Even if you’ve not heard about CNA Insider, news site Channel NewsAsia’s wing which covers people stories, you would have probably seen their video on unconventional Singaporean families on your Facebook feed.
The 5-minute long clip posted yesterday has since gone viral, with 1,697 shares, over 1,800 likes and over 99,156 views at time of writing.
Featuring 4 different stories, the video was produced in line with the channel’s 5-part documentary series, A Family Affair, on the changing face of the Asian family, which conventionally features a nuclear structure.
The Changing Definitions Of Family In Singapore
National University of Singapore’s Assistant Professor of Sociology Indira Arumugam states, “Even in Singapore, we have had, and continue to have, a plethora of family forms – extended families, nuclear households, heterosexual couples with no children, singles, same-sex families, single-parent households, sworn sister-hoods, friends and so forth.”
In fact, divorce rates in Singapore have been on the rising trend, with 7,522 divorces and annulments happening last year – a 2.9% increase from 2014.
In Singapore, nuclear families have been reported to make up only 49% of households in 2014, a great fall from 56% in 2000.
One-person households also increased from 8 to 11%, and married couples without children or having children living with them rose from 11 to 14%.
Family-related policies have mostly been based off nuclear family structures, but in light of this, the Government is also taking steps towards helping those that do not fall into standard definitions.
Said Social and Family Development Minister Tan Chuan-Jin in 2015, “We will have to redefine […] Housing will be one classic example. We may need to redefine some of these parameters. I think we will see these things being grappled with. At the moment I think we are not quite at that stage, but it’s a matter of time before we really need to address these.”
Assumptions And Misconceptions
Regardless, there are still common misconceptions that many, especially those of the older generation (where nuclear families were the large majority), have.
For example, Ms S Rani, who is single and has been living on her own for the past 16 years, gets assumptions of her marital status bestowed onto her:
On the other hand, Ms Bernadine Reddy, who was raised by her aunt and uncle and regards them as her parents, was asked questions that are at best, purely out of curiosity, and at worst, simply insensitive.
Another family in which the son had two mothers also suffered the scrutiny of others, with some even trying to teach them the ‘correct’ way of running their household – something which nuclear families are usually spared from.
They are just a few examples of the ways that traditional definitions are still being held by many, but I do think that with time and its changes to come, these questions and assumptions will slowly ebb away.
“Not Everybody Is Set From The Same Mould”
When asked what misconceptions they’d like to shatter and hopes they have, the common thread is that their type of family works for them, and makes them happy – and that’s all that should matter when it comes to family.
We all come from vastly different backgrounds, even among those of us who come from the nuclear family mould – and that shouldn’t matter, in fact, that diversity should be celebrated.
Ms Rani also chipped in saying that she’d like to be remembered as “a bachelor girl who enjoys life and is living life to the fullest”. She had previously mentioned that her married friends had actually expressed their envy towards her free lifestyle, albeit being happily married.
On her note, what we should all take away from the video is that everyone has their own definition of family and what makes them happy, and there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach that we should enforce onto any individual.
The Nuclear Family Is Not ‘Normal’, But Simply ‘Common’
The notion that an ‘ideal’ family consisting of a mother, and a father, children and relatives from various generations is becoming increasingly archaic, and as seen from the video, what defines a ‘family’ has a good deal of variations, especially with changing outlooks and viewpoints of individuals.
As a nation, we have progressed very far in terms of economy and technology (think: Smart Nation), however, there are still inherent mindsets that should be evolving along with these very tangible ways of counting ‘forwardness’.
That said, mentalities are more stubborn than infrastructure, but I strongly believe that with videos like these, and also the Government looking to tweak policies to be more inclusive, change is not so far away.
Feature Image Credit: Channel NewsAsia