Friday, July 13, 2012

What About Children?

When I discuss with people my decision to remain unmarried one of the first questions I’m often asked is, “But what about having children?”  

I’ve known for nearly my entire life that I didn’t want to be a parent.  Yes I’ve had biologically/cute baby induced moments where I think it might be nice but then my thoughts travel past the moment to the next 18 years (and beyond…since parenthood seems to go on forever these days) and in a matter of seconds I go from ‘awww…this could be fun’ to ‘no, this isn’t for me.’It isn’t that I think I’d be a bad mother, that I don’t like children or that I couldn’t handle the responsibility.In fact, I’m not going to explain or elaborate much on my reasons for making this decision – at least not in this blog post.

Those of us who choose to not become parents are often expected to explain or justify that decision.  In Think Before You Breed written by Christine Overall, who I’ll point out is a mother herself, and published in the New York Times points out that one’s reasons for choosing to have children are typically not questioned because we just assume it is something everyone wants to do.  She puts forth the idea that why one desires to become a parent is a question that should be asked and that we may even be ethically bound to do so.

“The question whether to have children is of course prudential in part; it’s concerned about what is or is not in one’s own interests. But it is also an ethical question, for it is about whether to bring a person (in some cases more than one person) into existence — and that person cannot, by the very nature of the situation, give consent to being brought into existence. Such a question also profoundly affects the well-being of existing people (the potential parents, siblings if any, and grandparents). And it has effects beyond the family on the broader society, which is inevitably changed by the cumulative impact — on things like education, health care, employment, agriculture, community growth and design, and the availability and distribution of resources — of individual decisions about whether to procreate.”

Choosing to be a parent is a forever choice.  Once that baby is born nearly every action taken by you for the next 20 plus years is going to have some sort of impact on this new person that you bring into the world.   It is more than just making sure that they are fed, clothed and properly sheltered.  It is also doing your best to ensure that the person they grow up to be is a decent, responsible and contributing member of society.  

The decision to not have a child impacts pretty much no one else, whereas having one has the potential to impact the world far beyond the person who is making the decision or even the person being born.  

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