint family has many benefits albeit with a little understanding about giving space, freedom.
    western concept of nuclear families is not bringing any happiness over there, they are looking towards east for peace,happiness. Instead of discarding our values we must bring a change in the system.
    I have many friends with joint families, even my sister lives in one, all very happy, and when i see them enjoying so much and their children getting so much of company in the home only, i long for it, my MIL lives with me, butmy BIL settle abroad.
    I can give u an example of my friend-she has 4 brothers a,all their wives working an dthey are living together, for all the work they have kept the help and supervision is done by her parents. All the brothers give the money for the expenses to the parents in the first week of a month, and then its their responsibility to look after evrything.In the evening yes her SIL’s help in serving. For personal friends they are free to bring anything they want to serve and all that.This way they can go their parents place easily without orrying about husband and his food, and they go on vacations freely, without any worry.
    so I feel with a little adjustment one gets so much of enjoyment.


  40. My MIL wanted to know what birth control I use, would comment on how many times I went to the loo and countless other things. She also loved to snoop into my almairah, the excuse being cleaning it up when I am not around and such like stuff. Needless to say I hated her.


  41. This is so touching… I know someone who’s moving to a joint family in a few days and looks and seems all happy.. i hope she doesnt have to face all this! Added you to my blogroll, hope u don’t mind… 🙂


  42. Just reading about the DILs role in a joint family made me shudder. I had written a post long time back at Yahoo 360 on why I preferred a nuclear family. All the women, without exception, said they favored nuclear family, while a few men extolled the virtues of joint family while some enlightened ones among the men accepted that the joint family system was indeed a burden for women.
    Loved your post.


  43. @Shail I would be most grateful if you give me a link to that post, we can make a greater statement by linking more women’s opinions. Do take a look at the sad comment by the Anonymous DIL (daughter in law).


  44. IMH, unfortunately I lost my Yahoo account and my almost couple of years blogging and all the comments. I just managed to save a few blogs and the ‘testimonials’ given by friends.

    I just read the anonymous DILs story. I am not surprised at all. It reads almost like mine.


  45. Dear IHM,

    I have been following your blogs for quite sometime now – must admit very interesting reading – my favs are the ones about Indian hypocrisies – both my husband and I come from middle class families in Chennai and have been taught the “Indian Values” – both of us work and both of our parents are aged and we plan to go back to India so I can take over the family chores and look after my sick mother-in-law and also work.
    The family environment is not generally very conducive to discuss my thoughts about being able to spend time equally with my parents – it is assumed I would stay and be the obedient BAHU. My parents would be very surprised as well if I said I wanted to spend half of my time there with them. I am afraid if I protested, I would end up being disrespectful – they are nice people after all and not picky on me. But my values and theirs are different.
    So, I have been quiet with them on this topic and just share my feelings with my husband from time to time, not that it will make a big difference, just I feel better.
    I am enduring.
    I just ranted above, but wanted to say keep writing and I will keep enjoying reading your posts.



  46. @Viji, I feel so sad about this! It’s so unfair, and you are working too. You know nobody even notices that this is so outrageously unfair, we are raised to believe that this is the right way. This will change, there is no doubt, but very slowly, against a lot of resistance,and serious , self righteous objections. Recently I told an elderly friend, “I read on the internet that women these days are objecting to joint family system, they feel it is unfair that just because they are born women they have to often move in with intolerant, domineering strangers who expect them to forget about their own family, and there was something about how such a biased system is behind all these sex selective abortions, because now everybody wants sons to stay with them, nobody wants daughters, because they are only raised to take care of other families…”
    And she surprised me by not protesting, she said, “Unfortunately, these changes come very slowly. We have suffered at least our younger generations won’t.”

    I hope you also find pleasant surprises, at least you should be able to visit your parents…


  47. I read it earlier but I am very happy with my DIL and vice versa:)
    i nread many complaints fromDILs, ant say abt others but i can reply what i do….
    not letting stay with thir DIl is with her parents for last 2 months waiting for her visa, I am happy that she will be more at ease there, if she stays here without my son, i am all the time worring about how to entertain her, take he out, dine out and all that, there she has her friends and she can pass time easily:).
    I neither have the time nor inclination to ask–what she uses or buys or invests or spends,or goes.
    I pamper her silly just like my youngest child, and she loves me a lot, i will write sometimes about that, a very small gesture from her which made me so emotional.
    I just need love and respect from her, to include me in her family thats it, rest everything I have plenty, its all about understanding and loving each other, everybody has faults,but MIL/s are made into a mountain, the type of DILs I have seen are not less than a monster…so its individuals not MIL or DIL.
    None of the youth understnd this, it is taught only by age and circumstances, only when they weill wear those shoes, then only know where they pinch.


  48. @Renu It was really nice to read your comment, I hope all mothers in law respect their daughters in law, their feelings and their need for space, independence and freedom like you do 🙂
    Congrats 🙂


  49. Thanks IHM ! I know this much only the love begets love, plus we should always think positive, I tell u one thing that i also faced the same problems and suffered also, but I never let that come into my thought process or change me as a person. My MIL lives with me and I want to give my best to her, because I always believe we get the best in life, if we are blessed by our elders. I just dont want to think about what she did to me and all that. She is the mother of my H and has a right and I have a duty to fulfil that and if I do that well, i get lot of happiness in so many other ways. God always looks after evrybody, we always get the return multiplied.I always count my blessings which are many.


  50. And about taking care of parents, I think though I wasn’t born then ….. the whole “Joint Family” thing must have started for mutual benefit.


  51. Dear IHM,

    I have been reading your posts since few months now. It all started when I googled for how DILs live in joint families and found this lovely article of urs.

    I am an only child, well-educated, working & married. My parents brought me up to be a strong, independent & foward thinking girl. After my marriage, I have always played this tug-of-war with my H that I do not want to stay with IL's on my return back to India. Main reasons – 1. Being an only child, i wanna take care of my parents the same way my H wants to take care of his. Stayin in joint family wud take away this freedom of my parents stayin over at "my" place or me spending good, long hours with them. 2. My IL's do not like the fact tht i expect my H to help with house chores, they expect me to be an ideal bahu who pampers their son, cleans, cooks, works, does not feel financially responsible towards her own parents…

    I have been thinking a lot about this off-late & have decided that I am not going to submit myself to these customs. I beleive in equality of rights + responsibilities..which i wud encourage my husband to share equally with me for both of our parents. My H is not convinced by my forward thots & wants me to stay in joint family. I knw I have a tuf road to travel, but I am ready to face all challenges & stay proud rather than look down upon myself & be a weak timid creature.

    Thanks IHM, for penning this article so aptly, it revelas all the questions & complex thougts which i was flustered with. Thanks for sharing it & giving confidence to many others…that they are not alone in their struggle & its not bad to think like a modern girl.


  52. Dear Anonymous,
    My warmest wishes to you. Do you know according to our law, you, as much as any son, are expected and required to take care of your parents? Your in-laws and husband are not being fair or even right, in discouraging you from taking care of your biological parents. (The Domestic Violence Act forbids in-laws from stopping a daughter in law from seeing her family). And it really is not possible to make your parents feel at home at your in-laws home, in a joint family. You could ask your husband and in laws how would they feel if they had to come and stay at your parents house? Why do we have different rules for sons and daughters’ parents. No wonder nobody wants daughters in this country!
    This is yet another example of our traditional double standards. We are already paying a heavy price with millions of unborn baby girls and a skewed sex ratio!
    My best wishes to you. I hope you find a harmonious solution. More than anything do not feel guilty if you don’t wish to live in a joint family.
    – IHM


  53. @Raghuvamshi ‘Mutual benefit’?
    Do you know why we bless newly weds to have only sons?
    Why we abort unborn daughters?
    Why men in Haryana have to ‘buy’ brides, often one bride for many brothers, from states like Kerala and North East?
    Why so many women commit suicide or are burnt alive, or do you believe all burning accidents happen only to young wives?
    Patriarchy is biased system which has created a ‘male dominated’ society. We must learn to question any system which is not just. Men will also benefit from a system that is fair to all humans, including women.
    Google ‘female foeticide’ if you’d like to know a little more.


  54. Dear Indian Home Maker –

    This is my new favorite blog. I am a white US feminist who as of late has become fascinated with Indian culture. My story is long and I won’t post it now but I want to tell you … keep writing! It is good to see emerging thought in such a traditional country.

    This particular subject is intriguing to me. I will look forward to more posts on this subject.




  55. Hey IHM,
    I must shamefully admit that I have been reading your blog for a long time now but never found words to comment! You almost write everything that is on my mind 🙂

    In one of my latest posts called “what if”, JottingsnMusings gave me the link to this post of yours and I felt nice that someone had finally written something other than me! Thanks for this.

    I just wanted to tell Thank You and also tell you that I’ve blogrolled you too 🙂


  56. Interesting I am unmarried single 26 year old girl and my parents have raised me in a way as to respect our culture but always be independent. Balance between home and career. We are living overseas and I got the best from both east and west. Ma and Pa always say take the best from every culture. I have to say dad did say long time back joint families are all about false egos, pretences etc. I am lucky to have them as my parents as they helped me become the person I am today. I have younger brother and sister but my parents actually say we dont know about our son but we know our daughters will be there for us. We do have a family friend who lived in a joint family back in India for 14 years we named it vanavaas. She is happy with her family here (Her husband,son and herself). She is anti joint family. I come from a dynasty where women have single handedly raised children as their situations were such being a widower or non working husband due to health problems etc. Girls in our families are raised with equal rights as guys ofcourse no late nights are for more girls than guys. I don’t have any objections to that. We are ensured to have good education,make own decisions etc so we can be independent. I am very happy our dynasty does not let our girls get married easily from our families. That is to say guy has to work very hard to get any of us. My aunty helped her parents,brother and sister to come abroad here. Her parents do not think anything about drinking water etc even though that is the phrase about ‘should not drink water from daughter’s house after marriage’ her parents depend on their children- girls mostly than a son if they have to and when they have to. They dont want to live with their son as they feel more loved by daughters. One size does not fit all is my motto. Ma always says…If there is a will there is a way. I always say I am a son and not a daughter because my parents have brought me up so and dad himself has said to our family friends refering to me …. ‘more than a son’ as I have been supportive both financially and domestically etc since I was in my teens. I can truly say I and my siblings will be always there for my parents for all their lives given I do not die before them.


  57. Well I have a different type of joint family. I live with my husband and child overseas. We have our own home, however before having out child my in-laws moved in to our home to help out. They are wonderful. My mother in law takes care of my child and cooks dinner while me, my husband, my father in law AND my sister in law are at work. This is what is different. My unwed sister-in-law is also staying in our house. While she is wonderful. She helps around the house, and is very close to my mother-in-law, it does cause some problems in terms of my child. I feel like since my sister and I are around the same age (she is 5 years older) my child can not really tell the difference between who is mommy. There are too many women in the house and that can cause problems. That makes me resent my sister in law and her living in my house. But, at the same time I know that I moved her parents into my house to help me, so it is not fair for me to not want her here as well. It is part of our Indian culture for kids to stay with their parents until they are married (even though most do not do so overseas). At the same time it is great for my child to be able to be so close to her grandparents and aunt. My in-laws are also wonderful to my parents. They want them to always come and visit. Unfortunatly my parents do not feel comfortable since they feel it will put too much extra work on my mother-in-law and it will force my sister-in-law to not be able to sleep in her own bedroom. That part is hard for me because this is my home, not my in-laws, and I want my parents to feel comfortable coming over and spending time with their grandchild.


  58. @Anonymous It is not fair to expect them to leave their daughter behind! This becomes her home if her parents move in to help you out …


  59. Yes, that is what a part of me things. But the other part of me thinks “why should I be supporting their 36 year old daughter”? She should have her own responsibilities when it comes to household expenses. She is very well educated and could get a really good job if she was motivated to, but I feel like since she does not need the money she is not that motivated, and I do not think that is right. And then because she does not need to work hard she is able to spend more time with my child, while I have to work hard to pay the bills. I am trying not to feel like this, but keep going back in circles and feel like this.


  60. Oh one more thing. My in-law have also been living over seas for last 37, just an hour away from where we currently live. So it is not like the daughter would be in a different country. She has grown up here. But, yes I still do see the side of the daughter and the parents, I just think that at some point she should be supporting herself and she is 36 right now.


  61. In response to what the anonymous above said, I do agree that in-laws can be good, but there are reasons unexplainable which still makes living in a joint family not wise for me. To site my example, my MIL is really helpful …she cooked when me & my hubby were at work and never she has complained abt tht (mabbe bcoz she was just visitin US and knew tht its not a permanent settlement…she insists that we move back to india asap). So shes helpful, my FIL also adapted to the changes wherein he initially cudn't tolerate my H giving a helping hand in the kitched…but slowly I think he adapted. My IL's and my parents have an ok-ok relation…a lil less than friendly. And to top this all, i am an only child and hence just cannot tolerate any indifference in attitudes towards my parents.
    If I decide to live in joint family once we move back to india, my parents wud feel uncomfortable coming over at "my" place coz after all its a sasural. On the other hand, if i had my own home, i cud have nicely welcomed both my parents and IL's. I want to be with my parents in their old age, as much as my H desires to stay with his. Then why the injustice to the "girl"?

    The gist being, no matter how good ur in-laws are…living with them in a joint family would surely take away lots of rights from the DIL when it comes to treating her own parents. And as an only child, I just cannot tolerate it.


  62. I do not know whether we can generalize or not. It depends on each family. It is true that the DIL is required to adjust if she moves into a joint family. And if she does not receive the support from the family, obviously it is better to move out.

    I agree that a daughter should be able to take care of her parents after marriage as well.


    • I am really feeling helpless at this moment.I am a working software engineer.My parents raised me as independent and forward looking girl.
      We are three sisters and one brother.I am elder of all and doing job.We three sisters all are software engineers.but now they are pursuing their study from india’s reputed college.I got married in 2011 while I was studying.My marriage happened with lakhs of dowry.On first day in my sasural,I heard “Ye leke nhi aayi””hame wo nhi mila”.Now I am in delhi,seperated from my in-laws.However,they visit my home once a year.Now My parents are alone taking care of my siblings.My husband doesnot allow me to go and visit my own home.My mother had accident few months ago.She herself is ill and my father is sugar patient.I am only the elder one in my family.My husband do not allow me to help my parents in terms of money or going there.Since I am a working woman,I dont have much of leaves.The leaves I have are getting wasted.Also he doesnot allow them to come here.We are living here in 2 bhk.One room is always vacant.My sisters have to do training for one month and they have to live in pg within 5 min of distance but they cant live with me.What should i do now.I really feel helpless.


      • I don’t understand why folks with educated, working daughters still find it necessary to marry off their daughters with a dowry – how is that a hallmark of forward-looking parents/children? If you go in for that, you likely will encounter these types of problems.

        I don’t think you can invite your siblings or parents into your home without your husband’s consent – but if you do go visit them, what will happen? You haven’t said what you’re afraid of, so all I can say is, you should visit if that is what you want to do.

        Also, you might want to let your husband know that if your parents cannot come stay with you for a few days/weeks, that your husband’s parents will no longer be welcome in your home, either. Fighting usually doesn’t end well, though. It makes a tremendous difference if you can make the delivery of your words in a calm tone. This is a more tricky task, though. So first, just go visit them. I don’t think your husband will be able to find much support in keeping you away from them.

        We women are good at abiding by “rules” and prone to thinking that authority lies elsewhere, not within us. Take charge.


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