By Jancel Moreno
HAVANA TIMES — In light of recent times, many institutions have moved, been updated and transformed. The parental unit we come from is no exception.
After a series of interviews about the family and what people conceive this to be, the majority of the interviewees outlined reasons for why they put off raising a child and named financial problems, the challenges of living together with different generations and professional goals of both members of the couple, which need to set on the right path before making “the big decision”, among others.
However, what other factors are influencing the way young people make their families? How much has society’s key nucleus changed here in Cuba?
“You have to look at Cuban families knowing that many different types of families exist. This exclusive and traditional model of mother, father and child isn’t the norm anymore because the way families are made up and work has become more complex. It’s important to bear in mind the fact that this unit is affected by many social factors, because sometimes we look at the issue as if it were a single entity that acts by itself.”
This is what doctor Dayanis Alvarez Puig, a psychology professor at Villa Clara’s University of Medical Sciences says. She also suggests that families need minimum living conditions in order to work properly and she gives housing as an example of one of its main requirements.
Puig agrees that one of the family’s functions, which is financial (being responsible for providing material sustenance to its members), has been overexpressed in Cuba ever since the first national survey was carried out in 1989 by the Center for Psychological and Sociological Studies. This tendency confirms the fact that many family units outsource the educational role of the family, due to time and effort being focused more on meeting material needs such as being able to feed and dress family members.
Alvarez also specifies that women overload their plates as they dedicate a lot of time to domestic chores and looking after dependents, such as children and elderly family members, who are in Cuban homes more and more each day, without neglecting their jobs.
In the case of children, the lack of daycare centers that meet the needs of all working mothers influences this and the alternative option they have of sending their children to a private day care is too expensive, so this continues to be an urgent issue. State care and support in different ways is an essential requirement, as this creates family tensions and greater expenses.
Values have deteriorated quite a bit in Cuban families and in society on the whole as a result, and this responsibility (which is always shared with schools) needs to be adjusted to the new times we live in of modern technology too. As a result, strengthening home-school ties, which have been damaged in recent years, is crucial, Alvarez further noted.
While migration can influence a family’s financial situation by sending remittances and other material aid, it can also play an influential role in the growing need for care for children and the elderly, who don’t have their relatives nearby. Single-person homes have become more prominent in the last few years, which are mainly made up of women, who are alone because, generally, they are widows or because their children are no longer living in the country.
In the case of young people wanting to have children, support at home from grandparents has also been reduced, Alvarez describes, due to the latter’s quality of life, who are still working; which is also due to the absence of siblings to help them out.
The growing incorporation of women into the workforce has led to women becoming independent and noticeably influencing family decisions. However, no study has proven that paid female workers care less for their children than housewives do. On the contrary, in many cases they achieve a more varied and effective communication.
The country’s aging population and housing crisis mean that young people are faced with the challenge of living with their grandparents, with all of the positive things this can bring, but also with the condition of having to deal with traditional stereotypes that might be instilled in their grandchildren. On the other hand, the divorce rate is increasing, which almost always leads to new consensual unions, where families are reconstructed with new members who need to face the limits of their authority. This is another challenge for families.
One of the changes that the expert highlights is the appearance of same-sex families, who have become fathers or mothers of children who then need to find their place in a society that is still homophobic and machista.
In conclusion, Cuban families are not what many people thought they were just 10 years ago; the housing crisis, food shortages, the lack of real professional opportunities, migration, or to put it simply, the island’s economic and social situation is the main reason why the structure of our society’s nucleus has changed. Meanwhile, government institutions don’t seem to want to push new and better opportunities for those who decide to take the step to create a new generation of Cubans.