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You are here : home > Raising Children > Parental Dilemmas > Parenting in Joint Families

Parenting in Joint Families

People now prefer to liver in a nuclear family. A joint family has its share of problems. But there are several advantages too. It is important to remember that compromise is essential. Here are some guidelines,follow them to enjoy family time with grandparents.


Is a joint family a happy family?

Commercial Hindi cinema has painted a saccharine sweet picture of families in the mind of the public. The audience is familiar with images of benevolent parents, brothers and sisters and their spouses that display cloying affection towards each other and who are willing to sacrifice their happiness for the sake of the family. Even if there is a black sheep in the fold, at the end of three hours he has realized the error of his ways and all is forgiven. But one only has to read the papers to shatter this illusion. Dowry deaths, property disputes, domestic violence, sexual and mental abuse - While this would be an extreme view, as these are family problems, not necessarily joint family problems, the fact is that the joint family is definitely not all joy and laughter. It would be unrealistic to expect it to be so. 

According to Dr. Sushma Mehrotra, "Not every family is a happy family. What is most important is the atmosphere in a joint family. If there is a congenial atmosphere in a joint family, it can be a virtue. However, if there is tension and conflict between the members of a joint family and if they are constantly playing games and trying to score over each other, all the advantages of a joint family are lost." 

Rohit Roy's experience is a case in point. He says, "Growing up in a joint family was definitely not a pleasant experience for me. My father's elder brother controlled the finances and my father had to ask his permission before he could buy anything. My aunt completely dominated my mother and treated her like a servant. She would tell my uncle that she was buying toys for my sister and me and then send the toys to her relatives." 
 

Sharing and caring?

Dr. Mehrotra feels that if there are several children in the joint family, there is a tendency for parents to make comparisons. Also, if one child is given something and the other isn't, it could lead to the development of unhealthy competition and feelings of envy. Most 'unhealthy' children come from joint families because they live together out of compulsion and not out of choice. 

Dr. Mehrotra has found that in spite of living in a joint family, children don't know how to share. "It is always assumed that children from joint families are more likely to share their things as they interact on a daily basis with so many people. However, if the family atmosphere is hostile, it can have an adverse affect on children. Especially in families where there is a lack of transparency, where many things are left unsaid, and where there is a lack of free expression."
 

Who's the boss?

Another problem is that there are too many authority figures in joint families. Sometimes, grandparents undermine the mother's authority because they feel that they have more experience in raising children. They pass adverse remarks to the mother in front of the children like, "You don't know how to handle children" - As a result, the mother feels suppressed, depressed and frustrated. She, in turn, takes her frustration out on her children, which affects the overall development of the child. In Dr. Mehrotra's opinion, "Children become very manipulative. They become the master players of the game. They learn how to get exactly what they want by playing the elders off against each other."

What is most important is that there should be agreement between the authority figures on disciplining the child. For instance, even if the grandparents do not agree with the mother on certain issues, they should not discuss these things in front of the children. Very often, grandparents pull up a mother for reprimanding her child. What they should do is back her up so that the child is aware that he has done something wrong. Otherwise, the child will always be in the right according to someone's standards. They should sort out their differences in the absence of the child. 

Generation gap is another important factor to be taken into consideration. The needs and expectations of the younger generation are constantly changing. The fact remains that there are no standards and rules written in stone as far as parenting is concerned. Now, in joint families, members of the older generation, tend to lay down the law in an autocratic fashion. The authority figures need to operate in a democratic fashion and make an attempt to bridge the generation gap. They must try to update their knowledge about the lifestyle of the younger generation and not constantly pass judgement on their activities. They must realize that times change and the way things were done in their time may not work any more. Everything cannot be seen in black and white. If they insist on being rigid, they will just distance themselves from their children and grandchildren. There will be a breakdown in communication and the elders will find that they are slowly becoming marginalized in the family. There should be respect and concern for each other's feelings rather than a constant battle for supremacy and authority. 
 

There are benefits 

A harmonious joint family set-up can be a boon. It can provide a wonderful support system emotionally and financially. In the ideal sense, one can share both one's triumphs and failures. The joint family is ideal for the woman who wants to work as well as have a family. Working women have someone to leave their children with when they are away at work, rather than leaving their children in a creche or with servants. They can be assured that their children are being looked after by people who care for them almost as much as they do themselves. After all, as they say, "blood is thicker than water."

Mrs. Usha Mehta highlighted a few of the benefits of a joint family. She said, "While we had our share of fights and arguments, I did find that being part of a joint family had its advantages. There were people with whom you could share family responsibilities and social duties. My sister-in-law and I take turns cooking, dropping the children to school and baby-sitting. Despite our differences, there is a bond that grows from sharing common family experiences. Also, my children did not have to go out of the home to seek companionship. They always had their cousins to play with."

Everyone knows how difficult family relations are in general. Nuclear families sometimes find it hard to maintain cordial relations. One would probably think that in joint families with so many people and so many vested interests, maintaining family harmony must be an uphill task. Dr. Mehrotra feels that as far as problems are concerned she would definitely not say that there are more problems in joint families and less in nuclear families. Some people have difficulty dealing with other people and such people will face problems wherever they go. For a joint family system to work, the members will have to learn to adjust, to overcome their petty jealousies, to develop mutual respect between the generations, and to learn to give each other space.
 

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Recent comments (84 comments)
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Comment: 
Name: Lalita Chugh
Country: India

we are living in a joint family having two sons aged 7 years and 2 years. in our family, my three brother-in-laws, two sister-in-laws and their three children with my mother-in-law and father-in-law. i think, in joint family, children cann't get healthy environment as they get in a single family.
 
Name: FRUSTRATED
Country: USA

i am 35 year old indian born in usa and have been married for 12 years. i have two boys (8 & 4). i was set up in an arranged marriage at age 23. i live in a joint family. i have never seen india and now have no desire to see it. i have lot of resentment due to many ignorant indian(gossipy) people i have come across. i am a very educated woman. my family over the years have destroyed me mentally. i strongly do not believe in joint families. i think people in general become highly dependent on each other, as a mother i need privacy with my child and am deprived of that special bond. in the long run the marriage is not healthy. due to different generation lifestyle and higher stressful society, divorce rates are higher than before. to save the next generation todays parents need to become independent. we need to stop this repeating lifestyle. our women are brighter and much smarter and can accomplish lot of things in life - i think joint families pull even the strongest achievers down.
 
Name: viswanathan
Country: USA

joint family is like a tree;the branches, leaves , flowers and fruits all together make the tree worthy to look at. the tree loses strength even by chipping one branch. the leaves bring the necessary enzimes for the growth of the tree. but there are some tress where chipping off branches and plucking of laves and flowers and fruits do help the growth of the tree. environment makes the tree worthy or not. viswanathan nj usa
 
Name: marriedgal
Country: USA

i am living in a joint family, and there are pros and cons as with everything else in the world! one thing i dont like is the lack of privacy, less time with my own husband. more time goes in doing the housework for so many people , and one cant just relax and not cook dinner because your "father in law has to eat indian food" kind of thing instead of maybe calling for pizza! also narrow mindedness of in laws is an issue sometimes. another thing is that there is lack of freedom in spending, doing things etc, everything is visible to everyone! pros include support whenever you need it, good advice, help in household duties, and of course no lack of company to go places.
 
Name: happy go lucky
Country: India

i think there r pros and cons of everything.i got married and came into a joint family.i have a loving mil and a caring hubby but my elder sis-in-law was mean and cheeky.so,she gave me tensions.but we moved out at the rt. time and now i have a good relation with everyone.
 
Name: a victim
Country: India

it is simply a hoorible experience
 
Name: liz
Country: Canada

i am an educated 29 year old, staying at home to take care of my 2 yr. old son. child care is expensive and cant be arranged on a single income. my widowed mil is very wealthy and visits every summer. she cooks great but keeps me occupied all day long with her elaborate recipes and myraid number of pots and pans to clean from morn to midnight. if we have time, it goes on elaborate prayer sessions and talks about her past where i am just a silent listener. after a brief stay, she shuttles off to visit her friends in other cities and comes back telling me all she learnt and how well others are doing. its very annoying and is a blow to my self-esteem. i do have nuclear family for most of the year but during her visits, i get quite miserable!!!
 
Name: indian gal
Country: USA

i am born indian married in india but live in us since marraige. there are pros and cons to everything. indian parents/ils can be a great help with child care especially if mom is working. but i found the concepts of parenting have changed over time and place (india & us) and resulted in clashes. it can mean less time with child as the mom is busy cooking after work and weekends go in grocery, laundry and shopping. it gets depressing after a while that you cannot have any time with spouse/child just alone. if parents/ils come to us for visiting/babysitting they accompany you everywhere on weekends as they bored at home. it is understandable that they get bored but it can get quite frustrating that you cannot have even a coffee break with ur spouse out of the house. not to mention the cooking & fascination for food of the earlier generation which creates tons of work for the dil/son. with all due respect for all help i have received when i needed most i would never stay joint.
 
Name: indian gal
Country: USA

i am born indian married in india but live in us since marraige. there are pros and cons to everything. indian parents/ils can be a great help with child care especially if mom is working. but i found the concepts of parenting have changed over time and place (india & us) and resulted in clashes. it can mean less time with child as the mom is busy cooking after work and weekends go in grocery, laundry and shopping. it gets depressing after a while that you cannot have any time with spouse/child just alone. if parents/ils come to us for visiting/babysitting they accompany you everywhere on weekends as they bored at home. it is understandable that they get bored but it can get quite frustrating that you cannot have even a coffee break with ur spouse out of the house. not to mention the cooking & fascination for food of the earlier generation which creates tons of work for the dil/son. with all due respect for all help i have received when i needed most i would never stay joint.
 
Name: happy
Country: India

joint fmaily proivdes you much needed security and affection
 
Name: Sourabh Dubey
Country: India

family is a ground for grown up with famiymembers.i am living in a joint family, and there are pros and cons as with everything else in the world! one thing i dont like is the lack of privacy, less time with my own husband. more time goes in doing the housework for so many people , and one cant just relax and not cook.etc
 
Name: star gurl
Country: India

i am teenager living in a joint family.the pros: never lonely, more fun, cons: are jeaslosy, no privacy, tension i think living in a joint family should only be for about 1-5 years ....
 
Name: Preeti
Country: USA

it is a horrible experience...no matter what you do you are always blamed and looked down upon...no space..living out of suitcases....urgh!!! i am ready to move out and get a place of my own
 
Name: N
Country: Canada

being in a joint family, has its major issues. when you get married, to be a family you need to live your own life, not consistenly watch what you say because of others members of the house. why live together if you don't talk or aknowledge one another. your right it is like living out of a suitcase.
 
Name: amrita
Country: Thailand

i am a house wife, i got married and came into a joint family, mil and fil are loving but are very high minded, we got our own business and they think that their sons are their employees and if their sons have be in their shops we all have to do according to them, we live together and they keeps on passing us comments that this is our house and you are living with us so she comes and puts her things in our bedrooms, we don't have privacy in our rooms also...they keeps on passing sick comments to the daugher in laws, and says all aurat (ladies) are same, they are making my life horrible...my husband is so loving and sometimes i feel i have got a perfect man..loving, caring and understanding...he gives me everything but says in return just want respect for his parents and wants us to live together...he understands that they are rude but says they are old..so request me to adjust. i have got my own dignity and why should i listen to all comments for what i have not done
 
Name: Pulled-down gal
Country: India

i got married into a joint family. i have to say i live here not out of my will but out of cohersion by my husband. he's a nice guy...his parents are also fine but they keep reminding me all the time that everything here belongs to us. i had a gr8 job which i had leave coz' of them...they have pulled down my self esteem so much that i just want to get out of here. my sis in law makes my life horrible but my hubby and his parents say i shld suffer inorder to keep their family together!!! i feel like running away from them.i'm staying with them only coz i dont wanna hurt my parents by getting separated from my husband. i would say, joint family is good in movies and serials. its nothing like that in real life!!!
 
Name: HORRIBLE
Country: USA

for me, living in a joint family is like living in hell...and who ever has made this system should go to hell !!!
 
Name: Tired of my life
Country: Thailand

i am living in a joint family, my 2 elder sis in laws are always bitching about me to my mom-in-law, they are a group and my husband wants me to butter them, i can't, they always do things to irritate me, and make my life horrible, i am fed up, my husband finds problem in me that u should go and sit in between them, but how can i, they ignore me and even make bad faces after seeing me...i feel like crying
 
Name: anybody help me
Country: USA

i am in a joing family,tired of everything, my husband is more towards his family members, my family in india, so nobody to support them, i can't tell them my problem,utherwise they will get tense, i am fed of my horrible life in joint family,my in-laws have made my life horrible, always comments on me, ignore me, i get irrate of things, whatever i am eating, doing, everybody is watching, and specify this is from our money,if i buy my things,its gone..my husband don'tlisten to me, when i fight, he says, u don't have right to change and he insults me in front of his parents and brother's wife, whenever i complain he calls everybody and start shouting.. when i keep quiet and don't talk, then everybody complains, that i am getting high headed and talk when in a mood to talk, if i speak to everyone, whatever i am sayingis being made a issue whether its just a normal talk or jokes...they don't let me live..i am fed up
 
Name: hell hell !!
Country: thailand

my husband loves his family who has made my life hell, he don't find anything wrong and wants me to compromise, please advise what shall i do ?
 
Name: Joint Family is a hell
Country: thailand

i live in a joint family and my husband listens more of his mother and whatever she has said, i have no value, whatever i am talking to him he will disclose in front of his whole family and insults me in front of them, i have nobody to talk to and i cannot tell my parents coz they can feel bad, my husband don't wanna give time to me b'coz he thinks with me he gets bore, he loves to go out with his parents alone coz he has got something to talk to them.. he has made a fuss out of my life, i am living only for my son otherwise i would have committed suiside.
 
Name: Unknown
Country: india

i am married in a joint family.as far as my hubby and my inlaws are concerned they are nice and understanding but since i am working,my daughter is taken care of by my mil ,but it seems that she wants to take over my place as a mother;she wants my kid to call her "mummy" ignoring the fact that i would also have some dreams being a parent.they both want to do evrything for her and cant see her away for even an hour.also they cant let both of us go out alone;they are not actually very bad but its that they are not undestanding the fact that every individual and relationship needs a space for himself.
 
Name: Minks
Country: India

hi all, i must give credit to my in-laws for making my life so easy that i am able to concentrate on my career. it has not been easy for them and for me. we had trouble initially when the boundaries in our lives were hazy but over time, we have come to an agreement on privacy, finances and our individual interests. i am a very opinionated strong person and never hesitate in laying down my expectations ( with in-laws and husband ) and the same is with my mil too - she is a strong person. understandably , we clash but we resolve issues also. i compromise on certain issues but absolutely put my foot down on matters that i care about - like keeping a bai to do housework, or if i feel they are playing down my parent's financial needs . i am expecting in may end. i am very future oriented and am already conditioning everyone at home to some ground rules about parenting. i don't want to raise a child that's too pampered and don't want everyone rushing to it's every need. want a child that's independent and happy. i wouldn't say i am the ideal indian bahu but hey , i never wanted to be a obedient and subservient person and i am glad with the way i have handled things.
 
Name: Monica
Country: England

what can i say? my in laws are lovely people. i just want my own space goddammit! when i have children i want to look after them and become a full time mother, however i'm going to have top sacrifice this dream because i know that i wouldn't want to stay at home with my inlaws. so i will have to pan my child off to my mil and go to work to keep myself sane. don't get me wrong their great people. but i just want my own space.
 
Name: no love life
Country: Dubai

from the first day of my wedding, being in the joint family i have not got the love and time from my husband, we all live together and the best part me and my mom in law's edrooms have only one partition which is open from above, whatever we are talking, they can listen, whatever we are doing they can listen, after coming from work, my husband sits with them to see tv, we eat dinner together with everyone, and then go to sleep in that so called 2 rooms(actually one made into two with cardboard partition), whenever i wanna go for dinner with him or a day out with me, my mil and fil are ready to go, my husband is the one who offeres them because he thinks he will get bore with me, atleast he can talk something to his parents..sometimes i am at home and my husband calls and says u eat dinner alone today b'coz mummy daddy wants to go for dinner alone and they had asked me to drive them to restaurant and i will eat with them, he can go out alone with his parents but not with me, b'coz he says, there should be somebody to take them also, my mother in law has 3 sons, my husband is the youngest one, my 2 elder sisin laws are very happy, they don't have problems like this and a seperate bedroom, they go out alone with their husbands and enjoy, if i ever request my husband to go out alone with me, he says, after seing others u also wanna go to hell, whenever i say i need some privacy, i get the answer, privacy my foot, and he insult me in front of his family, don't u think i need atleast some privacy and some love from my husband, i am also a human being...


 

 
 
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