FWP: A Baby on the Way – to a Joint Family?
PROBLEM: My inlaws are pressuring my husband and me to live in a joint family with them, now that we have a baby on the way. I think they’re starting to sway my husband. But is a joint family the only way for grandparents to be close to their grandchild? How do I weigh the advantages and disadvantages of living in a joint family?
RT: Well, it does take a village to raise a child. But tell your husband: Why move to a village ,when you can have them visit? Joint families are primitive; you’d rather ship your baby to the in-laws occasionally (trust that you’ll need the break). Or Sunday family dinners can also be a thing. This way there are advantages for everyone, and no one has to move.
LG: Babies require all hands on deck. But… to continue the ship metaphor… a ship can be very big, with many different levels, lots of walls, ideally a buffet or two, a jazz lounge, and a very tan bartender named Apollo. Which is all to say, on some ships, you have to walk 15-20 minutes and dodge a couple of shuffleboard players to get to the place where the baby is.
This seems like the ideal family ship to me. You’re all riding the waves out together, doing your own thing in near, but separate, locations when times are good, and can easily get to each other quickly in times of emergency or simply to enjoy each other’s company. I think I’ve been clear and not at all too metaphorical. Bon voyage!
KB: Personally, I’m not a huge fan of joint family structures, so I say: resist! Sure, it’s great to have grandparents around, but the advantages of those relations are best enjoyed in finite visits. Babies put a lot of stress and pressure on a marriage to begin with, but adding in two other adults and their judgments, preferences, and opinions will only make it worse. Don’t make this decision for the sake of a baby; the child will arguably have a better relationship with all grandparents if there’s no opportunity for tension between family members. If you can afford it, stay put. It’ll be better for you, your marriage, and your kid.
MM: I think it all depends on what kind of parent personality you are, which really might only come to the forefront once the baby arrives. Having a village raise your kid is great — if you’re OK the villagers bringing their own parenting ideas into the equation. Because they will. If grandparents are helping out, you can’t also expect them to follow your nap times or eating rules like hired staff.
If you think you can relax and will be happy to hand over a screaming baby to be comforted by a willing grandparent, by all means go for it. If you can’t, there are many other ways for kids to get to know their grandparents without living under the same roof.
SB: I agree with M, this comes down to knowing yourself. If you grew up in a joint household and had very involved grandparents it may come more naturally to you to co-parent with a number of people, and there may be some relief in not having to keep a tiny human alive on your own.
If you have gotten used to having your space and privacy and autonomy are a big part of who you are, your own place is going to be crucial in this high-stress time. Use this as your first opportunity to figure out what you need and what kind of parent you’re going to be. It’s never fun to set boundaries, especially with well-meaning family, but if you’re going to do it, you might as well get started now. Good luck!