Family life can be a burden. A proliferation of more articles have been written about those who forego marriage in favor of unconnected lifestyles: “I Just Don’t Want a Child.” “The Child-free Life.” “10 Reasons You Don’t Have to Get Married.” “Why Marriage is a Raw Deal for Men.” And many, many more.
The advantages of not having a family or of limiting one’s family life have been well-documented: Time. Lots of uncluttered free time. Time to devote to career. Time to devote to personal advancement. And even time to devote to other noble causes not related to family. The deforestation of the planet. AIDS in Africa. And Money. Money to travel. Money to buy nicer food. Money to buy nicer clothing. A nicer home. A nicer car. And no one to mess up the clothing, the home, and the car once you have them.
Am I the only person who has noticed the big, huge elephant in the room. Don’t all of these lifestyles sound extremely lonely? Yes, lonely?
When I was younger my mom would take us to nursing homes to visit an “adopted Grandma” or “Grandpa” at Christmas time. These were people who had no one else to visit them to whom we would bring treats and a little Christmas cheer. My husband and I have over the years done similar visits with our own children. And I can tell you that our children are the most welcome visitors ever. Ever. They are loved, doted on, given gifts of candy, toys, anything that these people have, they share. These lonely, elderly people love having our children around. And they are so proud to have them there.
Interestingly, the same magazine to publish “The Childfree Life” has more recently published an article entitled “Why Loneliness May be the Next Big Public Health Issue.” The article laments the fact that “more and more people are living alone than ever before.” The author points out that lonely people suffer from a variety of illnesses and have an increased mortality risk of 29 to 32 percent. And then the solution that the article gives? Policy changes. Re-thinking the way neighborhoods are designed.
Hmmm. I could think of a solution that has been proven over centuries to yield proven and real results in the loneliness problem. Family.
Yep, it’s a little bit messy. You are going to have to work with in-laws and out-laws and a number of other not-so perfect people according to you. And dirty carpets. And sick kids and big arguments. And your home, your life, and your body are never going to look quite like the magazine covers. And it’s true that you may never ever have the picture perfect family you always wanted. That’s true for all of us. But try for family. Invest in family. Work at family.
It was C.S. Lewis who once reminded us: “Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, and irredeemable.”
Yes, family is inconvenient, it is difficult, it is costly. But it is deliciously, deliciously alive. It is living, breathing, noisy, full of love, full of anger, full of tragedy, full of talking and breathing and messes and hugs and ups and downs. It is full. Not lonely. Family life is full. Full. Full. And isn’t that delicious fullness what we really really want? You decide.