Note: I was working on this miniature essay just before Katrina. I’ve only just finished now.
I fully realize that most people don’t think much about whether or not to have kids. They either know what they want and act on that instinct, or they don’t think about it at all and just do what comes naturally.
But I’ve never been like most people. In fact, one of my favorite pastimes over the years has been philosophical speculation on the implications of having children — or not, as the case may be. Over the past year, especially, my thinking on this matter has crystallized. And the crystal is perfectly opaque. I am deeply ambivalent.
There’s plenty of arguments either way: We should have a child because we’d be good parents. We should not have a child so we can spend more money on ourselves. We should have a child so someone will care about us in our old age. We should not have a child because the planet is crowded enough as it is. We should have a child because it would silence those annoying people who dismiss our opinions because of our childlessness. We should not have a child because it would interfere with sleeping late on the weekends. And on and on.
Any of these arguments can be countered quite easily. But I’m drawn to the drama of ultimate, universal, philosophical arguments which aren’t so easy to refute. And so, I am now prepared to offer two ultimate arguments for and against having kids. One pro and one con, as befits my divided psyche. I’m not even sure which to present first, as that might seem to privilege one argument over the other. Such is the delicate balance of my soul!
Whatever. Here goes. I flipped a coin, and so I’ll present the pro argument first:
- We should have a child because there would be more love in the world. I feel certain that I would love any child of mine. Xy would too. I think our mutual love for one another would only be multiplied. And the child would, presumably, love us. That’s a whole lot of love!
Mary recently had a baby and has advocated quite passionately:
Having survived the last 7 months, I too feel sorry for my friends that did not or will not have a child. It is an entire world of emotion and a reality-altering experience. Who would not wish for their friends to have lives filled with love? It’s not a love that takes away from the love they feel for their sig other or families or friends, but a brand new addition.
- The con argument:
Life is mysterious. We don’t know what it’s all about, and we can’t know, and that means we can’t answer the most basic, fundamental questions. Does existence have any meaning or purpose? We can’t answer! That’s part of the human condition. We who find ourselves thrown into the game have to play the hand we’re dealt, and make the best of it. But that doesn’t mean we have to deal anyone else in. If we can’t affirm that life is worth living, then intentional reproduction is morally ambiguous at best. Therefore we should not have a child.
And there you have it. Caught between the proverbial rock and hard place. An insoluble philosophical conundrum!
You should have a child because the world needs more smart, loving, inquisitive people, the likes of which you are surely most qualified and likely to produce.
That’s my take, anyway. Perhaps you should let a vote of your peers decide!
There are excellent arguments on both sides. I wouldn’t presume to tell you which is right for you and Xy. I would say to consider both sides and possibly additional alternatives.
The best thing that you’ll ever do.
What else are we here for anyway?
They come in handy around 15 April 😉
I think yer thinking too much and too hard about this. Kids are a lot of work and they’re a lot of fun. That’s the long and short of it. You either want ’em or ya don’t. If you have a kid, they’re not gonna care if you’ve justified and rationalized the decision to have ’em, they’re just gonna want to know that you want ’em.
I agree with Bartender J and Mike the Mathematician.
I was one of those that knew what I wanted and acted on instinct. Now, 2 kids later, It has been a fun, crazy(in a good way), unimaginable(until you are really in it), intense adventure. But most of all we have been filled with a love that we never knew existed- and that is cool! I am partial to your pro argument…in case you didn’t catch my drift 🙂
Given what we can witness about the tenacity of life – I think it’s pretty clear that our selfish genes are driving us to reproduce. But what you are saying is that out of love for an entity not to be created, you have decided to defy your genes and spare it the rough-and-tumble of reality. But how can you really love something which doesn’t exist?
Given your healthy attitude, I would say just go for it.
Don’t deny yourself the experience just because of the uncertainty. Having recently gone through it all – deciding and making and having (plus running from Katrina, Rita and Wilma all around the zero day) – I wouldn’t take it back. I thought about a lot of pros and cons, and there was never a clear-cut choice in the end. We just decided to go for it. It was and is still hard to think about all the uncertainty of the future. One huge thing was my worrying about having a healthy child and delivery – and we got this far. There’s still so much more to go through, it’s scary.
Oh, and there are those who will tell you you’re not a parent until you have two kids – so as far as silencing the annoying people, one is NOT enough (although it is enough for us).
I decided no a long time ago, and I get a lot of shit from the “you’re so selfish” crowd, not to mention my baby-crazy catholic relatives. I had a lot of trouble figuring out exactly why, until a shrink pried it out of me, and it has to do a lot with my own mental illness and my fear of spreading it on to someone else. That’s not exactly the cheery answer I’d like to print on a shirt and wear all day, but I think it’s valid.
I have yet to see a motivation for having a child that is not, fundamentally, selfish. The reasons stated thus far are no exception.
I suggest if you DO decide to have a baby, buy bottled water! (I just watched the 8 months post katrina clip)
You don’t have children.
Well, that explains 99% of your blogs.
I feel like I can barely take care of myself…bringing a child into my crazy life seems like abuse.
What ELSE are we here for? Is this all there is?
Presuming nature allows the luxury of decision, everyone has to make that decision for themselves.
Here’s the thing. Don’t have a child – always wonder on quiet days ‘what if?’
Have a child – and well, I’ve not met a well-balanced person that regrets it. How can you regret falling in love? How can you regret laughing? How can you regret knowing that now you have a chance of surviving in the world a little longer than your own body will allow? How can you regret giving someone else the chance to explore and learn and discover, as you did? And how can you regret being a part of it?
Sure, now that we have our girl, we have to plan things a little more carefully. And the first few months of parenthood are knock-your-socks-off intense.
But just yesterday, as I was hugging her, I told Paul that “there’s a lot of love in our house.”
Having made the call to do it, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I’m gona have to say the con argument is by far the waeker. Your pro argument posits a clear benefit; your con identifies an uncertainty. A risk analysis would lean to adopting the positive viewpoint.
I myself don’t want kids because I actually believe that the con argument is: Life creates pain and suffering. I will inflict large amounts of pain and suffering on myself and on others in the course of my existence. How can I possibly accept the responsibility for bringing a whole new batch of pain receptors into being?
I never had kids of my own, but I was a stepdad for a while. Two arguments on the plus side: Being responsible for a kid will help you get over any lingering self centeredness. It won’t cure it, that’s up to you, with or without children. it’s just harder to be self absorbed with children. I can think of a couple of happy, loving, postive couples I know who have had kids. Their kids are so great that they just about outweigh all of the damage done by all of the damaged kids of damaged parents that I know.
Negative side: Obviously, I wasn’t too taken with the idea. Lots of time to read, write, listen to music, meditate, act eccentrically and irresponsibly and be myself without undue fear of consequences. Parents tend to be timid and conservative. They have a lot invested and a lot to lose. Sometimes that drive toward selflessness can be turned back inward. Parents can become self important assholes. Like all of those self righteous jerks who are always starting Mothers against —- groups. Came across a horrible racist woman in LA who calls herself “Mothers Against Illegal Immigration”. A friend suggested forming Parents Against Mothers Against Illegal Immigration.
this is written on the fly from the heart so there will be no spell check before posting..
i have made a decision not to have kids because i came from a messed up childhood and did not want a kid to go thru the same childhood i went thru.
that being said i was raised by a strong mother who did her best and got me and my little brother thru some hard times including living in the projects for a year after my dad split.
my mom is a retired r.n. who allways had a gig but had to live with her two sons in the projects to make ends meet for a year.
that and the fact that my dad split made me aware of the fact that i would never do the same to a kid.
in 1980 i got a lady pregnant who is a nurse.. we went thru an an abortion at delta womens clinic on saint charles ave. that included protesters with signs of abortated fetus’
i became aware of the fact that it was my sperm and my responsibility. the fact that she was a nurse and told me sex was safe didnt mean shit when your going to the clinic
flash forward 20 years and i have a wife and a mortgage i love this woman and our life and there was a moment when she was late and i swore to her that even tho it was not by choice we would sacrafice and make the kid whole…
the blood flowed two days later and we were off the hook of being parents……
i guess the point im trying to make is i spent the last few years trying to grow as a human and i am still sexually active without making kids.
i try not to judge …. its ok for people to have kids its just not for me…….
now that im in a stable place and could actually take care of a kid i choose not to have one because i dont want a teenager in my house when im 60.
yah that is selfish or is it? i have two god daughters and thats enough.
Maybe in this sort of decision, the woman’s opinions should carry more weight. It seems like she would be the one doing most of the physical labor, not just in the sense of having the baby, but in doing all the miscellaneous stuff after it is born.
wow, the thought of wiping ass for two years, what a drag. . . from what I have seen in real life, most men don’t really want the wife and kids gig other than as a cub scout patch accomplishment and I think most parents lie about how great it is. Sounds like a gigantic bore.
The love you have for a spouse is deep and special, but the love you have for your kids is painful in its intensity. The pride you have in your own accomplishments makes you feel good, but the pride you have in the accomplishments of your children makes you feel phenomenal. The fears that you have as you go through life, whether they be associated with finances, personal or professional failures, health, crime, etc. will be magnified when you bring children into the picture. I really can’t find the right words to explain the emotions, but all emotions are incredibly heightened when you have kids. Not everyone is prepared to handle life on that higher emotional level. Sometimes I wonder why I didn’t opt for the calmer, childless route, but my kids make me experience life in a way that would have been lost without them. I am grayer, financially poorer and more tired at the end of each day because I have children, but when I look at my kids I know that the world is a better place because they are in it and the personal riches they provide cannot be measured by earthly standards.
No offense to your friend, but it bugs the shit out of me when I hear people say that they “feel sorry” for people who choose not to have children. How about feeling sorry for the children who grow up with ambivalent–or worse, abusive–parents who didn’t think out what being a parent was going to entail?
My mother hated being a mother. She did it because it was expected of her and I dealt with the depression it caused her [and me] for the first 15-20 years of my life. It was so awesome to have to talk my mom out of killing herself every other day, to be sure.
Don’t get me wrong, I do believe that many people who choose to procreate who will be good parents and I’m sure the love they feel is very strong and, yeah, maybe I’ll never know that love. But I’m OK with that. I don’t feel at all guilty for trying like hell to give that sort of love back to myself by NOT having children. I don’t even have health insurance, why should I want to bring a child into my life?
Likewise, I don’t generally trust people I don’t know. In fact, especially living in a large city, the bulk of people I encounter on a daily basis are so misguided and stupid and I could never trust them with my child. It’s not just parents that raise a child, it’s also the community in which the child is raised. I have a nearly photographic memory of crazy fucking shit that teachers and relatives and friends of the family said or did to me when I was a child–things that would have warped or fucked up a weaker less intelligent child way more than it did me.
Luckily for me, my mother fully acknowledges that she was wrong to have had a child and has never pressured me to have one. She is terrible with children and she knows it and does not want a grandchild. This is a true relief to me, as most single women I know are not as fortunate. The pressure to get married and have children is still very strong in this culture. Total strangers feel comfortable approaching women and asking them about their personal lives.
I don’t begrudge people the right to have children if that’s what they want to do, but I really wish this superior “I’m so much more enlightened than you because I’ve experienced having kids” bullshit would end. The majority of people in the world choose to have kids. Having kids is not as unique as NOT having them. Maybe I’M the enlightened one, you know?
We want to have a child, but will have to adopt. We’ve been waiting for several years and learned a great deal about foster care and adoption. Be thankful you can at least choose relatively freely.
Frankly, I want help with chores and to look more legit when I start to scream at refs and children at youth soccer games. Right now, it is a bit difficult to explain why I am ranting and kicking dirt all over the place. My claims of my pure love for the game, unsullied by any parental connection, have proven unsatisfactory to the police so far. I hope a child will make the restraining orders go away.
Sonya and I have been comtemplating EXACTLY everything you have about the pros and cons. And even if we find out that one or both of us doesn’t bear fruit, there is always adoption, and in some ways the best choice of all.
Regardless, if I have a child will some of my single or non-parental friends stop calling me and at some point get annoyed with a baby around?
I have noticed that as the years past, slowly one by one our friends start having kids and/or stop going out. So as much as I want to keep the good times of the past alive (going out for drinks, dinner, seeing music, getting crazy), I know that I’m kind of losing my friends to having their own families and or losing that edge. Right now most of our outgoing friends are in fact single/dating (non-married). Only a few married friends like to shake things up, and I cherish those people.
Anyway, if I have a kid, I’m still gonna be mixing drinks, going to art shows, watching ROX, and writing Liquid Crystal Display songs. I say that now, but what if I have a kid and start parking my ass on the couch cause I’m too tired to care anymore. God help me.
Waxing philosphically is OK, I guess, but spab hit on an important issue. Are you ready to change your life in order to meet the needs of a narcissistic bundle of “need me now”? For B & XY, I feel confident that they’d be ready, willing, and able to meet the needs of a child if they decided they want one, so my advice to them was to think about whether or not they wanted one. But, as was mentioned earlier, this is, and should be, a selfish decision. The payoff is that you’ll experience things you wouldn’t as a non-parent. The cost is that your life will change and you will have implicitly agreed to meet the needs of a dependant.
If you don’t want to have a child, well, any reason is valid. Like I said, it’s a selfish decsion. You need not explain it to anyone but you (and your partner if applicable). Everyone else can fuck off…not their situation, not their decision.
But, yer reason for having a child should always include: I am ready, willing, and able to spend the time necessary to be a good parent. If that’s not a part of your reason to have a child, then yer a fuckin’ jerkoff. I mean, it’s nice to have ample money and experience for raising a child, but all that can be overcome if yer hell-bent on spending the *time* it takes to be a parent. And that time comes from someplace and that someplace is usually yer social life.
Now, that’s not always a bad thing, fer sure. You can go to the park and swing on the swings and you won’t have a police officer asking you why a fat, middle aged man is playing on playground equipment. You can go and see all the really cool animated movies and not have a date, or friends and relatives, question yer maturity. You can buy a copy of Jungle Book at K-Mart for $8.99, come home, blow a doob, and kick back with the little one on yer lap while the better half makes dinner…that’s more fun than it sounds like.
You can also say goodbye to a lot of spontaneous beer grabbing. Maintaining a household with a child means planning because if you don’t coordinate with yer partner (if you’ve got one), then one of you will end up working harder than the other. Most often, the mom will spend more time meeting the direct needs of the kid which means that dad should, had better, pick up the slack. So, if you *need* to spend every Saturday afternoon on the golf course, then you *need* to negotiate that with yer partner and you *need* to be fair about it or else you’ll most certainly be in a resentment situation and that’s not good…for the entire family.
It’s important to have alone time and it’s important to have “just grown up time” and it’s important to have “just me and my buds” times. Those times become rare especially during the infant and toddler years. You’ll find yerself judging the value of those times as they occur and you’ll find yerself getting pissed off when those times aren’t what you expected and/or needed. You’ll not be the least bit pleased when you sit in a pub, alone, waiting on yer dumbass single friends for an hour while they get sidetracked. That hour wasn’t free.
So, once you’ve analyzed the moral, philosophical, and cosmic implications of bringing another life into this universe, decide if you want a kid, and then decide if yer willing to pay the price (time). It’s really three separate decisions.
B, your con argument is weak. If none of this means anything, why be with XY? Why get married? I have a feeling that the love is going to win this battle.
For me, the major pro is the experience. I would like to do it all. And let’s face, whether you want to have kids or not, creating another human being is a big thing to miss. It’s not like bungie jumping or something. It’s huge. Also, for some peculiar reason, it’s starting to feel as though something is missing. Sometimes we do things together and think, “this would be more fun if we had a kid to share it with.”
The con is the massive uncertainty. Would I be able to handle it if something went wrong? The problem with big love is that it is often the source of big pain. And that scares the shit out of me. Because I’m such a pussy.
All excellent comments. I would like to pipe up from the other side of it. I have 2 grown sons and a grandson. I was one of those who had a baby young and stupid. Then, I had another one because I was neurotic about having an only child. I knew nothing, but I found out. I invented it as I went along. I set rules for myself: they didn’t ask to be born, therefore, I would sacrifice for them and not the other way around. It didn’t come naturally to me, so I wound up with a rather eccentric household. Your con argument worries me all the time and I have dealt with it by being honest with the kids. I don’t have any answers for them, but they are OK with it. They would prefer to exist and be in the dark with me than to not exist at all. They will never hold existence against you, unless something very unfortunate happens to change their mental balance. It’s OK if you can’t do everything.
As Carol says, the love is the greatest thing ever and the fear is the worst imaginable. If you are an animal lover, it’s like raising a dog from a puppy, but magnified unbelievably. As Roux says, the fear of something going horribly wrong is mind-numbing. I realized, however, that even if my kid had turned out to be the Elephant Man, soon he would just be Johnny to me. These fears have more basis as women age, so, all young ladies, do it if you are going to.
I will tell you a story of something that made me feel so good: When my oldest son was six, I left the kids with a babysitter and went to see David Bowie. I told them about him before I left and played a CD. The next day, we were in the car and my son said, “Mom? Now that Elvis is dead, is David Bowie going to be the king of rock and roll?” For the first time, I realized that the BABY was a PERSON. He was having ideas independent of me. Not only can we talk, but I have to be careful what I say because he believes me. I guess what I mean by this is that it’s not just bringing some cute little parasite into the world to love you. They grow into people and they act and make and do. They can be Shakespeare, or Jonas Salk, or they can be your best friend and make you a killer ham sandwich. You never regret one second of time that you invest in them.
Oh, and the grandchild is total gravy.
Here’s two more con arguments:
First, you state that, presumably, you and Xy would be good parents. That is a big presumption, one independent of your intentions or effort. The only meaningful opinion of your parenting would be your child’s. And I think some of the posted comments are illustrative of the rose-colored glasses through which our society expects us to view familial dynamics. In short, a lot of people are ambivalent (at best) about parents who did their best.
Second, since you started waxing philosophical, creating a child means conferring on someone else the burden of existence. That is no small thing in the best of times. But given the dark period that looms before us, politically and ecologically, it’s a doubly troubling proposition.
Editor B- Interesting discussion!
I believe that having a child can be a wonderfully rich and rewarding experience. However, it will definitely change the way you live your life. I think what is important is if you can still feel passionately about bringing a new life into the world after understanding the level of sacrifice that will be required.
I think the argument that a child will create more love is beautiful, but a bit half baked. It might be more truthful to say could create more love. As Shakespeare said “So much can slip betwixt cup and lip”. Even being incredibly capable parents won’t ensure a fairy tale ending.
I think Joe makes some good points about political and ecological instability, but differ a bit on the statement that the only meaningful opinion of your parenting is your child’s. Its wonderful when children appreciate how their parents have raised them, but that doesn’t always happen right away or ever. Does a child’s ambivalence indicate a failure of parenting? I think not. Ambivalence in human relationships is simply an avenue of fantasizing “What if?” or perhaps a channelization of free floating dissatisfaction. A child’s opinion of the ways he was raised matters, but also important are if the parents have been true to their values.
Ideally you have a child becasue it’s something you really really really want to do together. Life IS mysterious – and the way you will feel about your child (biological, adopted, foster) at once magnifies and resolves the mystery. It is the only thing I have ever done in which I never doubted for one second that I was spending my time in the most important possible way.
Maybe the decision to have a child or not cannot be arrived at through logical or philosophical reasoning, the reason being that the urge to reproduce is part of our biological composition. The reason we have not become extinct is that we have this urge to perpetrate our species.
I have been thinking about this choice as well, having kids or not. Your argument about love is a good point, but if you look at the world around you, you will see that the suffering, not to mention the boredom, far outweighs the joys of living. As human beings we devote 30% of our time to sleep, 50% to work or study (which has been invented to make us productive, but is rarely fun for majority of the population – ergo, it is merely toil), and the remaining 20% is spent on hobbies, etc which are designed to kill time. So in sum all we really do is sleep, toil, and kill time.
I have been perusing the web literatue for arguments that are pro-children, and to date I have not found any that are not selfish. The idea that parenting will teach you to be selfless is in itself selfish, as it will ultimately benefit and develop your own character.
I have therefore arrived at the conclusion that the decision to have children, if it is going to be in the affirmative, cannot be reached through reason alone. You argument is the best pro I have read thus far, provided that you and xy will continue to love each other. (Studies show that marital bliss is substantially reduced by the introduction of children. )
I just spent the past 20 minutes reading all of the posts here – and I’d like to thank you all for it. I’m 25, married to the best girl in the world (besides the fact that she is hellbent on having kids and I’m not as much right now) and trying to do some REAL reading on other peoples’ experiences on having kids other than talking to moms who say “It’s the best thing you’ll ever do”.
I’m already seeing that marraige changes your life (duh!!) in a lot of ways that are pretty much impossible to control, which most that I notice are about spending time with those whom you love. Mike The Mathematician pretty much hit the nail on the head for me by talking about being able to spend time with your buddies having a beer or going to a concert, etc. I am very determined to make music, and I know that this (as well as any other hobby/life interest in which you’re serious about) and having children to raise clash in the most affecting ways. I also own my own technical consulting business, which I really hope won’t be affected in the “be able to spend time on it” type of way (for the sake of our future family’s finances), although I’m sure it will be.
I think, being the non-child-having person that I am, that the best way to be able to juggle these things is to be completely and totally objectionable about it. This world is made up of nothing but patterns. If you can consiously see the patterns in everything in your life (job, SO, family, friends, hobbies) you can meld them together and create a balance that will make you sit back and go “Hey, this is fun, not horrible!”
Now I’m sure people will laugh at me (and I will at myself) at those times when you can’t consiously realize something like this when you’ve got 0.5 hours of sleep, a shitty diaper to change and now you have to change your shirt and wash your face because you got sprayed with piss, super-soaker style, and you’re wondering to yourself, “I wonder if I’ll ever get to hang out with my buddies and not have to worry about kids again”… And obviously these are completely valid thoughts. IMHO, life is all about balance (I know, I should go smoke some pot cuz I’m such a hippie). But seriously. The only thing in life and the universe that can really be proven is math. Math comprises EVERYTHING. Balance is a delicate consistancy that one might associate with peace and happiness. If you’ve got too much of one thing you need to balance it out with the opposite. Like parents who have kids and hate it because that’s all they can do – you NEED to be able to balance your life or you’ll be unhappy. Now obviously, having kids makes it hard to balance because they’re one of those ‘you need to have 100% of your time dedicated to them because they NEED you to survive’ things.. but hey, that’s what family and friends are for, right? “It takes a village to raise a child” kinda comes to mind… Get those grandmas and grandpas and other people who love kids ready to share in the beauty of taking care of kids, because if you try and do it all yourself you’ll fall sideways on your ass, because you’re off balance. =)
Hope that helps some people, I know it’s helped me by typing it. =) SMOKE WEED!
[…] All of which reminds me: although nobody seemed to pick up on the hint I dropped back in May, we are Officially Trying. No luck so far, but trying is fun. […]
I’ve read a lot of dribble here folks.. Women have children for three reasons: to fulfill their sense of uselessness, to live up to their Mother’s expectations (because that is what DEFINES a woman in our culture and most cultures) and to fulfill their lives. Conversely, men have children for two reasons: out of obligation and out of pride (look what I did with my penis; oh, and share in my phallic symbollism by taking this cigar). These are, and will ALWAYS be the reasons unfortunately. I’m disturbed that regardless of a 50% divorce rate resulting in incredibly hurtful and terrible outcomes, (ALMOST ALL) people continue to have children. If that’s not self serving, I don’t know what is.
Neither pro, nor con… just a response… to say — “I don’t know”…
In a relationship… w/ a young woman (she’s great). I’m 30 ~ she’s 25…
I can feel it starting… her friends are starting to get married… a part of me is thinking… fu**, I don’t want kids… I’m also starting to ask myself questions while I’m driving, like… what’s the point of all this (life)? I think – well, I could have a kid and maybe it’d give my life – more meaning… but, wait I like to sleep and I don’t have a ton of money. Do I think I am in the position to give this kid a better life — than the one I’ve had? Not right now & I have a Masters degree… It’s like this… if I had a bigger house, I’d have a dog and probably a cat. However, if I had more money, would I want a kid? I don’t know. I just saw that movie: “Trust The Man” & it hits on conversational relationship issues, like… guys who don’t want to step up to the plate, because (in this film) the character says… “I don’t want it to be over (speaking of his life) and I guess that’s the feeling I get… the moment I have kids.. the life I know, is over and this new life — where the kids come first begins… I’m just gonna stop here… and say, i don’t know.
Pro argument – Well, both people in the relationship prove that their fertile.
Con arguments – Up to the day he died, my dad always reminded me that if I hadn’t been born, he and my mom would’ve never gotten divorsed. (A point of view only he took self-pity with.) Then again, it seems like every couple that I know got divorced within five years of their “bundles of joy”. By contrast, my live-in girlfriend and I – never married, no kids by mutual agreement – are approaching 25 years together. Coincidence?
Ever wonder what percentage of children are born purposefully? I say it’s the people making bad decisions and being promiscuous that are filling the world with new faces. Abortion obviously wouldn’t be such a huge issue if this wasn’t the case. The state of the world today practically requires a babysitter or childcare of some sort anyway. We are not living the life of more kids meaning more workers on the family farm. The current economic and social decline doesn’t exactly make for a fertile breeding ground for humans. So I must say the people having children on purpose must be the ones not weighing out the pros and cons of reproducing. I would say most become parents because they are not secure enough with their own selves to go against the mentally ingrained wishes of their family, friends, and society. If a person or couple makes the decision to not have kids it should be respected. It’s sad that so many people think reproducing is their sole purpose in life.
Wow. OK. Thanks to everyone’s comments here. It’s been about an hour of reading all of this and I have to say, despite the fact that I have my Masters and deal with people every day, I simply don’t have all the answers (something Ive been telling myself a lot more as I grow older – Im now 36).
So here it goes world. Im 36, I have a 14 year old boy from a previous union (way long ago), Ive never been married, and I’m in a 5 year relationship with a woman who is completely set on having kids…
Yea, we love each other, we’re both gainfully employed and as you’ve guessed it – my 14 year old drives my partner absolutely fuckin nuts (and well, me too sometimes). It’s sometimes a hard life, dealing with the ups and downs of a teenager, especially at my young age – wait, am I still young? At least I’m assured an offspring, right? Umm…but my partner is not…
So… to have or not have kids…that is the question…I’ve tried philosophizing…Ive tried using logic or moral arguments…I’ve even tried talking to old neighbours (many of whom I really dont like but believe that someday something amazing is suddenly gonna come out of their mouths and I will feel this intense sense of insight and awe…) but not yet… the bottom line folks is that I still simply don’t know the answer… I believe it is most likely that the “truth”, the “insight” and the answer will “come from within”, but ya know what? You guessed it, life is a continual unfolding process, uh huh, filled with people who have competing interests and share a selfish, yet empathic, never-ending-thoughtful existence.
Here’s the deal – as soon as I decide no more kids, the partner leaves. I’ve been boldly honest with her thus far (I owed her that much), and told her I really don’t know about having more kids. I understand her point (she’s never had any and wants to feel what its like, care for them, have a family together blah blah) but she simply wants children, or else she’s out. Period.
A deal breaker? Definately. Is it about love for the other person? Definately not.
My own interpretation of Dante would be to suggest that at least Limbo was a better place than hell? Right?
Dont have them if you don’t want to, I know plenty of couples and single friends who don’t have children and live very happy and content lives and actually have to find true meaning in their lives rather than cranking out kids and calling it a day. More and more people than ever are not having kids at all and it is a fast growing trend that will benefit the world as a whole because we are already overcrowded as it is. Anybody who uses the selfish argument saying that you are selfish if you don’t have kids is stupid and if you have good intentions and have thought about it and don’t want kids than more power to you.
Thanks, Will. Problem is, society just doesn’t seem to be friendly to those of us who have decided to not have kids. I recently read a pretty good article put out by Maclean’s magazine on the subject. It was entitled, “The case against having kids”, front page, and quoted a lot of top people / sociologists /writers on the subject. Definately worth a read for all you curious people out there.
I recently broke up with my partner (5 years long) over this battle, so it has NOT been an easy journey here. She wanted kids, I did not. End of story. I have a 14 year old, she has no children. Im at the peak of my career and still young (37), in good health, bought my first house a year ago, and recently finished my Masters degree. Having more babies just doesn’t feel right. Selfish? Well, the word is actually whether or not it “serves me”, not “selfish”, and the answer is, babies do not “serve me” at this time. Therefore, over and out, I’m finally decided…but not without a fight!
There are so many different sides to this topic. My partner and I decided not to have children since we met 20 years ago. That decision was in large part based on our respective upbringings. I was born to a mother who was a total social climber, had to be the best at everything -from receiving the President’s medal at University to becoming the first lady to occupy the top job in her field. Needless to say, my needs came last after career, socializing and deciding which designer outfit to purchase. My mother and I get along now and she’s the first one to admit that she wasn’t there for me when I was growing up Say what you will but some childhood damage remains in your life, forever…. I have a pattern of attracting friends in to my life who for the most part don’t have the time of day for me because they are too busy being self-righteous about having the most important job in the world “I’m a mother, but you wouldn’t know about that, would you?” No I wouldn’t know about that but what I do know is that myself and my partner will not contribute to the undo suffering and proliferation of ego-dominated unconscious individuals that wreak havock on our planet.
My partner’s mother had 6 children, an unsupportive husband and a mental breakdown. After years of dealing with her manic depression and paranoid pchysophrenic episodes, it all came to a head when he found his sister with slit wrists in the upstairs bathroom His mother’s only comment being:”She deserves to bleed.” So after these love-filled childhoods, it’s hard to imagine why we chose not to have children!! Unfortunately, not every man or woman is equipped with the mental fortitude or loving, nurturing instincts to become good parents. If you are conscious enough to be aware of this fact, thank God!! You will save some innocent children years of unneccesary suffering.
Please save the “You have no compassion for the mentally ill comments. I myself have suffered with depression off and on for 20 years and I know that our thoughts create our reality. Fortunately I’ve learned how to manage this mental illness through cognitive monitoring and physical exercise. Personal responsibility is my purpose in life or staying sane in an insane world. I’ve also forgiven my mother and my partner’s mother for any of their shortcomings as parents and have relationships with both.”
Q: Are you thinking about having a baby, but you’re in doubt?
A: I would humbly suggest, ‘when in doubt, there is no doubt.’
Unless you are 100% prepared to face the hardest job EVER invented, don’t even think about tackling it.
And I don’t mean ‘prepared’ financially etc, I mean PSYCHOLOGICALLY.
Unless you have gotten over your insecurities and feeling unloved, unworthy, unlikable – don’t even think about it.
Unless you are prepared to devote the next 20 YEARS of your life to the being that you’re contemplating bringing in to this world – don’t even think about it.
TRUTHFULLY – are you having a child just to show your mother that you can? Just to live up to your family’s expectations? Just to leave home? Just to answer for yourself the question ‘What is the meaning of life?’ Just to negate your feelings of uselessness? Just to show other people that you are a ‘real’ woman? If ANY of the above apply – don’t even think about it.
Unless you can say with ABSOLUTE honesty that the ONLY reason you are wanting/having a child is so that you can love it, support it, cherish it, nurture it, adore it, help it grow, help it live in this crazy world AND help it to help this crazy world, then DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT!
Your needs will always come second, the child’s needs come first. ALWAYS. Wakarimasuka? Unless you understand and LIVE that, you will be unable to be the parent you’d like to be.
Q: How do you think serial killers are formed? Sadistic rapists? Wildfire starters? Bullies? Wife batterers?
A2: Or were their parents, their upbringing, their environment, so corrupted, inept, ignorant and fearful that there was no other possible outcome?
It does take a whole village to raise a child, and unless you have one in your back pocket, you are going to be STRUGGLING; and feeling guilty about the struggle between parenting and work, between coping and not coping, and feeling like you are not doing good enough, or even just enough, and feeling like maybe you made a mistake, and feeling guilty that you are thinking like that, which in turn makes you feel even more like you are not the world’s ‘best’ parent, and that you are a failure. Which brings you to the depths of despair and depression.
As ‘Rush’ say: ‘being perfect brought me to my knees’.
Q: Do you need to be a ‘perfect’ parent?
A: Depends if you want the ‘perfect’ child. (- And don’t you all?)
And if you accept that you can’t have/create/mold the perfect child, what level of imperfection are you prepared to accept? What level of parenting or parenting ‘failure’ are you prepared to tolerate?
And should your intended child be subjected to your ‘tolerable’ answer? Should our community, our planet, be subjected to that answer?
As noted by previous posts, the whole issue of people not having children being regarded as ‘selfish’, is totally discredited and baseless. One may need to ask rather, is wanting to HAVE children the selfish view? (I want a friend/I want someone to love/I want someone to love me/I want someone to do ballet because I didn’t get to do it/I want someone I can teach to be the next Bruce Lee because I wasn’t good enough/My ego wants to know that I made that/I want to be immortal.)
So, if you’re thinking that when you have a child, you’ll be: more likable, more lovable, more worthy, more successful, a better person, more sociable etc. then isn’t that just you wanting to ‘improve’ your life, specifically, by having a child?
And wouldn’t you agree that that would be selfish? Isn’t that about YOU, and not the child. And thus, is that a valid reason for wanting to have a child?
6.7 billion of us and counting. Too many people for the mismanaged way the corporations run this planet. Your child is another burden on the planet. It will eat meat, use electricity, be driven around in a car, live in a heated/air-conditioned home, sit on furniture made from the forests cut down around us – in short it will be a consumer of the world’s resources, just like you, just like me. And just like the other 6.7 billion others. Though the poor ones don’t have furniture, or cars, or air con, or meat – in short it’s WESTERN kids who are killing the planet – but I digress.
Posts by: Jeremy – May 9, 2006 – funny. Trapani – Feb 23, 2007 – good points. C – July 27, 2008 – good points.
Some more CON points from me now:
WORKLOAD – tremendous. Mainly by THE MOTHER. Partner won’t be around, or even if he is, won’t do enough. On housework alone, it’s estimated women do 70%. Changing diapers, getting up to feed, bathing, wiping, cooking, nursing, lullabying, reading, cutlunching, hoovering, cleaning the toilet etc. etc. – no matter how well intended hubby/partner might be, or says he is, it’s always going to be the MOTHER’S burden. HER responsibility.
FINANCIAL – estimates go as high as over 300 thousand dollars to raise a child to 18 yrs of age. (I know what I could do with that!)
HEALTH – for the mother: there is the risk of death (yes, even now, some women still DIE giving birth) or other ‘complications’ during childbirth, I won’t gross you out here, but do your research on ‘what can go wrong?’ Then there are the lifelong effects on the mother of any of those complications. Then there is the very real prospect of Post Natal Depression; which affects a vast percentage of new mothers. Who then feel guilty that they feel that way and thus seek no help and spiral down into a grief that can sometimes last for years.
For the child: what if you drank alcohol while you were pregnant, or coffee, of had a joint, or lived near high power electrical lines, or near a chemical factory, or near a freeway – in short, all the pollution that you were subjected to during your own life, and during your pregnancy WILL affect the health of your new born. And then if there are problems, these could be minor or major. Temporary or lifelong. And what if there is a genetic strain in your family’s DNA, that results in a problem of some kind. Between pollution and genetics what if your child is born with a mutation, abnormality, defect? Are you prepared for that? And, in that unfortunate instance, are you prepared to give your life over TOTALLY as a ‘CARER’? With little or no government/community support? Can you imagine what kind of DAILY hell that would be?
Once again, it’s down to you. It’s your responsibility for bringing this being into the world.
WORK – time off work. How long? Can you afford it financially? Can you afford it intellectually? Can you afford it socially? Most people are validated by what they do, by their work. Are you prepared to give that up for the short/long term? Will you be employable in 1, 2 or 5 years time after having ‘raised’ your child?
SEX – you love it now, but wait till you’ve been up for 22 hours nursing a sick child. You won’t have the energy, the time, the inclination. Or if you do, he won’t. Men can easily be put off sex, and things like baby poo smell on you, or seeing you on your hands and knees wiping up the latest mess etc. etc. can make Mr Happy, Mister not interested tonight. Then, when you do manage to get around to do it, in comes a crying child, saying that they want to sleep with you tonight. Or you hear a sound half way through, and your concentration immediately goes to the child in the next room. Or you’re afraid of waking them up. Or…fill in the blanks.
SOCIALIZING – get used to baby talk for a few years. Get used to not talking about adult things for a few years. Get used to not being able to go out to a movie tonight on the spur of the moment. Or going away for the weekend. Or even if you find the time, having the ENERGY to do those things is another thing altogether. Or what about catching up with friends? Who may not have the time, the energy, etc. because they are PARENTS too. And your single friends? What single friends, they’ve all DISAPPEARED.
SLEEP – one word, deprivation. And all its consequences. Just don’t operate any heavy machinery for the first two years. Like a car. Oh, and maybe defer any emotionally charged arguments with your partner as well. Things said cannot be taken back, and if you’re tired, we know how things can sometimes come out wrong. And something as major as this, is no doubt one of the reasons why 50% of all divorces happen within 5 years of a child being brought into the, loving, ‘family unit’.
FEAR – ‘you don’t know what fear is until you become a parent.’ Heard that before? Fear of anything, EVERYTHING going wrong.
Fancy living on a knife-edge every time the little one’s temperature goes above 99 degrees? Is home late from school? Starts choking on a sausage? Runs across the road without looking? Goes to a party with ‘friends’? EVERYTHING will set you off and you’ll end up in a sweat driven panic. (This apparently lasts for the child’s entire life.)
BABYSITTER – how easy is it going to be? Do you have that village? If not, do you really want some stupid 16-year-old cheerleader and the boyfriend she sneaks over, to watch over your child while you are out on your official ‘date night’. (- you know, the night that is supposed to get you and your partner both interested in each others bodies/minds again)
BODY IMAGE – whoa! A whole new world awaits you, the MOTHER. (‘Daddy’ surprisingly will have no ill effects from the pushing out and breast-feeding of mini-me)
Welcome to sagging breasts (take photos now so you can say how great they USED to look), expanded pelvis/hip/bottom area, erratic skin texture, hair LIMP and dead, bone density has left the building etc. etc. Not to mention that now wayyy stretched bit your partner likes (or used to like?) best. Your body will NEVER be the same again. On every level, right down to the cellular, your body will change, HAS to change, to accommodate, feed (inside), push out, feed (outside) the new unit.
But, maybe you can be like Madonna or any of those other celebs and get yourself a couple of nannies to help you out yeah? (- and maybe a surrogate to do the actual push out too?)
TEENAGE YEARS – are you a masochist?
WORLD – with global warming an ever darkening reality and its devastating effects just beginning, and social, financial, chaos looming at every turn, do you really want to bring someone new to that party?
I’ll finish now with PRO points to having a child:
Umm? …. – let’s get YOU to fill this bit in.
I’ll borrow a bit from previous post: women have children to fulfill their sense of uselessness, to live up to their family expectations (that is what defines a woman in most cultures), because their biology craves it.
Men have children because their wives want them, because their family wants them, and sometimes because they think they are so perfect, they simply have to pro-create.
Both, men and women sometimes have children to bring them closer together, to help their relationship, or thinking it would make them happy. Those falling in this category mostly turn out to be bad parents.
Having children is almost never about children. Children become extension of parents’ own ego. Parents tend to blow out of proportion the benefits of parenthood. They convince themselves that it’s the best thing ever since they have few choices but to accept and deal with it.
This blog and these comments have made for some seriously interesting reading for me – by far the most intelligent discussion of this topic I’ve come across online so far. Awesome that it’s a conversation that’s still being added to after 5 years! (6 now.)
Whether or not to pop out a little ‘us’ has been food for thought lately for me and my partner. We’re happily unmarried and we’ve been together for 11 years. Having children has been something we’ve always put into the ‘maybe one day’ basket, but now that I’m 31 and he’s 36, biologys dictates that we should make a decision one day soon, in case we wait too long and then regret it.
Strangely, after reading all that everyone has said here, and agreeing or at least seeing the value in almost all of the opinions, I’m feeling LESS confused.
The thought that it might be really nice to spread our love into a new form by becoming a little family is just about the most enthusiastic either of us has gotten about the whole baby thing. We don’t coo over other people’s kids or have any fantasies of ultimate fulfilment. We don’t have any social pressure to reproduce either. But that family unit could be a really beautiful thing. We love each other and we think we’d be as good at parenting as anyone else is.
Before I thought that maybe the fact that we didn’t NEED to have a child probably meant that we shouldn’t. We obviously don’t want it enough right?
But now I’m thinking kinda the opposite. Are people who feel that desperate need to reproduce just trying to fill a hole in themselves? Something they should probably face up to and work out like grown-ups instead of bringing a whole new person into the world as a kind of remedy for existential doubt?
Maybe it’s good not to want it THAT much.
I really like Mike the Mathematician’s post, and I’m using his three decisions as a little readiness checklist:
So, once you’ve analyzed the moral, philosophical, and cosmic implications of bringing another life into this universe * OK WITH THAT – LIFE ROCKS * , decide if you want a kid * IT WOULD PROBABLY BE PRETTY GOOD *, and then decide if yer willing to pay the price (time). * YEAH… AM I? *
Decision still pending I guess, but I’m a bit closer than I was before. Maybe menopause will decide for me before I figure this one out.
And in turn your comment has given me pause for reflection. Since I wrote this post six years ago, we’ve become parents. Our daughter is four now. I’m 45. It has been a transformative event in so many ways I could never have anticipated, and mostly for the best, I think. It’s been something like a spiritual (re-) awakening. Sometimes I wish we’d had a child earlier in life, but in reality I’m not sure how that would have worked. For example, if we’d had a child five years earlier, she’d have been two when New Orleans flooded. I don’t know if we would have been able to come back and rebuild with a toddler.
We are fortunate, I think, to have this as a choice. Whatever choice you make, I wish you the best of luck.
Aaarrrrhhh… Thank you for your blogs it shows I’m not alone in these thoughts… Hi I’m 39 this year so my body clock is ticking very fast! My husband is older so I have 2 step girls in their 20’s and a gorgeous grandson of 1. My husband has happily said he will have another child if I would like one! In my 20’s I wanted 8, but I was career and party focused so have not married till 37, I don’t need to work my husband has worked very hard so I don’t have too…. My friends nearly all have small kids, his have grown up ones… I have a dog who I love I get really really sad when I think of him gone, my hubby says dog is a trigger word to make me cry, so the though of how much I would love this child and worry about it, scares the S**t out of me… My sister was a pain the but, leaving home at 16 drugs etc… One of my cuz is 18 and in prison again how do his parents feel, another died of cancer at 29! I love my mother but she gets on my nerves, I greatful for my great life she gave me but our personalities are so close we clash and I’m not that interested in her as she is not her mum, but I am still her world so I cause her heartache. Last year I went on 8 trips abroad including safari to Africa, back packing round India … My life would change so much at nearly 40 am I too independent to used to the finer things, my husband is not going to stop going to watch live sport but I will… Yes I would love this child and it would want for nothing but my life would no longer be mine… I thought writing it out might help, I think I am selfish that I don’t want the worry the heartache, the mess the augments the responsibility and maybe the pain of loss or disopointment…. Perhaps my grandson is enough xx