Following are seven things I considered in my decision not to procreate. If you can find nothing else of value in this list, at least consider that having children is a decision not to be taken lightly.
1. I have a choice.
Until my early twenties, I never considered that I didn’t actually need to have kids. Life seemed, until then, a series of unquestioned milestones: Go to school, graduate, get a job, get married, have kids. If I had done that — and I stress “I,” not necessarily you — I could have awoken one day, far too young for my liking, with a couple of kids under 10, a husband I barely recognized, and no real idea of how I got there. And no way out. I have three grandparents who have now seen past their 95th birthdays — is it really wise to cement the track of my life at 22?
It takes some time to decide what you want from life. At 16, my plan was to be an orthodontist who had never touched alcohol. Things, erm, change. Some people are lucky enough at age 18 to know precisely in which direction they want to travel, but most of us need at least a few more years of planning and growing. After all, how many of us can really say that we are the same person now that we were ten, fifteen, even twenty years ago?
The desire to be a parent can be overwhelmingly strong. However, as in any choice equipped with a high emotional investment (*COUGH* marriage *COUGH*), there is a tendency to overlook some of the practical considerations which should — nay, MUST — be a factor in the decision-making process.
As of August 2014, the average cost of raising a child is approximately a quarter of a million dollars. I’m currently sitting on about $200 in my checking account. Full disclosure: I am not a math major. Still, the preliminary analysis of these figures does not appear to equate to a comfortable family life.
And yet, my situation is not all that different from the average American household. Between myself and my significant other, our income is just over $50K a year, which is right on par with the USA’s post-2010 median household income (representing up to 4 members in the home). What does this say? Well, for one, perhaps I need to check my spending habits. But two, maybe, just maybe, people are having children without taking an honest look at their budgets and determining whether it’s a feasible endeavor.
Does a frank conversation about fiscal responsibility take some of the romance out of having a baby? Probably. But guess what? Too bad. We don’t live in a world where it is acceptable — or even remotely excusable — to sacrifice the well-being of a child for the sake of your own emotional satisfaction. That is, contrary to popular opinion, not your right as a sexually functioning human being. The only reason biological parents don’t have to match the endless standards and scrutiny as people wanting to adopt is that bureaucracy can’t regulate basic reproductive capabilities. In other words, it isn’t possible to stop people who are physically able from having kids. Human intelligence has evolved far too much to excuse treating fertility as an entitlement. It is a responsibility. You don’t jump into a lake without first checking to see that the water is deep, and clear of rocks.
Because my rap career hasn’t taken off, I work a full-time job. Outside of that full-time job, I have hobbies. Outside of those hobbies, I am a nasty sort of introvert who occasionally needs everyone and everything to just fuck off for a while and let me watch twelve consecutive episodes of “Masterchef: Canada” in peace while I nurture the last remaining ember of my sanity and patience back to a sustainable smolder.
If that sounds like a selfish use of time — and I really can’t blame anyone for saying so — consider this: I cannot (and would probably be unwilling to) give up employment. Survivorman notwithstanding, people need money to live. That means for forty hours a week, my child isn’t even going to be my child. He/She is going to be in day care, or with a nanny, or with my mother. This, to me, is unacceptable. If I am going to have a child, I would like to be in a position to be with that child throughout the days of its life before school. That is an impressionable mind, and I would like to make sure that I am the one in charge of its development.
Does that mean you’re a terrible person if you have a child in day care? Of course not. It’s just not a sacrifice I am willing to make.
4. World climate.
I don’t know if you’ve taken a good look around lately, but the world is a scary place. Between climate change concerns, enemies with nuclear weapons, and cyber hackers with crippling capabilities, there is no shortage of events which threaten to destroy human life as we know it and plummet us back into a primal reality.
To some extent, this has always been true. There has always been conflict, war, and fear in the world. But we are all responsible for whether that continues. At what point do we say, “no more”? At what point do we say, “time to change”? Time to create a better life for those who come ahead, instead of just mindlessly increasing the population without offering a solution to the problems they’re unwittingly going to inherit?
With there being relatively little progress made in slowing the effects of climate change, and while our country continues to value a leader who worships a Christian god over one who will pledge his allegiance to credible science, I am genuinely afraid of the world our generation is leaving behind. I feel it a moral violation on my part to bring new life into such a dismal-looking future — certainly into one that I myself do not support.
There are the obvious responsibilities of maintaining a child’s health and safety, but that’s not quite what I’m getting at here.
Having a child means raising a child. It means, for a time, being the primary contributing factor to their belief system, ethics, morals, values, world perspective — basically, their idea of what is True and Real. I, myself, don’t have the first clue of what is True and Real. I struggle every day to define what, exactly, I think is “right” and “best” for me and the world in general. How could I possibly take on the responsibility of shaping someone’s mind when I can’t say with any degree of certainty how a mind is “supposed” to be shaped?
For this particular point, I do not accept the “well,” [insert shrug here], “you do the best you can” argument. While that undoubtedly factors in from time to time, parents have the reins. It is a parent’s ultimate responsibility to raise someone who is going to contribute something, and not just waste precious resources. To be perfectly clear, this argument excludes children with mental illnesses and other debilitating conditions which cannot be helped. Generally speaking, if your kid is a little shit, it’s not helping anyone, and that’s probably on you. And I really think the world has enough little shits.
6. I don’t wanna.
Generally, this is the reason people struggle with the most. This reason could win a Nobel Peace Prize, as the confusion over it bridges age, gender, cultural, and racial divides. Once, sitting at a bar, I struck up a casual conversation with a fellow next to me. He asked me about kids and I denied interest. He was foreign — I won’t pretend to know which nationality — and it’s certainly possible that his culture shaped his response, but he told me in no uncertain terms that I was “bringing shame” on my boyfriend for not bearing his offspring.
Though this is an extreme example, he isn’t alone in this sentiment. I’ve been called selfish. Empty. Most infuriatingly, I’ve been given The Speech, accompanied with The Look, both of which arrogantly state, “You just don’t know what you want yet.” As though the gene to breed lies dormant in all females and will one day awaken, à la Mt. St. Helen, to spew molten baby-starved hormones into my bloodstream. Females are infinitely more guilty of this particular atrocity than males. Congratulations — amidst all your impassioned battles for gender equality, you’ve still managed to reduce the meaning of my existence to a singular purpose.
It is perfectly fine not to want a child. I understand that there are experiences I will never know. I will never know what it feels like to produce something that is unequivocally mine and my significant other’s. I will never experience the feeling that so many women describe upon first holding their newborn, in which the resolve of even the most reluctant of new mothers seems to give way into something magically maternal and all-encompassing.
I am fine with this.
I will also never know the relentless brutality of the constant 3AM feedings, of being that table in the restaurant getting all the dirty looks. I will (hopefully) never have to clean fecal matter from my walls and my person. My reality will never shift into such that I find it normal, if not expected, to discuss secretions and mastitis at the breakfast table. I will have my own money and spend it on the things I enjoy, rather than the things mothers might enjoy.
Trust me. I am fine with that, too. There are plenty of experiences I will get to have in lieu of devoting my life to child-rearing. This is not to say that one choice is better than the other – that’s exactly the kind of arrogant swill I am vehemently denouncing. You say I will never know the joys of children, and therefore my life is incomplete? I say you’ll never know what any new year of your life would have been like without children. You are not better than me. I am not better than you. We are just different.
I can hear the protesters now. “But it’s worth it,” they cry. “You’ll never have another love like it in your life!” Which brings me to my last point…
7. I have a cat.
I can leave him alone in my house for hours and he shits in the right place.