The whole family setup or the way we lived in and as a community has become redundant today. In the last five decades, society has been veering away from a joint family system and towards individualism. Today, it is quite natural that people who live in nuclear families keep their ageing parents in old age homes and pay the monthly service charge. If we analyse the root cause, we can trace what caused this change in thinking. All this happened due to industrialisation where people moved from agriculture based economy to other means of mass production.
The West has witnessed these trends centuries ago and India too followed suit in the last century. The concentration of mills coming up near the major British towns and cities led to mushrooming of individual families. Mumbai, Kolkata, Hyderabad and Chennai experienced these changes in the 20th century. Enhanced standard of living and urban English speaking middle class came into existence in this process. However, the trading communities live in joint families in the urban areas, even today. In the urban working class, the change took place in a different way. In the villages where they lived, they didn’t face the problem of housing. But when they migrated to cities, they had to live in decent affordable quarters or apartments. They worked for long hours to improve their standard of living. The next generation of this community got better education thanks to their parent’s aspiration to enable their Gen Next to find gainful employment and enhance their lifestyle.
Though individualism led to prosperity, over a period of time the couples found it difficult to cope with the situation. Earlier, the nuclear family provided care and support in times of crises and extended support wholeheartedly. As a homemaker, a woman’s responsibility increased as she had to step out to supplement the family income and bear the burden of raising the child single handedly. As the child grew up, she had to nurture, train and inculcate good family values without the support of her elders. Things have changed drastically as a woman started making rapid strides in her profession; she has to juggle different roles as a homemaker, mother and a successful career woman. Some women are lucky to have parental support or get the support of domestic help to raise their children while she climbs the professional ladder. But with increasing insecurity and lack of safety for children, a modern working mother has begun to feel pressurized. She longs and craves the comfort her parents and in-laws can provide in terms of family support. She is definitely looking for an eco-system that will provide more safety and security to her children when she is away. The answer lies in a community lifestyle which existed a few decades ago when people believed and lived by the philosophy of ‘All for one; One for all’
And if you come to the work-home balance, not so long ago, home and work had clear boundaries. The pressures of our profession hardly entered the home but now thanks to smart phones, one doesn’t know when to switch off. Yes, it is good we excel in our professions thanks to our connectivity, but can we say the same about our families? So, the crux here is we need to strike a balance in providing care and security to family members. Although we lack the support and care of a joint family, it may be a good option to live in a community. Yes, we need to think on those lines to make our lives stress-free by bonding with neighbours and retrieve the old values which were lost in the transition.