Whatever Happened To The Traditional Family? Essay, Research Paper
Traditional marriages of earlier times consisted of a wife, husband and six to fourteen children. The entire family worked and played as a unit. In today’s modern marriages, it is almost inconceivable to have more than two children due to the high cost of living and the looser view of marriage vows. Some couples have a preconceived notion that if the marriage doesn’t work, they can easily get a divorce. This notion affects the spouse as well as the children. In an old traditional marriage, divorce was never an issue. They always worked things out to keep the family together. The differences between the old traditional marriage and the new modern marriage can be broken down into the three general areas of work, family, and education, each stemming from changes in economics, values, or morality (or the lack of it, depending upon your viewpoint).
My grandparents lived in the little town of McCloud, California and carried on a very traditional marriage. My grandfather did all of the out-of-house work while Grandma preoccupied herself with the domestic duties such as cleaning, cooking, and taking care of the children. My grandfather was a lumber jack as well as a part-time farmer and grew fruit and nut trees. He “brought home the bacon,” while Grandma did the frying. This was very common in the traditional marriage for the husband to work and the wife to stay at home, but this isn’t too often seen in today’s society anymore.
Now we see the modern marriage as the only way to go. Because of the high cost of living both partners must work to support themselves. No longer can the husband deal with the outside job while his wife deals with the household. When I was younger my parents operated on a traditional-style marriage, but when I left home to join the US Army, my mother went to work as seamstress. Our family could no longer live on what my father brought home, so my mother’s joining the labor force was the only answer.
Family life in the traditional marriage is quite different from that in the modern marriage. My grandparents had nine children – five boys and four girls. Having nine children was not uncommon, but now in a modern marriage having a third is usually “a mistake.” My grandparents considered the family to be a very important institution and thus had many family activities together that brought closeness and harmony to the family. They often went camping at a cabin in Mt. Lassen, fed the ducks Wonder Bread at Shasta Lake, and played at Ho Ho park which had four swings, a set of monkey bars, a slide, and a merry-go-round. Vacations were also family-oriented. They would pack the car and drive to Chicago to visit family out there, singing “She’ll be comin’ round the mountain” as they traveled.
In the modern marriage, people often forget the importance of the family. Often there isn’t even a whole family present. Half of today’s marriages end in divorce, thus leaving a single parent somewhere with children to take care of, and that parent working to support the children usually has little or no time for family activities. Even when both parents are present, often work schedules conflict, and differing individual wants and needs come into play. Dad’s been working all week and wants to watch baseball and relax on Saturday, Mom has to work 10 to 6:30, the older child has a book report due on Monday, but the little six-year-old wants to feed the ducks the stale bread with the family. It just doesn’t work as well as it used to. Families are lucky if they get a one-week vacation together at Disneyland to stand in long lines, eat over-priced food and buy souvenirs they just don’t need.
Education is also something that a traditional family participates in. Not only do the children learn at school, but they are also taught important things at home. My grandma taught her daughters to cook, embroider, can fruits and vegetables, iron, and churn butter. She taught all her kids manners and how to behave. My grandpa taught all his children how to grade fruit – know what is acceptable for market – drive the vehicles, ride bikes, swim and dive, hunt, and fish. He also taught his sons how to work on mechanical vehicles, prune trees, irrigate, and chop down trees. He also took time to help his children learn the value of money, by helping them open up a savings account. Other relatives taught the children also. An aunt taught the girls to crochet and their great-grandmother taught them to sew and quilt. The boys’ great-grandfather taught them to carve things out of wood.
Things are quite different in the modern marriages we see today. The parents have little time for teaching in the home because of their work responsibilities. Education occurs at school and through peers and other sources, and children learn more on their own without the family than ever before. They attend driving school to learn how to drive, and the local Parks and Recreation Department takes care of the swim lessons. Relatives aren’t usually involved as much as in a traditional marriage either. As Ms. magazine says, “Grandma is 61. She looks 45, is divorced, has a job selling real estate, and spends her weekends with a retired banker whose wife died three years ago.”
Why have marriages changed? Why aren’t families the self-sufficient, close, “all for one and one for all” units they used to be? I believe the change stems from economics. Society hardly allows that type of lifestyle anymore. Values have changed also, along with changes in morality. I don’t believe people put as high a priority on marriage and family as they used to. Maybe divorce, suicide, emotional breakdowns, and child abuse would decrease if people valued marriage and family more, and looked back to some of the traditional marriage ways. I’m grateful that my parents raised me in the traditional way. I only wish I could have the luxury of raising my two children the same.