• Berlin
  • John Riceburg: A startup for kid-sharing?


John Riceburg: A startup for kid-sharing?

John is thinking about death, and also kids. And hoping the "sharing economy" will come through for him.

Image for John Riceburg: A startup for kid-sharing?
Photo by anjanettew (CC BY-SA 2.0)

I have no use for a car in Berlin – I hate those filthy, noisy, climate-killing contraptions. And as is well known, I love the BVG. But once every couple of years, when I need to transport more beer than I can stuff into two Ikea bags hanging from my bike handlebars, I realise that a PKW can be awfully convenient. Where I used to have to call a taxi, now I can just use car sharing. All the fun of driving without any of the years-long commitment. Thanks, so-called “sharing economy”!

And that, in a roundabout way, brings me to kids. You see, I’m getting old. How do I know? It’s not just the creaking neck. It’s that more and more of my friends are having children. In the circles I run in, people have kids in the second half of their thirties – putting it off until the last biologically possible second.

Yes, with modern medical technology, pregnancies are possible even after 60. And even more people are using adoption or surrogacy to have children at that age. Nonetheless, the only thing that really motivates people to get kids, as far as I can tell, is the idea that it’s basically their last fucking chance (without expensive treatments).

There is so much ambivalence. Of course all parents say they never regret their decision for a second. But they would say that, wouldn’t they? They say they love being tied down with a child around the clock. But they do tend to fade away as individuals with their own interests and hobbies. Louis CK, himself a parent, has pointed out that this is the only job that you can never quit:

“Any parent who is honest will tell you, you live with that ambivalence. You look at the face of your beautiful, lovely child and you think two things at the exact same time: ‘I love this kid so much that it ‘s changed my whole life.’ (…) And: ‘I regret every decision that led to her birth.’ That’s how it feels.”

I don’t even own houseplants, let alone pets. I’m definitely not ready for this kind of commitment.

But I do love kids! Don’t get me wrong. Thanks to my yearly pass to the zoo and the fact that I can name way more animals than your average adult, kids love me too. At the moment, I spend about four hours a week on childcare for very small relatives. I love it. I could totally imagine upping that to 12 hours a week – maybe even 48. But no way I’m doing 168 hours a week!

So here’s my startup idea: kid-sharing!

Human beings likely evolved in clans of 50 or so individuals. So this idea of two people being responsible for child-rearing is totally unnatural anyway. For the last 10,000 years of civilization, our family units have gotten smaller and smaller – many children today are the responsibility of one single adult. Maybe it’s time to use modern technology to reverse that trend.

Giving German classes to refugees, I met an old man who was part of Germany’s ’68 generation of radicals. He said he had “non-biological kids”. He and his comrades all moved into a big house and lived communally for decades – including raising children together. So he has kids to whom he has no biological or legal relation. But they are still “his” kids – as well as being the kids of several other relatives and non-relatives.

Like Aziz Asnari on his show Master of None, I’m tossing the idea back and forth: Do I want to be an eternally stressed parent? Or just the cool uncle? I could totally imagine being a co-parent in a commune. It’s just that communes, in contrast to 40 years ago, are not easy to find. Not even on Airbnb.

But then it hit me: A modern solution would be kid-sharing. Just log into an app to take over some parenting responsibilities. And once some venture capital gets into this, I’m sure you’d find lots of high-tech solutions: Surge pricing for going Easter egg hunting. Discounts for babies that cry a lot.

If anyone wants to develop this, let me say this idea is free. Or anyone know of any communes opening up?