About the changing world all around us

Family Matters

Who is in your family? Take a moment and think, if you were to list up all the members of your family who would be on the list? If you want to really play along write down your list. Now who did you include? The people in your home? Your parents? Siblings? Grandparents? Aunts, Uncles, Cousins? Inlaws? Step parents, brothers or sisters, children?

The point here is we all know what a family is, and we assume that others around us have the same concept of family as we do. However the concept of family is in reality incredible varied. “Family” is something which is culturally relative, and going through rapid change in recent decades.

The standard Western model of the family is called the Nuclear Family, or the Standard North American Family (SNAF for short) which consists of two parents and their children living in the home. This is the standard most sociological research has been based on and the typical model which other family forms are measured against. Even within our private thoughts in our diverse societies we often compare our family with the Nuclear family as the norm.

The problem with this concept is that it does not match the reality of the family in many parts of the world. Blended families – or step families, single parent families, families with same sex parents, families with cohabitating (but unmarried) parents, and couples who choose to remain childless all must be compared to the idealized Nuclear Family. Many of these family forms are therefore seen as dysfunctional, abnormal, “broken” or in some other way less acceptable then the Nuclear Family.

Some cultures include several generations within the same household. Traditionally people of India, the Middle East, and much of Asia have had households consisting of children, parents and grandparents, and in some examples a good deal of Aunts, Uncles and Cousins.

My inspiration here is to accept all family forms as equal, to see the value of the family in whatever form it takes in your case, in your community, and in diverse countries around the world and allow social change to bring forth new and equal results.

Your thoughts are welcome for discussion!!

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Comments on: "Family Matters" (7)

  1. My dear: I’m happy to live in your family and thank you for your efforts and support to make it a Happy Family. I mean, you have your children (my bonus childes) and I have mine. Divided we fall – together we stand!

    DianeCA: Thanks for all your help, with my blog, with my family, and with my life – our life

  2. Ah I agree. You see I have three girlfriends that I consider sisters. I would do anything for them, and I love them like we were blood related (maybe more!) LOL!
    I also have adopted a young girl and I mentor her, so she is my other daughter.
    Yes, family is what you want it to be.

    Funny though I remember reading a joke once that said, “Family: the people who have to take you in when you have screwed up!”.

    Welcome to the blogging world!

    DianeCA: Thanks for the warm welcome. You get exactly what I am saying here. Our family concept can include many different relationships, and no two people have exactly the same concept of family. Studies show that even within the same family different members include different people in their family. Keep on loving yours, thats the most important thing!

  3. When you’re far away from your family, the people who welcomed you dearly into their lves, your friends who are always there and keep you sane, form a part of your family away from home.

    Hurry back to Norway and you might still be able to get a pair or two at Stress! 🙂

    DianeCA: You know I know exactly what you mean as I am in the same situation. New people are moving in to my concept of family, while sadly others are more and more distant. Thanks for your comment!

  4. Hello Diane
    Thanks for your visit and I’m glad to discover here a marvelous place. I’m glad too because I understand all what you wrote. It’s very clear and I don’t need to use the translate as I have to do it usually on some blogs. the subject is very interesting here. As I work in a maternelle school I see many young couples with their children . If at the start the will is to found a nuclear family, the experience of life makes it is not always easy. The causes are multiple. But one is that the mentalities have changed. At the XIX century the bourgeoisie had instituated the classic model but to stay “in the wind”, the man must have a mistress. (the model Victor Hugo). In the popular social classes it wasn’t the same. In France since mai 1968 things have evoluated . But it seems in Rurope we are still in this evolution . In south mentalities progress lately with an heavy catholic church patrimoine . And of course that’s why, in reality, the weeding of our president in France, yesterday with an old top model arriving after a very rescent divorce, is and not should be dismessed by many french people. Even if the nuclear model is always in mind, the building of a new family is a serious act and they would prefer, I think, their president take his time. You should say, love is nothing to do with the time. but if you are president better not make a misstake. They are so many things to say about this subject!! So interesting! I stop here because you will say in south of France they are very very talkative!

    DianeCA: Society is rapidly changing and we need to change our social and mental ideas of how things should be to match with how things really are. This is a challange of course but important, especially for the good of the millions of families that are not like the traditional nuclear ideal. I love hearing from you in the south of France…that is a place I so much want to visit someday!! Beautiful country 🙂

  5. Yay – congrats on the new blog! I’m really looking forward to your posts here.

    My parents migrated to Australia. We were an “isolated” nuclear family. Grew up without cousins/aunts etc. My grandmother (dad’s mum) stayed with us for a year when my brother & I were young. It was stressful – my mother struggling with a domineering MIL. The positive outcome was not only being advocated by my grandmother during the times my parents were unreasonable – but it made me choose my husband wisely (getting along with the MIL was a curse i was determined to break, it was important for me to know i would be getting along ok with his side of the family). *lol*

    The downside of growing up isolated, is not having enough support, other adult role-models (outside of “just teachers at school”) – and not having a female support network for women’s issues. Growing up with “television” being my agony aunt for girl-stuff i couldn’t talk to my mother about wasn’t good.

    Growing up as an isolated family unit, taught me I really did need access to that “small village”. I faced this the most with motherhood. Being the first in my social group to get married/have a child – and not knowing anyone else who had kids – wasn’t easy. It would’ve helped to have the extra hand in the family unit to let poor hubby & me get some sleep whilst our son had so much trouble with settling during the nights for a good 8 months, let alone the odd babysitter to give us a break for some “couple-time” during those days.

    I know why my Dad needed “space” with his choice to migrate (yes, relatives can get somewhat overbearing at times), but i also know the downside of not having enough people (be it related by blood or otherwise) in the loop for support. A pot puri of pro’s & con’s depending on the way that you choose to view it, so i look forward to reading on other’s comments 😉

    DianeCA: Just exactly the kind of discussion or reflection I want to inspire. The family and local network play a key role in life, especially through the rough spots. I will be posting more on the subject. It still sounds so idealistic and amazing to me to take off and settle in wild Australia. Renny has been there once and I hope to see it one day too. But I really understand the ups and downs, being an imirgrant myself. I chose to move away from my family, but made that choice for my kids too and they will have to live with that…sticky!!!

  6. Family is what the individual want it to be – or make it to. It’s not necessary with “blood ties”, sometimes we just connect with some people anyway – maybe in mind only.

    We create families in more than one sense, perhaps because we do have a need of that bonding feeling. Me too grew up in a rather isolated nuclear family, since many of our relatives lived abroad. I’m rather pleased over that I became the person I am though, considering the fact that we were so isolated 🙂 Has the word family any limits really? I don’t think so.

    DianeCA: I agree that there is no limit to the concept of family. Thats why its so fascinating to study…because we all react and talk as if we know what family is, when I started my course we were asked what is family, and we all more or less think that we have the same understanding. However when you come a bit under the surface we don’t. I resist accepting any model for family as the best, but it is more what works for the individual and group. Thanks for your reflections!

  7. I grew up with my parents and two siblings. There was no extended family to speak of (the few relatives I do have, live in other continents and there is little connection between us). So, for me, the notion of “extended” family is quite foreign.

    Now, when I got married, I considered my immediate family to have expanded to include my wife’s parents and siblings and their spouses and kids (and yes, I call the mom and dad and brother and sister without the in-law suffix). Sofia (my wife) has a different view of family. For her it is all about blood. She does not feel any familial ties to my parents or siblings – they are in-laws – but she does toward distant blood relatives.
    Interestingly, I consider my brother’s wife a sister, though not her parents as part of my family.

    A former coworker of mine (now divorced) told me that shortly after marrying, he heard his mother-in-law tell his wife, “Don’t get too close to him dear. After all, he is not family.” He believes this sort of mentality
    was a contributing factor towards his marriage’s failure. I also consider a number of friends as “family”. I believe this occurs because of my total lack of experience with any form of extended family.

    DianeCA Thanks for sharing you concept of family. I am careful to call it a concept because that is exactly what it is and your story is an example of that. Like many other social constructions, we go around thinking we know what family is and everyone else thinks the same as us…but aha we are so wrong. Even within the same culture, even within the same family. And thats not even taking into consideration that the person you are talking to might have another cultural background. At my workplace I come in contact with a lot of people from the Middle East and Africa, and I assure you many of them have a concept of family that is hard for me to fully understand even though I am studying family – and family is serious business!

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