The new look of families
A look at the changing nature of American families
January 26, 2018
The traditional family unit of dad, mom, and children has changed significantly since 1960, as in the last 57 years, the percent of children 18 and younger living in a home with both parents has dropped from 73 percent to a current 46 percent.
In this special report, Wingspan takes a look at the changing nature of American families by sharing the stories of five individuals on campus.
Provided by Kristin Lynch
There are about 1 million people in the United States that are in a same-sex marriage. This is a 33 percent increase since 2015 when the Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges to allow same sex couples to marry nationwide.
Social studies teacher, Kristin Lynch, was one of the many couples to tie the knot and take the next step in her relationship with her now wife Rebecca Lynch on July 23, 2017.
“My family and I live as every other family,” Lynch said. “Very rarely do we experience any hardships as a result of our lifestyle.”
However while being in a non-stereotypical relationship, she still fears not being accepted or judged by the outside world.
“The hardest part is the fear that others will feel uncomfortable or be unaccepting of my family,” Lynch said. “My family dynamic is different because I am in a same sex marriage, however, my family’s day-to-day lives mirror that of the average American family.”
Provided by Brooke Saltar
Fifty-four percent of children in the U.S. live without both parents. Junior Brooke Saltar, who lost her father on Christmas Eve in 2007, is one of those, as her family was forever altered on that day more than 10 years ago.
“I was pretty young when my dad died,” Saltar said. “I remember looking at other kids and thinking my family was broken.”
However she is not alone, as 1.5 million other children are living within a single-parent household due to the loss of the other parent.
“Living without a father has become my new normal since I have spent less than half of my life with him,” Saltar said. “The unwavering strength and faith of my mother is entirely reflected upon how my family turned out to be.”
Without a father figure to help guide Saltar and her three siblings, the children of her family had to step up in his place.
“My siblings and I had to learn to be more independent in helping ourselves and become team players when it came to serving our mom,” Saltar said. “We understand each other’s struggles and help each other in an almost parental way.”
Saltar often relives memories of her past; memories of her father.
“My favorite part of the day growing up was during dinner, where my mom would have just gotten out the plates and set the table, about the time my dad would always get home from work,” Saltar said. “My brothers, sister, and I would always jump from the kitchen table and hug him, but since my dad’s death we don’t really even have family dinners anymore.”
Although Saltar has learned to cope through the help of her brothers and sister, she has not fully recovered.
“It’s been 10 years and there are days when I can still feel the pain as strong as the morning I first found out,” Saltar said. “Throughout the years comes healing and I have made significant progress in learning to deal with grief.”
provided by Kacie Smith
The loss of a parent not only impacts one’s experience during childhood but also their future as an adult, much like AP Language teacher Kacie Smith.
“Even though I lost my mom at seven, it impacts my emotional well being even now at 35,” Smith said. “Throughout the course of my life I have experienced anxiety and depression, and have gone through counseling at various points because the grief doesn’t ever go away.”
Without a mother during her childhood, Smith has reflected on what her role as a parents means.
“When it came to my social life [not having a mother] while growing up was really hard for me because my step mom wasn’t really in to meeting my friends’ moms,” Smith said. “If anything, it made me more aware that I need to be a more active mom for my son.”
Two years after Smith’s mother died, her dad remarried, which resulted in the addition of new family members.
“It went from just me and my dad, to a step mom, an older step sister and an older step brother,” Smith said. “We left my house and moved into their house.”
For Smith’s family, it took time for them to blend together and become more than just a stepfamily.
“I would honestly say that it was only when I was out of the house, about 19 or 20, that I felt like we were really blended,” Smith said. “I love my family now.”
Provided by Hallie Winterbauer
For junior Hallie Winterbauer, her family was altered due to her father not being a part of her life from a young age.
“It’s hard to see all those seemingly perfect families, which I know don’t exist,” Winterbauer said. “But I always felt like my family was missing something.”
As a child, the idea that there was something wrong in her parent’s marital status wasn’t a thought that often ran through her mind.
“The separation of my parents was definitely a shock because for most of my life I never knew that there was even a problem between them,” Winterbauer said. “My dad was always working, I only noticed that there were gaps and that he wasn’t there, but as a kid, I thought that was normal.”
Not only has the lack of a father figure caused insecurities throughout her childhood, but it has also impacted aspects of her life such as her ability to trust others.
“It’s made having relationships a lot harder for me,” Winterbauer said. “I have trust issues with people in my past and having a romantic relationship is very touchy for me because I don’t really know what’s normal.”
Although there may be hard feelings on the way that things happened in her childhood, she is grateful for the way that it all turned out and the decisions her mother had to make.
“I was ashamed of my dad’s decisions,” Winterbauer said. “But I’m glad my mom did what she had to do.”
Provided by Mackenzie Hall
Much like Winterbauer’s experience, freshman Mackenzie Hall also went through the separation of her mom and dad.
“Every other weekend I go to my dad’s,” Hall said. “Planning things with my friends is tricky.”
Hall is one of four brothers and three sisters intertwined in this family, with her two sisters accompanying her at their father’s home on the weekends.
“A bigger family can also become stressful when you have to tend to everyone’s needs.” Hall said.
Although having separated parents can be a difficult situation to overcome, there are some positives to it as well.
“I feel lucky to have a bigger family because there’s always someone you can rely on,” Hall said.
Although guilt and shame are common in children involved in blended or broken families, Hall had other thoughts and feelings.
“In the end, I’m happy they’re separated because it was for the better,” Hall said. “I don’t ever wish against their happiness.”