The definition of the word “family” is different for everyone. What used to be described as “the nuclear family”, where you had two parents and one or two children, really doesn’t exist any more. As my Nana would have said “things are not what they used to be”. She often used to say that in a tone of voice that implied that things had changed for the worse, which isn’t always the case.
Family looks different for everyone and I always liked the description we were taught, in nursing school to describe the term which was, if I remember rightly “a group of people, consisting of adults and or children who consider themselves a unit, functioning together for mutual benefit”. That’s not it exactly, but that pretty much sums it up. Sometimes family life can be complicated and life can throw curve balls that make the relationships you have hard to deal with.
Slater Gordon, family lawyers, Milton Keynes, have some interesting statistics. Did you know that 49% of over 2000 people surveyed consider their relationship with their family to be ‘very good’? 27% of people surveyed defined family as ‘whoever you choose it to be.’ 15% of people we surveyed have at least one step-sibling and 42% of people surveyed have required legal assistance in family law. The way society views family has definitely changed.
There are many ways you could define a family, in theory we, on this blog, are a “nuclear” family, in that we have a mum, a dad, and children who are related to us. But our family extends more than that, and as I have got older I have realized that family is less about genetics and a blood link, and more about the relationship you have with a group of people and the ties you have to them that are not necessarily from birth. I have from an early age been fortunate to have some very strong relationships with adults in my life, who are not related to me, but who have stood by me, and who I regard as family. My mother died when I was a teenager, and I have felt that loss, particularly now I have my own children, but I have two amazing and strong women who have stepped in, and who “mother” me. They helped me plan bits of my wedding, they were only a phone call away when I was missing my own mum, and needed a conversation with someone who could be there to fill a bit of that void. They have knitted little outfits for my children, celebrated their births, almost like proud aunties and who even now, I still keep in regular contact with, and still call for parenting advice or just to talk. I regard them as family, people I can trust, and who I love, even though we share no genetic ties.
The husband also has strong relationships with people, built when he arrived in this country almost 22 years ago. His parents live thousands of miles away, and he came here, fresh from university, to start life in a country that was very different from what he had grown up in. He did a lot of growing up, and learning how to navigate life, with help from a few wise people who walked with him and supported him, and who we now regard as family. They looked after him and parented him when he needed that input, and he will still seek their advice and help, and we often call on them, when we feel we need someone else’s perspective or support. Again, no genetics, but a lifetime of love, support, acceptance, the occasional parental sounding “you need to get your act together” conversation, that has built a bond that we will always treasure.
So for us “family” definitely goes beyond the strict definition you might find in the dictionary. It’s not just about biology, it’s more complex and the emotional ties often are stronger than those that link you by ancestry or genes. We are lucky we have many members of our family that we love, who are linked to us through blood relationships and also those who don’t have a genetic tie, but who we regard as just as important and as valuable in the contribution that they make to our lives and the relationship we have with them.
Who do you consider family? Is it easy to define or more complicated? We would love to hear how family, made simple, would sound for you?