Sunday 26 March 2000


Pic of the day: March onward! As I don't have any real-life family pictures, and y'all are sick of Sim pics by now, I proudly present an irrelevant but slightly decorative Norway picture again.

Family values

This was such a pajamas day! I slept till near 8, then pattered over to the computer which told me that daylight savings had begun and that the clock was actually 9. Well, if there was a good day to lose an hour, this would be it. I did hardly notice, as I played The Sims and cooked pasta and read and played some more. Not until after 14 (2PM) did I change out of my pajamas, shave and take a walk round the neighborhood, repeatedly playing "Black rose, white feelings" on my minidisk. Later in the afternoon I took another walk, wearing some different clothes and playing "Happy" on my minidisk.


While playing The Sims today, I created my first family with two children, tentatively called the Steger family. As some of you know, families can be quite complicated enough in real life. In the game, there is also the problem of sheepish people who fail to see the obvious, much less do it. Oh wait, that's realism. Anyway, even with two friendly and cheerful kids, there are things to consider. Such as an improved bathroom system, allowing one person to shower in peace while another uses the lavatory. You should have seen the yelling and waving of arms until I got that in place. Some thing just don't work the same way when you throw in more people.

And there's the question of money. I was not entirely surprised to see the family's net worth sliding even with one parent out in low-paid work. The furniture is worn down faster than the bank account builds up. I am sure this is, uh, familiar to many families.

The obvious solution would be to send the remaining parent out to haul home some cash. But that means there will be no dinner waiting when the hungry wolves race home from school, and they will eat their fill on expensive snacks. It also means that there will be no one awake and alert to entertain guests, as both adults will be bogged down in housekeeping on their spare time. Decisions, decisions!

Yes, there is a point, and I am coming to it. I imagine that this game may become to family planning what Sim City was to city planning. While not entirely realistic, it is realistic enough that people can recognize a lot in it. And a new generation raised on The Sims may have a more realistic view on some things. Then again, I may be hoping for too much.

But at the very least, girls, before you marry you should watch your heart's desire play The Sims for a while. If he leads the kids into the swimming pool and removes the ladder, you may take it as a hint to reconsider the whole project ...
(Not that I do that, of course; I treat my creations as I would have my Creator treat me, more or less. But I see it touted as a solution on the strategy newsgroup.)


It may seem obvious to the middle aged and then some that families are not what they used to be. What is less obvious is that families used to be different from what they used to be. The whole thing about the breadwinner man and the stay-at-home mom was actually a quite short interplay. In the industrial society, strong men were indeed ideal workers for many applications, and in many (or even most) cases the women stayed at home if they had children. Except when there was a shortage of labor, such as during the war.

But the industrial society is itself rather new. Until a hundred years or so ago, agriculture was the normal way of life. On the farm, both men and women worked within the same area, though often with different tasks. During the more intense season, such as the harvest, both men and women and children worked together.

And before that? Then we are thousands of years back, in the stone age, where people huntered and gathered. The popular view is that men hunted and women gathered. This at least partly supports the family structure of the industrial society, and gives people a reason to believe that this kind of family is "in our genes". More recent research spreads doubt about even this. While it was probably normal that men did the hunt for large animals (mammoth and the elk), there seems to have been women who took part in this hunt. And they definitely did hunt smaller animals like bunnies.

In short, and no big surprise, men and women at all times did what they needed to do to keep themselves and their children fed and clothed. In that respect, the new families of our generation are hardly any different. But the family ties may be more strained these days, as are all relationships in a world that runs and gyrates around us at dizzying speed.

In the pocket of my summer jacket, I found a chocolate bar from last summer! It tasted a bit dry.

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