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Questioning (nuclear) families
Why do we enforce a fragile arrangement that makes things harder on us?
I’ve been experiencing what feels like creeping burnout, so I’m taking it easier this week. Hopefully, to muster up a longer post next week—the first official update on our slacker film (which I think is giving me a little bit more than the usual stage fright to build and publish).
In the meantime, I want to plug a couple podcasts, both about family, that the algorithm served this month. Specifically, they question how we think about families, if not the very concept itself. I wasn’t planning on mentioning these here, but it felt right after reading friend-of-the-blog’s beautiful, moving essay on the difficulties (and rewards, true!) of parenthood.
To be clear: sharing these works doesn’t mean that I condone what they propose, or that I’m for abolishing families. However, I really enjoy the exercise of considering points of view that challenge my core assumptions. After all, only a couple years ago I assumed that a job was the highest vehicle for meaning that one could aspire to.
And the assumption that we must adhere to a nuclear family–living only with our partner and kids–is ingrained in the American psyche as much as work itself. When I told a friend about an uncle who lives in my grandma’s house with his wife and kids, he responded that he could never “feel like a man” in such a situation. This, despite the fact that my uncle adeptly executes his duties as a parent. But the fact that he happens to save a little on rent and childcare by living with his mom condemns him to a position of shame in America. Culture is funny.
Beyond all that, there’s the fact that, no matter your feelings on the “nuclear family,” it indisputably makes it harder to have and raise children without relying on large incomes and, hence, depending on employers to a degree that approaches indentured servitude.
So this is worth at least thinking about. Here are two podcasts for that:
Ethnographer Kristen Ghodsee’s appearance on the Ezra Kline show, where she discusses her studies of “platonic parenting” communities that provide the support, care, and connection that’s so hard to find in a “nuclear” setup
A more radical questioning of family itself by St. Andrewism, a really insightful and thoughtful Youtuber who I’ve only recently begun exploring
I hope you find these as thought-provoking as I did, and I’d love to hear your reaction. As always, thanks for your continued readership. See you next week!