Thursday, May 16, 2013

What is the meaning of family?



When I was younger I thought family meant a mum, dad and two kids. Which was exactly what my family was at the time, at least until everything changed after dad died. I guess when I was young my definition of family was quite traditional and probably shaped by my environment. All the advertising back then was aimed at the nuclear family, divorce was rarely spoken about {I don't think I even knew what it was until my parents separated} and I didn't know there was such a thing as single mums. That was again until my mum became one {well technically a widow}. My concept of family was entirely about what I was born into, the blood relationships that I had inherited. It wasn't until I got older that I realised family could be based on relationships with people I wasn't related to.

My family before my brother was born

Through my teenage years when I experienced a bit of disconnection from my actual family I began to build my own family through my network of friends. When I was 16 I started my first real job {you know one where I actually got pay slips} and my "family" expanded further. A lot of the women I worked with were my mum's age and they became my surrogate work mums. I couldn't really understand at the time why I didn't have a close relationship with my own mother and yet I could get along with so many women her own age. I often wondered if she had the same relationship with younger people at her work. I probably also got along with the other women more because they didn't have an authoritarian role in my life, just quietly. Nevertheless they did provide me with advice and give me a place to turn when I felt I couldn't talk to anyone at home. They were my family and I still consider them a valuable part of my extended family now.

As I have grown older the socially acceptable definition of family is a lot more broader. Divorce is not hush hush like it was 20 or so years ago. In fact it's probably more prevalent than the nuclear family unfortunately. Single mums and single dads are a fact of life now too. Although the meaning of family is now a lot broader than it used to be, I still find myself craving the nuclear family. Perhaps it's because I didn't get to experience it for that long? A case of the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence maybe.

T and I were drawn to each other partially because of our similar dysfunctional families growing up. We know what its like to be on the outside of the norm. We both also have a strong desire to create a stable family life because of this. I want to have a close relationship with my daughter and I really want her to have a relationship with her father. Perhaps our childhood experiences were not entirely bad, in the sense that it has made us into the people we are today. It has fortified our strong desire to create a good family life for our children. Now that we are at the precipice of becoming parents this is always in the forefront of my mind. While I'm forever grateful for those who helped me over the years, I really hope our children will think of us as their family and wont have to find surrogates.

How do you define family? 

Are there people other than your relatives who you consider part of your family?

Toni x


7 comments:

  1. Yes, Toni, I have close friends that I consider family. I have twin boys who are now 22, and we have always been very close. For me, the key to that closeness has been respecting their individuality, instead of viewing them as extensions of me, and letting them experience life without too much interference from me. It's a wonderful relationship that's just happened without planning or expectations.

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    1. Im glad you have a good relationship with your boys. I have always desperately wanted that with my mum. Its good though to have friends who care about you just as much as family.

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  2. I've had dear and wonderful friends all my life, but I don't really consider them family. Aside from my wife of course the prerequisite would be some sort of blood relationship.

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    1. Even though my relationship with my real family has been strained at some points I would still defend them against anything so perhaps blood is thicker than water in a way for me too.

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  3. Lovely post Toni! Family means many different things to different people. Thanks for Rewinding.

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  4. Just popped over from Cate's blog - you have a beautiful family! My parents are still married (50 years next year) and I have two sisters, so I definitely grew up in the nuclear family. There are lots of "dynamics" in our family now, but I'm still close to my parents. However, I do have others that I consider family, too.

    As kids grow, I do think it's important for them to have other grown ups they can relate to and feel comfortable around, not to replace you but to help you and your husband as you parent. I mentor several teenage girls who come from very healthy home environments, and their mothers often tell me that it means so much to them that the girls have healthy relationships with other women who will nurture them as well. It sounds like you are your husband will be providing a loving and stable home for your little one!

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  5. Stopped by from Cate's blog. Both my husband and I came from broken homes and somewhat messed up childhoods. The one thing we wanted to give our own children was stability. Our three daughters grew up with a strong nuclear family - their entire childhood in one home, one school district, one family (something we didn't have). Now that they are all 20 somethings and meeting so many friends who weren't as fortunate, I think they really appreciate it. Still, we went through all the teen angst and attempts at separating and identifying as individuals, and yes, they have other adults that they turn to for advice. I think that is a very normal part of growing up and becoming your own person.

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