Everyone remembers this iconic family the Brady Bunch, but in today's day and age, more and more people are defining the non-traditional family. The Brady Bunch was one of the first unconventional families in the mainstream media many years ago. At the time this show was on television, the unconventional family was mostly unheard of and rarely discussed. Times have changed greatly since the Brady Bunch aired.
Our generation is one that is redefining the traditional family. This can take many forms. The result may be the same as a traditional family or it may be different. The blending, the broken, the hurt, and the joy all exist in the new unconventional family as much as a traditional one.
According to Gretchen Livingston, Senior Researcher at Pew Research Center, in an article she wrote in 2014, 46 percent of children live in what society says is a traditional family. This means two first-time married parents of the opposite sex. The unconventional family is more complicated and takes more forms than this. She goes on to say “One of the largest shifts in family structure is this: 34% of children today are living with an unmarried parent—up from just 9% in 1960, and 19% in 1980. In most cases, these unmarried parents are single. However, a small share of all children—4%—are living with two cohabiting parents, according to CPS data. Because of concerns about the quality of the new 2013 ACS data on same-sex marriage, we do not separate out the very small number of children whose parents are identified as in this type of union, but instead fold them into this “single parent” category.”
Some families consist of homosexual parents, while some may have parents that are divorced and split the time with the children in many ways. Sometimes you have a parent that is a widow due to disease or accident. Many people in this country are a single parent that may or may not be on state aid. The single parent may also be in a relationship, but not married. Then there are blended families where one person has remarried. This is the type of unconventional family that I have.
As you can see, people all over the world are defining the non-traditional family. These changes took place long before my family, but my generation is now experiencing it to a new height. The defining of the unconventional family is certainly a burden that we bear as society changes in the ways that the generations change.
A lot of families become non-traditional because of demands of the work force these days and the cost of living to allow for a comfortable and happy life in the eyes of society. These demands can put stress on the traditional family dynamic and cause breaks and bends in it.
The expectation of the traditional family no longer fits the families of today. The family dynamic in the 50’s of two parents where the father goes to work and the mother stays home is no longer possible for a lot of people. In most cases now, both parents work. There are some cases where even the grandparents live with the child work to help support the grandchildren due to the rising costs of living in America. This may also be the cause of some children living with an extended family member that can better provide for the child.
I am in a blended family. I had three children with another man and never married him, then we separated when our youngest child was 6 months old. I then married another man and we have one child together. So, my children from the previous relationship have a half-brother and a step-dad. This blended family happened when my three oldest children were in grade school. The transition was not easy for any of us when it was happening. My children held on to the thought of their dad and I together. My house, although unconventional, has let me see some of the most joy and compassion that I have seen anywhere. There have been hard times and frustration like every family, but I feel that are as happy as any traditional family.
My best friend is also in an unconventional family. She is the adopted daughter of a lesbian couple. This was a hard dynamic in the time that we grew up. It was unheard of to be adopted by a same sex couple where we lived. The non-traditional family had not been even been discussed by most people there, much less accepted. It was rough for her being a teenager, but as an adult she is the most kind, accepting, and motivated human being that I know. The dynamic that I have seen in this family shows me that there is not only one way to raise a child.
In an article written by Rabbi Chaim Bruk, he describes the process they went through to adopt their daughter after not being able to have a child of their own. In the article he says, “It is truly “unconventional”, but, as we see it “unconventional” and “exceptional are interchangeable.” This resonates a lot with the unconventional families out there that I have talked to.
Most people start out with the thought of having a traditional family with a mom, dad, and baby. This is a normal want as we grow up in this society. Then, for whatever reason it changes. For some it is because of a change in personality before they start their family. For others, it is because the traditional family that they started did not work out for some reason. Most of these situations are of not the fault of any one person or situation. The combination of today’s society changes and personal value changes have swayed America toward the unconventional family.
The unconventional family has gained steam and recognition in society over the years. The long ago traditional family dynamic is no longer the norm of today. It has also changed the perspective that children in non-traditional homes act out due to less parental involvement. Hiromi Ono, PhD an associate professor of sociology at Washington State University, said in a written statement “Children have no control over their family situation, so it’s encouraging to find that the amount of quality time that they have with their parents is largely unaffected by their family arrangement.”
People don't see families in black and white today. We see so many colors in our daily tasks and dynamics since the world has become a more gray-area centered society. If your family has a second Christmas at Dad's house, or you’re fretting about the etiquette of stepparent gifts, or you live in a family where “Santa” is not mom, but grandma, don't despair. You're not weird, . In fact, you're the new norm.
My generation has flipped the definition of a traditional family upside down. Every family dynamic is difficult, whether it is unconventional or traditional. I hope that as we change the family dynamic we can learn from the mistakes of the past and be successful in the unconventional. What does family mean to you?