With modern families there is no ‘normal family’

Molly Eldevik, Staff Writer

Acclaimed sitcoms “The New Normal” and “Modern Family” are at the forefront of a societal revolution. No matter how much I laugh or cry at the ridiculousness of the scenes, when I watch these shows I cannot deny a sense of relation; even though I am not an adopted child with two dads, I can relate to their experiences in some way. Yet, others in society seem to have a notion that same sex families, single parent families, and even divorced and immigrant families are not and should never be considered “normal.”

But a normal family is not just a Caucasian couple with three perfect children and a dog, nor is it something that a political party can dictate or an amendment can define. The reality is that within our modern society there is no such thing as a “normal” family, and it’s time we learn to accept that.

We live pluralistically amongst many cultures, ethnicities, and sexualities. In the 2009/2010 census around 594,000 national households were same sex couples, and 115,000 of these households had children. Nationally, 6.9% of marriages are interracial and a staggering 18.4 million children are of immigrant families. With the Census Bureau’s projection of a minority driven country by 2043, it is flawed to believe that one sole demographic equates to a “normal” family.

Our society has been forced to begin conforming to these changing demographics, but we still have far to go. For the most part society is welcoming the rise of interracial households with open arms, but we don’t seem to be embracing immigrants and the LGBT community the same way. Yet these people are essential to the diversity of our culture and constitute respect in our society as well. There’s no combination of people of specific races, genders, sexualities, or religions that constitutes a successful family.

While the individuals that make up families broaden, the types of families in society have also evolved. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, today 40% of children live in divorced families and 35% of children live in a single parent household. Single fathers also account for roughly 20% of single-parent families. With the increasing divorce rate at one divorce every 13 seconds, it has become apparent that modern day families have shifted and progressed. Despite one’s personal opinion on the topic, divorce and single parenting are the realities of the world today and these families need to be accepted.

Similarly, many modern families have come to forgo a previously essential part to a family––marriage. According to The Pew Research Forum, nearly four-in-ten Americans say marriage is becoming obsolete. In 2010, the number of Americans who were currently married hit a rock bottom low at 51%.

It is unclear whether this drop was the result of economic problems or another factor, but it has led to a significant rise in committed family units beginning out of wedlock. In fact, in 2008, 4,531,932 were children of cohabiting parents. People have attacked this lifestyle by saying that it disparages motherhood and the meaning of matrimony, but lack of a marriage certificate does not make these families any less functioning.

Of course, everyone wants to lead a successful life, but our society seems to have an innate desire to burden our population with the responsibility of maintaining a “normal” lifestyle, as if any other lifestyle would lead to unhappiness. We cannot enforce a fantasy of striving for the perfect, “normal” life because it doesn’t exist––no demographic or type of family fits this concept of perfection.

In fact, interracial, same-sex, immigrant, Caucasian families, and families headed by a single parent are all normal families. Once we begin to see them that way we will be able to take the most crucial step in bettering our society; embracing and accepting all demographics as positive adaptations to our nation.