Let’s start off with what an extended family is:
I can instantly think of three different cases, where a Japanese woman is a full-adult (25 or older) but lives in her parents’ home with their grandparents. In the first case, the woman is a nurse in her late twenties but currently single, her family owns a farm, and a house that has been in her family for over 100 years. Her grandmother is still living, and stays in the same home. Another instance is a teacher in her mid-thirties who lives with her mother and grandparents. The final case is a single, nursery-school teacher in her early forties who lives at home with her parents and grandparents as well. To be honest, I could probably give about ten more examples, but you get the idea.
What did you notice about the three cases that I just mentioned? Well for starters, all three of the cases were women. To be honest, it’s not nearly as common to see an adult, Japanese male living at home with his parents if he has a job. I’m not saying that it doesn’t happen, because I’m sure it does, but I haven’t met many men in this area who were still living with their parents (unless they own the home themselves and take care of their parents). The other major similarity among my examples was that all of the women were single. I have seen it time and time again, here in Tsukuba. There is a woman who has been single for quite some time, and just lives with her parents. I actually have a couple of co-workers who have been teaching for 4 years or more, but still live with their parents…and guess what? They’re all single women. I think it’s safe to say that for women in relationship limbo who haven’t found a husband or a potential husband it’s completely okay to live at home. It’s hard to say whether the reasons for these customs are financial, personal preferences, traditions, or recent phenomenon…but they happen.
It’s quite fascinating to me to hear some of my students who talk about the lack of privacy, or sometimes being irritated by their parents. I had student the other day whose mom still tells her when to get up and to clean up her room. I truly didn’t like living my parents as an adult. I like making my own rules, handling my own problems, my own bills…living my own life. Having my parents on my case about cleaning my room would really drop my self-esteem and self-respect a couple of notches.
Living with your parents and grandparents can be a hassle if you want privacy and if you want freedom, but what are the good things about having an extended family? Well, I think the major benefit is that the family unit is closer. I would think nuclear families spend alot more time together (you kind of have no choice, right?). Financially, I think it’s a huge benefit. Many of the same women who are single and living at home have loads of additional cash to take trips abroad or to buy things they want/need. In every one of the examples above, the woman has traveled to another country within the last four months…every single one! It makes perfect sense. If they’re living with their parents, most likely, there is no rent or expenses to pay.
In the end, there are pros and cons to having a large, extended family under one roof. In general, though, the family unit in Japan is extremely important, and the nuclear family is a way to maintain the all-important family bond.
What do you think? Is an extended family under one roof a good thing or a bad thing? Why?
While I was at work yesterday, one of the Japanese teachers wanted to give me a short Japanese quiz. She...