Why have kids?
June 21, 2004 7:27 AM   Subscribe

Why have kids?
posted by dame to Human Relations (65 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
Making them is pretty fun I hear.
posted by Stan Chin at 7:32 AM on June 21, 2004


To annoy other people with tales of how great your kid is, just as they have done to you. You also get to leave the office earlier than your single coworkers and often arrive later. Also, your parents probably expect it and your significant other might, as well.

My dad would tell you that it gives you a 20-or-so year break from mowing the lawn.
posted by Mayor Curley at 7:35 AM on June 21, 2004


And, of course, you're the best thing that ever happened to the world in its 5 billion year history and your children will run a close second.
posted by Mayor Curley at 7:37 AM on June 21, 2004


You also get to leave the office earlier than your single coworkers and often arrive later.

Note how close this is to the answer for "Why smoke?"
posted by yerfatma at 7:38 AM on June 21, 2004 [1 favorite]


obviously there's a strong genetic selection effect for doing so, which is what drives people to continue.

but on a conscious level, i have no idea - we have no plans to have any.
posted by andrew cooke at 8:02 AM on June 21, 2004


I guess my response - without trying to be too flip - would be "if you have to ask..."

Honestly, it's an intensely personal decision, and there are just as many reasons (frequently more) not to have children. For me, it was a very gentle, insistent sense that it was the way I wanted to go. My wife and I now have two beautiful children who have filled our lives in places we didn't know were empty. It's an amazing new dimension to life. Having them in my life makes me feel more. In the past few years I have been happier, sadder, angrier and more hopeful than I can ever remember as an adult. There's no good way to express the life-changing effects of having kids without sounding trite or cliched - but from my perspective it's been more than worth it to date, and I look forward to every upcoming stage.
posted by kokogiak at 8:02 AM on June 21, 2004


Well said, kokogiak, I couldn't have said it better myself.
posted by ashbury at 8:05 AM on June 21, 2004


Ego.

Greed.

Need for control.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 8:08 AM on June 21, 2004


Kokogiak: See that's thing: having children seems like willingly creating a living hell of your life, yet there are all these people insisting on doing it (and then inflicting their little brats on me, but that's a different rant).

I can't see why anyone would do that, so I asked. You know . . . trying to learn.
posted by dame at 8:12 AM on June 21, 2004


Why have kids?

They taste good?

But seriously - I grew up as a teenager and young adult believing that A) I would NEVER get married...and B) I would NEVER have kids.

When I met my girlfriend (now my wife), something changed 'instinctively'...I truly have no idea why...I wanted to commit for life, and I wanted to leave some kind of imprint on the world.

For good or for bad - being a 'breeder' made me want to do it...my son is the best thing that ever happened to me, bar none.

I still to this day, cannot understand why...but wanting a child seemed programmed, once I had met the right person.
posted by mattr at 8:12 AM on June 21, 2004


Who else is going to take care of you when you become feeble and senile?

(for the record, kokogiak gave a similar response that my smarter parent-friends gave when I asked the same question)

Ego.

Greed.

Need for control.


Ego and need for control I understand, but I can't fathom how "greed" could possibly be an answer. By having kids you LOSE those things (time, money, freedom) that selfish people crave.
posted by grum@work at 8:14 AM on June 21, 2004


Why have kids?

Because it is the best cure for selfishness and narcissism.
posted by whatnot at 8:15 AM on June 21, 2004


One thing that continually amazes me is the meme of "inflicting their little brats on me". I assume that people must think that they were born just as perfectly witty, cultured, sardonic and hip as they are now.

on preview... whatnot wins.
posted by Irontom at 8:18 AM on June 21, 2004


So people who don't have them can call you a "breeder" and tell you over-and-over again how they don't have kids and never will have them because kids are evil and bad and cry on airplanes and in restaurants and nobody should ever have kids because people only have kids due to ego, greed, and a need for control.

Also, they'll change your life in a way you can't possibly imagine and once you have them you'll realize how pointless most other things are. It's the most fun I've ever had.

It's sort of like doing acid or going into combat, it's impossible to explain and until you actually do it you wont understand.

But please, don't have them unless you really really want them, can support them financially and emotionally, and understand the meaning of Irreversible Decision.
posted by bondcliff at 8:18 AM on June 21, 2004


To work the farm, of course.

But seriously... on a personal level:

A man who served as a leader of the congregation I go to for a while told me he had a family to create his own community/culture of people who had a similar sense of humor, fun, and love as he did. I've met most of his family and it seems to have worked.

Some people have told me they've done it so they learned about living a life that wasn't all about self-absorption.

I also think that parents get a chance to see and understand the magic of childhood and youth again, by being close to the child who is living it.

I used to roll my eyes at people who talked about some kind of special feeling of holding an infant. When my brother had his first daughter a few years ago, though, and I visited, I was genuinely surprised at the inner bloom of warmth I felt holding her.

She has grown into a stormtrooper for entropy who is afraid of me for some reason, and taking care of children is obviously hard work, and I often don't know if I'd be ready to do what it takes to not only put up with that but do it well. But those fruits I've mentioned above seem to be real, and so it's easy for me to put this kind of thing as one of the experiences in life that is difficult, but worthwhile.

On a social level: no people, no society. Capable, well-adjusted, caring people help create the kinds of communities and societies that we like to live in. There are reasons why some countries are actually adopting policies which are designed to encourage its citizens to have children.
posted by weston at 8:19 AM on June 21, 2004


You'll never know unless you have them, but you'll know the instant that you do.
posted by grateful at 8:23 AM on June 21, 2004


My ex and I both agree that if we could do it all over again, we would not have had our son. We started planning for him two years in advance, including the date she would go off birth control.

This change of attitude has nothing to do with our son because he is a great kid, very smart and much less trouble than other kids his age. Nor can we adequately explain now why we wanted a child. However, we both realize now that all our preparations were inadequate because of unforseen circumstances, but even that does not explain our current mindset.

So, why have kids? Only goddess knows.

On preview: bondcliff is correct about discovering how pointless many things seem. However even after you have a kid, you may still never understand.
posted by mischief at 8:24 AM on June 21, 2004 [1 favorite]


Because it is the best cure for selfishness and narcissism.

Oh yeah, I forgot. You get to be as selfish as you always were to the outside world (but not the children). However, those actions that were previously so over-the-top selfish that you restrained yourself from doing them become acceptable in the guise of looking out for your kids.
posted by Mayor Curley at 8:27 AM on June 21, 2004


Because there is a powerful biological drive for you reproduce that, depending on the person, feels like a physical need.

It's not logical. Raising children causes you to spend money in ways you never previously considered. It causes you angst and worry, sleep deprivation, and a restructuring of your already comfy life.

That being said, it's still one of the best things in the world. The love and joy at seeing a baby's first smile, the smell of them after their baths, the sight of them sleeping with a leg hanging off the bed, the unsolicited kiss just because your toddler wants to give you one, the sound of a child's peals of laughter at some silly face or sound. All of these things, and so much more, make the frustration worth it.
posted by onhazier at 8:30 AM on June 21, 2004


But please, don't have them unless you really really want them, can support them financially and emotionally, and understand the meaning of Irreversible Decision.

Dude, I'm so on that train. Don't worry.

One thing that continually amazes me is the meme of "inflicting their little brats on me". One thing that continually amazes me is the meme of "inflicting their little brats on me".

Well, no. But when I ran around a restaurant screaming, my mother told me to shut up and asked if I wanted to sit in the car. Becuase, you know, there were adults doing adult things.

It's the parents who don't even *try* that piss one off.
posted by dame at 8:31 AM on June 21, 2004


Ego and need for control I understand, but I can't fathom how "greed" could possibly be an answer.

Greed for love, affection, affirmation of self-worth, or for one's 'own community/culture of people who had a similar sense of humor.'
posted by IshmaelGraves at 8:32 AM on June 21, 2004


I think this is a bit like a question of "why go on living" or something - there is no practical, common sense, absolute answer which you can provide, to which all people will say, ah, right, that's it then. Instead, everyone digs around and figures out their own way of finding meaning.

I think in general, most people feel some degree of desire for immortality, and the three main routes toward it are a)having kids (genetic immortality) b)being a genius (historic immortality) or c)living forever (personal immortality). Since the third is not available scientifically, it is currently found only by believing that it will happen to you after you die thanks to your religion. But plenty of people can't make themselves believe this since it seems very unlikely. The second is pretty nice, but the problem is that, well, you sort of have to be a genius. Or at least, you have to put in a lot of work to do something that will really have the lasting impact you crave. But having children, anyone can do, most people find pleasure in, and it does make people feel like they've left the world with something.
posted by mdn at 8:38 AM on June 21, 2004


Okay Dame - a longer answer? Yes, before I had kids I was worried about any number of things - that changing diapers would be horrible, that 'other people's kids' sometimes smelled funny, or were really annoying. That I would be giving up a lot of my life for a future I didn't know much about. And yes, there are an enormous amount of responsibilities involved. But here's the thing, and forgive me if it gets schmaltzy.

I am honored to care for these two small wonderful beings. I am so moved by them on a daily basis. Just writing this now, I am tearing up [like I said - schmaltz]. Every inconvenience I've tolerated due to their arrival is really trivial. Yes, there are trying times, definitely there are worrisome times. Having invested so much of myself into such small trusting helpless people, I feel incredibly vulnerable, and that much more obliged to do my best. It really can bring out the best in you. When you see - and fully realize - that you (as their parent) are their best example of how to be a good human being, you either choose to 'do the right thing' more often, or do them a huge disservice.

The troubles, time commitments, annoyances (things you call a 'living hell') generally involved with raising kids are really small potatoes. Yesterday - when I came home, my little boy (17 months) came sprinting across the floor laughing with complete genuine glee that Papa was home. He wrapped himself around my calves and grinned up at me. I was the most important thing in the world to him, and he was thrilled to be close to me again. Damn - that's worth so much, and I get it almost every day. That's worth changing a few diapers or dealing with a tantrum or two.
posted by kokogiak at 8:41 AM on June 21, 2004 [1 favorite]


Why have kids?

For me the question is "Why have kids when the world is overpopulated, getting moreso everyday, humans already use and destroy more than their share of the natural world, and so many existing kids already need good homes?"

That said, I like whatnot's answer:

Because it is the best cure for selfishness and narcissism.

I hear having kids is a wonderful experience, but I hear adoption is too.

Personally, I reckon someday some kid will adopt me, similar to the way so many stray cats have found their way to me. By then, hopefully, I will be able to afford a kid, as right now four cats just about tap out my finances :-)
posted by Shane at 8:51 AM on June 21, 2004


And to mischief's point, I am so glad that things have gone well for us to date, and am hopeful for the future. My only brother is a low-functioning autistic, so I have some pretty up-close experience in how families deal with the unexpected when it comes to having children, and how it can affect the rest of your life. It's incredibly sad when people have kids without fully thinking through the long-term consequences, without embracing the bad as well as the good. I have one less cousin in the world now, due largely to an insanely bad childhood, which led her to end her own life a few years ago. Being a parent is the most serious and meaningful job you'll ever have.

Okay, I'm done - cliche-overload. But you asked ;)
posted by kokogiak at 8:51 AM on June 21, 2004


I don't have kids, but I used to work with them (years as a daycare teacher, etc.) And I've thought about it a lot. From what I can see, the decision to HAVE kids is a supremely selfish decision. It's something you're doing because YOU WANT to have something to take care of, to give your life meaning, to give you the illusion of immortality, to have someone to take care of in your old age, to make you seem like more of an adult, etc.

The paradox is that once you have the kids, caring for them is an extremely SELFLESS act.
posted by grumblebee at 8:59 AM on June 21, 2004


It's a good question, because it's still socially unacceptable to question someone's desire to have children, or to admit that you made a mistake by deciding to have them (bravo for the honesty, mischief).

Some people really want and love children. I think they are a minority of the people who have kids.

A lot of men who would be very capable of imagining their life without children agree to have kids because their partner insists and they eventually give in. Some of them eventually fall in love with their children, while others only pretend.

A lot of people I know have children in their 30s because they are looking for an answer to the question "What is the purpose of my life?" Having kids is the only answer to that question that no one can challenge. The only problem is that it doesn't always work. I've known a fair number of people who felt a great sense of purpose for a few years while their children were little, and then fell back into depression when their kids reached the age of 8-9 years old and didn't need their parents so much anymore. The question doesn't go away so easily.

Some people have kids because they can't imagine getting older without a family around them. Some people are looking to recreate the family of their childhood, and want to see themselves in the role of the mother or father of the family.

I'm always surprised by the number of people who will tell you with lots of emotion about all the difficulties they have in their lives because of their children, and then repeat automatically and without conviction, "but of course I love them tremendously and they're the best thing that ever happened in my life."
posted by fuzz at 9:13 AM on June 21, 2004


This question is a stellar example of an assaxe.

If you can't imagine why someone would possibly want to reproduce, you may wish to consider that a message from the gene pool, and take it seriously.

If your brain entices you with idyllic dreams of future days spent with your offspring, take that message seriously too, because there will be days like that, but never forget that you have been given a very selective vision. The gene pool's no dummy.

As others have mentioned, be sure to allow yourself the possibility of an inexplicable change in your outlook later in life without having to first convince yourself that you are not betraying your younger, selfish ideals. Of course you will be betraying those ideals. You're not going to become an astronaut either (although today isn't the best day to be using that analogy).

Would it be too tautological to add that reproduction is what life is all about? Being a parent is only a living hell if you go into it expecting it to be heaven. Life is hard. Children are not tiny adults. They're way, way better. And did I tell you about the cutest thing they did the other day?
posted by ulotrichous at 9:13 AM on June 21, 2004


This article talks a lot about why many people are not having kids in explaining why the populations are decling in many countries. For one thing, it doesnt make financial sense like it used to. Not that anyone does it for money, but at one time there was a financial bonus to having kids, not any more. You can live richer and have less hassle and be just as happy and accepted in society as someone who has kids. It used to be being without child was seen as wrong or someone inferiour, now it can actually be a status symbol. Lots of reasons not to have kids these days, and the population stats prove it.
posted by stbalbach at 9:16 AM on June 21, 2004


Having children is your last best chance at growing up.
posted by internal at 9:20 AM on June 21, 2004


I find there are two kinds of big life "milestones"--the ones where you err on the side of caution, and the type where you're better off throwing caution to the wind. Moving somewhere new and taking an intriguing job are both the latter kind to me, but getting married and having kids are squarely on the "if you have to wonder, don't do it" side.

As someone who:
1) Was a kid
2) Cared for kids (as a teacher and coach), and
3) Now has two kids
I've got to say that people without kids are, almost by definition, your least informed source of perspective. Among parents, you can find plenty of nuanced, intelligent perspectives, both pro and con, and I'd really recommend that you pay attention to them.
posted by LairBob at 9:23 AM on June 21, 2004


I've got to say that people without kids are, almost by definition, your least informed source of perspective.

I don't know if I'd go that far, but I will say this: I have found that the level of loathing one has for children seems to correlate with one's own level of self-loathing. ymmv.
posted by whatnot at 9:32 AM on June 21, 2004


Uh... so you can help fight aging populations by introducting more young people into the workforce? Then again, I suppose killing old people would have the same effect, and be less effort.

Why not have children? In all the thinking people have done about the point of life, apart from religious fluff having children inevitably comes top. Having children is an instinct. Children are your legacy. Children are cute. Your partner will likely want children. Children are little people that you can put effort into doing well with, and they're an 'Important' part of life with a capital 'I'. What would you rather be doing -- sitting about? Working on your bloody career? At the end of the day, wouldn't raising children be a better use of your time?
posted by reklaw at 9:38 AM on June 21, 2004


When is it too late to have kids? Apparently, i'm not yet over my narcissism, self-loathing, and lack of perspective, but maybe some day I will be. I'm 29 now, and with a woman I'm prepared to commit to forever. Neither of us really want kids, but we can see ourselves wanting kids some day. What if the day we want kids comes after the day that we should stop trying to have kids? Should we just cross our fingers, take the risk, and have a preemptive kid before it's too late (whenever too late is)?
posted by badstone at 9:52 AM on June 21, 2004


All of you pro-procreate people are forgetting the best part:

You get to buy kids cool toys, and then play with them yourself.

What if the day we want kids comes after the day that we should stop trying to have kids?

Adopt?
posted by Shane at 9:54 AM on June 21, 2004


I have found that the level of loathing one has for children seems to correlate with one's own level of self-loathing.

What if you like kids just fine but loathe most parents?
posted by Mayor Curley at 9:56 AM on June 21, 2004


At the end of the day, wouldn't raising children be a better use of your time?

why? what's morally good about breeding? cows and pigs do it, but wse just eat 'em. should we instead be all impressed with their moral integrity?!

people have children because that's the way evolution works. you might as well ask why people breathe. people get pleasure from it because they're wired to get pleasure from it. there's nothing moral about it - it's chemistry and biology.

i ahve no idea why i don't want kids. seems like the oddest thing in the world to want. i admit that it makes no sense, gene-wise. i don't see why ulotrichous feels su superior about it though.

as for self-loathing, whatnot, i'm afraid the hard truth is that not everyone likes your kids as much as you do.
posted by andrew cooke at 9:58 AM on June 21, 2004


why not adopt an orphan/unwanted child? that way, you'll have a kid and you'll save him/her from a very sad destiny
or are you so into the "my-own-DNA" thing?


I have found that the level of loathing one has for children seems to correlate with one's own level of self-loathing.
you read a lot of self-help/Dr. Phil books huh?
posted by matteo at 9:59 AM on June 21, 2004


I read an interview with a Canadian photojournalist recently in which she mentioned that to her, the desire to have children is sort of like sexual orientation - you're either the sort of person who has that drive, or you're not.

badstone: a friend of mind did just that, more or less - she had her kid in part because she wasn't brave enough not to (and her hubby wanted kids). She's a great mom, but she says it wouldn't have been the worst thing in the world if she hadn't been a mother.

Personally, I also don't see what's so morally great about breeding, biochemistry does most of the hard work for you, you have about as much control over how you feel about your kids as you do over an allergy. Sure, to raise a kid properly you have to be very selfless, but it's YOUR choice to have the kids in the first place, it's not like we're at any great risk of underpopulation here. Sometimes, the moral choice is NOT to have kids.
posted by biscotti at 10:05 AM on June 21, 2004


I can see an ethical reason for SOME people to have kids. Not everyone will agree with these ethics, and I'm still mulling them over myself.

For these reasons to make sense, we must assume the given that perpetuating the human race is a good thing -- or an inevitable (or very likely thing). We will go on (or we SHOULD go on).

We must also assume that we want human culture to be kind, well-balanced and creative.

Finally, we must assume that if there are enough kind, well-balance and creative individuals in society, then the society itself will be (more likely to be) kind, well-balanced and creative.

If we're okay with all these assumptions -- and the further assumption that a "good" person is one who contributes positively to his society -- then we can say that one SHOULD have kids if one can reasonably assume that one is the kind of person who will raise kind, well-balanced and creative kids.

(Which is an exception to my earlier post that claimed having kids is a selfish act.)

I've mulled this over a lot, because I love kids and I'm pretty sure I'd be a good dad. At times this makes me think that it's my responsibility to have kids -- to offset all those bad dads who will produce bad kids. Yet I've made the decision NOT to have kids.

Sometimes this seems selfish to me.

My earlier post, in which I claimed that having kids is selfish (though I think this can be true) is the lie I tell myself to make myself feel better about not having them.

At the very least, someone like me should think seriously about adopting. I could give a child (that might otherwise not have one) a very good life. Yet I'm not adopting a child. For selfish reasons.
posted by grumblebee at 10:23 AM on June 21, 2004


whatnot, i'm afraid the hard truth is that not everyone likes your kids as much as you do.
I liked kids long before I had any. I don't expect you or anyone else to like mine, but please don't be rude to them. Sets a bad example. Thanks.

you read a lot of self-help/Dr. Phil books huh?
Actually, no. I'm probably just trying to rationalize the unneccessarily vitriolic anti-kid opinions I hear and read. It comes off as a type of discrimination to me. Just as racist remarks belie the ignorance of the speaker, so, too do the "all kids are brats/annoying/wastes of time" remarks.

We have a number of friends who've adopted kids, and I am crazy about all of them. We also know one couple who fosters kids, and I admire them a great deal. I would fail at that, though, as I'd probably want to keep the kids if we became attached.

Finally, I don't think it's selfish to not have kids. It seems far worse to stumble through life, not knowing what you want (or don't want) and making others miserable in the process.
posted by whatnot at 10:37 AM on June 21, 2004


Why not have children? In all the thinking people have done about the point of life, apart from religious fluff having children inevitably comes top. Having children is an instinct. Children are your legacy.

Simply having a child does not validate the adult life and are absolutely not the only way to leave the world with a legacy of your life. We're not in a simple animalistic situation where everyone must breed to continue on the species. Yes, from everything I've seen/experienced/read here and otherwise/been a part of though my extensive family-- children are fantastic and wonderful and enriching and most parents do not regret it at all. Some however, aren't cut out for parenting and they know it. This should be a choice and not something foisted upon you out of obligation or societal expectation.

What would you rather be doing -- sitting about? Working on your bloody career? At the end of the day, wouldn't raising children be a better use of your time?

Why is it that if you don't have children, it's looked upon as selfish? Isn't it a greater act of selfishlessness to not have children, if you know you can't handle it or you don't want it? Having a kid because you're supposed to and everyone is going to think you're useless if you don't, is much much more selfish than just choosing to not. You'd be uphappy and then you're bringing in some innocent little people into the equation. It's not something you "do" because everyone else is doing it.

Kids are awesome in every sense of the word. Love them. That's why we're giving it so much thought about having them. It should be a decision made with consciousness about every aspect and not one made of whimsy and haste and certainly, not made because of society's expectations. However, I sure as hell don't want to be looked upon as useless because I choose not to... as if my time is wasted and my life wasted because I am not raising a child, or several.
posted by jerseygirl at 10:39 AM on June 21, 2004


I do find it interesting that a lot of the more gung-ho people are men. It it just the examples I've seen, or do women really end up giving up a lot more?

Just so people know, this wasn't an attempt to grind an axe. I find I learn more if I can get lots of people to disagree with me.
posted by dame at 10:43 AM on June 21, 2004


I'm with biscotti -- I think there's a genetic predisposition as far as wanting kids/not wanting kids. I definitely fall into the latter camp. Even as a kid, I didn't want to play house and have the responsibility of taking care of dolls. It never interested me, I had better things to do, other priorities, etc. As an adult I seethed when parent coworkers pulled rank to get out of projects, parent shoppers didn't rein in their brats, and so on.

That said, a few years ago I found myself pregnant thanks to some wrong assumptions about my fertility. Combine that with my personal ethics and poof, I'm now the mother of an almost four year old. And I'm happy, because she's a great little person who has enriched my life because of who SHE is -- not because of who I am.

I still despise the whole notion of Superparent Whose Child Can Do No Wrong. I still don't want to be the mommy when I play house, and I definitely yearn for the free time that I imagine I used to have. But I have to confess, being a teacher, guide, and confidante to someone who I'd like anyway has been a really satisfying experience.

Even if every day I have at least one moment where I'm convinced I'm blowing it.
posted by gnomeloaf at 10:44 AM on June 21, 2004


We, collectively, have kids because we think there should be humans on Earth in 100 years. So there's not really a question re "why have kids." The question is, how involved should you be in where they come from? How they are raised? What responsibility do you feel for, well, the species? For civilization?

I'm not saying everyone should be parents -- far fewer people should be parents than are parents, I'd wager -- but I must admit that I find the question of "why have kids" somewhat perverse. Clearly, being a parent floats some boats and not others, but how un-understandable can it be? Weren't we all kids? Even if you came from an unhappy home, is the choice to procreate really that mysterious?

It may be unknowable just how intractably my conscious urge to be a father is intertwined with my biological urge, but I'm willing to get that had my wife and I not been able to have children, we would have adopted and would be just as happy. But I don't think I'm betraying the biological imperative -- I'm indifferent to the dissemination of my DNA, but DNA is just information, and I think I have alternate information to impart to a kid that's more important than my genes.

What's an assaxe?
posted by blueshammer at 10:58 AM on June 21, 2004


Because it would be a horrible world if it was populated only by those over 25. The wonder and potential of youth has to be one of the greatest gifts, and the people who are growing old and stodgy and limited need to keep replenishing it.

If having kids is selfish, how can living your own life in any way other than at the meanest subsistence level necessary to ensure that adult people doing adult things don't need to waste a day attending your funeral also not be selfish? Seems to me that there must be an equivalent to the idea that to get something done you need to give it to a busy person; that to live a full life you need to risk sharing it with others, to risk it being devoured by others. That which you worry may rob you of your freedom and independence will also bring new influences and perspectives.


None of which is an argument for any one person to have or not have children. I don't have them myself, and never will, not through any well-considered choice, but because females have ancient biological pre-determinates that allow them to sense which males are desirable to father their children (I'm short, and I don't dress well). But if a committee of downtown-dwelling arts graduates decided everyone should stop reproducing because it's ohso boring and conventional, and there would be no more talk of what to name babies or no more pointing out butterflies and motorcycles for someone to whom it's all new or no more soccer practice and 4-hour dance recitals, then a lot of the joy is going to get sucked out of this place.
posted by TimTypeZed at 11:02 AM on June 21, 2004


whatnot - i haven't been rude to your kids, as far as i know. when did you stop whipping them?
posted by andrew cooke at 11:26 AM on June 21, 2004


dame - there's a statistically significant difference between women and men's relationship with children, across all cultures. genetically, it appears that women are more inclined to look after children than men. that doesn't mean, of course, that they should be forced to do so in a relationship, or have less chance of developing a career etc etc....

the tangled wing is a great book for explaining this - written by a bleeding heart liberal who endlessly points out the difference between genetics and morals.
posted by andrew cooke at 11:31 AM on June 21, 2004


Andrew: Unlike many people, I'm not a genetic determinist. Thanks for playing though.
posted by dame at 11:47 AM on June 21, 2004


What's an assaxe?

an AxeMe post which is ass. IMHO. Notwithstanding this excellent thread.
posted by ulotrichous at 12:17 PM on June 21, 2004


Maybe there's also a benefit related to tribalism. Theory: couples may sometimes start to lose closeness with their friends when their friends start marrying off and having kids or moving out of the area because of their jobs. But all of our lives we have found that it is fun and good to have those tribe moments of shared experiences and in-jokes -- people to celebrate with and to share difficult times with. Rather than going through a continual process of finding new friends as old friends drop off the map, some couples start to create their own stable tribal units composed of their families and their friends' families.

Okay, that made sense in my head. Maybe this rationale could be interpreted as selfish behavior, because it suggests that people might have kids for their own enjoyment rather than for some greater good, i.e., they do it to preserve the happiness they get from living in a tribe when their old reliable tribal units start to break down. But generally people also go into it knowing it will be alot of work, so I'm not sure about the selfishness part.

So I do think there are benefits to having kids besides genetic urges and maternal/paternal instincts -- personal benefits having nothing to do with making the world a better place, etc. However, I also don't see these benefits as especially egotistical, greedy, or controlling. I just think that for many people having kids can be an attempt to propogate a reliable, enjoyable type of interdependant social relationship which can be tough to preserve in your thirties and forties when relationships with friends can become unstable.

This may be somewhat related to what weston said, except I don't see it as a way of making small clones of yourself, just of creating some sort of stable, dependable tribe that you can enjoy.

Anyway, just a theory.
posted by onlyconnect at 1:34 PM on June 21, 2004


When I was younger I hated children and didn't want any. When I was 22 or so that started to change a bit...I married at 24, had three in a short period of time, and fell totally in love with them. Now they are teens and I am back to disliking being around children in general. Life is funny.

Most of you childfree people would love your own if you had any. But that doesn't mean you should run right out and procreate. Having a child is the most mindboggling thing you can do to yourself. You WILL never be the same person you once were, for good or ill. I am so happy I had mine-and I am so happy they are the ages they are ;-)
posted by konolia at 1:38 PM on June 21, 2004


Why have kids?

Why not ? Baby goats are cute.

And then, of course, there are baby humans. They are a different story. Unless they're yours.
posted by troutfishing at 3:05 PM on June 21, 2004


fuzz:

It's a good question, because it's still socially unacceptable to question someone's desire to have children, or to admit that you made a mistake by deciding to have them

Agreed on the latter, but I can't believe you or anyone else really believes the former. It's socially unacceptable to question the desire to have children? Oh you rebel you! Read through this thread; listen to the young, single and/or trendy -- it's relentless. I remember friends in college talking about how "you'll never catch me pumping out pups," etc. How awful to think they all thought they were going against societal norms.

Anyway, if you raise a child well, you've added something good to the world. Right? So what's the problem?
posted by argybarg at 5:39 PM on June 21, 2004


if you raise a child well, you've added something good to the world.
Unfortunately, despite all attempts to bring children up well, they usually end up just like their parents. The crux of this problem is that those who are most likely to produce "good" adults are those who either do not reproduce, or who reproduce in limited numbers, while those who are the least qualified spawn in huge quantities.
posted by dg at 5:48 PM on June 21, 2004


I liked kids long before I had any. I don't expect you or anyone else to like mine, but please don't be rude to them. Sets a bad example. Thanks.

having met whatnot's two small children on several occasions, i find it hard to believe that anyone would be rude to them. they are sweet, funny and intelligent, polite and well-behaved. if you choose to take anyone's advice in this thread, please take hers. on the child-rearing front, she seems to be doing things right.
posted by bluishorange at 6:03 PM on June 21, 2004


Unfortunately, despite all attempts to bring children up well, they usually end up just like their parents.

Much to the disappointment of parents around the world, this is not even slightly true.
posted by kindall at 6:23 PM on June 21, 2004


Actually, kindall, I believe that it is far more true than most parents want to believe. The fact that they were once rude, selfish, opinionated, intolerant 16 year-olds too tends to escape most parents, however.
posted by dg at 6:38 PM on June 21, 2004


I love kids. I've never wanted to bear them or raise them, though. I remember beingnine when someone said something about, "When you're a mommy," and I said I'd never be a mommy. I got a funny look.

I helped raise my four younger brothers, and it was a lot of work. From the day a baby is born until the day he or she moves out of your home, you are responsible for attending to your offspring's every physical need. If you're a good parent, you probably want to attend to the emotional needs. And then one day your kids move out, and still you care, still you feel the worry and the responsibility and the need.

I want kids in my life. I want to be an aunt and a godmother and everything else. It's fun to play dolls. It's satisfying to change diapers, even. It's incredibly rewarding to be the confidant for a 14-year-old who is afraid to turn to mom and dad.

I don't want to be a mommy. It makes me sad when people imply that not filling that role lessens my life.

We all have our challenges, our strenghths, our weaknesses. If we strive and live well, we all live full lives. Some of us have love, some of us have children, some of us have art, some of us have careers.

For anyone to tell me that my life, my choices and my accidents are more meaningful or less meaningful, more valuable or less valuable because of any of this, however, is incredibly insulting.

You should not have children because you don't want them, because you know how hard it is and you don't think it's worth it, because you're not willing to live with the risks that come with parenting, because you feel deep down inside of you that not having children is the right way to live your life.

You should have kids because you want them, because you like children, you care about the future, because you feel deep down inside you that having children and raising them is the right thing for you to do.

Sometimes "should" has nothing to do with it. You don't have kids because you can't. You do have kids because you get pregnant.

Either way, you should respect the choices, accidents and situations of others. Not just when it comes to kids, but when it comes to everyone who isn't running around hurting people.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 7:25 PM on June 21, 2004 [1 favorite]


If you choose not to have kids, you'll probably be very happy. I find the proselytizers on either side somewhat annoying. There's plenty of humans; we're not going to run out soon. Don't want kids? - don't have any. And tell anybody who gives you a hard time to mind their own business. Be comfortable with your own decision; you have no idea how other people came to they decisions.

For me, it's fun, amazing, heartbreaking, incredibly expensive, hard work, hilarious, etc. I would love to have had the opportunity to have more than 1. Having a child to love is an irreplaceable experience. I always knew I wanted children, and I'm glad I have my son.

I feel bad for the people who want kids and can't have them. Adoption can be quite difficult, though rewarding for those who make it work.

Meanwhile, Dame, if you really want to understand, try to spend time with a kid. I think it's nice for kids to have a grown-up friend to talk to, to make them feel special, and to get a little perspective. Interesting question.
posted by theora55 at 7:41 PM on June 21, 2004


If you think you want children, don't put it off indefinitely thinking you have plenty of time. My (and this is true for many people I've talked with) thirties flashed by in a seeming instant—suddenly I'm about to turn 40, and haven't had children. In my case, I've long wanted a child, but the time "hasn't been right". Now, though, I'm 40 and the available pool of potential partners are about that age. A lot of women my age have grown children. (I'd assumed they'd not be interested in going through the whole thing again; but one woman told me that she would love to have another child.) And there are the worries about the biological clock (and recent research indicates that birth defects correlate to the male's age, as well).

My circle of friends from college are all about six to eight years younger than me, and I've noticed they've all finally been getting married and having children (not necessarily in that order). Yeah, there was that crowd that did so in the early twenties. Now, though, there's the different crowd that are doing so in their early and mid-thirties.

Anyway, believe me, it's likely that the sense of "there's plenty of time" will fade as you approach forty. If I had a child tomorrow, for example, I'll likely not see that much of any grandchildren's lives. Lots of things I take for granted from my childhood (especially because my parents were very young parents) are out-of-the-question for my life with children and grandchildren and family at this point. That makes me sad. On the other hand, assuming I'm ready to be a parent now, which is a stretch, I'm damn sure better qualified to be a parent than I was ten or twenty years ago. So there's that.

My two cents. Your question directly? Well, I think a good, strong, well-intentioned objective arguments can be made in either direction. That means: go with your conscience and inclincations and ignore the people that condemn you for it (either way, and these days it seems there is much of this in both directions).
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 12:38 AM on June 22, 2004


"As an adult I seethed when parent coworkers pulled rank to get out of projects, parent shoppers didn't rein in their brats, and so on."

I'll concur on the parents not reigning in their kids while out in public (a BIG peeve of mine), but I'll point out that it's a problem you have with the parents, not the kids.

However, this whole meme about non-breeders seething when breeders get "special treatment" just astounds me. We're raising the next generation of humanity, and it seems to me that any human society will regard this as a value-added activity.

The fact that non-breeders can't see this is proof (IMO) of the basic narcissism and selfishness of humanity. We breeders have greater demands on our time/energy/money - we have human beings that depend on us for physical and emotional sustenance. You don't. You get more spare time, money and freedom. But, the tradeoff (in many cases) is that you are expected to contribute more in other ways. Sorry if you don't like it, but that's the way the game works.
posted by Irontom at 3:02 AM on June 22, 2004


Also, they'll change your life in a way you can't possibly imagine and once you have them you'll realize how pointless most other things are.

Having children is your last best chance at growing up.

Having children is an instinct.

These comments strike me as convincing reasons to continue avoiding parenthood.
posted by Mars Saxman at 12:03 PM on June 22, 2004


However, this whole meme about non-breeders seething when breeders get "special treatment" just astounds me. We're raising the next generation of humanity, and it seems to me that any human society will regard this as a value-added activity.

The fact that non-breeders can't see this is proof (IMO) of the basic narcissism and selfishness of humanity. We breeders have greater demands on our time/energy/money - we have human beings that depend on us for physical and emotional sustenance. You don't. You get more spare time, money and freedom. But, the tradeoff (in many cases) is that you are expected to contribute more in other ways. Sorry if you don't like it, but that's the way the game works.


You have made a choice about what to do with your life, in the same way that someone joining a convent makes a choice. I may admire your choice and think it very noble, but find it odd when you require me to subsidize your choice through my personal sacrifice.

Your assumption that I should be happy to give up my own freedoms and benefits in order to make your life easier -- give them up without a word when you certainly never consulted with me before making your choice -- is the definition of selfish. And your casual assumption that "non-breeders" have nothing in their lives that as important to them (and to society) as your children are is pretty narcissistic, to boot.

If what you're saying is true, then we should all be willing to give things up to make our neighbor's lives easier when they make a choice that will somehow benefit society. Fred is a teacher? I'll pick up his dry cleaning. Jill joined the Peace Corps? I'll housesit her cat. The thing is, we don't do this, because in most other contexts it's understood that people's choices are personal, and they must pay for them themselves. (And I'm not even touching the trickier question of how we should assign moral value to people's choices, which seems mostly impossible to do.)

I'm glad that you're raising the next generation of humanity. You seem like a good guy, and I bet you're doing a great job of it. Keep your hands off of my freedoms, though, and stop making assumptions about my life.
posted by onlyconnect at 1:52 PM on June 29, 2004 [1 favorite]


I sometimes believe that I'm destined to reproduce somewhere along the line. I could be grocery shopping, riding a subway, sitting in a bookstore reading a magazine, and out of 100 people in the vicinity, a child under 6 will make a beeline to me. And I have an uncanny ability to entertain the hell out of them.

I used to think that this was because I was little more than a big man-child myself, what with my enthusiasms for noisy music, goofy toys, grossout humor, and sugary snacks. But it's odd that ever since I was a teenager looking after my then toddler sister, I've found hanging out with kids oddly satisfying. Maybe I'd be a good dad. And maybe that satisfaction is the reason to be one.

Of course the other aspects of parenthood (the need to financially and emotionally support a tiny life entirely in your hands) can be daunting and terrifying, but that's my attempt at answer.
posted by jonmc at 10:08 AM on July 3, 2004


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