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Family Focused

January 2, 2009

A Mormon Mentality blog entry on life meaning caught my eye…more specifically, what someone said to ESO:

“I haven’t had the privilege [to become a mother] myself,” she continued, “and I know it’s a lot of work, but life is just meaningless without kids.”

…Really? I’m not saying (and I don’t think anyone is saying when they oppose such a sentiment) that children aren’t a huge, life-changing impact, but I’m questioning if life is meaningless without kids.

I’ve fought this idea before and actually, it wasn’t from the religious aspect. I was fighting a scientistic aspect — I strongly oppose scientism. It is a philosophy that turns positive statements (we are social creatures; we are driven towards creating families and having sex [even if the latter does not fit within the former]) into normative statements of how things should be (loners/introverts should “fix” themselves, or our lives are meaningful only if we do our evolutionary duty.) Science tells us little about how we should live our lives…so scientism tries to derive an ought from an is…and reaches uncompassionate conclusions.

But…this post isn’t a treatise against scientism.

The above quotation’s author is justifying families not using a scientistic model…people are using a cultural model.

So, I scrolled down to the final comment in this article and found something to talk more about:

1. I was not comfortable with the generalized idea in LDS culture that childless meant less of something. That DOES NOT exist in the world at large, especially where people grew up with more diversity like Los Angeles or NYC. People are more “raised” to ideas of “family or not” than you might think…

3. It took a lot of “space” from the culture (lived in Utah for 20 years, active LDS most of my life) to realize and see the beauty in someones choice not to have kids, or perhaps marry (on top of having meaningful relationships-which also do not require marriage)

Ah, the cultural environment — all sides try to control it. When people argue about different social changes (cough: gay marriage) threatening the role of the family, what they are really acknowledging is that they realize that culture has an impact on values, and they just happen to support maintaining traditional values over what values may exist in the future.

I don’t know if I’m too much of a fan of traditional values, but that’s also not what this post is about. What’s more fascinating is how different ways of growing up can inspire such different ideas about what is desirable. We can’t really find out what we “ought” to do from what we “are,” but at the same time, something about who we are and how we grow up actually does inform what we feel we should do with our lives. And isn’t it so beautifully depressing how this can mess with people’s heads?

I remember thinking that everyone just got married and had children — eventually. I took hook, line, and sinker, a pseudo-church line that suggested that if a relationship were in peril, then that was the fault of each partner for not being selfless enough to make it work. Only over time did I realize my naivete. I came to a crossroads where I could look at the church’s outlook on marriage and the family and theoretically agree (really, you can’t go wrong by suggesting that people find love and start families — it’s like the number one thing for some), while at the same time, I also saw that one’s individual personality and circumstances might lead other ways.

How many people have been pressured to marry and start families when they really didn’t want to? And then blamed themselves for the failures? For the unhappiness? And how cruel is it to suggest that someone who’s unhappy in a relationship has himself to blame?

The warning lights started flashing when in my college young singles ward, they started pushing for marriage now rather than soon. Now rather than before a stable career. And yet the church still has the gall to ask a certain subset of the population to abstain in chastity, when they may very well already have those they love and wish to be with.

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