#1 What it is to live in a joint family?
#2 The Advantages of living in a joint family
#3 And the Disadvantages
#4 Making Romance Happen in a joint family
#5 Parenting pros and challenges
#6 Tips to move out of the joint family.
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#1. What it is to be in a joint family?
Firstly, what is a joint family?
A joint family is where an extended family lives together. It can be an amazing experience for kids, but many times it cannot be so amazing for a wife. The typical arrangement of a joint family can be illustrated like this.
Some typical characteristics of a Joint family can be:
- Huge Families
- Lot of interdependence
- Common residence and kitchen
- Tight bonding with family
- Less house work because people share
- Joint property & Shared finances (sometimes)
- Authority & decision making of the elders
- Common mode of worship
- There’s never a feeling of loneliness
Whether joint family is good or bad entirely is dependent on an individual perspective. Some women love being amongst their family while others love their privacy.
#2. Advantages of a joint family
Peace in a Joint family really depends on harmonious existence and mutual understanding. Ego clashes are common here. However, it doesn’t go without its set of advantages.
1. Emotional Support: There’s never a scarcity of emotional support when you need it. With so many people around, you can share your worries with them and have a shoulder to cry on.
2. Financial Support: This can be both an advantage and a disadvantage. But anytime you are running low of money or in bad need to finances, you have someone to help you out.
3. Sharing of tasks: The endless chores of laundry, cooking and cleaning can be easy when you have someone to help you around.
4. Psychological benefits: You have less chances of feeling low or depressed in a joint family because of a lot of kids running around. With the amount of work and interaction with your family members, you hardly feel low (unless someone’s making you feel so.)
5. Better values to children: Grandparents fill your kids’ minds with moral stories, better values and teachings. This can be a great advantage.
6. Disciplined life: Being in a nuclear family, you have the freedom to get up at 9 o clock if you want to. But does that lifestyle help you with productivity? However, in a joint family, you have no choice but to be disciplined, which can be painful but helps you in the long run.
7. Help during emergencies: You can get the best help and support during any health issue or emergency. This is by far, the biggest advantage of being in a joint family.
#3. Disadvantages of a joint family
1. Lack of privacy: The biggest con of a joint family is the lack of privacy in personal and married life.
2. Too much spoiling of kids: Your kids get more than what they need from their grandparents. Too much chocolate, too much TV, too much junk food and pampering them even when they do a mistake is not okay!
3. Ego clashes and fights: Having a common kitchen is a war zone if things don’t go well with the ladies of the family. Ego clashes, bitter fights and constant bickering can make life a mess
4. Unnecessary gossips: Got a new dress? Nosy relatives gossip about how you waste money. Going to a party? People talk about how uncultured you are. Unfortunately, your moves are judged heavily in a joint family.
5. Lack of productivity: Due to the conservative attitude, fights, extra gossips, your work productivity goes down.
6. Unfulfilled Hopes and wishes: This is self-explanatory. Every woman has her own set of wishes and hopes when it comes to marriage and husband. Many of them may not be fulfilled in a joint family and this can lead to disappointment.
7. In-law domination: A feeling of being dominated by the mother-in-law is common in every marriage. However, it gets amplified if you live in a joint family. You don’t have the freedom to cook/wear what you want, and freedom becomes a distant dream.
8. Unresolved Everyday issues: Petty issues like: ‘Who uses the bathroom first in the morning’, ‘Who cooks every weekend while others have fun’, ‘In whose room can guests sleep when they come home’, can be irritating.
9. Romance issues in marriage: Romance in a joint family can be a distant dream. Lack of privacy and the presence of so many people can make it impossible to have those magical moments you have dreamed of.
#4. Keeping the Romance alive in a joint family
1. Public Display of Affection: If you want to make romance possible in a joint family, you should show love towards each other in front of your family. Talk to your husband about it and help him get over his shy nature (if he is)
Affectionate moves acceptable in front of kids and old people can be:
- Holding hands
- Placing your arm around your spouse’s shoulder
- Occasional stroke on hair while talking.
- Soft & quick kisses are sweet, but depends on what’s acceptable in your community
- Brief hug before leaving to office and after you come back home.
- Pat on the back
Showing your family that you love each other (without going off limits) can be a great way to spice up things in your marriage.
2. Short vacations and weekend getaways: Family outings are okay, but you should also go out regularly as a couple. Plan short vacation to a famous city or a hill station. Or plan a weekend at a resort and enjoy your time together. Don’t go feeling guilty for not inviting the other family members. You need time for your relationship, after all
3. Take a walk: A leisurely stroll in your area/terrace will do wonders and provide you some privacy. Don’t allow anyone to accompany you those 15-20 minutes. Hold hands and talk. Do this every day or at least thrice a week
4. More private time in bedroom: If your husband is glued to the TV, you are going to have a real issue getting him to talk. Make it a rule that he should be in the bedroom by 9:30 or 10:00 PM.
5. Cultivate Common hobbies: It can be great to bond with each other if you have common hobbies, like gardening, painting, music etc. If you don’t have common hobbies, why not learn something together? Go to a swimming class or learn chess together!
Still not getting the romance you want?
Copy the letter below, modify it to your needs and shoot him an email:
Dear husband roommate,
I just want to remind you that I am your wife, and we married about ___ years ago.
Yes, I am a selfish wife.
I would love to have a pretty high priority in your life. I want us to lead life with love and affection.
I want those stolen glances, public display of affection and short vacations. I want us to spend more private time in the bedroom rather than you sitting in front of the TV and waiting helplessly. Let me remind you that our journey together will be great only when we love each other.
I know….. Sleep and physical intimacy are important, but don’t make them the only reason to come to our bedroom.
Instead of getting glued in the living room, come and talk to me about your day. Instead of hour long chat with your mom in the kitchen/phone, lie down in my lap and give me 10 minutes of that time. Tell me about your dreams and goals. Talk to me about your fears. Let me Cuddle you and say “I love you”
And YES, your mom may be better than me at cooking, housekeeping, parenting and hosting guests. Your sister may be a replica to your mom, ‘perfect’ like her. But that’s no reason to compare me to them, or let anyone do that. I am unique in my own way. I have my own strengths and weaknesses. The universe has created me to be myself, not someone else.
There’s always going to be someone who does something better than me. But comparison makes me feel defeated. Defend me when I am subject to comparison.
What I need is your attention, love and your time. Yes, I agree life is busy in a huge home with your kids, your parents and your work, but please don’t make it so busy that you have no time for me.
Dealing with marital fights in a joint family
1. Make a list of your issues on a piece of paper. Something like this:
2. Choose a place where you cannot be disturbed or heard. Sometimes these may turn into little arguments, which is why you need a private place.
3. Don’t get into blaming mode. Simply state your problem and work out on your solution.
4. Be stern if your husband gets into a defensive mode or an anger burst. Don’t be scared or worried.
#5. Parenting in a joint family
The trickiest and most fight-prone aspect is parenting in a joint family. Being grandparents can be a wonderful experience and your in-laws won’t miss the chance of pampering your kids. Sometimes, they over pamper.
Moral values: Cultivation of moral values from an early childhood can be extremely valuable for your child’s growth. Your kid will have the best memories of their life when they spend time with their grandparents listening to stories and incidents.
Strong bonds: What nuclear families miss out is that kids are habituated to seeing only their mom and dad. However, joint families subconsciously provide your kid the idea of maintaining strong relationships.
Company of their age: Your kids never miss out the company of their age as have a lot of cousins to play with. Birthdays & family outings will be the best times of their lives.
Disciplining Kids: As a mother, you face a challenge when it comes to disciplining your kid. Your in-laws can interfere and over pamper your kid, which can turn him into a rebel or a lazy one.
Junk food: Too much Chocolate, chips and soft drinks can spoil a kid’s health. However, we find that in-laws don’t mind feeding the kid with junk food because they want to see him happy.
Watching TV: Continuous watching of TV can heavily impact a child’s brain. Sometimes in-laws let the kids watch TV for hours while the mother is at work. This can be a huge problem.
- Accept that little spoiling of kids is okay.
- If your in-laws or family members have crossed their limits with your kid, you should talk to them and request them to stop spoiling your child.
- Take your kid to parks and pool sides in the evenings or free times.
- Consider joining him in extra-curricular activities like painting, martial arts, dance etc.
- Be firm sometimes. Don’t bend with your child or in-laws when it comes to this.
- Also don’t allow anyone to interfere when you are talking to your child or disciplining them.
- Consider getting a second TV for your in-laws.
#6. Tips for moving out
Sometimes things get bad and you will have no choice but to move out.
1. Taking the Decision:
Consider the reason you are planning to move out. Some valid reasons would be:
- Too much interference in your personal life that it is breaking your marriage.
- Spoiling or over-pampering the kids so much that they don’t listen to you anymore.
- Any family member repeatedly behaving in a rude, aggressive or unfair manner.
- Excessive display of jealousy on you or over-possessiveness on your husband, which is making your marriage more prone to fights.
- You are obligated to give away your salary (or) your money is getting wasted on petty activities of the family members and you have no control over it.
- You sense your kids getting badly-shaped for their future.
Moving out may not help you when you have touchy reasons like:
- Hating someone without their fault
- Getting overly sensitive
- Getting jealous on your in-laws without any reason
- Planning or taking a revenge
- Trying to split your husband and family apart
Joining a personality development or a meditation class if that’s the case. It can help you calm your mind and be practical and peaceful.
Once you have taken the decision and believe it is sensible, stick to it. Don’t swing between a yes and a no.
2. Convincing your Husband:
- Talk to your husband about it and observe how he feels about your decision? Does he want to stay with his parents? Or does he consider your needs?
- Don’t try to force or blackmail when you convince him to move out. It may work for a short while but at the cost of your marriage.
- Communicate him in a practical way. Focus on telling him how the joint family system affects your marriage or kids. Put emphasis on the loss you are going to suffer. Help him see your point.
- He’s been in the family for a couple of decades, probably. A sudden change might worry him. Give him the time he needs and stay patient.
- Sit in a restaurant or café and together list out the reasons, pros & cons of moving out. This should get you to a conclusion. Don’t do this at home.
- Try offering him easy replacements and solutions if your husband doesn’t agree. For example: If he’s worried about missing his parents, rent an apartment close to his parents. This way he can meet them twice or thrice weekly.
- If your husband’s male ego comes in the way and he gets unreasonably adamant, be stern and let him know you are not dependent on him. Let him know you are only polite and respectful to him because you love him and not because you are have no choice.
- Don’t tolerate any kind of accusations like “You are trying to split me and my family”, “you hate my family for no reason” etc. He should learn to be a man, not a passive aggressive cry-boy.
- Try meeting a relationship expert if things go too bad.
3. Convincing your family members
Your husband can do a good job of convincing his parents and siblings because he shares a primary bond with them. However, it doesn’t hurt when you too take part in convincing them. Initially, people cannot digest your decision and it can be quite a task to handle them.
Some may react overly, some may accuse you, some may make you feel guilty, and some may threaten to cut off all the ties. Some even go as bad as emotionally blackmailing.
The main people who get affected are your in-laws, who are getting old day by day. Sibling-in-laws too get affected, but not as much. They may over react.
Assure them: In-laws have lots of fears when you take a decision like this. They fear about:
- Losing the relationship with their son and grandchildren.
- Any health issues that may occur.
- Being left alone during the times of emergency.
Give them your 100% assurance that you’ll be there for them whenever they need. Agree to meet them often. You can slow down with time. Let them also know that their grandkids will be meeting them often.
Dealing with your family members’ criticism
Yes, it ruffles a lot of feathers when you move out, especially in orthodox families. Here are some things you might face when you decide to move out*
- People usually blame you, not your husband. Learn to ignore their drama; otherwise it gets very tough to deal with them.
- Phrases like ‘You are the reason we are getting split’ ‘You have got my son under control’ will be commonly heard. Get strong.
- You will be subject to gossip and ridicule. This transition is extremely tough for the older people in the family. So they try to provoke you out of helplessness and insecurity.
- Even after you move out, you will have regular visitors from the family. You cannot avoid that.
- Kids will be affected and bored. Engage them in activities.
- There’s a possibility of your husband feeling guilty. Help him see the fact that it’s not unusual to live in a nuclear family.
- Your husband will also have a fair share getting ridiculed as a “wife’s puppet… etc”. This is where you have to stay together and help each other.
*These points don’t apply to all families. Some families can whole heartedly support your decision. I am talking about the orthodox ones who don’t support nuclear family system.
Remember that joint family set up can be quite a tricky one for modern women (and also some men). If your pros outweigh the cons, I don’t see a reason why you should move out and set up your own space. However, if you are not having a great life as a woman, wife and a mother, then you should move out. After all, life is too short.