What is your family culture? Culture is more than ethnicity or a collective group that your family closely identities with. Culture is about your values, beliefs and customs. You have culture within our family that is just your own. You may also identify with cultural groups outside of your family. Your family culture may mean that you share values and beliefs and customs with others in the community, perhaps a religious group, people with similar heritage or ethnicity, or other people who you strongly relate too. Culture is important because it helps us identify with others and find our place in the community. But culture also brings expectations for family members and different values, attitudes and ways of behaving. Here is an example of how culture can influence mothers:
In some cultures, family values and beliefs mean that mothers take a high proportion of responsibility raising children. Extended family are only peripherally involved as the ‘nuclear family’ lives within one place and mothers provide much of the home based work and organisation. In other cultures, children are cared for by many family members including grandmothers, aunts, older children, etc. Such families have a culture of shared care. Mothers may work for pay while other family members take daytime care of children.
Habits and customs:
Our values and beliefs drive habits or customs that become a part of everyday family life. We all have many family customs around holidays, gifts, socialising, spending time together. Often, habits are so embedded in our life, that they are actually hard to recognise. If you can recognise your own habits, underlying beliefs and consider what you really value, it may be easier for you to shift the behaviour if it is something that you decide needs to change. Here is an example of how habits and customs can influence mothers:
Food and meal habits and customs from one’s own family and upbringing can create expectations for mothers. If you grew up in a family that valued eating everything that is served on your plate, then you may be in the habit of expecting family members to eat everything on their plate. You may be influenced by the belief that not doing so is not being thankful and is wasteful. Therefore, you may behave or feel irritated when others/children do not behave in ways that align with your beliefs and habits.
Some mothers may be in the habit of making meals and cleaning up ‘pronto’ after the family finishes. This habit may have become automatic, in that mothers may not even consider requesting assistance or suggesting ways that other family members might help. Such behaviour may be based in the belief that mothers provide meals and care for the family through the mealtime routine. Mothers probably highly value family nutrition as well.
Family routines enable us to attend all family members need for self-care (toileting, sleeping, dressing, eating, self maintenance activities like taking medications), play and leisure (children playing and parents involved in their own leisure inside or outside the home) and work or education (paid and unpaid work at home or outside of the home and education such as school). When a child/ren in the family have higher medical needs or need structure and specific activities for their health and wellbeing, family routines can become reliant and based around the child/rens needs.
Routines may include weekly or less frequent appointments with professionals or services that the family uses, such as medical or dental, therapy or community activities such as sport. Family routines may involve other community activities such as visiting friends’ homes, local parks, shopping and travelling around in the community. Routines are influenced by the family culture, habits and customs and parent’s prioritisation of such activities. However, when routines are closely considered and when motivated, mothers are able to make positive changes in their routines, i.e. “exercise is important for all of us… my kids and I have been doing a lot more walking, parking half way to school and walking the rest of the way… I’ve started Yoga which I’m really enjoying… It’s important for me to be healthy for us to function better as a family.” (past participant) Here is an example of how routines can influence mothers:
Mothers learn to be very skilled setting and managing home routines although many admit that routines mostly fit the needs of children. Many mothers see the importance of their child’s leisure for example ensuring that their child attends a community activity every week. Whilst mothers may be transporting and supporting their child to be involved in that leisure activity (sport or scouts or dance) mothers may not make a regular time to participate in an enjoyable leisure activity within the weekly routine.
The family environment is influenced by many things including:
- Parents personalities and behaviour
- The age of children (babies have a very dominating influence on family routine)
- Children’s personalities and behaviours
- The needs of children with additional care requirements or disability
- Family cohesion—how ‘together’ everyone feels and how much family look out for and help each other
- Parents work life and presence in the home
- Where you live (rural, urban) and the home you live in
- Humour, ways of communicating and ways of resolving conflict
- All of the above factors—culture, habits customs and routines.
When you start to think about your family in these complex ways, it is easy to see why changing how time is spent or what time is available for yourself, when the home environment is fully considered. However, if you feel in doubt that you can change how the family is managed so that you feel healthier, know that many mothers have done this over time. Healthier family routines and activities are worth implementing for the benefit of all.
In the next module (Module 9) will ask you to identify challenges and supports to your ability to make the changes in family routine and your daily life that you desire to experience better health. Finding time to look after yourself and protecting that time within your family’s routine takes planning, support and persistence to make it happen. How does your family culture, habits, customs, routines and environment affect your ability to take care of your own health and wellbeing?
What factors about your family culture will support you to prioritise your health and wellbeing?
Which family habits will support your health and wellbeing?
What time or event in the family routine will provide opportunity for you to prioritise your own health and wellbeing?
What aspects of your family environment will support you to prioritise your own health and wellbeing?
Spend some time thinking about your family culture. Take a look at your list when you are considering goals for yourself in the Time for Me plan in Module 9.