Nuclear Family Vs. Joint Family

ETA: And this post got selected for the Spicy Saturday Pick at BlogAdda

yayayayayayyay! Thanks IHM for giving me such an idea to blog on..and thanks Sugar and Spice for letting me know about it! Hugs

and of course Thanks BlogAdda this 🙂

IHM wrote a very interesting blog post on Nuclear family Vs. Joint family and the discussion in the comments section was even more interesting. Let me give you four examples from my office

Example 1: My own…I live with RD and R in Mumbai. In-laws are in Calcutta. Parents are in Goa. Both set of parents visit us whenever we need (for eg. R’s daycare closes for 15 days in May every year and either one of the set of parents are here for that time). We visit them once an year – both sets. Otherwise it’s just us and R is taken care of in a daycare without any grandparents around.

MIL and I have our disagreements (especially on the way R is being brought up) but all in all, we share a pretty decent relationship with her accomodating my faults and me accomodating her faults. We adjust, but both of us don’t interfere in each other’s matters. MIL helps me out completely in the housework including taking charge of the kitchen completely and I am totally fine with it. I help her out whenever she asks and whatever she asks me to do.

In-laws are very clear that they don’t want to shift with us and we are okie with that.

Example 2: N – She just got married a year ago. She lives with her in-laws, husband’s elder brother, wife and their 6 year old kid in a one bedroom flat. N and her husband sleep in the bedroom, the brother,wife and child sleep in the kitchen and the in-laws in the drawing room. N has tried to move the brother, wife and child to the bedroom, but they refuse. N works while her co-sister doesn’t. So N ends up doing most of the work on weekends because her co-sister claims that she ‘runs’ away to office everyday. N doesn’t have a choice but to do the work because even the MIL feels the same. On weekdays, N makes the subji for the entire family and chapatis for herself and her husband while the rest of the food is cooked by the co-sister and MIL. In the evenings, N has to go back and help the women to with the housework

So, in this case, who is right and who is wrong? Should N be given all the housework on weekends?

Example 3: P lives with her in laws, husband and 3 year old child. She gets up at 5 in the morning, makes roti and subji for the WHOLE family and then comes to work. The in-laws take care of the child and the child is really, really attached to her grandparents. Sometimes, P doesn’t agree with the way the grandparents are bringing up the child, but she doesn’t have a say because she is out of the house about 10 hours and they are looking after the child. P’s MIL also helps in the cooking by setting rice etc, but P has to go home and again make rotis etc for the dinner and her husband comes in late and they don’t sleep before 12.
Now, if P doesn’t agree with the way the in laws are bringing up her child, does she have a say in it? IF she disagrees, she fears that they may leave her and the child and go somewhere and then she will need to leave her job.

Example 4: K spent the first year of her marriage with her husband in Mumbai while the in-laws were elsewhere. MIL developed a complication in the eye early this year and then K got pregnant. K is about 5 months pregnant now and has no help whatsoever from the in-laws. She gets up to cook food for all four family members (which includes roti, subji, dal, rice, salad) and then goes back home to do the same. She had a slight complication in her pregnancy in the 2nd month and hence got a cook. However, in-laws don’t like the cook’s food and they make her do all the masala etc for the food. Her MIL has got back about 50% of her sight but refuses to even keep her glass back in the kitchen. K doesn’t expect any help from MIL but the ordering around and the expectations from her is getting on to her nerves.

K wants her in-laws to go back but they are refusing and K’s husband doesn’t want to send them back. K is frustrated and I am praying to God it doesn’t affect her baby too much. K feels that living with her in laws is the most difficult thing on earth and is ready to leave her baby with her mom in another city to avoid her in-laws’ interaction with her baby.


Four different situations that make you think, which one is better? A nuclear family or joint family? Of course there is no politically correct answer to this. I guess it differs from individual to individual and from family to family.

There are two things that come to my mind:

1. I think the idea of parents in the same city but living separately makes a lot of sense to me. While you don’t dump your children on your parents, you know you have someone to turn to in case of an emergency. Your parents get to enjoy their retirement, you get your privacy and both the parties know that there is someone out there to take care of each other when you really need them.

2. Don’t expect. Nothing from your children and nothing from your parents. Your children should not be burdened to think that they HAVE to take care of you. As long as they are around in case of emergencies, don’t say that I want only you to take me to the loo or I want only you to make rasam for me.

And from your parents – don’t expect them to take care of your children. They did their share by bringing you up, and then to expect them to take care of your children isn’t right. You don’t have children to dump them on your parents. You have children because YOU want them. They have every right to enjoy their life after retirement and of course, if their enjoyment means readily taking care of their grandchildren, then so be it. Don’t force and don’t expect.

Crossposted on Womensweb


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29 Responses to Nuclear Family Vs. Joint Family

  1. Good post R's mom! I have a story to share :I have a friend back in Mumbai, she is married, has a 2 yr old kid, living with in-laws. Both she and her hubby work. But she hired a nanny/maid only to take care of the kid while she was at work. She also had a cook. That way, the MIL didn't have the burden of cooking or childcare. But her MIL still made her cook every weekend because she didn't cook during the weekdays. I think thats Insane because her MIL didn't cook either. Now, they are moving out, and have bought a separate apt in Mumbai itself. Her in-laws interfere in their affairs all the time and they are tired of it. But thats exactly what happens when you live in a joint family. There is a Lot of interference!!

  2. R's Mom says:

    @Priyanka: I dont believe that MIL! How can she do that..doesnt she understand?Of course Priyanka, all joint families may not be bad, but in your friend's case I think its good they are moving out@Whinymom: thank you

  3. Smita says:

    All Joint Families are not bad… there are 2 diff situations in my family itself… one where a set of parents have gone out of way and relocated to another country so that their DIL can work and one where the Inlaws flatly refused to come and stay. The relations have not soured even in the second case, as the DIL accepted the situation and moved on.So at end of the day it is how the members in the family adjusts to each other

  4. Sangi says:

    Where are the husbands in all this? MIL 'makes' a person do something and that person doesn't figure out what works for her AND her husband's sitting around and doing what?

  5. Bikramjit says:

    yessssss it depends on individuals… thoug hthey do say distance makes the heart fonder :)I am against the idea of using parents for childcare etc, cause they brought us up and now thye bringing the kids – kid tooo… Voluntary help is OK…. joint and separate both have benefits the problem comes when we become slefish and use each otherparents shud understand that as they decided and made there own decisions so shud the kids now.. this is very tricky situation, the western idea is good once 16 you are responsbile for ur actions and decisions and they hardly interefere .. Bikram's

  6. Anonymous says:

    Hi RM,I commented on ur blog this april and told you abt me getting married and my concern of mil coming and staying with us here in blore.Hope u remember me.Now Note:Long coment ahead (sort of mini post :-))Today's post of yours really urged me to write.Initially even I was paranoid of staying with mil(i have no fil and my sil is a slight down syndrome patient).It was even more difficult for me to adjust with this girl,I have lot of respect for my mil but I was just not ready with my sil's stay with me.Belive me when they (mil and sil) were about to come i was scared and lost on my apetite.However she (my mil) shares a very good and healthy relationship with my parents and she being an educated and very understanding lady assured my mom that she will try her best to keep her dil (me) happy and try to help me in every possible way.My parents constantly kept saying all positive and praise worthy words for my mil.Few days back they have came down to banaglore and staying with us.Mil has got cataract operated recently and is not allowed to come in kitchen,still she helps me a lot by doing work in the living room (cutting veggies,kneading dough) while my sil cleans the houseWe are 4 members and each one is doing his/her own bit (Ya ya i wrote 'he' coz even my husband too co-operates a lot in the kitchen :-))Today morning my mil cleaned the rice and daal and my sil put them in cooker i chopped onion and tomatoes while my husband fried the daal.Again my mil chopped brinjal,stuffed masala in the(bharva baigan) and sil put them in kadai and I while making the breakfast (simple poha and tea ) kept stirring the brinjals.Later while I went for a shower my husband packed his as well as my lunch.So you see its all combined effort that goes to make a happy family,where every family member shares the work.Edited to Add: I casually was chatting with my mil yesterday that I feel hungry every day at around 4 in the eve.So today she packed some dry fruits and a banana along with the lunch :-)I was completely surprised and was speechelss with so much love and concern that she has for me.I am really blessed to have her in my life.Needless to say the best mil one could ask for.A big kala tika comment(if not post :-))

  7. R's Mom says:

    @Smita: Arey no, I never meant to say that all joint families are bad…it was just putting forth four real situations I encounter. And of course it depends on the family members..but parents relocating to another country – awesome! @Sangi: The husbands in all the three cases (except mine) come home very late at 12 and hence as per the wives are not a part of the whole story!!! Totally weird logic na@Bikram: you are right…every family is different..these are just four cases in my office I wrote about :)@Anon: yayayayayyaya! you made me happy babes…and yes I do remember you..firstly BIG KALA TIKKA to your family…I am so glad that you are midst such wonderful people…hugs to you and your MIL/SIL/Hubby… the women's web page, anne asked if there was not a single happy joint family, I am going to put this up in that page tomorrow…so happy for you..and am sure the banana and nuts tasted so much more sweeter…THIS is what I call a super duper hit family 🙂 and oh all that food has me drooling 🙂

  8. Uma says:

    loved this post RM…truly agree about having no expectations…every set up has it advantages and disadvantages…as long as there is a healthy and positive environment, neither can be termed as bad..though i personally prefer the nuclear set up with parents staying close-by rather than with you…that way there is no fear of stepping over the other's toes…

  9. I couldn't agree with you more. I believe grandparents are important part of kids lives. But currently in our culture (not always the case) roles are getting mixed. Grandparents are becoming parents while parents are having less say in child's upbringing. This is happening with my mom. She takes care of my 2 year old nephew, in evening when my Bhabhi returns, if she even asks my nephew what did you do or how did you get bruised. My mom gets all defensive. She thinks she is being targeted, if Bhabhi says don't let him watch TV, my mom doesn't like. She thinks she is getting orders. There are many other things where my mom worries like a parent. I keep telling her otherwise. I tell her that she needs to enjoy grandkids, tell them stories but leave parenting work on parents. When my bhabhi asks my nephew anything it isn't that she is targeting you. She is interacting with her kid. I gave her example that even my DH asks my 8 month old same question and I am the one taking care of her. But its a lost battle.About other situations, I seriously feel for them.

  10. Scribby says:

    as you've already put it's case to case basis..but overall that I've seen in my family and relatives' separately keeps your relationships clean and clear for longer time [if not forever] and there is this urge to meet at regular intervals…so there !But having said that living together too brings in loads of advantages and lovely moments in one's life !!so the point is one should do what suits one's family and it's arrangement 🙂

  11. Comfy says:

    RM I have a basic issue with using Parents, ILs for child support for long term. For a while it is fine (and I guess I have to be honest and say I did that too because I did not want Buzz to go to daycare while she was very young) but it is not fair on the parents if they are the only caregivers for years at end.I still get a lot of snide comments from people on how I sit at work all day and have someone else deal with an overactive toddler. But that is D's and my decision and others can say what they want.But let me give you the flip side of the story. A MIL and FIL are asked to come over to take care of the grandkid because Mom and Dad work and don't want the kid to go to daycare. They come here, know no one, can't go anywhere by themselves, plus DIL does not want her son to get sick and hence bans going for walks, to the park. Which basically means these two people are stuck at home all day.Every evening she comes home and throws a tantrum that she is tired and why is dinner not ready (if it is not) or not liking what has been cooked. What are those two people doing sitting at home all day anyways? At night if the kid gets up the grandparents are supposed to take care of him (well because she has to go to work the next day right)She constantly keeps telling them that they are here in 'HER' house and they should be grateful for that.With every word the guy speaks there is a BIG Mahabharat at home. Fed up the guy send his parents back. Now the girl is seen constantly complaining about how heartless her ILs are. That they don't love their own grandkid. That she has to cook and clean all day. That she has to get up to take care of the kid.The point I am trying to make is that our parents and ILs are old. They have done their bit. If we have kids then we need to figure out the best way to raise them. Let the old be. You don't have to take crap from them, but you don't have to give crap to them either.

  12. R's Mom says:

    @Uma: Yes I prefer that too..unfortunately in my case parents are in Goa and in laws are in there is no one to really run to when there is an emergency…but guess thats life :)@Adayinlifeofmom: Welcome here! I can so understand what your mom is going through…guess its just a guilt factor for no reason..and even if your Bhabhi doesnt mean it..its taken otherwise…so lemme tell you my story…R says a lot of things for fun..she is only 3 and have an overactive morning when MIL was here she cried like crazy saying that Thathi shouldnt drop me to the bus stop..I kept asking what happened and she said Thathi ne my MIL will not even let us lift a finger on her darling grand forget about her hitting R..I laughed about it saying amma hits, thathi toh doesnt even scold you..anyways I took her to the bus stop because I didnt want a scene in the morning blah blah! In the evening, my MIL wasnt really talking properly to me and I asked her if something was wrong and she said she was upset with R saying that she had hit her…I was shocked and told MIL that its just her imagination right? she says that what if R keeps repeating that you start believing her! RD and I almost lost our temper..we told her two things – first, you have every right to scold her or hit her when you think its appropriate and second, you dont have to give us an explanation on why you hit her..we know you love her so if you think there is anything wrong just correct her right? but no, MIL had some weird guilt factor – so see basically its the grandparents that work like that..cant help it na!@Scribby: True living together is definitely great fun 🙂 but it depends on case to case basis @Comfy: True…my mom took care of R till she was 5 months (I got 3 months maternity) and then MIL took care till R was an year..after that I started with daycare for her…I am very clear that I dont want my in laws or parents to spend their retired age taking care of my child/ren because at the end of the day, they have brought us up right? now why become parents again?and about the remarks, forget it Comfy, there will be people remarking even if you stay at long as you and D and Buzz are happy, forget the rest!I cant believe that DIL did all that!honestly, I have my arguments with my MIL but my mom always tells me that what she did for you taking care of your child when you needed it, no one will do so always respect her, fighting is fine but never cross your boundaries..and thats what I do – fight with fun involved 🙂

  13. Swaram says:

    I agree with ur points there! I think there is no particular solution, or even wonder if it is a problem at all! Bcoz in the end it is just what works best for each one of us 🙂 In my case, the in-laws are totally happy living in Bengaluru, the place they will never leave, and we have a set equation for now in Hyderabad 🙂 This is the way it works for us! I have seen the joint family system working absolutely fine with some of my friends too 🙂

  14. Lady! Do you know you did it one more time? This time a Spicy Saturday.. Congrats!

  15. S.R.Ayyangar says:

    The last para seems to be not workable.How ever bad the relations may be with children, they approach parents for 'Baby sitting'and go to any extent to appease them even if they have done nothing for them otherwise.

  16. Richa says:

    Hey,I have recently come across your blog. Very thoughtful write-ups!! Have added you to my reading list. Will keep visiting! 🙂

  17. R's Mom says:

    @Swaram: thanks..see thats what your inlaws are okie with staying in bangalore and you in hyd..and then both of you can laways visit each other when needed right?@Sugar and Spice: you are my carrier of good news..thanks rey…I am pretty surprised!!@S.R.Ayyangar: Welcome here 🙂 Sir..thats wrong na…why should we expect our parents to take care of our children..and yes if the grandparents do it willingly without any obligation..I can understand that..but forcing them to do it..or emotionally blackmailing them to do unfair@Richa: thanks dear 🙂

  18. RS says:

    Your posts trigger some writing craze in me – here's my take (though late) on the topic:

  19. weourlife says:

    I am reading late, but very good post and Congrats for the Spicy Saturday Pick 🙂 As you said both had it's own advantages and disadvantages.

  20. R's Mom says:

    @RS: heheheeh 🙂 I read your take..and commented@LF: true they have na

  21. Congratulations 🙂 This post in one of the winners of ‘Tejaswee Rao Blogging Awards – 2011’ (TRBA 2011). We would like to create an ebook with all the winning entries in 47 categories on Feminism and Gender Issues in India (and one category on Animals Rights). Please do let us know if you are fine with your winning post/s being included in this ebook. ( Please click here to let us know).

    • R's Mom says:

      Thanks a ton IHM..gone to your link and commented 🙂

      • priya says:

        Hi guys….this is the first time I am replying to a post…..I see everyone writing about how unfair it is to grandparents taking care of the kid…well in my case my in laws completely want to take care of the baby trying to leave little for me to do….I work from 10 am to 4 pm and 3 days a week roughly…I have a flexitime and can work from home….so too many confrontations….

        • R's Mom says:

          Ah well..its just a matter of talking to them and letting them know that at the end of the day, it your baby and perhaps they can help out a bit but not control totally no?

  22. Pingback: A Proud Moment | R's Mom

  23. priya says:

    Please share your thoughts on over possessive grandparents who do not want children to do any parenting

  24. Loved the post totally and the last para just nailed it! Very true….don’t force and don’t expect!

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