What It's Like Living As A Joint Family With My Punjabi In Laws
In India it is tradition to live as a family in the one household with each generation of the family. Once married, it is the wife who moves in with her husband's family. They will then raise their children in the same household. Whilst Grandparents will always live with their eldest son or should they have no son, eldest daughter.
When I first arrived in India I was treated as a guest for the first couple of weeks, after such time I had to start adapting to their way of life. Although the expectations put on me weren't excessive as I was a bride to be at the time and new to the culture. It is tradition that a bride to be stay out of harm's way and remain indoors before the wedding. For my family that meant going out as little as possible as soon as I arrived and until the day after we were married. If I had to leave the house I always had to go with the family. After marriage a bride is then exempt from any household chores until her bridal mehndi has worn off completely from her arms and legs.
My mother and father in law would rise at 5am every morning to attend to the buffalo. They then came home to bathe and put on fresh clothes and went for morning prayers. Usually upon waking they would also spend time saying morning prayers in their prayer room before starting the day. At 7am the rest of the household is expected to be out of bed and we would all have to bathe before getting dressed for the day. Then everyone would gather for their morning tea break. Breakfast wasn't till late morning usually around 10am after the chores were done for the day.
We had a maid come and help with the cleaning and washing. I was never expected to help in the kitchen other than helping to prep dinner by shelling peas, peeling onions or potatoes and so forth. There usually was a lot of vegetables to be prepped for as they had curry for all three meals of the day. Other than that I would keep our bedroom tidy and attended to my own washing. Although my husband wouldn't do his own washing and it would be expected that the wife do it. However since we both didn't work and could take care of ourselves I refused to wait on him just because we lived in India. So he would have his mother do his washing for him. She would always joke with me that I am the wife and I should be doting on my husband.
Whenever we had guests I would be asked to join them and listen to their banter in Punjabi till they left. This was exhausting as I tried to interpret what was being said although with much difficulty. It became tiring when majority of guests couldn't speak english and I would sit pondering what was so funny as they all chuckled away over tea. However during my second stay I wasn't expected to do this as much unless I hadn't met someone before. Should we have male guests I would have to ensure I was wearing my dupatta before I could greet them. I would tend to take it off at home as I found that it was always in the way and was rather suffocating, although that is typically not allowed of women.
My husband's Grandmother lived with her eldest son two doors down the road therefore it was only my husband and I, with his brother and parents that lived under the one roof. There was plenty of space for each of us to have our own privacy. My husband and I shared one bedroom whilst his brother had the other bedroom.
Dinner would usually be around 9pm which was rather late for me so it varied between 7-9pm depending on what was planned for the day. Most nights we would all sit as a family but that was difficult at times with everyone having different plans. My husband would come home from the gym around 9pm every night and sometimes I was too hungry to wait to eat with him.
During both my stays, my in laws were always sure to have another female relative come stay so that I had someone to help me out. However I was used to taking care of myself. Meanwhile they would always try to help out with anything they could, such as my ironing, or clearing my dishes, serving me dinner and so on. Since they had a female relative stay I was never expected to do as much around the house as an Indian wife would.
Life for my husband and his brother on the other hand was luxury as sons are void of doing anything around the household. My mother in law constantly doted on them bringing them meals in bed, making roti at the drop of a hat and cleaning up after them. Men are expected to be the income earner in the household however as a son living at home many don't have work and are studying. Therefore they can live at home and not have to lift a finger until they gain employment later in life. Whilst a daughter living at home must always help out around the household even if they should be studying or working.
Living as a joint household meant the house was always alive with chatter and laughter which made it more homely. It also provided a support network being able to help one another in times of need.
Have you lived as a joint family before?