Home Concepts Adult Development VIII.Generativity One: Raising Children and Engaging Projects

VIII.Generativity One: Raising Children and Engaging Projects

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Frequently, our impact is discovered many years later in the lives of our children, grandchildren, and perhaps even great grandchildren. While the distant shore is not far away in term of space, it is often far away in terms of time. Similarly, the lingering impact of our work in life might be found in a project we have initiated as its influence cascades across many other segments of our society. Everything changes a little to accommodate the minor intrusion we have made on the fabric of our community, social system, nation or world. We tread on the earth and leave an imprint. This is what Generativity One is all about.

Early on, and certainly by the time we are young adults, we hope that something endures beyond our life.  We hope there will be a legacy, a remnant that endures.  As Parker Palmer has noted, we don’t want to believe that the water has no memory of the pebble. We give birth to children and begin a project during our young adulthood often in hopes of leaving a mark on a distant shoreline. Furthermore, we often need help in leaving this mark, especially if it involved giving birth to one or more child and raising it. Thus, the first generativity role is often engaged in relationship with another person.  There is collaborative generativity. While joint generativity is to be found in Generativity Two, Three, and Four, it is particularly prevalent in Generativity Two. We find in an enduring, intimate relationship the opportunity to bear and raise children. In this chapter, we turn to stories of first order generativity told by couples about the challenges and gratifications that come from shared generativity.

Not all adults find generativity in the raising of children. Some find generativity in a special project they initiate while in young adulthood or even later in life (e.g., lobbying the state legislature for a special cause, staring a not-for-profit organization, planting an annual community vegetable garden). In many instances, we have found that these projects are also shared with a life partner. In this chapter we weave together the narratives of child-raising with stories about conducting a mutual project because we believe these processes are often parallel. And for many of the people we interviewed, a shared project is their “baby” and should in no way be diminished by being relegated to some secondary role or defined as a “surrogate” for the child-rearing process. We turn first to the central question in the engagement of first order generativity: should we raise a child or initiate a mutual project?

We rely in this essay on interviews conducted over the past twenty years with men and women who have been involved in an enduring intimate relationship.

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