Introduction

Healthy societies celebrate the family – that unit whose survival is vital to their continued well-being. The family consists of individuals who may not always be seen, but whose voices must be heard. These voices are the indicators of society’s health.

Many families today feel isolated. For them, most contacts are within their professional or working circles. The natural exchange of information between families appears to have greatly diminished. We meet rural families, many disadvantaged, whose family life is their only wealth and children their most important creation. These families were our original inspiration.

The main purpose of the project was to provide a forum for families to relate their experiences ad life conditions, and encourage a horizontal exchange between them without the involvement of intermediairies.

This book – these “sharings” – does not and do not make value judgements. They simply reflect, as widely and impartially as possible, the experiences of today’s families. In the final analysis, real family specialists are those who live family life day by day, through both difficult and joyous times.There are encouraging signs for the family as well – the birthing experience increasingly shared by other family members, the many parents who want to spend more time with their children, and perhaps most importantly, the “speaking openly” about family experiences, both good and bad.

Themes in the book and on this site cover the creation of family ties, relationships within the extended family, the desire to have children, joys and difficulties of daily life, and the sharing of roles and responsibilities. They reflect the insights of those who shared their thought and memories.

The deepest personal experiences expressed in this book are related to the birthing and welcoming of new life. The pain, fear, love, bonding, and learning in the changing family unit became the pivotal theme.

Whether through birth or adoption, the way a new member is accepted by the family determines the future of that family. Many people say that the day when they first opened their arms to a child was the most beautiful day of their life. Values, education and responsibilities also come into focus during pregnancy and childbirth.

All texts come from families and individuals except the theme headings. There has been no literary editing; the authenticity and impact of the writers’ own words remain. The illustrations were produced from a selection of the thousand of photographs submitted.

Although not all segments of our society are represented, a fairly accurate general picture is presented. Many groups mentioned that it was unusual for them to share thoughts and stories about family life. The boundaries of intimacy vary between cultures and individuals; these stories should be seen as glimpses of family life rather than intrusions on privacy.

We wish to warmly thank all correspondents, who shared their family albums, thought and even personal diaries. Their collaboration is greatly appreciated.

Jean-Emmanuel Allard

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