So, when are you gonna have kids?
Wait till you have some of your own!
Aren’t they cute?
For the longest time, I didn’t think that having children was a decision. It was just a fact of life. We are propagandized each year with Mother and Father’s day, celebrating reproduction and elevating it to the highest human endeavour. But does it have to be that way? Can someone opt out?
Early in my relationship with my lover, I thought of the romance of it. The act of shared Creation and the status reproduction is given in our society, but wondered if it was warranted. I can’t fully say that my decision was either selfish or altruistic. It was a bit of both. On a personal basis, the responsibility of having a child is one not to be entered lightly, more on that later.
Unfortunately, many who perhaps should take that into account before entering such a state, don’t. We are hardly running out of people nowadays, considering the world’s population has almost doubled in the last forty years. Life expectancy has also increased, so there are not only more people, but they live longer.
2006: 6.5 billion
1967: 3.5 billion
1915: 1.8 billion
Source: U.S. Census Department October 2006 (Link)
But who’ll take care of you when you are old?
This is a often heard objection, but I have a little bird theory on parenthood. When they leave the nest, they are on their own. After that, they should neither be burdened, or burden the parents. Children do not choose to be born. It is not their responsibility to take care of their parents, and it’s troublesome if parents see children as an investment or a safety net. If adult offspring take care of a parent, it should be out of choice, affection, and love, not out of obligation or duty. Conversely, the same goes for older parents helping out adult offspring.
“My biological clock is ticking”
I have a hard time buying this one, but it is often used. I doubt it’s a biological drive, but social pressure to have children. Other mammals do have drives, the sex drive. They likely don’t know that the consequence of sex is procreation, they are just driven by instinct to mate. So I doubt they crave having offspring. They are driven to mate, and once they reproduce, to nurture. This isn’t likely anticipated or thought of ahead of time.
Social elevation of Motherhood and Fatherhood
I don’t observe either Mother’s or Father’s Day. Apart from being a commercial device to extract money, there isn’t any need for it to exist. Even if one wishes to show affection, they can do it anytime. The “Parenthood” days are vacuous greeting card occasions like Valentine’s Day.
There is no need to trot out statistics to infer that the more people consume in the world, the greater the environmental damage both out of extraction of resources and the resulting waste. Those in richer, Western regions might likely point on the higher fertility rates in poorer countries, yet considering how disproportional energy/resource consumption is between these regions, best not to increase population, regardless the region.
War and Peace
All wars are resource conflicts. The higher our population, the less resources there are to share, and presently, many of us humans haven’t been too inclined to share. The competition for oil is becoming fierce, now with China as an emerging industrial power and its thirst for oil everpresent. The Iraq War is another example of a conflict to maintain access to oil (the imminent threat premise was just a convenient pretext).
Some approaches worth considering:
Cultural shift to two children or less per woman
I am adamantly against any “One child” policies pushed by any state, which can create some unanticipated problems like a lobsided sex ratio and the social problems that can accompany that. I am fully for reproductive freedom, despite my social critiques in this post.
The tyranny of biology may place an unfair burden on women here, but since it is them that bear children, it may be one that they may need to carry. Two children is replacement for each woman and one other man. Less or no children, even better and population could drop down gradually.
Free vasectomies: Those with the expertise to make this minor surgery can offer their services for free. The state may be apt to subside it, but often it is in the state’s interest to breed more taxpayers.
Greater birth control options for men: I am encouraged by the development of a male birth control pill, to give more men options aside from the condom.
Making adoption easier: I wish more could give adoption greater consideration instead of artificial insemination and have the state place less legal entanglements to facilitate adoptions.
A Personal Endnote
I decided I didn’t want any children. This was not a collective decision with my lover, and at the time, I knew it could be a deal breaker. It takes two yeses and one no. It’s that simple, and I felt that I wouldn’t change my mind, and was looking into getting a vasectomy. While we hadn’t had any deep discussions on children, I had just removed the option and the subsequent discussions were heart wrenching. I didn’t close the door on parenthood, and told her we could adopt if we had a consensual desire to parent in the future, but was adamant on not bringing another into this turbulent crowded world. Another, more personal reason is that I didn’t want to share her affections and time with another, or divide mine towards her. I had seen too many instances of other couples falling into “mommy/daddy” roles and less as lovers to one another. I know that’s not the case for everyone, but felt the risk was very high.
Now, 8 years after my vasectomy I don’t regret my decision for one instance, although I occasionally needed reassurance from my wonderful lover whether I was keeping her from something she needed to be fulfilled, especially when women were getting pregnant around her. Social pressure can be powerful, but I am now convinced that she is content and shares this perspective on parenthood with me. We are a two person family, and feel no need to have children to describe ourselves as such.
Voluntary Human Extinction Movement: With the motto “May we live long, and die out”, a tongue and cheek approach to a serious issue. There is mild comic misanthropy here, yet many valid points worth considering are addressed.
Overpopulation.org : Massive.. MASSIVE site on overpopulation with tons of stats for those with such interest.
The Parenthood Decision (book): This book was extremely helpful in my decision to not to have children, by weighing the pros and cons to consider. Highly recommended!