Learnings from Indian Family system
In an interview with Bollywood actor Abhishek Bachchan and his wife Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Oprah inquisitively asked the couple how does them staying with his parents work? In response, Abhishek asked Oprah whether she lives with her parents and when she said no, he asked “how does that work?”
Followed by a round of applause by Indian-origin audience. They probably get asked the same question and now finally found a witty response.
It was common and slowly becoming not so common in the society to live with your parents and your siblings and their family. It’s not for financial or social reasons. It is simply because of family reasons. Respect for parents is something you are taught since you are young. It doesn’t mean everybody lives with their parents. But living separately is a big decision that one makes. It’s relatively easier when the kids go to a different city or country for advance studies or work. That is when they leave the house and then many do not return and some do. And in many cases, post retirement, the parents may join the kids in their new location.
Although, it is still common and default but it is slowly disintegrating in favor of the nuclear family system. What is less common now is a joint family system where even the siblings would live together even after they get married and have their own family. You would have 10–15 people living in the same house. Parents, their children and their grand children.
It is not that common anymore. But parents still do live with one of their kids. Children hold themselves responsible for the wellbeing of their parents, both financially, physically and emotionally. And it is an emotional decision as well as with the sense of giving back to the parents. Well, some could be with a selfish reason for the grand children to be taken care of but in my view it is rare. It is more out of love and responsibility. You don’t want to leave your parents on their own and want to make sure they are with you and well taken care of.
One great welcome change that is happening is that it is not always the husband’s parents who would live with the couple but it could be wife’s parents too. Otherwise it would be difficult for parents with only girl child(ren) and obviously its not gender equality. Its getting accepted socially. 30 years ago people would be questioned for such arrangement.
As mentioned earlier, with many leaving their hometowns and moving to another city or country has made it more difficult. There is usually a conflict as the parents don’t want to leave their social network behind and the kids cannot leave their work location. However, with Work From Home arrangements, a lot of people moved back to their home towns to be with their parents. Both, to take care of them if they were affected and also to live with them. Which showed that its not just a cultural shift but more of a practical challenges why you see fewer examples of three generations living together.
But where they do, it comes with a lot of benefits:
- Mental and physical wellbeing of the elderly
- Societal respect of the older generation
- Childcare is taken care of
- Family legacy and values are passed on to generations
- You kids will know your childhood stories better
- Economies of scale of household expenses
- Less worry about your parents wellbeing
- Feeling of sacrifice, affection, cooperation amongst family members
Obviously, it may take away your privacy and may give rise to family tension especially between the mother and daughter in law (many Indian soap opera revolve around it). But parents are also recognizing this and are more cognizant of their children’s privacy.
Just like everything else there is no right or wrong. There is no best system to follow. It’s what gives you a better sleep and reduces your stress level and overall a better life. But maybe there are a few things to adopt from the system. Especially with some flexibility coming our way with WFH.