Family, I’ve often pondered the complexity of them.
They can bind us in both good and bad ways, there is no end to the drama they can create and yet they form the very fabric of society and inevitably shape us as individuals.
While there’s no denying the ‘picture’ of family is evolving, some things stay the same.
I had yet another sobering conversation today with a friend, you know the kind where questions are posed about ‘how as adults, are we meant to live together….happily, with all the chaos that family-life brings: having kids, working to pay a mortgage, trying to find time as a couple?’
Add to that, the pressure to seem like a ‘got-it-together’ family unit and you’ve got a recipe for major unhappiness.
It’s an ongoing conversation that does the rounds with pretty much all my friends and I’m beginning to wonder if it qualifies as enough empirical research to write a PhD thesis.
But in all seriousness, I know we’ve all had these conversations with friends (well, at least women do) and it’s gotten to the point where I’m not just wondering HOW we can change it, this whirlwind that is family life, but WHAT are the factors that created it.
Prior to starting our own families, we were responsible only for ourselves. Free to ride the wave of opportunity, to try out a few things and along the way, develop a good grounding in who we thought we were and our capabilities.
As Psychologist Dr Bandura labels it, we had a relatively high level of ‘self-efficacy, the belief in our capabilities to organise and execute the courses of action required to manage situations’.
In short, we rocked! Nothing was beyond our reach and we were confident enough to know what it was we had to do, to get it. Confidence ensured success and success ensured confidence.
It was this period in my life where the pull to live and work abroad outweighed any apprehensions I might have had earlier in my life and the desire to travel alone was thrilling. Forget that I’d never done it before, I was pretty sure I’d figure it out.
But enter steady relationship, kids and the pressures of work and fast-forward to the current age of emotional turmoil, sleep deprivation (no doubt the cause of the emotional turmoil) and constant guilt at stuffing up the juggling act that is working and being a parent and a spouse………and well ….. the scales on the old self-efficacy have turned, big time.
Seeing as success is the basis for building belief in one’s personal efficacy, our relatively new (and what feel like everyday) ‘failures’, naturally undermine it.
Succeeding at completing a tantrum free visit to the supermarket, seems about as likely as me becoming the next Prime Minister and achieving a quiet uninterrupted conversation with my partner… well better left as a distant memory. We’ve inevitably got lost along the way.
Our circumstance have changed and relatively quickly, our stress has multiplied in these different areas merging and we are still playing catch-up, that we haven’t had time to regroup and develop self-efficacy in this new ‘family’ terrain.
The screaming toddler at the supermarket, the work deadlines that yet again aren’t met, the partner who feels like a stranger, the waking baby every 2 hours, the house that looks like a tip…. better yet, all combined!
Just how do we navigate this and try to stay sane, let alone happy, as individuals AND as a family?
We’ve lost confidence in ourselves, because our sense of ‘self’ no long exists in the traditional sense. WE are a family, bound by blood (and sweat and tears seems highly appropriate to add here), but from exactly this, is where I reckon we should draw strength and in turn success.
Families by their nature are complex and so are we as individuals. We will never work it ALL out, but we can try to go easy on ourselves and accept that we are in a new (albeit freaky) phase of our life.
That nobody has really got it together, that you never really ‘arrive’ in life and that our successes may be measured in small increments.
Maybe instead of regaining self-efficacy, we’ll develop ‘us-efficacy’ a way of believing in OUR abilities as a team, a family, to manage situations.
Too airy-fairy for you, well maybe even for me, but we can live (and try), in hope….together.