Sunday, November 05, 2006

Myth: Stepfamilies are broken homes

"Stepfamilies are broken homes." I am sure that you have heard this one on more than one occasion, or at least felt it from people around you. Well, I hope you have a problem with this kind of language. I know that I do.

Let's see, where do I begin?

First, the word "broken" is terribly flawed. It gives the sense of a permanent condition. Once broken always broken. This kind of language is almost elevated to the level of genetic determinsim. Not only is the family broken now, they will forever be broken. That notion is actually the opposite of what stepfamilies really are.

Second, stepfamilies are often mending families, not broken families. Yes, something happened that made a stepfamiliy as stepfamily. Death, divorce, child born out of wedlock, or whatever. And yes, there is almost always loss preceding stepfamily life, but that is a far cry from being permanently broken. Stepfamilies are often the place where healing happens, where people seek to reconcile their past mistakes, seek find a healthy love, and a whole host of other good things. The trajectory of a stepfamily is good, not bad.

Third, this "broken family" myth sets up stepfamilies for discriminination and demeaning pity. Stepfamilies, when viewed as broken, are expected to be be less than adequate, more troubled, and in some cases theologically flawed.

This myth has got to go. Stepfamilies are families - period. They should have all the rights that any other family has and should not be pitied. They should be understood for their unique realities and met where they are at. They should not be expected to act like nuclear families, but should be respected for the unique structure they bring to the table.

There is no need to be ashamed of being a stepfamily. You are not broken. And, if you want to get technical about it, I know of many "normal" families that are a lot more "broken" than many stepfamilies, but don't get me started.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I don't believe it's about stepfamily vs. natural family. It's about functional vs. dysfunctional. As long as a family (of any kind) is functioning under the precepts and commandments of God, it is "functional" irrespective of how it came to exist. As Christians we need to abandon the world view and fully embrace the word of God and live by it. This way, He will be a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our pathway.