The Myth of Independence and Musings on What it Takes to Create Family

creating family independence

Yesterday I attended the prayers for an elderly lady who passed away at the weekend. The word ‘matriarch’ was used to describe her, and the speeches talked about her dedication to her family, from children, to grandchildren to great-grandchildren.

Sitting at the back of the room listening to the sweet music, I watched the rows of elderly women in front of me. There are fewer and fewer women in the community who know the sacred songs to sing through births, marriages and deaths. These women will have passed on knowledge, wisdom and rituals that they learned from their mothers, who learned from their mothers and so on. These women will have ensured that everyone was welcomed and looked after, and no-one was neglected.

I have been wondering about family. What does it take to create family?

Mothers create the bonds not only with their own children, but also with other members of the family. These bonds give strength through the inevitable challenges of life.

Bonds are different today. People are freer to move and often live away from their families. Life is heady and often misses the timeless nature of deep connection. We’re often in the race and too busy to notice what’s going on around us. There’s a fine balance between serving one’s own needs and supporting the needs of others. We have a deep need to belong, as well as to be seen to be different. Freedom can lead to loneliness, and belonging can leave people feeling unseen.

Growing up in the UK but with strong Indian roots, I have often reflected on the dance between independence and dependence. In Western culture the aim is to ‘go it alone’, with a race towards being on your own feet. By contrast I grew up in an extended family, where people of all ages were present and important. As children, we grew up with lots of love and care, but without being the centre of the world. Although it brings its own challenges, an extended family means support for new mothers, for the ill and for the elderly. I like the idea of some sort of hybrid, that allows me to pick the best from East and West and leave the parts that don’t serve.

“Someone has to be the hub of the family , the keeper of the flame”, is something I often tell my mum clients, hoping that they can also meet their own needs whilst supporting the needs of their families. It’s often said that motherhood is an important and yet overlooked role. I also see the same approach to family, particularly as there can be a tendency in modern culture to focus on the dysfunction. So my questions to ponder are:

What does it take to create family?

How do we meet the needs of family in busy times?

How do we balance our sense of self with the needs of family?