‘Fragile Families’

posted Wednesday, July 14th, 2010 at 9:41 pm

I am currently attending a wonderful winter workshop at uni by visiting Harvard professsor Kathryn Edin who recently co-wrote a very sensitive and beautifully descriptive book called “Promises I can Keep”.  This book which is based on years of ethnographic research on poor families in the US provides real insight into the complexity and issues faced by what she calls ‘fragile families’. I love that term fragile – because it is descriptive but not judgemental. Without giving too much away – as I highly recommend the read – Kathy and her team explores what it is really like to be truely disadvantaged in a country where the minimum wage is $7.27 and CEOS make 350 times more money than those who sit on the poverty threshhold.  This book explores how children provide hope and meaning for poor women,  a priority which far exceeds the importance of marriage.

This leads me ask a rather provocative question. What was/is most important to you – marriage or children? Did/do they have equal priority? Was/is there a set order of preference – or did/do you see marriage as unecessary to raising a family. I am curious to tap into some Australian voices on this issue…

One Response to “‘Fragile Families’”

  1. I don’t see it as competitive in my life, because I had a partner when I was ready to have kids. But given that I have both, I don’t see either as a priority. I don’t want my children to grow up thinking that kids take priority over everything. Firstly, it discourages the acceptance that they are not, in fact, the centre of the universe, but more importantly, it sets them up to feel that martyring themselves to their own children is a measure of a Good Parent. I reject that outright.

    On the other hand, kids have genuine needs that often conflict with the best way to nurture a marriage. That whole, “needing to be cared for rather than being left at home alone/ignored while we sleep in” being the most overriding. Family is an exercise in juggling competing needs, and everyone’s needs count.

    All of this is easy for me to say, because I have a life I consider worth defending. I can see how if your own life sucks (in the ways I imagine being poor in the US does), it would be very attractive to invest yourself entirely in your children’s lives, without any balance for your own. So I appreciate that I am bloody lucky to be able to hold the position that I do.

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