What is a Family?
When I think about family, it means all sorts of different things to me. I left home at 18 and lived a long way away from my nuclear family. Although I kept in constant contact with my mum and dad, who were a great support to me, I needed more than that. I needed to find people close by who loved me and would be "on hand" so to speak when I needed them - up close and personal.
Initially I sought out Aunties and Uncles, cousins, and made special friends. These people were my family. When I ventured away from the halls of residence, where may I say, those people had become my family by then - I started meeting neighbours, people at work and building networks around me. This practise has continued through my life and I have had some wonderful neighbours and friends which I consider part of my family still.
When I had young children, and my parents were still very far away, I needed more help - the kind a young mum needs. I would have loved my mum to be close by, but she wasn't. I found a couple of lovely older women, who supported me as a mother would. One of them had actually been a friend of my mother's when I had been a baby, so that friend was particularly special. I considered them part of my family.
Having moved a few times over the years, I have strongly valued the importance of building a supportive network around me. These people have not been part of my original nuclear family, but have been a very important part of my life. When my children were young, I totally agreed that:
"It takes a village to raise a child"
Now my father is no longer with us and I am lucky enough to have my mother close by. My 2 sisters don't see eye to eye, so what does that mean for my family?
I met with my daughter yesterday for the first time in over a year. We had a milkshake together and talked. Then she said that she no longer had a family and her life was going to be bad forever.
I did point out that she was well, healthy, lived independently, had a job, had a career underway at uni, had a boyfriend, had money in the bank, had a mum and a dad, 2 brothers, a Granny, a Nana and Opa, LOTS of Aunties and Uncles, cousins and friends. From my side of the table, her life was looking pretty good.
Yes, our nuclear family has been broken - but it's still there and always will be. It just looks different from what I first imagined it to be.
Families come in all shapes and sizes - she's 19 and has very strong ideas of what is right and what is wrong.
When I asked her if I'd see her again . . . she said
". . . maybe . . ."
Parenting is hard!
I need help from the Village