Sunday, October 23, 2011

More On the Nuclear Family with Children Narrative

Since the conversation continues from yesterday, here is the latest comment from Stephen and my response back.

Stephen wrote:

as regards to soul-mate. I said it depends on your perception of soul mate. A woman who views George Clooney as a soul mate will eventually wound up believing she doesn’t have a soul mate. We all know Clooney is neither willing to settle down nor permanently remain with a particular lady. This has nothing to do with Experience. Nathan take a look around you and tell me you haven’t seen ugly people, uneducated people, disabled people, even poor people settling down.
Nathan, lets rewind to centuries past. folks seldom traveled more than 500 miles from their birthplace, yet they still managed to find their soul mates and spend the rest of their lives. Fast forward to Today, we travel the world easily and often live far from our place of birth. Yet we rapidly fail to do what our ancestors did successfully.

In response to the list of questions I posed yesterday about community involvement, adoption, and other issues, he further wrote:

Everything you mentioned are not exclusively to be carried out by single childless individuals. Angelina Jolie had 3 biological children yet adopted another 3 from 3rd world countries. Talking about people who can’t conceive is off point because i directed my comment to people capable of conceiving. Most famous men (like steve jobs & bill gates) who had impacted the world are family men. Many volunteers are family people. Most farmers are family men. Many small scale entrepreneurs are family men. Many Ecologians are family men. Many soldiers are family men. Single childless people simply chose to remain such, not because they are contributing more than family people in building communities. Your logic is flawed.

Here's my response in full. One thing I realized after reading Stephen's points was that the way I wrote made it sound like was placing single folks or people without children above couples with children. Which wasn't my intent.

You assume that I meant to exclude “family men” from all those questions I mentioned, when the real point was that it takes diversity to make a thriving community. Sure, people raising children are part of the equation – I’d never said they weren’t. Nor did I want to suggest that single people are necessarily “more involved” in their communities than couples with children. I’m not interested in creating a moral hierarchy, whereas you seem to be doing just that, shaming people who choose to not have children.

Your notion of “settling down” seems to require having children. I simply disagree with that view. It can include or not include having children. People can have completely full lives in long term partnership or marriage without having and/or being the primary care giver of children. In fact, some of these people might be able to help multiple other couples with their children because they aren’t focused on “their own kids.”

Your view of the past is romanticized. Many people were forced into marriages with someone that wasn’t remotely their “soul mate.” Women were considered the legal property of their husbands for centuries, and it’s only been in the past 60-70 years that most women had any real mobility to choose their partners. There was also the commonplace early deaths of mothers in childbirth or from diseases, and fathers in warfare, awful factory and farming accidents, and diseases, which completely blows the idea of being with one’s soul mate for decades on end. Women who lost their husbands sometimes ended up with brother-in-laws or male cousins of their husband. Men who lost their wives often remarried not out of love, but because they needed someone to care for their children. And if you think infidelity is a modern phenomenon, you’re sorely mistaken.

When I speak of the world having 7 billion people, and that it’s ok for some to choose to not have children, I’m speaking from a place where we aren’t – collectively – in need of having most everyone having children to maintain our population. I remember having a long discussion with two of my former ESL students, women from Ethiopia who had large families. They couldn’t believe it when I said I wasn't 100% sure I'd have children. But then we started considering the circumstances they came from. Given the conditions in Ethiopia, it’s not uncommon to lose at least a few children to malnutrition, malaria, and other issues that just aren’t common here in the U.S. Furthermore, if you were a rural family, trying to run a farm, you needed enough children to keep things going. Having a big family meant you had a better chance to maintain a livelihood. Again, something that just isn’t the case here in the U.S. for the most part. Even though I still think it would be just fine for someone living in a country like Ethiopia to choose to not have children, the encouragement to have children makes more sense there than here.

As for those “family men” you mention who have greatly impacted the world, you might want to consider how their decisions impacted the lives of their children and spouses. Martin Luther King Jr. was an amazing leader who gave our nation and the world many gifts, and helped liberate a hell of a lot of people, but he wasn’t that great of a husband, and his parenting was “uneven” as well. Steve Jobs had a child he essentially disowned for years. And there are plenty of other examples amongst powerful “family men.” (Interesting that you don’t mention women at all in that list of yours).

*Image of King Henry VIII's family. A quite "stable" royal model, don't you think? :)

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