Family, a nice and warm word in every language and in every culture.Who do you consider as being part of your family? Does a family have to be based on blood bonds? How much does culture and the country we live in affect our view of family? If you’re married or live with a partner, do your “in-laws” have become your family? Questions and more questions…
Some families are traditional and include mother, father and children. Depending on the culture you may include the grandparents or even a wider circle, the so called extended family. The traditional role of the father being the head of the family was found in the pater familias in the Roman society. He was the oldest male in the family and he was responsible for everyone under his roof. When he died, the oldest next male would inherit the role.
(Image from: classicsalaromana.blogspot.com)
How has this changed in our modern society? Parents and children still living at home are considered to be the basic unit or the nuclear family. I think you all know a lot of examples of this constellation in your own families or with your close friends. Traditional ways have changed and couples don’t always marry and have children. There are lots of families consisting only of mother and child or children. Others, not so many, with only father and children. In our society we have now a mosaic of constellations and many different combinations, some of them known as patchwork families. The number of children that a couple has has also changed considerably. In the seventies three female friends of my mum had 7 children each, which meant, 21 little persons! I also had friends in school who had five, six, seven or more siblings and who looked strangely at my brother and me for being only two. Imagine the compassionate sights that someone who was an only child would get… It wasn’t very well seen if couples decided to remain childless. Everyone in the family would like to intervene and give good advice on how to solve that nuisance.
I spent my childhood with my younger brother surrounded by cousins, aunts, uncles and other friends of the family that we used to call “aunt” or “uncle. However, the first change in this relationships was when my parents divorced. I was in my early teens and at that time it was not very wise to tell everyone that you were a child of a divorced marriage… So we had to learn to keep our profile low 😉 and not to tell everyone about it. It was a difficult time and the fact of “hiding” something as heavy as that caused us for sure unseen trouble…
In the 21 century I sometimes wonder at the couples that are still married… I’m not saying that staying married is the best way of living. No, I think that when a relationship doesn’t work anymore, it is the best to speak things out and to look for the best solution. If the best solution is to go apart, then do it. I remember some of my relatives who kept their marriages and were scattering bitterness and unhappy feeling all around. I believe in trying to talk and communicate to look for the best solution, and if needed, looking for external qualified help would be a way to improve a damaged relationship.
In my family there are a lot of couples older and younger ones that have split. The reasons are as varied as you can imagine. However, this is only a supposition, when my parents were young they had no time to get to know each other, there was no way of being alone with your partner and of course, living together without being married was impossible. Nowadays this has changed, but… In spite of this, we still have a high rate of divorce. The couples that are not married “simply” split, without counting in the statistics of divorces… What is the the best way? Getting or not getting married? I leave it up to you and to your beliefs that will have a big influence in your decisions.
Families, large, small, traditional. modern, patchwork… Some of us have been living for a long time in another place far away from the close family. Some of us were accepted by the in-laws as part of the family and we have tried to integrate in a family with other traditions and ways of doing things very different to ours… Can you imagine? Right, it requires a lot of effort, patience and good will on both sides. If you are not married or live in a partnership, who is then your family? Sometimes we find a new family in a group of dear friends that to a certain amount share our condition. And can you count your pets as family? Sure, why not, if you don’t expect help to carry the groceries, of course you can. They give you love and comfort without asking for much.
In my case, my mother and brother formed a nuclear family and we included our grandfather, my mother’s father, as the pater familias for certain things. Nevertheless, my mother was a very independent woman who worked and was successful in her job.
My father always tried to keep contact. Although at the beginning our relationship was tense, I continued seeing him and I am very glad that he always insisted on seeing us. The shock of my parents divorced was followed by a very positive event in my life. My father formed a second family and I now have five more siblings. We didn’t grow up together, but we are now very close. When I say how many siblings I have, I now get the sight the other way around, people staring at me and asking: “Really? Do you have six siblings?” Especially, people in Germany where a lot of singles decide to stay that way and have no children.
As I was mentioning before, families with lots of children were quite common in the seventies. There were many TV-shows featuring big families such as “The Brady Bunch”, “The Partridge Family” among others. I also remember an old movie (1968) with Lucille Ball, “Yours, Mine and Ours”, about a patch work family. “http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0063829/
In our modern television we now find a reflection of family life in many shows. A very popular one, “Modern family” with the divorced mature father, who is marred to a young and sex wife with a single child. His children are adults and have their own families. The daughter married very young and has now two daughters and a son. His son is gay, has a partner and they both want to adopt a baby. It’s a very funny American comedy show to have a light time and a good laugh.
There are other current shows that include all family members in the stories and are very successful, cops, mafiosi, etc… Even vampire TV shows rely on families to keep the audience interested.
In our family we also have dark secrets, lighter stories, sad endings, happy outcomes, and everything that keeps us together. I would love to tell you more about every single one of my siblings and relatives, but if I do so, I may end up with a single cat as my family. That’s why I prefer not to reveal so much, but, if you continue reading my blog, you may know a little bit more… I promise 😉