I was born and brought up in a joint family system of yesteryear. I can still recall the happy times I had with my cousin brothers and sisters and my aunt’s children. We lived in a big, old style, tiled house in Royapettah, Chennai. The house was having a big garden, where we maintained a cow and a Buffalo and grew all kinds of vegetables. When my father got transfer to a city in another state, my education was not disturbed, my uncle took care of me and my sister. I did not miss my parents and got the same care and affection from my uncle. That was how most of the people of my times enjoyed the joint family set up.
I am sure, you will not dispute me if I comment that our joint family system of yesterdays offered more learning opportunities, for the children to learn and get practical knowledge. It also taught them some of the best principles of life, such as, adjustment, working in a group, tolerance and above all patience to listen others. The children also became knowledgeable, about collective responsibility, flexibility, and had ownership on what they did.
The quality education received by the parents of last generation, enabled both the husband and wife to work and earn for the family. Though, such an earning offered them necessary financial cushion to run the family comfortably, they felt guilty of being away from the children. The grand parents lend their help in managing the children, though most often they got shunted between the other children of their own.
Formation of Nuclear Families
The two or single child norm adopted by the last generation parents had resulted in the formation more nuclear families. The financial and resource constraints, made it mandatory for both the parents to work and earn for the family and be away from the children. Most often the single child in a nuclear family missed the closeness and proximity of its parents. The parents in turn feeling guilty of their being away from the child or children often tried to over pamper them.
The current generation, most of them from the nuclear families, do not want to loose the independence they enjoyed after the marriage. The quality of education received by them and the present day employment opportunities available for them help them to earn handsomely than their parents. A good majority of the present day generation couple are employed and look forward to lead an independent life of their own. The nuclear family set up under which they were brought up did not benefit them to learn tolerance and joint living. Most of them look forward to live separately, do not feel guilty about it and even express it firmly.
Elder Generation Parents
The parents, who are not financially well off, suffer the ignominy of ill-treatment. Though unmindful of the sufferings they manage to get pleasure in the company of the grand children and lend a hand in the home management, still they become unwanted and ignored. Most of the senior citizens among them end-up in old-age homes.
Those who are financially well-to-do, though want to stay and live happily close to their own son, daughter and grand children, they do not want to get exploited by their own children. They express reservations about becoming honorable servants at their son or daughter homes, to manage the children and look after the chores at the house. They do not want such an arrangement to encroach their privacy and liberty to do things on their own.
The trend is currently changing. Even those who grew-up and lived in a nuclear family set up look forward to have the elders at home to take care of the family. Most of them give respect to their elders in managing the family affairs and the grand children without encroaching their day-to-day works, while the couple want to have the freedom of taking their personal decisions without intrusion. This set up also enables the seniors to l set their own preconditions, while enjoying the proximity to their grand son or daughter.
The Best Ever
However, what attracted me most is, a different kind of joint family set up that is emerging slowly. This setup, enables the parents of the married couple to live under a single roof. Both the in-laws with a commitment to continue and take the joint family benefits to the next generation, learn to live under a single roof. They learn to have little or no touchy points between them and even such unintended intrusions are ignored sportively. They develop undisputed faith between themselves and try to offer the best of love to the grand child/children and teaches them the good values of life.
Such an arrangement works very well in the events if both the couple are posted abroad or chose to live there. They can work with an assured mindset and without any guilt because their parents are safe at home under the care of the other.
Establishing such an arrangement is not very difficult. It only requires a positive thinking by both the parents. They must shed their personal ego, discuss and iron out the touchy points, develop faith and belief on the other, identify their common interest as welfare of their children, which intern will also benefit in their personal welfare during the twilight years.
I personally wish more such joint families should emerge in future.