An acquaintance asked me whether we (American society) have lost the “village mentality” with regard to family life and raising children. He went on to assert that, in some countries, three or even four generations still live under one roof, and did I think our culture could benefit from that?
Whoa there, guy. A girl needs a minute to process. Thinking in terms of a whole society reconfiguring itself, that concept is a bit too big for this average June. As for my own family…can I envision myself cohabiting with my parents or my in-laws, not for emergency or short-term reasons, but for, like, ever? Now, that would take some getting used to – for all parties involved.
But then I started daydreaming about big breakfasts and shared responsibilities and my children forever chatting with and learning from their grandparents, and the solidarity and built-in support network that I’d imagine would exist within such an arrangement… Again, it would take some serious getting used to, but I do see benefits.
In contrast, the next day a father asked whether I thought parents should involve their own parents in childrearing decisions. Evidently, someone had suggested to him that he ask his own parents’ advice on an issue he was having with his children, and he was appalled. He emphatically told me that he, no one else, knows what’s best for his kids and the mere suggestion that he seek advice outside his own brain infuriated him.
So, on one hand, I’ve got generations moving in together and, on the other, I’ve got parent-in-a-silo. Of course, this culture is largely too far removed from generational cohabiting (or whatever it’s called) and, though there may be benefits, barring another Great Depression or other national crisis I don’t see things heading back in that direction. I do believe, however, that we’ve swung too far the other way. Many of us don’t ask for help or counsel for a variety of reasons. Time constraints, distance, fear of appearing weak, or perhaps we’re simply too busy to realize another perspective might be helpful.
In the olden days, it was viewed as wise to seek the advice of a trusted elder. Has that line of thinking largely gone the way of the do-do? I think to a large degree it has, and the effects can be seen in the daily headlines. We rely too heavily on self. Eventually, self becomes stretched too thin, and a stretched-too-thin self’s no good to anyone.
We’re not meant to exist in a silo, to figure things out and go it alone. There are the ones who have gone before us, full of stories and wisdom gleaned from a lifetime of successes and failures, and so many of them are willing and eager to pass it on to those of us still finding our way.
What do you think? Have we become too self-reliant?
Image courtesy of dan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net