Below is the transcript for my Demographic Doom Podcast episode #62, released on 15 July 2021. The "home page" for this episode—with annotations, links, corrections and a place for comments—is the YouTube version (? minutes). The audio version is housed at Podbean and is available on most major podcast platforms, including iTunes and Google Podcasts. The main website for this project is DemographicDoom.com. Twitter: @DemographicDoom. Glenn Campbell home page: Glenn-Campbell.com. See bottom for notes on this transcript and how it was generated.
I'm Glenn Campbell. I call myself a demographic philosopher. I'm looking at life and trying to predict the future through the lens of demography, or the study of human populations.
Today, I'm going to answer a simple question about the post-nuclear family—my theoretical system for raising children in some future world—and the question is: Why don't I want adults living in the same household as the children being raised?
A simple description of the post-nuclear family is that we have a large number of children spaced every one or two years living together in the same household raised by a consortium of parents who do not live in that household. In this podcast, I'm going to answer that last question: Why don't I want the parents living in the same household as their kids?
These children, at least initially, could be the biological children of the parents. I see at least four couples getting together, deciding they want to raise their children together and then producing those children in the traditional way. The only difference is that they're timing their births so that the children are evenly spaced.
My idea is these parents live elsewhere. There's a central house where the children live, and the parents live elsewhere a short distance away in their own homes or apartments or whatever. They come into the household to perform their scheduled duties, then they leave they go back to their own homes and their own lives. The analogy I draw is a community church, where you have a lot of adults in the community maintaining the church and coming in to perform various functions to help support it, but they don't live at the church.
So why wouldn't I want these parents living with their own offspring? I see five reasons. [There are actually six. The last one is covered in the following podcast: Episode 63.]
Number One is we want to preserve the nature of this household. We want to preserve the child friendliness of this household. The sort of place that you want to raise children is not the sort of place where adults would want to live because adults and children have different needs. For example, adults can watch movies that you don't want children watching. That's a problem if adults and children are living in the same household. It's not a problem if the children's household is sequestered—is quarantined, so to speak—so that only the influences that you want actually get in. So that's the first reason.
The second reason is that it helps the parents with their division of labor. The whole idea of this thing is that you should be able to raise children at a lower cost and with less overall portion of your time than you would if you and one other person try to raise children alone. The other side of that is that if you have too many people, too many cooks in the kitchen, they start stepping on each other's toes and the way to avoid that is you never have too many of those adults in the house to begin with.
My idea is that every day, there's one adult, one parent, or perhaps a couple, who is in charge of the household. They might come in in the mid-afternoon and leave in the evening. They don't necessarily have to stay overnight. So how would that work? We'll get into that later.
The third reason is kind of related to the first reason in that I want to isolate the children from their parents’ wealth. Parents in this family, at least initially, could be pretty well off, but you don't want to automatically have that wealth given to your children. I think that's toxic. They shouldn't necessarily get all the best clothes and have all the best experiences just because their parents are very wealthy.
If the parents live away, they can keep their wealth away. The children [should] live in an environment I call “benign poverty”—a place where everything is provided. There's plenty of food. There's plenty of attention. There's plenty of love, but not a lot of material resources, not a lot of nice clothes, not a lot of personal toys. A lot of the stuff in the household should be kind of well used and beaten up. A lot of the clothes should be hand-me-downs.
I don't think that children should automatically be given nice stuff. I think it interrupts with the childhood process, the child-rearing process. It is up to the consortium of parents to decide how much wealth should be allowed into the household, but in any case, you've got to control it. You've got to have these firewalls between the wealth of the parents and the wealth of the children.
Reason Number Four for not having adults live in the family is that you want to promote the independence of the children's household. As I’ve mentioned before, I expect children to perform a lot of the routine duties of maintaining the household. I don't believe that children should provide the food, but I believe that they should cook the food. They should prepare the food. They should clean up after. I believe that they can do most of the duties involved in raising infants. Keep in mind there's a wide range of ages in this household, ranging from 0 to 18. 18-year-olds and 17-year-olds are capable of an awful lot, and you'd be surprised at how much an 8-year-old is capable of in caring for others.
If there's always adults hovering around to intervene, the kids don't have an opportunity to take this responsibility. There's too many adults to run to. If there's only one adult on duty, they can't do everything for 9 kids. The 9 kids got to do a lot of the stuff themselves. If you had adults right there in the household, easily accessible, it really wouldn't work out very well.
The fifth reason is that it helps promote a life balance among the parents.
I think there's a healthy life balance that every adult should try to aim for. I call it a “Rule of Thirds”. One third of your waking life should be devoted just to survival, just to making enough money to support yourself and to pay your portion of the costs of this family. The second third of your life should be spent on improving yourself and pursuing your own interests, so that you're a better person in the future. And the final third of your life should be devoted to serving future generations. That's what parenting is. That's your long-term third. It's much easier to maintain these nice, neat divisions if you're not [in the household] when you're not on duty.
So those are the five reasons for not having the adults there. There are, however, two exceptions to adults living in the household. [One of them] is when an adult needs help needs, needs assistance, needs care. [This] could happen with a very old member of the family, or it could be a sick member of the family, or it could be a child who doesn't turn out quite right and needs lots of assistance, can't work on their own.
So those are the kind of adults who would live, if not in right in the household with the kids, than off on a wing of the household where they have easy access to the kids. The idea is that you're going to use the kids as a captive labor force to help take care of these sick people.
It's like your elderly grandmother living in a room off the garage. Your grandmother is right there. She needs help from time to time. A lot of that help can be provided by kids. For example, the kids can bring meals to grandma. Part of the culture of service of this family is that kids take care of younger kids, and they also take care of elders and sick members of their family.
The other reason you might have adults living right in the household, or very close to the household, is for physical protection. Imagine a kind of a post-apocalyptic universe, a Mad Max universe where everyone has to live in a walled compound with guards posted to keep out the savages. That's the point where you really want to circle the wagons and bring everybody in your family into this stockade for mutual protection. You may think that's ridiculous, that we don't need that in the modern world. I’ve seen an awful lot of the modern world, and there are places where you really do need that sort of thing.
Let me expand on that. Let me talk about the American model. Let's say we have a society that's more or less like American society today, when this consortium of adults decides to form, they can set up their household in one of the many McMansions in America.
In the 1990s, there was this building boom of these very big houses—like 5000 square feet—in the wealthier suburbs of big cities. They were called McMansions at the time. You would have a Baby Boomer couple and their one or two kids living in this humongous house. I’ve been inside a lot of these houses. They're really obscene. They make no sense for four people, but they ***might*** make a lot of sense for nine people, the nine children in the post-nuclear family. You generally got a huge yard. You've got a lot of common space inside. You can subdivide part of the house into bunk rooms. You might have a basement, a second floor, an attic. It’s an ideal resting place for my post-nuclear family.
In that case, I'm comfortable with the parents coming in, doing their duty, leaving late in the evening and letting the children fend for themselves overnight. That may seem frightening until you realize there’s a responsible 17- or 18-year-old in the household who has proven themselves and can handle anything that comes up until the morning. If they can't handle something, a parent is always on call. They can phone the parent, and the parent will rush over and deal with the situation, but ideally you want the 17-year-old to deal with the situation.
So that's the American model. Now I want you to imagine the South African model. You've probably never been to South Africa. I have. I’ve spent about two months total on several trips to the African continent. Every substantial house in Africa is a fortress, because you have such a disparity between rich and poor. So if you're moderately rich—what we would call Middle Class—if you have a home, you've got to have a wall around that home—an eight to ten foot wall literally topped by either razor wire or an electric fence. [You need it] to keep out the riffraff, to keep out the very poor people who would steal you blind.
This is a universal throughout Africa, not in just in South Africa, but almost every place I’ve been in Africa. Every house is a fortress, and you really wouldn't want to leave a family of kids alone at night in this environment. You want as many of the parents as possible to live within this compound, so it would be a family compound. It would be a big walled area with several buildings. The parents live in one building. The children live in the other building, but we still maintain this separation where the parents come into the main household only to serve their duties. So that's the South African model.
Since I'm planning this system for a future world over, let's say, the next century, it's entirely conceivable that we might need the South African model in America [or Europe]. You just don't know what the world is going to look like over the next century.
So I hope that answers the question of why I don't want the parents in the children's household.
I guess there's one other thing I would want to expand on, which is this environment conducive to raising children. A family is a sort of Disneyland created by the parents to be a safe place to raise children and there are a lot of different elements of this. You don't want indiscriminate use of electronic media. You need to have an electronic media policy, where you control how much access the children have to things like television and computers and video games. It's not just everything goes [like today]. The parents have to sit down and decide, “What are we going to let in, and how much of it are we going to let in? What is our policy on that?” And once you've established that policy, you need an isolated place [where] you can implement that policy.
And of course, you need physical protections that adults don't need. If you've got toddlers running around in this family, you need to have toddler-proof doors. You need to have all sorts of design changes to make sure this place is safe for toddlers. You spend a lot of time coming up with these systems, and you don't want adults living there because their needs are entirely different.
There's also a sort of cultural isolation that you want to develop. You want to teach morality and a lot of other lessons, and you kind of need a protected environment in which to do that. For example, I wouldn't want children using swear words. You can enforce that if there are no adults in the household using swear words. You can impose rules on the children that you don't try to impose on adults.
You shouldn't be in the situation where the children can say, “Why can't I do this when I saw this adult do the same thing?” If the adult is conducting his or her life someplace else, then the children never have a chance to make that complaint, because they don't see it.
So I hope I’ve covered everything. I will see you in the next podcast. I'm going to focus for a while on the post nuclear family, [because] that seems to be the most the important thing I can talk about. So we'll see what I talk about next time.
[This discussion is continued in the following podcast, Episode 63, with a 6th reason that parents should not live in the same household as their kids.]