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The Changing American Family

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I chose the reading, “The Way We Really Are”, by Stephanie Coontz. The author’s viewpoint focused on the changes in family values over the years that have led to more single mothers and fewer successful marriages. She refers to several quotes from resources about the American family tradition slowly dying. More unwed mothers are emerging, and more women are single, as they believe marriage is secondary to their social and personal commitments.

I believe psychiatrist John Watson and sociologist Amitai Etzioni were wrong in their predictions that true families would be nonexistent by now. Their opinion implies families could only be “true” if the parents were married. Based upon the definition of a traditional family this may be true, but times have changed. We should focus on how we define family today, before we decide if it is or isn’t existent.

One must consider the decision young men and unwed mothers make to not immediately get married when an unexpected pregnancy arises. I think this is a responsible decision for many that may ultimately prevent an unstable, unhappy and possibly unsuccessful marriage. We must be careful to understand that a couple that is unwed and has a child may still provide a completely acceptable, loving and supportive life for the child. The startling divorce statistics have formed preconceived notions for people who fear marriage. It is wise to consider personal feelings and beliefs instead of caving into the pressures placed upon us by society.

As Sam Robert reports, many census statistics are misleading due to single mothers misrepresenting the facts by saying they are separated, which may lead us to believe they were at one time married. I understand how the numbers may seem disproportionate when comparing the increase of wed to unwed mothers having children. If married couples are having fewer kids, but unwed births are increasing in numbers, the gap widens. I think one should gain a better understanding of why married couples were having fewer children between 1960 and 1990. Perhaps this is due to circumstances other than failing traditional family values. I think inflation, crime, unemployment and the price of real estate and a college education have resulted in more stress for parents.

Working mothers are more common than they have been in the past and that means additional responsibility for them. Their traditional role of the stay at home mom whose focus is solely to raise the children and take care of the home has evolved into something much greater. This has changed family dynamics tremendously, which also places more emphasis on appropriately defining family values. I also feel that as more women entered the workforce, it created a desire for other women to find the same degree of independence, a great deal of satisfaction and accomplishment, along with the additional income they could bring into the household.

I do agree with Ms. Coontz that perhaps couples are not as determined anymore to uphold the vow of “until death do us part”. I think some couples do not work hard enough to make their marriage work or perhaps one spouse is not as flexible as may be necessary to overcome their problems. I should also consider the stress the previous paragraph explained which families must now endure. I believe, as well, that because women and men both work and raise a family it will tend to increase the divorce rate. In addition, as Ms. Coontz explains, our jobs impose greatly upon our personal time. Technological advancements have made it too easy for us to be available to our employers and after hour’s interruptions impose upon quality family time we all deserve. These types of adjustments, however, are now considered the norm and parents must do well at balancing their demanding schedules.

The article tells us that family crusaders believe young families should focus on the traditional roles mothers and fathers once had when mothers did not work. There was a time in history when women and men were both breadwinners. Before America transferred from a farming society to an industrial society, women assisted their husbands on the farms. They would help in the fields and also tend to the animals. Once America started becoming more industrialized, the role of women changed as they focused on the family and stayed home to nurture the children while the men went to work to earn the salary. They were full-time nurturing mothers while the father was the protector and family provider. It wasn’t until 1973 when the economy forced woman back into the workplace.

I think the Women’s Movement has worked hard to establish women’s rights and equality for all. While many working mothers yearn to have an opportunity to stay at home again, it may not be economically feasible. Poor family values should not be blamed for the government’s inability to control costs or for the evolution of women, family and marriage.

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