Bye-bye, Typical American Family: Diversity is on the rise

diverse family

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Remember when families were either typical or “broken homes”?  I do; I was from a broken home.  I’m happy to report that those two easy categories are officially irrelevant.  Yep, they’re dead.

The New York Times  reported in fall 2013 on astonishing research about changing family structures:  “Families are more ethnically, racially, religiously and stylistically diverse than half a generation ago — than even half a year ago.”

fabric owl print

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“In increasing numbers, blacks marry whites, atheists marry Baptists, men marry men and women women, Democrats marry Republicans and start talk shows. Good friends join forces as part of the “voluntary kin” movement, sharing medical directives, wills, even adopting one another legally.  …We’re sappy family romantics. When an informal sample of 52 Americans of different ages, professions and hometowns were asked the first thought that came to mind on hearing the word “family,” the answers varied hardly at all. Love! Kids! Mom! Dinner!”

Free to be a family

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Interesting four words, right?

In fall 2014, the Council on Contemporary Families released Paul Cohen’s study on the shape of the family that found that “Diversity is the new normal.” The report says that it’s not simply that families move from two-parent homes to single moms, either: “we can better understand this transformation as an explosion of diversity, a fanning out from a compact center along many different pathways.” At the end of the 1950s, 65% of kids lived in a family with two parents, the father employed and the mother not.

biracial family

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“Today, by contrast, there is no single family arrangement that encompasses the majority of children.”  The 2012 census counts kids who live with: neither parent nor grandparent, grandparents only, single father, formerly-married mother, never-married mother, cohabiting parent, married parents both unemployed, married parents mother employed, married parents both employed, married parents father employed. “Family” means kids in this study, which charges that public policies need to understand and keep up with these changes.  When we factor in all the same-sex relationships, racial diversity, political and religious affiliations mentioned in the NYT article last year, it’s pretty mind-blowing, right?

woman in kitchen

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I wrote a few weeks ago on a recent sociology study’s findings that home cooking might not be worth the stress it puts on women. Women.  Certainly there are single dad families where “the woman” doesn’t cook.  And two-dad families. The point of the study was to show the stress.  But I’m a little concerned about the women.

And I have been.  As Funnermother, I’m in some big groups of other women in business, and it really can be stressful to feed everyone!  And yes, maybe its our elephant-like memories or our octopus-like multitasking, but the feeding falls to the women still, we chat about it all the time.  I want to change that.

I really want to change that.

Women in the kitchen

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So I’m designing a Kitchen Coaching program where, for 8 weeks or so, we’ll talk all about your family meals.  In a no judgement zone. We’ll talk for an hour or two and you can tell me how it is.  And tell me how you’d like it to be.  And we’ll work together on the structural and/or mindset changes that will get you there — or as close as humanly possible!  I mean, I’d love to have a home cook or eat takeout every night.  But I’ve found some great hacks for simplifying it IN SPITE OF two very finicky eaters and one slightly finicky eater.  🙂  I’m working with a couple of clients right now, and will clear space for more soon.

Stay tuned for details.  Here, or on Facebook, or sign up for my weekly-ish newsletter.

21 thoughts on “Bye-bye, Typical American Family: Diversity is on the rise

  1. Brilliant idea! People are going to love this! In our house feeding is done by the person who finds going to the grocery store a recreational activity. That would not be me. Shopping of any kind is a task, not a tour in my book. I do really like my crock pot though…but only because it does the bulk of the work and the outcome is yummy.


    • “A task, not a tour” — you have a great turn of phrase there, lady — totally stealing! Haha. I actually use my crock pot more in summer — in winter, I like to heat the house with the oven, haha. Thank you for reading and commenting, Patrice! xx Angela


  2. I haven’t been a traditional family since I was a single mom at 16! Whoops! That was in 1977! But here is a kicker. I cook a homecooked meal, with fresh ingredients (some from the garden in decent weather) almost every day. And we eat in the dining room. With candles. (And usually wine) I don’t consider it stressful. That is actually the unstressful part of my day! We eat, we chill, we chat, we laugh, we relax, we catch up on what happened in the day… we unwind… we blow on the candles and sigh a big chilled sigh. The end of a well-spent day. I personally think the stressful part of daily cooking is that it has become an afterthought to families instead of the center of the family’s quality time spent together.


    • My husband feels the same way about cooking and I feel the same way about the time eating (easy to do when the work has been done for you) and the clean up, which is my part. He can always think of something to make on the fly since he has real chef-like skills. Not so much me.

      Angela, I think a Kitchen Coaching Program is just the ticket for people to learn how to make the process part of quality time for them, family and guests as well as to stretch or express their creative side.


      • Patrice, thank you for your feedback! I’m finishing up with my first two clients now, and the one further along is definitely feeling out all the choices she didn’t realize she had, Yay! Thanks! xx Angela


  3. Thanks for this post. I have never been a part of a “typical” family. I was abandoned in an orphanage as an infant. I lived here for two or three years. I have only two baby pictures. My father was black. My mother was white. I was rescued by my amazing parents when I was three. They are black. Typical? No way. Interesting and exciting? Always. I love that we are finally appreciating and sharing about diversity in terms of families. There should be no molds. I love the freedom to create what I want as I go along. Thanks for sharing this!


    • Wow, what a story! I find it quite liberatory that the “research” is in that can get everyone to just let go of that dusty idea of a “typical family.” I’m so thankful for your sharing of your personal story. All hail diversity! 😉 Angela


  4. My folks have been married for nearly fifty years — to each other! Mom always made dinner, real cooking, every night. She still cooks for dad. There’s no stress there and he happily eats whatever she fixes. (She’s a great cook!)

    While my honey and I don’t live together, I still love to cook for him — typically dinner and breakfast. Neither is stressful! They’re a great time for us to catch up from the day, talk and laugh, have hard apple cider or a beer. There’s nothing stressful about them! (Of course, there’s always a quick meal in the freezer just in case the dinner experiment is a flop!)

    I hate grocery shopping but I’ve discovered how to just do it every 6 weeks or so, except for running in for fresh veggies.

    Making cooking a stressful chore is a choice. Choosing to have it be a needful part of life is a choice. I choose to like it and I LOVE feeding my family a healthy meal and getting to spend that time together.


  5. What an interesting post! I love that diversity is the new norm, it appeals to the rebel in me, and is very much my norm – we live in different continents (but that’s another story). Mum always encouraged us to join in with cooking and domestic activities and made it as fun as possible – and I try to continue that and cook in partnership with my hubby – and occasional turn-taking if one partner is uber busy, tired or stressed. If you can help folks come together in preparing and enjoying easy, simple, healthy meals than you are doing us all a huge service! I hope there will be some choice tips and tactics on your blog to tantalise us as you develop your course. 🙂


  6. Wow! Fascinating study results of how our world is changing! I came from a traditional home growing up, but about 1/3 of my friends were from ‘broken homes’. Interesting how that has changed our view on the world as our childhood environments have changed.
    I love your new initiative to talk about family dinner in the no judgement zone. Regardless of what our families look like, the data and studies that show family dinners are a huge part of a strong foundation can’t be refuted. Well done to support everyone in making that look like a workable and sustainable version for their families.


    • Thanks, Aly, for your support. Though it’s outside the scope of my Kitchen Coaching program, reading through all the comments makes me realize how unutterably happy I am to leave behind the term ‘broken!’ Haha. And yes, No Judgement is important to me. No matter what your family shape, where you eat (we eat in front of the tv frequently!), or how you eat (we had a co-student who ate candy sometimes just to get calories in), I can work with it. I just want to get families to where THEY are comfortable, not where *I* think they should be. Thanks for your comments, they really got me thinking! xx a


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