Arg. So I ran across a link to this article today about why it’s so very horrible to not have kids. I’m a bit miffed to say the least, as I don’t intend to ever have children and this person apparently thinks that this means I’m selfish and will be alone and uncared for in my old age. But here’s the problem: this article makes pretty much 0 logical arguments about what the actual problem with people who don’t have kids is. It suggests that they’re taking up valuable space where families with kids could have schools or be living in larger houses…but really the problems there seem to be bad access to education (not enough funding or bad layouts of cities) or not enough affordable housing for large families. The family of two living in the suburbs really isn’t taking away from other families, as suburbs are a privileged living situation in the first place and one of the larger housing markets. And if they’re miserable out there, isn’t that their own business?
It suggests that childless couples are heartless and want to ban kids from everywhere, or that they should go live some sort of crazy party lifestyle in downtown instead of living in the nice residential neighborhoods with schools. Well those are some pretty broad generalizations with no support to back them up, and if someone wants to live in an area with a school in it they’re completely entitled to do that. Honestly they’re putting in money to the school through taxes and local referenda and not using the resource, so I don’t see how it can be a negative. This suggests that a childless couple has nothing to contribute to a neighborhood which is highly insulting in my opinion.
As for the heartless idea, many childless couples actually love kids but don’t want them for themselves. Lots of couples with kids are actually really bitchy towards kids. So…that’s a pointless argument.
So as far as I can tell, this article gives no real reasons why it’s BAD for society to have childless married couples. It seems to hint that it might not be a choice that leads to happiness or fulfillment, but it also recognizes that happiness is subjective and different people might want different things, so…not sure what to make of that. However I can give you a multitude of reasons why I feel that it is ethical for me to remain childless.
1.The world in general has an overpopulation problem. We don’t know how to distribute our resources in an equitable manner. With this being the case, I think that it’s a better use of my energy and resources to try to care for the people who are already alive than to try to bring more people into the world. If I did want children, I would adopt.
2.I have a mental illness. This impacts my decision in a number of ways. First, I do not want to pass that on to any children of mine. I KNOW that all of my mental illnesses are highly heritable (particularly eating disorders) and if a child of mine ended up with one I would not be able to forgive myself. Second, I don’t think that I could be an adequate parent knowing how I react to stress. I would not want to bring a child into this world knowing that they have a high potential for mental illness and knowing that the stresses of raising a child would make me a less than ideal parent and potentially trigger relapse for me.
3.I don’t have the resources to adequately care for children and I don’t think I ever will based upon my career path. It’s unethical to bring a human being into this world if you can’t take care of them.
4.I feel that I can contribute more to my community in other ways. If I were to have children, I would be more likely to turn into one of those angry, bitter people who wants kids out of all restaurants. This may be selfish of me, but I think it’s entirely ok to be selfish enough to take care of your well-being. There is nothing wrong with that. In fact our world might be a little more ethical if all of us were willing to take a little more time to think about how we can care for our mental and emotional health.
Maybe I will never get having kids. That’s ok. There are people who will never understand what it’s like to be a married woman without kids (because if there’s something that’s frowned on in this society that’s it). There are people who will never understand having a mental illness or being black or being rich or being poor. Not all of us have to have all the same experiences. THAT’S OK. We can still respect each other and the choices that others make, and try to stand up for our own needs while taking others into account (so for example I’m terrified of kids. I might choose to go to a more upscale restaurant or a bar so as to avoid kids, but I would never try to get kids kicked out of a restaurant because I know that having kids can be tough and that’s rude).
We don’t need any more us vs. them logic, especially in terms of marriage, child-bearing, and family choices. We’ve got that from here to the moon. We’ve got stay at home moms vs career moms, we’ve got religious vs non religious, we’ve got married vs unmarried…what we DO need is more empathy on all sides and the recognition that each of us find fulfillment in different ways and contribute to society in different ways. I may never produce a brilliant child who goes on to do something awesome, but perhaps I will do some amazing organizing work that contributes to mental health access or to education access. Perhaps I will write something that touches other people. There are so many ways I could contribute to the next generation and I don’t to be pigeon holed as selfish because I have chosen not to use my reproductive organs.
Look at how happy I am up there without any kids and with someone who loves me. I think I’m doing pretty well.
I’ve heard the argument that it is selfish to have kids because of over population and resource distribution. What do you think?
That’s a complex argument. I’ve heard the response to it that as someone in a privileged context, if I have children they are more likely to provide more resources for others than to take more than their fair share. I also know that we do actually have enough food for the whole world, so distribution is more of the issue (which I touched on in #1). So I think that the argument is complex enough that we can’t know for sure, but for me personally I think it would be selfish to bring more people into the world instead of taking care of those already here. I certainly won’t tell anyone else what they should do with their reproductive organs, but it’s a convincing enough argument for me and I honestly don’t see the benefit in more humans no matter what.
This is a great essay, Olivia, and so true in so many ways. It is definitely NOT selfish to not have kids, no matter what a person’s reasons are. (I am kidfree and have many reasons why I don’t have children.) I think some parents say this because they think we are taking the easy way out. But life finds ways to throw other challenges at us, if not raising children. For instance, because I don’t have kids, I am the only one taking care of my terminally ill father. My 2 siblings feel that I have the extra time they don’t have (even though I work full time). Well, it has been a heartbreaking challenge for 3.5 years taking care of my increasingly ill dad who has a rare from of ALS plus dementia, and can’t eat, drink, talk or walk, but I am glad I can be there to help him.
But, somehow, there is this myth that childfree people are selfish and are living on easy street. Your reason for not having kids (mental illness that could be passed on) is extremely UNSELFISH. You are thinking about the wellbeing of your potential offspring. In my survey of over 4,000 non-parents worldwide, many pointed to physical and mental illnesses as a reason they did not have children. (They either did not want to subject their kids to it, or to pass it on to their kids.) The results of the study are published in my book, “Kidfree & Lovin’ It! – Whether by Choice, Chance or Circumstance.”
The other myth that people without kids “lack purpose in life” is also untrue, as there are many ways to contribute to society besides procreating (as shown in my book). You’re right that it should not be an “Us vs. Them” standoff, but that people should just accept each other’s choices. I am happy with my significant other (as you are too) and we should be proud of our choices!