When women are asked the this simple question I often sense a slight hesitation; I wonder if the pause is connected to the many different roles and contexts within the family life cycle.
Even in 2018 there is still a sense of women juggling many different roles within family which change with external demands, in addition to working building a career and staying in a very competitive job market.
The Sandwich Generation
The sandwich generation accurately describes one of the many transitions women make over the course of the family life cycle.
It can be couples juggling demands of aging parents and young children alongside jobs and careers, or couples in their 50’s and 60’s caring for elderly parents, supporting adult children and acting in a caring role with grandchildren.
Pressures of housing, money and health also add to the squeeze. There are several key transitional points , relationship breakdown, job loss, ill health –physical and mental, moving house, birth of children, death of parents etc.
The mental agility needed to hold the family diary and it’s numerous interactions in your consciousness is immense. However much roles are shared and divided, this is usually held by one person – often the mother – who may also be working in a paid job that requires significant commitment.
On the Role of Men
Of course men are part of the sandwich too and often couples come to therapy needing extra support during one of the many transitional points in the family life cycle. These may be the birth of a child, illness-physical and mental , death of a loved one , redundancy etc.
It can be hard to maintain a couple relationships in the face of so many pressures. Thinking about the present and future, voicing and hearing priorities and hopes are really important.
In families members may be invested with a role or responsibility which no longer fits and needs reviewing. Likewise members can get stuck with outdated perceptions about themselves by other family members. In family therapy how these ‘stories’ evolve and dissolve can be explored bringing new understanding and meaning to the next stage.
Systemic Family Therapy
Systemic family therapy thinks about how systems (in this case family) can change when it no longer works so well. All the different voices can be heard and positive change explored in a safe non blaming way.
Angela Betteridge is a couple and family therapist working at The Barn in Lewes. She works with any combination of family, including adult sibling groups and different generations. Family is whoever you define as such.