Or — at best — socially-construed.
Children are fantastic.
What an incredible privilege, as a person, to support another human being’s early development.
I go back and forth on having kids myself. I’ve always felt a bit lukewarm on the matter, and traversed my 20’s then crested 30 with no change in feeling regarding it.
I understand that time will eventually force my hand one way or another, but for now I am still just as okay with winding up without them as I am open to the fact that I may change my mind in the next few years and get this show on the road.
The point is: I don’t have any issue with kids. I just recognize that most people’s reasons to have them are incredibly selfish. Even more scary is how incredibly common many of these reasons are.
But just because the reasons are widespread doesn’t mean they’re right.
I mean, we used to all think the world was flat. Some people still do. We also used to think slavery was legit, and racism is still alive and well in many parts of the US. So, even our most widespread assumptions are still worth looking at.
And this includes having kids, one of the most common and basic social acts out there.
The reasons to have children
Are all fundamentally selfish — or socially construed. Or, to be frank, just outright stupid.
Children as a vehicle for parenthood — or purpose
- “I want to be a mom/dad.” Bringing another person into this world suits your wants and needs, not theirs.
- “Children make a family.” Are you also the sort of people buys furniture solely to fill your home? (You are, aren’t you?)
- “Children give meaning to life.” A new mom once told me, “in life, you have to either make a million dollars or have children. If you’re not making a million dollars, you better have a kid.” And on the one hand, she’s right — tons of people who think they don’t want kids eventually have them, in part bc they don’t accomplish what they thought they would, and this out gives life meaning.
Having children is “what comes next” or “what people do”
- “It’s selfish not to have kids.” My mom used to say this to us growing up. But my mom is also the sort of person who tells her own kids that she should’ve probably never had kids. (And the sort of woman whose kids kind of agree with this.) Which is perhaps part of the reason I never understood this logic. How is it selfish not to? You owe it to some hypothetical human being who’s not even born? You owe it to society? To God? You’re selfish for, what, not letting a little burst of cells happen, or allowing angels to bring them to Earth? I don’t get it.
- “Because everyone else is doing it.” An ex-boyfriend actually once gave this as his reason for wanting kids. Thank god everyone else wasn’t jumping off of bridges. I dumped him — not for this comment alone, but bc shit logic like this was his way of living.
Children or babies romanticized
- “I love kids.” You like the idea of kids or kids in general, which is not love. Hopefully you love your kid, specifically, as much as you like them as a group at arm’s length.
- “Babies are beautiful” (or “cute.”) Oh honey, has nobody told you? Babies eventually become people. They don’t stay babies forever. Do you also prefer tiny dogs? Having children because you like children is like playing some kind of human being version of “forever a puppy” (which is, of course, a real thing.)
I still remember mama Michelle Duggar from “[n] Kids and Counting” telling the audience:
“Saying there are too many children is like saying there are too many flowers.”
To be fair, she was quoting Mother Theresa. But Mother Theresa wasn’t the one going around “planting flowers.”
Children objectified as “dolls”
- “I want something to dress up!” What the hell is the matter with you?
Children as ego-centric science experiments
- “I want a mini me” or “mini [my partner.]” Ew. Fucking hell, that poor future person.
- “Don’t you want to see what our kids would look like??” Children are human beings, not mix and match or arts and fucking crafts.
- “I want to ‘share’ my religion or other lifestyle values.” You can introduce them to it, but you don’t control what they do with it — love means letting them be their own person.
Children as “exceptions”
- “They might discover the cure for cancer!”
- “They’ll balance out how many unintelligent people are having kids”
Bro, do you even logic? These are statistically weak and poor arguments.
Children to resolve a fear of mortality
- “I don’t want to die alone.”
- “I want someone to care for me when I’m old.”
- “I want a legacy.”
- “I need someone to carry on the family name.”
We all die. Accept this and move on. It’s not your kid’s job to ensure your lifeline.
There’s also no promise or obligation for kids to take care of you in old age. If you want a hospice worker, you have to hire one.
Children for love
- I want someone to love
- I want someone to love me
There’s no guarantee that they’ll love you or, to be honest, that you’ll even truly love them — because many people are bad at parenting, and don’t.
Children as a fix for marriage — or a manipulation tool
- “I want to get married.”
- “I want to keep our marriage together.”
- “It’ll give us something to focus on or talk about.” Indeed it will.
- “Kids are protection against a divorce, or financial collateral if we get one.” At least you’re honest?
Children as the result of circumstances
- “I’m pregnant.” Unless you maintain values that dictate your decision here, this isn’t a rational reason.
- “I’ve already had too many abortions.” I know at least one woman who had a kid for this reason. And Dear God, woman.
- “It’s now or never.” I mean, maybe true. But, like, damn.
To be fair, the reasons to NOT have children are selfish, too.
- Children are gross
- They’re helpless
- They’re annoying
- They’re useless
- I just don’t like them.
The difference is, one type of selfish is using another living and breathing human being as a vehicle to get your needs met.
The other is only “selfish” in a vacuum, involving a hypothetical person who doesn’t exist.
Good reasons to have kids
I honestly have no idea. Every reason to have them serves us in some way.
But this is also true for any relationship or engagement.
I mean, every reason to get a job is fundamentally selfish, too. But that doesn’t keep me — or anyone else who works — from working or, more importantly, being a good employee. Because once you get the job, even if you like your paycheck, you can invest wholly in serving the needs of a role, an employer, a product.
And you can probably do the same with parenthood.
Perhaps the closest you get to a good decision to have a child is, first, a logical decision-matrix based on things like your own a.) financial position and b.) mental health.
But secondly, a sincere intent to actually love the person as their own person — to value their unique needs and wants and basic personhood above your own insecurities or ideals for them.
Good *PARENTING* is utterly selfless
Before the other person is born, you can’t really be selfless with them. There only is you, and they don’t have a say, so any decision regarding their existence will fundamentally be self-serving. That’s all there is.
But parenting is different than the decision to have the kid. You can be a selfless parent.
And this —you know, “love ”— is what many good parents do actually do. And there is honor in that selflessness.