The shape and nature of the American Family is shifting and changing: no longer Mom, Dad and 2.4 kids – if it ever was – the diverse and variegated nature of our families provide huge opportunities for our country. At the very least, the open and evolving reality of our family structures works to provide increased levels of social resilience, innovative approaches to exploring social, economic and political issues, and the provision of a dynamic platform for dealing with broader shifts in our society as the world continues to change around us at an ever-accelerating rate.
There is huge risk, however, in that many of our society’s systems, processes and institutional ways of thinking are predicated – in many senses – on a mythical conception of family that more than likely never existed except in very few ways: ethnically homogenous, parents as a hetero-sexual couple, cared for by a stay-at-home Mother, provided for by a Father who is fully employed and so on.
The risk becomes concrete when our families engage with these systems, processes and ways of thinking and they seek to limit their dynamic expression as a family, instead working to (even if only inadvertently) re-shape these families and the individuals contained within to fit certain societal expectations of what a family ought to be. This process of enforced conformation causes pain for many individuals and their families as they are forced to fit to an ideal that does not suit their lived reality.
This need not be the case. But, in order for this shift to occur, we need to work to ensure that our society’s systems, processes and ways of thinking are matched to the reality of the modern American family – in all it’s diverse and multi-faceted nature.
The purpose and mission of the ‘Future Families’ Project is to help catalyse and facilitate this transformation.