The Record

Modern family: Challenging the idea of a nuclear home

Leonora Gogos

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According to Director of Institutional Research and Enrollment Management Lisa Moreira, of the 649 Upper Division families at Horace Mann, 86% of them self-reported themselves as stereotypical nuclear families. A nuclear family is the familial set-up of having two parents and their biological children. This structure excludes people with divorced parents, single parents, same-sex parents, adoptive parents, step-parents, or any other variation which challenges the model of a “generic” family.
Jack Eagan’s (10) family differs from this social unit because he has two dads rather than parents of different sexes. His experiences between certain holidays and family get-togethers are definitely different, Eagan said. His awareness of his different family structure faded with age, he said.
“I think it was very apparent in the beginning of my Horace Mann career – I stood out specifically for those reasons,” he said. “I definitely stood out on things like mother’s day and father’s day, or bring your parent to school day, when I saw all these nuclear families.”
Helena Kopans-Johnson’s (10) family structure also challenges what is considered nuclear. Her father remarried, so Kopans-Johnson has a stepmom and two younger half-siblings. Her mother has been in a serious relationship since Kopans-Johnson was three, so although she does not technically have a stepfather, she said he acts as a parental figure in her life. He has three children.
Similar to Eagan, Kopans-Johnson was far more aware of these differences in her younger years, she said.
“In kindergarten and first grade, there weren’t that many families at Horace Mann that were divorced, so I kind of felt like an outsider,” she said. Her family structure affects her daily life by making it more challenging for her to deal with extracurriculars while also seeing friends and navigating between two households, she said.
Jacob Chin (10) also has a unique family structure because his parents are divorced. He spends exactly half the week with his mom, stepdad, and sister, and exactly half the week with his dad.
Chin’s parents have been split up since he was two, and Chin considers his stepfather to be another father to him. He does not consider his family to be very unconventional since divorce is not that uncommon. Since Chin only lives with his sister for half the week, he said that she misses him.
A challenge for children with divorced parents is growing accustomed to different sets of rules, Chin said. His mother is vegetarian, for example, while his father is not. His dog also lives at his father’s house, so Chin only sees her for half the week.
“I definitely feel more at home at my mom’s house because my room is my own room,” Chin said. “But I don’t remember any other way.”
Amman Kejela (10) also has divorced parents. Kejela has one sister, and said his family is essentially the nuclear family structure except he and his sister only live with one of their parents. He said he did not face any significant challenges due to his parents’ divorce.
“My dad would still be my dad, and the same for my mom,” Kejela said. “They changed their relationships between each other, not me.” Kejela lives with his mother, but sees his father every day.
A biological family can be different than what you identify as your family, Chin said.
“Biological family is literally just people who are related to you,” he said, “But your family could simply be defined as people you’re close to, and more than just a friend.”

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Modern family: Challenging the idea of a nuclear home