Sunday, 9 September 2012

modern families

My daughter has the typical 9 year old view that a family is perfect if it consists of a Mum and a Dad and a couple of children all living in the one house.  As far as she is concerned, the dynamics are secondary, possibly even irrelevant. It's all about real estate and proximity.  For her, normality looks this way (or at least should do).

I grew up in a blended family.  My father remarried when I was 9 and went on to have two more children.  My mother remarried a bachelor - and this is whom my brother and I lived with - but there were no more children here.  This effectively gave us two extra families although we didn't see a huge amount of the extended relatives.  At 7 I was the only child in my school to come from a ''broken home'' - as this was so cheerfully described back then.  Now that I'm an adult, almost all of my friends could describe themselves in this way, and in my own circle of friends many are on second marriages or partnerships and a few are also single parents.

I was at an event recently where the extended family (not mine) included step-siblings, half siblings, step parents and grand parents, former adoptive parents, ex wives and husbands, newly partnered and widowed.  This is the real picture of a modern family I think.

And whilst, like most people I suspect, I would far prefer the traditional picture of Mum and Dad and the children, the reality is far from that.  I think its definitely true that life was less complicated when we stayed in nuclear families and marriage was for life.   But the massive social change of the past twenty or thirty years has created a whole different set of rules for the makeup of a family.

My hope is that this evolution is not interpreted as a breakdown of values or some other equally judgemental statement of blurred fact, but is simply a more honest view of human relationships.  And that whilst we can all aspire to partnering for life, and happily, the reality of our humanness simply means that these relationships have created a new way of being normal.

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