Gone are the days where there is a married couple with kids, a cat, a dog and a mortgage. Where mum stays home and bakes while dad works a 9–5 job and is home to coach little Jimmy’s soccer team on Saturday. Nobody wanted to really know about the relationship between Aunt Mable and her lifelong friend Gayle who have lived and done everything together for 50 years. Shame on little Betty for getting herself knocked up out of wedlock, and divorce was something you didn’t do. “What an uncomplicated life,” some might say. Sounds a bit narrow minded to me…

I think it’s fair to say there is no longer a stereotypical traditional family system. I think there are lessened idealisation on what families should look like, and being in a messy family situation doesn’t need to result in damaged children.

I see children who take their family situations in their stride. “Mum is a lesbian and has a girlfriend and they’re having a baby together.” This 6yo even understands that they needed help creating the baby. He took the whole thing in his stride and to him it was as normal as getting dressed. Why? Because it had been presented to him as normal. This situation never caused him distress or discomfort, however the conflict between his separated parents was completely damaging.

My daughter and her friend were having a discussion at the tea table and mentioned someone being gay. I stopped and asked if she understood what being gay meant. She answered, “Yes. It’s when a man loves another man rather than a woman and a woman loves another woman.”

Hmm... What did she think about this? She stated confidently that it shouldn’t make any difference, they should be able to love whoever they want to love.

Big Tick. Mother (meaning me) has successfully installed appropriate value regarding gay and lesbian relationships in eldest daughter. But imagine that conversation happening 50 odd years ago.

I have seen extremely complicated family systems. One which included six parents, step siblings, half siblings and full siblings. One parent died which resulted in a child living and growing up in a household where she had no biological link to either parental figure, which she was not made aware of until age 16. These children are now adults, one has twins from an egg donor and fulltime care of her nephew with severe health issues. The parents of the twins are separated but still reside in the same house and support each other in parenting. All of the original children are partnered or married and (apart from one) have children of their own. They all class each other as siblings. They do not distinguish between half, step or full siblings they are simply siblings and all of their siblings’ children are nieces and nephews. They are all immensely close and spend regular time camping, touching base and supporting each other.

Messy family systems can still produce well-adjusted adults.

 

-- Carolyn, Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner @ Relationships Australia Qld

** If you could like help with making arrangements and agreements following separation, please call us on 1300 364 277 to discuss your options.

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