Just what is a “Traditional Family”?

I have a very interesting family dynamic and I’m sure I’m not the only one.

I could try to describe the relationships I have that I count as family, but it would almost be like trying to weave together webs from ten different spiders.

So, let’s just call it… Non-Traditional.

But here’s the funny thing, have you noticed, lately, how Non-Traditional has become, dare I say, Traditional?

So, what’s changed? What has evolved so that someone like myself–a single, no-grandparents-in-town, child of divorced parents–has to arrange attending four (or more!) family dinners on major holidays? Don’t even get me started on the mental, physical, and stretchy-wardrobe preparation required for attending four Thanksgiving dinners in one day!

I have a couple ideas:

  • In a time when the marriage rates are decreasing and the divorce rates are increasing, people develop family-like relationships with people who have been long-standing fixtures in small support networks or communities.
  • In a time when moving away from home is becoming more common, for whatever reason, people build new family-like networks.
  • Reproduction. Okay, that’s a simplified way to put it, but you know what I mean. People have kids. Kids find partners. They have kids. Do you want me to draw out the bunny diagram?

I’m really curious what people think about the evolution of The Family.

What do you think? Why have Non-Traditional families become more Traditional in our culture?

What is your family dynamic like? How do you plan for major holidays?

And here’s the kicker: Do you think the Old or New Traditional is better? 

3 thoughts on “Just what is a “Traditional Family”?

  1. The ” traditional” family is a social definition and society is ever-changing. Divorce rates, shifting financial paradigms and work relationships are shifting. Changes in what is considered a socially accepted sexual relationship and the growth of technology connecting and/or disconnecting society have all added to the shift in what one considers a traditional family…but this is a normal progression for a society. We no longer live in the 1920’s – we don’t need to make babies to farm the land. Women aren’t expected to stay in the home, in fact women more oft than not need to work in order to maintain familial financial solvency. Culturally there’s been a shift in 2 worker families for women to have children later ( I would also call it a personal choice due to increased education and social level for women) and migratory patterns have changed the idea of an extended family from actual family to a village family where friends become a part of the inner family circle.

    I live in a household with my significant other and my best friend ( guy). We have no children but share pets and we function as a family – cooking meals cleaning the house and providing emotional and financial support to one another as well as a family like atmosphere. We celebrate holidays together – sometimes all of us going to one parent’s house, sometimes cooking at home with all of us kicking in to help.

    I don’t see my family as traditional or non traditional – it just is. We function within in a society that is ever changing with a set of in-borne needs for communication, comfort and companionship. We have found a way to meet them in a way that suits all of us. Traditional is just a way to describe an ideal established to define what a family is…the family that existed in the 19th or 20th century can’t exist in this modern society…and thankfully it doesn’t need to. We don’t need to have 10 children because 80% will be before they reach the age of 2. I don;t need to stay in the home because it is what culture deems is appropriate. Same sex couples aren’t thrown to the wolves or tortured ( though they still face many hardships). The world is changing and we change with it….as we always have.

    Thanks for the post!

  2. The whole “non-traditional” thing doesn’t make sense to me. Families evolve, I believe, based on the cultural norms, mores and traditions of the time. What happened 100 years ago could possibly have been eye-raising to those who were born 50 years earlier. With every generation, things change. In the Caribbean, whether English-speaking, Dutch-speaking, Spanish-speaking, French-speaking, we tend to have large and extended families — and yes, that includes, what I felt was important to mention in my own blog about “aunts”, “uncles”, “cousins” who are not blood relatives but are part of the fabric of the family.

    My “aunts” are equally as important as my aunts–my mother’s sisters, for example. My “cousins”, a.k.a. “play cousins”, are just as important as my blood-relative cousins. We circle around to each other, being supportive of each other — through all major milestones and holidays. When my grandmother celebrated her 90th birthday, we said we’d keep it to “family” — we had almost 100 people there.

    What makes a family? If you listen to some commentaries out there you would believe that a mother, father, two children and the dog named ‘Spot’. smh. That’s ridiculous and so unrealistic, and frankly, doesn’t sit well culturally from the Carib-Americas that I roll my eyes. Sorry, we never lived like the Cleavers. That family display on television was a farce. I guess, that’s television.

    If you live in Timbucktoo is your definition of a family the same as the Masai tribe or the indigenous people of Antarctica, Central America or the Native Americans of Canada or the United States? I doubt it.

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