Don’t get caught in emotional mess

By Dr Dhananjay (Jay) Datar

Published: Thu 2 Dec 2021, 9:00 AM

Some time ago, I met one of my friends. Before this, we had at his son’s marriage five years ago. He looked tensed and dissatisfied, so I asked him why and he told me his story.

My friend ran a business. He had a joint family including him and his wife, his parents, and his young son and daughter-in-law. Thus, the three generations were living under one roof. The problem in this family was because of unmatched expectations from each other.

The parents, who were senior citizens, wanted to enjoy their golden days. They wanted a separate room in the house and expected their son and daughter-in-law to be in constant service to them. Since my friend was completely busy in his business, he had assigned the household responsibilities to his wife. The wife, already burdened with housework, desired a separate room, and also expected her daughter-in-law to share some of her work. The son and daughter-in-law was a working couple and their daily schedule was hectic. So they wanted to enjoy their weekends with their friends and expected the family to give them freedom and a separate room. Thus, everyone expected personal space, separate rooms and leisure but because those expectations were not fulfilled, everyone got irritated.

Since my friend had asked for my advice, I said: “Yes. Personal space is necessary, but when you opt for a joint family system there are certain obligations and responsibilities to be followed by every member. Your parents are old but not bed-ridden or helpless. They shouldn’t expect you or your wife to serve them constantly for even minor things. You have totally devoted yourself to business, which is a grave mistake. There is no personal space for neither you, nor for your wife. She is burdened with housework but none of you help her. Your son and daughter-in-law need personal space but that doesn’t mean they should spend every weekend enjoying outside. This is the time to take a tough decision. Don’t get caught in the emotional mess of living together. Give all couples separate accommodation, not too far but within calling distance.”

It reminded me of how my parents had wisely taken the decision long ago to allow personal space for us, the younger generation. When I started my business career, my mother advised me to purchase a separate property and helped me. When I asked her why, she smilingly said: “Son, you will understand its importance only when you are married and have kids. I purchased a flat. My father, after retiring, went to India and lived with my mom enjoying their golden age. They never interfered in my life.”

My mother’s words later rang true and I realised the importance of personal space. My family didn’t face any tension, clash or emotional conflicts. I remember a quote by American politician Paul Ryan —If we don’t make tough decisions today, our children are going to have to make much tough decisions tomorrow.

Dr Dhananjay (Jay) Datar is the chairman and managing director of Al Adil Trading.

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