When I was growing up, having kids ‘out of wedlock’, ‘shotgun weddings’ or ‘living in sin’ were subjects very rarely discussed, and even when they were, it was in hushed tones and behind closed doors.
I remember my sister commenting that a foreign exchange student who had kept in touch after her stay with us had been ‘a naughty girl’ because her first baby was born just six months after the wedding.
Embarrassed parents would send their daughters to stay with an elderly relative if they were ‘in trouble’ and I know of one instance where a much loved daughter thought for years she was the illegitimate offspring of a maiden aunt.
In 1970, our Queen visited my home town.
Boys and girls from the local grammar schools lined the street (separate sides of course) waving little flags purchased for two shillings (10p) each ‘to boost school funds’.
Two girls the year above me fainted in the heat and did not return to school for the rest of the school year. Being an all girls school, there were a lot of whispers and nudges amongst their classmates.
Today, it doesn’t matter which side of the sheets babies are born, and in the Celebrity World, women think nothing of have several children fathered by different men. In some instances, I wonder if it’s some kind of competition.
But what of Jane Doe, the average single mother of today? People do not look so kindly on her.
A female colleague at my last job celebrated her 21st birthday, and introduced us proudly to her 7 year old daughter. I was one of three who wasn’t shocked.
Being a single parent can be for a variety of reasons, not just divorce or a broken relationship.
And it’s not only women bringing up a family alone.
Men do too, but they don’t seem to get so much press. I know first hand what it’s like to be the unofficial step mother to young children being brought up by their father.
My Dad would have been gutted if either of his girls had brought ‘trouble’ home. Saying that though, I don’t think he would have turned us out to fend for ourselves or packed us off somewhere. He would however have been terribly hurt and disappointed in us both.
In the Psychiatric World, my family is officially classed as ‘dysfunctional’…… all of us kids being divorced and on our second marriages, with a variety of natural and inherited offspring.
Latter generations have families but aren’t necessarily married, some having a love of posh frocks, wedding cake and solicitor’s fees.
Parents and children are estranged from each other, some having not spoken or seen each other for years due to a family rift, disagreement or clash of opinion.
Some do things in the ‘wrong order’, like have a baby, get a house, get married.
But if they’re happy, who am I to judge?
Today’s unit of Family is widespread, open and without legal ties or titles.
In fact, for a ‘young’ (40 something) couple to have been happily married for 20 plus years is something of a novelty, and perhaps viewed with a little envy.
The Past makes us what we are today, however blemished, tarnished or unsavoury it may be in another’s eyes. It is Who we are that matters, not a title or stigma.
Everyone’s circumstances are different and legitimacy is just one of many attitudes that has changed since my childhood.