Non-'Traditional' Families


Mom. Dad. 2.5 kids.

While I have no idea how there can be half a kid, this scenario is what often comes to mind when we hear the term 'traditional family'. Living in the South among a lot of 'old-fashioned' people, I hear this a lot. However, as you're probably well aware, there's no 'one size fits all' definition when it comes to something as complex as human relationships. 'Different' isn't necessarily a bad thing. Plus, my life is kind of boring; I enjoy seeing how other people live. Here are a few examples of families that don't fit a mold, but can still work out well.

The village. While most single parents I know didn't 'plan' to be that way, sometimes life has something different in mind. No one will deny that being a single parent is difficult, but having the support of family and friends can make things a lot easier. For instance, my sister is separated from her husband and the father of her six-year-old twin boys. He's still around for the kids but, even if he weren't, she still has the 'village' which is my extended family to give her sons many positive role models, male and female alike. Aunts, cousins, grandparents, older name it, my nephews have it. They will never be able to say they don't get enough love and attention! Even if we believe that having two loving parents at home is best for children, sometimes we have to have something to fall back on.

Two moms or two dads. This family situation is controversial for several reasons, but it can actually work out well for the children if there are a lot of positive role models of each gender around. Most people will think of homosexual couples when they hear of two moms or two dads, and that is most common. However, I've seen instances where extended family and friends have stepped in to take a co-parenting role. Some people will say this is bad because the child won't have any 'opposite-sex' (meaning, opposite sex from the parents) role models, but that isn't always true if there are other friends and family members in the child's life. For instance, my brother and his partner are talking about adopting; while the child would have two fathers, they have a lot of extended family such as sisters, grandparents, etc. for the child to learn from. That's where 'the village' I mentioned above can come in.

Step-parents. Cinderella may have had a wicked stepmother, but that doesn't always happen. While divorce is a very common reason for a child to have a step-parent, it also happens with widows or widowers. In many cases, the step-parent is the only mom or dad the children have ever known. Either that, or the 'real' parent wasn't fit or didn't want to be part of the child's life. Just because someone didn't give birth to a child doesn't mean they still can't be an active part of that child's family.

As you can see, there is more than one way to 'do family'. I've known people who feel as though they have 'failed' their children because they got a divorce from an unfit spouse or because they were a single parent. I can understand this feeling, but my point is that there isn't just one definition of 'family' that can be good for kids. Sometimes life hands you something you don't expect, so you have to do the best you can with what you have. What *hasn't* changed, however, is that love and respect is what makes things work.

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