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August 27, 2019

I am a regular reader of your column, and time and again I have seen letters published regarding joint families....

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Dear Nadine

I am a regular reader of your column, and time and again I have seen letters published regarding joint families. I have noticed that you promote the joint family system, which is actually something we adopted from the Hindu society. Tell me this: is it a woman’s responsibility to take care of her husband’s parents? I am a working mother, and my husband is a good man. But like most Pakistani husbands, he is afraid of taking my side because doing that would make him less of a man in the eyes of his family. I have three children and I work because my husband’s salary is not enough to pay for our children’s expenses. The moment I come home, I have to listen to my mother-in-law’s taunts because I leave my children under her supervision. My two sisters-in-law also use the maid I have engaged for my children to see to their needs from 9 to 5. But, the moment I come home my mother-in-law makes me do household work. If I had my own house, wouldn’t I be able to first relax and have some time with my children? I only get to spend 20-25 minutes when it’s my children’s bed time.

Joint family system has a few pluses and a long list of minuses. You don’t even have control over your children, and they become irritated when dragged away from their cousins to study. If a mother is not happy she cannot rear a happy child.

I respect your views, but you should realie that media can manipulate the thinking of our society, and you have the responsibility to speak up for those who suffer under this system.

What does Islam say if a married girl has old, dependant parents? My parents are old and live alone in a 5-bedroom house. They have plenty of space for me and my children as I am their only daughter. But my husband says he can’t move to my parents’ house because his parents would not agree.

So, before you advise girls to think with a cool head, do think about women like me who get a very bad deal in a joint family set-up.

Disgruntled RU

Dear Disgruntled RU,

You sound extremely stressed out and should try to relax. You have young children and looking after them, and working full time, and then coming home to do more work is no doubt a daunting task. My dear, I don’t recall extolling joint family anywhere. My answer depends on the situation of the woman who writes for advice, and one advice cannot fit different problems. Can you take one medicine for all your ailments? If you have the wherewithal to live independent of your in-laws, there is no harm in it. Most women who write don’t have the option of moving to their parents’ house and not enough money to live on their own. For them, joint family set-up is the only solution.

As for Islam, it says that the husband should provide an independent living space to his wife. Now this has to be according to his means, and if he makes arrangement for his wife to have a separate portion in his parents’ house, it’s good enough. And a daughter is expected to look after her parents just as a son is supposed to do it. Married daughters have the same obligation to look after parents. So, try to persuade your husband to shift to your parents’ house. Point out how important it is for the children’s education to have a set routine and proper space. Be persistent and I am sure your husband would relent. And you don’t have to start doing your mother-in-law’s bidding the moment you come home; just tell her you are tired and would do whatever needs to be done presently. Be a little assertive about your rights and don’t let anyone tread on your shoes and you will be fine. Be a doormat and you are bound to be trampled. Give respect and regard where due, but remain firm about your own rights. Good luck!

Problems that need a solution? You can e mail Prof. Nadine Khan at nadinekhan_34yahoo.com

Write to Prof. Nadine Khan, ­c/o Editor ‘You!’ magazine, The News, Al-Rehman Building (4th Floor) I.I Chundrigar Road, Karachi.

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