Lukewarm Take #6: Saying we "want a better life for our children" is messed up

Posted on March 10, 2021

When we say we work hard to give our children a better life than we had we mean well. But it’s missing an important point. We’re saying that we had to do things the hard way and want to give them a leg up so they don’t have to work so hard to live a good life. There’s nothing wrong with this - hopefully everyone wants the best for their kids. However, hidden in plainsight in the statement are a couple of glaring problems:

  • the statement acknowledges that opportunity is not equal across demographics
  • the positive sentiment is limited to only “our own” that we are working, saving, and struggling for.

In other words, we frequently can’t see the forest for the trees when we say “we* want a better life for our children than we had.”

A similar saying

We have a similar saying that, I would argue, has a much stronger implication for the future: “We work hard because we want a better world for our children than we had.” This small change embeds much bolder implications, namely, that broad systemic changes are needed to better the world for not only our own children, but extended family, friends, and others in our community. It embeds the notion that there is more change needed than just for specific individuals nearest to us. It highlights that there is more work to do than just buckle down at our laborspaces to make local economic change for our own family but that we also have to make significant changes to our current social environment, economic system, and ecological policies.

Striving and working for a better world will help everyone, including our own. We should not only be giving our children a leg up in the world but also minimizing the need for that leg up in the first place. The only people that may be “negatively impacted” by dismantling unjust systems would be the extremely privileged.

Check our assumptions

There is nothing wrong with wanting a better life for our children - that’s only natural. We just need to double check our assumptions about how exactly we are trying to achieve that. We should be organizing together to make the world a better place for all of our children. Striving for a better world rather than individual better lives encourages all of us to work collectively to solve these problems in mutually beneficial ways that will help all future generations.

  • * This is a very broad “we” but this specific sentiment, that this saying has built-in blinders, is probably most applicable to other folks who live with a significant amount of social privilege. In other words, I would assume** people with less social privilege are more likely to strive for social changes when saying that they want a better life for their children.
  • ** I’m painting with a very broad brush throughout this short post, eh?