1. Something that works very well is to have the chars be assassins, soldiers, etc that go out on missions or rotations on the battlefield, then come home. Naruto does this from the standpoint that the society has a high quantity of ninja. It’s normal for the ninja to go out on missions, perhaps for weeks or months at a time, then go back home and hang out with their kids and train them. There are other things that help in that society, though, such as the children being taught to be independent from an earlier age.

    And if there are two parents in the household, one can go off as part of their job (and it’s hard to blame them since that is how they help provide for their families) while the other parent stays back at takes care of the kids (though that parent could always have a job as well)

    • notleia says:

      Well, anymore the dual-income is a necessity rather than a real choice. Most SAHMs are probably on SNAP (food stamps) or housing assistance or some other kind of welfare. I know a lot of them TRY to make an income from home (hello, all the MLM huns on my Facebook), but usually fail because MLMs are the scum of the capitalist system, along with payday loansharking.

      I think it’s worth an experiment, a more communal lifestyle where there is a Den Mom/s or Den Grandma/s who manage a lot of the household stuff while the others go out as wage-earners. Traditionally this would be the extended family (the nuclear family as the ideal is a waaaay more recent and much more American phenomenon), but given the entrenched dysfunction of way too many families, I think the more feasible option is people screened for personality and lifestyle preferences.

      • What would work would depend on the society. Taking Naruto’s into consideration, different families have different arrangements. Some are part of large clans with extended families that probably wouldn’t mind looking after kids when need be. Other times, people are orphans that probably receive some governmental financial assistance, which can totally be justified since, once they’re out of the Academy (usually around 12 years old) they will start to go out on missions and earn income that supports themselves while also earning money for the village. Often enough, ninja children are independent enough that they need minimal supervision, though. Some ninja have one parent that goes out on missions and another parent that has a side career while also looking out for the kids. I think Ino’s parents are like that. Her father works in the intelligence division, if I recall correctly, while her mother runs the family’s flower shop. So, those are some arrangements that could be incorporated into a story.

        As for real life, different things work for different people. My parents worked very hard and didn’t have much as far as community around them when it came to raising me and my sister, but it still worked because they were both dedicated and responsible. If people want to do the den mother thing while everyone goes out and earns wages, though, there’s nothing much to stop them as long as they’re willing to put in the work to figure out the logistics. I would hope it doesn’t become so common that everyone does it, though. It should still be socially acceptable to keep the babysitting within a small nuclear family if they so desire. Not everyone is going to be able to get their needs met by the local den mothers and whatnot.

  2. notleia says:

    Well, family stops you from doing risky stuff that advances the plot. Sorry family, you need to be put down for story purposes.

    And how many mommy bloggers do you follow? My experience is generally the opposite, that they feature or talk up their kids as part of the Happy Cozy Experience, or another riff on Joanna Gaines Magnolia Perfect Retro Farmhouse Aesthetic. Or the crafting, crunchy-granola types do.

    But heck, a solid percentage of Instagram influencers are older women with kids, who mention them briefly as part of their busy lifestyle while they launch this new makeup line here. You have to consider the audience for whom the ads are intended. Mark probably just catches the fringe where they feature the sort of aesthetic meant to lure in the older teenage/college market whereas I trip the algorithms to see the more sophisticated aesthetic aimed at women with careers and stuff (brb, crying into my wine cooler while deleting LinkedIn reminders to improve my profile).

    But there is the good point that at the root of all this b*tching about lifestyles is that the Olds think the Youngs are ruining everything by doing gender wrong. It’s a nice example to have on hand for the next time I rant about the patriarchy.

    • Instead of ranting, just type, “Patriarchy.” We’ll know what you mean. 🙂

      For the most part, I legitimately enjoy watching Fixer Upper. But I can’t stand the hyper-romanticized homesteader archetype. It’s a bunch of nonsense. Yes, sip your tea in your peaceful, perfectly clean rustic (how’s that for an oxymoron) farmhouse, while your children sit for 2 seconds at the window, and you get the perfect picture, and talk about slow days in the sun, gardening, etc. Just don’t mention your kids crapping their pants and coloring on the walls (or if you do, do it in a way that makes you seem saintly). Both what you said, and what Mark talked about, exist.

      IDK, I tend to think the Olds hate the Youngs for a much broader reason, because they think that the Youngs look like the caricature of Millenials that love participation awards, want their own pronouns, etc. (while ignoring the truth that everything they complain about in Millenials turns back on their own heads because they were the ones who bought the video games, bought the phones, ignored their children, allowed abuse to happen, and invented participation awards). They don’t realize that there’s no common Millenial culture, as there was in the Olds time period, because mass media has been reorganized so drastically. Basically, they’re still sucking off the teet of Fox News or CBS News, instead of actually spending time with real millenials and getting to know them, so they spend their time ranting on FB about politics and “in my day we didn’t . . . ” instead. Meanwhile, the Youngs mute the Olds’ posts and walk the other direction.

      • But her ranting fuels the discussion :p

      • notleia says:

        I did/do like Fixer Upper to some extent, but it’s become suuuuuuper commercialized. Joanna has built a small media empire to go along with whatever antiquing business she had going. Good for her, non-sarcastically, but I have plenty of reservations about the home decor industry, and having hairpin table legs shoved in my face alla time does nothing to help that.

        You betcha she has a nanny or au pair or two for her five-six kids, and at least one farmhand to take care of that hobby farm they have (my complicated relationship with hobby farming is another post), but we never see them. I’d actually applaud her for piercing the illusion a bit and showing the nanny alongside the kids, but nope, all that invisible labor is expected to stay invisible.

        • Yeah, it makes no sense otherwise. Because if they don’t have a nanny and extra hands, their kids are basically constantly alone. There’s no other conceivable option. Success always damages relationships. Money is almost always a curse, not a blessing. Show me someone very successful, and I’ll show you someone very wounded, and who has wounded the people around them on the path to success. It’s a law of the universe.

          Not sure I’d qualify as a hobby farmer, but my wife and I have been enjoying gardening. Especially with our little stinker bopping around. Our daughter gets excited to help with watering, and seeing the plants, “Growing BIGGA and BIGGA!” Still, even gardening a small plot is quite time consuming. Heck, keeping one dang small house clean is a lot of work with ONE child, let alone multiple.

          • Until they get old enough to understand the idea of cleaning up after themselves/old enough to know how to help.

            • Even then it takes work to remind them why they should care. I suppose I’ll figure out what that stage is like soon enough, and whether or not it’s easier. : )

              • Eh, I think not having to change diapers or watch them 24/7 lest they choke or fall or whatnot is a step up already 😛 But yeah, it does sound like they can get difficult as they grow up. Like if they decide to get into drugs or a bad relationship as a teen or something.

              • Diapers aren’t bad when it’s your own kid. Neither is watching them all the time. The choking/falling on sharp objects and dying or going blind thing has caused me serious anxiety, though. I don’t get parents who don’t even seem to notice that their children are constantly almost killing themselves at a park.

                When kids are young, they’re simpler. When their wills and desires become more complex, and their minds more sneaky, it becomes a different sort of difficult.

          • notleia says:

            Well, there are specific wheat hobbyists who ruined my chill with their effing 15% rye counts coming in effing tiny 8-ton loads on effing rickety old grain trucks that may or may not break down in the elevator bay, but I also reserve some stink eye for people who seem more like animal hoarders than farmers/ranchers.

            But at the same time, if left to my own devises, I’d probably end up being a hobby farmer, too.

  3. Jill says:

    Mommy bloggers have amassed huge followings and gotten nifty book contracts based off “keeping it real”. I mean, there was a heyday and a peak, but that peak and subsequent decline occurred almost everywhere in the blogging world.

    Family tends to add to stories rather than detract from it. They make characters more human and can raise stakes, too, if the protag’s danger affects vulnerable relations.

  4. One sci-fi story in which family is important is “Moon’, in which the protagonist is counting on his family, and the hope of going home to them, to keep him sane. It doesn’t work out for him, which is part of his tragic storyline, but it grounds the story.

  5. Lorraine Cassidy says:

    This is exactly why so many books have begun to bore me – I want a story where the main married characters are the strength of the other. I could never find it, so I am writing it now.

  6. Stephen Smith says:

    Nice discussion. I’m editing my first novel… it’s about a core family (father, mother, and son) which gets swept up in a struggle against an invading wizard and his army. The three end up getting separated and each has their own adventure as they overcome odds and try to get back together. It began as an attempt to write something for middle aged fantasy fans who have kids of their own and are sick of stories where kids know everything and adults are stupid. ?

  7. Esther Wallace says:

    Good article. Thank you.

  8. Jes Drew says:

    Interrsting thoughts. My speculative fiction series The Kristian Clark saga is about a bachelor that finds himself protecting a growing family through the series as he tries to balance their needs and saving the world.

  9. Some decades ago, Damon Knight wrote a critique of science fiction where he included Mark’s observation and stated that science fiction writers and readers were afraid of family and desperately trying to break away from their own families. As a founder of Clarion and SFWA, I suppose he would have known. He also said they were afraid of being powerless and therefore focused their stories on powerful people.

What do you think?