Time to End ‘Nuclear Family Privilege’ – Let’s Overcome Irrational Nostalgia for a Version of Family Long Since Transformed
This site appears to be pretty left wing. I am right wing, but I agree with many of the left’s criticisms about the right’s preoccupation with the nuclear family.
We’re finally talking about stressed, toxic work worlds, but in a way that benefits wealthy, traditional families.
On Sunday, (Link): Anne-Marie Slaughter took to the New York Times to persuasively indict the toxic, anxiety-producing expectations of the modern workplace. It’s the product, she argues, of an “antiquated and broken” system, and it simultaneously hinders America’s competitiveness and the ability for us all to care for our families.
Says Slaughter: “We used to have [an infrastructure of care]; it was called women at home.” Slaughter argues that “a workplace designed for the ‘Mad Men’ era, for ‘Leave It to Beaver’ families in which one partner does all the work of earning an income and the other partner does all the work of turning that income into care” is holding all of us back.
…There has been an explosion in the diversity of family structures in the U.S. over the last several decades, much of it the result of delayed and declining marriage rates and higher nonmarital birthrates. Forty-one percent of babies born in the U.S. today have parents who are not married, and among millennials, it’s over half.
The traditional family, which dominated for just over a decade, wasn’t replaced by one kind of family, but by many kinds of families. Unlike in the early ’60s, today, there is no single-family arrangement that encompasses the majority of children.
More individuals live alone, there are more families with married parents who are both employed, more single-parent homes, children living with grandparents, children living with unmarried, cohabitating parents, and households composed of people who are not biologically related or legally bound. Family diversity is the new normal.
But despite these trends, the nuclear family is still favored with the most esteemed cultural visibility, still seen as “normal,” “good” and ideal. Divorce is generally seen as failure, cohabitating and raising kids without being married invites the assumption that there is a barrier to marriage, single-parents—especially teenagers, poor people, and/or people of color—are shamed for their “moral failing,” and if you’re an adult older than 35, single, and childfree, everyone from your friends to your bus driver is wondering when you’re going to “settle down.”
If your family arrangement includes more than two adults, people who are not biological or adoptive parents raising kids, people who aren’t related to you, or any other number of configurations, then you’re invisible.
It’s time we recognize this for what it is, and name it: nuclear family privilege.
…How do nuclear families benefit from unearned privilege? From tax breaks and employment policies to medical care and media representation.
Meanwhile, schools engage in Father’s Day celebrations even though 25 percent of children are raised in homes without their fathers. Women over 35 get looks of pity when others learn they are unmarried. Bereavement policies provide no time off for the death of an aunt, even if she is the one who raised you.
Workplaces regularly hold evening events without considering the childcare needs of single parents. Long-term childfree couples are treated as not quite a family because they are not married and don’t have kids. Fathers—particularly, poor and/or black fathers—who are not married to the mothers of their children, are incorrectly believed to be “absentee.”
…Yes, data shows that, on average, children with stable, married parents have better outcomes than children in other families. But we consistently misunderstand what that data is telling us, and confuse correlation and causation.
Because we are blind to the ways in which our society benefits nuclear families, when they thrive, we believe it is because there is something intrinsically better about them. It’s like saying that X group of runners is inherently faster than Y group of runners, while ignoring the fact that group X is taking performance enhancing drugs and group Y is being repeatedly kicked in the kneecaps while running.
When we create an environment that supports and celebrates nuclear families, it’s no surprise that the people within those families are more likely to do well.
…Even progressives often tacitly accept the logic that marriage and “keeping families together” is the best way to support the wellbeing of adults and children.
But just beneath the surface, this is the same underlying “good old days” nostalgia used by conservatives. It’s the same logic that says that working women going to back into the home is a legitimate solution to the inaccessibly of affordable childcare.
Suggesting that marriage is the best way for a working mother and child to avoid poverty is frighteningly paternalistic. If we want a society that embraces policies that support people, regardless of family structure, we need to expose how unethical and illogical that argument is.
(Link): This Headline Has My Fellow Conservatives In A Tizzy, but It Should Not: Just 18% of US households are ‘nuclear families’ with a married couple and children, down from 40% since 1970s and the lowest since 1959
(Link): How Christians Have Failed on Teaching Maturity and Morality Vis A Vis Marriage / Parenthood – Used as Markers of Maturity Or Assumed to be Sanctifiers – Also: More Hypocrisy – Christians Teach You Need A Spouse to Be Purified, But Also Teach God Won’t Send You a Spouse Until You Become Purified