Behind the picket fence
American family life has evolved in the last 50 years. The 1970s saw a spike in the divorce rate. Now, nearly 50 percent of married couples will divorce; 75 years ago the divorce rate sat at only 26 percent. Consequently, the number of people living in a single parent homes have dramatically increased. Meanwhile, between 1980-2015, adoptions rates rose by nearly 450 percent, once again adding to the shift in the classic family. With a 2015 Supreme Court verdict, same-sex marriage was legalized in all 50 states. The average family now consists of 3.14 people with a $70,000 income. Still, 46 percent of U.S. households are the setting for first-time married heterosexual couples.
As the culture of the American people expands to fit the changing times, many communities begin to recognize that the issues and barriers families face are, in fact, similar.
Sophomore Grace Dyer’s family fits the new normal of nearly half those families in the United States. Dyer is the oldest of three siblings with one younger sister and one younger brother. The three live with their parents, Jon and Carla Dyer. Grace Dyer said the care and devotion of her family may set them apart.
“I would say the relationships between our family is really good,” Dyer said. “We are very close and talk about everything. I always talk to my parents about things going on in my life even when it’s embarrassing for me. For example, when I did awful on a math test I went home to talk to my parents, and they helped me figure out what I could do to improve the situation.”
Dyer said hers is a rather average family with maybe a couple of longtime traditions, such as an all-day event when a large amount of her family gathers to make apple butter, eat and talk, making the family unique as compared to those around her.
“We are pretty normal, except our house,” Dyer said. “It’s usually pretty messy because we are so busy.”
While a messy house is certainly not exclusive to the Dyer household, many families, in addition to dealing with laundry and toys all over, have to face traumatic situations. Child Parent Psychotherapist Vicki Davolt does not experience many differences in the issues relating to traumatic events. Davolt said she influences and provides help to more single parent families.
“Although trauma occurs in both single and two parent homes, I tend to work with more single parent families,” Davolt said. “In my experience, the issue of trauma appears to look the same in both single and two parent homes.”
The differences occur when trying to find the resources to deal with the issue. This could be any complication ranging from the patient’s ability to get to Davolt’s facility, money to pay for whatever service is required or time between work and other activities to get help.
Donna Piecko, wife and mother of two daughters and bookkeeper at RBHS, experiences many difficulties while trying to manage her family and have everyone where they need to be. Dealing with these day-to-day obstacles are common in many families.
“We are like our own little village, so close-knit because we have moved around a lot,” Piecko said. “Having to go to work helps our relationships. We are all busy, so we have to work together to get everything done. Then when we have the time, we try and spend time together.”
Both Dyer and Piecko recognize that the closeness of their family members set them apart from other families across the nation. This atmosphere, where the whole family must pitch in to get everything done, they said, is great for a successful home.
“When I was a kid, I wanted to be like the Partridge family and be a pop-star. As I grew up, my American dream was to get married, have kids and be able to stay at home with them,” Piecko said. “The size or number of people in a family was not what mattered, but their pursuit of their dream. Being a single parent is one of the hardest jobs ever. It all depends [on] each person’s American dream, any situation can have their dream.”