The family set up as we know contrasts sharply to that of say, half a century ago. The way the family used to be constituted in the olden days was different in structure, which transcended almost in any social divide; be it race, financial might and to some extent, religion. On the other hand, family set up and structure is anything but organized way of living. People no longer have faith in this institution. A quick glance by someone on how families were set up in the past and how they are now, it shows a lot of dissimilarity and this was brought about by so many factors that came to play. This essay will try to bring these factors to the open.
First and foremost, constituting a family starts when two people; male and female, unite in matrimony to start life together. This basically implies that the smallest and most recognized unit of a family was; father, mother and children. In the past it was very rare to bet a family with just a single child, after all, children were God’s gift. Majority of the people during this period had a lot of faith in marriage and a greater percentage of male and female saw marriage as the next thing to do after gaining formal education. A common feature was that the man was the head of the family and thus the bread winner. In return, women were ever submissive to their husbands and their greatest task was taking care of their husbands and children at home; making sure everyone is fed and sleeps comfortably. Taking care of the finances was always a man’s job, and he always delivered on this one-a breadwinner. The comfort and well being of a family used to be closely linked to the financial status of the husband, and you were always going to have a hard time trying to place a certain family as being either a middle class family or a well-to-do family on one hand or being a poor family or middle class on the other because they basically intermingled and they all could afford the basic family needs. This kind of family was almost marched across the global divide be it in Africa, Asia, America or in Europe. The family as we know, it was always like that up until early in the 20th century when small changes started to emerge in the family unit. This was the turning point in as far as family set up is concerned (Frank, 1996)
The new breed of family trends as we see today can claim its foundation on the emergence of female empowerment. Women sought to march their male counterparts in almost everything; education, professional choice, career advancement, and even financial status. This brought about a different kind of competition among the family. Previously when man was the unchallenged leader of the family, competition still existed albeit inter-masculine, and this was positive for the family. It was all about who could provide the best for his family so it was about, say, me as the husband and head of the family trying my best to make sure that my family is provided for everything and even extra as compared to another family. What this kind of family trend did was that it strengthened the existing family bond and really made families stronger as a unit. However, the emergence of the woman as a powerhouse brought a lot of complexities in families.
Women were no longer the minor partners in a marriage but equal partners. Husband-hood with its ego could not take this easily and manhood was brought under siege. Women took over most of the marriages as heads relegating their husbands to the periphery in as far as the running of the family was concerned, husbands no longer had the final say in the family. This scenario led to increase in divorce cases largely from men and women who could not play second fiddle in the family based on the change of fortune for either.
This is not to say that any kind of separation between a husband and wife is because of the men losing ground in family management, no! Divorce is now a common trend among modern families and can be attributed to a reconstitution of the family ideals. Nowadays, the name “family’ has gained a completely new definition. It is now loosely defined as being made up of “a single parents, biracial couples, blended families, unrelated individuals living cooperatively, and homosexual couples, among others.” (Suzanne, 1977) living together under one roof. This points to the fact that women appear to no longer need men as companions and vice versa. We see situations where people cohabit and call that a family or where a woman sires a child with the help of another man who is not his husband and continue living singly but still has a family.
More and more people no longer value families the way it was valued in the past. It is no longer a source of comfort, in fact, for some; families are a source of agony and frustration. Most people nowadays value career advancement over family bond. Ever posed a question to someone on what he or she might opt for in case the family re-union weekend coincided with a retreat for his or her company?
There are those who have decided to practice celibacy for example catholic priests, there are also tribes –spread all over the world who have decided to cling to their traditions. These minority groups of course are not affected by the current family trends, but comparing lives in both extremes, one can realize that the old family setups were more comfortable in marriages than the case today, an opinion which I take.