Who Needs Family

Aren’t friends enough?

It is possible that entitling an article, 5 Principles for a Better Post-Pandemic You was an exercise in optimism. It certainly seems that many politicians and “experts” are warning (or working to make sure?) that we never reach that stage. Nonetheless, the above-titled essay in the November 20, 2021, issue of the Wall Street Journal caught my eye.

I found myself agreeing with a great deal of what was written while also feeling that the author just missed the mark. While the essay was adapted from a forthcoming book and so severely condensed, I shook my head more than a few times as I questioned whether the proffered advice would truly lead to “finding well-being in an anxious world” as predicted.

What were my problems? Since this is a Musing and not a dissertation, I’m going to focus only on Step #5, which was “Find Community.” Obviously, as a Jew to whom community is imperative and as someone who encourages people to join our We Happy Warriors community, I am a big believer in community.

However—only once in that section of the article was the word family mentioned, and then only as part of a broad concept of “family and friends.” The emphasis of the section was on friendship, companionship and comradeship. None of the other four previous steps had to do with family either.

Will we soon be living in a post-family world? I keep reading about adults in their twenties and thirties who moved back in with their parents as COVID changed their lives. Where does that leave them in thirty or forty years when those parents might need to depend on them rather than the other way around? Do people understand that (while everyone should live and be well) in the normal course of events, those parents won’t always be there at all?

Two recent Pew studies revealed the following information. An October survey reported that 44% of American non-parents between the ages of 18 and 49 do not think they will ever have children. Leaving aside that some of these may be sperm donors or unknowing fathers of children already and that some will change their minds, that is a huge number. Meanwhile, a worldwide survey taken in countries with advanced economies (including America) at close to the same time revealed that family was the factor mentioned most frequently as a source of meaning in people’s lives. Does anyone think that we should connect a few dots here?

Our society has made a mess of marriage and often paints having children in a negative light. As a culture, we too often fail the children who do live among us, though a vigorous and honest debate would show that we vehemently disagree as to the form that failure takes. These problems need to be corrected. Not recognizing that friends and community, as wonderful and as needed as they are, do not replace family only exacerbates the problem. A better post-pandemic you? A better 2022? I would put restoring the sacredness of marriage and valuing parenthood right at the top of what’s needed.

What do you think? I’d love to hear your comments on this Susan’s Musing article.
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