But a funny thing happened along the way: Big became less sexy – at least to us. We’re living in the hangover of the ambition-drunken times in which we came of age. We’re attuned – not to acquisition or status, but to core joys: family and friends around us, careers aimed at making the world a better place, as well as a lot of flexibility, and enough money to live without insecurity, but not so much that it becomes a focus of our days.
Truth be told, our dreams aren’t all that big: We want a small, comfortable house; hope to own only one car (neither of us have had a car for years), and never want job titles that require us to miss out on important moments with our friends and family.
Our question is not, how can we – husband and wife considering children – have it all? Our question is, how can we have enough? We believe the latter is a much more worthwhile question, and one that will lead us not down a black hole of debate, but toward more fulfilling, fun lives – for us and our children.
We aspire to continue what we call our communal life. Our community is not necessarily a place, after all; it is a cozy, little node in a much larger network. We dream about raising our kids near some of our dearest friends and our siblings a short flight or drive away.
Mary and Chris can teach them about poetry, Jody and Aaron about design, Auntie Jen about science and sex. As anthropologist Margaret Mead once said, “Nobody has ever before asked the nuclear family to live all by itself in a box the way we do. With no relatives, no support, we’ve put it in an impossible situation.”
We don’t want the impossible. We don’t want to have it all. We want to be happy and helpful.
Our newest role models for this kind of “it takes a village” lifestyle come from an unlikely place. We’ve had two close friends recently have babies on their own by choice, and it’s been inspiring to watch as their motley crew of friends and family members weave in and out of their lives – taking night shifts here, planning baby showers there, being on call for whatever, whenever.
Even with four hands on deck, we hope to adopt that kind of interdependent ethos when we have kids. It will require some vulnerability, some spontaneity, but the reward we expect is profound – a sense that your community is wide and willing.