A family of my own

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.

So how is your new type of family like?

Is is based on friends or …more than one life partner…or young people only ? I am really curios to learn & know !

I would find it hard to describe what my ideal family situation would be - it would almost certainly be based on friends having more input in to my way of life rather than just a partner, and it would involve people of all ages. I think what’s important, especially where forming policy around family matters is concerned, that the idea of family is a much more fluid idea. In the UK, our current government are very pro-family, getting married, very traditional way of thinking, and this fuels their policies, so people in alternative families are being ignored which isn’t right. I think as long as whatever family you have, regardless of its make up is one full of love, support, and one that is educational and wonderful to be a part of, and if that’s a husband, wife and kids, so be it, but that can come in whatever form you like.

Alternative family

I totally agree with you …the question is how do you keep this alternative family united ? How do you give these people a sense of belonging and identity ? And how do you know that the members of this family  consider you a relative at their turn (even if there are no blood ties) and not a mere friend ? These are questions I’ve been thinking of for a while now as I am also a supporter of extended/alternative families.

An idea I’ve been thinking about in keeping alternative families together is to give them the same basic rights that a ‘nuclear’ family would have. An example from a UK perspective is to allow same sex marriages. Yes, we have civil partnerships which allows the same legal aspects of marriage, but is still not recognised as marriage as it is not performed in church, and therein, any family surrounding that union will be treated differently in some way or another. Everyone should have equal rights in order for families to blossom.

As for friendships, I know what friendships in my life are ones that I will still have when I’m much older, and as such, are very much part of the family I have created for myself. These friends would also recognise the same for me, and I think that creates bonds that would be near impossible to break, regardless of blood. There’s a saying that ‘friends are the family we choose for ourselves’ and that is very true. How we create a familial bond in terms of law and social policy, I’m not entirely sure of yet but would love to look in to it.

Alternative family

I agree with all your proposals, but I was talking about alternative families for hetero people, people who are attracted to the opposite sex, but didn’t meet yet the right partner.

These people can’t use the same sex marriage solution.

Friends are great if they are friends for life. But how can you actually make them stay  for life…because friends might decide one day to build their own family, so at that point they will be less present …

How to make it work ?

I think I just used an obvious alternative family as an example there :slight_smile:

As for keeping an alternative family together, I think this is where co-operative housing may come in. I know very little about the concept, but to live close by, or even in the same apartment block might be a good answer. I know this may sound like just being neighbours but the thing with moving away from a community for most young people is they rarely know their neighbours. The man who lives in the flat above me I have seen once in 6 months - neighbourliness is something that is becoming rare, so re-creating close communities with plenty of involvement with friends might create family relationships that work?

Cooperative housing is a solution

(I think).

I neither know or interact with my neighbours.This is wrong, I always thought it is deeply wrong.

Co-operative housing would also need a different architecture …don’t you think space should be also conceived in a different way ?

The co-housing expert

Simone, here on Edgeryders, is the chairperson of the first really successful co-housing scheme in Italy. This is his story: I suggest you get in touch, I know hime personally and he is a very nice, helpful personal.

avoiding categories

Hey MissyK8,

Thank you for your post, you’re raising many really varied and interesting points! With the huge explosion of alternatives, family life can’t possibly stay the same, and should not be defined in categories and tax brackets. Unfortunately that’s what governments do, sometimes simply for ease of administration… but I agree in the UK’s case for some horribly twisted moralistic purpose that I personally find a bit too removed from reality.

Is it really necessary to own a house to have a family though? I think family life can be based on insecure and treacherous foundations, provided the family members can create a certain resilience to that very uncertainty… I’m not speaking from experience though!! Anyone out there?

Keep well!

I think the moralistic purpose of family is very much ingrained to the way the conservative party think on the whole, which is why it’s so obvious at the moment. Although I’m not about to start wading in to politics and bitching about the current government - tempting though it may be :slight_smile:

It probably isn’t necessary to own a home, but I’m just coming from my own personal knowledge of how I grew up, and how stressful I find not having a permanent residence. The flat I am in now is wonderful, as is my flatmate, but to have the comfort of a home that is your own that won’t be taken from you must allow more risks to be taken elsewhere, knowing that you will have a home to return to - but again not necessary, just speaking from personal desires/experience.

The old man in the room

Hold your horses. As the old man in this corner of the Edgeryders community, I feel it is my duty to say that the vast majority of people lived in rented dwellings up until the 1980s (in most European countries but not in America). The idea of mass ownership of homes was, according to historians, Thatcher’s: she wanted more people to be ideologically tied in with the haves, or something to that effect. Apparently, her administration thought  that a society of home owners would be more invested (literally) in the status quo. They turned out to be mostly right.

Anyway, my point is that before that time people did have families, and they did not feel particularly flaky, quite the contrary. So I would submit that the perceived stability of a familial arrangement has little to do with home ownership. Maybe an important factor is, rather, the rigidity of the agreement that binds it members together: practically indestructible in the case of parent-to-offspring, solid but less committal in  that of sibling-to-sibling, more instable in that of life partner-to-life partner, and even more in that of the housemate-to-housemate.

Oh I don’t speak from any knowledge of the subject, but merely from my own understanding/upbringing/desire. To me, a home just represents a strong sense of belonging. I’ve been renting now for nearly a decade and it would be nice to know that my rent isn’t paying someone else’s mortgage.

I would like to learn more about co-operative housing and how that works as it is probably something that I will understand as a good thing for my life and others and I fully realise that a homw of your own isn’t the be all and end all of families.

Alternative family

Hey Missy!

Really cool post, enjoyed it a lot! I have a lot of questions and still don’t knwo how to put them :slight_smile: Just wanted to leave a word of appreciation and say that all type of “alternatives” in our world will be possible when church will slow down a bit…and I don’t see that hapenning soon…

Oh don’t get me started on religion!

Oh religion - I have many views on this subject, and not all of them good!! I don’t understand how religion should be able to speak on family matters when religion hasn’t really moved on with modern times - particularly in the UK, but I am sure the same could be said of many countries. There are some forward thinking sections, but overall you only ever hear of the sides that just hold back people from growing and loving in way that’s right for them, which tars those who are doing good with the same brush.

Not going to go in to this further, but might just have to blog about it (If I’m brave enough!)

Hey! I think you raised some really interesting points and I can actually relate to some of them. I have left home which was in Romania to come and study in the UK and as you said most of the times people don’t move back to their home towns. Career and independence has also become much more important, particularly for women and it makes it much more difficult for them to settle down. On the other hand the way in which one has been brought up has a major influence on each individual’s decisions so for example if one has lived in traditional family sometimes you can’t help it but wish for that kind of family yourself. So I think there is, at least for me, a struggle between wanting to embrace as many opportunities as possible offered by the age and the place I’m living in and the desire to follow the example set by my family and achieve that sense of normalcy.