“I will never live in a joint family, it has its roots in patriarchy and benefits only men.”

I don’t think joint families benefit even all the men – for example, fathers of Indian girl children do not benefit from Patriarchy, they are not even seen as Senior Citizens. Ever heard someone complain about lack of elder care from their sons in law (Jamai Raja) or from paraya dhan?

Patriarchal Joint Families empower Parents of sons (i.e. future all powerful in laws), to control how girl children are viewed, raised, educated, controlled, protected, valued, disinherited, hated and killed in the Indian society. For most Indians, the paraya dhan are with the parents only until they go to their ‘own home, which is their future spouse’s parents’ home.

The sense of entitlement of the future in laws of Indian Paraya Dhan is rarely questioned. Until recently the parents of Indian daughters felt they had no option but to teach the girl to somehow make the best of the situation, please, obey, see happiness in suffering and abuse, and accept lack of freedom and happiness as her destiny.(Divorce, widowhood or remaining single were not permitted to women). Some parents of paraya dhan send their daughters to schools that train them to be obedient, mostly the training is provided at home. 

The idea is so deep rooted, that they fail to see women, probably in their own neighborhood, living happy lives – doing, wearing, opining, driving, eating, drinking what they like (despite patriarchal moral policing) and living happy lives.

This is why rigidly patriarchal societies like India and China hate and kill future non-men (girl children).

Do you agree with this comment?

I will never live in a joint family, it has its roots in patriarchy and benefits only men.

In India when a woman and man get married only the woman’s life changes. The man gets to continue living the way he always has.

Marriage should be about comprising on both sides husband and wife.

If I like to eat dinner at 9 and they all like to eat early who will have to change. The dil or 5 members of the family.

In a nuclear set up both husband and wife will compromise and might eat at 7. A middle ground, a compromise for both.

That was just an example but thats what marriage is supposed to be; give and take and compromises from both parties.

In the joint system it doesn’t work that way. Women are expected to “adjust” while men continue living the way they always have. Indian men have such a sense of entitlement in this system.

Its not about women being stubborn about change, its the fact that it is only expected of them.

I know i will have to adjust to change, compromise and sacrifice when i get married but i also want my husband to do that for me. It has to be a two way street.

Here’s how we react if we think men might need to adjust:

Can a Veetodu Maapilai rightfully ask for the 4th coffee of the day or whatever he wants in his in-laws’ house?

“If you are lucky you will get an American son-in-law, and if unlucky, you will get an American daughter-in-law!’

An email from a Happily Married Indian Daughter in law…

An email. Aren’t the sons supposed to have their own family lives?

Only when raising ideal daughters in law is not their goal, would Indian parents be able enjoy having and bringing up girl children.

Another email. When an Indian daughter-in-law has no brothers.

How important is it for a girl to get married?

85 thoughts on ““I will never live in a joint family, it has its roots in patriarchy and benefits only men.”

  1. I agree that a joint family reinforces patriarchy, if those are the values that drive your family. I live in one and do find myself negotiating a complex set of perceptions and expectations from even my relatively liberal in-laws. However, if you are married to an Indian man brought up with a deep sense of entitlement, you will face patriarchy in its raw form even within a nuclear family system from your husband. Putting up an out and out fight against patriarchy is not possible in the Indian family, period. Whether joint or not. Negotiating to be in a better place, yes, that might be possible if you have the mental strength and conviction that you are right. That is my personal experience.

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    • Agree 100% on this – “…if you are married to an Indian man brought up with a deep set of entitlement, you will face patriarchy in its raw form even within a nuclear family system from your husband”.
      This is so true.

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    • I agree with you. It’s not the system, it’s the people driving it. I’ve seen joint families outside of India where it’s not like this (I lived in one!). The patriarchy wasn’t there. I also lived in one inside of India where patriarchy was prevalent but the family was working to change it. My MIL and Chachi weren’t allowed to leave the house the entire first year of their marriages for example. When their MIL passed on, they changed the rules of the house and both decided that some traditional values needed to change. Of course, old habits die hard and some things were harder to let go of after participating with them for so long but the fact they were making an effort shows that families can change.

      Joint family systems are great! The system not the people who misuse it as a means of control. It’s very intelligent to live in this type of system for so many reasons including financial, social and for the maintenance of family relations. The problems really do come from a bitter MIL (or other family member) who felt mistreated and now sees that it is her turn to torture someone else.

      The system doesn’t necessarily need to be changed, it just needs to be repaired and that may very well prove to be too much to accomplish in the foreseeable future.

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    • Even if the in-laws are really nice and liberal blah blah…still living under the same roof, the couple is definitely going to lose privacy. Your husband can’t come and kiss you in the kitchen spontaneously, b/c the MIL will be watching like a hawk. You can’t have a private conversation with your husband unless you go inside your bedroom and then too, even the walls have ears….) (deewaron ke bhi kaan hote hain….) I get along fine with my parents but still I wouldn’t like to live with them after marriage. So living with in-laws after marriage is out of question. A feasible scenario here would be to live close by for the boy’s as well as the girls parents, but definitely not in the same house. That way all couples get their own privacy but also can support each other when needed. If the woman is working, she could leave her kids either with her parents or in-laws if they are willing. Then she can pick them up after work.

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  2. IHM, I add two more words to the title “and in laws”. The joint family system benefits all the in laws. the only one to lose in such a system is the “bahu”. And God forbid if she has no support from the husband!

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  3. I don’t live in a joint family but I experience what you have written during the two months we vacation in my husband’s home. There are set ways of doing everything which is sometimes not to my taste. But then it’s just two months and so I don’t much fuss about the same. There is another angle to it – If the DIL tries to voice her thoughts, then she is seen as someone who fails to adjust and compromise and is selfish. And sometimes negotiating is quite a task so most of the DILs just sulk and let go (if she happens to be an independent being).

    Good questions raised, BG.

    Joy always,
    Susan

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    • I totally see the advantages of the joint family system. Support in raising children for one. I would never have be enable to work, travel if not for the support of my MIL, certainly not as stress free as I do now! Also teaches children the value of family, taking care of older people, sharing. Sometimes I find having rational frank conversations with in laws could work if they are receptive. Patriarchy still persists though and we cannot expect to change thy overnight

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      • “taking care of older people”
        only if they are parents of sons. Joint families don’t include girls’ parents.

        As a daughter of parents that chose to have two girls despite the many ‘try again, beta ho jaega’, I cannot reconcile myself to any favorable view of patriarchy. I owe it to my parents to stick up for them as they stuck up for me.

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        • So true. The much hallowed Indian joint family system in its present form is not inclusive at all. No one ever tries to address the needs of the girls’ parents – where do they turn for support in old age? Why is no one seeing the glaring lopsidedness?

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        • totally agree with you cravaka… My parents have 2 daughters and I cannot see how me staying in an open minded joint family will benefit them..It might benefit me to ‘some’ extent in terms of getting help looking after children BUT I dont think I will have that peace of mind that my parents will not be surrounded by their children and grandchildren while my husband’s parents will be…

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        • Same here. My parents have only daughters, and it would help if our homes are places they could stay in comfortably for months on end, and even permanently, later on, when the need arises.
          That automatically means no joint family/moving into husband’s parent’s home for me.
          Ironically, my mother fails to see the logic in this and insists I’m being too conditional🙂

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        • My thoughts exactly. My parents only have me and my sister. The thought of them living out their retirement years alone, with no support from either one of us, makes me feel enormously sad. They raised me, and they did a pretty decent job of it too, and the least I can do is make sure that their lives are comfortable for all that they have done.

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        • In some parts of india, yes, joint families involve taking care of the daughter’s parents. Kerala would be an example.

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      • I think it is selfish to ask and expect your older parents to watch your children for free. There job was to raise you, not your children. Old age should be about retirement and finally having time for yourself and to enjoy some peace before you die. I see many people whose parents watch their children for 12 hours a day every day. That is not fair on them.

        Plus, you cannot ask your parents for modernity, love marriages, nuclear families and independence and then have them be your free babysitters. It’s a two way street.
        I have a family member who hates living with her in-laws but expects her MIL to watch her children while she works. You can’t have it both ways, you want to live in a nuclear family then you also need to pay for daycare. She wants to reap the benefits of modern day living when it applies to her but also keep the benefits of the traditional ways that apply to her.

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        • “I think it is selfish to ask and expect your older parents to watch your children for free.”

          Usually, it’s not really an expectation that people have. The parents themselves volunteer, sometimes without the full consent of their children. But you’re right, it’s wrong to hold that kind of expectation, that someone HAS to look after your children. If its a favour that is freely given, by all means take advantage of it, but our parents may not want to and that is also something people should be prepared for.

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        • Interestingly, there is another patriarchal aspect to this situation. All the cooking, cleaning, washing and supervising in such cases is done by the grandmother. The grandfather usually just takes the kid out for a while and plays with him / her. It’s not a fair bargain from either side of the divide for the women.

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        • I would like to make a comment here. My MIL wants my husband to sponsor for her green card but she does not do any work when she visits here for months at a time. She plays with our daughter for 5 mins and then whole day she is watching movies on the internet. She goes for long walks twice a day, to the library etc. She does not do any cooking, cleaning, nada…Whenever we go somewhere outside, she always wants to come with us. We get no privacy at home either. So it is a completely wrong assumption that grandparents will take care of the grand kids just because they are living together. In India, there are maids etc. so at the most they will supervise her work. But feeding, diapering, cleaning etc. will be done by the maid usually, not the MIL. Here is US, we don’t have luxuries of maids either. In our case, sponsoring the MIL will only increase my workload without getting anything in return. In India, my MIL has 2 maids just to do her own work. Here I will have to become the maid for her, NO THANKS! I am trying to think of a polite way to tell her that we won’t be able to sponsor her, NO WAY!

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  4. I agree that a joint family is patriarchal in nature.

    The only benefit one can sort of agree with, is childcare. But then, since women do most of the childcare, it would be better to have her parents staying with the grandkid and her and her spouse, no? So that there is harmony in the family?

    Whenever I give this answer to people who say joint family makes it easier for women to work outside home they humph and pumps. ( because taking care of kids is women’s responsibility only!!)

    What the comment said about adjustment is bang on. It will never be the DIL’s house since she is not the one setting rules in it.

    It is a great thing that this system is fast disappearing, I think.

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    • This is what Chinese do – The wife always gets her mom to live with her when she gives birth. Actually, the husbands do not like it often but they have no choice. They have to give into it because somebody is looking after the child and they have a strong ingraining of filial piety. In these cases, the MIL of the husband often berates the wife’s husband for not earning enough blah blah. And their flats are often small.

      I believe the ideal solution for this to have your parents in the same city, in a different flat, close by. This gives everybody privacy, people can drop by if needed and still have their own life.

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      • One question.. may sound funny .. but i feel its pertinent… if over generations the norm became that post wedding the couple stays at the bride’s house.. won’t that make sure that the guy will be asked to adjust ,thus giving rise to matriarchy over time?
        Tell me.. if patriarchy is not acceptable to women.. do u think matriarchy would be acceptable to men?
        However it is my belief, that it is just families taking advantage of a situation in their favour.. and will not amended by simply making the guy stay with in laws ( I can totally imagine a good son in law being expected to wear apt clothes at home, attend all functions, in general agree with everything, after all he is staying under their roof!) 😛
        What i feel is required is an understanding with elders that the couple requires its freedom.. and not just a change in house.
        The nuclear family solution also sounds acceptable.. but in my belief, parents will eventually need taking care of, so a joint-ish family situation is bound to arise in the indian context..

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        • Shekhar, a guest on Aamir Khan’s Satyameva Jayate said “the opposite of patriarchy is not matriarchy. It is equality”

          Of course, matriarchy is not better than patriarchy. You are just shifting the misdeeds to a different section of the population. The solution is to treat everyone as humans, with their strengths, weaknesses, preferences and opinions. It is to understand that every case and every family is different and there cannot be a blanket set of rules or solutions to anything.

          The solution is also for parents to not exclusively depend on their kids for their old age needs. Parents need to plan ahead for retirement. There will definitely be a time when people need to be taken care of, but parents also need to be able to take pride in living independently and having a life outside of their children, if only to give their kids the breathing and growing space they need.

          And if you read carefully into the comments, the issue really is not about co-habiting with ILs. The issue is the complex set of rules and changes one single person has to forcibly undergo in the context.

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  5. Well, new society, new mindset.
    Things are changing. Not all is so bad.
    Most urban-brought-up-new-generation see things changing and fast.

    My personal experience in my family & friends; I see the DIL/women bring about positive changes to the household.
    Agreed the Patriarchal concept is not going away fast (though it has its own benefits) but the girls/women are going about changing the way they live, re-inforcing their needs, wants, priorities and most importantly the way they impart values in their children that there is little or no entitlement. Work for it and you will be suitably rewarded.
    Husband & Wife situation changing too; Neither the husband nor the Wife will tolerate non-sense and if things cannot be compromised then that will not work is the attitude and the urgency to actually negotiate to compromise is given greater priority.

    Also change is within and education is the key when we talk about the entire society at large (both urban and rural).
    As long as our societies don’t start respecting each individual, values, education, things will not change in a hurry.
    The politics of India too slow down this process of harmony, respect using divisive tactics and politics.
    As they say: We should be the change, we want to see in Society.

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  6. True.. most joint families are only means to reinforce the patriarchal mindset. In addition, joint families ruin the husband-wife relationship… when privacy takes a beating, even mutual discussions are very difficult.
    If the husband and wife cannot eat together, talk together or idle away time together, that too at the beginning days of married life, the husband – wife relationship takes a beating.
    And when it comes to raising a child, too many suggestions, advices…. not at all good to understand your child and help it grow up undisturbed. It paves way for patriarchal feelings to enter the toddler mind easily… And so forth goes the points.
    Nice post… much needed one indeed.

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  7. I’d say being a DIL in a large joint family needs a certain kind of personality- namely someone with incredible reserves of optimism patience and tact.

    To the commentator who said that joint families are dying out, I’m not so sure that they are. In families where the youth made the transition from a smaller place to a metro, sure.
    But I’ve noticed that amongst families who already live in the bigger metros , where real estate is expensive, the practice of moving into husband’s parent’s home / extended family’s property is quite prevalent.

    In my own family, a cousin who was an only child, married a man who lives a HUGE joint family in the city. By huge I mean 30 plus people. And the best part is they actually seem like a liberal, relaxed and happy family.
    Another cousin married a girl who INSISTED that they stay with his parents after marriage. Again, she was an only child and had lived in a nuclear family all her life.

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  8. Just read this post sitting in my consultation room, and next patient I saw seems to be facing all the problems of patriarchal joint family. She had all features of depression, but the cause is patriarchal suppression of the independence of a well educated woman.
    But over all things are improving as joint families are hopefully facing extinction at least among the upper classes

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      • Not only women, but many men also come to me with stress symptoms and psychiatric symptoms due to pressures of living in a joint family. The tension between the DIL and the in laws is some times too much to bear for some sons.

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      • If a woman becomes clinically depressed because she lives in an oppressively patriarchal family, chances are she’ll be shipped back to her parents. Damaged goods you see.😦

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    • I was open minded regarding a joint family before my marriage. In fact looking at many positive examples around me like daughter-in-law pursuing education and demanding career after marriage; I was more in favour of the support system that a joint family provided. And I did get married in a joint family.

      Well, if you ask me now, I would want to get out of it! The subtle control in the name of concern is just so oppressing… It’s like you can work, but the in-laws (FIL) will decide what kind of job you should take up, how you should travel to work (public transport & autos are beneath their standards), why there is no need to work hard in your profession (you will be highlighted as someone who is not concerned about the family if you work hard at your job); stating proudly how they don’t care how much the DIL earns (their son got a marriage proposal where the girl earned twice as much and they didn’t care – not happy at all that their DIL is doing well);deciding how you don’t need any new stuff in the house (furniture, appliances, utensils); dictating even what flour to use!!! The only place where a DIL can hope to find solace is her room. Well imagine, my husband is trying to ‘please’ his father so that we can move to a place which is closer to our offices (both of us have work places which take almost two hours to reach). And no, there is not even a stray thought of only both of us moving out; it will be the entire family…

      Arun, I understand the plight of your patient as I am sailing in the same boat. I even feel guilty of being myself…

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  9. I do not live in a JF , and i dont think i ever will. but i can see my MIL as someone i can live with. she came and stayed with me for a few months and when i go there i stay with them. yes it’s for a short while but she was the only child ( which was rare in those days) and was troubled quite a bit after she was married into a large family with 10 siblings and she being the oldest bahu – life was hell till by some good luck my FIl was posted outside to a diff state and she escaped, but those initial yrs and the fact that she could never be near her mom shaped her. yes she visited every yr and was there int e end a bit but the first thing she told me was I’m never going to be like my MIL. she never agrees to live with any of us and she has 3 sons and treats us as she treats her sons. she firmly believes we should stay separate and my youngest BIL and wife lived in a separate hose in the same city.
    She constantly talks about how her parents didnt have her support because she was a girl and her support is her daughter who lives nearby🙂 her sons live far away and there is no paraya dhan business.
    so there can be change, when I’m a MIL i want to be like her, independednt, loving and free.
    when so many moms clng to their sons after marriage sh ewas so so happy and told me ‘ so many yrs i worried about him all alone with no support, today is the happiest day, he has someone on his side, he’s no alone, i’m so happy to see him go ‘ .. to this day those words remain with me. they gave me a feeling of joy that I mean something to someone and somehow i felt then i had a partner… there are such MILS too. and i think we should try and emulate them . but again i see some others and lose all hope…

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    • Thanks for sharing. It’s indeed down to us to not only be a different kind of a DIL/ daughter but also a different kind of MIL/ mother when the time comes. That is change.🙂

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    • Thanks for sharing MR! your MIL is such a swell!! You dont really need to bind your children to yourself..With such attitude as your MIL, the children will automatically feel close and bonded to you!!
      I share such an amazing bond with my mom that our relationship actually reduced my fears of having children… If parents and in laws can be such role models, it makes life so much easier and change so much faster! Give a big hug to your MIL from me, please🙂

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  10. I wonder if patriarchy and the joint family are a consequence of one another or related in any way.

    Patriarchy can exist in a nuclear family too where patriarchal power can be exerted remotely.

    I however agree that in a joint family, patriarchy can be felt from close quarters and the patriarch can exhibit his power and influence more conveniently.

    Today, the joint family’s only use is security, economy, and tax benefits for Hindu undivided families.
    In the early years, one of the benefits of living in a joint family is that the young couple saves on establishment charges and have a helping hand in the raising of children.

    In the later years, the elderly find support from their sons/daughters and they feel secure living with their children. The grown up adult children also find it convenient to care for the elderly when they live in the same household.

    As against this there is definitely loss of privacy, family politics and intrigues, quarrels, tensions, lack of opportunities to develop independence and many other problems and issues like how the family expenditure is to be shared and who bears the brunt of household maintenance and care of the elderly. If one DIL is working and another is a Stay at home mom, there could be problems between them. If one brother earns well and the other is not doing too well, there could be tensions within the household.

    Which way the balance tilts (in favour of joint family or against it) depends on the family members. I would neither recommend a joint family or condemn it totally.

    I have experienced living in a joint family and also in a nuclear family and have an open mind on this issue.

    Regards
    GV

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    • Historically patriarchy was present much before the development of family system in Humans. Joint family consolidates Patriarchy and might have had some advantage in agrarian feudal .societies. In modern Industrial societies, joint family system limits growth of the individual/society.So it cant survive in its original form ( the oldest male deciding everything).. Parents staying with kids as a caretaker for Grand children may continue but the power will be with the couple and not the parents..

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  11. I agree. I wouldn’t prefer living in a joint family either. I understand there are advantages, but the fact remains, I, as a woman, will have to go to a man’s house when the latter doesn’t have to do the same. For me marriage is an equal partnership and the very fact women are expected by a system to move into their husband’s families throws out equality out of the window. It’s a systemic issue. A system that has its foundation based on inequality.

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  12. I have never lived in a joint family, but, my grandmother did and she went through hell. She was literally treated like a servant, my grandpa’s innumerable number of brothers and sisters carefully siphoned off my grandpa’s meager savings, so much so that he couldn’t provide for his own 3 children. The nasty politics, back stabbing, plotting was too much. My grand mom never ever complained, but, her sister told me all this. My mom also opens up now and then about this. Thank god my mom didn’t have to go through this too. I think, I can live with my in-laws as they have stayed with us in US twice and both times, there were here for 6 months and I didn’t have any problems. They are both sweet people and I admit, it is not easy to live with a control freak like me, but they manage fine, even though they try to complain every now and then, but, our exchanges are like the way I have with my own parents. There are times when I just go and lie down in my MIL’s lap, she wears soft cotton sarees and I just feel I am on my mom’s lap, she gives me awesome scalp massages and cooks all my fav dishes. It is very important to stay by yourselves at least for the initial years, that way, you get to understand each other. My SIL went through a nasty divorce as she lived in a joint family, her SILs also lived in the same compound, so, it was hell. After that, my MIL always says that it is always better to stay far and have good relationship.

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  13. Any positives in the patriarchal joint family system cannot balance out the unfairness of leaving womens’ parents out of the equation. Only son’s parents are entitled to old age care and support in this system. As long as we accept that, we are also accepting female fetocide and infanticide because there is such a clear disadvantage in having a girl child.

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  14. like GV ji, i will also not condemn or support any one system blindly. its eventually all about the people involved. and their own interpersonal dynamics. we have had hajaar stories of remote control monster in laws on this very blog. so nuclear family is no proof of peace by itself.

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  15. I am not a big fan of joint family either. Like I said previously, if the parents want to be close for whatever reason, it is best to take houses nearby. But I strongly feel every child should be given the choice and not be guilt tripped for not being good girls/boys who do not want their parents living in with them.

    As independent adults, we should learn to let our children grow and decide what they like instead of making them follow systems which we have done. And yes, both side of parents should have free access to their children.

    IHM, as far as I see, this paraya dhan, girls not taking care of their parents concept is not what drives people to female feticide in Chinese societies as well as Korean or Japanese. These societies have no dowry, in fact often the guy ends up giving money to the girl’s family.

    The wedding expenses are borne by both parents and actually mainly the couple because all the guests have to pay for attending the wedding and many of them make a neat profit by holding a wedding. Some people have to hold a traditional wedding and follow some customs which they many young people do not like.

    Here, once the woman gives birth, if her mom is not working, she often moves into her daughter’s household to look after children (but then parents from these societies are extremely controlling – Battle hymn of the tiger mother by amy chua sounds exaggerated but it is so true). Most women openly say that they do not like their boyfriends mother and they trust their mother to look after their child. Most of them do not change their name after marriage.

    They all wear skimpy clothes after children and it is okay. The only marriage symbol may be a ring because it looks romantic to them. You cannot differentiate a married woman or unmarried most of the time (except by guessing their age or seeing their kids)

    But does this mean they want daughters and not sons? – Nope. Patriarchy is too deeply entrenched here too despite economic growth. I am appalled at the number of people I met whose parents have done so much for a son and I do not know enough such people in real life in India. They abort, they quit their jobs and go to a village for the second child (due to one child policy in China), they try so many weird prayers, rituals, give birth to 3 girls and keep trying for a son, yes, even highly educated profs with PHD’s and education in western countries.

    I believe this stems from a couple of reasons –

    – Economic growth did come up which broke many patriarchal systems but not completely.
    – Education is good but does not eliminate patriarchy but a lot of things have changed.
    – Their societies are deeply group mentality and nobody likes to go against the grain. Obedience and blind respect to adults especially parents is expected, demanded and actually implemented. Yes, parents call their children not charming, useless, pigs and yes, the children (24 years old) cry and do not protest because they must tolerate their parents and speak against them.
    – As modern as they may be, women from these societies have no sense of inherent self worth. They are conditioned from day 1 that their worth lies in finding a good man. They do not develop interests outside of their man. Their sole goal seems to be getting some boyfriend by their undergrad years.
    – if they marry, they will have kids, preferably try for sons.
    – Nobody can give me a reason why everybody wants sons except carry on family name. bleh.
    – Unmarried women over 26 are called leftovers in China ( and by the govt. officials too in official documents)
    – No Chinese I know who comes to Singapore for Phd comes without a boyfriend because it is very difficult to get a boyfriend one you are inside labs all day.
    – They often marry their guy friends just to get married.
    – their parents berate them constantly and try to introduce them to suitable guys of they do not have a boyfriend by say 24 years.
    – Many of them do not know if they want to be with someone because they want to be with someone or because of societal pressure and conditioning.
    – They are under deep pressure if they cannot produce kids due to medical issues

    In all this situations, I feel the fundamental problem is – lack of inherent value of a woman beyond her role as a incubator for fetuses – by the woman herself and the society at large.

    “Women are taught that they need to earn their place in the world by sacrificing and serving everybody else” (paraphrased from a quote by dr northrup) (in a way this is why I do not the religions of the book because they believe that we are sinners and can be redeemed by accepting someone to save us)

    We should all be taught that the very fact of being born on this earth makes us valuable and inherently worthy. Being who we are is good enough. We don’t need to earn our worthiness by attaching to a male and giving birth.

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  16. Joint family cannot work. You cannot have more than one person driving one car. Real closeness can only be maintained through healthy distances, otherwise everyday irritants come in the way and compromise people’s chances of having a healthy relationship. Living under a different roof doesn’t mean you don’t care for the others, it only means you respect each other’s boundaries and don’t open the field for totally avoidable conflict. A system in which even one single person always has to play the part of the loser cannot be called successful.

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    • Personally, I am drifting towards the idea that even husband and wife sharing same roof is not natural and the main cause of conflict. I think this whole idea of marriage is defunct, pointless and incompatible with logical modern realities. Unfortunately, there seems to be too much conditioning by society/media for anyone to dare state the obvious.

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      • Yes indeed. I keep asking myself why I still desire remarriage given that it is so unfair to women in our society. If Indian women took a purely rational, cost vs benefit approach to marriage, most would not marry.
        Perhaps its because we want companionship and love. Oh but what a price we women pay for that😦

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  17. It’s is good to live in nuclear families. However the problems created by patriarchy does not end here. There is lot more to be done so that the couple can live peacefully. I have seen in laws create problems for the couple over the phone too. I guess it all depends on the couple more on the husband. If he helps in creating boundaries and support his wife only then there will be no problems, even in a nuclear families. I had seen an incident where MIL (who lives in separate city)called the domestic help on her phone to know what her working DIL does at home, does she rest while getting back from office, does she give her son food on time. The FIL wants both their salaries for making investments for them. The wife was rightfully reluctant and hence the problems.

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  18. The picture being presented in these comments is quite one sided. In modern middle class families, it is a quite common sight that not only the couple lives separately but also husband’s parents are barred from visiting, are never visited by the couple ( while girl’s parents are welcome). Even a phone call from guy’s parents can cause a trouble for reminding the DIL of their existence.

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  19. @the touching feet thing

    Im not in India so I’ve never really seen anyone do it or maybe its because my familiy’s from the north. But once my mom said her feet were really hurting her so i started to give her a foot rub. She started freaking out telling me Im not supposed to touch her feet, that daughters arent supposed to touch their parents feet.

    i found it ridiculous, i will give her foot rubs when her feet hurt and tell her stop acting crazy. Shes my mom and i love her.

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  20. Pingback: “Is it possible that some women secretly want a dowry – perhaps to enhance their social standing?” | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

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  22. This is my personal first time i visit here. I came across so many engaging stuff with your blog, specifically its conversation. From the plenty of comments on your own posts, I suppose I am not on your own having all the enjoyment right here! Keep up outstanding work.

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  23. PLEASE welcome the new generation of caring, conscientious daughters who are only too willing to go that extra mile, bend every single rule in the book of Indian patriarchal thought and defy time-honoured societal dictates with a snooky ‘couldn’t-care-less’ attitude. In this land of men, by men, for men, where conventionally daughters are brought up as unequals, almost as outsiders in their family of birth, the new generation of daughters is a telling commentary on our dynamic social ethos. Richa Shree (Lecturer, Punjabi University, Patiala, who moved back) with her single mother along with her husband, remarks, “Daughters have always been emotionally close to their parents and feel a greater tug of love and affection.

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  24. While my in-laws are not horrible people… yes!

    We lived with them for the first three months of our marriage and it was horrible. I thought it was interesting you included the link saying in its title if you’re unlucky you’ll have an American daughter in law, as I’m the American daughter-in-law.

    I didn’t meet my in-laws until I came to live with them, so I was trying to be extremely biddable and adjusting.. while suffering from severe culture shock. I mean, the transition from America to India was huge! And my in-laws made it impossible for me to be myself at home. My mother-in-law is very particular about EVERYTHING in the way her home is maintained. My father-in-law (and my mother-in-law to an extent) is extraordinarily concerned with how others view us as a family. So there was no real room to adjust and make mistakes as I learned about my new home culture.

    Forget what time dinner is served, try being expected to adjust your entire culture overnight. I do respect the Indian culture and think that there are many things about it that is better than America (and vice versa!) But I also needed to *learn* about the culture.

    I was always taught you learn by asking questions and making mistakes. But every time I made a social mistake, gossips would tell my in laws and I (or my husband, usually) would be told how awful I was, what an attitude I had, and how I should just keep my mouth shut if I didn’t know any better…

    Of course the whole point is if I don’t know any better, I also don’t KNOW that I don’t know any better. So my father-in-law was basically saying I should just keep my mouth shut at all times. The really annoying and infuriating thing was that my mother-in-law is a very outspoken, domineering woman. She will scream in the face of anyone who dares disagree with her. I have never seen her back down when she gets like that, not once. Consequently in all our encounters, she won.

    Only twice did I totally lose my temper, in six months (we lived there for the first three months of my marriage, but I also lived in a separate bedroom for three months prior to our wedding while we were planning it and doing the endless paperwork.) Just twice. However, to hear it I have the worst attitude in the world.

    When I’d only been in India for two months and was suffering from severe culture shock, my father-in-law lost his temper at me and screamed, “When I moved to the US, I adjusted within a week. What is your problem?!” I couldn’t believe his insensitivity and was quiet and went to my room… to seethe.

    The worst thing of all that happened was the complete lack of freedom. My mother-in-law is a gleeful fan of true crime stories. And of course I came to India right before the Delhi rape case, so I had to hear in gory details about this crime everyday. Despite the fact that my mother-in-law will go almost anywhere my father-in-law goes unless she’s just not interested, from day one I was told where I could and couldn’t go and that pretty much everything was too unsafe. For one, I was a young woman, so obvioiusly my very presence would inspire rape. For two, I was a Western young woman, so I would attract even more attention (I actually think while I attract more looks, I attract less negative attention because wrong doers realize they’re less likely to have the incident go unreported.) Also, this makes me a magnet for thieves.

    Unfortunately, my husband listened to all this fear mongering. When I talk to expats that came to India on their own, instead of as part of an Indian family, they tell a very different story than I do. They explored. They learned. They were welcomed. They made mistakes that became funny stories, not family embarassments. They were able to be themselves in their homes, so that if they felt like screaming or crying or watching American television really loud or whatever, they weren’t judged, yelled at, demeaned, or disapproved of…

    I really thought the entire problem would be solved when my husband I moved out. That had always been the plan, to move out. Originally we were going to wait until we had the money to move out right away before we got married, but it just took so long to save up for my plane ticket, passport, visa, lawyers fees, etc that we weren’t going to wait any longer.

    But as we’ve moved out on our own… the tension and fighting didn’t stop. In his parent’s house, my husband had made it seem like this was them, not him, but we lived under their roof so we had to do things their way, right?

    But I found that me wanting to put an appliance somewhere he didn’t want it to go or not re-boiling milk that is already pasteurized so it doesn’t get that icky film on the top or putting something on the counter he thought should go into a cabinet became a giant argument…

    And I was shocked. What happened? I thought we were leaving that craziness behind?

    Then I realized what you said up above. When I moved in, I had to make all the adjustments, but he had had to make none. Now, three months into our marriage, for the first time he was really having to change the way he thought things *should* be done. I had been in India for six months suffering from wild culture shock… and for the first time he was having culture shock of his own over teeny tiny things… and not handling it well at all.

    We’re getting past that and working through it. But I totally am a big fan of NOT living with your in-laws. At least not until your marriage has been established for a while. If an emergency comes up (like when I was a toddler my parent’s house burned down and we moved in to my grandparent’s house for a while) that makes sense. Or if when the in-laws are old and need to be taken care of they move into the couple’s house (NOT the other way around) those things can be done. Because suddenly the couple has had time to firm up who they are and their own micro-family culture and identity. But if the couple moves into the in-laws house than the other spouse (in America, sometimes the son-in-law will move in with the daugher’s parents) has to make all the compromises and it becomes a strain and detriment on their marriage.

    I think in the practice of arranged marriages (which I respect. Ours is a love match, but I remember in the years when I was single thinking I could see the appeal of arranged marriages because I wanted to be a married) this would be ESPECIALLY harmful. In a love match, at least the son loves his wife, and so will try to please her as much as he can despite the fact that obviously his parents have authority over him. But in an arranged marriage, the son will have more love for his parents than his bride at first, and therefore will be less likely to ease the harsh and shocking transition for her, and less likely to support her in any conflict but instead be one more vote against her.

    Now that I am not living with my in-laws, we get along a lot better. The other night when we went to the movies with them and my husband, mother-in-law, and I were standing waiting for my father-in-law to drive his car around for us to go home my mother-in-law told us about the grisly recent news story of an attack on an Indian man and a French woman and concluded “Therefore you should be out alone late at night.” My husband looked at her, as we stood out late at night, “Why are you telling us this now? Couldn’t this wait until daylight?” She answered, “Well you’re not alone now.”

    Right. Because a 5 foot 2 inch woman is a lot of protection. Haha.

    But aside from still fear mongering (I STILL haven’t gotten to go to an open market, and half the places my husband tells me I can go, he takes back “NO! You know what, don’t go. I’ll go. You stay home.” because he starts thinking about the horror stories) they’re not really influencing our lives as much. And we’re definitely fighting less and he’s slowly adjusting to me, instead of me being the only one.

    I think in a year or two our marriage will have totally recovered and it will be a “did I seriously go through that?” episode in my life.

    But yes, I definitely agree. If you’re reading this and you’re considering living with the in-laws when you get married… DO NOT DO IT.🙂

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