The family unit…..

You do not get to choose your parents or the family you are born into, unfortunately it just happens, with no decisions by you, or any choice of the people who will be around you for most of your life. Some are born into luxury, some are born into poverty, some are born to be loved unconditionally, some are not shown what love is at all…..there are so many variants to where you grow up and with whom. You cannot hope for the best, because you don’t know what is that is, you do not know until it is too late what a ‘real’ family should be, and how it would have been nice to get the best family there is.

There is no one set mould as to what a family should look like, how they should treat each other, what their hopes and dreams are, or where their path in life should lead. Like with everything in life a family is what its members make it to be. But ultimately it is up to the parents in the family to shape this mould from an early age, to forge the morals, values, and beliefs before we are born, it is up to the parents to guarantee everlasting love, support, and assistance when things get rough. Who is responsible for what? Who should take the fall when your family isn’t the best it should be?

In an individualised society is the construct of a family being left behind? Is the family unit less important as the rigours of life become more burdensome upon us?

Is to expect love within your family too much? How should love within a family look like? There are no standards or guidebooks to assist you in how you should build your family to be? You can read books on raising children, finding happiness, self-help books for all sorts of things, but do any of these books actually help the members of your family to love, to act as a family unit through thick and thin, sickness and in health. I do not think so, if it was that simple wouldn’t we all be growing up in families that unconditionally love, show support and commitment, and work together as a collective instead of individual beings living in the same house.

Unlike in a marriage, there are no words spoken to commit you to being a parent, there is no licence, you get pregnant, you have a baby, and we are all meant to live happily ever after. There are no standards to parenting, no guidelines to follow to ensure that your child grows to be a certain way, you suck it up and see, hope that your child turns out for the best. In most cases this is what happens, parents who want to be parents are the best of parents, provide everything that one could need, and show unconditional love, and support. For some, this is nothing but a dream of what could have been.

I often reflect upon the family I grew up in – a Mum, Dad, and a Sister – we ate together, went horse riding together, occasionally went on holidays together, visited other members of our family together. I thought, and most reading this, would think that this was normal, just like any other family, but I slowly grew up feeling that something was not right, that how I was feeling was not meant to be happening, but because I knew no different things just continued.

While as a child I never seemed to go without, it was love that I did not seem to have. We were not a family that displayed affection, you did not talk to anyone about your feelings or your problems, you lived with other people but there was no unity, it was very much individualistic. In my mind now, this is not the way a family should be, and as time went on so too did the problems that festered inside me.

I believe that my lack of love in my home environment led me to latch onto the first man who showed me affection, gave me love, and a relationship beyond what my family ever provided me. I jumped straight into a relationship, moved in at 18 thinking I would now know love, have the house with the white picket fence, 2.5 kids, a family with all the trimmings. I believed that I had escaped a house of people, to a home of love and family. It was not meant to be, my choices in a husband turned out to be wrong, and those choices turned out to be harmful, painful, and a very lonely experience. I could not leave because as my husband said, where would I go? My parents never wanted me, so they would not accept me back.

Everyone believes that when things turn to crap your family will always be there to pick up the pieces, is not this ingrained in our morals and values of what a family is?

Unfortunately my family’s reaction to my separation, and then divorce was not taken well, in fact, my Mother openly stated that there is no excuse for divorce, and my sister said it does not matter what happens between husband and wife, you should stay together forever, and what bad things happen between you is your own fault. It was when I really needed them they were not there. When I needed a hand to hang onto it was not there. When I needed the collective, I got loneliness. When I only knew hopelessness they were not there to help.

As a member of family you expect that your family would be there for you when you are ill. I learnt quickly that my family would not be by my side when I was sick. In fact even the doctors and nurses of the ICU I ended up in could not convince my Mother that I was sick enough to warrant my parents to get in their car, and drive nearly four hours to visit me. When I was finally well enough to take a phone call, my Mother said to me that I should just ‘snap out of it’, and get on with my life, I had nothing to be depressed about! That was in 2004, I have not seen my Mother, my Dad, or my Sister since. How could I forgive my Mother, in particular, for not wanting to make the effort to visit me in ICU when Doctors had said they were not sure if I would survive the next 48 hours? How could I ever recover when my own family told me that depression did not exist, I was not sick, and I should stop carrying on, and just get on with life? The scars that I had would forever be sores.

Depression is a lonely experience. It is even lonelier when there is no family there to back you up.

You do not choose who your parents will be. As you grow up you choose who you will be. So when I found out that I was going to be a Mummy I chose that I would not be what my parents were, I would not raise a child who was not unconditionally loved, who did not receive constant affection of hugs and kisses, who could not talk to me about anything, and who no matter the circumstances would be supported in sickness, and in health, in hardship, and in poverty, and everything in between. I will not bestow upon him the neglect, the misery, the abuse, the punishment, that has driven me into a place of helplessness, loneliness, and depression. I will fight with him his battles, I will be his wellness in sickness, his light in darkness, the key when everything is locked, and his friend when he is lonely. I will promise him the world, and give it to him unconditionally. I will seek the best in him without pressure, but encouragement. I will be there for him while he finds who he is, what motivates, and inspires him.

My little boy did not choose me to be his Mummy, he did not get a choice as to whose lives he would be born into. I chose that for him, and I stand by my commitment to him to be the best Mummy I can be, in sickness and in health, in sadness and in happiness, it does not matter who he becomes, where he is in life, or what challenges, obstacles he has to overcome, I will be his Mummy, and I will not leave his side because we are a unit, a team, a collective ready to face anything.

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