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.