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Essay on Family: the Evolution of the Concept

“What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.” Mother Teresa

Family is one of the most important values in life. A few decades ago, the concept of family was defined as a union of one man and one woman made for the purpose of procreation and supported by the state. Today, the traditional understanding of family has been modified under the influence of civil unions and same sex marriages. Despite all the legal or social changes to the understanding of family, it remains sacred and essential for personal well-being and even health.

The sociological shifts, emancipation and sexual revolution resulted in the growing popularity of civil unions and decline of official marriage. While LGBT rights activists struggle for the right to marry for same sex couples, the heterosexual couples are unwilling to marry officially. Struggling for freedom and equal rights, some women consider marriage as the leftover effect of the men-dominated society. There are many instances when a couple lives together rather long and even raises kids, but they are not married. This phenomenon can be regarded as the direct consequence of the evolution of moral principles. Several decades ago, living together before marriage was condemned by the society, nowadays it has become a norm, changing the relationships patterns and partners’ attitudes to cohabitation. The increasing rates of divorces and the decreasing rates of official marriages make relations in many families stressful.

With all these shifts in public consciousness, the definition of family undergoes serious changes. Obviously, the official registration of marriage is not obligatory for becoming a family. Of course, civil unions are missing the important legal benefits, such as the right to make important medical decisions, shared insurance, inheritance and kids adoption rights. However, in some places civil unions are granted some of the legal benefits of married couples, no matter if partners are of the same or different sexes. It means that a family is not necessarily a union of one man and one woman. It can be a couple of two men or two women, including also the transgender individuals who want to have families too. In that regard, the purpose of procreation becomes less important. Not all heterosexual couples can have kids, and some of them adopt children or live without kids. The same goes for same sex couples who can’t have kids and who struggle for the right for adoption. In other words, trustful and caring relations and loving heart are more important for becoming a family than gender, legal documents and having kids.

Even with this extended definition of family, some people often consider it as less important than career and social life, which however has negative effects on their psycho-social wellbeing. Staying at work late and working extra hours on weekends and holidays, people often lack time and energy for romantic relations and family responsibilities. Employees can turn into workaholics and working machines which however has a negative effect on their productivity and creativity. Career can stand in the way of a family life, hurting the feelings of kids, spouses and parents. Thousands of people solve the dilemma ‘career or family’ daily. Balancing the two spheres seems to be close to impossible. Paternity leave is a new phenomenon, when a father stays at home with a child, while a mother goes to work. It clearly demonstrates that in many cases women value their career more or they can earn more money than their spouses. The best solution is to balance work and family life to maximize the outcomes in both spheres and live a happy life.

So, no matter whom a person considers as a family, balancing family and other sphere of life is crucial for succeeding and staying happy and healthy. Despite all the sociological shifts and decline of official marriage, family should remain sacred for both men and women. It can make this world a better place.