Monday, October 16, 2006

Traditional Families

The "Traditional Family", by a popular defintion, currently describes a meager 7% of American households. This definition states that a traditional family is one where the male head of household is the wage-earner, the female head is responsible for caring for the household and rearing the children, and at least one of these children is under the age of 18.

From where and when this definition stems is not the most pressing issue at hand. What brings greater concern are questions such as, "How do we define family," and "How does this effect us?"

The family, in many cases, is considered a safe haven of love and the fulfillment of one's pupose in life. But for many people, family is a source of turmoil, grief, stress, and frustration. How are these people's needs quenched in our society when the family is unable to do so?

Another drawback of the traditional family is in the rights granted to this classification. Our government and other socially supportive organizations often award financial aid and assistance to groups defined as families. What if a societal group provides for the needs of children, but does not meet the dying traditional definition of family? Where do grandparents, single parents, unmarried couples, same-sex parents, and other leaders of familial teams go when they need help raising children? Why does our society continue to glorify an ideal of family that hasn't been the norm for over 2 decades?

Since my mom went back to work, following a demanding life of raising 3 very active children, my family's classification has moved from Traditional to Dual Income. I never realized that this change meant that my family had migrated away from the percieved norm, but find comfort in the notion that we may have become more "normal". Even my parents, whose 1960s-1980s Catholic familes had 6 and 7 children, were from untraditional roots because both of their parents worked. The family is far too complex of an entity to have any single situation deemed as its ideal. Even American TV has caught on to this fact. "Seventh Heaven", "The Gilmore Girls", "American Dreams", "Desperate Housewives", and even "The Brady Bunch" can help us disassociate ourselves from the inaccurate "Leave it to Beaver" idealization.

A few other points to ponder:

  • the divorce rate in America has been steady since about 1980.
  • the average number of pregnancies per American female has stayed nearly constant at 3.5 since 1900
  • despite the fears that heterosexual marriage is an endangered institution in our country, almost 90% of Americans will marry in their lifetimes
  • Is your family a "Traditional" one?
  • If not, how has this affected your development as a person?
  • How would you define family?

(I was inspired to write this following a weekend where 2 sets of my college friends were married, thus starting new familes of their own. In addition, my girlfriend, who is majoring in sociology, is taking a course on familes this semester, and is at this hour slaving over 3 complex essays on the subject.)

Tuesday, October 3, 2006

Realizations of Average

I have recently come to think of myself as the perfectly average, middle class, middle of America posterchild. My childhood saw are circle around the Heartland, growing up in Indiana, Illinois, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Kentucky. I'm 5' 8'', 160 lbs., and Caucasian. I drive a Ford (and would rather bike it, but don't due to route safety and suburban sprawl). I played sports throughout my childhood, but wasn't good enough for college. I'm a Catholic Christian. I like computers and cars and action movies. Almost every article of clothing I own came from 3 sources: the aforementioned sports' teams, Old Navy, or Kohl's. I think Outback is a fancy restaurant. I'm not a fan of abortion, but I don't think felonizing the practice will save any more babies. If two dudes want adopt one of those potentially aborted babies and start a family, I don't see how that is a bad thing. Doesn't mean it's going to be my life choice. I wouldn't mind if marijuana was legal, especially if it meant that Kentucky schools would get a nice tax kickback from the state's biggest cash crop. Doesn't mean I'm gonna start toking. I own a cell phone and a digital camera. So do half of our country's 8th graders. I don't have an iPod. My grandparents are registered Democrats. My parents are registered Republicans.

The first point I'm trying to make is, if there is some proverbial FENCE out there, I live my life trotting upon it. From this perspective, my outlook on life possesses at least one of two characteristics: I understand the Middle, and/or I don't get the Extremes.

Which brings me to my second point. Who out there in our country is really that extreme? If the last presidential election was a good indicator, then America is rather...average. If every ballot cast in America was decided by a coin flip (donkey or elephant), we would have had almost the exact same popular election results. Normal distribution? I wonder what Pete Williams would say...

In the words of a band ironically named 'War', "Why can't we be friends, Why can't we be friends?"