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Molly & Co. – Perceptions of Family

You all know the nuclear family structure – Mum (not Mom), Dad and the 2.5 kids. Dad goes out to work and Mum stays at home and… I dunno, bakes a pie or something. You also probably know this model has become rarer and rarer and, luckily for us, society has not completely fallen apart. This structure was exactly how my parents were raised, however. My mum was adopted by a working/middle class family in the North of England and her dad had his own business hauling coal, and after the Clean Air Act he started a removal business (you can smell Pulp’s Common People from here). My dad hails from Glasgow, Scotland, where his dad was in the Merchant Navy, then worked on boats on the River Clyde and Loch Lomond, as well as a million other jobs to raise a family of five kids. Work is the reason they moved down to Burnley, which is in the North of England, an inspired choice as the end result was Yours Truly – but we won’t go into details. Meanwhile my grandmothers stayed at home and baked pies (well, not completely, my dad’s mum worked but come on, five kids?!).

I think the increased emphasis on the individual and their power, aspirations and career has catalyzed the main change in family structure. This isn’t going to turn into an essay, I promise, but since the deindustrialization of Britain (cheers, Thatcher) there is increased necessity for mobility among more recent generations. In addition to this, despite the rise of tuition fees, higher education is not completely out of the grasp of the working and lower-middle classes anymore, at least not nearly as much as it once was. Plus there is more, though not nearly enough, recognition and acceptance that heteronormative gender roles are not only archaic and invalid but also oppressive and often harmful to individuals.

Not that my Catholic upbringing taught me all that. But I was raised to understand that at the very least I was to earn a university degree and that marriage, car and kids was not the be-all and end-all of my life. The fact that my parents are divorced has given me a somewhat sceptical view of marriage, especially as a young person, but single-parent families are neither all that rare nor fundamentally detrimental to raising a child (I didn’t turn out that bad).

In summary, personal choice and changing popular perceptions have both come into play to alter the “nuclear” family set-up. Although I and many others believe you should be able to start a family, or not, with whoever you like, this one opinion of many is still within the transition of values, morals and perceptions of “normalcy” from previous generations and other groups (see aforementioned Catholicism) and we still have a way to go in many respects.

Next up, we get personal.

When I’m not in the students’ bar a lecture hall at Keele or trying to decipher the strange cultural customs of the North American I live with my mum, cat and dog (Nancy and Sid) in a small town near Manchester in (where else?) Northern England. I have two brothers, Jack who is 26 and lives in Berlin and Harry who is 20 and lives in London who both stay from time-to-time, but the general rule is you’re going to move out sometime after you get your degree. My brother Harry, however, is an exception to this, having skipped uni to train as an actor. This distance between us all is both strange and completely normal as this family can either live a couple of streets away from each other or across an ocean or two, there’s not much in-between. Either way, we function on the whole as completely separate until an aunt on my dad’s side throws a reuniony-type party and then their house is crammed with all manner of Drummonds, of which there are many. So many. Five kids on the whole was fairly average, if a bit sparse.

My mum’s side is a bit more complex and at the same time much more simple. She has one brother and one sister, and as well as my mum being adopted so was my aunt, from a different family, but neither have made much contact with their biological families. Also my uncle and his family and my aunt and hers all live in my town or fairly nearby, so we see them quite often on a day-to-day basis (a few work in the business started by my grandfather).

Due to my having separated parents the two sides of my family don’t generally meet up together, and family functions more as a support-network of contacts across the globe that we can utilize if necessary. My paternal side especially upholds this concept, being quite widespread (apparently if I so wished I could stay with genetically-similar strangers in Scotland, Ireland, Australia, Canada, North Carolina and probably more) but this did come in handy with Jack’s emigration – my uncle is German and we have relatives in Berlin specifically, so I think my parents found that quite reassuring.

As a basic intro to blood-relations that about covers it, but I don’t think it’s entirely reflective of what I think of as family. Close friends are generally the people you spend the most time with – and this isn’t a modern occurrence either, some of my grandmother’s friends are so integrated with my mum’s family that she sometimes can’t remember whether or not they’re a relation. And I can’t imagine family reunions with certain people missing out, even if they don’t have the prefix “Aunt” or “Uncle” or “cousin” whatever… so I make friends on the same basis, but let’s not get misty-eyed about it. That essentially means I will look after them as much as possible, but I’m not afraid to have raging arguments with them either. And isn’t that what family’s all about?

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  1. 2 Comment(s)

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