13 Struggles You Face When You Have A Big Family

big fam

I was recently reacquainted with my many cousins, thanks to Grandma who decided to have 10 kids back in the day, and here’s what I’ve concluded about having a big family:

1. Noise is something you are well accustomed to and you automatically speak as loud as you can when you’re around your family. The fact that you are all in the same room and not in different countries is a concept that was lost on you a long time ago.

2. At family get togethers it’s rare if you are able to make it through the crowd to talk to every member of the family. You’d have better luck making it past every pit stop on the Amazing Race.

3. Planning a family get together requires managing more logistics than a small wedding. Not that you’d know anything about one of those.

4. You can’t keep track of everyone’s ages, and you’re always shocked to find out your youngest cousins aren’t cute and 4 years old anymore.

5. Sadly your family seems to always be shocked that you aren’t young and cute anymore either.

6.Trying to take family portraits is a mission. And sometimes the pictures turn into a real life “Where’s Waldo?”

7. Saying good-bye at the end of a get together takes forever, and you know not to attempt to leave until people actually make it out the door.

8. Alone time and down time do not exist. Ever.

9. You don’t even contemplate bringing a significant other around until you’re sure he/she is “the one”……and that he/she won’t contemplate escaping when they meet the quirkiest of the family members.

10. You can try to “find” yourself as much as you want, but you can’t always escape the reputation your older siblings/cousins pass on to you. Especially when hand me-downs are a thing.

11. You think of your Grandparents as mythological Gods sometimes–the sheer number of kids, grandchildren and great-grandchildren blows your mind.

12. The family grapevine makes you wonder whether your aunts missed their callings as secret service agents or tabloid reporters. They always seem to have the inside scoop on everything.

13. The stories from the past NEVER get old.

Even though having a big family can be good, bad and even ugly you wouldn’t have it any other way . At the end of the day, you have a huge group of amazing friends.

Want to share your experiences with having a big family? Tweet your stories to @TamilCulture.

Feature image source: A Beautiful Day Photography.

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14 thoughts on “13 Struggles You Face When You Have A Big Family

  1. Toronto Tamils are very unfortunate in so far as the generosity of Canadian immigration policy has allowed us to transfer entire villages from Jaffna to Scarborough and South Markham. This has allowed many young second generation SL Tamils to grow up with a tight-knit extended family circle of aunts, uncles, grandparents, first cousins, second cousins, cousins once removed, aunt’s neighbour’s in-laws’ sons etc.
    Young Tamils who benefit from growing up in such an environment tend to be far more secure in their Tamil identity (ergo the preponderance of Tamil community organizations, university formals, dance troupes etc). I notice that the 90s born generation of Tamils is more proud and reassured in being “Tamil” than the 80s born generation in many ways.
    Contrast this to the far more dispersed South Asian population of the US who grow up in much more atomized, isolated environments away from extended family – often in all-white suburbia. A lot of American South Asian kids have severe identity issues (hence the pervasive “ABCD – American Born Confused Desi” phenomenon).
    Unfortunately, this also tends to breed the Mindy “I only date white guys” Kalings of the world. In Toronto it’s usually the nerdy/outcast brown girls who go for white guys. The hot/mainstream/popular brown girls tend to stick with brown guys.

  2. Sri Lankan Tamils in Toronto are fortunate in that the generosity of Canadian refugee policy has allowed us to transfer entire villages from Jaffna to Scarborough and South Markham. This has allowed many young first generation Tamils to grow up with a tight-knit extended family circle of aunts, uncles, grandparents, first cousins, second cousins, cousins once removed, aunt’s neighbour’s in-laws’ sons etc.
    Young Tamils who benefit from growing up in such an environment tend to be far more secure in their Tamil identity (ergo the preponderance of Tamil community organizations, dance troupes, university formals, charity banquets TamilCulture Magazine, myTamilDate etc). The 90s born generation of Tamils is more proud and reassured in being “Tamil” than the 80s born generation in many ways.
    Contrast this to the more dispersed Tamil population of the US who grow up in more atomized, isolated environments away from extended family – often in all-white suburbia. A lot of American Tamil kids have severe identity issues (hence the pervasive “ABCD – American Born Confused Desi” phenomenon).
    This is why Tamil guys in Canada who grow up in enclaves tend to be more assertive and have more swag, while Tamil guys who grow up in atomized environments tend to be more timid and nerdy.
    This is also why Canadian Tamil women have a strong preference for Tamil men (because they had many cool Tamil guys around them growing up) while some American Tamil women have a preference for white men (because the Tamil men they grew up with were nerdy and the cool guys were white). In Toronto it’s the nerdy outcast brown girls who go for white guys. The hot mainstream popular brown girls stick to brown guys.
    In adulthood, this leads to Canadian Tamils who are confident with no racial neurosis and with many friends from their own ethnic group. However, Canadian Tamils are not as professionally successful, both due to excessive partying/YOLOing in their formative years with other Tamils, and due to extreme competition for jobs and fewer career opportunities in Canada.
    The American Tamil, in contrast, is plagued by racial neurosis and self-doubt, both the product of racial victimization growing up and living in a more overtly racist environment. However, they’re more professionally successful both due to their “nerdy” upbringing and living in a country with more career opportunities.

  3. I take the Toronto Tamil anytime over confused American Tamils.Success is not defined by your networth or your car, its who you are as a person.

  4. I find it interesting that not a single part of the above comment is backed with data or cited with actual information…

  5. Sridaya Srivatsan – you’re right, it comes from my own personal experience having lived in Toronto and the US and engaging with young Tamils in both countries. Tamils in Toronto don’t realize how good they have it.
    As a Canadian Tamil who grew up in Toronto and relocated to the US for work, I’m struck by the vast differences between Canadian and American Tamils. Here are some things I’ve noticed (apologies if these sound like huge generalizations, but it comes strictly from my personal observations):
    – American Tamils are far more academically and professionally successful than Canadian Tamils. Almost every American Tamil who grew up in the US works in a white-collar career, while many Canadian Tamils – even those that grew up in Canada – work in kitchens, factories, and as mechanics. American Tamils strike me as more academically inclined, while many Canadian Tamils (young guys in particular) seem to be more about the party/YOLO lifestyle.
    – American Tamils are far more likely to have white friends. Many Canadian Tamils have no white friends whatsoever and hang out only with other Tamils. If they have friends of other ethnicities, they are usually other browns or other minorities.
    – Canadian Tamils don’t harbour the same racial paranoia/identity issues as American Tamils. Canadian Tamils strike me as being very proud of their cultural identities and wear it proudly on their sleeves, while American Tamils are more subdued and are more likely to downplay their ethnicity.
    – American Tamil guys strike me as more nerdy than Canadian Tamils guys. A lot of brown guys in Canada have “swag” – fade haircuts, beards, earrings, fashion, muscles, ghetto accent etc. American Tamil guys tend to lack the swag factor.
    – Canadian Tamils tend to be strongly endogamous, while interracial dating and marriage is more common among American Tamils. Canadian Tamil women tend to date Tamil men almost exclusively, while American Tamil women tend to date white men more often. Canadian Tamil women have a strong preference for Tamil men who act masculine with the swag factor and tend to think of white guys as more nerdy/dorky. They’re also less able to relate to white guys because they don’t have white friends or didn’t have white friends growing up.
    So why are there such vast differences between Canadian and American Tamils?
    Canadian Tamils overwhelmingly grow up in ethnic enclaves in Toronto (Scarborough, Markham) whereas American Tamils often grow up in an environment where they are only one of a handful of Tamils in their suburb. Many American Tamils were subject to racial bullying growing up. Since they don’t have enough of their co-ethnics to gravitate towards in high school, they are forced to interact with kids of other races.
    However, cool popular mainstream white kids tend not to be accepting of minorities in their cliques – it’s unlikely football jock Josh and cheerleader Britney will invite Sanjeevan and Priyatharshini to their house parties. So the Tamil kids end up befriending other nerdy outcast white and Asian kids who tend to be more accepting than the cool popular white kids, but become nerds as a result.
    By contrast, a Tamil kid in Toronto who goes to school with 300 other Tamil kids (a reality in many Scarborough/Markham high schools) is unlikely to be racially bullied. He never feels like he’s not accepted and never feels like a racial outcast. He can make friends with other cool Tamil kids and form a clique of cool Tamil kids (guys and girls) and date fellow Tamils as there are plenty to choose from.
    Furthermore, in Toronto there is no racism and no racial bullying because almost everyone is ethnic. White Canadians don’t harbor the same blatant xenophobia or ethnocentrism as white Americans. Many whites in Toronto are also themselves first generation ethnics with immigrant parents (Italian, Greek, Portuguese, Polish, Serbian etc.) This leads to very little racism and bullying in contrast to a Tamil kid who grows up in Ohio.
    The contrast between the two communities – separated only by a border – is stark.

  6. Agree, but imagine if Tamils in Canada were accorded the same societal respect and social standing as Indian-Americans in the US. That would make us proud.
    The huge drop off in academic performance among young Tamil males, especially over the past 5-10 years, is worrisome and doesn’t bode well for our community long-term.
    On my LinkedIn page, the number of young Tamil-Canadian males with impressive levels of educational and professional attainment in top schools, pursuing graduate degrees, holding professional designations, and in good positions in government, health care and large corporations is few and far between. The Tamil men who have “made it” are generally older (30+) – often in IT, engineering or accounting.
    There are a number of contributing factors. Ethnic enclaves (Tamils exclusively socializing with Tamils instead of integrating to middle-class Canadian norms), lax parenting (tightly controlling daughters while being lax with sons), and guys acting “hard” while neglecting their studies (because young Tamil girls go for “swag”) are some of the main factors.
    Long-term, this does not bode well for our community. Already we’re seeing a huge spike in unmarried Tamil women because of a shortage of educated, marriageable Tamil male partners for our professional Tamil women. Tamil women tell me they can’t find any “decent guys”. This trend will only exacerbate if Tamil guys don’t step it up.
    Either we are failing our young men or our young men are failing us. This is a serious issue that needs to be addressed for the betterment of our community.

  7. Well first, American Tamils are categorized as Indians.So its hard to collect data specifically on American Tamils. Secondly, not many studies on ethnic groups’s career success. Its just experiences. Not fair to compare one group vs another though. Vast majority of Tamils in Toronto came from poorer backgrounds, rural areas, American Tamils immigrated as skilled immigrants, you could even see a huge number of tam brahms and other upper castes immigration into U.S. Thus the difference. Socio-economic resources creates better/ successful generations as much we’d like to deny the truth.

  8. Well first, American Tamils are categorized as Indians.So its hard to collect data specifically on American Tamils. Secondly, not many studies on ethnic groups’s career success. Its just experiences. Not fair to compare one group vs another though. Vast majority of Tamils in Toronto came from poorer backgrounds, rural areas, American Tamils immigrated as skilled immigrants, you could even see a huge number of tam brahms and other upper castes immigration into U.S. Thus the difference. Socio-economic resources creates better/ successful generations as much we’d like to deny the truth.

  9. Good article. I’m Canadian and grew up in a family of ten and I suspect big families are the same everywhere. My favourite of the 13 is; alone time does not exist. I treasure peace and quiet like gold. As for the comments on American versus Canadian Tamils; the USA is known as the melting pot and Canada the cultural mosaic. In the US they expect you to be American without a hyphen. In Canada most immigrant groups retain their identity for 2, 3, or even 4 generations. Eventually, for those with no real links to where their ancestors came from, the hyphen seems to become nostalgic and something to be proud of: Tamil-Canadian. 🙂

  10. Good article. I’m Canadian and grew up in a family of ten and I suspect big families are the same everywhere. My favourite of the 13 is; alone time does not exist. I treasure peace and quiet like gold. As for the comments on American versus Canadian Tamils; the USA is known as the melting pot and Canada the cultural mosaic. In the US they expect you to be American without a hyphen. In Canada most immigrant groups retain their identity for 2, 3, or even 4 generations. Eventually, for those with no real links to where their ancestors came from, the hyphen seems to become nostalgic and something to be proud of: Tamil-Canadian. 🙂

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