"Changing Families: from Traditional to Whatever Works?"
"Massachusetts' premier magazine for families," a free monthly that claims to be distributed at over 1,000 outlets, includes polyfamilies as a small but noteworthy part of the evolving future of family structures.
By Doug Page
Is there a married couple out there that would ever guess that the day they bring home that bundle of joy from the hospital, they’re a minority?
...Only about 20 percent of American adults... are married, living with their spouse, and, together, bringing up a child or children to which they both have a biological connection.
...The myriad of living situations any adult can be in is countless. But one thing is for sure the traditional household, where a married mom and dad live together and are bringing up kids they conceived, is falling.
...About 23 million children, almost a third of all kids in the United States, are growing up with a single parent. And about 3 million of these children, reports the Census Bureau, live not only with a single parent but also with their parent’s partner.
...In addition, it’s estimated, from various media outlets, that between 1 and 9 million children are raised by gay couples in the United States.
But alternative lifestyles don’t stop with gay parents.
It’s estimated that about 40,000 Americans live in polygamist families, and, in what might be considered the last social barrier to be crossed, polyamorists, adults who carry more than one open romantic relationship at a time, are bringing up children too, even in Massachusetts.
...“The family structure has been changing rapidly,” says Andrea Press, a sociologist at the University of Virginia. “There are so many unorthodox-looking families compared to 10, 20 or even 30 years ago.”...
The FIRST alternative lifestyle?
Before gay couples came along, the country’s first alternative lifestyle was likely polygyny, or plural marriage involving a husband with more than one wife....
“Suppose you’re a woman alone with children. You’re a Mormon. Then you find a Mormon family with the same beliefs as you, and these women (the wives) are great,” says Janet Bennion, an anthropologist at Lyndon State College in Vermont, who lived with polygynists for four years and authored a book, Women of Principle: Female Networking in Contemporary Mormon Polygny....
The LAST social frontier?
It’s hard to define the typical polyamorous union because it can involve few or many adults living together or apart, sometimes married, sometimes not.
“A lot of people outside of the polyamory community think these relationships are all about sex. It’s not. It’s about family,” says Robyn Trask, managing director of Loving More, a polyamorous educational group in Loveland, Colorado, who estimates that between 150,000 – 200,000 Americans live in polyamorous relationships.
“One of the advantages of polyamorous families is that you can have two incomes while one parent stays home with the children,” Trask says.
“The extended sense of family is one of the things that attracts people to polyamorous families,” she says. “It’s more hands to help. It is shared resources.
“The nuclear family isolates people, and when you think about this economy, it’s hard to survive, especially if you have two parents working and the kids are in daycare,” Trask says.
In addition, says Trask, it’s difficult for any one wife or husband to meet all of their spouse’s needs.
“It’s a little naïve to think that one person can fill all of your emotional, physical and spiritual needs,” she says.
In Massachusetts, there are at least three polyamorous groups with an online membership of nearly 1,000 people, says Tara Shakti-Ma, who’s active in the polyamory community.
In a Boston suburb, Victoria, who requested anonymity, cares full-time for her two children, both under 10 years old, while the other two adults in the polyamorous family, which includes the children’s other mother and their father, work.
She’s known the couple for 16 years, lived with them for 14, and says family life is no different than anyone else’s. “We take out the garbage, do the recycling and review the kids’ homework,” Victoria says.
The adult relationships are about “egalitarianism, full disclosure and informed consent.”
“You don’t practice this lifestyle under any false sense of gender entitlement,” she added....
Read the whole article (Feb. 1, 2011).
P.S.: One crucial family statistic that the article left out: Forty percent of American children are now born out of wedlock (see page 3 of the link, top right).