Shared Parental Leave

Modern family life in 21st century Britain

What does modern family life look like? Is it very different from how it was just a few years ago?


Matalan have recently launched a new TV ad, featuring real life families and conducted national research to explore how family life is changing in the modern era. 

Matalan say “the definition of ‘family’ in the 21st century is not straightforward; as the Facebook status might suggest, “it’s complicated”. This doesn’t mean that the idea of family has become any less important however, it simply means we are seeing that family today comes in many different shapes, sizes and forms. Matalan research revealed some interesting and surprising insights about modern family life.

• The New Nuclear: the idea of the nuclear family, that being mum, dad and two-point something kids living together, is being stretched and redrawn.

When I was at school, the vast majority of my peers lived with their married parents and full siblings. I remember two single fathers and imagine they felt very isolated back then. Nowadays, my children report all sorts of family dynamics amongst their friendship groups.


• Beyond Kin: more and more, people’s definition of family extends beyond kin to include kith, i.e. non-blood relatives, friends and even pets.

I was brought up in a very close community so kith was always important bonded by strong church and school links. I think that both myself and my family miss out on that having moved away. However, I have formed my own kith largely through my blogging and social media. Those are the people I tend to reach out to in a crisis along with school, college and work friends. I feel that lack of a strong neighbourly community means we have to work even harder to ensure that our immediate family gives security to my children. Pets apparently add a lot to mental well being and are certainly important members of our family.


• The Waiting Game: the number of older mums and older dads is on the rise, as are ‘klingons’; post-teens not flying the nest as they did in previous generations.

I guess I was an older mum 14 years ago but less so know with people choosing to wait until their forties or later to start a family. My husband is 11 years older than me and has children born from 1983 to 2005. Older parents are nothing new to me as my Mum and Dad adopted me when in their forties. They were very youthful in outlook and also had so many stories to share with me. There are certainly benefits to having older parents including the main breadwinners perhaps being able to be more available to the children time wise.

Right now, the thought of my children leaving home terrifies me but I imagine that might change in the future. I will want time and space for my own interests in the future. I also want them to experience life away from the family to develop as individuals and to make their own unique contributions to the world.


• Blended Families: increasingly family means ‘blended’ arrangements that see multiple connections, multiple parental figures and multiple home locations. This is in addition to well-documented changes such as the rise of single and LGBT parents.

I am not a fan of the term blended family. I think it simplifies family dynamics that can be both joyful and challenging. Big changes in any arena need a lot of support and I think many families are picking their way through challenges without enough support. Our own family includes step-children, LGBT parents and carers, adoption and other issues. A business with multiple staff members, multiple outlets and multiple authority figures would be tricky to manage. I think families are the same and to pretend otherwise is disingenuous.

• Staying Connected: families are finding new ways of using technologies to connect more frequently and on an emotional level, both when they live nearby or far way”.

I love that families can use new technologies to keep in touch. I have never loved telephone calls so email suits me better. I get real joy when I hear of families who live overseas being able to keep in touch and see each other regularly even if on a computer screen. I remember that people who emigrated in the past really felt they were leaving the family behind and ICT now means families can keep those connections going in a much easier way


Matalan say, “Since we first opened our doors 30 years ago, we’ve always focused on providing outstanding value and quality for families. We take the time to listen, understand and evolve, to ensure our products are the right fit for modern, happy homes. Our latest campaign, Made for Modern Families, is a celebration of family life today, in all its shapes and sizes.”

I particularly enjoyed the behind the scenes footage.

Here is our family portrait


I am sure your are proud of your own family so I would encourage you to celebrate it by sharing you family portrait and then tweet it to @Matalan on #MatalanModernFamilies

I am blogging about this issue for Mumsnet and encourage you to read the other blog posts on the linky about this campaign.

Award-winning writer, blogger, social media consultant and charity campaigner. Social Media Manager for BritMums, the UK's largest parent blogging network Freelance clients include Firefly Communications and Save the Children UK. Works with brands on marketing projects. Examples include Visit Orlando, Give As You Live, Coca-Cola and Kodak. Cambridge Law graduate with many years experience working across three sectors in advice, media relations, events, training and project management. Available for hire at affordable rates.


  • Hilary Cooper

    I love the fact that modern families are less prescribed… our family definitely includes Jack the dog and our two cats, Middie and Merlin. A good friend of mine has just adopted two boys with his husband-to-be. My husband teaches twins who have two mums. My best friend has her almost-grown children to stay with their respective partners at weekends and in the holidays. During the week, her ‘kids’ are her partner’s three working dogs.
    Isn’t it great that as a society we’re becoming so much more relaxed about allowing everyone to express family in the way that makes them happy, instead of forcing everyone to conform to an imposed social norm?!
    Great piece – I enjoyed reading it. Thank you! x

  • Sarah christie

    Great post Kate and yes too true a family is in the heart not what it is expected to be, I love the fact that families come in all forms, shapes and sizes. Being unique is what is wonderful about people xx

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