The traditional family is known as two parents and their children, who are living under the same roof, in one house with one head (household). This is the definition that defines the traditional family. The traditional family was very popular some decades ago; now in the modern world, it is hard to find these kinds of families, and you can see that the traditional family has almost disappeared. However, where I came from, in Saudi Arabia, the family style is almost the same as the traditional one.
The family is the most important unit of the traditional society. In every part of Saudi Arabia, there are many huge tribes that represent the Saudi society. For example, in my city there is a huge tribe, to which I belong, and it contains thousands of families. It is important for any family to be a part of the tribe. In my city, which is called Najran, there is an ancient tribe, and it is called Yam. This tribe has been in Najran city for thousands of years.
In my family history, and the other Yam families, it has been recorded the full names from the first Yami until the current father’s name, my father. It is kind of traditional to keep generations of family names. In the tribe system, there are many good things that help the entire families, even if it is a poor family or single parent family. The tribe is almost like a government that gives protections for the families. They also help them if they were weak, or need help.
I have once read this quote and I like it so much. It is from Alex Haley “In every conceivable manner, the family is a link to our past, bridge to our future” (Alex Haley). I admire this thought of Mr. Haley, because it shows us how the family is important for the whole society. A long time ago in my tribe, there were wars with many foes; these wars made the whole tribe stay together and be as “one hand” (united) against the enemies. They were living together, facing the same problems, and fighting the same enemy. They were like one family, who loved and protected each other.
The past of the family effects positively in the way of their life right now, even though the conditions of life have changed, they are still in the same way of being together in any case. I will mention one small example of the connection between the family and the society. It is the ceremony of the wedding, and I like it the most of the Saudi’s traditions.
For many years, the wedding in Saudi Arabia has been an important social event in the Saudis’ life. Last year in my city, my brother was going to get married, and he had to prepare everything for the ceremony. For one day, which is the wedding day, he would host hundreds of people for lunch and dinner. These people are relatives, friends, coworkers, and from other families, who were helped from my brother before. They all came to congratulate my brother in his wedding, and to give him some money, which is going to help him in his financial life. On the wedding day the people were dancing, chatting, and of course eating. The wedding is a kind of reunion for all the tribe. This was one example of the wedding in the Yam tribe. And every tribe in Saudi Arabia has its own style of wedding, but in general, they have some similarities.
I just mentioned the role of the family in the society. What about the role of the family’s members to the family itself?
Desmond Tutu said, “You don’t choose your family. They are God’s gift to you, as you are to them.” (Desmond). I’m sure that everyone in this world is proud of his own family. They are like what Desmond said “God’s gift”. And now it is the time to talk about how great it is to live with your family or to have them. Nobody knows the value of the family until he leaves them. When I was with my family I was so happy, and I didn’t feel any stress, they were filling my life with happiness and warmth. I didn’t know that I would feel such loneliness as now. Anyway, my family is working as a traditional family- father, mother, and the siblings. Everyone has his/her role in the family, and it is organized to be a good family. “We know also that extended families are highly valued among ethnic minorities. They typically extend across households and multiple generations, and they involve close relationships with no biological kin and intimate friends.” (Demo, 217). So we know that the people, who live in big families, are working together more, and understanding each other more. These benefits help people to be strong enough to go through life’s stress.
My father is the head of everything. Even though he is old, he controls everyone in my big family, even my older brother who is now 45 years old, by using his wisdom, My older brother is given respect as a father, you can say he is the “vice” father. He has his own house, and he is most the time in my father’s house. My father traveled once to another country for a month. My brother was with us all the time; he came by regularly and asked what we needed. Actually it’s important for the family to have a big brother.
My mother, and the other women, is also playing a very effective role in the society. Even though they work a lot, “traditional mothers work harder than anyone else can imagine. They are on duty 24 hours” (Osborne, 193), they still manage the future generations. The mothers bring up their children. If they do it in the right way, these children will help their country and their nation. Osborn gave an excellent expression when he said that the mothers are on duty 24 hours, because we know that the person who is on duty is doing a very important thing to take care of and protect “children”.
To be honest, I don’t want to be a father who is playing the mother’s role, because I’m sure no one can do it better than she does. Like what Osborne said, “The father can’t be an equal partner in the mother’s and son’s upbringing, even if he wants to be.” (Osborne, 197). I have read when I came to the United States that some fathers are bringing up children. They might have no other choice; the wives work all week, so there is no mom to take care of the children, therefore, the fathers do.
To conclude, I think the traditional families are the perfect way to bring up children. You can see nowadays, that the people who live in connected and cohesive families have stronger emotions, and they are living to care about someone. In fact I feel sorry for those children who don’t have their real families, or they might have families, but broken ones. It is too hard to live in this world without any family’s support, either emotionally or financially. I also blame the people who don’t know the real value of the families, or they do not care at all. Even if they are busy, or doing important things, they must give the family its rights, because there is nothing more important than the family. I praised the traditional families a lot, and I don’t want to be the judge between the traditional families and the other kinds.
I have had the pleasure of knowing many American families when I came to the United States. One example is that of my friend Charles. His family is a household of parents with their three children. At the outset, one may think they are a traditional family. But a closer look reveals that they are more of a typical American family. Both parents are working, one a businessman, and the other a clerk. They actually mirror the rest of the more than half of all American married couples in which both parties are employed (http://divorcemag.com).
Charles’ mother remarried a couple of years after her marriage to his biological father failed. Charles and his siblings haven’t seen their biological father for six years now, and although they know that he too, has remarried and has two more sons, they were not interested to connect with their father’s family. Thus, the head of the family in Charles’ family is actually his stepfather.
Unlike my family that extends to include other members of the Yam tribe, Charles’ family is not part of any tribe. It stands on its own. It has no support group that provides them with protection or extends help when one is needed.
His family has the characteristics of a “nuclear” family. By “nuclear” it means that only the father, mother and their children are living in one house (http://www.merriam-webster.com). Although Charles has a grandmother in another state, she has a house of her own, and rarely visits Charles’ family and vice versa.
I have observed that the roles of Charles’ stepfather and mother have become somewhat indistinguishable. In fact, his stepfather, although considered the head of the family, has limited control over certain decisions in the house. Probably because he is not the biological father, Charles’ mother usually has the final say in matters pertaining to her children. Their stepfather just supports their mother’s decision. However, there are also instances when the final decisions come from their stepfather. Unlike in my family, my father has the final decision at all times, and he controls everyone in the family, including my mother. My mother just accepts every decision of my father without questioning. This goes to show that in an American family, the mother is not subordinate to the father.
What amazes me most about Charles’ family is that although his mother keeps the house, each of his siblings actively participates in doing the household chores. They each have specific assignments to do, which they perform so religiously. Yet, I can see that his mother has many roles to play. Not only does she help in earning a living, she also keeps the house and takes care of the children. Contrary to this, my mother is not allowed to work because her main responsibility is to make sure that each of her children is brought up to be good and responsible people; and that the house is well-kept.
In terms of value formation, both parents teach their children good values. But sometimes, their parents lack the time to concentrate on their value formation because they are so busy earning a living. For me, this is a problem because it hinders the children from learning fully how to become responsible and productive members of the society.
Charles and I are similar in the sense that both of us have a big brother. I found out however, that Charles’ big brother has roles very different from that of my big brother. Unlike my brother who acts as the “vice” father when our father is away, Charles’s brother is more focused on his individual life rather than that of his family. In fact, even if sometimes his stepfather goes on a business trip, he doesn’t go the extra mile to check on his siblings and take care of their needs. It is usually the mother who assumes the responsibility of the head of the family, not the eldest son.
Charles and his siblings are very independent. They have more freedom to speak out their minds and do what they want to do. This is contrary to my family where respect towards the elders, particularly to my father is demanded every time we speak.
Nevertheless, when I asked about how Charles feels about his family, he talked about them as if they are the best there is. I can sense the pride and honor he feels for his family. They may not be that much close to one another, but I can feel that he has a special affection towards all members of his family, specially his mother.
In all of these, I have concluded that Saudi family is a lot different from that of American ones. They follow different norms and perform different roles and responsibilities, as depicted in my family and that of Charles. They have different ways of bringing up their children and they follow varying sets of values. Moreover, Saudi and American families play dissimilar roles in society and each family member plays different roles in their respective families as well. Despite this big difference, there is a common thread among families, be it Saudi or American – the unconditional love we feel for our family and the understanding that the family shapes who we are and what we can become to our society.
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