As a thirty-something year-old human being, I noticed that conversations tend to shift to the topic of kids – having them, wanting them, planning on having or not having them, relatives and friends having them, and so on – much more often than a few years ago.
It took me a while to gather the courage to write about this (probably highly controversial) topic that has been particularly close to my heart for a while now, given its importance. The final push towards writing this has been Wakeminday’s video about the subject (which, in turn, was inspired by La Carologie’s video).
The way I see it, parenthood is a choice that everyone has to make for themselves. It isn’t something that just happens to people, outside of their control*. What I mean by that is that everyone should, at one point or another, consider how they feel about having a kid and everything it entails: pregnancy, potential medical consequences, a change of one’s lifestyle (and life, for that matter), the financial and emotional (!) responsibility of raising a child.
This may sound like I’m trying to rain all over the (kids) parade, but I believe it’s important to be aware that choosing parenthood isn’t all love and happy faces and Instagram-worthy moments all the time. Just like everything else in life, it requires showing up everyday and putting in the work.
I’m sure that all the little (and not so little) happy moments that parents spend with their children, filling the hearts of the involved with love, are more than making up for the sleepless nights, the worries and other stressful moments that may be caused by their offspring.
The reason why I want to stress that, under normal circumstances (again, there certainly are circumstances that put people in the position of having to take on the role of a parent – these are NOT the ones I’m talking about here), parenthood is a choice, is because I’ve been under the impression that many people believe that parenthood’s simply a part of life. This belief that becoming a parent is just a mandatory step along the way of navigating through life becomes problematic the moment it belongs to someone who doesn’t actually want to become a parent.
This brings me to the next part of this post: as discussed in both La Carologie’s and Wakeminday’s videos, there certainly are many reasons for people to choose not to have children of their own, the first and most important one being that they simply don’t want to. Despite the fact that this would in itself be a perfectly legitimate and sufficient reason not to procreate, society doesn’t let people – especially women! – off the hook that easily when it comes to kids. In fact, people like to tell women** that this isn’t normal / they don’t know what they’re talking about / they must be wrong about this / they will change their mind for sure / they just haven’t met the right partner yet. Interestingly, women face the same difficulties when seeking sterilisation, so even from medical professionals***. If you want to know more about the struggle, I recommend listening to Christen Reighter’s TED talk on the subject.
Apart from not wanting children, there are a number of other reasons not to have children: first and foremost the current state of the planet / global warming, the planet’s finite resources and a number of socio-economic factors, to only name a few.
What I appreciated about La Carologie’s video is her pointing out that, in order to choose from a place that focusses on positivity rather than all the reasons why our future on Earth’s basically doomed, it may be a good idea to think of the reasons why we want to be a parent instead of focussing only on the reasons why it may not be the best of ideas (which doesn’t mean that everything I wrote before should be considered obsolete – it’s just a different approach).
Selfishness is an element that often comes up in conversations about the choice of parenthood. While some argue that not having children is a selfish thing to do because our sole purpose in life as humans is to procreate and to give another human the gift of life, others argue that parenthood is a selfish endeavour because the children may not have a very good life on Earth, given its current state (and therefore, one may wonder whether they’re really receiving the gift of life), and because parents often have expectations of their children that may be unfair to them from the very start (such as procreating because one doesn’t want to die alone).
If we choose to have children, we need to be aware that they don’t owe us anything.
We cannot expect them to turn out a certain way or live their lives according to our standards, only because we chose to give them the gift of life. That’s all it should be: a gift. If we choose to have them, our children shouldn’t have to carry our desire for them to make up for all the things we think could have gone better in our lives. As Carl Jung eloquently put it:
The greatest burden a child must bear is the unlived life of the parents.
I’m not trying to convince anyone of the adequacy of this quote, and I’m sure that a lot of people disagree with it, which I respect and understand. I’m merely trying to get people to see that there may be more than one aspect to consider when it comes to parenthood.
I’m also not going to share with you how I feel about parenthood as it’s a very personal choice that everyone needs to make for themselves, regardless of other people’s opinions on the subject.
That being said, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments (or via private message if you’re not comfortable with sharing them publicly), I’m always interested in learning about different viewpoints!
* I’m not talking about pregnancy here, which can indeed happen involuntarily, for a number of reasons that I’m not going to get into in this post, because it’s an entirely different subject.
** I don’t know what the reaction towards men would be – feel free to let me know!
*** Again, feel free to share what this is like for men.