Unconventional Families

This weekend I did something fun…..I took my Mom to see the movie “Mamma Mia: Here we go again.” First off, I need to say that I utterly loved it! There’s not much I love more than good old ABBA music! Anyway, I was happily surprised that the sequel was as engaging as the first one: lots of laughs, even a tear-jerker moment…

But, here is what stuck with me after the movie ended.

 

In the sequel, Donna (who was played by Meryl Streep in the first version) has passed away and the movie begins one year after her death.  I promise that is NOT a spoiler, because you find that out in the first couple of minutes in the show. Anyway, what struck me was that the daughter, Sophie has a solid sense of family even without her Mom. And it is a VERY unconventional family, but family nonetheless. Her three Dads, and Donna’s lifelong friends step up in such nurturing ways, that it left me thinking how different our definition of family has become.

 

Family used to be considered blood relatives that lived together in the same household. But, in this day and age that is a very narrowed view that has exploded into so many more possibilities. Families are certainly changing. Today, family is a group that loves each other immensely, supports each other, has history and shares values. 

 

According to new studies by the Pew Research Center, “Two-parent households are on the decline in the United States as divorce, remarriage and cohabitation are on the rise. While in the early 1960s babies typically arrived within a marriage, today fully four-in-ten births occur to women who are single or living with a non-marital partner. As a result of these changes, there is no longer one dominant family form in the U.S. Parents today are raising their children against a backdrop of increasingly diverse and, for many, constantly evolving family forms. By contrast, in 1960, the height of the post-World War II baby boom, there was one dominant family form.”

 

Some family comes to us by birth without choice—but others are family we choose. And the ties that bind us in each are both just as enduring, with deep roots, and boundless love.

And it may be that divorce or tragedy has splintered the traditional definition of family, but regardless of the catalyst,  I think our need for security, belonging, affection, and understanding keeps us forever forming families to hold us up, and tie us to other human beings.

 

Family fulfills many of our needs, and here are just a few:

 

1.       Security and Stability: our world can be chaotic and unpredictable.  It can leave us feeling stressed, unsafe, and vulnerable. But, having a family circle that you did an lean on instills for us a sense of being secure and having a stable life even in the midst of the chaos or calamity.

2.       Belonging: Human beings crave for a sense of belonging. We are not meant to be isolated. Human connection is vital for our sustenance. No matter what changes your life may bring, having a deep-seated sense of belonging to a “community of loved ones” helps us to feel grounded and loved.

3.       Feeling understood: As human beings, our emotional needs are vast. One such need is being understood. Our family knows our history, they know what we have gone through. Family understands how we have evolved, grown, and survived the struggles we have needed to face. Being understood reassures us that we are not alone.

4.       Being cared for and loved: One of our deepest needs is to be loved. We crave being loved and cared for. We want to have the sense that others worry, care, and show concern for us. This fulfills our need to be significant, to matter. Feeling like others consistently care and love us makes us feel treasured and appreciated.

5.       Support: Life has a way of being very unpredictable and often riddled with rough patches. But, feeling that you have a safety net underneath you no matter what you will face is profoundly reassuring. Family gives us the certainty that should we falter, family will have our back. Family will scoop us up should we need it. Family will not let us stay downtrodden. They are the strong arms that lift us up when we fall.

 

So what does your family look like? Who do you consider in “your circle?” I know that for me, I do have my nuclear family (my mom, brother, and sister). Sadly we lost my Dad last year, and the loss of a family member definitely affects and changes the family dynamic. Relationships get tousled around as everyone tries to cope with the loss.

 

My kids Marlea (24) and Jacob (27) are most certainly my family. And Jeff, my love mate is my family. Together we have forged a life with a clear vision of our desires, wants, and direction for the life we share. He has become my “home” irrespective of where we choose to live.

 

But I also have amazing friends that have formed for me another type of family. There is deep rooted love, history that has taken us through decades, and an understanding that feels familial. And this type of family is equally important and equally meaningful.

 

Rather than be saddened by what may be lacking in our families, we need to embrace all the types of family we do have.  As human beings we will always crave the sense of belonging and community. Though the form of a family has certainly evolved, it is still just as important and necessary. Family gives us a sense of support unlike any other. It provides that “safety net” that no matter how tough things get, no matter what you face, you do not have to face it alone. Family gives us the sense of belonging to something bigger than ourselves. Human beings do not thrive being isolated, we need and desire a community that gives us a solid sense of belonging and unity. So if you are feeling a bit lonely, a bit separated from those in your nuclear family, reach out to the other “family” that surrounds you. Create an unconditional bond that can withstand time, inevitable changes, and the ups and downs that define life.

 

And if that loneliness persists…get up and dance around the living room to “Dancing Queen” because nothing lifts the spirit more than that!

 

Until next time…stay inspired,

Karen