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Bob McMillanAn Opinion

By Bob McMillan
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Holiday Gatherings Are More Difficult

It is the time of the year for families to gather for holiday celebrations. Traditionally, families have gathered around the holidays for centuries. Today, there is a real challenge for us all to come together.

In the past, I have written about mobile families. It used to be that children would move a few blocks away or even to the next town. That has all changed for many reasons. First, the price of housing is so high that many young people just have to move away for housing and even to secure jobs. They cannot afford to live near their homes.

Next, the global economy plays a role. With U.S. businesses spread across the globe, family members end up in other countries as their careers take off. I can remember years ago when I was almost transferred to Hong Kong in order to handle the Asia-Pacific profit center for Avon. Each trip I made to the region would last for three weeks. That was tough for the family. Today, that transfer would have been made, thus being home for the holidays even tougher to achieve.

Beyond the global transfer, men and women move all over the United States as they pursue careers. I will never forget a friend’s comment about his employer IBM. He asked me, “What do the initials stand for?” I said, “International Business Machines.” He quickly responded, No. It stands for, “I’ve been moved.” Today, the moves are even more guaranteed if you are working your way up the ladder in a major company.

One other challenge for family gatherings relates to grandchildren. When they are young, it is simple to put them in a car or get on a plane to visit with the family. But, as they get older – teens to college days – their lives start to develop. There is resistance to leaving their personal worlds. That creates a dilemma for parents, which often results in everyone “staying home” for the holidays.

Finally, let me address another issue, which tends to complicate family gatherings at any time. That issue is the number of children who are raised by one parent. The reasons can be no marriage, death of one parent, or divorce. Today, in the United States, one out of every four children is being raised in a single parent household. That figure is up over the last five years from one in seven families, and it continues to climb.

Single parents are not able to participate with the entire family as well as others. It is a real challenge. Divorces also present a challenge to grandparents, because it often difficult to arrange equal holiday times for the divorced mother and father.

If your family is fortunate to get together for the holidays this year, be thankful, and enjoy every minute. In today’s world, it is difficult to predict what next year will mean.


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