Does the nuclear family have to die for civilization to prosper?
Growing up in the 60’s and 70’s, we revolutionized how we worked, whom we married, and how we raised our children. We didn’t copy our parents – instead, we reinvented the “nuclear family” as we chased big money, questioned every parenting guru, and became super-moms and super-people. Even before the computer, internet, and virtual meetings, we jet-setted across that nation and took pride in our independence – and success.
This actually goes back to the Industrial Revolution where we automated everything from agriculture to transportation. Bigger and faster became the motto. We drove gas guzzlers because petroleum was cheap and abundant. And we looked down on people who were afraid of technological advances. It was the demise of extended families as their children set off to chase get-rich schemes, and these new nuclear families used their education and resources to bridge the gaps that their families used to fill.
Now the sandwich generation is raising their babies while caring for their elderly parents in a very different world. It’s not the 80’s when you could buy a house and make a 100% return in less than a year. Millennials don’t have pensions and probably won’t have social security benefits by the time they retire. So raising children and paying $1,000+ per month for childcare and education without family support is a rude awakening for this new generation of families. Then paying $6,000 per month for eldercare for each parent, is just about impossible for most Americans. Baby Boomers are retiring and with great medical care, they’re living much longer than their parents.
I’m hearing 20-somethings and 30-somethings talk about bringing back the extended family again. The conversation usually starts when the real numbers hit them. All of a sudden, having aunts and uncles, grandparents and even great grandparents nearby makes sense when they need help with child care, transportation, and meal prep. Family dinners and gathering make a socially healthy environment to raise children and it takes off the tremendous burden of being a supermom who brings home the bacon, cooks it, cleans up, bathes the kids, runs errands, pays the bills and reads stories every night. Sound familiar?
The nuclear family, like the Industrial Revolution, had its place in society. We kept improving technology and expanding our reach until we over consumed causing climate change, social injustice, and now family dynamics that are neither healthy nor sustainable. It reminds me of a quote, “Just because we can doesn't mean we should, and just because we should doesn't mean we can.”
It’s time to look at the big picture. Let’s get back to spending time with loved ones and living a more sustainable lifestyle.