What is family? This is both a question that is hard to answer, but equally quite easy; it depends on how you approach it. Quite a lot of people still see family in the given Husband, Wife, Kids in a family house, with a pet or whatever, making ends meet, educating each other and growing alonside each other experiencing life. The nuclear family as it were - is this sort of life achieveable for young people now, and is it something that is still desirable?
I admit that inside me somewhere is a 1950s housewife that wants this sort of life, but the world is a very different place for people of my age (32) and younger as what a family means is becoming very different with subtle shifts in relationships and how people live. It’s not beyond the realms of possibility but for me to have this life I would have to move home (about 300 miles due north) and certainly put professional goals aside to achieve this, and I think that is why the very concept of family is changing.
For people younger than myself, a lot will have gone through education, moved away from home to go to university, and perhaps settled in the city they went to university in, or moved to another city to begin a career - it is rare that people will move back to their birth home after university, but it does happen on occasion. With this geographical move, people create their own strong friendships in a way to create their own family/support unit/call it what you will - I know that certainly is something that I have done. As a city dweller, the idea of the nuclear family seems something of an alien concept. If I were to have a family of my own, any children that came from this would almost certainly have a much wider concept of family as I have many wonderful friends who would add so much to the quality of life of any children, let alone the life of myself and any partner I had.
Why is the idea of a nuclear family strange for a young city dweller like myself? I think it comes down to housing and money. I know that I will never be able to afford a house on my own. My family home was bought outright before I was born for £26,000. A family home, even in the town I grew up in, you are now looking at quadruple that price, and with wages dropping, banks not willing to back mortgages, and the rental market seemingly being an inescapable trap for most young people - the idea of family changes. Whilst relationships change and grow, our financial and geographical status may not.
Away from the housing and financial aspects of what family means - why would family life be different to the one I grew up in? I live a much more alternative lifestyle than my parents did, and whilst they were very open to my alternative nature growing up, they were working class people who didn’t want as much from life as I did. They wanted to raise their kids right (which they did), have the occasional holiday (yup) and go to the pub with their friends (yes). I would see my family life as a different thing, and would want as many of my friends involved as possible as they would bring a different angle on things - a much more varied point of view. The nuclear family doesn’t exist in my mind as the family I have created for myself since leaving home is too great to not have an involvement in where I go from here on in, and I believe a lot of people would think in a similar way. As the world changes, so will relationships. As people move away from what they’ve always known, communities will be shaped differently. Young people see this and they won’t be guided to create an old fashioned model (as politicians are so often found to espouse the moralities of!) if it doesn’t fit their lives.
I, for one, will continue to build my family in whatever way I see fit, and not to some model that doesn’t work for me. I am sure it does for quite a lot of people, but to look forward, we need to accept and encourage all kinds of family situations and relationships, otherwise we will stay in a past that is not working.