Role of Mothers?
I write this based on my own experiences within my family and extended family. A question has always remained in
my mind as to why has the joint family system that existed earlier broken down. Why are kids today choosing to
live away from their parents? What are the costs of this mass separation mentality on society?
While doing my rural studies one of the things I came across was the division of land. The land owned by the
father was divided amongst the brothers upon the father's death. This lead to a reduction in the individual land
holding size and increased vulnerability. But most cases would not be so simplistic, I am sure man being a
rational animal would not opt for such strategies unless there was a payoff for someone. Either one of the
brothers must have realized that there are free riders and decided to reduce his burden or one of them must be
getting a higher payoff by this division. Whatever the case it at least seems plausible that things like
cooperation, value systems etc were things not actively discussed within families and passed on to children.
What I mean to say is a critical thinking ability about one's life condition and the causes for that (internal and
external). I have never seen a common man's family, all of them sitting around at dinner time talking about the
benefits of sticking together, being critical. That awareness has been eroded by generations of school
education. Social consciousness is dangerous for ruling elites.
Now jump to an urban situation. People are educated. They have money and do not have to worry about where their next meal will come from. Hence does it not seem a more conducive situation for sitting and talking about community, values, family etc. But what I see is that apart from the male another important player has come into the equation. The mother, wife, bahu.
Increasingly with increased independence, the tolerance and acceptability levels are reducing (not pointing to women, but of everyone). In many families which have a choice, bahus are deciding to shift out of the i-nlaws house. Kids are growing up in nuclear families and learning that is the right way of life. In Indian families it is the parents of the groom who are accepted in staying with the groom and his wife. The brides parents stay with their son.
Now a saas and bahu mostly end up being unable to integrate into a single family. Hence there is 100% chance that
the daughter of this family will also most probably not be able to get along with her saas as she has not learnt
from her mother. So she might opt to stay away from her in-laws. This way the earlier concept that parents will
stay with the son is also not working out. Many old people are living alone in isolation and boredom. In such a
case are they not going to become cynical and senile, but who caused this? The bahu who din't get along with her
saas or the mother who dint teach her daughter to integrate with her in-laws.
In rural areas there were divisive forces along the patriarchial lines, in urban it seems along the matriarchial
lines. My simple question is how do we turn this around. Ultimately our ignorant action only turn and come back
to bite us. As a man and human being I have to earn enough and save for my children, for my old age and my wife's
old age simply because I cannot trust that there will be someone who will care for me and look after me.
That faith in community has disappeared. That faith as a medium that bound us has vanished. Fear is always active and the mind, trying to deal with it.
But before I blame the world, circumstances etc, I need to look at what have I done? Have I looked after both
sides of the family (her and mine both)? Has inclusivity emerged as a possibility from me?
Whatever the case when I see families aping the western culture of nuclear families, enlightened mother in-laws urging their daughter in-laws to become independant (it's more of maintaining ones zones), I see people digging their own graves in the long run.
I truly believe man has advanced to a stage where much of science can explain the functioning of the human mind, emotions etc. Things which seemed problems earlier can be better understood by sitting down and conversing. The ability to be honest and integrity is something we are understanding.
Earlier I would be afraid to speak my mind,
Then I learnt to revolt and speak my mind,
Now I am learning to speak my mind,
And be comfortable with the consequences.
Earlier I did not speak,
Then I spoke but did not listen,
Now I am learning to listen and then speak.
I believe as long as I maintain this ability I can overcome all odds and build community.
Finally I believe in equality, woman empowerment etc, but I see the current understanding and manifestations.
They are coming at a very high cost. If mother's are enabled to play a larger role in the transmission of
values (not just feminine values, but liberatory, emancipatory values that can be applied to all life) their role
becomes critical to the future of our society.