- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 22, 2001

Last weeks headlines for a new slew of 2000 census statistics on Americas households said it all: Nuclear families have slipped below 25 percent of the nations households for the first time. Maybe Mom, Pop and the Kids should just pile into the minivan and head for the endangered species list.
Or should they? Columnist John Leo astutely noted that "even if the number of nuclear households were rising, they would likely account for a shrinking percentage of households." Thats because Americans live longer and marry later, he explained, thus spending more of their lives in solitary or non-nuclear arrangements in old age and in youth. Having gone on to wonder whether the Census Bureau might be playing "a political game with family numbers," Mr. Leo raises an alarming question as to whether the latest findings have actually been framed in such a way as to shift the place of the traditional family structure to a new, no longer central position in the social landscape. If true, thats no role for a government agency.
Meanwhile, these figures have been embraced in the nations more liberal quarters. As the New York Times, for instance, editorialized, "What the new census data underscore is an increasing awareness that the nuclear family is not the only kind of family or even the only healthy kind of family." Note the rather abrupt appearance of the word "healthy" in the commentary. Such validation, of course, is what the proponents of non-traditional households seek. Last month, Us Weekly devoted its cover to Hollywoods "New Single Moms and How They Do It," showcasing Camryn Manheim of the television drama, "The Practice." Ms. Manheim is an unmarried woman who recently gave birth to a son and quite miraculously, it turns out. As Ms. Manheim explained it, "There is no father. Im a single mom 100 percent. … With the identity of the father always being brought up or trying to be figured out, or the threat of that identity coming in, it makes it hard for women like me who are trying to make positive strides."
Ms. Manheim should rest assured: More and more women are making "positive strides." The census figures reveal that the number of families headed by women with children grew nearly five times faster than the number of married couples with children. Few of those single moms, however, do it up quite so lavishly as Ms. Manheim or Jodie Foster, now expecting her second child, or Calista Flockhart, an adoptive mother. Further blurring family lines, the magazine includes Katie Couric and Nicole Kidman in its cavalcade of single motherhood the former widowed, the latter soon-to-be-divorced neither of whose children may be considered fatherless.
But blurring the lines is the whole point, the trend in a world where nuclear families no longer stand as societys keystones, where Mothers Day is viewed as hurtful, where willful illegitimacy is interchangeable with the unexpected tragedy of widowhood. What next?


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