The Indian Joint Family : an anachronism

This is a politically incorrect post.

I read a post on this while blog hopping at this  The Life and Times of an Indian Home Maker: Joint Family and Indian Daughters and it brought back memories that were best left buried. I think the Indian Joint Family system is exploitive to say the least. I hated living in it for eighteen long years and simply can not understand why my Kid#1 and DIL insist on living with me. It is insane to say the least.

I was less than eighteen years old when I got married and trapped into the system. The hierarchy is rigid. MIL is Empress, FIL is like the President – he just has signing and veto authority. SON is Prince Charming, younger SILS AND BILS are favoured courtiers and DIL ranks way below them all, at times even below the live in servant. In fact once when MIL was ranting away at some dal I had cooked which was watery at the dining table, I turned to the servant and said “You at least get paid to listen to this shit, what do I get?” Needless to say, the entire family freaked out on me, but well … I do suffer from foot-in-mouthitis. Then I wasn’t allowed to go meet my parents – who lived in the next lane. I taught in a school which meant that I had to cook breakfast, pack lunch boxes, cook lunch, and get dressed and leave before 7:30 am. My salary which was a mere few hundreds was subject to much scrutiny and the senior ILs had already decided what it would be spent on.

I agree that times have changed, and I would never make the colossal blunder of stopping my DIL from visiting her parents or shopping. Honestly I don’t even know what her salary is. If she feels like cooking or doing housework, it is fine, if not so be it. I think housework is tedious and thankless. After a whole day at office, one approaches it with great distaste. That is why we hire help to do this. But I wonder, should they live with me? I do not like the idea at all. I have spent most of my life living with parents or in-laws and adjusting with them. I would like to live alone for once in my life, on my own terms.

The boys are okay, but they need to grow up and be independent of me too. I have never been the clingy sort of female and am horrified with the thought that they still want to live in the maternal abode. This means that shopping for daily stuff like vegetables, milk etc. is my responsibilities. I pay for the utilities, the servants are my headache. It is my time to retire, take stock, and also save up for old age. I wish there was a way to make them realize, without hurting their feelings, that I love them very much but that I need them out of my home.


15 thoughts on “The Indian Joint Family : an anachronism

  1. Clues are only relevant if they are understood,if not,u gotta spill the beans lady.40 years of being a daughter,sister, wife, Dil, mother and now Mil. . .. Hello!!!! time to withdraw,the resposibilities shall be better understood

  2. By the way, If I were you DIL, I would want to live with you too..

    Its about how “open” people are- I don’t think my husband would have problems living with my mum- 24 7 either. Just because as I said somewhere earlier- your people respect other people’s space and needs for privacy. And essentially treat others as human beings. Those who harp too much on traditions do not – theya re too busy living life according to prescribed norms.

  3. Thanks Alankrita for the vote of confidence;), …… I suppose if they mature a bit and start taking part in the daily chores and responsibilities, it would be easier on me too.

    Maddy, I would like to chuck up everything and run away, but age has mellowed me down. Being revolutionary doesnt suit a 45+ female LOLLL

  4. So when can we move in?

    Yes, you will need to suggest gradually, slowly- the rule of negotiation- the idea must come from them:)
    Alternately you could just state the truth- your kids must be like you to understand what it is that you mean.
    As for 45+.. neither age can stale nor custom withr… etc etc.. age is in the heart…

  5. Thanks Alankrita – and yes you can move in. There is plenty of room – and in any case most of my kids’ friends end up calling me Mom so you’ll be right at home [:)]

  6. I agree . . . .she is the official universal mom. . .n my self appointed god mother…
    🙂 she is gorgeous . . . .

  7. its a tight rope walk either way isnt it. you give them too much space and you end up getting no help around the house.

    i’d love to live in a joint family where rules were laid out well and people WANTED to cooperate. nothing like coming home to a bunch of family. as it stands… my inlaws hate me and its almost mutual!

  8. Wow, what a unique take on this! Loved your post.

    I have never got a satisfactory answer to this question – why do Indian families assume living together is the only worthwhile test of love and family bonding? As a young DIL, I firmly believe a little distance goes a long way in preserving family bonds, especially once the kids are married and have families of their own. 🙂

    Its such a relief to see a MIL wanting independence for a change. 🙂 I am sure I would feel the same in your position.

  9. Hmm…u are way way ahead of your times…:)
    if my MIL reads this, she will think its some work of fiction….:D

    U know what….after retirement, u can start coaching classes for MILs..rather, in general for everyone…to make people understand how they can improve their and others life by just following the simple rule of “Live and let live”…..seriously…my parents generation needs it….

    And on the work front…i guess the talking bit must havebrought about a lot of i assume that ur kids cannot be much different from you in terms of being understanding and sanity…:)

  10. I am truly happy that I came across a post like this when the very mention of something against a joint family is considered a taboo by many. I do agree with u the system is exploitative at best, and people can be more responsible adults if they leave their parents and start their own families. Try talking with your kids, I sure they too would welcome some privacy, especially if they are married. Wish you luck ~!!

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