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Description: I am sure you have heard the phrase “having the rug pulled out from under you,” before. Interpreted literally, it obviously means having the very thing you are standing on violently shifted from under you, typically with catastrophic results. The “magic” act of whipping a table clothe out from under a fully set table and leaving everything on the table standing is amazing because we expect catastrophe. Now let’s step this, apparently pointless, reflection up to the metaphorical level and consider that vast numbers of families and individuals have had “rugs” pulled out from under them in the past month and, while falling, hitting the floor (assuming it is still there!) or wondering why they hurt have at best only managed a “what the ….?” Or a “I did not know we/I had a rug there!?” Our lives, and the ways we live them are based on a complex array of social “rugs,” in the form of the assumptions we make about what we are doing and how and why we are doing them. Consider the “rug” that is the family (here is where I bring this back to Psychology a bit). Sigmund Freud bought wholesale the assumption of his time that the Family, at its most basic, consisted of a Father and Mother and a child and each had powerfully distinct roles to play. The Father to work, provide, and embody authority and discipline; the Mother to care, feed and nurture; and the child to be nurtured AND disciplined so that their animalistic instincts do not make them asocial, uncivilized and, eventually sociopathic. OK that is may seem a bit overly dramatic, but such are the nature of our social rugs (our foundational assumption). So Freud gave us perhaps the starkest, darkest, yet most articulated version of a powerful assumption about the “rug” that is the assumption of the nuclear family (alone in the home surrounded by the world and responsible for raising future citizens who do not turn out to be scary and dangerous. Freud and the tyranny of the nuclear family assumption (in all its hetero-typical phobia) have been deservedly roasted over the past 100 years BUT. When you look at how we have danced with the components of the nuclear family model (masculinity, femininity, connection and autonomy, gender equality, work-life balance, family role sharing and responsibilities) in the years since Freud it is clear how had it is to re-weave the “rugs” we are standing (dancing) on. It seems to me that when we get chance (tough to do given the physical health and restrictions of Covid-19) we need to examine our “rugs” (assumptions) if we are to better understand how we are feeling and how we are, perhaps NOT, doing well. It should be easier in a way because they have been pulled out from under us already and now that we know it, perhaps we can tack them up on the wall as rather stained and trodden medieval tapestries and consider them for a bit (as one should consider their assumption from time to time). Sound too abstract? Well have read through the article linked below whose very title points to a rug that has been recently, dramatically, removed from under us.

Source: The Parents Are Not All Right, Cloe I. Cooney, Gen Medium.

Date: April 5, 2020

Photo Credit:  ambermb from Pixabay

Article Link:

I have seen in the sub-mainstream media lately a lot of examples of parents and families who are overwhelmed by their new current circumstances. Most simply in comes up in the form of concerns about how parents who may well be trying to work from hoe are also having to take on the role of local teacher to their home-bound children. The previous “solutions” to how to manage work-life balance should be considered or maintained have been yanked out from under families and what remains are unreflected issues over who is responsible for what, for whose “work” takes priority and how  families transition from complex urban living to homesteading with no warning and little support. Taking a few deep breathes and reminding ourselves that we do not have to be perfect are not going to come close to cutting it given the thickness of the rugs now on the wall rather than under our feet. The Psychological side of the Covid-19 epidemic is going to take a toll of its own, one we will all need to come to terms with and work on.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What assumptions of the nature and responsibilities of Families (and work) are being challenged or yanked out from under us by Covid-19?
  2. What do our current circumstances seem to be suggesting to us about the roles and responsibilities of parents and the nature of family?
  3. Given the above, what sorts of things should we be trying to do?

References (Read Further):

Bengtson, V. L. (2001). Beyond the nuclear family: the increasing importance of multigenerational bonds: the burgess award lecture. Journal of marriage and family, 63(1), 1-16.  Link

Saggers, S., & Sims, M. (2005). Diversity: Beyond the nuclear family. Family: Changing families, changing times, 66-87. Link

Sear, R. (2016). Beyond the nuclear family: an evolutionary perspective on parenting. Current Opinion in Psychology, 7, 98-103. Link

Laurie, T., & Stark, H. (2012). Reconsidering kinship: beyond the nuclear family with Deleuze and Guattari. Cultural Studies Review, 18(1), 19. Link

Aeby, G., Gauthier, J. A., & Widmer, E. D. (2019). Beyond the nuclear family: Personal networks in light of work-family trajectories. Advances in Life Course Research, 39, 51-60. Link