Does the Joint Family System Work?

Almost nine years ago I had written an article on Boloji - Viability of a Joint Family.   Little did I realize at the time that I would have to believe in what I wrote?  I am glad I wrote the article and had to suffer the burden of authenticity.  Today after living together with my daughter-in-law for six years I could say with confidence that it works.   I can’t say that we didn’t have trouble or didn’t need adjustment but it is definitely worth a trial.  This joint family system has brought in so many blessings with it that we - my husband and I - and am sure my son and my daughter-in-law are happy and thankful.

The biggest blessing, needless to say is our two grand daughters.  From the day my daughter-in-law had become pregnant till today it has only been a pleasure.  Every single day our love not only for our grand daughters is multiplying but for our daughter-in-law too for giving us the perfect gift of life.  The grand children are indeed the biggest blessing of God as was emphasized by many around us.  Thanks to the joint family, we can experience this joy from the minute we get out of bed till we sleep.  Saturdays and Sundays is double the pleasure of being awakened by either one of them.  One cannot possibly imagine the joy we experience, when my grand-daughter wants to say bye before leaving for her Gym on Saturday mornings.  We are both working and have a meaningful life; however, it could make a big difference to the grand-parents who are at home retired.  The little ones make them feel so important and their lives meaningful.

These days young people influenced by their surroundings unfortunately have become very self-centered. Actually, one cannot blame them as the world around us is very competitive and it’s a constant struggle to sustain one’s job or business.  Under the circumstances no one is willing to take the extra burden of adjusting with family leave alone adjusting with the spouse.  In today’s fast paced lifestyle raising kids is equally stressful.  Both parents are required to work, sometimes more than one job.  Then who takes care of the kids and who takes off from work if a child is sick at home?  This is where the benefits of joint family system become functional.  Not just this, to surmount cost of living, it works out fine financially.   One doesn’t have to pay the bills twice over for everything with the result; one person can stay home to take care of the kids quite comfortably and without much strain on the wallet.

How staying together in a joint family harmoniously has become possible, well the magic word is ‘love’.  Love for my children and grand children.  This one word has made everything possible and much easier.  The moment my husband and I think of any trouble between us, we think of our son’s happiness and how any reaction from us would affect his peace of mind.   Life is stressful as it is and family should not add to the misery.  If we try really it is not that bad.  Well I do feel the maturity and wisdom play an important role in the whole adjustment process. Unfortunately, most people don’t think like this.  They claim to love their children but do not hesitate one bit in causing rift between them and their spouses.  In fact they put them constantly in a position where they are made to choose between parents and the spouse.   One must realize that we all have a place in the life of our loved ones there should be no comparison or competition.

Adjustment of the women in a joint family is slightly tricky; however, the education, rationalization and sensibility help a long way.  One has to constantly respect the fact that they are sharing the house.  Always pay attention to the emotions, habits and liking of each other to accommodate. Last but not the least, communication is the key.  It is always good to be able to talk if something is bothering you, or something you don’t like.  Unless the other person is aware what you are thinking, she may not be able to change of adjust. 

The one very important aspect in a joint family is that we do not step on each others toes.  We have to maintain a comfortable distance and realize our own place.  Unnecessary interference where one is not welcome could be damaging.  One must expect adjustment from the other within the reasonable limits where everyone has their freedom.

I cannot take the credit away from my daughter-in-law for making the efforts in this adjustment. Also thanks to the small intervals we experience when they are away on vacation.  The creepy silence at home then makes us crave for the constant cheerful noises of the little ones.  This really makes us realize the true joy of being in a joint family.


More by :  Meera Chowdhry

Top | Parenting

Views: 3495      Comments: 10

Comment The bottom line boils down to one's perspective and outlook everything works :)

06-Mar-2011 18:48 PM

Comment both joint and nuclear has advantages and disadvantages.But joint family helps a lot.And in nuclear we are bored...............................

06-Mar-2011 03:17 AM

Comment I am to living in joint family and it's true you have to give lot's of sacrifire for living happily toghter .In today secnario joint family would be sucess if all family member income same and thier thinking about joint family is positive.

kumar gaurav
28-Feb-2011 05:00 AM

Comment Dear Adil:

The problems you are facing are not necessarily pertaining to the joint family system. Unfortunatly, we all come from different backgrounds and upbringing. I have seen even today there are people who donot respect others freedom and space. Families where senior generations are controlling and donot trust in their own training - that they have brought up children apt enough to take charge of their lives.


03-Jan-2011 12:31 PM

Comment There are problems with the joint-family system. Mr. Sarkar says
"You are expected to consult everyone before taking any decision - be it changing jobs, college admissions, buying a car, or even going on a vacation! - A lot of sacrifices have to be made. I've seen those from my in-laws generation quietly suppressing small and big personal aspirations, for greater harmony within the family. I honestly doubt if our generation is upto it. Maybe because we are a more selfish, more individualistic generation? Is that bad?"
I'd say the problem is not individual obligation to the family. Let us suppose the individual is a child. He consults family on every decision. And the time comes for him to a make a decision on his own (marriage, college ect). Now he must make a decision with his family pestering him on what to do.
His sacrifice for family harmony seems the be the problem, but looking through the situation through the scope of social development, he has little experience making personal decisions. Or any decisions alone. Should we sacrifice for family and undermine individual developement? What about the next generation patriarch, who is burdened by decisions he has no experience making? Sometimes we must question motive of our corrupt and selfish family members, feigning he role of a family guy.

Of course this is more complicated then discussed above, we need some dual cultured (indo-western) points of views, because those are less understood and often ignored.

02-Jan-2011 19:58 PM

Comment Well it does work I agree seedog. There is a dire need for the joint family system now when economies are at it lowest and everyone has to work to survive - what happens to the children then. In order for us to have good future generations, its important that the kids are brought up well I mean with emotional security and otherwise.

09-Jul-2010 13:02 PM

Comment There are countless other reasons for it's working and about it's working. Several books could be published on it - the article cannot even qualify as the tip of the iceberg.

08-Jul-2010 23:19 PM

Comment Well said Deepanjali. However, the concept of Family is NOT for the faint hearted. It is for the people with courage and a keen desire to expand and grow. Societies, rather nations get built only on a strong and coherent family foundations. Having been in a large family, married into a large family and now living still as a joint family I can say with confidence that with a bit of adjustment and a complete sense of caring and loving, joint family system can work wonders.

Rajender Krishan
29-Jun-2010 09:22 AM

Comment Dear Deepanjali:

Thanks for your comments. I have in my article clearly mentioned the workable aspect, love, communication and not the least NOT stepping on each others feet, understanding ones place and space.

However, you have mentioned so many of the goods things that they over-weigh the bad things - I would say it is worth it.


29-Jun-2010 09:18 AM

Comment I come from a nuclear family and got married into a joint family where three uncles, one widowed aunt, all lived together, and another three uncles lived in the same neighbourhood. I have experienced at close quarters all the merits and demerits of an extended joint family and thought I should share them here. MERITS: - The joy of living in a larger family - there is always something or the other happening - if one cousin is getting married, another is graduating, the third is giving his school finals and the fourth may be getting ready for formal schooling! - sharing - such a cliched behavioral term - but it is the bedrock of the joint family system. Clothes are shared, personal belongings are shared, meals are shared (if one family is cooking something special, the food is always shared with the other family units). If you are ordering food from outside, you can't just tuck into it all by yourself. It is expected that you will have ordered for others as well. The family had one car and members would take turns using it. - You make friends within the family. Many of my aunt-in-laws go out to movies and theatres together. Sometimes when their husbands are busy with their professional lives, the wives take off on their own - Support system - whether economically, emotionally or otherwise - there is a safety net to always fall back upon. It times of crisis, family members pitch in, monetarily, and offering emotional support. When a spouse passes away, the widower is not left alone to fend for himself. From home-cooked meals to continuous psychological and emotional support - he is helped ever step along the way to recover from his loss and put his life back in order WEll, I guess it sounds very much of a "Hum Saath Saath Hain" scenario! But there are quite a few speed bumps along the way as well! - Constant intrusion in your personal space. Joint families really do not understand the meaning of privacy - because obviously it is the complete antithesis of the basis of living together. Similarly, if someone is going through a lean patch, you can be sure you will get so much of unwarranted advice that you wish you were alone in a deserted island! So, if you've done badly in your exams, or have been retrenched you have to be ready to face the same questions and the same tutting and clicking of tongues, from twenty different people - In continuation of the above point - since privacy is not relevant, neither is confidentiality. Anything you share in confidence with a family member, thinking it will remain with him or her, is bound to become common knowledge within a few hours. It can be something as trivial as what you've bought as an anniversary gift for your spouse or something more personal as your household expenses (or God forbid, your income!). - Independence is frowned upon. You are expected to consult everyone before taking any decision - be it changing jobs, college admissions, buying a car, or even going on a vacation! - A lot of sacrifices have to be made. I've seen those from my in-laws generation quietly suppressing small and big personal aspirations, for greater harmony within the family. I honestly doubt if our generation is upto it. Maybe because we are a more selfish, more individualistic generation? Is that bad? I don't know. To conclude, the joint family system might work for some, but it is definitely not for the faint hearted!

Deepanjali B Sarkar
29-Jun-2010 02:16 AM

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