I was browsing through Facebook recently when a cute picture came up. It was a selfie taken by two pretty women in their mid-twenties trying to show off their baby bumps. They were cousins, pregnant at the same time. They both had on a bit of makeup. They both had long, lovely hair. They both had lovely maternity tops on. And they both were covering their baby bumps with their left hands, with little wedding bands on them.
They weren’t rich. But they looked lovely.
(It’s not the picture above; these were real friends and I didn’t want to break privacy!)
A few other scenes popped through my head: In one, I was speaking to a bunch of teen moms in downtown Toronto about how to save money as they tried to establish a life for their kids. In another, I was helping out at a crisis pregnancy centre. In another, I was at a ministry with former prostitutes, many of whom had babies of their own. And then I thought of some of the teenagers my girls know, who have never lived with their biological parents, but have a variety of step siblings and half siblings and complicated families.
To my girls, that selfie with baby bumps is totally something they can envision. They’d love to be pregnant together some day and take a picture like that! And I wouldn’t be surprised at all if they did.
But to all of those young women who raced through my head in that instant, that scene with the dual baby bumps would have looked like something from another world.
It’s as bizarre as looking at the magazine covers of celebrities. It’s something that happens to weird people “out there”, not to anyone I know. I can just hear them thinking, “It certainly would never happen to me.”
I know on Tuesdays I usually write a Top 10 post, but for some reason that one Facebook picture has been haunting me for a week, and I really want to write about it. So let me just rant for a bit, and then you can all chime in and help me make sense of what is going on.
First let me say something controversial, and please understand: I am not trying to make a value judgment here. I am just trying to report on the widening chasm between traditional families and nontraditional families. But these girls in the selfie had on lovely makeup and lovely tops. Almost all the girls I have seen who have come from difficult backgrounds and are trying to get back on their feet don’t dress like that. They often have very dark eye makeup. They wear clothes that are often very tight and that usually don’t flatter. They abound in tattoos and piercings. They don’t dress traditional “pretty”.
Why does that matter? Not because one is better than the other, but simply because increasingly we are becoming two different worlds. You can even see it in our appearance!
Now let’s go to something that’s less superficial. The girls from the crisis pregnancy centre or the former prostitutes have likely never lived in a family where they witnessed a healthy marriage–a marriage where people loved and respected each other, where they treated each other kindly, where the marriage was the centre of the family.
Instead, the only truly loving relationships they’ve ever had have likely been with a sibling or an aunt or a friend. The marriage–if there ever was one–was never the rock that held the family together.
And even thinking about those teenagers that my girls knew or worked with, or the ones I see outside the high school just around the corner from my house–most of them have never seen a marriage that has stayed together forever either.
Increasingly, then, we are dividing into two worlds: the culture of marriage and the culture of chaotic families.
I’ve written about this before–What if Marriage Really Matters? What if the real class difference today isn’t based on income as much as it is on family structure?
Statistics show that if two people with university degrees who each had parents who stayed married end up marrying each other, their chance of divorce is less than 10%. But if you have parents who divorced, suddenly your chance of divorce increases. And your chance of marrying in the first place decreases.
That selfie of those two cousins–they each came from intact families. They each had moms and dads and aunts and uncles and siblings who were thrilled about these coming babies. They weren’t rich, but because of their families, they looked wealthy. That’s their culture.
And I guess what I’m saying is that those of us who are like those two young women often have no idea how bizarre we seem to the rest of the world.
They have such a leg up on those struggling young moms at the crisis pregnancy centre, such a leg up on those women who were former prostitutes, such a leg up on those teens smoking outside my high school, with the heavy makeup and the attitude that masks the fact that they’re horribly lonely and don’t know who they are.
I want marriages to succeed.
I want people to have fulfilling relationships, to raise kids well, and to form strong families that become the backbone of our churches and our communities. But the whole idea of that typical, middle class family seems so bizarre and out of reach of so many people today because they have never experienced it.
Why should they wait to find a great guy to marry when they’ve never even met a great guy? Why should they want a husband before a baby when men are fickle but babies love you? Why should they wait for sex when no one they know ever has?
And so these young women encounter Jesus and come to Him, but all the rest of it–the family structure, the dreams, even the clothes for pity’s sake–seem so WEIRD.
For them, marrying well and having a strong marriage and raising great kids will be so much more of a challenge than it will be for my girls, for whom it will be natural. That’s all my girls have ever known. And yet so many of our young people have never seen it.
We’re becoming a society that doesn’t even understand each other. And increasingly the chasm is one of family structure.
When those young women encounter Jesus, it won’t be just a heart change. It’s a complete and utter culture change, much more than it ever was two or three generations ago when we weren’t divided like this. No wonder it’s so hard to integrate new believers into the church now! We really do seem like aliens to everyone else out there.
So what do we do? How do we help people who have not grown up with the expectation that marriage is good, that finding a good guy is possible, that waiting for marriage for children is worth it? How do we integrate them into a culture of marriage?
I don’t know. And it’s so sad, because I see so many who not only will never experience the love of family that my husband and I have, but don’t even believe it enough to even dream about it anymore.
What do you think of this two different cultures idea? Have you seen it? How do we help those who haven’t grown up with good families believe that a strong marriage is possible?