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Family. When I think of family, the word ‘widespread’ crops up first. Growing up my grandparents were all close by, but their families were spread across the UK – my dad’s side in Lancashire and my mum’s in Newcastle and London.

 

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Widespread definitely defines us as a family now. My mum and sister are in York, and Shaun’s family are in Australia. Before H was born I never thought of Shaun and I as ‘family’ as such (he was obviously my husband) – to me family always felt like you have all your relatives around you – which is impossible in our case.

Once H was born, I felt like we were a family at last. Just the three of us living in our own little bubble. Members of our family came to visit and we went to see them too. Thanks to the internet we keep in touch by email or Skype so we can see each other every once in a while even if it isn’t in person.

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So what does family mean to me? The nucleus of the three of us, the two people I will not be without – my best friend and my best little person – us versus the world and whatever it throws at us. Family means trips away for weekends to visit and catch up, or weeks away in Australia’s case. Family means people visiting us and having quality time so we don’t argue or have problems – we enjoy each other’s company. Family means being there. So often my sister is there for me, someone I don’t mention often (she likes her privacy over the internet).

The night my dad died, my mum, sister and I stood in the car park at York District Hospital, it was around 2am in the morning and quiet apart from the goings on around A&E. We stood, the three of us hugging together having been through to the end of a horrendous experience – we were family and we only had each other right there and then.

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Every month we drove up from London to spend time with my mum. That to me is family – we were exhausted but we did it, spending up to ten hours sometimes, going up and down the M1 – being there.

But there isn’t just my side of the family – there’s the Australian side too – Shaun’s mum and dad are both alive, as is his Nanna – H has got to know one of her Great Nanna’s which means a lot to all of us – we have photos of four generations of Adams’s. There are many Aunts and Uncles, cousins and more – and the internet to keep in touch. I’ve often been criticised for sharing as much as I do on Facebook, but I’m friends with all of the Aunts and Uncles, and they like seeing how H is doing (and Shaun of course)!

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Family is us three. The three who rarely get their photo taken together in one place thanks to one of us having the camera at any one time. Now H takes photos we have a few more of just Shaun and I.

I think we’re a typical working family. We both work and earn decent enough salaries (let’s not talk about rent right now though), relying on childcare for H every morning before school, and a couple of evenings afterwards. By the time Friday evening comes we drink wine, relax and plan fun things to do at the weekend. The weekend is our family time. When we spend entire days together and don’t think about work any more. When we have lie-in’s and cuddle up together in bed, planning what we’re going to do. She might only be five but H still has opinions on what she quite fancies doing, and quite often she comes up with good ideas.

So, that’s us. What does family mean to me? Everything. When a part of a family goes away it can change things, so when you’ve got it enjoy it, be with it, love it. Don’t waste your time arguing when you could be doing something productive. Maybe it’s because I’m older – I had H when I was 39 – but life’s too short. Have fun while you can.

Lee-Hughes Family

Matalan have a new ad campaign celebrating ordinary normal modern families like us. They have created a site with portraits of normal families who also feature in an advert. After 30 years of being in business they’re celebrating – and this video has been produced.

You can take part too. Add your family photo to the link above – you could win £250 in vouchers to spend in-store at Matalan each week. Personally I’m not sure which of the photos above I’d submit – they’re all photos that make me think ‘family’ – the good and the bad ones. The ones which aren’t as good are usually due to one of us pulling a face – but then that reminds me of growing up before the digital age when my mum would be pulling a face telling my dad to “hurry up” – him usually taking the photo just as she says ‘up’  – at least we can recreate our picture-perfect worlds with digital cameras, right?

This is a blog post for Mumsnet, in association with Matalan. No payment has been received for this, it’s a competition.