Opinion: The success sequence of nuclear families is unrealistic

Family is an important part of our daily lives. Preceded only by safety and psychological needs on Maslow’s hierarchy, it plays a large role in our general happiness and well-being. 

As we get older and navigate our world, our family is likely to grow and change. Some of these changes will impact us more heavily than others, so we need to be ready to identify optimal paths. One common pathway is the success sequence — a straightforward, though misguided, route to staying out of poverty. 

According to the American Enterprise Institute, people on this pathway get a high school degree, a full-time job, a spouse and a child. Children are not limited to just one, but the order here is explicit.

These days it's safe to say a college degree is desirable, and pursuing one is where the average American (following the success sequence) would start their life's journey of questionable decisions.

Theoretically, the first things a college student needs are loans. Taking loans teaches the importance of credit and its role in telling the world how much money we can be entrusted with and at what rates. Large course loads and extracurricular activities may leave little time for work, but we get the benefit of a lesson in time management we couldn’t have gotten anywhere else. Additionally, paying premiums for meals and rent will teach us how to live above our means in a material world. 

However, these are false ideals.

The cycle of misguidance continues after college, when we're supposed to get a full-time job. The job’s first benefit is to provide income needed to pay off the student loans we have grown to regret. The ability to thrive on a budget designed to fail can make us appear better fit for an entry level position. This allows us to move up within the company. 

This system implies that the repetitive grind of the common workplace is also good for the human mind. It allows us the time to focus our energy on the company, giving a sense of accomplishment we may never have achieved on our own. 

Given enough time we'll be able to find the next part of our family and ingredient for success: the spouse.

Spouses, in theory, teach the value of compromise. Gone are the days where a vacation could be taken at a spurious moment. If you want to make a large purchase, you may want to talk about it first. Lessons in compromise help us navigate the disappointments and pitfalls the success sequence continues to give us.

The final milestone for our “successful” family will be children. Raising them will require all the know-how supposedly accumulated from your success. 

With resources pulled together, you and your spouse will have become financially stable. Life has settled down. This will be the perfect opportunity to interject a child into the family, assuming you despise being financially comfortable. 

The most joy a child gives is the joy of just how far we can stretch a dollar.

When you abandon the success sequence, you break free from the confines of a material world. There are various pathways to family and success choose yours wisely.


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