Shah Raees Khan
An extended family, composed of parents, their children, their children’s spouses and offspring in one household, is called a joint household. Father is traditionally the head of the family. Every family member is bounded by the common relationships and they could not take any step without prior permission of house head. Basically, this kind of living system applies in rural areas mostly where the head of the family persuades his children to respect the whole family as well as any other relation, due to which several families lives have badly affected. They are not able to neither envisage the imposed assignments nor have been able to realize how to accept them. Gradually, they become burnt down and upset. It is the best pattern of living that is most conducive to the growth of an individual, and based on a principle of fair economy. Every family member celebrates all types of events; happy days and days of sorrows. The joint mess naturally runs on an understanding of mutual adjustment, whereas, in large families, most of important decisions are made by the head of the family.
In a joint family, all members share the expenses equally, even the domestic chores so the burden of work would not be felt by one person. All children get equal share of love, care, guidance and education by the elders so that they never miss anything in their life. Children get teaching guidance from their relatives like uncles, aunts and other family members. The sharing resources with the cousins and sisters help parents to decrease the expenses on their child. Besides the pros, there are also a few disadvantages of joint family systems. On bigger occasions like marriage, birthdays, engagements, anniversaries, etc., work can easily be shared with all members so that the event is successful. This will bring down the burden from the parents. In addition, joint families under the strict control of the head of family, tends to be conservative and orthodox. It cannot change with time. Some members of the family might lack initiatives; the fruits of their initiative will ultimately be shared by other members who may be lazy and idle. Therefore, nobody puts in hard labor, which is necessary for advancement in their standard of living. Due to lack of initiative in its members, the economic condition of the joint family deteriorates. There is a disharmony due to generation gap in the family which affects the progress of the family adversely. In a joint family the women look after household chores. Thus, their talents are wasted and their lives are rendered miserably. The common property is looked after by none and its condition worsens for want of proper attention. Also, due to diverse temperaments, there is always conflict between males and females and young and old. As a large family has to live in limited space, there is no privacy. Members tend to spend more and more due to the feeling that expenses will be scared by the whole family. This makes the economic condition of family worse. Due to the presence of numerous other members of the family a harmonious relationship based of mutual love and affection cannot be developed. As the responsibility for upbringing of children is shared, there is uncontrolled reproduction which results in worse economic condition. When a joint family disintegrates, the commonness of property leads the family often to litigation in courts of law.
Along with these, when a girl marries and enters a joint family, she is automatically expected to blend into the family environment which is a huge burden to place on someone who is not used to such a set up. When a husband is confronted by his wife as to why they have to reside in a joint family, most of husbands say they cannot leave their parents out of guilt or shame of leaving them alone. Most of husbands would never like to live with their in-laws and are really uncomfortable living with them, why should their wives have to oblige to this request?
In addition to above, a joint family system can cause rifts between brothers, if their wives or children do not get along with the other’s wife or children. This can cause argument which consequently can affect children’s emotional balance and schooling, not to mention the elderly grandparents’ health. These are a few examples of how quickly things can fall apart and how difficult it can be to keep everyone happy under one roof. One person may be earning more than the other and some may not be earning at all, so the burden to pay for an entire family can sit squarely on the shoulders of one person. This can be an onerous burden and grossly unfair. If there are mechanisms in place which allow the smooth handling of expenditures then that is perfect but money, or a lack of it, can always sour relationships and create undue bitterness.
Personally, I believe everyone should try to live in the joint family system up until a certain point. When siblings start getting married and having their own children, they should be given the chance to raise their own families separately. Tensions, rifts and difficulties can arise when people who are outside the family start asserting their identity and invading the family. To maintain amiability, it is better to separate and foster a healthy relationship from a distance.
It is also imperative to mention here that according to Islamic, there is no requirement for a couple to live with the in-laws after marriage. The Prophet Muhammad’s (PUBH) wives all stayed in separate dwellings and were never expected to live with any other member of his family. The joint family system is a cultural requirement that we have taken upon ourselves out of a displaced need to please our elders. However, in an attempt to keep our elders happy, we may actually be stifling the responsibilities we have towards our other relationships.
All in all, joint family systems are not a viable option in this era because the concept of solidarity and family togetherness can take an ugly shape when siblings start getting married and having their own children. Instead, to foster healthy relationships, families should be given the chance to develop their own personalities and personas in the comfort of their own home. The separation of families was evident in the joint families themselves. It happens when feelings of generosity charity and fellow-felling are not balanced by strong moral line, character and far-sightedness joint family can be run successfully if the members remain committed to each other. The felling is togetherness in the strength of joint family. If everybody in a family remains by knowing his limits and not integrate other right thus the joint family system is blessing otherwise it creates differences among the blood relations.
The contributor is a Steno-typist at the Inspector General of Police Office (CPO), Gilgit.