Over time, societal assumptions strongly influence family dynamics.
The underlying social premises are that self-employment is harder and deserves more consideration than working for someone else. Working while raising a family deserves more respect and accommodation than does a child free couple or individual. Money is the best measure of status. Living without drama is considered cold at worst and reserved at best.
This, of course, is the perspective of the divorced child free oldest sister (me) who actually lived away from home for nearly 20 years. With no family and only new friends and acquaintances available, an inclination toward reserved self-reliance was adaptive. When coupled with my independent egalitarian attitudes and a compulsion to ask “why,” my company is less than comfortable. And, I get tired of censoring myself just to keep the peace. (Probably why I’m divorced and contentedly single!) I also get tired of having the same arguments over and over again.
Fortunately, I usually find a few coworkers and friends who are interested in ideas: talking about them, comparing them, evaluating them. The trick is finding people who remain civil when their viewpoints are challenged. I enjoy a good discussion and have been known to argue against my own viewpoint just for the fun of it.
Since I don’t ask for help often, I’m taken seriously when I do. When asking for that help, I try to prioritize the other person’s circumstances. When I’m asked for my opinion, I give it. I try to do it gently and may even confirm it’s really wanted, but then I express it. I’m good at problem solving, at finding common ground and at establishing the parameters of a situation. I’ve gotten better at doing what I feel is right and letting go of the outcome. I am happy to express compassion and offer reasonable support. I will not offer platitudes or accept faulty reasoning. I don’t think assigning guilt or engendering it is helpful in relationships, especially among family. Hear both sides of the issue and then move on.
Within my family, this means I’ve assumed the roles of rebel, negotiator, advocate, critic and outcast … sometimes concurrently. I play caretaker judiciously. Since I’ve given family members persona designations, I’ve given myself one to be fair. As the family Ice Princess, I value logic over emotion and fairness over winning.
I implement my beliefs imperfectly. I slip back into consumerism. I avoid confrontation and procrastinate. I question the value of life. At bedrock though, I believe that everyone’s (and everything’s) life has value. And that includes mine.