Friday, September 14, 2007

The END of the Family
Canadians reading this blog will have no doubt heard about the latest StatsCan figures that are saying only about 50% of families in Canada are married, two heterosexual parent families. The other 50% consists of common-law families, with or without children; same-sex couples, with or without children; and single-parent families.

And it will come as no surprise to anyone reading those figures that the conservatives among us are furious, disgusted, and throwing up their hands in disgrace. Because, apparently, if there are a bunch of people out there who "claim" to be in love and have brought children into this world but don't have a government-authorized piece of paper saying they are legally allowed to be bringing said children into this world or claiming love of another individual, then the world's going to hell in a handbasket.

I just roll my eyes at all of it. When people talk about gay marriage, the opponents somehow believe it will threaten THEIR heterosexual marriage. How does the marriage of two people that aren't you or your spouse affect your marriage in any way? I remember having a discussion with someone who said the problem with gay marriage is there is no procreation, and that should be the key principle of marriage. I just looked at him, with an amused smile on my face, and patiently waited for him to actually stop and digest what he'd just said. He was on his second marriage, both married in their 50s, and had children from previous marriages. They'd gotten married because they were in love, not to have children. And yet here he was passing judgment on someone else for doing the same thing (the difference being, in gay couples they COULD actually give birth to children or adopt and raise a child).

Then there are the ones yelling about common-law marriage. People say that by living common-law, you're not showing a commitment, and the partnership isn't worth it until you've been together for 3 years, because only then are you entitled to half the property of the other person. First of all, I always get a kick out of the fact that these people usually cite the point at which YOU CAN HAVE A DIVORCE as the point where a partnership becomes legitimate, like we all go into a relationship imagining how things will be when we come back out of it. I was with my husband for 10 years before we got married, and after we had our handy-dandy certificate from the government saying we were now legally allowed to say we were in love, I didn't feel any different. I'm certainly not against traditional marriage, obviously, but I just don't see the big deal. If we hadn't spent some money and invited friends to watch us take our vows (which we pretty much laughed through) does it mean we don't love each other as much? And as we all know, if you DO get married, it's virtually impossible to get a divorce in this country. :/

And finally, the biggest demographic taking the hit is single parenthood. People are decrying the lack of the family by pointing out that there are so many single parents around, suggesting the children of those parents will grow up to be complete societal screwups who will fail at everything. Sure, the ideal is to have a strong family base that doesn't involve arguing or yelling or outright abuse, but sometimes when the parents finally bite the bullet and get the separation or divorce, it makes for a MUCH happier home. Is it better for the kids to watch the plates whizzing by their parents' heads each night, or to enjoy the silence?

Of course, I'm not trying to downplay the seriousness of the situation. Often single parenthood is accompanied by low incomes, continued agony as the remaining parent (usually the mother) is the one left behind and now takes out her anger on the children, or there is abuse of some kind that accompanies the whole thing, either by the outgoing parent or the incoming step-one. It's not ideal.

But the problem with any broad survey like this one is that they can say, "50% of families are like this, 20% are like this, 17% like this, and 13% like this" and they think they're covering all the bases. But fevery family is unique. Name two families that are exactly alike. Name one family that is "normal." You can't do it. Because there is no normal, there are only individual situations. No family can be summed up in a stupid survey. These surveys only serve to drive people apart, causing judgement and raised eyebrows, and the inevitable angry letter writers. The National Post's letters to the editor section on Friday was a riot, full of married mothers of 4, 5, even 8 children, decrying the end of the traditional family as if the results of this survey were committing their children to lives of gloom and doom. How ridiculous.

In other news, my husband and I started watching Friday Night Lights a few nights ago and we're already 12 episodes in. If the baby holds off, I'll have finished the season in less than a week. It is mind-blowingly good, and feels like a cross between a big-budget movie and an HBO series.

Today's Opus comic. I love Berke Breathed.

The rumour mill on Battlestar Galactica is saying that the final season will now be split up into two halves, with the first half airing beginning in January 2008, and the second half to begin airing in January 2009 (!!!!!) What?! Matt Roush of TV Guide rolled his eyes at the fan concerns, before declaring a "mea culpa" and apologizing, realizing it really would be difficult to watch them like that. Sure, The Sopranos did it all the time, but the difference is, as one fan pointed out, these episodes will have all been written, filmed, and finished, and it's just a case of the Sci-Fi Channel not airing them.

I just discovered this truly brilliant blog, where the blogger finds great 70s and 80s Swedish album covers and posts them. (Occasionally the bands aren't Swedish, but 99% of them are.) I just wish it were written in English, because I would love to know what the blogger is saying about each cover. :) Check it out. As you scroll through, you can't help but think, "What were these people thinking?!"


Anonymous said...

Just wondering why you said you 'laughed through your vows'? Was it that you thought it was ridiculous to say any vows at a wedding ceremony? Or some other reason...?

Having grown up in a single parent family, I will say emotionally I am screwed up. Yeah, I live a normal life, but underneath it all there is a lot of pain for what might have been had my parents stuck together. It wasn't for abusive reasons or drugs or alcohol. Just because my mother and father decided they'd married the wrong people and weren't getting what they wanted out of marriage.

I think there are more divorces for that reason than for abuse or more negative reasons--because some people are silly enough to think that the 'honeymoon phase' of a relationship is supposed to last for 50 years.

And everyone says, oh kids are just fine being raised by one parent. But you know what? It makes having your own marriage very difficult because you never saw what a normal relationship was like. And since I had no other male father figure in my life (no uncles, cousins, godparents...nothing), I had a very screwed up idea of men and how I was supposed to relate to one as a woman.

So, I do think that statistic is sad. I think divorce and single parentdom is an awful thing to do to children. I don't know what the solution is, but to brush it off like it's no big deal. Like single parents are perfectly capable of raising 'normal' kids is very naive.

Watch the show "Intervention" some time. Many of the drug/alcohol-addicted people on there are in pain because of a divorce at a young age. It's sad and it's scary.

Brian Douglas said...

If there's one thing I learned about statistics in all my years of college, is that you just can't trust them. They never tell the whole story, and without context, you can pretty much say anything you want.

Nikki Stafford said...

Anonymous: My husband and I were very laid-back during our wedding. I've seen people almost have nervous breakdowns planning them, so when I say we laughed through our vows, I mean we were taking it all in stride. You seem to be taking every word I utter way too seriously.

And as for me being naive, I was raised by a single mother; in fact, most of my closest friends were raised by single mothers. So I'm going by my experience, you're going by yours, and I'm not naive to simply rely on the experiences I've had. I'm sorry yours wasn't as positive as mine was, but please don't judge my words. It wasn't ideal, I'll give it that, but I much preferred being just with my mom and just with my dad than having them together and watching them self-destruct. Like yours, my parents simply married the wrong people. Because I was raised seeing what horrible comments can do to other people, I believe my marriage is stronger, because I'm aware of what words can do to another person and I avoid doing that to my husband. I also make sure when I have an issue, I take it up with him away from my children. I'm sorry it's different for you.

I never said divorce was ideal and that single-parenthood was totally awesome. That would have been a ridiculous thing to say. You're putting words into my mouth. What I was saying is that sometimes, single-parenthood is not a bad thing. What about single women who go for in vitro and have babies? Are they destroying these children? What about mothers taking their children out of an abusive situation? Would they be better off staying with the father?

I agree completely with your comment about why people get a divorce. I think people need to be with someone a lot longer than a few months before deciding this is the person they want to be with, and they need to think about it a lot longer than that before bringing children into it. Divorce is a terrible thing.

I never said kids are just fine being raised by one parent. I'm saying they *can* be fine, and that it's not the end of the world, and the point I made throughout my post is that so many people complain that if 20% of families in this country are single-parent ones, then somehow it's leading to the death of the family as we know it, as if people CHOOSE to be single parents all the time.

I do think that statistic is sad. But I'm not looking at it saying, "Wow. If that's the case, I guess my marriage is toast."

Nikki Stafford said...

P.S. I wish my parents had gotten along better, and I wish I'd been raised in a happy, 2-parent home. But I wasn't, so I've learned to deal with that and the price that I had to pay as such, and I've moved on in my life rather than obsessing about it and focusing on how much my life sucks compared to someone who had two loving parents. Before my words get twisted again, being raised by a single mom wasn't a happy thing, especially when you're constantly being turned into the pawn between two parents. But I moved on.

Brian Douglas said...

Anonymous, I was raised in a traditional, two-parent home and still never saw what a "normal" relationship was like. :-)

Anonymous said...

I forgot to mention one thing...I was the product of an 'absent father.' Never met the guy until I was an adult and married.

I had a fine upbringing. I felt loved. My mother was great as a single parent. But it's the missing connection with a male figure that I think screwed me up.

And, no, I don't think it is fine for a woman to go do invitro so she can have a child and raise it alone. That, in essence, would be recreating my childhood. And it was weird and bizarre to have no male person in my life.

There was a sociology class in college that I took once. The professor was discussing divorce and how if there is an absent father, there is always some other male figure one can look up to.

In my case, that was not true. No close family. Nothing. So my situtation is perhaps not the norm.

Sorry if I dumped my personal experience on the blog, but you caught me at a vulnerable moment. I live a happy life. I don't reflect too much on my life as a kid of divorce b/c I never felt pulled between two parents. That's all I know. And I think I turned out pretty well even after all of that.

Glad you turned out okay, too, Nik!

Anonymous said...

Forgive me but a lot of the attitudes of the ultra conservatists towards anything other than the typical heterosexual family makes me nauseous. It seems to be a major point of contention for the US elections, I feel at least in Canada we tend to be a bit more open minded.

It just reminds me of the situation with Larry Craig. Now I'm not 100% sure, but where there is smoke there is fire. Here is this guy who spoke so fervently against gay marriage "apparently" sneaking around public washrooms looking for sex. He won't be the first and won't be the last hypocrit to have a position of authority.

Way to go Nik, I applaud your blog!