A recent sojourn in The Netherlands has me convinced there is more than overlap with the family law issues in other countries – particularly European ones. The Dutch seem concerned with child maintenance, parenting plans, matrimonial property law and international surrogacy. So tell me we aren’t close, then. Some of the same problems, and the rest very similar, it would appear. Certainly the first three on the list are concerns we have in the UK – or they should be. In a country like The Netherlands where there are more family-oriented approaches than I feel there are in the UK I am a little surprised that they are so worried about family policy. By comparison, they need not be.
Yet, for many around the world the family problems are not divorce, maintenance upon breakdown, division of assets and dealing with obtaining that perfect child. The problems are far more fundamental – feeding children, growing food, staying alive and avoiding the kind of trouble that leads to death – not ‘progression’ at all.
Family life is much the same as ever it was – far less brutal over here, anyway – yet it is molding into the framework of the changing world we inhabit, adapting to the lifestyles of the rich (usually western) as some of the same problems remain. We measure progress by employment and staying happily married, by academic success for our children and the house full of gizmos.
Don’t laugh, but as I posted on my Facebook page today, I wonder where all the (large, black, groovy) records went? Replaced, in part, by (stringy) cassettes, a large box of which I have, ready to ‘convert’ to digital play for my computer, once I sit down and work with the little gizmo that does the job. Have the records, the ‘LPs’, all run away with younger models, the CDs, perhaps to meet the mini-disks that tantalizingly (but rather heavily) tried to come out to play at the end of the last century? So what I am left with is the ether and a tiny memory stick and thoughts of “Surely they can’t – shouldn’t – get any smaller?”
What we are left with in families are some of the same problems as we have always had as we move quickly through the first year of the second decade in the twenty-first century. The millennium viewed from fifty years ago was a time of huge promise. The twenty-twenties, now so close, were for those of us in primary school in the sixties, to be the times we finally fed the millions, having prevented war, famine and the other horsemen from welcoming us to the Apocalypse.
The fundamental problems remain: relationships are never easy to make work, not if people want different things and won’t compromise, or can’t because they have been led to believe that ‘all is possible’ and they can have whatever they want. Keeping families in the basics (food, a roof and the possibility of education with hope) must still be the goal of many. It isn’t quite ‘digital’ and isn’t likely to be, either, but it would be nice to keep hoping and touch the possibilities once in a while.