Growing up around me I only had what is probably seen as the traditional family: mother, father children. May it be my grandparents, my parents or aunts or uncles it was always quite the same. For me that was normal and that is still what I want, but in our society today, we are so lucky that we have more choices and possibilities and that the image of families is changing. We get to chose what kind of life we want, but also that it is okay if life doesn’t always work out the way it should by traditional societal norms and that we can still somehow make it work and be a family.
I don’t think that there is a typical family in that sense anymore, society has changed and our lifestyles have changed. While for my grandparents it was so normal to find a partner and live with them forever, my parents generation has already changed. For example, my great-aunt and her husband for decades have not gotten along and he is, you know, the crazy uncle who doesn’t get invite anymore and even his children do not want anything to do with him, but because it is so engrained that they can’t get divorced, they are still married. While their daughter has been divorced and remarried.
Now, with at about 50% divorce rate there are a lot of people who don’t live in those traditional families anymore. I know so many people that have stepparents and -siblings and I remember that when I was 10 I had a lot of friends that got a half-siblings, because their parents had new boyfriends/girlfriends/husbands/wives. And now I feel like there is some kind if second wave with parents getting divorced/ separating when all their children have moved out. There are quite a lot of my friends where this has happened over the last couple of years and the same with my parents. So yeah if you look around you have quite a few patchwork families, for example my dad’s new girlfriend has a son that kind of belongs to our family now as well.
Another thing that has changed is the not necessarily having to get married when you get pregnant. My mom’s goddaughter got pregnant at 25 and despite all that and her being with a steady boyfriend she does not want to get married. It is her choice and it doesn’t really matter does it? As a child you see your parents together and in the end a piece of paper doesn’t make them any less or more your parents.
There are more “international” families, with children growing up bilingual or multilingual and with dual citizenships and it’s awesome. I mean through the whole globalisation moving across the globe becomes easier and happens more often, people stay in countries for some time but then move again some have jobs for a specific time and of course you create your own life when you are somewhere else. Let’s look at my mom’s goddaughter again, her dad is American and he came to Germany to study and he and her mom got together had her got married and he stayed in Germany. Anna and her siblings all grew up bilingual and I think it is such an advantage. Being able to learn two languages so well when you are young is amazing and makes life so much easier later in life.
There are single parents out there who do an incredible job and despite not being the traditional image of a family, they are still that to their children. Whether it is because the spouse died or getting divorced or for whatever reason it happens and it is more normal. For this I want to take my host mom as an example, she has a demanding job and a little girl and she is doing her best. The girl loves her and the two of them are super close and it is amazing how she manages her life. Yeah their immediate family might be small, but they love each other and are a family nonetheless.
Having children when you’re older. While it used to be so normal to get married relatively young and then have children basically straight away, it is now more usual to wait until you are a bit older. Like my grandmas were in their early 20s when they had their first child while my mom was in her late 20s and now it is basically the norm in the early 30, but then again looking at my host mom she had her first child at 38 and even that isn’t that unusual anymore. Life is changing and women want to have careers as well and there is always the question of being able to afford it and making it work, but I think it is nice that now it is becoming more usual to have a career and children, even if that happens a bit later.
With the average age moving backwards people start to frown now if you are having children when you’re quite young. People asking whether they feel ready for it or if they don’t want to get an education first and things like that. But there are situations that are different. A girl that I know had her child when she had just turned 20 and people asked her how she could do that. But she had done a formation and was in a steady job, same as her boyfriend. They were already living together and basically had their life settled in a way, so that they were in a completely different stage of their life than I was at 20. It so depends on where you are at in your life to make such a decision and no one deserves to be judged for theirs.
There is a larger acceptance of gay couples all around, with gay marriage and adoption rights becoming more popular all over the world. I think it is great that everyone gets the chance to chose to live the life they want no matter what they may be. What I don’t get is why some countries (including Germany) make it so hard for gay couples to adopt children. I think it is great, because it is a step that is well thought through for couples and when they decide that they want a child, they will love it and care for it and it would definitely be better for a child than to live in a foster system or group home and those children will probably be more tolerant than most other people will be.
Relating to this I want to mention fostering and adopting, despite it always being around I think it is a great thing. I want to adopt at some point, just because it means giving someone a home and someone to rely on. My dad’s cousin is fostering a child because she cannot have children and he is the most gorgeous child around. She and her husband love him so much and care for him. The child was neglected when he was younger and to think that he now has a home where he is properly looked after is an incredible thing.
There are plenty of people deciding to have no children at all for career reasons or not being able to have children or simply not wanting to be parents. And that should always be a fair choice. No one should be forced by society to do something they do not want to do. Life is all about making your own choices and not to make others happy.
There are people who chose to stay single. I know that there are people who do not chose it, but there are people who do not want to get married or be in a long-term relationship and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. I mean sometimes that seems so much easier and I could also quite well see myself with 10 dogs living a happy life. I mean whatever you do it should be your decision.
I guess why I wanted to write this is thinking about the future and by worrying way too much about everything and hoping to figure it all out and plan everything to make sure it is all going to be perfect. I know I cannot control things and I guess I wrote this article to remind myself that it is going to be okay, that you do not have to have a perfect standard life and have a traditional lifestyle when it comes to family. Looking at these examples from my life and the others that you see in films, books and the news, it is inspiring to see how much is possible today and that we are not based on our choices “branded” by society and therefore have the chance to find our way whichever way we want.
There are big families, small families and everything in between. Whether children are biologically conceived, artificially conceived, brought to a family after they are born or there are no children at all, it all doesn’t matter. Making these choices doesn’t make anyone a better or worse person. I am so grateful that we do not have to fit into a certain category anymore and have to fulfil certain criteria like maybe our grandparents still had to.
I still would like to have a traditional family and compared to most of my friends I would like to have many kids, but being an AuPair and hearing so many stories from friends, having separated parents, I know that life doesn’t always work that way, but it will still be okay and somehow that is very comforting.
Lots of love,