Raul Freitas

The Way We Were




The concept of family, an increasingly ironic phrase in the days we live in. I’m not exactly sure when it all began to shift, but the industrial revolution may have played the biggest part. With industrialization and promises of jobs and wealth, cities began to fill with rural families following those dreams, looking for an easier way of life, leaving scars in rural regions that are still fresh today. Before that, families were a unit which operated in sync, in order to ensure the well-being of the group. The formula only worked if the family was a whole.

Everyone had their role, everyone was vital. With the advent of factories and jobs, the family unit began to change. The father would go off to work, the mother stayed home and cared for the children. As the older boys in the family got older, they too went to work. At the end of the day everyone would gather at home, but it was a huge shift in the paradigm. The family unit was just that little bit less unified.

The 20th century was where women began to work outside the home. This concept really took off during and after the Second World War. Since the men were off fighting, women had to fill in, especially in manufacturing. That played a major role in the change of the family. Following the war, women continued to work for various reasons, and children began to be looked after by grandparents, daycare facilities, and schools.

The new concept of family evolved more into a group of individuals, each with their own role, and vital to each other, but more in the pursuit of making money in order to purchase everything that the family needed to survive. With the advance of technology and the rapid ascent of consumerism, money, (and the earning of), began to take over and the survival of the family wasn’t the only goal. The purchasing of “things” became a driving force in society, which also led to the taking on of debt, whose payment became the main goal in the life of a modern family.

In many countries, emigration became an all-important option, and also played an important part in the changing of the concept of the family because suddenly there were no grandparents or even other relatives that could look after the children. Today, children go into daycare at merely months old, separating them from their family at an age where they are not even aware of what a family is. To this child, growing up being cared for by non-family members, must affect their own concept of what a family is, and will mold their idea of the concept. Shift to today, and what we are seeing a lot of is a promotion of the individual and not the family so much. Much of it is due to technology and consumerism. Governments are not promoting the idea of family. Money and the spending of it on oneself is what’s hip now. Individuals are convinced that they are islands, and that technology is all they need in order to flourish. They have “everything” at the push of a button, or a swipe, to be more specific. There are so many “individuals “now, that the, at least in the industrialized world, you might come to believe that the very idea of a family is in danger of becoming extinct.

The world is going through an empathy crisis, and I’m sure it’s due partly to individualism. We don’t connect with people like we used to. Even with friends we tend to send texts. People avert eye contact with others in the street. Many don’t even know their neighbours. Here in Portugal, albeit less and less, people still tend to wish someone they pass on the street a “good morning”.

That act in itself creates a connection between individuals, whether they know each other or not. That’s what we’re missing these days, and that is very much due to the change in the way people view a family. One last glaring example is to see the way older members of the family are treated today, as opposed to maybe three or four generations ago. As soon as you get old, you become a burden because nobody in the family has the time, or even the will to look after you. The only solution these days is a “home”. Could that be because as children, they were cared for in a “home” too?
Fiquem bem,

Raul Freitas/MS


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