When America was first settled, women were largely left out of the picture. Many men came over alone, and the colonies didn’t start to completely flourish until women came over and families were created. As the country began to change and World Wars found their way to our front doorsteps, women had to increase their role in both families and societies. No longer just in charge of making dinner and serving their husband and children's needs, wives had to take jobs in factories, start handling finances, and were forced to take over their husband’s businesses. Once the men came back from serving our great country, the family structure had changed permanently. Women had more of a say in family decisions and men came to recognize that there was in fact a valuable female voice.
The family we reference back to in old movies including a mother, father, daughter, and son, is one that many still think of when trying to define a ‘typical’ family.(Although, there is no such thing as a ‘typical’ family.) However, there has been another rapid change in the evolution of our family structure in the United States starting in the1970s. In 1970, 75% of families had both parents living with their biological children. By 2000, that figure declined to 51%. Currently, nearly half of all households in the United States contain families with unmarried parents. And the most common type of household in the United States is a single person living alone.
What does this mean for women and for our families? Is this a positive change for women, like that after the World Wars?
Women and men have been given more of an individual role, whether it be living alone or raising a family alone. This added stress of raising a family alone while providing finances and care for a family is something we can all agree on as being overwhelmingly strenuous. It can be done, though, and I have friends who come from single father and single mother families and are successful today.
Is there a new World War knocking at our doors, forcing women away from their homes? The one of work versus family? We have already seen many men taking a step out of the office and into the laundry room; is there going to be a complete reversal of roles? Only time will tell how these new family structures will affect our lives and our children’s development and where we will go from here. For now, an increase of divorce rate, a prolonging of marriage for young people, and the decline of the number of children born by mothers is enough to show us that we may not have wanted to change our families that much after all.
For more information on this topic, check out this great article from the Monthly Labor Review found on:
Picture is from The Reader's Digest Treasury for Young Readers 1963.