June 17, 2009

The Selfish Childless Adults

My Sister's Keeper

In my unemployment I discovered thefrisky.com. It's an awesome website aimed towards single ladies and the issues and topics that concern them. Recently a writer posted a sort-of-funny short list of reasons not to have kids yet... or ever. The reasons are mostly about shoes and partying and so on, and was probably meant more as a joke than a real list of reasons a woman wouldn't want to have kids. The cool thing was she opened with a quote from Cameron Diaz, who once (apparently) said that people should allow women to decide to not have kids because there are so many people on our planet doing enough damage as it is. She does have a point: if we all have kids to replace ourselves and use our resources like we do today, our great great great (great great great?) grandkids won't have anything left. Is that what parents have in mind?

I like to get myself all worked up over stupid things, so I read the comments. Half of them were from parents who proclaimed their children are the best things to have ever happened to them, that their lives would be empty and meaningless without their kids, that people who do not want children are selfish, and, really, why would someone purposefully choose to not have the undying love and joy that comes with a child? It's as if they're afraid their kids will one day search on the Internet for things their parents said, and if they don't constantly blab about how great it is to be a parent the kids will feel like they weren't loved. The other half of the comments were from those who do not want kids now (or ever) pointing out that our lives are ours to live, and if we do not want kids we should not be presured to have them; they wouldn't be a joy then, would they?

No one mentioned the obvious: parents who have biological children are the most selfish of all adults. It's like they constantly call the childless-by-choice selfish because they're afraid of being called out for their own selfishness, like homophobic gays call everyone else gay because they can't handle their own gayness. These are the ones who insist their children are the best because they come from their own DNA, who believe their children are more special than all the other parent's children, who believe all children are joyous gifts that are to be cherished, and by cherish they mean undisciplined brats whining in the grocery store because "I can't say no to that face!" They talk about how great it is to be a parent, how much love you get from kids, and how all around happier they are with kids. But all of these parents (and this is my point) want biological children. Very few want to adopt the needy children of the world, and when they do it's often only because they can't reproduce naturally and IVF failed. It's selfish to think your DNA is so great that it must be passed along.

One man commented that he lost touch with his wife since the birth of their son 7 months ago. He regrets the decision to have a child and misses his wife, who puts their son before him. Parents might say you're supposed to put your children first, but in your wedding vows you promise to love and cherish your spouse until death do you part, not until kids do you part. Is the husband just someone who donates sperm every couple of years and spends the rest of his days working so the wife can stay home and take care of the kids? Is that the kind of life men imagine for themselves when they decide to get married? I'm sure most men like the idea of their wives staying home to raise the kids (let's face it, it's best for the kids), but it's near impossible to raise a family on a single income. So what are couples to do?

This may seem absurd coming from a 23-year-old woman with no desire for children, but maybe people would be better off if they waited until they were financially stable enough to get married and/or have children. (Gasp!) If all children were planned and wanted and if they had the resources to grow into healthy adults the world would be such a better place. Unfortunately it seems that people follow the "if you build it they will come" theory: if you have kids whenever you want them, the means to raise them will magically appear (be it in the form of your spouses' night job, depending on your own parents for help, or welfare).

Finally, I'd like to point out the fallacy of the argument that having children is a way of bettering the world, and by that logic anyone who chooses not to have children is selfish for not wanting to better the world. However, parents often have little time for anything other than raising their children that they can't really better the world through any other means. Parents will volunteer in their children's classrooms, which will indirectly benefit the world, but chances are they would not do so if they didn't have a selfish interest. Childless adults can volunteer in animal shelters, soup kitchens and hospitals. They can give a much higher percentage of their incomes to charity than parents can afford to. They can support a well-rounded variety of causes in their communities, not just the ones that affect children. Not having children allows you to use your resources to benefit the whole community rather than stretch your resources among your immediate family.

So in the end, it's the parents of biological children, who do not want to adopt because they want their genes passed along, who are selfish, not those who choose not to reproduce. Women should not feel pressured to have children or ashamed to not have a maternal instinct. Some people aren't built for kids. And though it's unfortunate that some people with healthy reproductive systems don't want kids while those who do want kids are unable to, there will always be more than plenty of unwanted kids in the foster and adoptive systems that anyone who wants a child can have one.

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