Thursday, August 21, 2014

Why People Who Don't Want Children Are Not Stupid

I recently read a book by Laura S. Scott about being childless by choice (Two is enough). It's a book for people who don't want to become parents or are at least thinking about that option.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici /

This book offered an interesting view on the topic and also cleared up some misconceptions along the way. I could strongly relate to them and this is why I would like to adress them.

#1: Childless couples are selfish

I think this is just a stupid lie that comes from a very twisted logic. People who do have children have to sacrifice a lot of time, money and nerves to raise a child. So when other people choose not to do that, it's called being selfish?

That's like if a person who volunteers in an old people's home for 10 years calls a person who donates 50 bucks to charity selfish.

On the other hand... I actually believe that HAVING children is selfish. Why? Because although you make a lot of sacrifices as a parent, what reasons do you really come up with to become a parent?

I spent a lot of time thinking about this. Not just recently, even as a teenager. I came to the conclusion that there really doesn't seem to be a lot of reasons for having children that are NOT selfish. Let's look at them:

  • I need someone to take care of me when I'm older - selfish
  • God says we should have children so I'm covering my ass by having children - selfish
  • My parents are pressuring me because they want to be grandparents and I'm tired of hearing it - selfish
  • All of my friends are having their baby chats and I'm missing out on that - selfish
  • I will regret not having children - selfish
  • As a woman, what else am I supposed to do? - selfish
  • I'm not a real man / woman without a child - selfish
  • People would think I'm selfish if I don't have children - selfish
  • I want a little copy of me and my partner - selfish
  • It's so fulfilling for me! - selfish
  • We need children to ensure the survival of our species / culture / national economy - selfish

If your child asked you why it existed, would you answer truthfully? How would your child feel?

There is just one argument I could come up with that would not be selfish, but it implies that you have a lot to offer to the child and also you can't mess up or else your good intentions will be useless:

  • I want to offer a child a good life full of happiness and prosperity and possibly pass on my wealth (not just financially, also in terms of taught skills) to another generation to make the best out of it.

Strangely enough, I've never heard that argument from anyone...

Now let's look at childless people. They are portrayed as being selfish because they choose to have a good life without all the responsibility of raising a child. But is childlessness selfish just because of that? Let's take a closer look:

  • Childless people take into consideration that they might not be good parents
  • Childless people consider that, perhaps, today's world is too dangerous and morally corrupt to raise a child according to one's personal standards
  • Childless people know that disabilities and suffering can happen to any child
  • Childless people know that, by skipping the parenthood experience, they are missing out on something, yet they accept that.
  • Childless people may consider that it's better for the environment to not contribute to overpopulation of the planet

These are just some of the arguments. In my opinion, it's better to be considerate of a child that doesn't exist than to be inconsiderate towards a child that's entering the world and never asked to be born in the first place.

And right there, we already have a dilemma. When you think hard about possible negative consequences of having a child, and then decide to remain childless.... society thinks you didn't save anyone because you are only talking about a fictional human being... but when people become parents, they are creating facts. And if things go wrong, you get a child that commits suicide or gets an overdose on drugs in the worst scenario.

#2 Childless people will regret their decision

This is another almost romanticised belief. People assume that childless people will always regret their childlessness eventually. Just like in a fairy tale, where the evil witch gets killed at the end, the bad people who never wanted children cry on their death beds about having been too bitter to have children.

Here are just two things I would like to say: First - a person who thinks very hard about childlessness knows from the very start that there will be things they can't experience. They know they will miss out on something, even if it's just the whole playground experience, going to Disneyland together or having laughs at the dinner table as a family.

Second thing: Regrets go both ways. Having or not having children are each one way roads. You can't have half a child. You either have children or you don't. And trust me, not having children offers benefits you will dearly miss if you decide to have children. So make up your mind and see which choice you like to live with. But don't assume that people who either don't like children, don't have a maternal instinct or who are simply not comfortable around children will regret not having children... because some people are just not MADE for having children.

#3 Childless by choice people are immature, lazy and hate responsibility

This may be true, but it doesn't have to be. There are, for example, nurses, nuns and teachers who are childless, but they carry a lot of responsibility, even for other people's children.

About being immature... isn't that also a good thing? To live life like a child, without worries, without planning ahead all the time? I wish I was more like a child and less like an adult. But I can only be that way if I'm not a parent.

Lazy? Well, yeah... I like sitting on the sofa and not getting up for a crying brat that just shit into its diapers. No thanks.

#4 Childless people hate children

Even a cynical person like me does not always hate children, although I sometimes do. There are times when I see a smiling baby and it touches my heart. But as soon as the thought comes "maybe being a parent isn't that bad if you are lucky", it only takes 5 minutes and the baby will cry for some reason.

And the main point is also: Childless people usually don't hate children in general, they just hate the idea that it's them who have to take care of their OWN offspring. They don't like that thought. But many people are fine with other people's kids... mostly because they will eventually go back home and leave them in peace.

#5 Childless people don't think much about having children and make it an easy decision

This is totally not true. It's the other way around. Having children is the easier decision because it's set as the default by our society. Having a child is the norm - not having children is abnormal.

I have spent so many years of my life pondering about the question whether to have children or not, and other people around me became mothers like one, two, three... it seems to me that they just took it for granted. They also don't understand my reservation on the topic.

And why is it a difficult decision for me? Well, because I once was a child and a teenager and I know some of these thoughts:

  • I was never asked to be born and I would have said no if I had been asked
  • I hate my life
  • I wish I was dead
  • Why was I born into this society / religion / social class?
  • Why did my parents want to have a child?
  • Why did my parents want a child if they messed up so badly and got divorced?
  • Why are all parents stupid enough to assume that divorce and broken families only happen to other people?
  • If my parents hadn't had me, they would have been happy and not so stressed until they broke up


And now let me actually fire back. Here are my personal "misconceptions" about people who love to be parents... or are they perhaps no misconceptions at all?

#1 Some parents treat having children as a religion

I'm not talking about parents who have children BECAUSE of their religion. That's a no-brainer anyway. I'm talking about people who are in love with the idea of having children and develop a religious sense of fanatism over it. To the point where they believe that everyone else should share their enthusiasm.

And then the statement "I love children, I must have children" becomes "I love children... everybody must have children". This sickens me and when you take a good look around yourself, where ever you live, you know that this is a reality.

#2 Parents accuse childless people of being selfish because they don't share the same sacrifices and hardships

When you are about to become a parent, you idealize that prospect. You think that it will be a rewarding experience... very, very rewarding. But what you inevitably receive is a mixed bag. You get a good deal of proud moments, but also stressful days and sleepless nights.

Then comes the moment when you see a childless couple, not even in their 20s, maybe even in their 30s or 40s and you think to yourself: How dare they not make the same sacrifices that I made? How can they just go around travelling the world, spending all the extra money they earn on themselves and not make any contribution to your society? That's selfish.

And this is the fatal flaw in the mindset. Don't we live in free countries by now? It's their choice, and believe it or not, you once had that choice, too.

So just because parenthood made you miserable, not everyone around you has to bear the same cross (or whatever it is that non-christans carry around all the time).

Accept that other people became perhaps even happier without children than you became WITH children. If it worked for them, then okay. The question you have to ask yourself is: Are you happy enough or do you have regrets? Because that's your problem after all.

#3 Parents don't think much about consequences

We are living in a world that has divorce rates of sometimes 30 to 50 per cent. Yet, having children is totally normal and the media portray our cultures as people who always want to have children of their own.

It's a sick view of our world.... supposedly, everyone loves to have children one day, but at the same time, it's also supposed to be normal that less and less of these children have a normal childhood without a parental divorce.

And don't ever tell me that a divorce is just an insignificant phase of a child's life that only concerns the partners who get divorced. I hope you know that many children ask themselves the question whether they are to blame for the divorce... and it's only children, so that means a lot.

So I believe that most parents just go with things and hope for the best. I understand that because firstly, they are totally in love, and secondly, it's not like they could ever foresee their possible divorce. On the other hand, would it hurt to just plan ahead a little more? For example, how about both partners have a good education and some work experience before they put "the bun into the oven"?

It's still a choice

Just thinking out loud here.

This is all I had to say... now go ahead, have your children, or don't. You make the choice. But I'll come over to your house and kick your ass if you ever claim you never had a choice to begin with.