Journal: News & Comment

Thursday, June 07, 2001
# 11:57:00 PM:

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"We live in a society that imagines what is normal is not normal."

So says magazine editor Lisa Benenson in one of two articles at that highlight our delusions. Both focus on the United States, but many western countries (such as my home, Canada) share similar mistaken views.

I live in a "traditional" nuclear family. I am married; my wife and I have two children. We live in a house. My parents have been married for over thirty-five years, as have my wife's.

In those things we are very, very unusual.

Let me reinforce the point. Recent U.S. census data (and likely Canadian, Swedish, French, and other statistics too) demonstrates that:

  1. Being married with kids is not normal.
  2. Not being married with kids is normal.

I mean "normal" in a statistical sense, of course. In the U.S.A., fewer than 25 percent of the population lives in a "traditional" family like mine -- two married parents with kids at home. And those numbers include step-families and adoptions too. Indeed, more people live alone than live in any sort of "nuclear" family. Yet that seems to remain the supposed norm to which everyone should strive.

Also in the U.S., 60 percent of women who work outside the home have children under three years old. In other words, being a working mom is normal too -- yet these moms often feel guilty about what they do because it doesn't fit the stereotyped ideal.

Readers responding to the working-mother story personalize the issue, and make some good points on their own. One writes:

Simply change the rules of the game. You want to be a working mom? Find a dad who wants to stay at home.

That's what my wife did. And you know what? Staying home is hard. I'm glad I work part time too. And I'm glad my wife is a full-time math teacher. She's good at it, it's good for her, and that's good for the rest of us.

Maybe we're normal after all.


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