THE CURSE OF JOINT FAMILY SYSTEM IN PAKISTAN
Joint family system is the beauty of our culture, it brings love and togetherness. These are crammed statements which we are conditioned to say even if know the truth is otherwise. There are certain things we know that they are bad but for some reason we want to harp on the tune that they are good in the name of eastern culture etc.
I know for very small number of people joint family has worked well. Especially men like joint family system way more than women because all these patriarchal systems always enable and empower men. People who like joint family system say they always have company and a support system. But does the support system comes at a minimum price? I don’t think so.
Joint family system has done way more damage to us as individuals than anything else and here is why:
1-One patriarchal or matriarchal head of the house
In most joint family systems, there is always one head of the family who is in complete control of all things. Sometimes it is grandfather or grandmother. Since Joint family system is built on the idea of deep respect for elders, these heads are usually feared and obeyed or so utterly respected that their decisions are not refuted.
To give one example, a friend of mine got to know about her engagement a day before and then despite her will she was married off to her first cousin. She got divorced later. She said I did tell my father I don’t want to marry him but my father said I can’t deny your grandfather’s decision. I am not saying always these elder make bad decisions but the problem with joint family system is that it is authoritative and not democratic. Things are decided and run the basis of beliefs of the person who is in control and not on the basis of what is right.
2-No privacy concept in Joint family system
Most of the joint family systems that I have witnessed does not have large houses or enough spaces, so physically people don’t get personal space. Like one son with his wife and kids are allotted one room than another one has the same scenario. More over no body gets emotional or mental privacy. If you want to sit alone, or make a small plate of food for yourself you can’t do it, Not that you are not allowed to do it in all cases but out of courtesy you can’t say I just want to be with myself or I am just cooking for myself.
I remember when I was in Masters a friend of mine got married into a joint family. She told me she picked up a potato to make some fries for herself and her brother in law (her husbands younger brother) said ok let me bring cold drinks from outside to eat with chips when actually she returned from university and was too tired to cook a lot. She ended up making 2kg potato worth of fries.
Another friend of mine mentioned that her husband was made fun of for spending too much time in their bedroom.
3-Over sharing of resources in joint family system
Also in most joint families, there are collective financial resources. If one person is working too hard and earning double his/her money get accumulated with someone who is working way less and earning way less. The hard worker or the more earning one and his/her family don’t get as much facility and luxury as much as they work for. In married cases with kids this gets worse, if someone is earning more that person can’t buy more stuff for kids because the other person’s kids would feel belittled.
4-No independent decision making or lifestyle
Also with newer generation, people want to spend their lives in their own ways. They have new philosophies regarding when to have kids, how to raise them, about how their relationship should develop. In a joint family you don’t have room to even talk about such matter. Joint family system thrives on interference in others’matters.
In joint families from having kids to which school a kid should go is either decided by the head of the joint family or there is so much collective decision making that parents often don’t get a say because they want to make everyone happy
5-Internal politics and manipulation
Worst of all is that joint family make women suffer the most. Men usually leave house early in the morning for earning. The women who are left behind has always apprehensions and fears of who would get more of anything of losing their territory. So they keep plotting against each other to get near to the head of the family or to get in good books of the ones who earn more. Hatred, jealousies and competitions is a normal norm in joint family systems.
Joint family system is sometimes religiously supported where as to my understanding it does not make religious logic as well. People live with na mehrams which to my understanding is not acceptable. Secondly in Islam privacy is given huge importance and in joint family you don’t have that.
I think now people in big cities are getting more open minded about personal choices yet a long way has to go. Secondly financial burden also does not allow people to live independently. Yet whatever may be the reason People should gradually live independently to thrive the best.