Forum: If’n Y’all Please. Let’s Chat.

22 Feb

I have discussed family and babies on this blog before and really, I think all these Chickz know where I’m coming from as well as many of our young female readers. Basically, I wanted to talk about the connotations to “family.” It can change so much when you are a successful professional woman (or some other “other”). How do you manipulate that line so it wraps around you and your decisions instead of dissecting your place in the world.

Why must it always be one or the other?

Here are 4 scenarios:

Family 1) Two loving parents, a mother and a father with one child. They move around a lot, still restless even though they have decided to “settle down.” Neither the mother nor the father has any living parents.

Family 2) Two loving parents, two mothers. They are both successful women, they live in a comfortable home with two children. They invite each of their extended family over for every holiday (both their parents are divorced so it can get hectic).

Family 3) One loving parent, a father, who cares deeply for his 3 daughters, his wife having died in childbirth. He is successful, but must be rather reclusive in order of complete most of his work. His daughters see him less and less as they age but know he is only working his hardest so they can have a comfortable life.

Family 4) One loving parent, a single mother, who with the help of her own mother and father raises her adopted child. She doesn’t really need the help as she is financially successful and lives comfortably, but she likes having the 4 extra hands. Together, they love the child and foster a good learning environment.

Ok: Each of these scenarios are not the standard family unit.

note the "normal family" in the background.

What do we define as a family unit? See Webster’s various definitions: here.

Now, the English language is constantly evolving, Webster even referenced the single parent family as something that is socially construed as correct. But, why is it that, even if all the above families are successful and happy and content in their early years, a child might still turn out “messed up?” Haven’t you heard that? Or even said it yourself? “Mom, you and dad really messed me up?”

being home alone didn't work out so well.

or “Why am I so messed up? It must be my parents.”
or the ever so common, “My mom and dad did _____ and ______ but I turned out ok.”

(see, they don’t say “good” the say just “ok.”) And, in this statement, they are triumphing in the face of some adversity, even though their family might love them and be wonderful. The adversity is more than likely, the fact that they were not developed in a standard family unit.

We developed this idea of family, this schema, way back when—when the space was too small to really define. And, with our language continually changing, why aren’t we changing our mindsets to match? Why do so many people in this world frown on the single parent family, the homosexual parent family, the family that is without extension? Each of these units is just as capable of loving a child and producing a secure environment in which to raise a child or multiple children.

I imagine the worst backlash for the a-typical family unit is most likely the outcome of the child as some sort of damaged good. But, the children aren’t coming up with this on their own. They might be teased on the play ground, scorned by teachers or PTA mothers. They might grow up to think their family strange and uncouth and then revolt against the parents that merely secured their dreams before taking the time to focus on a child.

Really?? Really? Just hook up with one of your son's football buddies already.

Really, I just want some opinions on this. These are all my ideas on the subject (I think). So, what do you Chickz think about families? Do you look back on your own a-typical family units or those of your friends and consider them strange, consider them at fault for your own problems? Or, are you happy/content?

Readers?

Moms and dads?

Post your comments below. Let’s discuss things.

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11 Responses to “Forum: If’n Y’all Please. Let’s Chat.”

  1. Sunshinegrl February 22, 2011 at 9:35 am #

    No family is ever as we “think” it should be. Each moment in a family, however, molds us and creates the identities we hold so dear.

  2. d February 22, 2011 at 10:23 am #

    Having come from a very atypical yet growingly typical background, I can say that I hold my parents responsible for many negative things and many positive things. Though unconventional, I learned the lessons I needed to learn and regretfully some of those came with scars. That being said, I would prefer to have the scars than to have not learned the lessons. Some of them make for some pretty interesting stories; and what is life if not a story anyway? I hold myself responsible for having taken all of the negatives and positives my parents set forth for me and building them into who I am today. I’m still a work in progress as we all are, but I would venture to say that I’m quite alright 🙂

  3. leeraloo February 22, 2011 at 11:42 am #

    I will consider anything a family. If they live in a house together and can eat dinner together, that’s a family. There doesn’t even have to be a child involved. Of course, this means that people can have multiple families, but I don’t see the harm in that.

    I guess I grew up in the typical family – mom, dad, me and my sister – but in some ways, I grew up in a massive family. One couldn’t really have a discussion about how I was raised without bringing in the people at church who would babysit me, or my mom’s four sisters who sometimes were just extra moms, or even my therapist who I’ve known since I was 10. I think that old saying is true – it takes a village to raise a child. And it doesn’t matter who’s in that village – gay couples, single fathers, aunts, uncles – just as long as the kid gets raised. Because I’m at a point in my life where I’ve accepted that I will want a family of my own, of some sort, someday, but I don’t have any reasonable idea what that family will be comprised of, I think it’s in my best interest to keep a lose definition of the word. Maybe it’ll just be me and a dog, but you can bet I’ll probably send out Christmas cards from the two of us.

  4. elysiasmith February 22, 2011 at 11:56 am #

    Lora.
    Truth.
    I just wish everyone could see all these families as the real deal, ya know. But it seems so often that the children of these units are shunned or shamed into believing their childhood wasn’t normal. But, who’s childhood is, right?
    Sunshine girl (mom, I know that’s you. way to pick a lame user name. jk I love you.) anywho, yes. I agree with you. But the identity of a child is so often influeced by outside factors, and social pressures to fit in are a part of that. If we are from a strange unit (IE having moved from California to Indiana in the middle of my life), then we tend to find it more difficult to “fit in”. Of course I don’t blame you, that’s the point of this post. I am learning/have learned.

    And finally, d. thanks for commenting, I love hearing the opinions of people I don’t know or am not related to (so if we are related or I do know you, keep it a secret, kthanks.)
    Basically, I heart what you said. So commonly people forget about roses and thorns. All the bad experiences happen to us for some reason and why can’t that reason be so we have building material? We must put more stock into our foundations even if they are cracked from the get go. We are the only ones who can patch those holes and teach others how.
    Thanks guys!

  5. Ben February 22, 2011 at 12:34 pm #

    I think Lora summed it up: “If they live in a house together and can eat dinner together, that’s a family.”

    Having come from a single-parent household, I don’t consider myself too terrible different. Single parents are growing so overwhelmingly common, it seems, that the culture at large creates less stigma against it. Individuals might construct intricate pity-parties for themselves, but by and large the culture doesn’t facilitate it and, really, the experience doesn’t facilitate it either. Unless you have a single parent addicted to smack — that’s rough.

    Single-parent households are going the way of divorced households; it is so commonplace they’ve started making feel-good movies about the experience. And I think same-sex households have a foot in that door. There will likely be a growing acceptance of the fact in, say, the next twenty years. It is just an unfortunate fact that culture often takes a long time to evolve relative to trends in society.

  6. Copper February 22, 2011 at 9:20 pm #

    I think where there’s love, there’s a family. Not necessarily romantic love, but just some sort of “I want what’s best for this other person” kind of vague feelings. And that really can come from anywhere. So in that sense, not only do I agree that the old definition of what constitutes a family is outdated, I don’t think there’s any real need to define what a family is. Who’s to say that a bunch of people who’ve grown up with each other since they were 5, and who’d donate kidneys to each other without a second thought aren’t family? To draw in a real-world example, Jason Mewes (the Jay of Jay and Silent Bob) talks about his struggles with addiction, and the names that come up frequently are that of Kevin Smith, his childhood buddy, his wife, and his mother-in-law. I’m not aware if anyone’s ever asked him this, but if I were him, I’d consider these people my family over my “traditional” family. And I’m sure there are instances of this that I’m completely unaware of, so if it works for people, then it works.
    Did any of that make any sense?

    P.S: Also, I think if Twilight moms could actually hook up with high school football jocks, they wouldn’t be Twilight Moms. They’d be Hummer moms (which is a real thing; http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/story?section=news/local/east_bay&id=7613162
    You want to talk about kids being messed up, I’m guessing finding out one’s mother took the term MILF too literally would do a number on children, no matter how well-adjusted they may have been)

  7. elysiasmith February 23, 2011 at 8:02 am #

    Copper,
    Yes. That all made sense. I agree whole heartedly. Why do we need to put parameters on what a family is?? But, the problem is, that it’s not “us” (the intellectuals) that are making these decisions. It’s the delusional kindergarten teacher with the poodle on her collar, it’s the postman who can’t spell. It’s a million others that will shame our children into believing that we did something wrong.
    I suppose my biggest concern is, how do well get our children to believe us?

    Ben,
    “It is just an unfortunate fact that culture often takes a long time to evolve relative to trends in society.”

    YOU ARE SO RIGHT.
    (and this fact, the one that you stated so eloquently, is totes unfair. bleh)

    • Copper February 23, 2011 at 11:46 am #

      At the expense of possibly sounding insensitive, those types of people will always shame our children, if not on family units than on something else. Wearing glasses, maybe; I mean, think of how many people you’ve seen wearing glasses, yet I can bet you 90% or more children who wear glasses are the focus of taunts and ridicule. As parents, the best thing we can do for them (and I’d like to preface this by saying I am not, nor have ever been, a parent, so grain of salt and all that) is to teach our children to be strong and apathetic in the face of adversity from idiots like that. I don’t know if that will stop them from getting messed up (in fact, they likely will end up messed up at some point despite our best efforts) but what we can do as parents is help them get over it. But how do we make sure our children see the poodle teacher for the liar that she is? I don’t think we can. All we can do is counteract the daily vitriol and negativity and general douchebaggishness that our children will face on a daily basis from the outside world, be it about the family units they come from, or the fact that they are taller/shorter than “average”, or anything else really, with our own education, care, and positivity, and hope that they turn out ok.

      tl,dr: Haters gonna hate, we need to make sure our kids tune them out. Or something along those lines.

  8. elysiasmith February 23, 2011 at 9:36 am #

    also, for anyone who’s interested: here (http://www.heritage.org/Research/Reports/2010/06/Married-Fathers-Americas-Greatest-Weapon-Against-Child-Poverty)

    is an article that is exactly what I’m rallying against.
    Granted, it makes a point to say that college educated women rarely have children outside of marriage but hell, the rest of these stats are so biased.
    (Also, Ben, this article mostly refers to single parent households.)

    Here (http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,29901,00.html) is another article talking about lesbigay parents. And lawdy, their stats are from studies conducted between 1991 and 1998.
    Mindsets have changed so much within the 13 years post study. UGH.

  9. leeraloo February 24, 2011 at 11:01 am #

    OH, also, at first glance I thought that picture of the lobster family was a picture of your family, Elysia (I don’t know why) and that was basically the funniest thing ever in that moment.

  10. Lindsay March 3, 2011 at 7:32 pm #

    Being quite white and in the middle of adopting two little boys from Haiti, my family will certainly not look typical or be considered “normal” by many. I agree with what everyone has said about what really makes a “family,” the time and dinner and love, but from all the adoption research I’ve done, none of that guarantees my boys will feel “typical” no matter what I do. And really, why should they? They’re not. They’re extraordinary already– they’ve lived through more crap than most people in the U.S. will in a lifetime. I think the bigger issue is teaching ourselves and our children that we don’t need other people’s approval to feel ok about who or what we are.

    With that said, in terms of the effects of parenting, I have been a teacher for eight years now, and I can see HUGE impacts from parenting both positive and negative. It makes me absolutely terrified to be a parent even though I have always wanted to be. Moms who flirt with their high school son’s friends, which definitely happens, do create anxiety for their sons. Parents who have no consequences for their kids do tend to have kids who have a much harder time using their time well. After two years of teaching 7th grade, I could tell you within the first week of school which of the boys in my classes did not have some type of father-figure (be that actual father, an older brother, uncle, etc.) When I am having difficulties with a particular student, I am almost always recommitted to that student and much more understanding of his or her issues after the parent comes in to meet me– just because I have seen what the parent is like.

    To answer your final questions, I look back at my family and do believe they are responsible for some of my issues, but that since we are all imperfect if they hadn’t left me with these issues they’d leave me with others. In the time since I’ve left home, I’ve certainly done a lot to rewrite some of what I didn’t like in myself. And, I am content and happy– not with the world, but with who I am in the world. =)

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