The Nuclear Family in the Modern World
Posted on: 11/28/2012 05:50 PM

By Eowyn OR

Editor's note: This is a very well balanced article that deserves to be widely read. Though it is published by a religious organization, The Odinic Rite, the data it contains is more anthropological than religious and worthy of consideration in light of the fact the 1950's model nuclear family and Puritan-established gender roles has manifestly failed to provide proper nurturing for our children for the past two generations. If we are to survive as a people, we need to think outside the box of strategies that have failed.

One of the most important things many folk will do in their lives is to raise a family; so naturally, it calls for some of the most serious planning one will ever do in life. Hence, it is not unusual for folk to raise questions on the forum relative to family roles. And as a group united by shared visions and yet from diverse backgrounds, the replies often reflect this fact, which is only right and natural.

However, there is one ingredient of consideration that is rarely mentioned and which I believe needs more regard when the questions are being considered and that is of the role of “the family” within the wider framework of society. Such regard should help folk to find the right answers for their situation and also to establish some guiding structural principles that will form the bedrock of the values they teach their children. Establishing a proper understanding of the definition and role of such parameters is important, even before the twinkle of parental longing lights the couple’s eyes.

So now let us clarify what we mean by “the family.” Usually, we mean the “Nuclear Family,” that is, a group consisting of a father, a mother and any number of children living in the same location. Contrary to popular perception, it has not always been the predominating model. Indeed, it only became an independent model in Western Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries with the emergence of industrialisation and capitalism and the migration from the countryside into urbanised settings; for it was then that the nuclear family became a viable financial unit when before, it wasn’t. In particular, increased wages meant that working class folk were able to buy their own homes so that two parents and their children were not sharing their living space with others. Before this time, the nuclear family was generally embedded within the extended family, consisting of grandparents and other family members who all shared a common space – often the family farm.

Over the centuries it can be seen that the perception of the role of women in particular has shifted as political, social and religious considerations moved society firstly towards more patriarchal domination and ultimately to today’s materialistic, secular, multicultural society subject to the whim of politics and devoid of the natural bond of folk and community. Even looking back into the relatively recent history of our folk – the Viking Age – when the Great Ages were already well into the decline, women were highly respected and they wielded much power. It is not for nothing that Frigga holds the keys to the household: the woman of the house was responsible for overseeing all the household duties from spinning, weaving and making clothes, caring for the animals, preparing foods to feed them through the winter and of course, the welfare of the children. In richer families, slaves would assist her.

Marriage itself was a pragmatic affair based upon the union of family estates with the accumulation of wealth – especially in terms of land and animals – being of prime concern. Love – or even fondness for the partner – was often not a consideration, though it was regarded as a bonus if it did occur! Everything a woman brought to the marriage was her dowry: this often included a spinning wheel, linen, wool and a bed, the number of items and quality being dependant upon her family’s status. Everything she brought into the marriage remained as her’s and was passed down to her descendants. If her husband mistreated her, insulted her family, was a bad provider or lazy she could divorce him simply by calling witnesses and stating by the door and bedside that this was so!

The Nuclear Family in the Modern World

Hence, it is only in recent times that marriage and having children has been seen as a romantic “happily ever after” ideal devoid of its structural basis in establishing material security for the folk community. The nuclear family was an integral part of the structure of the extended family and indeed, there are plenty of folk myths about the treatment of children by wicked uncles and suchlike that reflect this fact. Queens and ladies of high standing would have important responsibilities besides those of raising children; usually, they enlisted the assistance of a wet nurse and nannies to help care for their children. Foster care – particularly amongst those within the highest stratas of society – was commonplace and again, folktales (such as the Celtic Arthurian myth) show this practice to be common. Even today it is not uncommon for children of wealthy parents, diplomats and such to be sent to boarding school after being largely raised by nannies and other household members.

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