Nicky Bryson: The nuclear family myth
To say the best circumstance for children is to be raised only by a mother and father is an insult not only to same-sex families but to other non-traditional households as well, writes Nicky Bryson.
“I think in this life we’ve got to aspire to give our children the very best circumstances and that is a mother and a father.”
I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that I live in a time where a politician not only believes this but would go so far as to say it out loud. When Joe Hockey made this statement last week on the ABC’s Q&A, he didn’t just insult our finance minister, Senator Penny Wong, to whom this was directed; he actually insulted every single family unit that doesn’t conform to his standard.
No doubt he was having a dig at gay and lesbian families but the underlying message in that comment is that without a mother and a father, children are being deprived of the life they deserve. Excuse me Joe, but what about the children of divorced parents or the children who have lost a parent and now have just the one? For that matter, how about those who have lost both parents and are living with aunties, uncles, grandparents or foster families?
Can Joe Hockey honestly getting away with denigrating every one of these family units just because he doesn’t understand that love and family come in many forms?
My mums broke up when I was a baby. Aside from a few live-in lovers, the mum who kept me functioned as a single parent. She died when I was a teenager and from there I lived with my aunt and uncle, who despite being senior citizens with grandchildren, suddenly found themselves in the role of parents again. Throughout every new formation of this evolving family, there was love and strength and people trying to give me the ‘very best circumstances’.
By Joe Hockey’s reasoning, my life should be a shambles, having not ever grown up with two heterosexual parents. But if I had a magic wand to wave, I wouldn’t use it to re-story my family into his mum-and-dad-happily-ever-after scenario. I love my life. I love that I have compassion. I love that my political views are not narrow. I love being a lesbian and I find all the communities I move in to be downright amazing.
I am horrified at the thought of swapping my adventurous, never boring life, for the rigid ideal Joe Hockey has in mind. It’s not the idea of two straight parents that I object to; I know lots of people who grew up in that sort of family and they seem to be coping very well. What I detest is the assumption that everybody would be better off with a family like his – where children grow up to believe that it’s okay to question another family’s worth.