"Don't start your shit with me!" F*** this, F*** that.
There have been, of course, a slew of reasons as to why the birth rate has declined, why people are waiting longer to get married, why fewer people are opting out of the decision to get married and start a family -- student loans, inconvenience, instability, the whole I'm a feminist thing.
But I think there is another factor that comes into question that has gotten little to no attention, and that's families suck.
Have you looked around? At all?
Parents are constantly yelling at each other, that's if they're even still together, kids do anything to get out of family holidays, parents smacking their kids, calling them "little shits" in public. Kids trash talking their parents, parents complaining about their kids, years long adult sibling rivalries that make kindergarten look like wasted time. And that doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of the total discouragement families get while out and about -- the stare downs on planes and in pews, people "warning" you of all the *shit* you're in store for. The list goes on and on and...on.
I'm sorry, but...who wants that? I am someone who decided to get married and have a family, and I don't want that. I used to not want to get married and have a family for the very reasons mentioned above. Good examples and role models were all too rare for me to take that risk of ending up like all the other families who go their separate ways when the kids go to college or when Grandma dies.
If I hadn't met the man who I saw I could raise the type of family I wanted to have with, I would have run the other way from having a family, too.
I often not-so-jokingly say that I want my family to be like the Kardashians when we're older. Inevitably, the person reacts with a "noooo.." Sure, that clan is crazy, but they're crazy together. Sibling loyalty is unshakable, they catch a Wednesday afternoon lunch together, visit their mom, and the mom is there. If you haven't done any of these things with your family in the last month, then nothin' out of you.
I get it, okay? I'm not naive. I'm a member of the had-to-grow-up fast group myself due to my own situation. People are broken and families take the biggest hit when our brokenness strikes. Yeah, parenting is exhausting, calming an irate toddler is exhausting, we're tired, we say things, we hit financial hard times, we blame, we compare, we get bored. But we're adults, so we are more than capable of trying, making an effort, forgiving, taking pause before lashing out, being kind, apologizing.
I like to think about my family in the big picture sense. Ideally, I'd like 5 kids, not because I particularly enjoy pregnancy (I'd have to grow a deep love for dry heaving) but because I think 5 kids is a good support system for each of them to have. I also, since having Ella, have thought about what I'd like my family dynamic to be and then have implemented personal habits to strive to be a better example for my kids. Even though my kids are under 3, I work freaking hard to raise a family who will like each other when they're 32. And, as a 26-year-old with 2 young kids, I'm not sure I could be more discouraged. I look around and there are, thankfully, a hand full of families I'm blessed to know and strive to emulate. But, generally, while carrying out my day-to-day stopping at the grocery store or out for a walk, I consistently see families who look miserable to be with each other.
Since I'm back in the business world, I think in marketing terms on the daily, so I'll say the branding of families is in the midst of a true crisis and it has nothing to do with Hillary Clinton or some policy or the schools we send our kids to or the diet we put them on, and has everything to do with.. was the dad a man enough to hold his little girl's hand in public? And did the spouses hold hands in front of their kids? Did mom and dad put each other first? Were phones put away at dinner? Did the parents give money to the man begging on the street corner while their kids watched? Did the parents uplift other people in front of their kids? Were the parents humble enough to say I'm sorry to their children when they lashed out or did something wrong? Did mom and dad talk with their kids or at them?
We have to step it up. There are little pockets of hope, but on a grand scale, we're failing. What we do as parents matters so much more than we realize. Our actions have either positive or negative ripple effects. And we need to not only realize that but to care about it.
Go home and don't just tell your family you love them, but show them.