Ties that bind

Urban, educated India is going through a metamorphosis. On the one hand, concepts such as joint families and stay-at-home-mothers, which had almost vanished, are making a comeback. On the other hand, we have empowered youngsters who prefer to remain single, or even if wed, not have children at all.

There was a time when women were forced into joint families where they were mute spectators to all that was happening around them. Then, women rebelled against this and nuclear families dominated the urban Indian setting. But women did not have it easy in nuclear families either — they had to juggle a job and family, or they had to live with limited means.

So the joint family system did have its advantages — more than all, it provided a stable and well-established household for youngsters who were just starting out — and is coming back. With in-laws getting more broad-minded and understanding, working couples prefer to stay in joint families as they can concentrate on their careers without having to worry about child-care or the day-to-day running of a household.

Sharing responsibilities

Now we also have nuclear families where well-qualified women have willingly given up their careers to raise a family. There is no male dominance that once existed when women were homemakers. Here it is a mutually agreed upon decision. Women plan their second careers in fields more to their liking. That book they always wanted to write, out it comes. The slum kids they wanted to help, get help.

At the same time, we are also seeing a generation of women who are educated, gainfully employed, independently wealthy and single. They are brought up by broad-minded parents who impose no restrictions on them based on their gender. They are used to working late, partying into the night, travelling and living alone.

It is mostly a positive change that this independent and self-sufficient new generation has brought about in the society. But the question that arises now is, will this change lead to fragile families? With many youngsters being so content in their singlehood, will marriage still have its appeal? Will youngsters make the myriad changes in their lives to keep the family going?

Lately, the number of those who wish to remain single is on the rise, as also that of young couples not wanting to have children. So, these are clearly changing times.
Alongside these, divorce rates are also on the ascent. A decade ago, though everyone cried that women’s empowerment was leading to divorces, it is now passé, because women have been empowered for at least two generations now. Today, we see many young couples splitting up even when the problems are not grave. So, can the rising rate of divorces be attributed to increasing intolerance of differences and self-centeredness? It definitely needs some serious thinking...

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