Is The Nuclear Family Lonely And Isolated?

25/05/2010 13:43 | Updated 22 May 2015

They say it takes a village to raise a child but these days we seem to expect parents to not only raise a child in isolation but to provide the perfect home and life for that child while holding down jobs too.

How lovely, I often think, it must have been forty or fifty years ago when children grew up in the same street, or close to, aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents.

Even the actress Emma Thompson thinks the nuclear family is lonely and it's all about the extended family these days. Which is easy for her to say, isn't it?

In a recent article, Emma talks about her family of husband, daughter and adopted son plus her mother living next door. It all sounds so idyllic.

"I have never believed in the nuclear family. I have always believed in the extended family. Nuclear families can be very lonely," she says.

While she does have a point, nuclear families can be terribly isolating, most people don't have a choice. The high cost of houses and the mobile job market means many live far from their siblings and parents.

I do know of a couple of families who have been lucky enough to buy houses complete with granny annexes, enabling them to ship the grandparents in.

In one case it worked out beautifully, with the grandparents taking on the lion's share of child raising while the mother steadily climbed her career ladder.

But I think they were the rare and lucky ones. Grandparents young enough to be so hands on are usually still working themselves or incredibly busy with a multitude of hobbies.

In the other family I know, the situation has been a lot trickier with much negotiation of expectations and a few ground rules in order for the situation to work. Finally, after a few years it looks to be succeeding.

I can imagine living so close to your parents would take some delicate discussions and diplomacy but the benefits to everyone would more than make up for it.

Unfortunately not everyone can enjoy the proximity of their extended family, so what can they do? Hook up with other families and share meals and childcare? Or pool resources so members of an extended family can live together?

Or is the nuclear family not lonely and isolated but just fine the way it is?

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