It’s Complicated: The Modern Family

Technology-assisted births have made the definition of “family” pretty abstract as compared to the nuclear family model most of us are familiar with.  Some families have two moms or maybe two dads.  Some parents are not genetically related to their children; or they are, but the mom was not the woman who gave birth to them.  People can even opt to be a single parent without even sleeping with someone else.  And then there’s George Russell, who describes young Griffin as, “my nephew.  But biologically, he’s my son.”

Confused?  George’s relation to Griffin is not that unheard of these days.  He’s the gay friend of Carol Einhorn, a single woman in her 40’s, who desperately wanted children, even though Mr. Right had never come around.  Because Carol and George were such close friends, she asked if he would be the sperm donor for her planned pregnancy.  This was no problem for George; he was not looking to become a father.  Thus, Griffin only knows George as “Uncle George.”

But now their family set-up is pretty complicated.  Carol wants a male role-model around for Griffin.  This started out as George baby-sitting Griffin a few times, but has now led to George actually sleeping over half the week at Carol’s apartment.  The rest of the week, George stays at his boyfriend’s, David Nimmon’s, apartment.  George and David also have dinner at Carol’s with Griffin about once a week.

This arrangement is so different from my nuclear family upbringing that at first, I found it hard to believe George and Carol were as happy with this set-up as they claim to be.  Part of me felt that eventually, George and David might want to spend more time together and less time with Griffin, which might hurt Griffin since George is a major part of his life.  This seems especially likely when George continues to insist that he is not trying to be Griffin’s father, yet greatly fears Griffin’s reaction to being told that very information.  To me it seems like George wants the best of both worlds – which rarely works out.

On the other hand, I think my household would have greatly benefitted from being less traditional.  Growing up, I lived with my older brother and our mom and dad.  Everyone was home for dinner every night and every night we all got on each other’s nerves.  I remember often feeling very tense growing up.  Now, my brother lives in Virginia with his wife.  My dad works during the week in D.C. and comes home for weekends.  I’m a law school student living at home with my mom from Monday to Friday and then with my boyfriend and his family from Friday night to Sunday.  We are all so mellow now and get along very well as opposed to when we forced ourselves to act like the “typical” family.

I kind of wish I had the complicated schedule of George and Carol my whole life.  On paper, it might look like a nightmare.  But in reality, I’m much happier with my current arrangements than the rigid “normality” of my childhood.