Since the birth of my first daughter, I have developed a huge respect for my friends and colleagues who’ve decided not to have children. The cantankerous bastard whose desk is down the hall from me; the single-minded feminist playwright on the radio; my population-control hippy neighbour and personal favourite, the urban gays who have banned my children (and all children) from their swank condo. I have a new appreciation for them all.
Each of these people have one thing in common: Actually thinking about whether or not having children was right for their life, lifestyle and personality.
I’m not saying people who have children don’t think about it but I’m fairly certain I didn’t put a great deal of thought into procreation before I embarked on it.
I had a vague belief at university that I didn’t want children – to which my mother replied, “You will when you meet to right person”. She was either right or I am particularly obedient (I suspect the latter). Women are supposed to want children, right? And I did but I can’t for the life of me think why I wanted to further populate the earth.
My husband and I planned to have children but our first baby arrived about a year earlier than we were planning. So I missed that moment of real decision and of waiting or yearning. Perhaps, I’d be more resolute if I had experienced those things.
Clearly, I was wanting to invest my time in something more challenging, tiring and sticky than my yoga class. That being said, I’ve never needed my little blue rectangle and a quiet reminder of my previous life as I did when baby girl was 8 months old. As parenting slowly colonised the hours I had spent on my seemingly meaningless hobbies (overtime at work, being really good at my job, yoga classes, reading, movie watching, wine drinking, travel, aimless window shopping, post graduate study, being fit), those lost hobbies seemed like ‘real life’ more than ever. And I was missing out.
I love my kids; I am raising 3.5 curious, cheerful people who no doubt will continue to steal my apple slices and be mildly underwhelmed or annoyed by my parenting efforts over the next couple of decades. Now that I’m doing the job, it would be a shame (and moral and legal travesty) not to do it well. But to what end? So my kids can grow up, move out of the country and video call me weekly from some other home while I sit alone in a room in my old age (as I’m doing to my lovely parents, who did it to theirs)?
More than 50% of jobs will be automated by the time my kids graduate high school. I fear I will have a handful of unemployed mouths to feed forever. Or maybe my kids will be high flyers and see the world, never to return. Ultimately, if we do our jobs well as parents, we eventually make ourselves redundant. I’m not sure which would be worse.
By the time my children are all toilet trained, I will have used approximately 24, 447 diapers. I’m hoping slightly fewer if I can convince my two-year-old that shitting on a toilet is less scary than her sister thought it was but I’m certainly still taking up more than my fair share of landfill.
I have spent more than $92, 000 dollars on childcare and I have 4 more years until public education fully kicks in for my entire brood. The environmental and financial cost of my kids is horrendous. I do not take this responsibility lightly.
Hand-me-downs are great but most of my children’s clothing was still manufactured in sweat shop where basic human rights are too unaffordable to be met.
So why have kids?
Kids are cute but I’m pretty sure that’s just survival adaptation. Two-year-olds have to be the absolute cutest … for good reason.
The love? The love is abundant but puppies are easier to train and, I suspect, more loyal during the adolescent years.
The potential? Potentially, the love I have for my kids could complete me. Potentially, my kids could be me but better, do everything I wanted to but didn’t, go everywhere I didn’t get, change the world in a way I couldn’t. The potential is why everyone has kids.
And even if they don’t visit me often when I’m 92, maybe a phone call once a week from a grandchild on the other side of the world is better than sitting alone in a room without a phone call. I’ll certainly encourage a discussion of why they might not want to have their own kids before they start blindly procreating.
But I’m glad I had mine.