What does the word “family” mean to you? I grew up, as I’m sure many of you did, with a fairly narrow definition of the word family. When I was growing up, family meant a mother and father and their children and then beyond that: grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins, nephews and nieces. I certainly became aware of divorce, “broken homes” and step-parents etc. at some point, but that was something that happened to other people. Indeed, I have the dubious distinction of being the first member of my family EVER to get divorced! The older I get, the more people I get to know and the more I see of the world, the more it seems to me that family as we used to know it has changed and evolved and in some cases that’s a good thing.
They say you can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family; I’d like to add something to that. For some people, the family they were born into may not be the nurturing, supportive unit that I was lucky enough to grow up in. Indeed, I have a friend for whom the majority of her relations (through blood and marriage) let her down at every turn. How sad, you might think – but hold your sympathy for a minute because my friend does not feel deprived. Instead, as well as those relatives with whom she does have a mutually beneficial relationship, she has collected the most wonderful assortment of friends over the years who support her, cheer her on and are there for her in good times and bad. As a modern woman in these modern times, she has chosen her “family” and they have chosen her. So perhaps it’s time to redefine the family unit. So what if it’s just you as the sole parent? So what if you don’t conform to those old stereotypes? As a single mum you can choose your family from the people who care about you and your children. Now as you may have gathered, I’m a great believer in children maintaining their ties with their father, grandparents and other relatives after the breakdown of a relationship where possible if the contact is positive. It’s important for their confidence and sense of identity, to give them a feeling that they belong and that they know where they came from. All being well, access to the paternal side of their family is certainly to be encouraged. But what about you, as an individual and a single mum? Yes, of course you should hang on to your blood ties if they are healthy and happy ones but if not, throw the rule book up in the air and work out what works for you.
“THE SINGLE MUM’S SURVIVAL GUIDE – How To Pick Up The Pieces and Build a Happy New Life” is available to order now on Amazon and hits the shops on 1st July 2014.