What I learnt living in a joint family structure – the bigger picture
Updated: Sep 13
How we’re raised has an impact on who we become and our environment as a whole.
Joint family structure
I’ve always been grateful for the way my parents have raised us. I’ve also been conscious of people who are raised differently to me to try and understand where they’re coming from. Living in the structure of a joint family, I have learned how to have a wider perspective of and for the benefit of more than an individual. It’s bigger than – this is my life and it’s all about me. There’s a rare and natural selflessness that you’re nurtured with.
The Eastern tradition
In the Eastern world, a joint family set up is generally quite traditional and can be seen as two things; more than one immediate family raised in the same household, or being raised in separate households but as a collective.
Wanting the best for others
When you’re raised collectively, or as one family there is no separation – you’re raised or nurtured into a way of life that allows you to want the best for others with nothing but pure intention and the best interest for others. You move away from the ego Self and unhealthy competition because you’re taught to want the best for others.
Very early on, as a child being raised in a joint structure, you’re able to see things from multiple perspectives, to be conscious of the roles your siblings (including what the you’d call ‘cousins’) play, to be guided and loved and soulfully want the best for each other. As long as the intention is pure, this is a beautiful way to be raised, as it moves away from the ego Self and the sole focus on ‘me’ and brings us to ‘us’ and ‘we’ and a greater benefit for the collective. There’s something Universal about it – something related to collective consciousness.
“A reader lives a thousand lives” – George R. R. Martin
It reminds me of this quote and whilst a thousand lives may be an exaggeration in this context, it serves the purpose because what being raised in a joint family teaches us, is the principle – in our early years – of seeing things from different points of view. It naturally allows for an open mindedness, as we learn to consider where each individual is coming from in the collective, which naturally leads to acceptance, compassion and understanding.
The Western convention
In the Western world, conventional families tend to be raised as immediate only in one household. You have parents and if they have children – that’s the immediate family. So, the care, consideration, learning to share and giving is centred around ‘immediate’ siblings only, or even at an individual level.
There are definitely benefits in both approaches and I guess it all comes back to balance.
Benefits of joint family structures:
Ability to identify with a collective consciousness and oneness
Focus on care and consideration for others
Parents (as caregivers and role models) care for all children as their own
Ability to form bonds with others socially early on
Ability to see or empathise with multiple perspectives
Develop a sense of open mindedness and an awareness of something greater than Self
Develop ability to handle healthy competition to experience joy
Benefit of immediate family structures:
Ability to identify with Self as an individual early on
Focus on survival of Self (self-preservation)
Parents are able to focus on children as individuals
Ability to form bond with Self at a young age
Ability to develop strong opinions based on singular perspective
Develop a focused mindset
Ability to prioritise Self
The bigger picture
For me, the journey is about finding a balance by incorporating and reprograming some of the things I’ve learnt in a joint family structure, so that I am able to care for my Self also, because it’s easy to care for and love others more than your Self when raised this way. And still, there’s nothing like this – I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Once you’re raised this way – you can’t unlearn the ability to love ‘others’ like this. You just have to learn how to love your Self like you love others.
It’s a journey of bringing your Self to balance by nurturing the best from both approaches. It’s all about alignment and balance for something greater.
If we can come to a point where we’re able to bring the benefits of both approaches together – there’s the potential that in one generation, we could rid the world of war, hate and selfishness - but it has to come from a united collective consciousness, away from ego.
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