Once upon a time, America's stereotypical family lived on Grant
Avenue in fictional Mayfield where Ward and June Cleaver raised
their boys, Wally and Beaver.
But these days the majority of families can't see themselves in
the Cleavers, say experts with the Chicago-based Council for
"Families today are more diverse than they've been at any time
in the past 120 years," says Stephanie Coontz, director of research
and public education at the council. And they are more likely to
demand and receive respect for that diversity, she says.
"What's really important to remember is that families change,"
says Barbara Risman, head of the sociology department at the
University of Illinois at Chicago and the council's executive
officer. "The two-parent family this year may be the shared custody
family next year. The single mom struggling all alone with two kids
may marry and be one of two parents in a blended family."
Coontz says, "Ultimately, it's how a family functions that
counts, not its form."
This month, Chicago Parent highlights some of the diverse
families that can be found in our
Greek and Tagalog are often heard in the Seto household. When
Maria and Fred Seto married in 1998, they united three cultures
into one family.
Maria, 39, is Greek and Fred, 37, is part-Japanese,
part-Filipino. Sometimes people wonder about the ethnicity of their
two sons, Xander, 4, and Calix, 1, but Fred is used to questions
like that from his own childhood. For the Setos, interracial
marriages are no big deal. It only enhances their love for
Maria and Fred know that balancing different cultures in a
family can be difficult, but a global community has made it
"Maybe 20 or 30 years ago, we may have gotten a lot of looks,
but not anymore," Maria says. Their parents are accepting as well.
"My mom had a little bit of a tough time with it," Maria says.
"It's odd for Greeks to marry outside their culture. The older
Greek parents are very traditional. But they got to know us as
people, and they love us. There really wasn't a problem."
Before they had their sons, the Setos used to travel somewhere
new two to three times a month, one of the perks of having worked
in tech support for United Airlines. Both born in Chicago, they've
grown to love Paris and Singapore, as well as the many other places
they've been. Someday they plan to show their sons the world. "I
want them to see how late people eat in Spain," says Fred, "and the
different things they do, like the flamenco dancers in Buenos
Aires, and ride the Metro in Paris, and see the Eiffel Tower." So
far, they've only hit Disneyland.
As their sons grow up, they hope the boys will not only
appreciate their own backgrounds, but all cultures. "I try to teach
them to appreciate different cultures in general," Maria says, "to
let them know that everyone has their differences and to accept
people's different views."
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