The other day, I was taking a mid-day coffee break with a friend, and she told me she’d just read an article in YES! Magazine about the changing face of families in the U.S. She handed me the article, which she had printed out. “The entire issue is all about families,” she said. “It reminds me a lot of what you all are doing at ACRJ.”
She was talking about our Strong Families initiative. So naturally, I was intrigued. Once I got back to the office I took a quick minute to read “Freer, Messier, Happier” by Jeremy Adam Smith. He talks about how gender roles in his family have change dramatically over three generations, how diverse family structures are now becoming the norm, and how the economy is playing a big role in shaping family. He recounts how he, while taking care of his son one year while his wife worked, would visit playgrounds with his son and meet other stay-at-home dads, queer parents, single parents, and multiracial and immigrant families.
The right-wing 'family values' movement has painted these trends as a crisis, but no one I know experiences them that way. Instead, we seem to share a positive (if often unarticulated) vision of the family as diverse, egalitarian, voluntary, interdependent, flexible, and improvisational. Many people hold these ideals without necessarily being conscious of their political and economic implications—and they’re not making politically motivated choices…They almost always framed their work and care decisions as a practical matter, a response to brutally competitive labor and childcare markets.Thank you, Jeremy. For the majority of us whose families don’t fit the traditional model of a heterosexual, nuclear family, we often face enormous challenges – social, economic or otherwise – without getting much support from policies that aren’t meant for families like us. And because we don’t fit the narrow description of “family,” we are demonized by the Right as somehow being undeserving of support and resources.
I don’t know if Jeremy has heard about Strong Families or not, but what he’s saying is right in line with our vision: shifting culture and policy in this country to match what our families look like and what our families need. We want to change conditions so that our families – in all their diversity and however we define them – have what we need to care for one another and live happy, healthy lives. Strong Families is working on policies that can get us one step closer to our vision: immigration reform that keeps our families together, access to affordable reproductive health care, protecting the rights of incarcerated mothers, and economic security for all families. Together with our allies who are fighting for affordable childcare, paid parental leave, and quality education for all, we are building a world that recognizes all of our families and supports us for who we are.
You, too, can join us in achieving this vision! Help us build Strong Families today by sharing your family's story, joining our email list or making a donation, and we’ll send you the latest updates on how to get involved.
Read “Freer, Messier, Happier,” and also check out the full YES! Magazine issue, What Happy Families Know.