New magazine targets families that don't resemble the '50s norm

August 16, 1991|By Cynthia Boyd | Cynthia Boyd,Knight-Ridder News Service

St. Paul, Minn. Valerie Hockert sighs nostalgically for a time when Mom, Dad and the children all lived under one roof, when Dad went to work and Mom stayed home with the kids.

But she realizes that the reality these days often is: stepfamilies, single-parent families and families where economics force both parents to work.

That's why she created Today's Family, a bimonthly glossy magazine aimed at the "non-traditional" families that have grown tremendously in the last generation.

"My feeling is that the family should be the way it was back in the '50s, but [instead] there are a lot of divorced [couples] and second and third marriages," explains Ms. Hockert, 41, managing editor and publisher of Today's Family. She is also divorced and the mother of two sons, ages 19 and 20.

"People should care about people the way they did back then," the Woodbury, Minn., woman says, but they don't know how. "The parents, as well as the kids, have to be more educated on certain issues that involve the family."

That's why the second issue, the July-August 52-page edition, of the St. Paul-based magazine is chock full of self-help articles: from coping with high grocery bills to overcoming chemical dependency, from preventing teen-age suicide to adjusting to adoptive children, from helping a child get along with his teacher to helping a child get along with his parents.

For the most part, the content is not light reading.

Some articles are written for parents; others, for their offspring. Nevertheless, it's clear Ms. Hockert wants her publication to provide the kind of advice and family aid she wishes she and her friends had had when they were single-handedly bringing up their children.

Personal experiences help her empathize with her intended readership.

When divorce tore up Ms. Hockert's life nine years ago, she made other changes as well. "I ended up having to quit a full-time job so I could finish school," she says. Devoting herself full time to getting a college degree, she took double the course load to shorten the time -- 24 credits a quarter. She wasn't getting child-support or alimony payments, so money was very tight.

"You learn to be creative," she says, by buying cheap but nutritious food and by devising money-making opportunities. She taught job-hunting workshops and resume-writing classes and also wrote as a free-lancer for local companies and for such magazines as Woman's Day, Vegetarian Times and Let's Live.

"The checkbook gets low, and you need some money. You learn how to hustle up some work quick. It's not as hard as some people think," she says. That philosophy appears on the pages of Today's Family in stories on budget grocery shopping and car buying.

The magazine's overall emotional tone is heavy, although the current issue does amuse with "A Sign of the Times," a story about an executive who becomes a full-time "Mr. Mom," and "Little Girls Give No Warnings," about a girl who got carsick in her mother's boyfriend's precious BMW.

There are also helpful pieces such as "Questions Parents Should Ask Teachers" and "Why Does Johnny Lie?"

Ms. Hockert says the circulation of the fledgling Today's Family is 50,000, but that number includes readers as well as buyers.

The magazine is available at newsstands and bookstores around the United States and Canada and by subscription. It costs $18 a year and may be ordered by writing to 27 Empire Drive, St. Paul, Minn. 55103.

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