Families

Jun. 18th, 2013 07:00 pm
liv: bacterial conjugation (attached)
[personal profile] liv
So a friend made a locked post about definitions of family, and it reminded me of several things that have been in my mind recently. I'm not sure this is going to be very coherent, just a bunch of stuff.

The OP talked about biological and emotional connections, and how hard it is for our culture to handle the kind of relationships that don't quite fit in to either category (step-parent, sister-wife). (Zie acknowledges that the terms aren't ideal; this isn't about quibbling about the word "biological".) I've been toying similar sort of thought which I somewhat cynically call the humours theory of relationships: there are relationships which are based on blood, ie what in modern times we'd call genetics, and there are relationships which are based on semen, ie sexual relationships, preferably those modelled on the obvious phallocentric concept of what counts as real sex. And nothing else really matters.

Part of what I'm referring to with the humours theory is about being a society that assumes and is built round nuclear families. I don't have enough anthropology to discuss this at a very profound level, but the more I learn the more it becomes clear that this centrality of nuclear families is not the default, as I imagined when I was growing up, but rather an extreme historical and cultural anomaly. Thanks to a very intense campaign over the last couple of decades, we seem to be coming to a consensus that a nuclear family can have two adults of any sex, but it's still only a family if it's two adults who are in love and make a public commitment to an exclusive sexual relationship, raising children from birth to adulthood as a self-contained household. It's still a bit suspicious if there isn't a clear division of roles between breadwinner and primary caregiver, even if we're a bit more relaxed about the rule that the former must be male and the latter female. This broadening out is a good thing, it's unquestionably progress, but it still values only one particular narrow model of what a family is.

I could make a very long list of all the types of relationships that are excluded by this nuclear obsession. I tend to get exercised about the lack of acknowledgement of significant friendships that aren't sexual, and Queer relationships that can't be shoehorned into "just like a normal marriage except with two men instead of a man and a woman". But actually it's all kinds of things, it's extended families and blended families and multi-generational families and families created by complex adoption and fostering. Households that are not families, like a bunch of not conventionally partnered adult friends living together, as well as families that are not households such as my own long-distance relationship. Adults who need substantial care and aren't either breadwinners or home-makers. I am really fed up with politicians from both sides of the aisle going on about "hard-working families". Their definition of family is ridiculously too narrow, and their definition of hard-working appears to exclude any kind of care work other than that performed by parents for minor children. Not to mention the obvious glaring gap in excluding from civic life everybody who isn't part of a family for any reason.

The other thing that's excluded from humour-based relationships is second-degree connections. The relationships that exist out of necessity between the various people who are intimately connected to the same individual. In-laws, yes, have a clear social and verbal category. But what about friends of partners, co-parents of the same child who are not themselves in a romantic relationship, the poly concept of metamours: partners of the same person who are not themselves in a direct romantic relationship; this is relevant to monogamous people as well because a relationship may well exist between someone's ex and someone's current partner, depending on circumstances. As well as that, I don't feel like we have good language for the broader groups or networks created by multiple relationships between individuals where some pairs have relatively loose connections. It's politically incorrect to say "tribe" but I would like some way to discuss the reality of such groups, which may not be voluntarily chosen by all members but still affect them in both positive and negative ways.

One unexpected source of division between me and [personal profile] jack is that I have a much larger family than he does. On one level this is completely self-evident: duh, I have three siblings and he is an only child. But it's more than that, it's that I regard my parents' siblings, their partners and offspring, and in many cases my parents' cousins, their partners and offspring as family in a way that [personal profile] jack just doesn't. My family of origin is on some levels a classic twentieth century style "nuclear" family; my parents remained single until they were 30 or so, and then they married eachother and have remained in a monogamous relationship since then, and during most of that time my father worked at a professional job and my mother ran the household, cooked, looked after us four kids and did lots of volunteering for community orgs. But in other ways, we haven't followed the classic pattern of nuclear families, because that's more than just a breadwinner spouse and a home-making spouse running a household with their genetic offspring.

The typical nuclear model, I think, also includes something about independence, there's an expectation that relationships between parents and children more or less cease (or at least fade very much into the background) when the offspring reach adulthood. My mother lived with her parents or other relatives for most of the time until she married, which is increasingly unusual in our society, indeed it's a frequent insult to insinuate that an adult is still living with their parents. Conversely, my mother's mother has lived with her for most of the last two decades, and was therefore part of my family as an older teenager in a way that grandparents aren't expected to be in the typical nuclear arrangement.

The idea of the nuclear family as a completely self-contained unit also means that the younger generation move away geographically as soon as they can, and this pushes sibling relationships to the background for adults. That's not entirely the way with us; my siblings lived together as adults for a tranche of time, and generally we have more contact than many other sets of siblings in their 30s that I know, though we are less close than some. It most certainly wasn't the way with my dad; when he was growing up, his parents lived on the same street with his mother's brother and several of his father's seven siblings and their offspring, and all the cousins were more or less jointly raised by the various sets of parents without much distinction between them, rather than in separate nuclear families. My parents' experiences are the reason why I count many of my second cousins and once-removed cousins as close family, not because I'm gratuitously showing off the depth of how well I know my family tree, but because that's how it works. If siblings remain close (geographically if possible, but certainly emotionally) as adults, then it's likely that their offspring will also be close even if they're "only" cousins, not siblings to eachother.

Another non-nuclear thing we do is to extend the family to include new people, not just partners of family members, but whole families of our relatives' partners. Yiddish has a word, machetonim, which in its narrow sense means your child's partner's family, but in its broad sense means people who are connected to you via another relative, beyond direct in-laws. (I probably got this from Leo Rosten, who was brilliant at humorous but accurate definitions of Yiddish words, anyway I've heard that you can define machetonim as people who are related to you in ways that take longer to say than to use the term.) Obviously [personal profile] jack is my parents' son-in-law, everybody understands that. But his parents are my parents' machetonim, and we had some slight friction because my parents by default expect to have a relationship with their machetonim, whereas J's parents had no expectation that my parents (and probably my sibs and maybe even in-laws and cousins) would suddenly be related to them just because their son married me. I've been noticing the last couple of years that I'm no longer part of a family of six, which was my situation as a kid; it's more like a family of ten, including Granny and [personal profile] jack and my sibs' partners.

These machetonim connections don't exactly disappear when romantic relationships come to an end; my parents are still very interested in the lives of the people we have seriously dated in the past. Which suits me, because I strongly prefer to stay close friends with people after a relationship ends; if I like someone enough to date them in the first place, I certainly like them enough to want to be friends long-term. And that of course is another issue where there's a vocabulary gap. If I call someone my ex it connotates that I hate them and avoid them as much as possible; if I simply refer to my exes as my friends that misses out an important part of the story. Quite apart from the fact that "friend" means everything from some random person whose feed you occasionally glance at on Facebook to lifelong soul-mate. This is probably part of why I'm reluctant to date as it were "casually"; even a temporary relationship can feel like including the person in my family.

I've also been talking to various friends, particularly those from immigrant backgrounds, who are trying to reconcile their cultures' expectations of much closer adult relationships between parents and offspring, with the anglo culture expectation that being adult means you have only a minimal relationship with your parents, and if you are unusually close there's something wrong. It's really more the norm than the exception worldwide for adults to continue living in the family home, certainly until they get married but quite often as newlyweds too. Or else to deliberately choose to live nearby and continue to receive financial support, and practical support with childrearing with a closer involvement than just the odd Saturday night of babysitting. (I did a straw poll of a particular group of medical students, asking how many of them had grandparents directly involved in their lives growing up, beyond just occasional visits, and about half were substantially raised by grandparents as well as parents. FWIW.) Equally many cultures have a much stronger expectation that adult offspring will provide practical support for elderly, frail or sick family members. We sort of expect it in mainstream culture, but it doesn't really work very well with the nuclear family model; you end up with middle-aged daughters struggling to pay for and supervise the care provided to their parents from a long distance, with almost no societal or personal support, while people who don't have daughters willing and able to do this are pretty much abandoned.

Ideally, extended families like this could be more sustainable. If older relatives who have had time to accumulate material resources share them with younger people just starting out, you don't have this awful situation of people in their 20s and 30s who feel that being a real adult citizen means owning your own home but can in no way afford to live anywhere decent. (And you don't have to wait until your parents die to inherit their assets.) If whole families share caring responsibilities for young children as well as for elderly or disabled people, that's much more plausible than having a nuclear couple with one spouse earning the money to pay for everything and one spouse providing all the practical labour. Particularly if you plan for a typical nuclear family and expect to be caring for one or two healthy children for a set period of time, and for some reason that doesn't work out, so you end up with the labour-providing spouse having more on her plate than one person can reasonably manage.

I don't want to be romantic about this, though. It's very easy to fall into false nostalgia for a rose-tinted age when ageing parents were cared for in the family home and not institutionalized. For one thing, it's no good just deciding one wants do to that; at the moment, society is just not set up to make it possible, for a great number of reasons. For another, there are really good reasons why the model of leaving home in your late teens and building your own independent life is appealing. Although I'm somewhat closer to my parents and sibs than many people of my generation, I do in fact live on my own, rather distant from my genetic relatives, and I my life currently is focused around a primary, couple relationship. Even people who get on pretty well with their families of origin would be making a genuine sacrifice to gain the practical advantages of having multi-generation, extended families living in the same vicinity, much less the same household. Let alone people who actually have serious conflict with their relatives. Some of the Muslim girls in my interfaith group were talking about the fact that by default, they expect their parents to arrange marriages for them, and somebody asked, well, what if someone's parents don't really have their kids' best interests at heart? Over-insistence on family commitments traps people in untenable or abusive situations, that's the hard truth.

There's this famous essay by Doug Muder, based on George Lakoff: Red Family, Blue Family, in which Muder attempts to explain poor, rural American conservatives to geeky, urban American liberals, while also in some way asserting that liberal values are morally superior. Muder introduces the idea of families based on negotiated commitment, which is a very fine idea. I'm always a sucker for stories about chosen families, people who choose to be loyal to eachother even though they may not have ties based on blood or sex, and don't have the support of social structures to keep them together when things are hard. Morally, I completely back liberal, negotiated commitment ideas such as that people should be able to leave their parents and strike out on their own if they want to, and that people should be able to form relationships based on love rather than convenience and community expectations.

The problem is that I'm not sure how the commitment part of negotiated commitment really works in practice. It seems like, people who are shiny and socially valued will find partners, friends and communities to love and support them, even if they are misfits for whatever reason, and that's great. But I worry about the people who don't get on so well with others, who are a bit obnoxious or a bit antisocial, or are basically decent people but just plain hard work, or are sufficiently eccentric that people like them are rare and they maybe don't have the resources to move to the big city and find their people. The solution in Red Family, Blue Family is the fairly glib suggestion that we "just" have to have a good social safety net, so that people who don't manage to build intentional communities won't end up starving and homeless and without medical care. Being a bit more right-leaning than Muder's core audience, I'm not desperately enthusiastic about handing over family and community collective responsibilities to the state. Apart from anything else, people have emotional needs as well as practical ones. But basically I don't trust the government to actually look after people who need it.

I've also been reading a couple of advice columns, sort of group therapy for geeks style, Captain Awkward and Making Light's Dysfunctional Families thread. And both the Awkward Army and the Fluorospherians are very very good at advising people to get the hell out of bad relationships, whether that's relationships with parents or with romantic partners or even friendships or employment situations. This is obviously an excellent thing in the case of abuse; there are far too many pressures out there for people to continue to endure abuse because they feel they have an obligation to maintain a relationship with someone who is hurting them. But equally obviously it's hard to judge what constitutes "bad enough" that the only possible option is to completely cut off contact. It feels like there's a growing community of people, particularly the sort of geeky and/or queer crowd I hang out with, who are really in rebellion against the idea that you have to stick with your family no matter what, because their birth families fundamentally don't get who they are. That rebellion is really necessary, it's made a whole lot of people happier over the past couple of generations. The problem is that if you carry that attitude of, if people aren't bringing value to your life then remove them from it, over into your chosen family, then it's not really a family. It's a bunch of people who have fun together, but don't have any reason to continue to be part of eachother's lives any time they're not having a good time.

That might be ok for young, relatively well-off, able-bodied people, people who can break off a connection that isn't working for them and find support and companionship somewhere else instead. I don't know how to reconcile this (decidedly appealing!) idea that you should only sustain relationships with people who make you happier on an ongoing basis with the things that I sort of expect from families. One of the things that makes a family, in my understanding, is that it carries family members who during a given period need more from the family than they can contribute. That might be a practical imbalance, and it might be emotional. I do think there's a diversity of ways that families can achieve that, but a group that isn't even trying to do that doesn't quite look like a family.

Like I said, somewhat rambly and not very coherent thoughts. This probably ought to've been several posts, really, but let's see what people think.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-06-18 07:14 pm (UTC)
oursin: Painting of Clio Muse of History by Artemisia Gentileschi (Clio)
From: [personal profile] oursin
I am not a demographic historian but I know a bit about that area, and the whole 'marrying relatively late and setting up independent household' model goes back at least to the Middle Ages in North Western Europe, or at least parts of it. What this also meant was that couples were largely of an age (rather than much older men marrying much younger women) and families smaller, which had some rather positive knock-on effects for women.

However, I think one can exaggerate the nuclearity of this model and how much it was far more complex in practice. Families still tended to live close together even if not in the same house, and I think it is in that famous study of kinship in the East End in the mid-C20th in which the continuing close warm mother-daughter ties were mentioned - 'always popping round'.

I myself grew up in a 3 generation household (my mother's parents, my parents, myself and siblings). At one point my father's elderly mother was living in the granny flat next door. My sister and brother-in-law still live in the same house with my father living in the granny flat. Two of their children live very close, and the other just the other side of town, and there's a fair amount of popping round. But they all get on. It's not a universal solution just because it works for them. And it's also very dependent on a whole range of other factors, like the housing situation - the kinship study I mentioned pointed out the adverse effects of people moving out into lovely new towns from their bomb-damaged slums but losing the ease of contact.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-06-18 09:09 pm (UTC)
wychwood: chess queen against a runestone (Default)
From: [personal profile] wychwood
The problem is that if you carry that attitude of, if people aren't bringing value to your life then remove them from it, over into your chosen family, then it's not really a family. It's a bunch of people who have fun together, but don't have any reason to continue to be part of eachother's lives any time they're not having a good time.

I think you have a point here, but also that actually the evidence suggests that those "chosen family" ties are more robust than that, even with the "ditch people who are bad for you" ethos? I'm thinking particularly of what I know about the gay male community in the US during the AIDS epidemic in the 80s - you have so many cases there of men caring for dying friends and lovers, people supporting each other in exactly the kind of way "traditional families" are conventionally expected to, because most of them didn't have much in the way of family left after coming out. "Don't spend time with people who don't make you happy" isn't the same as "leave when things get hard", and I think you are eliding the two somewhat.

(though as to the broader point I agree that people who are really difficult, particularly personality-wise, are going to find it hard to build chosen families, where birth families are more likely to be issued to you...)

(no subject)

Date: 2013-06-18 10:22 pm (UTC)
redbird: closeup of me drinking tea (Default)
From: [personal profile] redbird
I think it depends partly on how much space there is between "ditch people who are bad for you" and "everyone has to be bringing value to your life," depending partly on what constitutes value. There is real value to some people in "I love this person, and she used to take care of me, and now I am doing the same for her," even if the care-taking is difficult.

At the risk of bad analogy, I don't need someone to be carrying the same amount of weight as I am—this particular afternoon or over a span of years—as long as they aren't dragging me down.

(no subject)

From: [personal profile] redbird - Date: 2013-06-19 06:48 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [personal profile] highlyeccentric - Date: 2013-06-21 10:08 am (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

Date: 2013-06-19 03:44 am (UTC)
siderea: (Default)
From: [personal profile] siderea
Thank you. I scrolled down precisely to snark "The Inherited Obligation family died of AIDS" and make this very point.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-06-18 09:18 pm (UTC)
atreic: (Default)
From: [personal profile] atreic
Nothing wise to say, but there's a lot here that really resonates with me.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-06-18 10:05 pm (UTC)
ptc24: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ptc24
There's a lot there. I read Red Family, Blue Family... partly I'm interested in how Lakoff's political work has stood the test of time. The vague impression I get from reading around is "not wonderfully". Of course, Lakoff's thoughts about families and politics go back to his thoughts about linguistics and concepts, and there's a line of ideas that can be traced back through Rosch to Wittgenstein about "family resemblance" categories, where you have collections of things which are all similar to each other but it's not possible to pick out a neat defining characteristic or formulate a nice Aristotelian definition. I tried explaining this to a friend once, she said "How are you defining 'family' here", and I said, "My point exactly! There can be two generations, or not, they can be blood relatives, not not, they can live in the same house together, or not, they can all love each other, or not..." and then there was a sidetrack as to whether family pets counted and whether a family dog could partake of a family's family resemblance. Anyway, Red Family, Blue Family seems to espouse one idea of liberalism but I found the "Blue" side of things didn't speak to me, and I found myself reaching for my J. S. Mill again to reassure myself that someone was on or near my wavelength. Also, it doesn't explain why libertarians generally side with conservatives.

I suppose, as well as there being awkwardness between family values and liberty, there are awkwardnesses to do with equality too, especially equality of opportunity. I think there might be equality issues with the concept of a family, too; if you take the sort of approach to definition that I'm taking then it's all too easy to end up with a middle-class heterosexual family as a prototype - some people find this unacceptable.

Thought sloshing around: "form-tracks-substance" and "substance-tracks-form". I suppose that some forms of "Negotiated Commitment" or related ideas might be described by the former, and that the latter might be how supporters of arranged marriage might describe their ideal.

(no subject)

From: [personal profile] ptc24 - Date: 2013-06-19 09:28 am (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

Date: 2013-06-18 10:22 pm (UTC)
highlyeccentric: Sign on Little Queen St - One Way both directions (Default)
From: [personal profile] highlyeccentric
Hmm. In many ways I lack my mother's sense of family committment - I don't feel much obligation to my extended family, and while my nuclear family of origin are still my family, I don't feel particularly strained about up and leaving them for for'n parts. I'm pretty keen on 'chosen/negotiated family' ideas, but I suspect I'm not committed to a broad set of such persons any more than I am to my extended family.

I wonder if what differentiates 'chosen family' from 'group of friends' is not intention but time? Friendships and other non-sex bonds can be like dating in that respect: some relationships form and dissolve easily, others stick around. And it's not just a question of who sticks with you in tough times: I've had friendships which were strong and sustaining in tough times but dissolved with time or distance.

It's kind of understood in romantic relationships that few people will stick with the same one from their first relationship onwards, isn't it? And a wise view does not see relationships which fail to end in cohabitation / marriage / other clear signs of 'family nao' as failure. Likewise, if a marriage breaks up, we don't decide 'well that wasn't a family then', do we? Perhaps we might view the components of a chosen family in a similar way.

(no subject)

From: [personal profile] highlyeccentric - Date: 2013-06-19 09:25 am (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [personal profile] highlyeccentric - Date: 2013-06-19 10:10 am (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [personal profile] highlyeccentric - Date: 2013-06-20 09:09 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [personal profile] highlyeccentric - Date: 2013-06-23 09:51 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [personal profile] highlyeccentric - Date: 2013-06-24 11:07 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [personal profile] highlyeccentric - Date: 2013-06-24 11:47 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

Date: 2013-06-18 10:51 pm (UTC)
rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
From: [personal profile] rmc28
I love the concept of machetonim: I have long regretted that there isn't a good word for the relationships of my parents with Tony's. And of course, it is complicated by both our sets of parents being divorced, and three of the four of them remarrying, and relations mostly being amicable between all combinations thereof.

[On our honeymoon, we met and had a nice chat with a pair of older women whose children had been married (for several decades?), and who had become firm friends to the point of holidaying together regularly in their retirement.]

With the exception of Jonny, my family and Tony's are geographically far away, but we do stay in touch: siblings and parents and aunts and uncles and a few of the more distant cousins too. Most of our travel and most of our hosting of visitors is family contact with one branch or another.

On the other hand, the reason that we have to travel to see any of the family but J is because our roots are firmly set in Cambridge now, and part of that is a chosen community of friends that is also rooted here. My sister-in-law L and her husband seem to be part of a similarly rooted community in Sheffield; I'm very fond of them and their friends, but we would not want to give up our community here to be near them in Sheffield, and they would not want to leave Sheffield for us in Cambridge. Are our close friends "chosen extended family" then?

(no subject)

Date: 2013-06-19 12:37 pm (UTC)
kaberett: Overlaid Mars & Venus symbols, with Swiss Army knife tools at other positions around the central circle. (Default)
From: [personal profile] kaberett
Yes! My mother is getting firmly integrated into the family of my baby brother's girlfriend - she meets up with bb's gf's mum regularly, and bb's gf's mum encourages bb to spend more time with me, and I've ended up giving sexual health advice to bb's gf via my mother.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-06-19 04:12 am (UTC)
siderea: (Default)
From: [personal profile] siderea
The problem is that I'm not sure how the commitment part of negotiated commitment really works in practice.

Pretty much exactly the way it works in inherited obligation families.

I mean, except where arranged by elders, marriage is the canonical example of a negotiated commitment. Now, if you want to claim that as an argument in favor of your dubiousness ("See! Look how feeble marriage is as an institution to provide for people, as opposed to inheritance! Blood is thicker than semen."), I am totally willing to grant it -- but I somehow don't think that's where you're going with this.

It seems like, people who are shiny and socially valued will find partners, friends and communities to love and support them, even if they are misfits for whatever reason, and that's great. But I worry about the people who don't get on so well with others, who are a bit obnoxious or a bit antisocial, or are basically decent people but just plain hard work, or are sufficiently eccentric that people like them are rare and they maybe don't have the resources to move to the big city and find their people. The solution in Red Family, Blue Family is the fairly glib suggestion that we "just" have to have a good social safety net, so that people who don't manage to build intentional communities won't end up starving and homeless and without medical care.

Um. So people who are "a bit obnoxious or a bit antisocial, or are basically decent people but just plain hard work, or are sufficiently eccentric that people like them are rare and they maybe don't have the resources to move to the big city and find their people" such that they "don't manage to build intentional communities"?

They also don't succeed in building inherited obligation style families, either, and find themselves in old age without relatives or children to care for them, or at least not enough. Right now my partner and his cousin are trying to care for three octogenarians between them.

Make no mistake: the inherited obligation style family when considered as elder care is very much an intentional community, just bred not brought; if you do not build one successfully -- whether through ineptness or misfortune -- you are as bereft of care in old age as is anyone who failed to construct a family on the basis of negotiated commitment.

ETA: I have five patients right now in traditionalist inherited obligation style families, dealing with elder care issues. A mother, a father, a son and two daughters. And all five are trainwrecks. And precipitated my having words with my own mother about her plans.
Edited Date: 2013-06-19 04:28 am (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2013-06-19 09:30 am (UTC)
highlyeccentric: Sign on Little Queen St - One Way both directions (Default)
From: [personal profile] highlyeccentric
Make no mistake: the inherited obligation style family when considered as elder care is very much an intentional community, just bred not brought; if you do not build one successfully -- whether through ineptness or misfortune -- you are as bereft of care in old age as is anyone who failed to construct a family on the basis of negotiated commitment.

Yes, this! The same applies to many of the other facets of inherited family: it works because people chose to maintain it, to teach those values to their children and relatives, to tolerate/minimize/outright endorse the obnoxious or dangerous characters in the name of family, and to lean gently or coercively on other members to maintain it. Families are just as prone to the "geek social fallacy" as communities of interest are, except family is usually articulated in terms of responsibility rather than inclusion.

(TW domestic violence)

From: [personal profile] highlyeccentric - Date: 2013-06-20 11:42 am (UTC) - Expand

Re: (TW domestic violence)

From: [personal profile] kaberett - Date: 2013-06-20 07:59 pm (UTC) - Expand

Re: (TW domestic violence)

From: [personal profile] highlyeccentric - Date: 2013-06-20 09:40 pm (UTC) - Expand

Re: (TW domestic violence)

From: [personal profile] kaberett - Date: 2013-06-20 09:54 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [personal profile] highlyeccentric - Date: 2013-06-19 10:52 am (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [personal profile] highlyeccentric - Date: 2013-06-20 11:57 am (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [personal profile] kaberett - Date: 2013-06-19 12:36 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [personal profile] redbird - Date: 2013-06-21 06:14 am (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [personal profile] siderea - Date: 2013-06-20 04:02 am (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [personal profile] highlyeccentric - Date: 2013-06-20 11:47 am (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

Date: 2013-06-19 10:09 am (UTC)
naath: (Default)
From: [personal profile] naath
I think my personal take is that I really rather would have "the state" be the fall-back on "where to get help when you need it". It is help that comes without emotional strings; help that comes with a contract. I know the state is often shit, but it's not as if family never is.

I guess I'm an independent-minded person really; I want it to be *possible* to be a single person, living alone, without strong emotional connections to others without risking serious difficulty if you get sick or frail. I'm not adverse to helping my friends, but I'd feel very bad about imposing on them for serious long-term support.

I think it is possible to make negotiated family-of-choice arrangements more, well, *negotiated* - especially if you are planning to do something that you *know* will put stresses on the arrangement. Harder I think in case of sudden unexpected need.

(no subject)

From: [personal profile] highlyeccentric - Date: 2013-06-19 10:55 am (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [personal profile] highlyeccentric - Date: 2013-06-21 10:46 am (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [personal profile] kaberett - Date: 2013-06-19 12:39 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [personal profile] kaberett - Date: 2013-06-20 09:35 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [personal profile] kaberett - Date: 2013-06-22 10:08 am (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

Date: 2013-06-19 10:42 am (UTC)
highlyeccentric: Sign on Little Queen St - One Way both directions (Default)
From: [personal profile] highlyeccentric
I think my personal take is that I really rather would have "the state" be the fall-back on "where to get help when you need it". It is help that comes without emotional strings; help that comes with a contract. I know the state is often shit, but it's not as if family never is.

Plus, a strong and supportive state infrastructure for elder care, care of the ill and disabled, and even provision of advice and assistance (NZ has a 'citizens advice bureau' who provide... advice!) - that would make it possible for inherited family to function as intentional rather than coercive. If obnoxious relative or family member can be supported by the state, it reduces the burden on individual carers and gives people leeway to opt out temporarily or permanently if they need to for self-care.

(no subject)

From: [personal profile] karen2205 - Date: 2013-06-22 07:53 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

Date: 2013-06-19 12:14 pm (UTC)
kaberett: Overlaid Mars & Venus symbols, with Swiss Army knife tools at other positions around the central circle. (Default)
From: [personal profile] kaberett
(1) A term I use about my maternal family is "clan", or I talk about us as "clannish". There was a very definite transition in my life from being a child to being an adult member of the clan the five days that I spent helping make my Grossmutti's funeral work; I went down early, and came back late, and helped clean the house, and talked to the priest, and helped choose the music, and cleaned out the fridges, and spent an awful lot of time peeling kilo upon kilo of root vegetable; and I started getting called the familial term-of-affection between adults, and I started calling Grosspapa Papa.

(2) I am in the camp of people willing to cut someone off if they're doing me more harm than good. However, my criteria for that isn't a cut and dried rolling average of the past few months; it's much more about "are you in a place where my input of energy is helping you, rather than being sucked away into nothing; and if not, how long can I sustain this?" - or "have you done things xy or z which are so thoroughly damaging to me that I can no longer trust you?" I think this is qualitatively different from what you describe, though I'm not sure I could articulate how; would be keen to hear your thoughts.

[This was all going to be in the brackets of indecision, but hey. Have some words.]

(no subject)

Date: 2013-06-20 09:14 pm (UTC)
falena: Picture of a girl hiding behind a camera, reflected in a mirror. (Default)
From: [personal profile] falena
This post and all the comments are such a fascinating read! Thank you so much for bringing such thought-provoking posts to my circle, [personal profile] liv. I wish I was half as analytical and articulate as the rest of your journal friends. Heh. :)
Edited Date: 2013-06-20 09:15 pm (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2013-06-21 08:21 am (UTC)
ptc24: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ptc24
It's late in the thread, but maybe not too late for name-dropping. There was something in Red Family, Blue Family about someone studying conservatives and going somewhat native. This reminds me of some of the things I'd read by Johnathan Haidt, and he in turn likes to cite Emile Durkheim.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-06-21 07:00 pm (UTC)
rymenhild: Manuscript page from British Library MS Harley 913 (Default)
From: [personal profile] rymenhild
[personal profile] highlyeccentric pointed me here.

I'm a Jewish woman in a serious and hopefully permanent relationship with another Jewish person (genderqueer, uses female pronouns, but "woman" isn't quite right). Because we both come from close-knit Jewish families, I didn't expect that we would have major differences in the ways we engage with our birth families. Wrong.

My family operates on the presumption that anyone a family member brings home is now a family member. This includes close friends as well as significant others. I love this policy most of the time, but it sometimes (rarely) causes trouble, as when my father became the patron of a man just released from prison. My father wants to integrate this man into our family, but for various reasons I don't feel safe around him, and prefer to see him as rarely as may be. So anyway, my parents basically semi-adopted my partner and treat her as a family member they don't quite understand.

My partner's family is extremely close -- I would actually say, unhealthily enmeshed -- but repels outsiders. As far as I can tell -- and my partner would probably disagree with me here -- the children's significant others are basically viewed as interlopers coming to break apart the family. They're starting to warm to me now, but I've been in this relationship for going on six years already.

So what are the responsibilities of birth families to children of the family and the children's chosen families? My partner and I don't have the same attitudes on that question, and every so often it comes up to haunt us.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-06-23 02:02 am (UTC)
highlyeccentric: Sign on Little Queen St - One Way both directions (Default)
From: [personal profile] highlyeccentric
My father's family have a certain amount in common with your partner's, I think. They all *like* my mother, but when something happens (a death, for instance), they - including my father - close ranks and exclude non-blood kin. I think this may be because his sisters have not always had stable or good relationships, in part, but some of it is his mothers' weird possessiveness of her children playing out.

Soundbite

Miscellaneous. Eclectic. Random. Perhaps markedly literate, or at least suffering from the compulsion to read any text that presents itself, including cereal boxes.

Page Summary

Top topics

March 2017

S M T W T F S
    1234
56 7 891011
12 1314 15161718
1920 21 22232425
2627 28293031 

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags

Subscription Filters