I read an article by Libby Anne at Love, Joy, Feminism which is a response to this article by Gavin McInnes titled, “Why Your Top 10 Reasons for Not Having Kids are Stupid.” In her post, Libby Anne responds to the reasons in the original article and addresses why some of these “reasons” McInnes lists are either generally not factors in the decision OR actually are legitimate.
But I’ll leave the breaking apart of that article to Libby Anne, so read her post if you want a really good response to McInnes’ article!
These posts inspired me to think about this decision in the context of my own marriage. My husband and I have not fully committed one way or the other, but it’s looking like we won’t try to have children. And, what are the top 10 factors or reasons for us? So, here are our reasons and what we’re thinking on the topic!
10. The world IS overpopulated.
McInnes argues that people in the United States should have more children because… it’s better here than other places? I have so many issues with this line of reasoning, and I don’t think I want to get into it in this paragraph. Suffice it to say that human lives are valuable, wherever they happen to be born and whoever their parents are (also, while the US has definite perks, I’m not going to claim it’s the best place to live – especially when it’s the only place I’ve lived). But, his awful line of reasoning aside, humans are overpopulated. We’re stretching the resources too thin, and it’s hurting our world. Choosing to not have kids helps. One less life brought into the world is still one less, and one more is still one more. The more people choosing to not have kids and showing that a life without kids is still fulfilling and worthwhile, the more others might recognize it as a legitimate path, and make the decision not to contribute to overpopulation.
Obviously, having kids is something people do, and it keeps our population at a stable level – some people need to have children. But me not having children gives someone else the chance to do it without contributing to overpopulation! It really is a win-win.
9. We have other areas of life we want to focus on.
Career, owning and improving a home, being a dog and cat owner, traveling, hosting game nights, devoting hours on weeknights to exercise, learning to cook interesting and complicated meals… all of these things can be pursued by people who have children, obviously. However, there is much more time, money, and energy available to us if we aren’t spending those things on children. When my husband and I talk about our image of our future, we see these things, and we don’t see children.
8. Just because I’m good with kids doesn’t mean I want my own.
I had a friend, who is a new dad, tell me, “You’re so good with kids. You should have your own.” I know he was well-meaning, but loving kids and being good with them doesn’t mean I have any desire to be a parent. One of the reasons McInnes lists in his article is, “I hate kids.” Some people choose not to have kids because they don’t like them, and that’s a perfectly legit reason. However, I really like kids, which is why I chose to work in a pediatric health care field. I can like kids and, at the same time, not want to raise my own.
7. Health Risks.
Pregnancy has always terrified me. There are so many ways it could go wrong, for me or for the baby. And it is completely unpredictable. I don’t have any major health issues that I know of, but that doesn’t mean pregnancy won’t mean gestational diabetes, or preeclampsia, or even just great discomfort. I could be nauseous the entire time. I could have horrible back pain or joint pain or any number of issues. And that doesn’t even touch my horror when thinking about labor and childbirth. For many women it’s worth the risk. I don’t want to put my body through it.
6. Complete lack of support.
I live in the United States – the land of 6-week unpaid maternity leave. The land of outrageously expensive childcare. The land where being a chauffeur for your kid during the elementary and middle school years – to soccer practice, dance, music lessons, swim team, whatever – is expected so that your kid can have an advantage when they are applying for colleges. I often think about these things when I consider that parents during these years report a low level of martial satisfaction. So much pressure is put on parents. Our social structure has changed so that families don’t live with other family members who can help take care of the children, but our social support network has not accommodated this change. It’s difficult for me to consider having children in a country where support for parents is so poor.
5. It IS really expensive.
Along with point number 6 above, having children is expensive. Some of the costs cannot be ignored – food, clothes, shelter. And some people may have family members who are willing to help and watch the children – for free! – but oftentimes paid-for childcare is necessary, and may cost one spouse’s entire income. And, unless you have a job in the same school system as your children, chances are you’re going to be paying for child care for many years, at least during after school hours and summer. Plus, I would want to give my kids enriching experiences – traveling, going to museums or the zoo, getting to take music lessons – and while some things are free, many are not. There’s no denying that having kids costs money.
4. It’s acceptable to be selfish.
For a long time, I hated the idea of being selfish. I thought that was one of the worst things a person could be (especially considering the instruction to put Jesus first, then others, then yourself). As I’ve changed my perspective on life, I realize that being selfish is not a negative thing in itself. I think being selfish at the expense of others or in ways that really harm other people (in the long run) is a negative thing. However, putting value on my own needs and prioritizing what I want in life is an acceptable and good way to live. I find that, by taking care of myself, I have more to give others. In my current marriage, I value my own needs and expect my husband to try his best to honor and meet those needs. In my previous marriage, I did not understand or recognize my own needs, which lead to disaster. I find I have so much more to give to my husband and to others in my life when I recognize my own needs and act in ways I previously saw as selfish. All that to say, if the decision not to have kids is selfish, I am OK with that. (Which leads right into my next point…)
3. So I can be a better aunt.
I currently have 2 nieces and a nephew. Elizabeth Gilbert, one of my favorite authors, describes her role as part of the Auntie Brigade in her book Committed. I really recommend you read the entire excerpt (posted here), but here is one section that sums up much of it to me:
“Often able to accrue education and resources precisely because they were childless, these women had enough spare income and compassion to pay for lifesaving operations, or to rescue the family farm, or to take in a child whose mother had fallen gravely ill. I have a friend who calls these sorts of child-rescuing aunties “sparents”– “spare parents” – and the world is filled with them.
Even within my own community, I can see where I have been vital sometimes as a member of the Auntie Brigade. My job is not merely to spoil and indulge my niece and nephew (though I do take that assignment to heart) but also to be a roving auntie to the world – an ambassador auntie –who is on hand wherever help is needed, in anybody’s family whatsoever.”
My husband and I can be on-call for my nieces and nephew – and any future ones that my siblings may have – and for other children in our community and circle of friends, and that is pretty darn fulfilling and inspiring.
2. We want the flexibility.
My husband and I will likely be moving around August… and we have a lot of options about where we could be. Being two adults making a move across the country is so much easier than doing the same with children. Obviously, people move across the country with kids all the time. But this is not the only area of life where we will enjoy improved flexibility. Flexibility in schedules, career choices, job changes, where we live, when we eat, where we invest our resources… I could see having children reducing this flexibility, and that’s not something I want in my life.
1. We don’t want to.
I was talking with a friend who was describing her baby fever. She wanted to get married at a certain age so that she could start having kids, and is feeling a loss now that she’s in a position where having a second kid isn’t feasible at the moment, even though she desperately wants another one. I acknowledge her experience as valid and real, but I do not fully understand or relate! I cannot ever recall feeling baby fever. I remember my friends in high school discussing baby names, so I figured it was something I should do too. I joked about “wanting to have babies with [so-and-so]” to describe my teenage feelings of having a crush to my female friends, but it was all just a joke for me (which makes me wonder, did other girls actually daydream about having a baby with someone when they had a crush on them?! I was definitely daydreaming about the making a baby part… while using birth control).
It wasn’t until years later, into my mid 20s, that I realized I have never really wanted to have children. I imagined having children at times because it seemed like the thing people do, and because I have always liked kids. But as I’ve grown more comfortable understanding myself and my emotions, I realize the desire to have kids has been absent in my life. My husband helped me compare to this feeling by pointing out that I definitely get puppy fever. I feel an ache in my heart and my gut when I look at pictures of puppies, and try to limit my time looking at adoption pages because I know we can’t adopt one right now. I even get kitty fever sometimes when we go to pet stores (I told a friend, “We almost adopted another cat today!” My husband corrected, “No, we went to the pet store and pet a cat today.”). Is this how some people feel when they look at pictures of babies? Or imagine being pregnant?
Bottom line: we don’t want to have kids. And that’s ok.
Bonus thought: For a lot of people, having biological children is not a choice they can make. I tried to go through this post and make sure I didn’t put too much emphasis on having kids as a choice. I say my husband and I don’t have kids as a choice because we are actively doing something to prevent it from happening – using highly effective birth control; and, if we decide not to in the end, then we will get permanent birth control. We are choosing to prevent it from happening. But for some people, not having their own kids is not a choice. I hate it when people assume you will have kids, because at least for me it’s a choice I’m making, but for others it is not a choice and it is a very painful, personal subject. This is one reason I really appreciate when others ask me, “Are you all thinking about having children?” as opposed to, “When will you all have kids?” I want to acknowledge that there are reasons not to have kids, but also acknowledge that whether or not to have biological children is not always a choice.