A Case Against Having Any or More Children

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.

World Population
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.

The Environment

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.

Links

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!

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17 Responses to “A Case Against Having Any or More Children”

  1. the question isn’t why aren’t people having children, it is why ARE people having children. It takes a lifetime of sacrifice and if someone is not totally dedicated to it, they should not do it. But…they should not have to explain why to anyone.

  2. I don’t think anyone should feel compelled to explain or justify, whether they decided to have children or not. I believe in full reproductive freedom, so I’m not clear on how this relates to what I have written.

    In that similar vein, I feel free to critique social currents, and others are free to ignore me.

    I agree though, that more could take parenthood seriously whether they decide to have children or not.

  3. Thanks for thinking so responsibly about this issue, and for writing so eloquently about it. That’s one of my goals – for more people to understand and consider the impact of their family size decisions on the planet. Unfortunately there are many who profit (and many others who mistakenly believe they profit) from population growth, so we have many public policies that encourage bigger families. While China has a one-child policy, a handful of nations offer baby bonuses.

    Dave Gardner
    Producer/Director
    Hooked on Growth: Our Misguided Quest for Prosperity
    http://www.growthbusters.com

  4. I’m amazed. This article is very well written. Considering the fact that the population explosion is a taboo issue of sorts, it is reassuring to see that it can be handled as smoothly as this.

    One thing though: in third world countries, the “who’s going to look after me when I’m old” dilemma is very real. This is a very important reason why most married African women get four or five children on average. I think the social policy problems faced in Africa and all other third world locations will prove very difficult to change. And especially so as these regions are often very religious as well. Headstrong catholics and equally free-spirited moslems do not often think twice about having an army of children.

  5. @Dave: Thanks for your comments, and I am very pleased to see the premise of your documentary, as more critiques of growth is badly needed facing environmental devastation. I’m glad you are challenging the “grow or die” ideology. Best of luck on your upcoming work, and you get a spot on my blogroll! 🙂

    @mulig: Thanks! I understand that cultural shifts may seem to take long, but there has been greater acceptance of family planning in Africa according to this: http://www.gfmer.ch/Books/Reproductive_health/Family_planning_Africa.html

    Reduction in population here in the West does help though, since we tend to consume multiple times the amount of resources those in poorer regions do.

    There will always be those who insist on having big families, yet I feel it’s good to counterbalance the cultural tide and voice our concerns.

  6. Thanks for the blogroll spot. It’s so nice to find enlightened company!

    Dave Gardner
    Producer/Director
    Hooked on Growth: Our Misguided Quest for Prosperity
    http://www.growthbusters.com

    99ppp: No sweat, and likewise! 🙂

  7. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this important subject. Much of the autism and schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s etc. come from older men deciding to father babies for one reason or another without much thinking.
    http://ageofthefatherandhealthoffuture.blogspot.com/

    99ppp: Interesting point as many may not consider the potential health risks of the infant conceived by those in advanced ages. Thanks for your comment.

  8. A very thought-provoking post.

    I absolutely agree that we (particularly we who are women) are propagandized into having children right from the beginning. If we say we don’t want any, there’s something wrong with us.

    Our governments have a vested interest in having growing populations, for they are needed to supply soldiers to fight wars, and to supply the workers to keep our economies growing. Russia and Japan, for instance, have falling populations, and their governments are becoming worried.

    But there is much to be said in favour of the human species dying out, since we are like a cancer – we double our numbers each few years, and destroy everything in our path. In fact the balance of nature would be unaffected were we to die out. This makes us unique in the animal kingdom.

    And if we did become extinct, we would simply be one of the many millions (or is it billions?) of species of sentient life which have become extinct since time unrecorded.

    Speaking as a North American, just as we no longer produce the things we use, but simply import them from outside, so we need no longer produce our own children to be our future workers and soldiers, for we can simply import them from outside, as we are presently doing.

    Historically, mass migration has always been the solution to poverty. So to the extent that barriers to mass migration are removed, the less global poverty there will be, leading to less children, as couples no longer economically feel the need of them.

    99ppp: I believe people regardless of gender feel the pressure as questions such as “What will be my legacy” or “Who’ll carry on my name” often rise. I fully concur with your view about the state’s interest to increase population, which may not be best for the rest of us.

    About migration, I agree that can help as many do tend to have less children than in their host regions, yet many also have children at a higher rate than the host region due to cultural habit. I hope “Two or less children per women” catches on as a cultural stream that transcends borders to get us closer to sustainability rather than the “Be Fruitful and Multiply” meme.

    Excellent points, and thanks for the comment. 🙂

  9. You have thought this out very well and I applaud you for making the decision that you did for the reasons that you outlined. You have given us much to consider, thank-you.

    99ppp: Thank you. I hope it may help those who are facing such decision. 🙂

  10. 99ppp it is amazing… the first thought that came out of this article was that we do have some control over life… it is not as cut and dry out of control chaos… your decisions are your own… yours and your partners… Live your Life… be happy… everything else… does it matter?

    99ppp: Thanks, enreal! I also feel compelled to add my voice to the cultural soup, instead of passively being carried away by its tides. Our decisions not only affects ourselves as a couple, but others. We share this planet and its resources, and feel this decision not to have children came not solely from personal considerations but social and environmental ones as well. As social beings, in an interrelated biosphere, no person is an island.

  11. don’t know if i got the wrong idea, but.. it seems like you kind of forced the idea upon your lover, as you had the vasectomy. either way she has to live with it if she chooses to be with you. so, it was probably hard for her to compromise.. (assuming that she really wants a child that is 50% you and 50% her),.. so..i don’t really know what i am trying to get at. she loves you very much.

    99ppp: I don’t believed I forced anything as she had a choice. As far as the vasectomy is concerned, that is my body, and I have full dominion over it, just like a woman does if she decides to continue or terminate a pregnancy. We both love each other very much, and I would have sadly let go of our loving union if she felt strongly about having children. So it was hard on both of us.

    If she really wanted children (she hadn’t strongly considered it one way or another in our case), and I had one just to appease her would have been worse, as another life, who didn’t choose to be brought into the world, would have to deal with our lack of consensus. This is why, when it comes to deciding having a child, it takes two yeses or only one no to make a good decision one way or the other. Your comment appears to imply that in a deadlock, reproduction should prevail. I think it’s a great mistake to have a child just to appease another.

  12. Most people have children for the wrong reasons. I know so many who have had a child to save their marriage, or to provide some emotional focus in a lost and wandering life.

    As for being taken care of in old age … I’m lucky enough to live in a state where (at least for now) assisted suicide is legal. If I’m too elderly and sick to care for myself, well — there’s a way out.

  13. @David: It’s a shame that some have children simply to have a collective project to compensate for some very real incompatibilities. Agree wholeheartedly about assisted suicide, no one should be compelled to stick around if they are suffering. Thanks for your comment! 🙂

  14. […] 99PPP’s exhaustive argument for A Case Against Having Any Or More Children […]

  15. 99PPP: As I scrolled down your blog’s first page, I came upon this post.

    My working hypothesis is that people do not think before having children. They just have them – due to societal conditioning mainly. That is also the same conditioning that makes women with ticking biological clocks into marauding sperm-hunters of the kind that increasingly infantilised men of the same age despise.

    If it is not too advanced of me to leave this link here, that I wrote some time ago, not nearly as exhaustive as yours, you will see I have added your post as ‘additional reading’ which I aim to do with as many posts as I can:

    http://laviequotidienne.wordpress.com/2007/11/01/maybe-baby/

    Thanks.

  16. @shefaly: you are very welcome to. I’ll be perusing your blog as well. 🙂

    peace

  17. […] 99PPP’s exhaustive argument for A Case Against Having Any Or More Children […]

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