What with the SCOTUS ruling last week about the legality of gay marriages, there's been a whole lot of brouhaha about the demise of the "traditional" family. I've a few points to make on that family.
First off, I don't think that word means what you think it means. In the minds of many religious conservatives, Mormons being the flavour I've most truck with, this means the demise of the mother/father/2.5 kids, who all love each other and live in a house with a white picket fence and a dog and a cat. This is not reality. This is also not history.
Historically, "traditional" has meant many things, but if you want to look at modern "traditional" Western European/American families, what traditional means is this. A white male/white female bond, sometimes performed religiously, but always including state sanctioned benefits and rules. A white male head of the family, effectively owning his wife and children, daughters continuing to be owned even after reaching adulthood, unless they marry and come under the ownership of their husband. It meant women without any rights to property, money, safety, her person or her children except as her husband chooses to allow said rights to her. It meant children with no rights of their own until reaching adulthood. Well, male children come into their own rights when they reach adulthood, as I previously mentioned, female children never attain those rights. If their male parent dies and they are unmarried and have no one to care for them, well, they are on their own.
Thankfully, we have progressed beyond this, to a certain extent. Women and children here do have rights accorded by the state, although some conservative religions deny these rights and continue to keep women in submission to men.
In my own Mormon religious history, traditional and approved marriage meant polygamy. One man and many women. That's pretty recent, let's be honest. We are awesome at redefining marriage, ourselves. Can we fault others for attempting to do so?
Another point being made about the demise of the family is the rise of the me generation. Millenials are supposedly fundamentally selfish, which, to a certain extent, many are. But they are also some of the most UNSELFISH people to ever exist. Part of the proof brought up to show their selfishness is the fact that the marriage rate is going down, and people are waiting longer to have children or not having children at all.
Now, I will agree that a good part of this is based on the morally downward path of our society, but I don't think that path comes from selfishness, gay marriage, more people choosing to live together, more hedonistic lifestyles, etc. It comes from the moral downfall of our economy, which is, oddly, fully supported by the religious right. I'm talking about the Koch brothers. I'm talking about trickle-down economics (they don't work), I'm talking about corporate tax breaks, for profit healthcare, for profit insurance companies, the rise of inflation with no corresponding wage increases. I'm talking about the fight against useful government aid, the fight against government regulations that prevent the morally corrupt from taking advantage of their employees.
This is where the demise of the stable family stems from. If you can't afford YOURSELF when you get out of college completely buried in debt, how on earth can you afford a family? The idea that if you are righteous and have a family like you are "supposed to" and God will take care of you is lovely and delightful, but it simply isn't true. Righteous families go into bankruptcy and lose everything. Righteous families rely on welfare. Righteous families get sick and lose their livelihoods. Righteous women get left behind by their provider and are expected to raise all those righteous children on their own. And some manage it. And some don't.
If you have health issues and can barely afford your own insurance and medical care, how can you possibly afford the health care costs of a family?
If you can't even manage to afford college and all that debt and therefore can't get a well paying job to begin with, because the minimum wage is a joke, how on earth can you afford a family?
If part of the demise of the traditional family is because we now have mostly two income families, why are there so few ways to make a single income family work? And what happens when the single income has a problem and can no longer be relied on? The non income earning half of that couple (the mother, if this is a traditional family) suddenly has to pick up and find a way to earn a living. If she's been out of the workforce for some time, this is more difficult than you can possibly imagine. I speak from experience, here. I was a WAHM for most of 10 years. I suddenly found myself needing to provide for myself and my daughter on my own, and while it was not difficult to find a job, because of my skills, those 10 years out of the workplace seriously reduced my ability to earn a livable wage. I was fortunate in my ability and opportunity to keep my skills sharp while being at home, but the hit I took on the wage front has been incredibly difficult. And I only have one young child. I cannot imagine the plight of those with more and those without a strong support network.
The prevailing economy has at least as much to do with the demise of the traditional family, and in my opinion, much more to do with it than the legalization of gay marriage or the immorality of millenials. Something has to happen to make having a family a workable option. The religious right has co-opted the family values platform, but abortion, gay marriage and pre-marital sex are not the culprits. The inability to make a family life due to the lack of money or the dangers of losing one's livelihood because of health, divorce, etc, that's where the real problem lies. If the family is supposed to be the social building block of society, why aren't we doing more to support that building block? Allowing non-hetero people to marry only strengthens the family unit. Allowing families to go bankrupt because of sickness weakens it.
Let's try and remember what our priorities are.