The “Typical” Family – an Archaic Idea
Her parents were killed in a car crash in Africa while working as missionaries. This left my dear friend Caroline and her brother, Michael, in a predicament- no parents. So, Caroline’s aunt (mother’s sister) and uncle adopted the young children and raised them as their own. In addition to their aunt and uncle’s daughter, JoAnn, this became Caroline and Mike’s family.
In 1970, my family consisted of a mother, a father and three kids, including me. But after a divorce, we ended the 70s with a mother and three kids. Did that mean we weren’t a family anymore? Hardly, but it didn’t match the old definition of family.
The ideas of family have changed over the last 60 years. For eons, the typical family was defined as a father, a mother and a son. Later it grew to a father, a mother and children; 2.2 children, as the statistics suggested. In the last six decades, however, the typical family began looking not so typical.
Research shows that in 1970, 75% of all households had both parents living with children. By the year 2000, that number dropped to 51%. Today, families can hold any configuration. The definition of the typical family has less and less application to real life. Of course, many people still hold onto the belief of the archaic definition of family. To each their own which means each person’s definition of family applies only to that person and no one else.
The Dog Walking Family
Most every evening I hear a dog barking at my front door. It’s Simon. He shows up with his dog mom, Kathy, and lets me know he is here to pick me up for our walk. We head out and pick up Aunt Katina and Pushpa, both of whom live across the street from me. Aunt Katina and Uncle Mario, her husband, are Greek – and they are not my real aunt and uncle, but I love them as if they were. Pushpa is from India. As we begin our walk, we run into Le from China and her four-legged kids, Mae-Ling and Ginger. Together, we walk loops around the neighborhood, laughing, checking on health issues and watching the cute things the dogs do. This is our dog walking family.
Our dog walking family is diverse and no one is related by blood, but it is still our family. Of course, most families begin with two people who are not related by blood and grow from there. Like families, our dog walking family members are there for each other. When someone becomes unwell we offer assistance. When someone travels, we watch over their house. When someone has a life altering situation, like a death in the family, we rally around each other offering friendship, food and any other support that is needed. I love my dog walking family.
Our family can include anyone. Many of us have extended family members who are best friends that feel like sisters, senior citizen friends who feel like grandparents and dogs or cats that feel like children. There is no one definition of “family” that is right or wrong. In fact, the truth is we are one big human family, we are one big Earth family and we are one big universal family. We just have to reach out and make the connection to each other physically that already exists in our heart.
Challenge to Expand Your Family
It has always amazed me that any of us could feel alone in a world of nearly 8 billion people. Of course, it is only our mind that makes us feel as though we are alone or lonely as it tells us stories about us not being good enough for anyone or anything. There is no need to listen to that. You are the perfect person to have as a family member no matter what your family looks like. All families, inclusive of all configurations, are valuable and worthy of your membership in them.
Dictionary.com defines an extended family as:
- a kinship group consisting of a family nucleus and various relatives, as grandparents, usually living in one household and functioning as a larger unit.
- (loosely) one’s family conceived of as including aunts, uncles, cousins, in-laws, and sometimes close friends and colleagues.
Let’s add to this definition to include anyone we want. The truth is there are millions of people on the planet who are our extended family members. Although it may not be possible to meet and hang out with all 8 billion of them, each one of us can reach out to those near and far and extend our family in many ways. I am fortunate enough to have a dog walking family, but I also have a neighbor family and a group of pals that are family. I have a work family and a client family, too. Of course, I also have my VIVA GLAM
family! Who are your extended family members?
Let’s make connections rather than looking at our neighbors, our co-workers and others as people who are separate from us. If we extend ourselves, if we find what connects us with others instead of focusing on what we think makes us different, we will automatically gain new family members. The challenge to each of you is to find 5 people in the next 30 days that you can add as family members. Don’t let old mindsets keep you from seeing other people as family. Expand your mind and your heart to expand your definition of family.
In a world where most people feel alone and lonely, the opportunity to expand our family is massive. Don’t exclude anyone when adding to your family. Everyone is worthy. As we increase the size of our families, we will one day realize we are all connected to each other; something that is and always has been true.