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Miguel Ramirez


English 1S

10/31/2017 The Truth About the Model Family

The myth of the model family is an idea that was made to set norms for families,

created by politicians and higher class. People get hooked onto this idea and think that

they have to follow this guideline and image for them to be the perfect family. This myth

represents those that created it and excludes those that don’t match the image. The

falsely advertised idea of the model family ignores the fact that families must rely on

their extended family for support, are being separated, and are not being recognized as

an actual family.

The myth of the model family is the idea that a family is supposed to have the

male breadwinner, a stay at home mom, two kids, and a family pet. The idea originated

in the 1950’s where being apart of a family and fitting the image of the model family was

necessary. There were sitcoms such as, Father Knows Best and Leave it to Beaver,

that would tell the viewers how they were supposed to act and their roles within their

families. A strongly forced image that created the model family. The model family was

best represented for white males, as they would be dominant in the house, meaning

that people of color were not being represented through that image. Many women and

children also did not like the fact that the father had all of the authority. From Rereading

America, Coontz states, “Veterans often came home to find that they had to elbow their

way back into their families, with wives and children resisting their attempts to reassert

domestic authority” (Pg. 27). Even in the 1950’s when the model family was something
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that everyone felt they had to be apart of, not many people liked it. The portrayed image

of the model family had a set of rules that many people did not want to follow but had to

or else they would be looked down upon. The problem with this is that were a lot of

people weren’t happy with the situation that they were in and stayed in it because they

believed that they had to.

Families that don’t resemble the model family and live with their extended family,

are not being equally represented. The model family excludes extended family, it only

allows the nuclear family be apart of that. The nuclear family consist of your father,

mother, and any sibling. The extended family includes aunts, uncles, grandparents,

cousins, etc. People that live with their extended don’t receive the same support from

certain policymakers. In the book Rereading America, Gerstel and Sarkisian states the

fact that “The Family and Medical Leave Act is an important social policy, but it only

guarantees unpaid leave from jobs to provide care to spouses, children, or elderly

parents requiring medical attention”(Pg. 51). This means that if you live with a cousin,

aunt, uncle, or sibling, than you would not receive the same benefit. The myth of the

model family has created an ideal representation of what a family should look like,

causing policy makers to exclude extended family members because they aren’t part of

the model family.

Many people of color chose to stay close to their extended family because they

must rely on them for support. Extended families within people of color, for the most part

aren’t normally given financial support. A majority of them help out with different chores,

“Black and Latino/a are more likely than whites to be more supportive: they are more

likely to give each other help with household work and child care, as well as providing
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rides” (Gerstel & Sarkisian Pg.47). Family members may not be able to help out

financially as much but helping with work and taking care of the kids they can. People

rely on their extended families for many different reasons. Single parents rely on their

family to babysit or give rides because they have to work. From personal experience,

because of the high cost of rent, my grandmother lives with my cousin to help pay rent

and babysits because they don’t have the money to hire a babysitter. Simple things go a

long way for people that need to rely on their family members.

Negative comments about families of color, hide the true bonds that those

families have. According to Gerstel and Sarkisian, from Rereading America, there are

negative stereotypes about families of color that say that they are disorganized and

dysfunctional. This ignores the fact that families of color are more connected to their

extended families and value them more than White families. This may be because

White families are more financially stable, not needing extended family support. An

example would be that they don’t need to rely on family members to take care of their

kids because they probably have the money to hire babysitter. Regardless, the

negativity from these stereotypes disregard the importance of extended family. I

remember when I was younger, my family would give rides to my cousin's family, my

aunt would take care of me, and my grandfather would pick me up from school.

Personally, my parents relied on my extended family for many things and we knew that

they would always go the extra mile for us and do everything they could to help out.

Families with undocumented members are in fear of deportation due to their

current circumstance in the U.S. The sad reality is that there are many families that are

being separated. These families live in mixed status households. Mixed status
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households are homes that have at least one member that is a citizen, and one that

isn’t. Parents immigrate to the U.S. so that they may provide that opportunity for their

family. “6.6 million U.S.-born citizens share 3 million households with undocumented

residents (mostly their parents)”(Mass Deportation). This puts the kids in a difficult

situation because they must decide whether or not they should go with their parents.

Immigrants strive for better opportunities but fear holds them back, forcing them

to live in the shadows. To live in the shadows means to stay hidden. With all of the

negativity surrounding immigrants, it makes it difficult for them to not feel the need to

hide, concealing the positive impact immigrants have. There are many undocumented

residents that create better opportunities not just for themselves but for others as well.

“Three-quarters of a million undocumented residents are self-employed, having created

their own jobs and in the process, creating jobs for many others”(Mass Deportation).

People tend to create a false image of undocumented immigrants, saying that they are

lazy and steal jobs. Even though, they are the ones providing the jobs and are striving

for a better life.

The importance of recognizing that families need to rely on their extended family,

are in danger of being separated, and that people don’t need to look like the model

family to be recognized as one is crucial in present day. Not everyone has the luxury of

being wealthy. Many families of color in today’s day are not rich enough to make it on

their own. They have to branch out to extended family members so that they can have

someone watch their kids or provide rides. Immigrant families live in fear everyday. My

mother tells me everyday to be safe because she knows that I can get into trouble

because of the color of my skin. Parents who are immigrants sacrifice a lot, they leave
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their home, come to a place that is unknown, and struggle through hardships so that

their families may gain the opportunity of a better life. All families should be recognized

as actual families. Just because they don’t fit an image, it shouldn’t mean that they must

be excluded from the same benefits. People need to change their definition of family so

that the false image of the model family can disappear.

Works Cited:

Colombo, Gary, et al. Rereading America: Cultural Contexts for Critical Thinking and

Writing. Bedford/St. Martin's, 2004. (Coontz, Stephanie. “What We Really Miss about

the 1950s”) (Gerstel, Naomi.; Sarkisian, Natalia. “The Color of Family Ties: Race, Class,

Gender, and Extended Family Involvement)

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Ink, Social. “Mass Deportations Would Impoverish US Families and Create Immense

Social Costs.” The Center for Migration Studies of New York (CMS), 2017,