*I just updated the Nicaraguan gulch post with this paragraph, but I thought it also deserved its own post.
I ran into an Argentinian couple the other day. They met in New York and lived there until the birth of their first child. They found raising children in NYC to be unbearable, so they moved to Nicaragua. Not Argentina. Not elsewhere in the US. Why? Because they wanted more children. And in Nicaragua (unlike the US or Argentina) they could afford it and enjoy it. Because to truly enjoy raising your children you need help, they told me. In Nicaragua they could afford the maid, cook and driver that make raising children so much more enjoyable.
This hit home for me because I worked for some of the wealthiest families in Los Angeles--they had full time maids, cooks, and nannies--but raising children in those lonely houses was still unbearable.
I envisioned how a city gulch (a place where one could enjoy raising her children) could work, but it required too much capital to get it going. So I chose the farm gulch, where raising Anders is every bit as idyllic as I imagined it would be. It's not perfect, but if there were 120 voluntaryists here it would be as close to perfect as my ideal life could possibly be.
It's hard for egalitarian Americans to understand the value of having help. The fact is: All parents would be significantly happier with maids, cooks, drivers, gardeners, personal secretaries, and the like. Raising children is not a two person job. Yes, I would rather the help be grandparents, bachelor uncles, spinster aunts, strange cousins, and single friends but that was not an option for me. So I chose the paid staff. What I don't consider a viable choice is the two parents doing it alone. It's just too miserable and hard.
Every parenting book talks about the time crunch, and how you have to lower your cleanliness standards, lower your organizational standards, lower your cooking standards, lower your expectations of your own behavior: That is the only way the two-parent household can cope with parenting. This is nuts.
When raising children our behavioral standards and cooking (nutrition) standards should be of the highest quality in our lives. Or at least that's what I wanted for my parenting experience. So, like the Argentinians, I live in Nicaragua.
"It was a very simple decision for us," the Argentinian woman told me, "if we still lived in New York, my younger two children would never have been born."
That being said, let me state the problem in a different way so that other solutions become apparent: A child is a 98 hour a week responsibility, not including nights, cooking, and cleaning. 98 hours is a hard load to carry. This load would be easier divided up among three people. Interestingly enough, here in Nicaragua I have a cook, a maid, and me here to care for one child. This is easy and an enjoyable way to do things. But with this arrangement, I could handle a lot more kids, up to six I would say. Now, I can't pop out five more kids because I spend about five months of the year in Los Angeles (or Santa Barbara or Whistler or wherever we decide to go). Those months are grueling. But, what if, in Los Angeles, three sets of parents decide to live together and share a cook and a maid? Now, not only do I have a cook and a maid in Los Angeles, I have companionship at home and so does my son! Now parenting is more enjoyable.
The same can be done in other places. I think parents would be wise to form groups of 4-5 couples. The couples decide to raise their children together. Perhaps they buy one big house or apartments all next door or they live in a neighborhood and make one big backyard instead of five backyards. Better yet maybe there could be a house with four different wings and then a shared play space for the children and cooking space in the center. This is very similar to the extended families that reared children for so many centuries. The kids are happy because they have people to play with. The women are happy because they have people to cook and clean with. The kids can connect with more than just their moms (they have other adults around). Better yet if the guys work within walking distance or at home so the working world can be part of their lives as well. But now we are getting into the "City Gulch" idea I wrote about before:
I am not saying that the two parent household isn't doable. Children have been raised in two person households (and one parent) for almost a century. I am saying that it is not enjoyable. Sure, everyone loves their kids. But man is it hard! So hard, that most people, as soon as they leave their extended family situation, will opt for having just 1 kid. The birthrate in all affluent societies is always negative. Immigrants live with their extended families and have a lot of kids. Then they adapt to the Western way of doing things, switch to a two parent household, and voila, negative birth rate for them too.
The solution in some societies has been more and more compartmentalization of life and government involvement in the family. "Oh no, we have a negative birth rate! Let's get them to have more kids by paying for child care and school!" The problem is: This doesn't fix the problem. It makes parenting doable but not enjoyable. Children raised by other people become alienated from their parents. Children removed from the world require parents to be removed from the world or to be separated from their children. Instead, people interested in solving the negative birth rate problem need to think: Under what set of circumstances is raising children enjoyable. If it is enjoyable people will do it more.
The solution I propose is:
1. Invite children back into the world
2. Keep families together
3. Get rid of the nuclear family as a child-rearing model
Lastly, if you want to go all conspiracy theorist, consider that the government does not benefit from happy families that are wonderfully bonded and love each other. Governments do not like multigenerational extended families because they are their own little worlds--and if they get big and strong they may end up wanting to be their own government.... Governments benefit from raising the kids. They get to decide what values are imparted onto them. They make the kids into "Americans" instead of proud member of "Clan Garrett." The loyalty is to them, not the family. The family bonds, severed in childhood, keep the government in power. Moreover, the harder and more miserable parenting is, the more willing people are to hang their children to the government to be raised (free school! free daycare! let's be like Sweden!)
Not saying there is a conspiracy going on. Just saying people make decisions based on what benefits them. Those in power are not benefited by competing powers.