Updated: Jul 18
You know how when you are a kid, or even an adult you are told that the Norman Rockwell paintings are what you should aspire to as the “normal family.” You see those paintings and you believe that this is attainable somehow. You assume that kids go home to their perfect parents, or their perfect families, and sure, maybe they have little hiccups along the way, but when the doors close that they are eating dinner at the kitchen table, the kids are in sports, and coming home to a home cooked meal, and families are nuclear. This “ideal” standard has been the ideal since I can remember, and I grew up in the 80’s and 90’s and I remember even then thinking that it seemed like a lot of this died in the 50’s but everyone kept up the facade that this was true still then. I know my mom was in some ways dying to self to try to keep this facade up even after she had been gaslighted, psychologically tortured, and trying to work 3 jobs while doing what she could for my sisters and I.
Normal Family is Not Real
I want to be honest with you. I don’t know if this reality ever was the truth. Let’s stop pulling the wool over our eyes, it wasn’t even in the 50’s. Let’s go back in time. Right after the 40’s we had just finished WWII. Honestly almost all the men marrying age and older were wounded mentally or physically by war. Women had had to go to work which they didn’t do back then and then were taken out of work and put back in the home but had little to no rights (which we don’t talk about). We had been ravaged by war. We had put the Japanese Americans in internment camps. We were still racially segregated, and we weren’t treating each other the way everyone deserved to be treated. There was rampant PTSD (which hadn’t been termed yet), mental health issues no one ever talked about, child abuse, incest, racism, domestic violence, and more, but I don’t have to go on.
The problem is, we idealize time periods in history because we act like these time periods are when the family system was perfect. When there were no issues or when families didn’t have the issues that they have today. The truth is, they were just less talked about. They were EVEN MORE HIDDEN than they are now, which in many ways is very scary because they are still so hidden, so stigmatized and still so secretive that we are still unable to help so many people get the help they need. Can you imagine trying to get help for anything in that time?
The Myth of Normal Is Hurting Us
So why today are we constantly looking back in time and comparing ourselves to earlier times and saying that we wish we could “go back in time” to when times were better. Here is the reality we all need to face. Normal is not Norman Rockwell. If society believes that what the vast majority of people live on a day-to-day basis is that perfect Norman Rockwell, then we are going to continue to cause ourselves mental harm. The reason for this is because life gets in the way.
Truth is, nothing is perfect. Everyone suffers tragedy, loss, mental suffering, hardship, pain, war. There is far too much child abuse, domestic violence, rape, alcoholism, drug abuse, eating disorders, severe mental illness that causes hardship on families, divorce, parental neglect, and not to mention just simple genetic depression, anxiety, and don’t even get me started on multi-generational trauma. All these combined makes for a society that suffers from an endemic of mental health that people are only just now starting to acknowledge but don’t really feel comfortable admitting that they themselves are going through. The main problem is that if both personally, and on a macro level we recognized and conceded to this truth, we would have to change. I know what needs to change…do you? And are we willing to make those changes?
This topic and more will be addressed in my upcoming book. I will be posting additional blog articles, stay tuned.