Lifestyles

STRONG FAMILY TIES

CHRIS WOOD January 4 1988
Lifestyles

STRONG FAMILY TIES

CHRIS WOOD January 4 1988

STRONG FAMILY TIES

Lifestyles

For Adrian Graham, 33, the decision to walk away from a 12year career as a Toronto restaurant manager came surprisingly easily. So did the decision to leave the city’s waterfront Beaches area and

move with his wife, Lindy Stroud, 37, and two daughters, Sarah, 5, and Shannon, 1, to a quiet new suburb of Guelph,

100 km west of Toronto.

In Toronto, Graham said, “I worried about my kids just going outside the front door.”

And although a live-in nanny freed the couple to pursue two careers,

Graham added, “I didn’t want to be one of those fathers who never gets to see his kids grow up.”

Since the family’s July move Adrian has devoted his full time to raising the girls. Lindy continues to commute to her job in Toronto as a sales associate for Bell Canada.

The Ontario couple’s decisive step away from the fast lane toward a new focus on family life reflects a strong current of Canadian opinion, Three out of four of the Canadians surveyed for The Maclean’s/Decima

Poll said that their families had become more important to them. At the same time, 46 per cent of Canadians reported that they had become more likely to stay at home for entertainment than to go out, while 52 per cent said that they were less likely to risk their families’ financial security by incurring debt to make a major purchase. In part, those findings reflect the maturing into parenthood of the postwar baby boom generation. Said Saskatoon telecommunications technician Sandra Huculak, 25: “A lot of people want to have children when they hit 30. The biological clock kicks in.”

But the trend toward stay-at-home entertainment has also been fuelled by the growth in video home movies. And although 46 per cent of Canadians say that their values have shifted to include a greater commitment to volun-

teer involvement in community affairs and charity, professional fund raisers report that the spirit of generosity is not matched by actual donations. Meanwhile, for every Canadian who reports that religion has become more important to him or her (approximately one person in five), another says it has become less important. Still, 30-year-old Kenneth MacCormack, a quality control supervisor in a Prince Edward Island soft-drink plant, clearly spoke for many Canadians when he told Maclean's, “I think families have realized the strength that they have.” The perception that fam-

whose own children are only in the planning stage: “There has been a turnaround from the Me Generation. People realize it will be a pretty lonely path [without children].” But there are also telling inconsistencies. Many older people say that the focus on family among young adults extends only to their children—and that it often excludes elderly relatives. Said Jean Sadler, 69, a retired nurse in Arnprior, 55 km west of Ottawa: “The younger generation finds it so easy to put older people into institutions because they haven’t got time to take care of them.” Sadler, who once worked in a

ilies offer a welcome emotional shelter in a turbulent world is widely shared across the country. And close to twothirds of people without children report that family is gaining importance for them. Noted Saskatoon’s Huculak,

nursing home, added, ‘The place for older people is with their families.”

At the same time, although about half of the Quebec respondents said that family had become “much more important” in their lives, birth rates in that province are the lowest in the country. Quebec women bear an average of only 1.4 children each, compared with a national average of 1.7 children per woman. And Marthe Doyon, for one, said that many Quebecers give family a lower priority in their lives than they report. Remarked Doyon, 45, a mother of four who works as a salesclerk in Doiron, 50 km west of Montreal: “Everything’s money. People don’t have time for young people. Kids say, ‘I’d really like to talk to my father, but he doesn’t have time.’ ” Indeed, sociologist Robert Glossop of the Ottawabased Vanier Institute of the Family charged that for many Canadians, the demands of earning a living take precedence over family. Declared Glossop: “I don’t think we devote our energy as much to our children as we like to think we do.”

Many Canadians, however, reported that parenthood and family have led to a greater involvement with the community at large. “I got into scouts be-

cause the kids are into scouts,” noted Louis McSheffrey, a 40-year-old lumber mill supervisor in Invermere, B.C., who also serves on a local hospital board and as an elected school trustee. New Brunswick’s James King, speaking from the region where people were most likely to report an increased willingness to give time or money to com-

munity affairs (58 per cent compared with a national average of 46 per cent), voiced similar motives for his involvement on a local recreation committee. King, a telephone lineman in St. Andrews and the father of two daughters, said: “It’s the kids. I got involved with

the recreation council because there wasn’t much for them to do in town.” But the claim by a plurality of Canadians that they are more willing to contribute to community causes runs counter to the hard evidence of actual money donations. According to the Toronto-based Canadian Centre for Philanthropy, Canadians give about threequarters of one per cent of their incomes to charity, down from more than one per cent during the late 1960s. Observed Linda Mollenhauer, manager of a campaign to encourage philanthropy: “Canadians don’t give what they did a generation ago.” Meanwhile, a poll question about religious commitments showed that as many people were dropping away from religion (about one in five) as reported that religion was becoming more important in their lives. That trend was most marked in Quebec, where many Roman Catholic congregations have dissolved in the space of a generation. As a child, said Pierre Vermette, a lumber mill manager at St. Camille, 90 km east of Quebec City, “we had to go to church every Sunday. It was very strict. Now I only go once a year, at Christmas.”

The majority of Canadians (58 per cent) said that their attitudes toward

religion have not changed significantly. But sociologist Reginald Bibby of Alberta’s University of Lethbridge said that that response masked real changes in how many people view their faiths. Said Bibby: “There is no sign that Canadians are abandoning their identification with religion. But they shun the idea that religion touches all of your life in favor of religion à la carte, religion when you want the kids done, or for weddings or whatever.”

Househusband—he prefers the term “care-giver”—Adrian Graham, however, reported no more sense of loss after abandoning his childhood Catholicism than he felt after leaving his career to tend his children. Said Graham: “It’s just a joy to have some influence on these little people and try to instil in them some of the goodness that Lindy and I have.” For many Canadians in every province, it was a declaration that went straight to the heart.

—CHRIS WOOD in Toronto