What is a family? If you ask yourself that question, what do you picture? Once upon a time, a family was a mother and father, son and daughter. There may have been a dog and a cat, and they all lived in a house with a white picket fence. That may be the fairy tale stereotype, but it is far from the whole picture of American families.
Today’s family smashes every stereotype. Today, ethnicities blend. There may or may not be two parents, and they may be gay or straight; it could be headed by a single parent, male or female, by an aunt, uncle or grandparent, foster parents, or adoptive parents. The family may have lost a child, or it could be headed by someone who has been divorced or widowed, especially since over half of American marriages end in divorce. Only 49% of households today are headed by married couples. Not all families are biological. Sometimes a church group or other type of group can function as a family, giving its members support.
The truth of the matter is that there is no real norm of what constitutes a family, if there ever was. The one common factor is that they are persons who have made a commitment to care for each other emotionally and financially throughout life, as a unit. It is true that love makes a family.
If you have been widowed or divorced, have you found yourself thinking sadly, “If only we were still a family”? Well, if you have children, siblings, parents, or other committed and loving persons in your life, you ARE a family. Families are not static units, always remaining the same over the years. Families are fluid, always changing and evolving over time. Children grow up, grandchildren are born, and members pass away. People marry and sometimes divorce; others move away or go off to college. In other words, the unit that constitutes the family is an ever-changing one, and it is meant to be that way over the years. If we are open to what our families now look like, and don’t forever hold onto how they used to be, we open ourselves up to the many wondrous possibilities that await us as we travel down new pathways.
Questions in regard to life and family issues may be submitted to Jane at Pathfinder Magazine, and she will make every attempt to respond to as many as possible in her column, Ask Jane.