As the US grapples with the various states of shutdown, it's only natural that everyone wants things to return to normal. But that normal may actually be "dysfunctional," writes Ian Marcus Corbin—specifically when it comes to the concept of the nuclear family. In the Washington Post, Corbin lays out the case for how the American way of life has suffered since the Industrial Revolution, when the typical US family was whittled down to just parents and children under one roof, making it easier to go where the jobs were. Now, as the virus wreaks havoc, the crisis has made clear how the nuclear family is suffering: moms and dads are struggling to work and take care of kids at home during school closures, while grandparents (who could in theory be helping them out) are under lockdown in retirement and nursing homes.
"This is a tragic waste of human potential," Corbin writes, calling it a "predictable fallout" of the nuclear family that's maybe been due. He notes the pressures that parents face today, with dual incomes needed to pay the day-to-day bills as well as the costs of child care and assisted living for the older set. And grandparents suffer, too, living in isolation from their extended family amid "an epidemic of loneliness." Corbin's proposed solution? Not only government support, such as paid parental leave and affordable child care, but a "remobilization of the resources and energies of a loving family"—i.e., many generations under one roof once again. "Our interdependence is a good and beautiful part of being human," he writes. "In the months and years to come, Americans should reclaim the joys, advantages, burdens, and pains of multigenerational living." Read the full column. (Read more nuclear family stories.)