Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Happy Families

As you'll know if you're a blogger (or be able to guess if you're a regular reader) I get a fair number of PR emails. Most I can bin fairly quickly - those that address me as 'Dear Mummy' for example, or those that talk about some fantastic new product or whizzy new initiative which has all the relevance of a bag of damp raffle tickets.

Sometimes, something comes along I like but can't do very much about. Either the subject doesn't fit or I've got posts scheduled and can't make a deadline. I can't test drive maternity clothes, for instance (so please stop asking!) and I'd rather not have to delve into the nether regions of the lingerie range unless I really have to but, well, you'd be surprised what a daddy blogger is sometimes asked to do.

Then, last week, an email arrived about this: The Centre for the Modern Family. Launched today by Scottish Widows, this new think-tank comprising of academics and experts such as Tanya Bryon, Katherine Rake and Dr Samantha Callan (to name but three) intends to help further our understanding of what - in twentieth-first century Britain - a family is.

Of course, the Daily Mail doesn't see it that way. Their headline this morning, heralding the launch, claims that these 'experts are trying to kill off the traditional family'. They're not, of course. What they're doing is examining the state of the modern British family. And what they're finding - unsurprisingly - is that the so-called nuclear family with its cosy certainties is almost certainly finished. Nobody but the Daily Mail could really think otherwise. Working in schools for over twenty years I've dealt with a variety of different family types and - anecdotally - can certainly relate to the changing pattern of family life in the UK.

Because although it's true that sixty per cent of families living with school-age children are still headed by two married parents, over half of the 3000 people questioned in this survey no longer believe that a couple with children have to be married. And three-quarters believe that single parents count as a 'proper' family and almost sixty per cent believe that same sex couples can be regarded in the same way.

But such views aren't always welcome - and not just by the Daily Mail. One of the saddest statistics is that a quarter of the people surveyed feel that their family unit - whether single-parent, reconstituted, same-sex or whatever - isn't valued by society at large while almost a fifth of those questioned feel judged by other people because of their personal family circumstances.

And with articles like this morning's Daily Mail example, is is any wonder?

Sad, though. And with Christmas coming up too. Because, as Laurie Lee once wrote, 'Christmas is the family and the family the child...'

I think we parent-bloggers should start a family fight back - a campaign of our own to celebrate all that's good and caring and nourishing and safe about families however they're constructed. If you're interested, leave a comment and I'll get back to you when I've given it some more thought.

Because whatever anyone says, we're nothing without our families. There's no more important social institution and probably never will be.

Let's celebrate - not denigrate - the family.

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