You need to start a family

The Wandering Engineer
11 min readFeb 22, 2024

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We hear all too often of the 20-something-year-old complaining they still live with their parents, and cannot afford to move out, married couples complaining about not being able to afford children, or hear about some 40-year-old complaining it’s too late to have their own family and children. I’m sure some of you have also heard from some older men/women in your circles telling you to never get married.

I talked a lot about individualism, dating, society, and career-related topics in my recent blog posts. However, there is one thing we often see now that is one of the pivotal causes and a major effect of other societal issues — the breakdown of the family structure.

Statistics don’t lie. Birth rates are at an all-time low. Over half of marriages in most developed countries end in divorce. Many children (>30%) grow up in single-parent households or dysfunctional families. Many more are abandoning the idea of marriage and having children altogether, or even not having children within marriages (DINK).

In my friend circles (mostly mid-20s-30s) living in a major city, it is surprising how many of them are single, not actively dating, and not having children, at an age when you’d expect these things to be happening. Being an immigrant from a more traditional culture where most people started families before the age of 30, this is shocking to see.

When asked about why, these people say everything is too expensive, they are overworked, they want to live a stress-free life, or they simply feel fulfilled by their career, electronics/video games, and the hookup culture.

It is undeniable that fewer young people today are entertaining the idea of starting a family. Now, I understand there are many factors at play here — the cost of living is high in cities, people are too busy working and pursuing careers, and there are many things to keep us fulfilled without marriage and children, such as video games, hobbies, and travelling.

But even these things are symptoms of an even greater problem.

People in the relatively recent past mostly lived in extended families with well-defined roles. The young adults went out, hunted, farmed, fought, and gathered resources. The elderly handled cooking and raising the children. In essence, the entire extended family pooled resources together and took part in raising the children, and these children soon became the labour that went on to work on farms and raise the next generation.

In such a setup, people sacrificed their individual freedoms to play a role in the family and society to maximize everyone’s chance of survival. It was a collectivist culture where people were encouraged (often forced) to play their roles or be seen as outcasts. It was the basis of agrarian and hunter-gatherer societies for much of human history.

However, once industrialization and urbanization became prevalent in the past two centuries or so, and most people stopped living on farms, this setup became obsolete. Children were no longer seen as farm labor. With improved medical sciences and birth control, reproduction and survival were no longer the main concern, and people no longer needed to birth and raise so many children.

With less pressure to survive and more free time on people’s hands, modern thought was developed—people had time to think about the meaning of life and their purpose. What is the point of living if you are just being a cog in the machine? With the push from modern philosophy, more people were encouraged (and freed) to pursue their own interests and lives rather than conform to traditional roles and keep the machine going.

The social contract that has worked for humanity for thousands of years is rapidly being redefined. In the developed world today, we are no longer an agrarian or hunter-gatherer society. Religion (which largely ruled humanity and defined societal contracts for millennia) is dying out, and families are falling apart.

With the newfound freedom, most people are choosing to maximize personal fulfilment (whether it is seeking happiness — which is really just dopamine, personal or monetary success, family, or something else) over community interests.

When traditional or collectivist-minded people speak up against the more modern, individualist general public today, they are often being called “close-minded” and “backwards”.

While you can argue that the rise of individualism and the breakup of the family unit are the natural results of our technological progress, is it really beneficial for humanity in the end? And are collectivist and family values really in conflict with our technological and social progress?

We all know what is divide and conquer. It is easier to conquer individuals over large groups. I’m sure the people in power have the same idea.

We know what happens when people are united. It has overthrown too many monarchs and governments throughout human history. The people in power are afraid of that.

As a result, they have a vested interest in reducing people into powerless individuals. And through years of cultural indoctrination by encouraging independence and less reliance on the family, as well as the power of modern information technologies, they have achieved just that.

First, they broke down the extended family to form smaller, nuclear families with a father, a mother, and children. However, not long after, the idea of marriage was broken down further, reducing people to mostly individuals. As a result, marriages fell apart and birth rates plummeted.

Although it was done in the name of “progress”, “freedom”, and “empowerment”, it was to encourage more people to join the workforce and consume. When people were more united in family units and consolidated resources, they were more self-sufficient and needed fewer resources to survive. There was also better distribution of skills and labor so fewer people needed to work.

The capitalists in power wanted to expand consumption and the labour force to maximize their own profits. By reducing family units into individuals, each individual had to consume more resources as opposed to sharing resources within the family, and more people had to work to maintain the same standard of living. Also, without being attached to a family, individuals can dedicate their lives to working for corporations, resulting in more dedicated workers.

With more supply of labour, it became cheaper and people were paid less on average. With more consumption needed for the average individual (and pushing people to consume more), people need to work more, and it fuels an even greater need for cheap labour, and the cycle deepens.

As a result, everyone becomes more overworked and things become more expensive for everyone. Raising children became more expensive and less desirable. People have less mental capacity and free time from being overworked, and are less likely to date and start families. Remember, relationships and families take time and effort to build and maintain.

Also, with the plethora of cheap entertainment options (instant gratification) that people are being presented with (consumption, drugs, electronics, video games, easy access to sex, etc.), long-term relationships, marriage, and children have felt more burdensome. People also have less mental capacity to think for themselves and succumb easily to media indoctrination and consumption, furthering the cycle.

And guess what, by “freeing” people to become individualistic and abandon family values, people are more miserable. Without their family and community, they lose their main sense of purpose. Humans are social creatures and long for a sense of belonging. Take that away, and they become soulless robots grinding their lives away for capitalism. No wonder we are seeing a mental health crisis in the world right now.

In the end, people are more desperate and miserable and are relying on governments and corporations for survival. They become easy to control, physically and mentally. This is exactly how the capitalist elites wanted it.

On the other hand, you still see the elites working together in families and alliances, passing down their wealth to their children, keeping the resources and power among themselves while gaining more through the system they set up. Their family values did not go away due to social progress and the improvement in technology.

As a result, instead of people becoming more equal like they were promised, wealth and social inequality grew even greater, and we are seeing more hostility between people, divided by gender, race, religion, social status, etc.

Now, I believe it is important for YOU to start a family. It is up to you to start breaking the cycle of mass consumption and control, and empower everyone around you to break the cycle.

Forget about capitalism and individualism for a second. Sure, you can say you have a group of close friends that closely resembles a family (brotherhoods or sisterhoods), but I believe true, blood-connected family relations are irreplaceable.

Some things just cannot be replaced. Imagine when you’re elderly, and you are being cared for by robots and complete strangers in a nursing home. Most of your friends are either dead or long drifted away. Imagine you desperately need help, all your “friends” are minding their own business (as you’d expect), and you have no family to fall upon.

Growing up in China more than a decade ago, the elderly were taken care of by their children, and children were taken care of by grandparents while the parents worked. Abandoning the elderly in a nursing home or throwing young children in daycare (like many people currently do in the West) was frowned upon. It was often expected of people to become dedicated caregivers to the elderly or children in their families. Also, there were a lot of family businesses, from local shops and restaurants to large multinational companies and firms.

Also, friendships are conditional and don’t last forever — humans are tribal. As adults, people who are not from the same family tend to focus on their own work, interests, well-being, and their own families rather than friendships, so it is easy for people to drift apart over time. You cannot always expect your friends to come hang out with you when they’re occupied by their work, partners, children, or interests. People come and go in life.

Even as a mid-20s young adult, I’m noticing my social circles are shrinking every year as my friends start their careers, start relationships, or move away from my city. Meetups become more rare compared to university days as people become occupied with their interests. I am also noticing that more people settle into their cliques with common interests as their lives get busier, so it becomes more difficult to make new friends as I get older.

Now we come back to the question — Why do you need to start a family?

  • It is your biological instinct — Although I believe everyone should find a greater purpose and meaning in life aside from reproduction, as humans, we have that instinct to procreate and seek belonging in a community. And if that is not fulfilled, you will feel some degree of emptiness and regret, no matter how fulfilled the other aspects of your life are. I’ve heard too many stories of childless/family-less individuals regretting how they did not have children and a family once they were too old or had nobody to call family, even if they lived so-called successful lives on paper (good career, high income/financial freedom, travelled the world, etc.).
  • The power of the individual is small — You need to realize that nobody is truly “self-made” — it’s a lie told by capitalists. As an individual, you are powerless, and you are easy to control. People need to work together to achieve great things, from wealth gathering and generation to raising children to building our civilization. As other people come and go in life, having family certainly makes it easier.
  • You need a support system — Let’s be honest, your parents will die someday, and your friends will start their own families, mind their own businesses, and drift away. Eventually, your immediate family is all you got, and they will be your main support system. Again, you are powerless on your own, so you need to have that support system in case you need help. You also need to be valuable and be able to support others too.
  • Families can pool resources together — Many businesses (even large multinational companies) are run by families. The Rothschilds, the Waltons, the Rockerfellers, you name it. I’m sure you know some people who worked in their family businesses or had parents pay for their education or a house that set them up for life. In a world where the wealth gap continues to increase, you need to do whatever it takes to pool resources together and keep them within your tribe. Also, by sharing and conserving resources within your family and lowering your individual footprint, you’re saving the environment and reducing this senseless and destructive hyper-consumption driven by capitalism.
  • The world needs babies — If our current birth rates continue in the developed world, humanity will slowly breed ourselves towards extinction. While I don’t think it is sustainable for every family to have 5+ children and the human population to grow infinitely, there needs to be enough births to prevent a complete population collapse. While I believe our economy is set up as a Ponzi scheme, our present birth rates in the developed world are setting us up for population collapse, and subsequently, economic collapse. Raising children in an extended family is not only cheaper and easier, but is the way how things worked for millennia.
  • You become happier — Finally, people like to delude themselves that being free from family and traditional responsibilities makes them happy. Well, that’s because they never experienced a healthy family dynamic (as they never worked on themselves, finding the right people, or building that healthy dynamic). On average, the happiest people are the ones in healthy families, not single, unattached individuals. The joy of family and children is irreplaceable. Families take work and sacrifice for each individual, but in the end, everyone is happier. Too many people today are selfish and don’t want to put in the work to start and maintain a family and wonder why they are miserable.
  • It motivates you to become better — For most people, without a family or community, they have no real sense of motivation to work harder and become better individuals. I’ve heard many stories of people who found a newfound drive to self-improve and be more successful once they married and became parents. Providing for the family (or the prospect of doing so) gave them that extra motivation to improve themselves. When more people have that drive to be better, the world becomes a better place.

Finally, to start a family, you have to make yourself a desirable partner to start a family with, and find a similarly desirable and family-oriented partner. I’ve talked about ways to make yourself attractive and find the right person in my dating advice.

Too many people today are hooked on instant gratification and are selfish, lazy, unhealthy, and unattractive, which is why the dating market is a sh*tshow. It’s going to be an uphill battle against the popular tide.

The definition of the family is rapidly changing, and gender roles are not what they used to be. However, the idea of working together with your family or tribe, dividing the skills and labour among the members, and sharing resources have been key to human survival for thousands of years, and will never become obsolete going forward, even as technology advances.

Even if you don’t start your own family in a traditional sense, you can still reach out and build good relationships with your existing family members and extended family. At the end of the way, it is about collaborating with the people you know well.

Family and children are gifts of God. They are the foundation that has allowed humanity to prosper for millennia. None of us would be here right now if our parents and ancestors did not start families and procreate.

We cannot simply reject the collectivist and family values that have built human civilizations for centuries and expect things to turn out well. We are already seeing the consequences of rampant individualism with increased division, hostility, global conflicts, and mental health crises.

Throughout human history, the breakup of the family structure has precipitated civil unrest, war, and countless falls of great empires and nations. And I’m sure if current trends were to continue, modern civilization would be headed for a similar destination.

While I have little power to change the trajectory of our society, all of us can do a small part individually by starting our own families and encouraging others to do the same, so we can all break from the cycle of consumption and control, and make the world a better place.

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