Just the other day I had to deal with one of those dusty, old-fashioned points of view again that I stumble across regularly in the neat tiny town I am living in. I was talking to a friend, 22 or 23 years old btw, who is convinced that the normal way of living a human life is to grow up, and then procreate. There is no other option. In fact, he felt sad for me not being 100% determined to have kids ever. My reasoning that I just have so many other things that fulfill my life already completely made him just laugh pitifully.
A little earlier in this conversation, when talking about relationships and how much time they take (sure, you also gain stuff and so on, but that’s not the point here), he admitted that he had to cut back a lot in his life since he found his girlfriend. He gave up on a dear hobby, and sees his friends less often. He didn’t seem to find it scary. I do, but I will probably end up with a heart attack if I continue trying to not make any compromises and instead squeezing everything into 24 hours, including sleep… However, it did not at all occur to him that having a kid, or several, would probably mean the total end of anything else than his family life, given he won’t learn how to poop money and still has to work.
Let’s face the facts completely rationally for once: We live in an era that offers more opportunities for everyone than ever. No matter which gender, you can go and work in the field you want, in the country you want, and chase your dreams as much as you want. You have hobbies besides your job, your friends are of any age and nationality. Maintaining all this takes time, naturally. The “traditional” way of living that my friend seems to seek requires some restrictions, though.
Although Scandinavia, with its extensive childcare, is a very good example of a place that enables working parents, it was definitely easier when one parent was staying at home taking care of kids and house, while the other one was earning the money that was needed. Not only is that not wished for anymore nowadays, in most cases it’s not even possible to live on one salary.
But back to the topic: Why does it seem so wrong to rethink traditional viewpoints and choose a different path of life, now that it is possible? Do we still have to settle down with our offspring, if we can do so much more to have an impact? My friend actually frowned upon me wanting to engage in projects to help our world become a little bit more equal for everyone. Instead, I should continue my line, or one day I would die and be completely forgotten!
Back in the day, kids were needed to ensure the family lives on, yes. Not only legacy-wise, but practically to make sure there is someone who takes care of you when you’re an old, helpless dodderer. Someone to change your diapers in return for you having changed theirs when they still peed their pants, and buy you food and medication. Nowadays we have an established social system taking care of that (hopefully). We are not as dependent on individual little communities anymore but try to see it in a broader sense and nationwide. We can educate ourselves and study abroad, do the PhD in a new country and the post-doc in the next one. We can benefit from many different cultural forms and educational systems – but do we want to rip our kids every couple of years out of their surroundings and force them to learn a new language and find new friends?
Why is it then so objectionable for some people that there might be also other ways of having a relationship, now that there are other ways of living one’s life? You cannot develop on one level and stick to the old habits and traditions on another one, at some point the gap will become just so big that you can’t flex anymore, no matter how bendable you are. And anyways, what has happened to the good old “live and let live” approach? My friend doesn’t have to be sad for me. He should be happy for me that I know what I want (kind of).
Tomorrow I will tell him of my becoming manifest idea of LAT – living apart together. I am looking forward to seeing the horror in his eyes.