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Post-Peak Parenting
l33tminion wrote in peak_oil
In the past few years, I've read a few books that discuss modern American middle-class parenting:

Leanore Skenazy's Free Range Kids suggests that middle-class American parents are going crazy with worry in a media environment that exaggerates the risks posed to children by crime or accident. (The sole risk that gets understated is the danger of automobile accidents to children as passengers.) She suggests that parents calm down, try to get their perception of risk in line with reality instead of cable TV, and remember the benefits of children being able to do things on their own.

Bryan Caplan's Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids notes that middle-class American parents favor methods of parenting that take a lot of time, money, and labor, but that the same parents overestimate the effects of their parenting methods. In addition, people focus on the short-term, so they over-focus on the drawbacks of having young children and under-focus on the benefits of having adult children and grandchildren. Thus, they might be making the wrong trade-offs when deciding between expensive, difficult parenting methods and few or no kids versus cheaper, lazier parenting methods while having more kids.

Jennifer Senior's All Joy and No Fun describes some rather dramatic changes that have occurred in the last two to three generations in the attitudes that middle-class Americans have towards parenting, and the effect of that on the experience of parenthood. This book is more a work of sociology than an argumentative essay, so it doesn't really give much in the way of advice.

All of these books suggest that something has gotten really weird about American middle-class parenting in the last 70 years or so. (It's not just America, either.) That time-frame isn't a coincidence. Parents raising their children a commute away from everything, families increasingly living places where children can't get anywhere by themselves because you need to drive to get anywhere, towns being organized in ways that make them more convenient for cars at the expense of the comfort and safety of pedestrians, and (early on) lots of opportunities for upward mobility (followed now by pervasive threats of downward mobility), all of these are factors that pushed the concerted cultivation model of parenting. And all of those factors were shaped by the oil boom and subsequent peak.

So here's what I'm wondering: Is there any good writing on the impact of peak oil on parenting specifically?

The books I mention describe a dysfunctional situation, and give some advice for mitigating that situation. But they miss something about the underlying causes, and they don't do much to anticipate any sort of future change. Is there any good writing that describes the experience of raising children during an economic contraction? Or speculates about the effect of peak oil on families? So far what I've got in terms of advice is something like, "Read The Upside of Down (or maybe The Up Side of Down) and try not to stress out too much."

(Stuff about places outside of America and socioeconomic groups outside of the middle-class would be interesting as well. I recognize that this is a bias in my reading, but it's where I live.)

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Some of this is also related to the exodus from the family farm. We've become a nation of homeless people in the sense that Robert Frost meant when he said "home is where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in." He referred to a family farm that could integrate the labor of another adult and be able to feed them.

Farm children grew up with a necessary independence and workload, but also with an intergenerational support system watching over them.

I was born into a midwest family with a twenty acre farm in the 1960s. My grandmother and uncles lived within biking distance on country roads.

My children, born in the 1990s, lived in a small town and we could still bike and walk everywhere, but we had no family nearby to be casual help in raising them. As such, I needed to hire people and put parameters around what was "good enough" for hired help to do that was more than I'd have required from family members.

That puts all those news stories about "millenials living with their parents" in a different light. Those tend to have lots of concern that more education / later marriage / fewer jobs will delay kids getting "out of the basement" and into their own house (or maybe (preferably?) another city), with the implication that staying with their folks is an economic drain on the older generation. But I don't remember any media commentary on that trend that connects it to the decline in family businesses (or family farms specifically).

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