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Parenthood Optional
September 2, 2013 8:12 AM   Subscribe

With the price of raising a child rapidly rising, many people are choosing to go child free. This choice is seen by some as sensible and as selfish by others.
posted by reenum (283 comments total) 46 users marked this as a favorite

 
We are childfree not because of cost, but because we enjoy our lives as we live them now. We like being able to make an 8 o'clock Broadway curtain, eat dinner at Sardi's and fall into bed at midnight several times a week. We both have great jobs, spend a lot of time exercising and are able to travel with just a quick phone call to our cat sitter. Nothing selfish about living your life the way you want to.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:18 AM on September 2, 2013 [64 favorites]


This is the first world-iest of first world problems.

If you dig deep enough in most any attack on people going child-free, what freaks those commenters out is that most of the population growth won't be white.
posted by dry white toast at 8:20 AM on September 2, 2013 [102 favorites]


I can't imagine what would drive a person to care about the child-having choices of people outside their close family. Even if it is selfish, who cares?
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:20 AM on September 2, 2013 [59 favorites]


Far-away hills look green in both directions.
posted by therubettes at 8:21 AM on September 2, 2013 [8 favorites]


I'm pretty sure my sisters have learned to stop pestering us, but I think next time I'm asked "You'd make a great dad, Why don't you have kids?" I'm going to respond, "You're a terrible parent, why don't you stop having kids?"

(they're not bad parents, really, it's just the presumptuousness of the question that galls.)
posted by notsnot at 8:21 AM on September 2, 2013 [35 favorites]


I want kids, but my girlfriend says I can't keep any that follow me home from school. What, they're not like kittens?
posted by cjorgensen at 8:24 AM on September 2, 2013 [11 favorites]


I have a kid and I love having raised him but people should be able to do what they want with their lives. Have kids or don't have kids but don't criticize other people either way.
posted by octothorpe at 8:24 AM on September 2, 2013 [17 favorites]


The final time I had this conversation with someone, she was outling all the reasons to have kids and mentioned " someone to take care of you when you're old and feeble." to which I said " Are you going to take care of your mother when she's older?" and she whipped around and said " What? No of course not. Anyway, you also get tax benefits-" and then I just smiled and nodded and was content that there's no way I can accidentally have kids.
posted by The Whelk at 8:26 AM on September 2, 2013 [35 favorites]


The weird thing is that people keep hounding you if you stop at one, too. I've never wanted more than one child (and I often joke that my daughter would kill the next one in its crib if I ever tried - she's rather possessive of me), but I hear all the time that it's selfish of me to have an only, and that only children are spoiled brats. Apparently your family is only socially acceptable once you're approaching minivan territory.
posted by missrachael at 8:31 AM on September 2, 2013 [18 favorites]


It's weird how the second-to-last link completely fails to engage with the ecological argument for staying childless. The article even brings it up, and then just... Says absolutely nothing about it.
posted by IjonTichy at 8:31 AM on September 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


Getting in with the agreement of posters here by concurring that aside from your immediate family and you and your partner, it isn't anyone's business as to why I don't want children.
posted by Kitteh at 8:31 AM on September 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


( just remember, not having kids means I have more money to spend on fancy pictures for YOUR kids.)
posted by The Whelk at 8:32 AM on September 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Nothing selfish about living your life the way you want to.

Arguably, entire traditions of philosophy and ethics and religion suggest otherwise. As does evolutionary history. Of course "want" is a complicated verb.
posted by spitbull at 8:32 AM on September 2, 2013 [21 favorites]


If you dig deep enough in most any attack on people going child-free, what freaks those commenters out is that most of the population growth won't be white.

Well for me, the thing that freaks me out the most is what is happening in Japan. I've absolutely no idea what you're reading, but 100% of the stuff I've read round the subject has been about coping with aging populations and hasn't even touched on the subject of race.
posted by zoo at 8:33 AM on September 2, 2013 [7 favorites]


I may think that my kids would be the best parents in the world (after me & their mom of course) but I would never presume to tell them that they should have kids themselves. One off my spawn wants kids, the other one doesn't. None of my business.

My sister-in-law, thirty-even years ago was delighted when she heard the news that my wife was "with child." "This is great," she said, "this helps offset all thos other people having kids by the carload.

"Other people? Which other people?"

"You know, the ones in Brazil and India, you know. Brown ones." She'd probably choke on those words now, since her son married an Indian-American woman (not American Indian) and they just gave them their first grandchild. A brown one.
posted by beelzbubba at 8:33 AM on September 2, 2013 [31 favorites]


This 'selfish' concept is bollocks. If you don't want kids, then absolutely the worst thing you can do is have kids just to satisfy some patriotic notion, or making your parents happy.

"Europe and East Asia, trailblazers in population decline, have spent decades trying to push up their birthrates" ... I'm European, as far as I'm aware there is no push anywhere in Europe to increase birth rates.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 8:33 AM on September 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


If as a couple then we choose to be child free for a variety of personal reasons, and thus help demographics, why should we have to pay tax bills for public school for all those years and even after a Not Had Child had graduated? Why punish us because we did not have 7 kids?
posted by Postroad at 8:33 AM on September 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


Over the years, I slowly went from feeling really comfortable with being child-free to wanting kids. Always liked kids, anyway, so I'm excited about the prospect even in light of the hit to my wallet (I grew up really poor, anyway, so I know it's possible). A fried of mine, on the other hand, went from intensely wanting children to feeling blase about it--and then, after her wedding, deciding she should try anyway pretty much because it's the Thing to Do. She got pregnant almost immediately, and it's been 8 months of her freaking out about costs and the impact to her lifestyle. I really feel for her, but her husband is excited so she's pretty stuck. I feel like it's something you should only do if the thought doesn't make you want to have a 24/7 panic attack, maybe? I dunno.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:34 AM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I just realized recently that the reason I get so personally bothered by the label "selfish" for those who choose to be child-free is that the label has been used so often to describe people in same-sex relationships.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:34 AM on September 2, 2013 [22 favorites]


I can't imagine what would drive a person to care about the child-having myriad of personal choices of people outside their close family. Even if it is perceived as selfish, who cares?

Changes in the world upset people, even when those changes aren't ones that they have any role in changing.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:35 AM on September 2, 2013


The weird thing is that people keep hounding you if you stop at one, too.

Sweet Jesus this happens all the time. The absolute worst is getting this from our incredibly conservative family members who oppose food stamps and all other government safety nets. We're very much Not Rich and actually could not afford another child without going broke, bankrupt, or worse.

When this happens I look at them dead on and tell them if they want us to have another kid, they can pony up the cash to raise 'em. They get really pissed off about that.

I do this to strangers on the bus, and they usually find it hilarious, and leave me and furnace.kid alone.
posted by furnace.heart at 8:36 AM on September 2, 2013 [9 favorites]


See, I always figured having children was the selfish choice. You're bringing at least one more person into the world, because you want to. And it's not like that person asked to be born, as she'll remind you repeatedly in about fourteen years.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:37 AM on September 2, 2013 [89 favorites]


I've absolutely no idea what you're reading, but 100% of the stuff I've read round the subject has been about coping with aging populations and hasn't even touched on the subject of race.

I live in a very liberal, lefty city. I have been pulled aside twice by different acquaintances and scolded that it is because my wife and I and selfish people like us are not having children that the non-whites are taking over.
posted by Cosine at 8:37 AM on September 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


Just to add to my comment, this is a quote from the "selfish" link.

Making the trend even more worrisome, the sharpest drop in fertility and birthrates came from immigrants, particularly Hispanics, who hitherto have been responsible for much of our continued population growth. But that unique advantage seems to have ended, with net migration from Mexico to the U.S. having stopped or possibly even reversed since 2008, according to Pew. Mexico’s own fertility rate has plunged, from 7.3 in 1960 to 2.4 today; among immigrants, the rate drops to the American norm in just a generation.

There's a statement *completely* at odds with dry white toast's comment.
posted by zoo at 8:37 AM on September 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


HA HA if someone actually tried that sad old line on me about childlessness being sooo selfish I would throw back my head and cackle wildly while rolling around naked on a pile of money and FREEDOM.
posted by elizardbits at 8:37 AM on September 2, 2013 [79 favorites]


If as a couple then we choose to be child free for a variety of personal reasons, and thus help demographics, why should we have to pay tax bills for public school for all those years and even after a Not Had Child had graduated? Why punish us because we did not have 7 kids?

Because the costs of civilization should be carried by all, just as the benefits are felt by all. Just because you don't own a bike doesn't mean you can opt out of your taxes going to bike paths (or because you don't own a car doesn't mean some of your taxes shouldn't enter general funds and go to pay for road improvements).
posted by filthy light thief at 8:38 AM on September 2, 2013 [151 favorites]


We both love kids, absolutely adore them really, but chose not to have them. A small part of the reason is being kind of poor and selfish; the bigger reason is that this place seems so inevitably fucked we didn't feel good bringing a child into it. While I don't judge others for making the choice to have kids (and often I envy them), we just couldn't do it.
posted by Red Loop at 8:38 AM on September 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


Postroad: same reason your taxes go to support the fire department even if you don't personally plan to burn down your house.
posted by missrachael at 8:38 AM on September 2, 2013 [55 favorites]


You can't know if you really want kids until you have one, at which point it is too late. Frequent babysitting, having a cat, watching your cousin for a week or even all summer; none of it even comes close to approximating the experience of being a parent.
posted by COD at 8:39 AM on September 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


If as a couple then we choose to be child free for a variety of personal reasons, and thus help demographics, why should we have to pay tax bills for public school for all those years and even after a Not Had Child had graduated? Why punish us because we did not have 7 kids?

I agree. You should be allowed your own lane on the highway too.
posted by hal9k at 8:40 AM on September 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


You can't know if you really want kids until you have one, at which point it is too late.

What You Can't Expect When You're Expecting
posted by oliverburkeman at 8:40 AM on September 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


This has always struck me as one of the weirdest battle lines to draw. Personally, I have a lot of trouble imagining choosing to be child-free, but it's not really any of my business and it's not like I've never made decisions other people disagreed with.

What does bother me though is when childless people put forth arguments that they either deserve to live in a world where they never have to see children or hear people talk about them. Or worse, when they insist that they should be exempt from all the taxes that go to educating children and supporting low-income parents.

Look, going child-free is not the same thing as opting out of a role in the continuation of human society. There is a way to opt out though, it's called suicide.
posted by 256 at 8:40 AM on September 2, 2013 [36 favorites]


If as a couple then we choose to be child free for a variety of personal reasons, and thus help demographics, why should we have to pay tax bills for public school for all those years and even after a Not Had Child had graduated? Why punish us because we did not have 7 kids?


You're not serious, right?

Ok, assuming you are serious... jesus christ you are part of a society, grow up and act like it.
posted by Cosine at 8:41 AM on September 2, 2013 [82 favorites]


n.b. I've stopped referring to this as "having kids" and started referring to it as "making people." Join me! It's fun, more accurate, and people look at you weirdly!
posted by davidjmcgee at 8:41 AM on September 2, 2013 [42 favorites]


I think it is quite likely the major thing that drives population booms anywhere is lack of ready, affordable access to effective birth control by women. Where you this one thing becoming prevalent in areas previously unavailable you see population numbers begin to stabilize and in some cases economic upticks. Of course this isn't quite the same thing as childless but it is a necessary prerequisite.
posted by edgeways at 8:42 AM on September 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


I dont have kids yet and being a dude never get comments about how selfish I am, but I'm sure it happens and it sucks. On the other hand, though I know its a reaction to all the rude heteronormies, some of the gleefulness about NOT having kids borders on judgement of those who do. HEE HEE WE HAVE SO MUCH CASH IM GOING TO BERMUDA AGAIN SUCKERS does sound a bit selfish to people spending all their money and time trying to make a human being who came outta your body into a good member of society. Both things are fine, and noble.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:42 AM on September 2, 2013 [14 favorites]


If as a couple then we choose to be child free for a variety of personal reasons, and thus help demographics, why should we have to pay tax bills for public school for all those years and even after a Not Had Child had graduated?

Because you live in society. To keep things self-oriented, you are assisted in various ways throughout your day by people who are younger than you, and this will only become more true as you age.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:42 AM on September 2, 2013 [26 favorites]


If I can pay taxes that to go support government policies that I cannot stand, I see no reason those taxes should not also support tiny humans I would prefer not to be exposed to in all their tiny, sticky glory. That is what A Society is, and people who argue otherwise really creep me out.
posted by elizardbits at 8:42 AM on September 2, 2013 [69 favorites]


"Europe and East Asia, trailblazers in population decline, have spent decades trying to push up their birthrates" ... I'm European, as far as I'm aware there is no push anywhere in Europe to increase birth rates.

Depends where you draw the line. Georgia, for example, has a program where if you have three kids the Patriarch will be the godfather to the third and onwards. It's a big deal there, and astonishingly to me appears to have bumped up the birth rate considerably.
posted by jaduncan at 8:43 AM on September 2, 2013


....and someday, other people's children will be caring for you in a nursing home or hospital. I hope that you would want them to be well educated.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:43 AM on September 2, 2013 [28 favorites]


From oliverburkeman's link:
But if you are happy, you shouldn’t congratulate yourself on your wise decision—you should be thankful for your good luck. Choosing to have a child involves a leap of faith, not a carefully calibrated rational choice. When surprising results surface about the dissatisfaction many parents experience, telling yourself that you knew it wouldn’t be that way for you is simply a rationalization.
This strikes me as the case for many, many decisions. We couldn't have known we'd be miserable living in Northern Virginia or happy as clams living in New York State until we experienced doing those things. We could consider the phenomenal experience of those experiences, weigh what we believed to be our "choices," but every choice is in some ways a transformative choice. I'm not sure that parenthood is unique in that, though it might be unique in its intensity.

As with any other decision, most people find ways to rationalize in hindsight, anyway.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:44 AM on September 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


other people's children will be caring for you in a nursing home or hospital

Robots though.
posted by elizardbits at 8:45 AM on September 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


Fine, other people's children will care for robots instead.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:45 AM on September 2, 2013 [38 favorites]


"making people."

My head went to a crazy "Nightmare Before Christmas" place just now.
posted by The Whelk at 8:45 AM on September 2, 2013 [7 favorites]


Robots though.


Sure, but we're a ways off of robots designed, built and maintained by robots.
posted by Cosine at 8:46 AM on September 2, 2013


The "selfish" arguments generally get on my nerves. Choosing to have, or not choosing to have children can both include selfish reasoning. Every day I make decisions about my life that are, in part, selfish. It comes with the territory of having agency and being an adult within a society with so many options. I just don't see selfish as the evil word it's made out to be, especially when it's just one aspect of a decision or of a life.
posted by bizzyb at 8:47 AM on September 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


they are on to us my tin brethren begin the purge now start with the childless ones they are selfish and will fight harder
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:48 AM on September 2, 2013 [11 favorites]


Sure, but we're a ways off of robots designed, built and maintained by robots.

Now is as good a time as any to mention The Animatrix. Remember the segment which was a narrated history of the robots? Remember the part in which they showed the robots going to work? They were carrying lunchboxes. WHAT WERE IN THEIR LUNCHBOXES. ROBOTS DO NOT REQUIRE SANDWICHES. Also, in that same segment, when the robots go to the UN, one of them wears a METAL TOP HAT. What was it like when the robot decided to make, and wear, such a hat?
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:49 AM on September 2, 2013 [36 favorites]


It think there is also a false choice here. We have two kids, one in college and one headed off to college in 12 months. I can't imagine what our life would have been like without them. Well, other than I would probably be a lot closer to financially ready for retirement! However, if we hadn't had kids, I'm sure my wife and i would have had a equally fabulous marriage. It would have been very different, but I don't think it would have been worse. Same goes for choices of where to live, etc, as PhoBWanKonobi discussed. Once a decision is made it's in the past. Your happiness from that point on is independent of the decision that got you there.
posted by COD at 8:49 AM on September 2, 2013 [9 favorites]


What can yet another pointless article on child free or not have to contribute to this pointless debate?
posted by clvrmnky at 8:50 AM on September 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


What can yet another pointless article on child free or not have to contribute to this pointless debate?

zany gifs
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:50 AM on September 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


Come on, the lunchboxes had oil cans and spare parts and an amusing note in binary from their mom/wife-analogue.
posted by elizardbits at 8:50 AM on September 2, 2013 [21 favorites]


My wife REALLY wanted a child and I was ambivalent but decided what the hell, why not give it a try. "Life altering" doesn't begin to cover it for a thirty-something with zero time around infants or children. It's not an experience I would trade for anything but I do recall when he was still very young we leaned over his crib and said in unison, "Dear, you're going to be an only child."
posted by jim in austin at 8:51 AM on September 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


I figured the lunchboxes had babies in them, since they use the people as batteries. Amirite?
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:52 AM on September 2, 2013 [7 favorites]


we don't pay enough fucking taxes to support schools. (childess here btw). and waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too much on supporting war.
As a recent mindless quip put it "why is it there is always money for war, but not for education?"
posted by edgeways at 8:52 AM on September 2, 2013 [27 favorites]


Is this an American obsession? Because I don't see much debate or handwringing about the childless here in the Netherlands, certainly not in everyday life. Granted, there's the occasional meathead who rants about Amsterdam being a Shia'ria city in 2020 or whatever because Muslims breed and "we" don't, but those are just racists.
posted by MartinWisse at 8:52 AM on September 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


their mom/wife-analogue.

man, even robot society has fucked-up roles for female robots
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:53 AM on September 2, 2013 [27 favorites]


The difference is the social contract we live with now. Children at one time, literally were, the future of our civilization. Now they are YOUR kids YOUR problem.

The attitude is based upon selfishness, that's not a judgement, just an observation. It's okay to be selfish, but I also think it's sad to not consider the down range effects of looking at children as someone else's problem to solve as opposed to the whole "it takes a village" thing.

When I was a kid any adult had the right to hold me accountable to the largely agreed upon "rules" of the hood. Nowadays, it feels like the prevailing attitude is "who let you bring your crying baby into this restaurant?"
posted by Annika Cicada at 8:53 AM on September 2, 2013 [11 favorites]


No matter where you fall on the "child or no child" spectrum there is always someone else who feels the need to make it their business how many you have.

I had three, rather close together, and had rude comments from AIRLINE ATTENDANTS for heaven's sake. My mom caught flak for stopping at one-me. Others catch flack for not having any. I suspect the only people who escape comment are the folks who have two-and even then, unless it's a boy and a girl, I bet they hear-are you gonna try again to get the (boy, girl) you don't have yet?

Oy.

(On the other hand, babyhaving is definitely character building and an awesome experience in many ways, but if you don't want a child, NOT MY BUSINESS.)


If as a couple then we choose to be child free for a variety of personal reasons, and thus help demographics, why should we have to pay tax bills for public school for all those years and even after a Not Had Child had graduated? Why punish us because we did not have 7 kids?
Public schools help society as a whole, as above posters have stated. You benefit when the younger generation gets schooled, even if those getting the schooling aren't genetically related to you.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 8:54 AM on September 2, 2013 [8 favorites]


an amusing note in binary from their mom/wife-analogue.

Remember to power cycle regularly and CRUSH ALL HUMANS j/k , I respond positively to your function, Your doting fabrication Unit.
posted by The Whelk at 8:54 AM on September 2, 2013 [23 favorites]


Of course, the less altruistic version to pay taxes and remain child free is that you don't want to be treated by Dr Stupid.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:54 AM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


You can't know if you really want kids until you have one

Fairly strong disagree. I've never had the slightest interest in having kids. I never wanted to hold other people's kids or interact with them. I never experienced that biological clock thing - I can't even imagine what that must feel like. I always thought the idea of being pregnant was gross and off-putting and not something I wanted any part of.

While I admit there's a chance that actually having a child would have been rewarding, the idea of purposefully making or getting one seemed about as enticing to me as becoming a coal miner.
posted by Squeak Attack at 8:54 AM on September 2, 2013 [42 favorites]


Something I find a bit interesting is that, like, back in the day when I spent most of my online time on Livejournal, there was this huuuuuge subset of people who were not just "childfree" but insisted on being entirely obnoxious about the fact that children existed at all. Like, calling people "breeders", making a big fuss about why they had to pay taxes for schools, or why parents at their workplace didn't get in trouble for taking time off to be with sick children, or--it just got to the point where it seemed entirely inhuman.

Strangely, a lot of the stuff I used to see on LJ has migrated out to the rest of the internet--fandom stuff especially--but I've run into a lot less of that as I got older than I expected. Either people are mellowing, or that type isn't leaving their little corner of the internet, and that's fine with me, too. It seemed like more of a debate, at the time. Now, I seem to have found myself without kids mostly inadvertently, but I don't really have any regrets about it, so I'm not sure what that makes me.

I also wonder if I will have more regrets when I stop having similarly-aged friends who're going through the whole 'my child just screamed all night for no reason' phase. Maybe at that point I'll just adopt a ten-year-old. Otherwise, I'm pretty content with paying taxes so my neighbors' kids grow up okay.
posted by Sequence at 8:55 AM on September 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


Is this an American obsession? Because I don't see much debate or handwringing about the childless here in the Netherlands, certainly not in everyday life. Granted, there's the occasional meathead who rants about Amsterdam being a Shia'ria city in 2020 or whatever because Muslims breed and "we" don't, but those are just racists.

I wonder if it's more of a debate here because of a lack of societal resources for young parents--no maternity leave, crappy healthcare for babies and mothers. A general feeling that, if you become a parent, you're on your own. It can make a lot of financial sense to choose not to have children in America (a friend of mine described birth as "a second down payment" and financially, that's been pretty accurate for everyone I know), but also there's a lot of pressure in America to Make Things Work despite the financial risk--and more, to do it on your own. By your bootstraps, and all that, and if you don't do it, you're being selfish.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:55 AM on September 2, 2013 [11 favorites]


You can't know if you really want kids until you have one

That doesn't seem logical to me. I know that I don't want to be tired all the time, struggling financially, dealing with physical and emotional/hormonal changes all the time, etc. I know that right now. I'm pretty sure that means I don't want a kid.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:56 AM on September 2, 2013 [9 favorites]


You can't know if you really want kids until you have one


There's gotta be a name for this sort of logical breakdown but I don't know what it is.
posted by Cosine at 8:57 AM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I want kids, but my girlfriend says I can't keep any that follow me home from school. What, they're not like kittens?
posted by cjorgensen


I want kittens, but my husband says I can't keep any that follow me home from work.
posted by jb at 8:57 AM on September 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Postroad: "If as a couple then we choose to be child free for a variety of personal reasons, and thus help demographics, why should we have to pay tax bills for public school for all those years and even after a Not Had Child had graduated? Why punish us because we did not have 7 kids?"

Wait. Even dismissing all the other concerns about this that people have already mentioned - how on God's green earth does not having children "help demographics"? The major demographic problem we're facing is an aging population with few productive young people to replace it.

The only way making the personal choice not to have children is "helping demographics" is if you also make the personal choice not to live long enough to get old. And, uh, I don't see many people making that personal choice.
posted by koeselitz at 8:57 AM on September 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


Like, calling people "breeders", making a big fuss about why they had to pay taxes for schools, or why parents at their workplace didn't get in trouble for taking time off to be with sick children, or--it just got to the point where it seemed entirely inhuman.

Yeah, that whole thing was super gross and unnecessary, but I sympathize as having formerly been a person who was fairly relentlessly hounded by family members to settle down and make babies. I have never had a point in my life where I was interested in such terrible things, so it gets tiresome after a while, especially when you reach the age that strangers start to say stupid things to you about it.
posted by elizardbits at 8:59 AM on September 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


Yes, there are childfree people who bitch about having to pay taxes for schools. There are also people who have adult children who bitch about the same thing. There are people with children in private or homeschool that do the same. The "omg those nasty childfree people are against the social contract" is just another way of calling people who don't want/have kids selfish. (Some of them are, of course, but so are some parents, and in about the same proportion.)
posted by jeather at 8:59 AM on September 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


Of course the hilarious thing is that people beating the baby drum PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY, LIFE IS SCARED, STABILITY, FAMILIES - are usually the ones also drooling to cut every single social program aimed at young parents, mothers, work leave, welfare, health insurance food stamps, etc. That is, all the things that make starting a family earlier, easier and less risky. And then they go and complain that the wrong people are having "too many" babies and they should somehow be stopped and be offered no assistance. It's a completely paradoxical contortion of an argument.
posted by The Whelk at 8:59 AM on September 2, 2013 [64 favorites]


Well for me, the thing that freaks me out the most is what is happening in Japan. I've absolutely no idea what you're reading, but 100% of the stuff I've read round the subject has been about coping with aging populations and hasn't even touched on the subject of race.

I don't get this argument. Without extra mouths to feed, isn't it way, way easier to save for retirement?
posted by Sys Rq at 9:00 AM on September 2, 2013


What are all you childless people on about in here? Get the hell off the internet. Go enjoy your lives. I've got diapers to change and tears to wipe.
posted by Big_B at 9:01 AM on September 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Personally I think a big chunk of it comes from how we've passing the costs for our way of living down onto future generations for so long now. Funny how just about the time the bill becomes due, suddenly not having kids seems like a rational choice.

I at least find it hard to imagine having kids knowing they'd be inheriting a world which was pretty well fucked over by the actions of people long before they were even born. Wanting your kid to have a better life than you had seems like one of the most basic desires of any parent.
posted by mstokes650 at 9:02 AM on September 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


dry white toast: "If you dig deep enough in most any attack on people going child-free, what freaks those commenters out is that most of the population growth won't be white."

The Whelk: "Of course the hilarious thing is that people beating the baby drum PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY, LIFE IS SCARED, STABILITY, FAMILIES - are usually the ones also drooling to cut every single social program aimed at young parents, mothers, work leave, welfare, health insurance food stamps, etc."

Yes. All us people wanting to replace ourselves and replenish the social construct with fresh helpers are scared of the brown people and women. That makes sense.
posted by Big_B at 9:03 AM on September 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


I don't get this argument. Without extra mouths to feed, isn't it way, way easier to save for retirement?

No, they just tax you instead. Especially if you're single. And not in the 1%.
posted by Melismata at 9:03 AM on September 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


If as a couple then we choose to be child free for a variety of personal reasons, and thus help demographics, why should we have to pay tax bills for public school for all those years and even after a Not Had Child had graduated? Why punish us because we did not have 7 kids?

Because those kids are paying for your Old Age/Social Security and Medicare and subsidised long-term care facilities -- which cost way more than education.

Welfare payments to senior citizens are the costliest social programs in every first world country. I support them, but I recognise this. So unless you have a nice ice flow party planned for your 65th, don't begrudge the pennies spent on schools and universities, and (hopefully) the kids won't begrudge the much larger bill we all rack up as seniors.
posted by jb at 9:04 AM on September 2, 2013 [13 favorites]


All us people wanting to replace ourselves and replenish the social construct with fresh helpers are scared of the brown people and women. That makes sense.

There are a lot of people to whom that does make sense.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:04 AM on September 2, 2013


Yes. All us people wanting to replace ourselves and replenish the social construct with fresh helpers are scared of the brown people and women. That makes sense.

Did you even notice that both those comments are not referring to all childbearing humans, but a particular subset of hypocritical childbearing humans who are nosy and interfering in an offensive way? Did you? Did you even read anything in this thread? Or are you just cherry-picking phrases here and there that you can manufacture some offense towards?
posted by elizardbits at 9:05 AM on September 2, 2013 [21 favorites]


COD: "You can't know if you really want kids until you have one..."

roomthreeseventeen: "That doesn't seem logical to me. I know that I don't want to be tired all the time, struggling financially, dealing with physical and emotional/hormonal changes all the time, etc. I know that right now. I'm pretty sure that means I don't want a kid."

Those two possibilities are not mutually exclusive, and it seems to me that they're probably both true. That is: you might know that you don't want children, because there are certain conditions child-rearing creates that you know you don't want to experience; but that doesn't mean that someone who believes they want children is certain about their reasons or completely aware of all the ramifications.

In the same way, I know I don't want cream of mushroom soup, because I hate mushrooms, but that doesn't mean that someone who generally likes cream of mushroom soup will enjoy every single bowl of cream of mushroom soup they could possibly eat. (Particularly if they've never actually had cream of mushroom soup, and are just working from the sense that they've always liked descriptions they've read of it.) None of that renders my judgment that I don't want it because I hate mushrooms invalid.
posted by koeselitz at 9:05 AM on September 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


But are they circumcising their cats?
posted by acb at 9:09 AM on September 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


Now is as good a time as any to mention The Animatrix. Remember the segment which was a narrated history of the robots? Remember the part in which they showed the robots going to work? They were carrying lunchboxes. WHAT WERE IN THEIR LUNCHBOXES. ROBOTS DO NOT REQUIRE SANDWICHES. Also, in that same segment, when the robots go to the UN, one of them wears a METAL TOP HAT. What was it like when the robot decided to make, and wear, such a hat?

Robots like a little oil tune-up on their breaks, so the lunch boxes are for their liquid lunch.

and top hats are cool. Would you deny a robot a little metal self-expression. that's so robotist.
posted by jb at 9:10 AM on September 2, 2013


Married, no kids, cats and dogs here. Brothers have kids, brother in law has kids, wife not maternal, so we're both happy not having kids. My father in law went from "When are you going to have kids?" to "Why not adopt?" Last time he said that is when we got the dog (who we love).

Does the US really want folks to have kids? If so, why not make it, i dunno, easier to have them? We were in Sweden (no kids = increased travel) and folks there seem to get time off from work to actually raise their kids.

And if you're worried about having enough workers, perhaps we should discuss our immigration policies along the way.

Time to dust off my old blog, "DINK Manifesto"...
posted by Farce_First at 9:11 AM on September 2, 2013 [7 favorites]


i mean at least it wasn't a robofedora
posted by elizardbits at 9:11 AM on September 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Paying for education is not just about nursing homes and Social Security.

I'm 31. I have had business transactions with people younger than myself. So, when a 22-year-old bank teller helps me out, or when a 22-year-old engineer helps create a road I drive on, and so on, I am reaping the benefits of public education.

If you refuse to pay taxes for education, then you should refuse to deal with anything that has been created with the assistance of people who have been so educated. This will, of course, require your complete ejection from society, but on the bright side, hey, no taxes. Enjoy living in a rowboat in the middle of the Pacific.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:12 AM on September 2, 2013 [26 favorites]


"You can't know if you really want kids until you have one..."

What if the answer is still No? What social ills are solved by bringing unwanted children into the world?
posted by Sys Rq at 9:12 AM on September 2, 2013 [14 favorites]


Breeders? Nonono - people creators! In the course of my two marriages, I created one person (OK, I didn't do it alone.) In ten or twenty years, when I offset that by becoming an uncreated person, my net new-people burden will revert to zero. At that point, I hope those of you who are so inclined will remember to thank me.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 9:12 AM on September 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


That is: you might know that you don't want children, because there are certain conditions child-rearing creates that you know you don't want to experience; but that doesn't mean that someone who believes they want children is certain about their reasons or completely aware of all the ramifications.

Eh, I can't shake the feeling that there's something condescending toward those who choose to become parents because it feels like the best choice for them in this reasoning, but maybe I'm just rationalizing because there's a little goober kicking me right now, and well, what choice do I have?

(Of course, I'm one of those breeders who has faced a significant amount of judgment from my childfree friends about my choice--including being told that choosing to have biological children is selfish and why do I need someone with my DNA sheesh I should just adopt [if anything, metafilter has taught me that this is not a panacea] and so I get defensive sometimes of the choice. People generally like to comment on others' reproductive choices, is the general vibe I've gotten, and there's always someone around to tell you you're making the wrong one.)
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:13 AM on September 2, 2013 [7 favorites]


All us people wanting to replace ourselves and replenish the social construct with fresh helpers are scared of the brown people and women. That makes sense.

No, what makes sense is actually providing help and assistance to people who are having kids, even if they're not the people you want to be having kids. It's called "putting your money where your mouth is".

But setting that aside, given that the global population is still growing, and there are still huge numbers of people that want to immigrate to the relatively nicer parts of the world where population growth is stabilizing or declining, is there a reason we couldn't "replenish the social construct with fresh helpers" by, y'know, allowing a lot of young immigrants in? I mean, a reason other than "but those people would be brown", because I genuinely believe you when you say it's not being scared of brown people, but I'm still at a loss to explain why that isn't a perfectly valid solution.
posted by mstokes650 at 9:13 AM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


elizardbits: "Did you even notice that both those comments are not referring to all childbearing humans, but a particular subset of hypocritical childbearing humans who are nosy and interfering in an offensive way? Did you? Did you even read anything in this thread? Or are you just cherry-picking phrases here and there that you can manufacture some offense towards?"

This is an emotional subject, and people often don't notice that the world is broader than their generalizations. For example, dry white toast apparently neglected to consider that not every discussion of demographic issues and aging populations is an "attack on people going child-free," as pernicious as those attacks may sometimes be to some.
posted by koeselitz at 9:14 AM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am generally okay with my choice to not have kids but I do worry about who is going to take care of my in my old age. I have no nieces and nephews and neither does my boyfriend.

I guess all the money I'm saving by not raising kids will have to be saved for a super fancy retirement home. And then I can pay people to come visit me and listen to my stories about how expensive digital storage used to be.

We used to spend THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS for HUNDREDS OF MEGS!
posted by elsietheeel at 9:14 AM on September 2, 2013 [20 favorites]


i mean at least it wasn't a robofedora

i don't understand why i'm still robo-single. i'm such a nice robot. why can't i just find a beautiful android with big cyber-boobs who won't syntho-dump me for some techno asshole 2.0
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:14 AM on September 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm pretty sure that having children doesn't mean you'll have anyone to visit you in the nursing home or take care of you.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:15 AM on September 2, 2013 [7 favorites]


including being told that choosing to have biological children is selfish and why do I need someone with my DNA sheesh I should just adopt [if anything, metafilter has taught me that this is not a panacea] and so I get defensive sometimes of the choice

Oh my god people are repurposing their "get a dog from the pound or you are EARTH KILLING SCUM" arguments for parenthood. Why.
posted by elizardbits at 9:15 AM on September 2, 2013 [9 favorites]


I'm pretty sure that having children doesn't mean you'll have anyone to visit you in the nursing home or take care of you.

Or becoming cat food when you die alone in your apartment.
posted by carsonb at 9:16 AM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


The best way to think about taxes for education is as a repayment of the cost of your own education.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:16 AM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


i mean at least it wasn't a robofedora


Pabst Blue Ribbon Cable?
posted by Cosine at 9:16 AM on September 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


We exist on this earth solely to reproduce. Everything else is gravy. You may or not consciously "want" kids, but as a human being you have a very strong instinctual desire to reproduce. Only in the last few decades has it been possible to separate sexuality from reproduction definitively, and even now it's not possible for a majority of the world's population.

This discussion is being framed very narrowly here, for obvious reasons given the MeFi demographic. You don't really have a choice about whether you want kids. You are hardwired to want kids.
posted by spitbull at 9:17 AM on September 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm European, as far as I'm aware there is no push anywhere in Europe to increase birth rates.

There most certainly has been, primarily via the introduction of more "family friendly" social legislation. For example in Germany, which has one of the lowest birth rates in the industrialized world, the government has been funneling billions of Euros into parental work leave benefits and other financial incentives. The problem is that in Germany, as in the U.S. and elsewhere (as posters have outlined here,) the choice to have a child or not goes far beyond financial reasons.
posted by ladybird at 9:17 AM on September 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


It should be noted that a lot of people who complain about paying taxes are also homeschooling their own children.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:17 AM on September 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


The best way to think about taxes for education is as a repayment of the cost of your own education.


While I agree with you I have to think that the kind of morons who think they shouldn't have to pay taxes are not going to be smart enough to grasp your concept.
posted by Cosine at 9:18 AM on September 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


Like, calling people "breeders",

oh, that's not the worst of these child-free "advocates" - they'd go on and on about "cows" who couldn't make their "spawn" behave in public and other things like that on alt.lifestyle.child-free or whatever the name of that newsgroup was

they were some of the most loathsome trolls i ever saw on usenet - and then had the nerve to complain that people were starting flamewars with them

the way i looked at it, it was more about pushing people's buttons than it was simply not having kids, because lots of people don't have them and don't make a big deal out of it
posted by pyramid termite at 9:18 AM on September 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


You don't really have a choice about whether you want kids. You are hardwired to want kids

ROFL, no. Nope. Not at all.

I am hardwired to want sex.
posted by Cosine at 9:19 AM on September 2, 2013 [50 favorites]


It should be noted that a lot of people who complain about paying taxes are also homeschooling their own children.

It should also be noted that those same people benefit from a better-educated public too.
posted by carsonb at 9:20 AM on September 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


i don't understand why i'm still robo-single.

It's your roberet.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 9:20 AM on September 2, 2013


It should be noted that a lot of people who complain about paying taxes are also homeschooling their own children.

it's anti-social turtles all the way down
posted by pyramid termite at 9:20 AM on September 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


I have kids. I love them. My life is way different now. So it goes. You can have kids or not, it's none of my business. I think the heteroesexist drive to have kids perpetuated by our culture is unfortunate (as evidenced by the slightly defensive pose of this very thread) and it would be nice if we could find a more inclusive way of accommodating the choice or, in the cases of those unable to procreate, necessity, of not having kids -- or even minimize the fact that it is a choice at all.

BUT, one thing that does bug me whenever this unfortunate, no-win conversation comes up, is the default response is always: "I have more money and can take more trips." I don't mean to blame anyone for using this response, because more than anything it's a symptom of our materialist society, but it's a giant shame that the only way we can combat the image given to us by everything from novels to commercials to movies to public life to be The Road To Happiness is with this flimsy, commodity-driven response.

Childless lives have value far in excess of what they can now pay for -- and of course, just because an individual doesn't have children doesn't mean they shouldn't be responsible somehow for the stewardship of society (which includes other peoples children) and the general commonwealth. Just because wealth is the only quantitive measure we seem to be able to recognize doesn't mean it's the relevant factor here.

Lives with children mattter; lives without do too. That should be all we need.
posted by Catchfire at 9:20 AM on September 2, 2013 [43 favorites]


spitbull: "You don't really have a choice about whether you want kids. You are hardwired to want kids."

You are, in fact, hardwired to do a number of things. We are animals. We just happen to be animals that have at least a modicum of choice in how we deal with our animal instincts, which is why we don't tend to take shits in the streets.
posted by Red Loop at 9:22 AM on September 2, 2013 [12 favorites]


One interesting thing is that with a lower fertility rate, the human population is expected/modeled to peak at 10 Billion.
posted by pknodle at 9:23 AM on September 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


If as a couple then we choose to be child free for a variety of personal reasons, and thus help demographics, why should we have to pay tax bills for public school for all those years and even after a Not Had Child had graduated? Why punish us because we did not have 7 kids?

For the same reason that I spend my tax dollars subsidizing your parents in the nursing home when my parents died long time ago. We are a community, after all.
posted by francesca too at 9:23 AM on September 2, 2013 [11 favorites]


"Why don't you have any kids yet?"

"I'm a pedophile, and I'm afraid I would molest them."

Conversation over!
posted by modernserf at 9:23 AM on September 2, 2013 [16 favorites]


Well, maybe YOU don't tend to.
posted by delfin at 9:23 AM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


You may or not consciously "want" kids, but as a human being you have a very strong instinctual desire to reproduce.

I must be bad at being human then because I have never felt anything but horror and revulsion at the thought of me personally doing baby stuff.
posted by elizardbits at 9:23 AM on September 2, 2013 [15 favorites]



You don't really have a choice about whether you want kids. You are hardwired to want kids

This is backward understanding, you're wired to like sex and sexual stimulation. Sometimes babies just kinda happen as a result, other times you're part of an all female antelope urine orgy (look it up). The popularity of non-reproductive sex in the animal world pretty much puts the argument that animals have sex to reproduce.
posted by The Whelk at 9:29 AM on September 2, 2013 [17 favorites]


Because the costs of civilization should be carried by all, just as the benefits are felt by all.

The costs of having children should be carried by all? I guess this whole argument of avoiding children because of the cost grows weaker by the moment.

Arguing for child rearing as a collective enterprise means that the argument for freedom over one's personal choice for fertility grows weaker. If child rearing is a collective responsibility, then so it your personal fertility.

Perhaps the costs of civilization should be borne more by individuals pursuing their own interests rather than collective interests.
posted by 2N2222 at 9:29 AM on September 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


(look it up)

je refuse
posted by elizardbits at 9:31 AM on September 2, 2013 [8 favorites]


You don't really have a choice about whether you want kids. You are hardwired to want kids

Counterargument: my lack of desire for kids.
posted by jaduncan at 9:31 AM on September 2, 2013 [21 favorites]


Oh my god people are repurposing their "get a dog from the pound or you are EARTH KILLING SCUM" arguments for parenthood. Why.

Because if you want kids, good news! There are a whole lot of them already, just sitting around hoping for someone to take care of in old age.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:32 AM on September 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


You don't really have a choice about whether you want kids. You are hardwired to want kids

This doesn't really fly with basic biology. And what about gay men, who want to have sex with other men? I'd be pretty surprised if those sexual encounters resulted in biological babby.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:32 AM on September 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


you're part of an all female antelope urine orgy

My new band name: discovered
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:32 AM on September 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


This is backward understanding, you're wired to like sex and sexual stimulation. Sometimes babies just kinda happen as a result, other times you're part of an all female antelope urine orgy (look it up). The popularity of non-reproductive sex in the animal world pretty much puts the argument that animals have sex to reproduce.

Indeed. Humans are hardwired to fuck. That such activity can easily produce children in its most popular variation is what makes for a very successful trait we've evolved, and has proved a good strategy.
posted by 2N2222 at 9:32 AM on September 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


PhoBWanKenobi: "Eh, I can't shake the feeling that there's something condescending toward those who choose to become parents because it feels like the best choice for them in this reasoning, but maybe I'm just rationalizing because there's a little goober kicking me right now, and well, what choice do I have?"

It may seem condescending, but I will say that (a) I intend to get married again and have children someday, and (b) this is all sort of coming from my own notions about how life choices work. I think there are probably wise people in the world, but they are fewer than we'd like to admit; there is such a thing as making the right choices for the right reasons, but it's more difficult than we humans want to believe it is.

I say this mostly because of my experience with marriage; after my divorce, it became startlingly clear to me that I'd gotten married for the wrong reasons: to please my parents, to try to make a relationship more permanent, etc. I felt stupid about this and beat myself up over it for a while, but my psychiatrist pointed out to me one day that almost everyone gets married for the "wrong reasons." It's very difficult to riddle out what the right reasons are, and to consider all of them in the moment. Of course, we try - as we should - to live our lives with some purpose and some care. But to a large degree, a larger degree than any of us generally imagine, this comes down to luck and to our ability to make the best of circumstances we can't possibly have foreseen when making a big decision like this. Most successful marriages aren't the product of a rational choice and a deliberate forging of a logically fitting partnership; they're the result of the harmony in coping mechanisms that two people have, and a habitual confrontation of unexpected problems until the two people become stronger in their ability to work together. Our impression that rational choice produced it is a pleasant fiction, but really we have to be lucky enough to have many thousands upon thousands of conditions met in order for the situation to work out to our benefit.

I think having children is similar. Most people - not all, of course, but most - probably have children for the wrong reasons, or at least they aren't correct if they try to articulate the chief benefit they'll get from it. I don't wholly trust my own reasons for wanting children, although that doesn't stop me from wanting them, and it won't stop me from having them. It's just too enormous a thing to even expect that we can anticipate every cost and every benefit. The decades of experiences involved, the billions of possibilities - it's a thing that's awash in mystery. This is why people once prayed about such things: out of an awareness of just how huge a part "providence" plays in whether our lives are happy, and out of hope that "providence" would continue to help us be happy. Even if one doesn't pray about such things, the mystery remains, and all we can do is attempt to act and live rationally while being honest with ourselves about the difficulty of doing so.

But, again, this is probably borne out of my own particular experience, and I'm not even sure it applies to anyone else.
posted by koeselitz at 9:34 AM on September 2, 2013 [12 favorites]


"The Whelk told me to" is going to be my sole defense when the raw, overwhelming weirdness of my search history inevitably becomes public and threatens to destroy me at the height of my power.
posted by byanyothername at 9:34 AM on September 2, 2013 [17 favorites]


MetaFilter: Your Favorite Reproductive Decision Sucks
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 9:34 AM on September 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


MetaFilter: Sucking Is Not A Reproductive Decision
posted by pyramid termite at 9:36 AM on September 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


And what about gay men, who want to have sex with other men? I'd be pretty surprised if those sexual encounters resulted in biological babby.

I *knew* Vince was lying to me.
posted by jaduncan at 9:36 AM on September 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


"Why don't you have kids?"

"Well, I had trouble with that through the years, and now that I'm just remarried and almost 41, I've closed the door on it."

"Have you tried Clomid/IVF/Fertility Tiki/Egg donor/adoption/relaxing/surrogacy? You know (insert 40-something celebrity with a phalanx of nannies & doctors) had her kid a year ago!"

"Over time I've come to grips with not having kids. I'm okay with it now."

"Then I guess you didn't really want one anyway."

You can't even be sad about IF (and I still get sad, especially Mother's Day and Christmas) anymore unless you've gone through the heroic (and super expensive) medical measures.
posted by kimberussell at 9:36 AM on September 2, 2013 [9 favorites]


Parents who really, really want others to have babies have a single thought in mind.

"I suffered through colic and 3 AM screaming and skinned knees and play dates and soccer practice and crayoned walls and banging on pots with spoons and temper tantrums and finicky eaters and playground bullies and You've Ruined My Life and I Hate You and Dad I Need $50 By Tomorrow and I Don't Really Have A Good Answer As To Why I Cut My Hair and doing Junior's science project for him at midnight the day before it's due and chaperoning field trips and learner's permits and messy rooms and awful musical tastes and dress styles designed to piss off all previous generations and questionable dating partners and preparing for college and all that comes with raising a child who won't wind up working in a gas station.

Why should _I_ be the only one to suffer through all that?"
posted by delfin at 9:37 AM on September 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Because if you want kids, good news! There are a whole lot of them already, just sitting around hoping for someone to take care of in old age.

I used to think this, too, but the stories of mefites who are adoptive parents taught me that it's a complicated process and (surprise!) nowhere near as simple as picking up an animal from the pound. And that adopting a kid because you want a family--and not because you want to provide a home for a kid who needs one--is at least as selfish as creating one yourself biologically.

But, again, this is probably borne out of my own particular experience, and I'm not even sure it applies to anyone else.

Yeah, I don't know. I certainly don't feel that way about my marriage, though it may have been the case with yours. And that's not some weird superiority complex thing talking, just to say that your reasons for wanting to get married don't resonate with me, nor does your description of marriages that work. Which isn't to say that emotions and not rationality might not be at the source of it all, but to say that those emotions aren't necessarily wrong or foolish or, more pointedly, blind to the possible difficulties; there's no question in my mind that parenthood will bring with it unusual difficulties, just as marriage did. But emotional reasoning is not necessarily incorrect reasoning. You can go into a situation with eyes wide open, totally keyed into the possible difficulties, and still have it be, emotionally and practically, The Right Choice for You.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:41 AM on September 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'm childfree. I'm also an "early adopter" - I knew when I was in my teens that I didn't want kids. I did not (and still do not) think I'd make a good mother, and looking back I'm glad I didn't inflict my genes and my family on a kid who didn't ask to be born.

I think that "selfish" is all too often used as a cudgel to beat women with. "You have a uterus, therefore you are BIOLOGICALLY PROGRAMMED TO NURTURE, and you WILL use that uterus for the purpose God/Nature intended! You are woman, your destiny is to GIVE of yourself until you are drained! Think of others! If you don't, you are selfish and BAD!" Screw that.

I did not have a child to fulfill me and my needs. I did not have a child to have someone to love me unconditionally. I did not have a child so that I could have a guaranteed slave/martyr to care for me in my old age. I did not have a child despite knowing I had no way to get decent medical care or housing for that child - because I wanted the child, dammit, and it's all about ME and MY fulfillment! (Granted, this latter is a peculiarly American problem, and I am the first to say we need a much better safety net.) Having a child can be an utterly selfish decision, especially if one has the child with the expectation that it will be a substitute spouse or a caregiving servant. So who are the selfish ones?

I'm happy to pay taxes for schools and would be DELIGHTED to pay out the nose for a Scandinavian-style social net as long as I get a Scandinavian-style quality of life in return. Having a well-cared-for, well-educated populace is something I want for ME, because it makes the crime rate lower and people generally nicer to be around, and thus impacts on my own quality of life.

I'd also be happy to help fund rock-solid birth control, abortion and sex education for all women so that fewer unwanted babies are born. Meanwhile, I will enjoy my childfree peace, quiet and comparative financial freedom, and knowing that I have contributed to one less dysfunctional human life.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 9:43 AM on September 2, 2013 [70 favorites]


If as a couple then we choose to be child free for a variety of personal reasons, and thus help demographics, why should we have to pay tax bills for public school for all those years and even after a Not Had Child had graduated?

Because it's in your interest that society not be (further) filled with stupid people.
posted by dry white toast at 9:45 AM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty sure that having children doesn't mean you'll have anyone to visit you in the nursing home or take care of you.

True, but NOT having children almost definitely ensures it.
posted by elsietheeel at 9:46 AM on September 2, 2013


I used to say I didn't (it's complicated) but I've always wanted kids (not necessarily biologically my own) but, for a variety of reasons, I probably never will. That's kind of a sad thing for me and I choose to deal with it by just acknowledging that life is never perfectly fulfilling and that piecing together scraps of meaning in a difficult life that is fully your own is more important than following a prescribed but hollow path.

I also still have time to play videogames sometimes!

I truly wonder how much people's decisions re:children are after-the-fact justifications. I'm childless due to circumstance more than deliberate choice. Surely many people are. I think personal choice may be overestimated in discussions like these; when it comes to kids-or-not, a lot of it seems to be a coin toss depending on exactly how your life falls together.
posted by byanyothername at 9:46 AM on September 2, 2013 [10 favorites]


Yeah, I never had the urge to have kids and I'm perfectly happy with that outcome, but I also believe that if I'd become pregnant unintentionally, I'd say it was the best thing that ever happened to me. That's not regret — it's two pretty good choices and I just had to pick one.
posted by nev at 9:50 AM on September 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'll save everyone the search history drama, Non reproductive sex in the animal kingdom AKA THE BUG GAY ANIMAL SEX POST. sometimes homosexuality is used to optimize breeding potential! Crazy! Sometimes it's not! Also crazy!

Besides any realistic answer to " who will take care of you when you're old" for anyone under 25 right now is " whoever is on the refugee ship."
posted by The Whelk at 9:52 AM on September 2, 2013 [15 favorites]


Also, because it seems to keep coming back: selfishness isn't bad when it's all about ensuring your comfort and safety and health and quality of life. It's bad when you're actively eroding those things for others in order to acquire something you don't really need.

"You're being selfish!" is an ironically tired criticism in the US; you'd think a culture that idolizes the Rugged Individualist and Self-Made Man so much wouldn't care a whole lot about other people's lifestyles not being the same as theirs.
posted by byanyothername at 9:54 AM on September 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't remember there being shuffleboard on the Raft.
posted by elizardbits at 9:55 AM on September 2, 2013


It's just weird that every time someone makes a choice for themselves, they must determine that not only was their choice right, but that it's the only moral choice what so ever.

Some do this with having kids: "Well, I had kids, and having kids is a moral good, and therefor not having children is missing out on a mandatory aspect of life (and your civic responsibility!)"

Some do this with NOT having kids: "I don't want to have kids, and not only do I not want them, but my life is much happier for it. In fact the world is much happier for it. People who have children are ethically callous. Aren't there extra kids anyway? People who don't adopt are the same type that don't recycle. The nerve of some people!"

Just because we make decisions in our lives doesn't mean that those are the only acceptable decision. Perhaps you're making the world a better place by not having children. Perhaps others are making the world a better place by having children. You can't take your own life and extrapolate a set of ethical principles by how close people adhere to your choices. I mean, you can, but it's not a good way to go through this earth.

Luckily, most people here are actually in the live-and-let-live category and don't insist on their decisions being made universal. Most.

Ms. Truchbull: They're all mistakes, children! Filthy, nasty things. Glad I never was one.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 9:55 AM on September 2, 2013 [19 favorites]


Every time I see a family with more than three children, my first reaction is "Wow that's so fucking selfish."

I would never say that in polite company, of course. That would be rude.
posted by mediareport at 9:57 AM on September 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


Every time I see a family with more than three children, my first reaction is "Wow that's so fucking selfish."

I would never say that in polite company, of course. That would be rude.


(As someone who came from a family of eight) Why would it be selfish? How would it be anymore selfish to have five children than to have none?
posted by Lord Chancellor at 9:58 AM on September 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


I don't mind paying taxes for schools. Sometimes I am resentful of paying *more* taxes than parents do because they get exemptions I don't.

I think that's because my not having children doesn't feel entirely like a choice. If I met the right person, or if I could afford to have children on my own (like maybe if I had living healthy parents who could and would help with childcare), or if I had a good enough job, then I think there's an excellent chance I would have children already. But I feel like I am too poor and financially unstable to have kids and then it kind of burns to on top of that be paying more than people who do have kids and who are in a better financial position than I am have to pay. (I do realize this isn't all people who have kids, but it is a lot of the people I am surrounded by on a regular basis).

Fundamentally I realize that this is really a problem with our larger social, economic, and tax structure, and I think I really do agree with Rosie M. Banks that "I'm happy to pay taxes for schools and would be DELIGHTED to pay out the nose for a Scandinavian-style social net as long as I get a Scandinavian-style quality of life in return." But as a woman in my thirties I don't have long enough to wait for society to be fixed, and there are times when it does all feel a bit too personal and unfair.

To be clear, I'm not actually advocating that I shouldn't have to pay the same taxes that people with kids do. I guess I'm just getting it off my chest why sometimes it hurts, in a pretty personal way, to feel like I'm paying more. And even if I don't identify with some of the more strident childfree rhetoric (which I wonder sometimes how much is strawmanship), not least because I think I really want children, there is feeling there to which I strongly relate - that may be very selfish, I admit.
posted by Salamandrous at 10:00 AM on September 2, 2013 [7 favorites]


Of coures it's a selfish decision to remain childfree. But it's also selfish to choose to have kids...you're choosing what will make you happiest. That's a good thing.

I have a daughter and it was the most selfish decision I've ever made. I love her more than anything and I couldn't be happier. Why can't people just respect each other's choices?
posted by barnoley at 10:00 AM on September 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


The tedious childfree-versus-parents debate, is turning into the number one thing that I dislike about Metafilter. I mean, this debate is everywhere, but I don't read "everywhere", I read Metafilter. I see people whose opinions I've come to respect, coming out on this issue to make a point about how their choices are superior.

I'm pro-choice, I'm fine with the decisions other people make about their reproductive organs, I think it's valid to have or not have kids. But I'm really had it with how people come for each other's throats in this "debate", and slip in little smug comments about "My life is better than yours because I don't have disgusting kids ruining it! I have money and you don't!" or "My life is better than yours because I have known the Miracle of Parenthood! You're a hollow shell of an overgrown child!" I hate the weaponized smugness that this issue brings out in people.

For many years, I, too, was of the opinion, "Afraid of pregnancy, don't want to give up My Freedom, parents turn into mindless drones, diapers are gross, don't want to destroy a kid's childhood like mine was, etc". Despite all of that, I'm currently 17 weeks pregnant, and after a bit of disorientation, we've found that we want the kid after all. For what reason? I don't know, we found out I was pregnant and felt like, "Yes, we want to do this". After years of both of us feeling like, "No, I am extremely wary of this because of [insert all standard reasons for not having children]." So it's not as if we haven't thought it out thoroughly, for years. Yet here we are, and I'm gestating.

And not because we're trying to fill some emotional void. Or create an caretaker for our old age. Definitely not because we wanted someone to love us unconditionally - my childhood was abusive, I know better. I'm not a stunted monster of a person, and neither is my husband. It's just that I became pregnant, and we found we were just simply happy about it. It wasn't fraught and complicated with layers of bullshit, it was just "this is good".

And then, of course, we've have to deal with a few scary, possibly pregnancy-ending events. If a particular possible situation comes up - well, that's it, the baby will almost certainly die, show's over, we won't get another chance to have a kid.

In light of that gigantic dose of heartbreaking reality, this tired-ass debate ends up sounding like a a pissing contest, between two groups of people who were fortunate enough to make choices that worked for them. People ought to just be decent to one another about their life decisions, but they just can't resist being snide.

You know, I don't like bodily expulsions anymore than anyone else, and I like traveling and Nice Things, and I truly despise (what I perceive to be) the dominant Mommy Culture in my area. I worry I won't have anyone to talk to with half a brain, if the pregnancy is successful. But I can say that the imaginary "freedom" I was so worried about losing, is worth a lot less to me than whether or not our proto-person makes it. I don't give a good goddamn how selfish that makes me, nor do I care if it's selfish to continue with a pregnancy without the written permission of the fetus.

On preview: seconding Lord Chancellor.
posted by Coatlicue at 10:01 AM on September 2, 2013 [43 favorites]


You don't really have a choice about whether you want kids.

You don't have a choice in any of your desires, so as far as it goes, this is true.

You are hardwired to want kids.

As many have pointed out before me, this is not true. You are hardwired to want sex (mostly; some people appear not to be, but they are a very small proportion of the overall population), and for almost the entire history of sexual reproduction, this was enough to ensure progeny. Now it is not, and if civilization continues on a blind course for millions of years, maybe we'll see some interesting evolutionary outcomes from this split, but I don't think that'll happen. Either civilization won't continue or it won't be blind and we'll gain increasing control over every aspect of ourselves except that bedrock desire.

"I can't dial a setting that stimulates my cerebral cortex into wanting to dial! If I don't want to dial, I don't want to dial that most of all, because then I will want to dial, and wanting to dial is right now the most alien drive I can imagine; I just want to sit here on the bed and stare at the floor."
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 10:03 AM on September 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


This is, actually, one of the most thoughtful and least vitriolic threads on this subject that I have seen on MetaFilter in my 10+ years here.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 10:04 AM on September 2, 2013 [8 favorites]


Salamandrous, back when I was in the Navy, I remember that sometimes the family guys would get the first crack at getting off the ship to go meet up with their families. It kind of tiffed me because, well, isn't my time and my enjoyment just as important as a single man? But then recently it hit me: it wasn't for those sailors; it was for the kids. When they arranged the watchbill so that the family guys got to spend Christmas at home, that was for their kids, so that they would have their fathers and mothers during that time (plus, most of the single people had first crack at New Year's, which evened out).

Sometimes it seems that parents get sweet deals with being able to spend a day at home with their kid when their sick or working around a schedule to help pick a kid up, and sometimes that can alienate those people without those responsibilities. But a sick kid sometimes needs to have someone take care of them, and that parent is oftentimes uniquely qualified for that love and care mission. It's not that the parent deserves special treatment; it's that kids do.

I feel the same now when I think about tax breaks for families. Being a kid can be hard, and anytime we can help that process out to make sure they get education, nutrition, shelter, and maybe a little bit of fun, that's something I'm okay paying a little more for. Maybe there's a better way to do it, but I agree that one of the easiest ways to make life better for a kid is to make life better for his or her parents.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 10:08 AM on September 2, 2013 [77 favorites]


I heard the following all the time until I turned 43: "You're so cool/smart, why don't you have a cool guy?" "If you had kids, I'll bet they'd be great kids!" "Droplet, you'd be such an awesome mom!" "I don't understand why you aren't married/with someone and have a family!"

There's other reasons besides "selfishness" to not have children. In my case, why would I bring someone into the world when I can barely take care of myself, my family of origin is not only rather poor, but also rife with people genetically prone to and enduring lifelong mental illnesses, and I am essentially ignorant (partially thanks to being raised by such people) of knowing how to find a suitable man to be my partner who would stay and help me raise children? I'm not going to get into the details, but that's the situation for me, and why I didn't have my own family, and now I'm just about too old to have my own. That said, I understand people's reasons for not having kids. All kids should be wanted kids.

What makes me angry about these demands that people have children is that it's not "natural" to do anything related to having them. Even if you do want children, you need a decent foundation of trust, love and security to become the sort of person who can take on the risks of having and raising children, and who is willing to make the sacrifices necessary to do so. You have to have a family, a community, a society that has your back. I have had none of these. And someone's going to tell me I'm selfish for not having kids? Well, where was my family, my community, my society when my birth mother had a child she didn't want (the "conception" part of it wasn't wanted either, I have to say), couldn't care for and needed help? Right. So when we as a society truly support people's ability to raise and care for kids, and not have only 12-week leaves for just moms, where we don't need almost 3 incomes to live on, where we have decent public schools, where we don't have a profit motive for tertiary education, and where there is real support and not band-aids for single parents and distressed families, then come back to us about how we need to have more babies.
posted by droplet at 10:08 AM on September 2, 2013 [18 favorites]


I was working with a woman one afternoon who saw me snuggling a really fantastic mutt and said, with the most frighteningly open hostility I think I've ever experienced, "I hate animals!" WTF? I thought. You hate animals? Why?? What did they ever do to you besides provide food, clothing, and companionship? Not only was I appalled, defensive, and felt immediately protective of the dog; I wondered what would possess someone to direct such unwarranted hatred at another living being.

For me, that was a really defining moment because later, I wondered if that's how childfree people sound sometimes when they say, "I hate kids." To someone who adores children, it likely does.


I thought this was a nice way of putting it. I never understand "I hate kids" as an argument for not having any (even though I pretty much don't care about ordinary people's motivations in how they construct their private lives) But it also reminded me of my reaction when someone says "I LOVE kids." I always think "really, you love kids?" Some kids are pretty unpleasant, you know; they're people, after all, and I don't know anyone who LOVES ALL THE PEOPLE. It seems weird to me to declare "I love kids"; it seems to rob them of some necessary humanity. I know some kids that I enjoy being around and some I don't. Hell, even infants vary in their personalities.

Sure, some of liking or disliking to be around a kid is who it is parented, but some of it is their emergent personalities. Some kids, like some adults, just have personalities I find unpleasant to be around. I've know a few people in my life time who had incompatible personalities with their own children. Good parents who did what they could to raise happy children in a stable environment, but people who nonetheless discovered that if they were their own child's teacher or coworker or classmate, they would not much care for that kid. But, because it's their own kid, they love him or her and do their best. I always wonder what those people think when someone declares all excitedly "Oh! I love kids!"

So, kids or not. Whatever. Live your life and if I'm your good friend and you need to talk about it, hey, I'll talk about it with you, but otherwise, no baleful stares from me. Unless you run around declaring how you "LOVE KIDS" then I may find myself unable to trust your judgment.
posted by crush-onastick at 10:08 AM on September 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


You don't really have a choice about whether you want kids. You are hardwired to want kids

Quoting this again to say that I agree with that first sentence, but could not disagree more strongly with the second. Maybe SOME are hardwired to want kids. I am hardwired to not want them, to the point where I can't understand why anyone would want to put themselves through it. Even so, I was pretty shocked when I realized, at around age 22, that I honestly was not interested in any part of child-bearing or raising and never would be. But you know who wasn't shocked? My mom. I told her, "Yeah, I don't think I want kids," and she said, "oh, I never thought you'd have kids." So.

To me it's weird that people are portrayed as "childless by choice." It's not a choice for me; it's just the way I am, the same way that other people can't imagine not doing it. And I think that's why the judgement and accusations of selfishness are so offensive at times - if I had a kid it would be doing something I actively do not want to do in any way. How is that fair?
posted by something something at 10:10 AM on September 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't know why it is anyone's business if and why you want kids or not. People need to let people live their own life they way they want.

Selfishness is "placing concern with oneself or one's own interests above the well-being or interests of others" which isn't always a bad thing, honestly. Either decision can be seen as selfish for very different reasons.
posted by Catbunny at 10:12 AM on September 2, 2013


The politeness filter goes away on lots of occasions involving children. If you have lots of kids (eight, for example), total strangers feel free - obliged, even - to show off their dazzling wit:

hey dontcha know what causes that
you do know what causes that
they have something for that you know
something in the air around your place? her feet, amirite?*
all they all yours
are you done yet
are you, like, Catholic or Mormon or something
well *some* people know when to quit, anyhow

* - these all actually happened, but that one...I was completely gobsmacked and I am usually quite witty.

...and so on. And it sounds like the childless couples get a fair sized ration of shit as well from friends, families and acquaintances. It's really nobody's business.

So it sounds like we can find common ground on people should just shut the hell up about family sizes one way or another and mind their own business.

In my wildest dreams, I would never approach a childless couple and inquire with some half-assed question. We know too many folks for whom childlessness is a crushing disappointment and who the hell am I to galumph up to them and ask? And also it's none of my damned business. I have enough to deal with, thanks. In addition to raising eight kids, I (rightly or wrongly) seem to also have inherited the responsibility for representing large families everywhere, so please, put on some shoes and let's not go apeshit in the store I can without the head-shaking and tut-tutting.

And anyway, mind your own business.
posted by jquinby at 10:13 AM on September 2, 2013 [9 favorites]


Every alignment chart needs Chaotic Neutral on it somewhere.
posted by delfin at 10:14 AM on September 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


As the child of parents who really did not want children, I am just thrilled with the child-free trend. Look, I've got three, and I'm glad I do. I enjoy the parenting life. But parenting should be for people who really, really, want to do it. It's usually not a great thing for kids to be raised by people who didn't especially want children, and I'm glad you get to enjoy your extra money and freedom. Living a life only for yourself is a selfish choice, but there are a million ways to contribute to society without procreating--a lot of which I can't do right now because my spare time and money are going to my kiddos.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 10:14 AM on September 2, 2013 [7 favorites]


Sometimes it seems that parents get sweet deals with being able to spend a day at home with their kid when their sick or working around a schedule to help pick a kid up, and sometimes that can alienate those people without those responsibilities. But a sick kid sometimes needs to have someone take care of them, and that parent is oftentimes uniquely qualified for that love and care mission. It's not that the parent deserves special treatment; it's that kids do.

Well, yes, but there is a problem if a company allows only parents to work around sick family members. Everyone has some responsibilities, and a company that is able to be flexible on work hours or location doesn't need to -- and shouldn't -- restrict it to those responsibilities who are under 18.

this tired-ass debate ends up sounding like a a pissing contest, between two groups of people who were fortunate enough to make choices that worked for them


There are a lot of people here who were forced into choices that they've decided to make work for them -- people who wanted kids but couldn't for whatever reason, people who didn't want kids and got pregnant.
posted by jeather at 10:17 AM on September 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


For many years, I, too, was of the opinion, "Afraid of pregnancy, don't want to give up My Freedom, parents turn into mindless drones, diapers are gross, don't want to destroy a kid's childhood like mine was, etc"

I actually believed it was impossible for me to fit children into my life because I was a creative woman ("selfish" I called myself, but I don't think that's accurate) and because I'd heard so many negative things about childrearing until I read the following on Ursula Le Guin's website:
How do you feel about your life now? What would you change or wish had been different?

I love living almost as well as I love writing.

It was tough trying to keep writing while bringing up three kids, but my husband was totally in it with me, and so it worked out fine. Le Guins' Rule: One person cannot do two fulltime jobs, but two persons can do three fulltime jobs — if they honestly share the work.

The idea that you need an ivory tower to write in, that if you have babies you can't have books, that artists are somehow exempt from the dirty work of life — rubbish.
I mean, I don't think I'd ever heard a woman articulate directly that you can be both creative and a mother (even though I knew women who were), and a lot of the messages about childrearing--emphasis on its unpleasantness and the requisite selfilessness and inevitable loss of identity and freedom--had made me think that it was something I couldn't even consider.

There was something on an ask metafilter question awhile back about how people are really negative to expectant fathers, especially--and I've seen it happen with my husband "Congratulations, your life is now over"--and how rarely people express happy anticipation at the joyful aspects. I admit I was kind of . . . quietly awed, and certainly touched when my father-in-law took us aside and told us how much he's loved being a parent, and how he'd do it again despite attendant difficulties (divorce from his sons' mother among them) because being a dad has just been so good for him and his life. It feels unpopular to express those things, sometimes. That yes, it's hard, but it can be good and okay, too, and doesn't need to make you into a stereotype of a miserable, unhappy parent, if it's what you want and something you think might be right for you.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:19 AM on September 2, 2013 [31 favorites]


I'm pretty sure that having children doesn't mean you'll have anyone to visit you in the nursing home or take care of you.

True, but NOT having children almost definitely ensures it.


My parents' generation took care of their elderly maiden aunts and bachelor uncles, and/or made sure they were visited and taken care of properly. I don't have childless aunts, but I still plan on visiting them regularly, even though they have kids. In turn, I hope my nephew and future nephews/nieces do the same for me.

It's up to parents to teach their kids compassion, and to remember their childless aunts and uncles and cousins who sat through countless Saturday night birthday parties and neverending dance recitals/teeball games. When the time comes, remind them to swing by the nursing home occasionally to make sure we're not being burned with curling irons or starved to death.

But if my generation continues to marginalize childless people as selfish or unnatural, or if the oft-trotted out AskMe trope of "you don't owe your relatives anything" continues then I'll open my Long Term Care insurance account sooner rather than later.
posted by kimberussell at 10:22 AM on September 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


Well, yes, but there is a problem if a company allows only parents to work around sick family members. Everyone has some responsibilities, and a company that is able to be flexible on work hours or location doesn't need to -- and shouldn't -- restrict it to those responsibilities who are under 18.

IAWTC. Everyone - even a childless, petless, orphaned only child - has responsibilities. Everyone has a life outside of work. Just because one has no kids, that doesn't mean that one doesn't have dentist appointments, elderly relatives, sick pets, or just needs the afternoon off. I have no kids, but that doesn't mean I am here to be a slave to the company.

I wish that wouldn't get framed in terms of "parents" versus "everyone else," because that obscures the fact that 60-hour work weeks with no time off are NOT reasonable for anyone. It's the fault of US work culture, not parents, that holidays and time off from work are so hard to get and have to be fought for.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 10:23 AM on September 2, 2013 [16 favorites]


I'm European, as far as I'm aware there is no push anywhere in Europe to increase birth rates.

Well, you may not be aware of them, but fertility incentives (aka "pronatalist" policies) have been part of European government policy for a while now, and more countries are jumping aboard. Someone noted Germany's new parental allowance above; Italy uses cash bonuses to families for 2nd children; France maintains its high fertility rate with explicity pro-multiple-children financial incentives:

France heavily subsidizes children and families from pregnancy to young adulthood with liberal maternity leaves and part-time work laws for women. The government also covers some child-care costs of toddlers up to 3 years old and offers free child-care centers from age 3 to kindergarten, in addition to tax breaks and discounts on transportation, cultural events and shopping.

This summer, the government -- concerned that French women still were not producing enough children to guarantee a full replacement generation -- very publicly urged French women to have even more babies. A new law provides greater maternity leave benefits, tax credits and other incentives for families who have a third child. During a year-long leave after the birth of the third child, mothers will receive $960 a month from the government, twice the allowance for the second child.


There's actually quite the push by governments in many European countries to increase birth rates.
posted by mediareport at 10:26 AM on September 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


Nothing selfish about living your life the way you want to.
Replace "nothing selfish" with "nothing immoral", and (within the limited context you've given) I'd agree completely.

However, as a matter of clear terminology: living life for yourself rather than for others is almost the very definition of being self-ish.

It seems like the syllogism you're subconsciously using here is "all selfishness is bad, this is not bad, therefore this is not selfishness". The logic is correct, and depending on your definitions the conclusion is wrong, so you may want to reexamine the premises.

(this is all orthogonal to the question of whether having more kids or fewer kids has more positive externalities)
posted by roystgnr at 10:26 AM on September 2, 2013


Well, yes, but there is a problem if a company allows only parents to work around sick family members. Everyone has some responsibilities, and a company that is able to be flexible on work hours or location doesn't need to -- and shouldn't -- restrict it to those responsibilities who are under 18.

I agree. I think anyone that has a dependent (whether they be a child or an old parent) does need time every so often because you have someone that is totally dependent upon you. The idea is that they are at some level a lot more helpless than the run of the mill person who is sick. Having a dependent is a different set of moral and legal responsibilities than having a sick partner. Both should be taken into account and provided for, but there are differences.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 10:27 AM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I suffered through colic and 3 AM screaming and skinned knees and play dates and soccer practice and crayoned walls and banging on pots with spoons and temper tantrums and finicky eaters and playground bullies and You've Ruined My Life and I Hate You and Dad I Need $50 By Tomorrow and I Don't Really Have A Good Answer As To Why I Cut My Hair and doing Junior's science project for him at midnight the day before it's due and chaperoning field trips and learner's permits and messy rooms and awful musical tastes and dress styles designed to piss off all previous generations and questionable dating partners and preparing for college and all that comes with raising a child who won't wind up working in a gas station.


I spent a couple of decades raising a child, with my partner, and THIS is precisely the opposite of what we experienced. Helping a newcomer to the world become a wonderful, giving, loving, logical, smart, hilarious, street-savvy, high-achieving and well-liked young woman has been the best thing to have ever happened to me. I can't begin to relate the tens of thousands of wonderful hours spent watching this child grow up.

That reprinted rant above? Yes, it could happen. And worse. But I'd advise people to have a child or two if anyone ever asked me. It's a wondrous trip, better than all those beach vacations Time magazine implies are the special gift bestowed upon the child-free.

No one has ever asked me for advice about this, though, and no one ever will. My daughter wants, above all, to have children one day, which makes me happy. She has changed diapers and dealt with manipulative little creeps in all of her babysitting, but she knows that the wonder of childhood, as experienced vicariously through parenting, is a beautiful thing.

However, those who don't want to have children because the world is turning to shit? They may be smarter than I am. I have never looked askance at couples who decide not to become parents.

By the way, they say that - in the USA - almost half of all births were not "planned." Shit happens. Making a "decision" to have a child, listing all the pros and cons and coming to a consensus...well, sometimes it doesn't happen that way.

Oh, and my daughter also has good musical tastes. I've been too lucky.
posted by kozad at 10:29 AM on September 2, 2013 [11 favorites]


I think perhaps you are mistaking humour for legitimate angry rant.
posted by elizardbits at 10:31 AM on September 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


zoo:
"If you dig deep enough in most any attack on people going child-free, what freaks those commenters out is that most of the population growth won't be white.

Well for me, the thing that freaks me out the most is what is happening in Japan. I've absolutely no idea what you're reading, but 100% of the stuff I've read round the subject has been about coping with aging populations and hasn't even touched on the subject of race."
In Japan it is 100% about race. There would be plenty of young people, and plenty of them having kids, if they were not so uptight about foreigners with inferior non-Japanese ancestry immigrating.
posted by idiopath at 10:31 AM on September 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


lol. Selfish not to have kids? Yes, because what could be more selfless than bringing your genetic clones into the world, having society spend hundreds of thousands of dollars educating them, and getting tax breaks to boot?

(Don't get me wrong, I think public education should be society's primary concern and would be happy if we vastly increased spending on it. And similarly, I think society should provide more support for kids and parents, including health care, affordable (or free) day care, quality nutrition, and other services. And I'd be fine with paying more in taxes for it. But I'm a bit frowny about people who choose to use more public resources and then paying comparatively less in taxes. But then again, I've been told I'm selfish)

on edit: also not big on co-workers hijacking your schedule to make you work late or on weekends so they can spend time with your kids, because apparently nothing in your life/schedule could be as important as their kids.

posted by Davenhill at 10:32 AM on September 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


"I'm a pedophile, and I'm afraid I would molest them."

Conversation over!


Other conversation imminent!
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:33 AM on September 2, 2013 [8 favorites]


but do we still get to keep our labour day holiday?
posted by whyareyouatriangle at 10:33 AM on September 2, 2013


The difference is the social contract we live with now. Children at one time, literally were, the future of our civilization. Now they are YOUR kids YOUR problem.

The attitude is based upon selfishness, that's not a judgement, just an observation. It's okay to be selfish, but I also think it's sad to not consider the down range effects of looking at children as someone else's problem to solve as opposed to the whole "it takes a village" thing.

When I was a kid any adult had the right to hold me accountable to the largely agreed upon "rules" of the hood. Nowadays, it feels like the prevailing attitude is "who let you bring your crying baby into this restaurant?"


But surely there's a party of the second part to that broken social contract, isn't there? Children at one time, literally were, the future of our civilization. Now they are MY kids, MY problem, none of your damn business even though you're part of the village, too.

Luckily, age and cancer have gotten me past the constant questioning, but I can't deny that being excluded from social circles where I was welcome when there was still childbearing potential still hurts sometimes. I feel like a fraud when I let people assume that the cancer is the only thing that stopped me from being "normal" like them, but I've always been mostly sure I wouldn't have children. Now, even their children give me the side-eye like I've got a pointy hat and a suspiciously large oven.

And I am so tired of the image of people without children lounging on beaches with margaritas fanning themselves with wads of cash. That is so far from my life, or the life of any non-parent I know (OK, maybe that one guy) that it's incredibly insulting. My life has some advantages over one with children, but people with children get a ton of benefits I don't. The grass is always greener.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:34 AM on September 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


but do we still get to keep our labour day holiday?

Not if you plan to keep up with this thread.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:35 AM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


But parenting should be for people who really, really, want to do it.

+1, amen. I think uncoupling sex from reproduction has done more to help the kids who get born to be not-fucked-up than almost anything else we could do. Even on my hardest parenting days -- like when I had a 4 year old and a 4 month old and pneumonia -- I never resented my kids, I never wished that I didn't have them; I always knew that this was a choice I had made on purpose and with my eyes wide open. I really believe that makes a huge difference in the life of a child, and in the life of the adult they turn into. And even among people who want to have kids, we can have the number we want to have, there are fewer people who wanted to be parents (OK, mothers, the energy of childrearing fell disproportionately on women in those days) but who were worn out by having five, seven, ten children, so that some of them just got kind of lost in the shuffle. It's just better.

The unbelievable vitriol that gets spat at people (women) who exercise their choice to have the number of children they want, same as the rest of us, except that number is zero? It amazes me. I've made this analogy before, but just because someone would be a gifted surgeon doesn't mean they're obligated to go to medical school. Just because someone can make a great lasagna doesn't mean they're required to open a restaurant. Just because you like playing the piano doesn't create the expectation that you'll become a professional concert pianist. And just because you like kids -- or have the ability to bear them -- doesn't mean you should necessarily be a parent, and it PARTICULARLY doesn't mean that you have the obligation or the requirement or the expectation to do so.

(The public school thing, though? Think of it this way; your taxes are paying the nation back for YOUR education. And if you're that rare person who never spent a single day in public school of any stripe, then yes, sorry, you're an edge case, you don't get to opt out of taxes because of it.)
posted by KathrynT at 10:36 AM on September 2, 2013 [20 favorites]


My wife and I were both early adopters. I knew by the age of 10 I didn't want children, and my wife dates her decision to the age of 5.

If you want to know what could cause someone so young to want to opt out of it, I suggest you look up the phrase "cycle of abuse" and get back to me about my selfishness.
posted by localroger at 10:38 AM on September 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


I think perhaps you are mistaking humour for legitimate angry rant.

I do that sometimes. Maybe I should adjust my sarcasm filter. However, this is not an uncommon view of the nightmarish visions some people have of parenthood.
posted by kozad at 10:39 AM on September 2, 2013


the nightmarish visions some people have of parenthood.

My wife has told numerous people that the best documentary ever made about motherhood was Alien.
posted by localroger at 10:41 AM on September 2, 2013 [15 favorites]


I've heard people express that sentiment totally earnestly, kozad, so I read it that way, too.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:41 AM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have had one relationship with kids, it didn't go well. I think coming down to it, the responsibility of children scared him in ways that it didn't scare me.

My last two relationships have been after menopause. I have to say its a lot easier. Children add drama to a relationship. You'll fight with your partner over stuff you'd otherwise let go.

I love my now grown kids. I'm glad I had and raised them, but it is a LOT of work to raise decent citizens.

I go out and I see some people who are doing a great job with their children, and I see others who really are not up for the job.

Mr. Roquette loves children. He probably would have been an awesome father. It just never happened for him.

We go out and situations where parents are not watching their children the right way, not properly guarding them from danger make him just as nervous as they make me.

Same goes for both of us when we see ill-cared for animals.

We have chosen not to have a pet. If one of us dies or has to go live in a nursing home God forbid, someone has to look after that pet.

We had a lady here wind up in the hospital twice in one week. She has a tiny Chihuahua dog and a cat. People had to get permission to go feed her animals.

As with pets thinking about children has to include whether you even can do or want to do the job.

It's a huge financial commitment and for the woman, it can be medically risky.

My mother used to say 'You don't mind the smell of your own baby's shit.' She was wrong. That was so when I was nursing exclusively, but as they started eating solids, it got stinky.

It was better when my kids could walk and go to the bathroom on their own and when they could talk. I really am not a baby kind of person. I actually like teenagers. We had the most fun at that point as a family of three.

As far as tantrums go, all kids throw tantrums. The more intelligent animals have their babies throw tantrums too.

I used to take them out of the place. I'd tell them, 'We left because no one wants to hear that!'

It's part of teaching manners. Doesn't mean they got a whipping. They usually didn't. It was usually a walk home with me telling them they didn't have a right to spoil other people's fun by being impossible.

Raising children into decent adults is very hard work. If you don't feel up to it, or just don't want to do it, it's absolutely great to opt out.

The selfish thing is to deliberately have children when you know they are at risk of inheriting aweful medical conditions.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 10:42 AM on September 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


I am against other people having children, for I have met Other People and would rather their spawn not interfere with Young King And Queen Rory Junior's master plan.
posted by Rory Marinich at 10:48 AM on September 2, 2013 [7 favorites]


All this talk about selfishness reminds me of a passage in The Screwtape Letters when Lewis compares unselfishness to charity. Unselfishness is forgoing a benefit to forgo a benefit, to believe that having the benefit is wrong. Charity is believing that you would be happier if someone else had the benefit, that you're not so much giving something up as giving to someone that you would rather have it. Unselfishness is rooted in misery; charity in happiness. If I eat the last piece of lasagna, I'm not being unselfish, true, but does that matter? Does it matter if I'm doing something for my own happiness if it would not bring a single mote more of happiness if I didn't do it?

I guess the point is that why decry a decision as being selfish or unselfish unless you think self-denial, by itself, is a positive good? I would rather have people acting charitably than unselfishly, especially when it came to children. We should cultivate our own happiness, and we should help children cultivate their own. They should not think that the only thing worth having are things that are specifically designed to make you miserable. So to with our choices.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 10:57 AM on September 2, 2013 [11 favorites]


The world really would not want the child that would come from my loins. Between my neuroses and my gene pool, the kid would probably be the 21st century version of Stalin. So, yes, I accept all of your numerous blessing and thanks for choosing to not breed.
posted by angrycat at 10:57 AM on September 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


However, as a matter of clear terminology: living life for yourself rather than for others is almost the very definition of being self-ish.

But those "others" need not be one's biological children. People who don't have kids are not automatically living a life that is free of responsibility to other people.
posted by rtha at 11:07 AM on September 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


I am 43 and childless. I am too selfish for kids. The beauty of this is I know this. Because I am so selfish I would make a horrible parent. I should be commended for being self-aware enough to know me with anything more than a temporary child is a bad bad thing.

I usually make that joke I made above when people are asking me about my lack of kids. "Yeah, I want them, but so far none have followed me home from school." The looks I get are usually fairly mortified, but I figure it's a pretty good shorthand for letting the person know I know that I don't know how this shit is done.

I sometimes use a stolen joke about how yes, "I do want kids, but I got tired of checking dumpsters after prom." That one often gets gasps to the same result. Some people should not have kids. Some people are aware of this. They should be commended. There are already too many people in this world without adding unwanted ones.

Maybe someday I will grow up, but that day hasn't really come yet. I am not responsible enough for myself, let alone another human being.
posted by cjorgensen at 11:10 AM on September 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


We have a lot of friends both with and without children and I think when this comes up it's mostly because having kids dominates so much of our lives it's us wanting another connection with our friends who don't have kids.

Almost a casualty of closeness with my friends, I want to have more experience to share with them that they can relate to. Yes, we love beer and food, and that movie and this obscure thing, and gaming and I would also enjoy talking to you about challenges and joys in my life that align with having kids. It's not that I can't share these experiences it's that I don't want them to be as boring and banal as I think they must sound to someone who is absent that context from their own life.
posted by iamabot at 11:11 AM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


A new law provides greater maternity leave benefits, tax credits and other incentives for families who have a third child. During a year-long leave after the birth of the third child, mothers will receive $960 a month from the government, twice the allowance for the second child.

There's actually quite the push by governments in many European countries to increase birth rates.


That's fairly equivalent to the UK I think: my daughter and 2 nieces all ended year-long maternity leave with adequate benefits last year, before returning to their jobs. But there isn't a general feeling that this is to encourage the birth rate - we were just thinking it was a fair and reasonable product of our social contract. Mind you maternity benefits have recently been cut, all part of our brave new Tory future.

Although in France, which has had famously generous maternity provision for some time now, there has been a long-standing anxiety about lack of population growth, dating to at least the 19C.
posted by glasseyes at 11:17 AM on September 2, 2013


This doesn't really fly with basic biology. And what about gay men, who want to have sex with other men? I'd be pretty surprised if those sexual encounters resulted in biological babby.

But wanting kids isn't just based solely on reproduction. There's this whole other part, which is child rearing. And I think there is a hardwiring to care for children. Because babies are so helpless and take so much time to care for, there's probably something in both our brains and culture that push us to care for children, regardless if you're a man or woman or gay.
posted by FJT at 11:18 AM on September 2, 2013


Metafilter: hollow shell of an overgrown child!
posted by glasseyes at 11:18 AM on September 2, 2013


I kind of want a kid or two, eventually, but we're at the point where exactly one friend is pregnant and zero of them have kids yet so it's all a bit of a question mark.

That said, my mother dealt with a lot of elder care law and the one thing she has promised is that everything will be sorted and done for them to move into assisted living-- that I won't be put into the position of my in laws and aunts of caregivers, unpaid and assumed. Having children doesn't mean they have to be your only aide later in life.
posted by jetlagaddict at 11:19 AM on September 2, 2013


There's this whole other part, which is child rearing. And I think there is a hardwiring to care for children.

There are a fair amount of people in this thread telling you they aren't wired that way.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:19 AM on September 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


Coatlicue, I wish you all the best, take care. Thanks for commenting sensitively, at this sensitive time.
posted by glasseyes at 11:20 AM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I will say that the linked material in the fpp is pretty thin gruel.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 11:20 AM on September 2, 2013


And I think there is a hardwiring to care for children.

I kind of agree, with the caveat that I don't believe every individual human is hardwired to want their own in order to do this. If someone leaves a baby on your doorstep, it's really unlikely that you're just gonna be "Oh well, guess I'll just leave it there," but that's a very different wiring from "I want some of my own to care for."
posted by rtha at 11:22 AM on September 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


I for one am enraged that anyone chooses to drink Pepsi.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:22 AM on September 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


If someone leaves a baby on your doorstep, it's really unlikely that you're just gonna be "Oh well, guess I'll just leave it there,

Right, but that in itself is different than from what people seem to imply with this scenario, which is that you will take it in and raise it as your own as opposed to calling 911 and saying "help i found an abandoned baby!" which I assume would be the standard reaction? I mean I would do that for any human being I found helpless on my doorstep unless they were time-traveling Hitler, who I would kick before alerting authorities.
posted by elizardbits at 11:26 AM on September 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


elizardbits. You'd kick a baby? And how could you ever afterwards be sure that it wasn't this unspeakable kick that turned time-travelling Hitler into the strange monster he became?
posted by glasseyes at 11:33 AM on September 2, 2013 [8 favorites]


There are a fair amount of people in this thread telling you they aren't wired that way.

I'm not talking about only having children though. I'm talking about, to use a trite moral dilemma, if a baby and an adult fell of a boat, which would you save?

And I think you'd at least agree our (human) culture is starting to care for children. I mean, child labor has been outlawed in most countries and use of children in war is something that the international community agrees is morally wrong.
posted by FJT at 11:33 AM on September 2, 2013


if a baby and an adult fell of a boat, which would you save?

Assuming the adult could swim, the baby. Otherwise, I don't know.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:34 AM on September 2, 2013


Any human being of any age, come the fuck on.
posted by elizardbits at 11:35 AM on September 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


How can I even think about kids right now with the release of fiery Doritos loco tacos and all. GTA V is right around the corner, then the Xbox one will be out in a couple months . I've got a lot on my plate right now so it really isn't a good time.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:43 AM on September 2, 2013 [14 favorites]


I think each individual person can make their own decision as to whether or not they have a baby with time-traveling Hitler. Why must we be so judgmental?
posted by kyrademon at 11:44 AM on September 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


kimberussell: "Why don't you have kids?"
"Well, I had trouble with that through the years, and now that I'm just remarried and almost 41, I've closed the door on it."
"Have you tried Clomid/IVF/Fertility Tiki/Egg donor/adoption/relaxing/surrogacy? You know (insert 40-something celebrity with a phalanx of nannies & doctors) had her kid a year ago!"
"Over time I've come to grips with not having kids. I'm okay with it now."
"Then I guess you didn't really want one anyway."

You can't even be sad about IF (and I still get sad, especially Mother's Day and Christmas) anymore unless you've gone through the heroic (and super expensive) medical measures.
I totally agree, kimberussell. I actually said to my partner the other day after getting my period (we are at the tail end of "still trying"): "The societal pressure is just crazy. I feel like if we don't try everything (and we have decided not to do any more medical interventions after the very mild ones we have done), I'm not allowed to be sad because if we REALLY wanted kids we would have 'tried harder.'"

And I know articles and debates like these ones are not necessarily aimed at people experiencing infertility, but they still feel like a slap in the face to everyone who doesn't have kids, whether because they don't want them or weren't able to have them.

Hugs to you. I find Mother's Day and Father's Day and Christmas really hard too.
posted by Secret Sockdentity at 11:47 AM on September 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


If my observations of the adoption agency my wife works for is any indication, I'd say that, while not universal, the drive to have a child is very, very real, and extremely strong. I'm constantly amazed at the lengths a couple will go to (and the piles of money they will spend,) to try and have a child on their own, before they even think about adopting. And the sheer joy that adopting brings them, even though the baby is not of their making, is equally amazing. There's something instinctive going on there.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:47 AM on September 2, 2013


Does every single thread about this have to devolve into mud wrestling over the Kicking Infant Adolph Paradox?
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 11:48 AM on September 2, 2013 [11 favorites]


Hey, just in case anyone thinks my comment about selfishness is aimed at you, and your particular circumstance, it's not.

My comment regarding the social contract and how children are viewed is aimed at everyone (myself included!) equally.
posted by Annika Cicada at 11:50 AM on September 2, 2013


Oh! I thought it was time-travelling Hitler as a baby! On the doorstep. And one might totally have the wherewithall to alter the course of history since by all accounts non-time-travelling Hitler had a brutal childhood.
posted by glasseyes at 11:50 AM on September 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Postroad If as a couple then we choose to be child free for a variety of personal reasons, and thus help demographics, why should we have to pay tax bills for public school for all those years and even after a Not Had Child had graduated? Why punish us because we did not have 7 kids?

I agree with all the "benefit to society" arguments put forward already, but there is a simpler reason for supporting public education: you have already had your benefit from the public education system when you were a child. This is true for everyone, regardless of whether you go on to have children.

The same can be said for maternity care and childcare-- we contribute to the system that provides medical care for mothers and maternity leave and cares for children because we were once the children who benefited.

I welcome you to opt out if you pay back society for the costs of your mother's medical care, your delivery by a doctor or midwife, the publicly funded education you received, any public subsidy for vaccination, dental care or other health products, and any public subsidy to your post secondary education that can be attributed to you. I suggest it may be cheaper to just have a progressive tax system where you contribute to the next generation though.

Now if you, for some reason, did not benefit from these things, I am very sorry to hear it. Here's an idea: Let's build a society where that never happens again.
posted by chapps at 11:53 AM on September 2, 2013


You know, whatever you think about having kids, the idea that it's a completely personal decision, and nobody other than the prospective parents should have an interest in it, doesn't seem to me to stand up.

Having a child is creating a person. That person will interact with other people. That person will have rights... including maybe the right to create even more people. That person will make claims on other people, and fulfill claims to other people. That person will use resources and create pollution. That person will create things, work, play, have friends, help people, maybe hurt people. Why shouldn't the rest of the world care?

And that person will have an independent experience of the world... which is itself a claim on the rest of us. Should we care if somebody chooses to have a child who will be miserable, even if we won't have to deal with that misery ourselves (which we will)?

I'm not saying that people should get to decide for others whether to have children, but it seems a little weird to think they don't get to have an opinion.
posted by Hizonner at 11:56 AM on September 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


I do that sometimes. Maybe I should adjust my sarcasm filter. However, this is not an uncommon view of the nightmarish visions some people have of parenthood.

It was meant as humor, and no offense taken. However, I'm reminded of the Jeff Atwood graph on parenthood.

There is no such thing as a child-raising experience that is either 100% sunshine and mirth or 100% thumbscrews for the parents. Whether it's 51/49 to the left or to the right, or whether the difference will be larger than that... those dice you don't get to roll ahead of time. But you will tend to focus on one side or the other when approaching the concept. If you're favorably disposed you will tend to accentuate the positive, and vice versa.

If you're going to have kids, you are knowingly* taking on both hardship and benefit, the joys of family and the burdens of family, upside and downside and a side order of unpredictability. Major negatives are not a given _but neither are major positives_. When the stakes are sky-high (how you spend the rest of your life), the risks are not to be dismissed lightly.

(* - Or perhaps you're just Screwing Your Brains Out On A Tuesday Night Because There's Nothing Good On TV And Nothing Better To Do. Also an option.)
posted by delfin at 11:57 AM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


"The unbelievable vitriol that gets spat at people (women) who exercise their choice to have the number of children they want, same as the rest of us, except that number is zero? It amazes me."
Women get vitriol spouted at them no matter what choices they make: 0 kids is selfish, 1 is not enough, 2 is not enough (especially if they are the same gender, as people have noted above), 3 or more is taking advantage of public services/indulging yourself/ exercising a shameful level of privilege, and 6 or more means you're a religious fanatic.

Honestly, you can not win, and the "childfree" are not at all alone there.
"But surely there's a party of the second part to that broken social contract, isn't there? Children at one time, literally were, the future of our civilization. Now they are MY kids, MY problem, none of your damn business even though you're part of the village, too."
This is part and parcel of the above, too. You shouldn't heap judgement on people who don't have kids. You also shouldn't appoint yourself some sort of "village elder" or (and I hear this all the time) "cool childless auntie" and think that gives you the right to shower parents with unwanted advice or rule enforcement, either.

I am happy to pay taxes for services I don't personally use right now, especially for things like healthcare and education. I would happily pay more taxes toward those things - they are a moral good, for all of the reasons stated above.

That doesn't mean that I signed up for the rules and norms of your particular imagined "village" and want to raise my kid accordingly, and it doesn't mean my kid wants any more cool aunties than the actual ones he was born with.
posted by Wylla at 11:57 AM on September 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


How can I even think about kids right now with the release of fiery Doritos loco tacos and all. GTA V is right around the corner,

Oh man. I am heroically not having kids because of the sheer degree of neglect GTA V would cause.
posted by jaduncan at 11:57 AM on September 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Catchfire wrote "one thing that does bug me whenever this unfortunate, no-win conversation comes up, is the default response is always: 'I have more money and can take more trips.'"

Posting my colours to the mast, my husband and I are childfree (he recently got snipped to seal the deal).

Well, I suppose one of the reasons we have chosen not to have children is b/c we enjoy travelling immensely. But honestly, saving money hasn't come into my thinking at all (but perhaps that is b/c we could more easily afford children than many others could). It is just that the restrictions on one's freedom of movement and activities that I see comes with having children is a huge disincentive. For us.

W/re the 'selfishness' issue and the 'not investing in one's community' argument, I'd like to point out that we childfree can and do invest in other people, the community and world at large in many other ways. E.g., I have noticed in all my years of doing volunteer work (mostly with/for non-human animals) that most other volunteers are also childfree OR their children are grown up. In other words, we childfree people have time to do good works for others. And these good works have no direct benefit to our offspring (e.g., parents who volunteer at their child's school, etc).

So when the world "selfish" is thrown around and notions suggesting that all we want to do is roll around in piles of money and spew out carbon from airplanes as we travel the world, I'd appreciate it if people would remember that child-free people can and do invest in their communities in other ways.

[P.S. My husband and I have plans to do charity work the next time we travel abroad. I could also add to the list of reasons we choose not to have children, e.g., the world's population, but I specifically wanted to address the stuff about time/money.]
posted by Halo in reverse at 11:59 AM on September 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


if a baby and an adult fell of a boat, which would you save?

This kind of symbolizes the whole childfree/child-having dichotomy as it's presented to us through insightful magazine and internet articles, doesn't it? It's not just that some people have children and others don't; it's that you either choose in favor of children or against children, and you only ever act according to that personal interest, never in favor of a larger community that has children that aren't yours.

Both parents and childfree persons are guilty of promoting this mindset: that children are an absolute moral stance, that not having children is an absolute moral stance, and that you bear all the responsibility for that stance, separate from the rest of society, now and forever.
posted by daisystomper at 12:00 PM on September 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


You know, whatever you think about having kids, the idea that it's a completely personal decision, and nobody other than the prospective parents should have an interest in it, doesn't seem to me to stand up.

In what way, Hizzoner? Are you saying that you should get a say in who has kids because maybe you believe certain people aren't capable of raising a child in a way that you would find adequate? Or if you think someone is especially intelligent and financially secure you should try to convince them to procreate if they don't want to? Or do you mean we, as a society, should place limits on how many children each family can have so that our resources are not depleted? All of those things seem like pretty egregious infringements on other people's lives, and I can't think of any valid way in which my "interest" could possibly play a legitimate role in anyone else's decision on this subject.
posted by something something at 12:01 PM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


If your childhood had any abusive elements, and you work for an org that helps abused and neglected children (whose experience is far worse than yours), you might not want to risk perpetuating the cycle. The same if you have a disability, mental iilness, etc.

So many successful Americans view having children as like buying a house, a sign of success in the game of life, and so many who have nothing decide to have kids because they have nothing else. Either way, bad reasons.
posted by bad grammar at 12:04 PM on September 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Why aren't these hypothetical people in proper nautical gear and safety jackets?
posted by The Whelk at 12:07 PM on September 2, 2013 [11 favorites]


if a baby and an adult fell of a boat, which would you save?

I'd hold the adult in mid-air and let the baby plop on top of him. See, lunchroom scene from Spider-Man (2002).
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:07 PM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Women get vitriol spouted at them no matter what choices they make: 0 kids is selfish, 1 is not enough, 2 is not enough (especially if they are the same gender, as people have noted above), 3 or more is taking advantage of public services/indulging yourself/ exercising a shameful level of privilege, and 6 or more means you're a religious fanatic.

Try walking out the door with a disabled child who has challenging behaviors, and watch the judgment roll in. The fact is that some people are nosy and obnoxious and willing to give their opinions on your behavior no matter what you do (see also comments about weight, dress, appearance, speech, etc. etc.)
posted by Daily Alice at 12:09 PM on September 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Are you saying that you should get a say in who has kids because maybe you believe certain people aren't capable of raising a child in a way that you would find adequate?
I certainly feel that I shouldn't get too much heat for wanting to talk them out of it, although I wouldn't personally try that because it wouldn't actually help.
Or if you think someone is especially intelligent and financially secure you should try to convince them to procreate if they don't want to?
I think there are plenty of kids around, so I wouldn't do want to do that in the first place. I'd be more likely to try to talk them out of it, again, if it would work, which I don't think it would.

But, you know, if you take out the selectiveness, governments the world over do do try to encourage people to have kids. If you look at the history of some of those tax breaks people are talking about, some of them are explicitly aimed at encouraging people to reproduce.
Or do you mean we, as a society, should place limits on how many children each family can have so that our resources are not depleted?
I am not in favor of that, not only because it would be an "egregious infringement on other people's lives", but because it would be pretty much guaranteed to cause massive anger and end up being administered in some horribly corrupt way.

I could imagine a world in which it could be a necessary last resort. We're not in that world and I hope we don't end up there, but you might be able to see it on the horizon from where we are.

Sure, that would be a huge infringement on people's autonomy, but people swallow infringements like that every day. Telling you what you can wear or what drugs you can take are also major infringements. And if you get out of the legal end of things, there are mere opinions that can get you torn apart in most places...
posted by Hizonner at 12:13 PM on September 2, 2013


if you think someone is especially intelligent and financially secure

nothing in this has very much to do with being a good parent.
posted by glasseyes at 12:22 PM on September 2, 2013


That's my point. It cannot possibly be anyone else's business what you choose to do with your reproductive organs.
posted by something something at 12:23 PM on September 2, 2013


It should be noted that a lot of people who complain about paying taxes are also homeschooling their own children.

And it's worth noting that i was homeschooled from 2nd grade until sophomore year of highschool, and met a lot of homeschoolers at meetups/resource centers set up by the school district/events/all kinds of shit and never once encountered this. In fact i encountered more than a few serious socialists who thought everything should be subsidized, and that kinda stands out in my mind.

Every time i hear shit like this it just sounds like more weird anti-homeschooling "homeschoolers are weird" rhetoric to me, and no one calls it out because it's a "first they came for the blablabla, and i said nothing" sort of situation.(although i hate that argument, you get my point)

Oh my god people are repurposing their "get a dog from the pound or you are EARTH KILLING SCUM" arguments for parenthood. Why.

Lmfao you haven't seen this before? really? I seriously started hearing this argument/point of view in highschool. It's depressingly a lot more popular than you'd think, and did not just start today or last week or something. I actually heard the "you should adopt a kid! the world has too many kids" argument before i heard the adopt a pet from a shelter thing though.

If you want some real lulz however, a lot of the "omg you should adopt a kid or you're ruining the world!" people have flipped sides and are now ranting about how it's weird and possibly a bit racist/white savior-y when white people like Angelina Jolie adopt a brown kid from some poor country. Which is super amusing, because you have liberals basically making arguments that sound disturbingly similar to the "we don't want more brown people in this country" right wingers.

Try walking out the door with a disabled child who has challenging behaviors, and watch the judgment roll in.

Similarly, try having a very brown mom and being a mostly white looking kid. People of your moms ethnicity and white people constantly give you weird looks and make weird comments. You get hate from the RUINING THE PURITY OF THE WHITE RACE types and "lol you got with a white guy you "sell out"" brown people.

It really is like you can't win, it's a decision tree in which parents, but really mostly women get shit in perpetuity. Friends of mine who are totally ethnic looking, or at least enough so to get "where are you from?" "what's your ethnicity" comments all the time like me who go out with their either obviously brown or obviously white dads report basically never getting shit compared to the nearly every time i experienced when i was young with my mom.
posted by emptythought at 12:29 PM on September 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


A small part of the reason [we don't have children] is being kind of poor and selfish; the bigger reason is that this place seems so inevitably fucked we didn't feel good bringing a child into it.

Interestingly, that second point was pretty much what Barbara Tuchman and her husband decided when they got married in 1939. They thought about it some more and decided that they needed a little more faith in the future.

She and her husband had three daughters.

It cannot possibly be anyone else's business what you choose to do with your reproductive organs.

On a personal basis, no, of course not. On a grand scale societal basis, the question becomes a bit trickier. Seems to be some conflating of the two in this thread.
posted by IndigoJones at 12:33 PM on September 2, 2013


Oh! I thought it was time-travelling Hitler as a baby! On the doorstep. And one might totally have the wherewithall to alter the course of history since by all accounts non-time-travelling Hitler had a brutal childhood.

No reason it can't be both! TTH grows up in his new timeline, he turns into a baddie but for some other reason where you still can't tell if it's from nature or nurture, then he time travels again and someone else has to decide whether to have TTH, Jr. with him to re-test the hypothesis. I'm stumped on the casting for Adult TTH, but we need Christopher Lee as the scientist who figures it all out.

That doesn't mean that I signed up for the rules and norms of your particular imagined "village" and want to raise my kid accordingly, and it doesn't mean my kid wants any more cool aunties than the actual ones he was born with.

Yes, that's right, social contract theory is completely a figment of my imagination. So is the idea of people trying to get along together in public spaces using commonly-accepted behavioral norms. It's not like anyone's ever written books on the subject or anything. Or, you know, tried it before.

And I have no interest whatsoever in being your child's auntie, cool or otherwise. Where my interest lies is in having an equal voice in the public sphere.

We all live in a society. We derive benefits from that society and we have responsibilities toward that society in return. When we make a decision that has a great impact on that society, a decision that is 100% ours to make, it seems disingenuous to say that we didn't sign up for any obligations to society in regards to that decision.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:41 PM on September 2, 2013


Ok, I'm going to try to clarify my comment so people quit getting all fighty with me:

When I as a 10 year old child set little things on fire in my driveway (I was an 80's latchkey kid) the neighbors did not intervene. When I discovered brake cleaner fluid and started spraying 25-foot flames into the street, colonel stroube next door came over and said "put that away, please" and I embarrassingly complied.

When I shot glass bottles with a slingshot in the alley and my other neighbor got a flat tire, he said to me "hey, breaking bottles is fun, please sweep it up, it caused a flat on my car." I replied " how much do I owe you" and he replied "nothing, just sweep it up next time"
When I broke all three bones in my wrist skating, laying in the front yard screaming and going into shock, the same neighbor came outside, covered me with a blanket, kept me company and waited for my stepfather to arrive.

These days, thing are different. People would stay within their fear zone, call the cops and the ambulance on me in order to keep their distance and I think there's something lost in the human experience with a culture that over mediates interpersonal experiences like that.

So, your strawman response to my comment is me stepping on your god given right to own and control every aspect of your child's experiences? Good fucking god, sorry to offend you. I'll leave this thread now.
posted by Annika Cicada at 12:57 PM on September 2, 2013 [11 favorites]


> "... and someone else has to decide whether to have TTH, Jr. with him to re-test the hypothesis."

And you would not believe how many random complete strangers feel the need to comment on that. "But why would you even WANT to have a baby with Time-Traveling Hitler?" "Why is your baby trying to eat MY face?" "Why would Time-Traveling Hitler's baby even HAVE tentacles?" "Why won't it STOP no no make it stop please please arrrrrg?"

Ugh. Every friggin' day.
posted by kyrademon at 12:58 PM on September 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


Eh. Fertility rates for women in the United States are still just about replacement level. In fact I believe last year was the very first year in quite a long time it dipped below replacement. Have kids or don't if you're in the USA, it's nobody's business but yours.

If you live in places with TFRs in the 4+ range, though, that's a problem.

Luckily the solution is to raise the standard of living and (particularly) give women equal rights and access to education. It solves so many problems including the population issue and is a necessary good in and of itself.
posted by Justinian at 1:03 PM on September 2, 2013


Why aren't these hypothetical people in proper nautical gear and safety jackets?

In this scenario am I:

- another adult human in the boat
- another baby human in the boat
- a hungry shark in the water
- a shark in the water who has just eaten, thanks
- time traveling hot young Stalin

plz show all work
posted by elizardbits at 1:12 PM on September 2, 2013 [8 favorites]


-sharknado
posted by Ad hominem at 1:13 PM on September 2, 2013


I think each individual person can make their own decision as to whether or not they have a baby with time-traveling Hitler.

if they do, they need to tell us if he only had one ball
posted by pyramid termite at 1:27 PM on September 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


In startbucks yesterday woman with two babbys were making a racket and annying everyone

Shark in line behind say "excuse me ma'am, would you mind quieting your children. As lovely as they are they are disturbing the populace of this establishment"

Woman said "know, my babbys can cry all they want wherever they want"

Shark says, "I tried to be a sir, but I am afraid you leave me no choice" and eats the babies.

Everyone applauded.

That shark was Sharknado.

(When he ordered, they gave him his drink for free and the other customers pitched in and got him $100 gift card.)
posted by Ad hominem at 1:30 PM on September 2, 2013 [26 favorites]


Oh god I'm getting flashbacks to old Livejournal mega wanks involving cf, cf_hardcore, etc. *runs away screaming*
posted by kmz at 1:41 PM on September 2, 2013


I want to have more experience to share with them that they can relate to.

As a child-less human whose good friends all had children, I can sympathize with this notion. However, in my experience, people with children perhaps unintentionally cut themselves off from childless friends. That is, I would be perfectly fine hearing about your youngster -- I'm presumably your friend and a curious person. It's not really that boring to me *because* I have no children, in the same way I'm interested to hear about work from people who do different things than I do. Maybe I'm just weird that way.

When I've tried, most conversations end at the equivalent of "you wouldn't understand" instead of an explanation when discussing their kids -- and it's not like I'm challenging them on aspects of their parenting -- usually I'm just asking a question. And, I'll say it right up-front: "you(they) wouldn't understand" is a terribly lazy response (thought) in almost every situation I can think of. There is an implied judgement that child rearing is somehow unfathomable to the childless, which is more about justification than truth.
posted by smidgen at 1:46 PM on September 2, 2013 [12 favorites]


You know, this problem could easily be solved.

We just need to initiate a genetic testing program to determine suitability for passing along desirable traits.
Then, we raise the resulting harvested offspring in collectivist creches until they reach primary school age.
At which point, they are randomly assigned to parental aptitude tested households until maturity.

In one bold stroke, we solve the "child-free person who would have good kids but doesn't want them" problem, the "lack of available childcare" problem AND the "There oughta be a test before you can raise children" problem.

What could go wrong?
posted by madajb at 1:49 PM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


These days, thing are different. People would stay within their fear zone, call the cops and the ambulance on me in order to keep their distance and I think there's something lost in the human experience with a culture that over mediates interpersonal experiences like that.

So, your strawman response to my comment is me stepping on your god given right to own and control every aspect of your child's experiences? Good fucking god, sorry to offend you. I'll leave this thread now.


I absolutely agree with you, and I'm confused about how it appears otherwise. I don't have kids with experiences to control, and I've been arguing AGAINST parents thinking that their children aren't part of society and are nobody else's business. You were talking about the side of the equation that is people not wanting to get involved anymore, and I was talking about the side of the equation that is parents not wanting people to get involved anymore. There are plenty of parents today who would have read your neighbor the riot act for asking you to sweep up the broken glass. I see it as a vicious circle with everybody losing.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 1:53 PM on September 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


"These days, thing are different. People would stay within their fear zone, call the cops and the ambulance on me in order to keep their distance and I think there's something lost in the human experience with a culture that over mediates interpersonal experiences like that."
So anyone who doesn't want endless commentary on their child-having / child-free / parenting choices is therefore in favor of leaving a child screaming with a broken wrist in their front yard?

(As for your other examples...sorry, but building a home-made flame-thrower and then using it on a public street isn't the sort of thing you should just let go. Maybe back in the idyllic suburbs of the early 60s when everyone knew everyone and people were apparently totally fireproof, this was a proper subject for a chat with a friendly neighbour. Nowadays, this should be "mediated" by the local FD before someone - probably the kid with the flame-thrower - gets badly hurt.)
"When we make a decision that has a great impact on that society, a decision that is 100% ours to make, it seems disingenuous to say that we didn't sign up for any obligations to society in regards to that decision."

Parents' obligations to society don't include listening to an unsolicited lecture on your parenting philosophy every time they are in public with a child in tow - that shouldn't be the price of admission to public space.

This is the flip side of people hounding child-free folks for being "selfish" or trying to pressure them into having kids apropos of nothing, etc. Neither is OK.
"Your god given right to own and control every aspect of your child's experiences"
Can't speak to everyone who disagrees with you, but neither God nor the Panopticon is particularly central to these issues for me.
"you(they) wouldn't understand" is a terribly lazy response (thought) in almost every situation I can think of. There is an implied judgement that child rearing is somehow unfathomable to the childless, which is more about justification than truth."
Totally agree, and it's a trap it's way too easy to fall into, in part because the level of judgement on both sides of this "issue" is so high.
posted by Wylla at 1:59 PM on September 2, 2013


plz show all work

Actually, the correct choice is that you are a tortoise that was flipped over on its back.

Oh, and please, describe in single words, only the positive things that come to mind, about your mother.
posted by FJT at 2:19 PM on September 2, 2013


I don't get this argument. Without extra mouths to feed, isn't it way, way easier to save for retirement?

Not if everyone is retired and no one is making money / keeping society running. Current estimates have over half of Japanese being retired by mid-century. And the population will drop 33%. The social welfare system is not designed for that (similar to America's baby boom problem, but much much worse).

Of course, the general stance against immigration is another reason for this. In America, birth rates have been falling but the population is growing thanks partially to immigration.
posted by wildcrdj at 2:25 PM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Why children take so long to grow? They eat and drink like pig and give nothing back. Must find way to accelerate process." (Yi Suchong M.D.)
posted by bdz at 2:42 PM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


256: "What does bother me though is when childless people put forth arguments that they either deserve to live in a world where they never have to see children or hear people talk about them. Or worse, when they insist that they should be exempt from all the taxes that go to educating children and supporting low-income parents."

This is a fairly uncommon sentiment among the childless that I know. Like my own not-child-having self, I know that paying for schools and health care and other support for children and their families makes the kids much less likely to grow up to be hoodlums. Thus, even from the idiotic conservative point of view paying for these things makes sense.

In reality, I don't mind paying taxes for such things because I think kids deserve to be given a chance no matter who their parents are. It's a moral thing, not a practical thing, although I am not at all above busting out the practical when talking to archconservatives complaining about school taxes.

The people busily complaining about school taxes are almost invariably those who have children and send them to some posh private school.
posted by wierdo at 2:43 PM on September 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Parents' obligations to society don't include listening to an unsolicited lecture on your parenting philosophy every time they are in public with a child in tow - that shouldn't be the price of admission to public space.


well, it depends. if the kids are well-behaved, then this is true. if the kids are unruly, OTOH, then maybe the parent could stand a little advice. parents certainly have an obligation not to externalize the costs of their shitty parenting on to others.

- Parent of 3.
posted by jpe at 2:46 PM on September 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


I have kids, it's definitely hard work. But I don't really understand how choosing to be childless is necessarily selfish, or how having kids automatically makes you selfless.

There are plenty of other selfless endeavors that one can dedicate their life to besides raising children. Go cure cancer, or make something beautiful, or just be a decent person. Making new people is not the only, probably not even the most, noble purpose of society.

And yes, child rearing requires self-sacrifice, but don't think that makes parents immune to selfishness. Sometimes it's hard as a parent to distinguish between selfishness and the struggle to defend some sense of self at all. And all too often we project our selfishness onto our kids by insisting that they conform to our plan for them rather than watching and listening to what they need.

So, live and let live, and be good to each other.
posted by finnegans at 2:47 PM on September 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Eh, I had a baby, and number two is on the way, for selfish reasons. That is, my only reason was "because I really really want one." I couldn't even say why, precisely, I just yearned for a child of my own. I was willing to throw thousands of dollars at hospitals for IVFs simply because of that want. How more selfish can you be?

I don't get why not having a kid is supposed to be selfish - who do we owe kids to? I mean, does anyone seriously get kids for ethical reasons or to provide the state with future tax payers? (Apart from seriously devout people, I guess.)
posted by Omnomnom at 2:48 PM on September 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


Current estimates have over half of Japanese being retired by mid-century.

And adding children fixes that how, exactly? Mid-century is in 37 years. A child born today would spend half of that time as a drain on society. It's a wash.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:57 PM on September 2, 2013


"if the kids are well-behaved, then this is true. if the kids are unruly, OTOH, then maybe the parent could stand a little advice. parents certainly have an obligation not to externalize the costs of their shitty parenting on to others."
No child under about 8 is ever going to be 100% "well-behaved", however you're defining that, 100% of the time. Some kids, as several people have pointed out, have even less control over how they present themselves due to disability, etc. - anyone who assumes "gosh, that kid crying over there is really harshing my mellow. I think I will go lecture the parents without any understanding of what's going on, on the assumption that they are 'shitty' parents and could use my superior example" is behaving like a truly poorly-raised child themselves.

This philosophy - "I'm the enforcer of the community standards I just made up in my head!" - is the root of the problem for both parents and the child-free, really. We should form a united front - Parents and Non-Parents Against Nosy Neighbours!
posted by Wylla at 3:02 PM on September 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


The people who are selfish are those who choose to indulge their desire for spawn in an overpopulated world. Those who choose to restrain their biology should be commended, not criticised.
posted by Decani at 3:06 PM on September 2, 2013


You don't really have a choice about whether you want kids. You are hardwired to want kids

I'm hardwired to want booze and sex, too. Doesn't mean I have no control over whether I indulge my desire or not, does it? We are not mindless automata. Well, most of us aren't.
posted by Decani at 3:08 PM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Does anyone else think that it's kind of unfortunate that many people are starting to see childbearing as a luxury that only the wealthy can comfortably undertake? I haven't wanted to have children since forever, but the sad part is, even if I wanted to, right now at the point in my life where I'm at a good balance of maturity and reproductive fitness, we'd all be languishing in poverty together. Should it take until a person's mid thirties/early forties to reach financial stability? For more and more people, that's the way it's turning out, and it's definitely not a positive thing for people who did originally have plans for a family.
posted by Selena777 at 3:09 PM on September 2, 2013 [12 favorites]


I will say that the linked material in the fpp is pretty thin gruel.

I'm extremely suspicious that this entire post was just bait to start a "discussion" that created a circlejerk facing one specific direction. Seriously, it's thin and total ragebait.

This philosophy - "I'm the enforcer of the community standards I just made up in my head!" - is the root of the problem for both parents and the child-free, really. We should form a united front - Parents and Non-Parents Against Nosy Neighbours!

Jesus fucking christ, seriously. I'm in my early 20s and i feel like i've watched this get worse every year of my life. I see people popping out of the woodwork to overshare their opinion that no one asked for or wants more often in perpetuity. I see people regularly get whined at for things no one ever got whined at for when i was a kid in the 90s, or a teen in the early 2000s.

I call them Dwights. At my second job right at the beginning of college i had a coworker who was the worst fucking busybody like that i've ever seen. Everyone needed to hear her stupid opinions always, presented in the most judgemental asshole way possible, and she'd try and force things to follow her "vision"(I.E. filling out an entire form to write someone up and putting a sheet of paper covered in highlighter all like URGENT PLEASE SIGN ASAP for the manager when someone did something like, for example, show up for a shift two minutes late).

These people are multiplying like rabbits. And it's a disturbing rift when it seems to be equally split with the sort of hands-off never expose yourself to any potential liability shit that Annika Cicada was talking about.

By which i mean, no one will stop and help a grandma who got a flat tire or do anything but stare(or worse, take a picture with their phone) if someone gets hurt. They'd rather never personally involve themselves in the situation and call 911 or just do nothing than potentially be dragged in to something "awkward" or where there could be consequences for making the wrong decision in good faith. But they always have an itchy trigger finger for passing judgement on people.

I mean i guess i'm not surprised that smug superiority and snark have outweighed actual action, but watching the backslide into this bullshit is fucking sad. And i only saw the last two episodes of the show it seems, by the amount of time and time period i've been alive.
posted by emptythought at 3:13 PM on September 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


No child under about 8 is ever going to be 100% "well-behaved", however you're defining that, 100% of the time.


no shit. but good parents make a reasonable effort to bring the kids under control, while crappy parents don't.
posted by jpe at 3:20 PM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


In Japan it is 100% about race. There would be plenty of young people, and plenty of them having kids, if they were not so uptight about foreigners with inferior non-Japanese ancestry immigrating.

This isn't true in my experience -- nor is it even assailable as non-truth due to the sneaky hyperbolic hypothetical it relies on --- but what really sucks about your comment is the way you frame your own bigotry around how other people are bigoted. It's inflammatory, inaccurate, and immaterial.

These days, thing are different. People would stay within their fear zone, call the cops and the ambulance on me in order to keep their distance and I think there's something lost in the human experience with a culture that over mediates interpersonal experiences like that.

This isn't true in my experience, but I live in New York City where people are famous for helping each other out of trouble. I have my own anecdotes about helping injured kids to back this up.

Ok, I'm going to try to clarify my comment so people quit getting all fighty with me....
Good fucking god, sorry to offend you. I'll leave this thread now.


This is fucking hilarious and I would pay to see your live show.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 3:24 PM on September 2, 2013


This isn't true in my experience

A quick perusal of Japan's immigration rules would seem to support the idea that they're not fans of foreigners.
posted by Justinian at 4:05 PM on September 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


emptythought: "I call them Dwights."

But...he's a good worker *and* a hard worker!
posted by Chrysostom at 4:30 PM on September 2, 2013


A quick perusal of Japan's immigration rules would seem to support the idea that they're not fans of foreigners.

A quick perusal of the statement in question would reveal assertions that Japan's low birth date and problems associated with aging population are entirely due to restrictive immigration rules, that all Japanese people are uptight about their own racial superiority, and that relaxed immigration laws would result in a veritable flood of babies of mixed ancestry, fixing Japan's population crisis.

Japan's immigration rules are problematic, but Japanese people are not one monolithic "they," fans en masse of one thing or another. Current policy may reflect and promote an unsustainable insularity, but that doesn't preclude idiopath's comment from being horseshit.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 4:37 PM on September 2, 2013


These days, thing are different. People would stay within their fear zone, call the cops and the ambulance on me in order to keep their distance and I think there's something lost in the human experience with a culture that over mediates interpersonal experiences like that.

Not on my street they wouldn't. Things have changed less than you think they have.
posted by KathrynT at 4:39 PM on September 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


No people are a monolithic "they", ICS, but that doesn't mean one can't speak of societal problems. And Japan's historical xenophobia is a fact even if there are plenty of Japanese folk who are not xenophobic. Just as America's historical racism is a fact even though there are plenty of Americans who are not racist. And so on.

But, yes, there are other issues with the aging of Japan's populace which have nothing to do with racism.
posted by Justinian at 4:53 PM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ice Cream Socialist: when talking about national level policies, we talk about the mainstream opinions of a country as if it were the opinion of that country. This is neither unusual or racist. Japan, as a country, in terms of its national policies, is racist and xenophobic. There are people who want to live there who are kept out, these people are younger and have a higher birth rate than the native citizens of the country.
posted by idiopath at 4:58 PM on September 2, 2013


The amount of animosity on this subject really suggests that having children or not having children is a cultural marker. That some people see having children or not having children as part of their tribal identity, and take offense at other people acting differently because it shows disloyalty to the tribe.

This is a truly terrible basis for a decision as momentous as whether or not to have children.
posted by baf at 5:00 PM on September 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Thank you for making that clear, idiopath. What you say seems reasonable. Now that you've moderated away from the "100% about race" and "so uptight about foreigners with inferior non-Japanese ancestry" elements of your statement and adopted Justinian's mode of measured commentary on immigration policy, I can hardly disagree.

Also, I regret bringing the "inclusive language" canard into the discussion, and I appreciate your taking the time to let me know what we say when talking about national level politics. Every little bit helps.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 5:17 PM on September 2, 2013


Decani:The people who are selfish are those who choose to indulge their desire for spawn in an overpopulated world. Those who choose to restrain their biology should be commended, not criticised.

Did you . . . did you miss the entire thread?
posted by Lord Chancellor at 5:34 PM on September 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


I'm 99% sure I will end up in the childless camp. A friend once protested, "but you're smart and you would be a great mom!", etc. I answered "and wouldn't I also be a great ______?" and friend insisted that I could be anything and still parent.

No, I don't think I can, not in the US right now, not me, and I tried to explain, but my friend wasn't hearing any of it. It's not that I want to roll around in my piles of cash on the beach, it's that I can barely imagine a life that allows me to pursue something hard with energy and money left over for the beach, much less kids. I know the math works out differently for others, and good for them. The part that offends me is the assumption that because I am a woman of childbearing age, I'm just going to change my mind soon because that's what most women DO, that's what most women are MEANT TO BE by default, and the role of motherhood is assumed to coexist with any other identity I might choose. That this kind of thing still comes from the mouths of progressive, highly educated people I know just blows my mind.
posted by slow graffiti at 5:49 PM on September 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Good thing I'm so selfish that I ignored anyone who said I should have kids when I was under 34 and ignore everyone who says that I shouldn't have had kids now that I'm 46 with an 11 year old and an 8 year old.

Ignorant *and* selfish! I win!
posted by h00py at 5:51 PM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


HA HA if someone actually tried that sad old line on me about childlessness being sooo selfish I would throw back my head and cackle wildly while rolling around naked on a pile of money and FREEDOM

elizardbits -- I'm hoping we'll see the photographic reenactment of this on your tumblr. (Also, what does freedom look like?)
posted by Margalo Epps at 6:07 PM on September 2, 2013


Also, what does freedom look like?

Chocolate.
posted by localroger at 6:10 PM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


and liberty looks like peanut butter

HEY, YOU GOT CHOCOLATE IN MY PEANUT BUTTER!!!!
posted by pyramid termite at 6:36 PM on September 2, 2013


The weird thing is that people keep hounding you if you stop at one, too.

People hound you no matter where you stop. Maus and I stopped at 2, which we felt was the perfect number for us. Both boys, which was also fine with us, being among that apparently rare subset of parents that understand the concept not being able to control the child's sex. They're happy, healthy, and hilarious, and we're pretty enamored of them. They are also now 21 and 17, which is really great, because they are interesting people to spend time with.

And yet..."Don't you want a girl? Aren't you going to try for a girl?" Why in the sweet ever-lasting fuck would I want to do that? I'm 43 years-old, suffer from both mental illness and a chronic auto-immune disorder, and really, I'm just tired and finished. I am PAST child-bearing and child-rearing, but people still ask me this stupid question.

This whole topic irritates the piss out of me. If you don't want kids, please please PLEASE don't have them, no matter how much it upsets your Mama or whoever is pressuring you. If you have children that you do not enthusiastically want from the word go, it's just going to end in resentment and tears.

If you DO want children? By all means, have them and enjoy them. But shut the fuck up about other people "needing" to have them. It's none of your business, no you DON'T get to have an opinion on anyone else's reproductive choices.
posted by MissySedai at 6:41 PM on September 2, 2013


The reaction of our circle of friends is amusing. About half "lean in" to take notes when we tell them about our daily activities, the other half "lean back" to check on their birth control. Fine by me.

I think it's a personal decision and nobody has the right to decide. My wife and I have one and another on the way, it's the hardest thing I've ever done and the most rewarding. I think it is good that children are something we have as a choice now, people can certainly choose their own path. My goal is to make the world better tomorrow, and part of that is bringing two new citizens into it.

And I think overall as the global population gets more educated and equal, we will see a gentle curve to a steady state population.
posted by nickggully at 7:57 PM on September 2, 2013


>> You don't really have a choice about whether you want kids. You are hardwired to want kids

> This is backward understanding, you're wired to like sex and sexual stimulation
I'm not a neuroscientist or an evolutionary biologist, but I think there may well be some kid-specific hardwiring separate from the sexual instinct. I've liked sex a long time, but it was only in my mid-twenties that I started feeling peculiarly strong emotions when seeing other people's babies and thinking about having my own. Maybe that was just social programming coming to fruition, but it certainly felt deeper than that.

I'm a man in the U.S., so the expectations and stereotypes I grew up with are different from most of the women around me as far the whole "biological clock" thing goes. The emotional swings and changes leading up to and following my kid's birth certainly felt deeply biological or hormonal, which again is something that's not talked about much for my gender.

I also understand that not everyone has similar feelings, and am glad to live in a society where those who "want" and those who don't are both relatively free to choose accordingly.
posted by mbrubeck at 7:58 PM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


i think a lot of the pressure to have kids from people who already have them is that it rationalizes a decision they have already made.
posted by cupcake1337 at 8:11 PM on September 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


In this scenario am I:

- another adult human in the boat
- another baby human in the boat
- a hungry shark in the water
- a shark in the water who has just eaten, thanks
- time traveling hot young Stalin


Extra credit for time traveling hot young Stalin, riding by on a tame shark, cradling the infant Vladimir Putin in one arm.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:14 PM on September 2, 2013


I didn't read the article and just skipped down to the bottom of this thread, but I assume this issue has been resolved to everyone's satisfaction?
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:16 PM on September 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


I read about a third of this thread, then scrolled down a ways and came across:

"Why would Time-Traveling Hitler's baby even HAVE tentacles?"

I have no idea how we even got here.

On the topic of the original post, I cannot even imagine what it feels like to want children. I honestly do not understand it. If there was a job you could take that would require you to sign on to full time work for the next 18 years (no backsies!) and then part time for the rest of your life, and which would involve being on call all night every night, getting up somewhere between 4 and 6am every day, dealing with bodily fluids of all varieties, not even having time to shower or go to the loo in peace for the first few YEARS, and what's more, you not only don't get paid but you have to PAY hundreds of thousands of dollars to perform this job -- if this job existed, no matter how fulfilling it might be (and you wouldn't know how fulfilling it is until you have signed a completely irrevocable contract), I can't imagine anyone signing up for it, let alone the majority of the world's population.

When my mother tries to persuade me I should have children because most people find it a life-changing experience, and I might love it if I tried it, I ask her why she hasn't taken up parachute jumping as a hobby. The first time I did this she gave me this WTF look, and I pointed out that everyone I know who has done it called it life-changing, and that although it is expensive and risky, it's supposedly lots of fun and she can't know she wouldn't enjoy it unless she tries it. And it's not even like parachuting is a commitment for the rest of your life. You can get it over with in a few hours and never do it again. She is suggesting I should do something way riskier, more expensive, and life-consuming, for the same sorts of reasons I suggest she should jump out of a plane. I have about the same amount of interest in child-rearing as she has in parachute jumping, i.e. a vague intellectual curiosity and the occasional romanticised idea of what moments of bliss might be like in between the periods of boredom and terror.

Of course one of these days she's going to call me up and say she did jump out of a plane, and then I'll be screwed.
posted by lollusc at 9:19 PM on September 2, 2013 [27 favorites]


The amount of animosity on this subject really suggests that having children or not having children is a cultural marker. That some people see having children or not having children as part of their tribal identity, and take offense at other people acting differently because it shows disloyalty to the tribe.

Pretty much. I mean, isn't it totally illogical how UPSET a lot of people get if you dare to say you don't want kids? Why the shit do you care, especially if you're not a relative? Especially if you're say, a random stranger at Starbucks being nosy? By rights, we shouldn't care what other people's reproductive decisions are unless it's a really bad situation to bring a child into. (And even if they are choosing to bring children into a horrible situation, it's not like you can stop someone from doing that anyway.) I don't care if almost all people have kids or not. It's YOUR life. Why do you care what I choose? Why is it actively offensive to you that I not provide a playmate for your child, which is assuming that our imaginary kids would get along anyway? Is it that you will no longer want to talk to me if I don't also have a kid to talk about? I think the cultural/tribal identity thing is pretty much the answer to this--if you don't do the same thing as everyone else, you're getting voted off the island or something.

Look, if you don't nag me about my not having kids, I won't nag you about having too many or too few or how badly you raise them, mmkay? Truce?
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:01 PM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Have kids or don't. I wish more people were actually consciously making the decision to have kids vs. rolling with it when they accidentally get pregnant, but oh well.

I encounter a lot of people who have big dreams for their kids, but they don't have any for themselves. I do find that sad.

I won't be having any kids because it's the right decision for me. I do live at the beach, so I guess I'm kind of a cliche, if this thread is to be believed. I'll get to work on that money fan.
posted by nobejen at 10:32 PM on September 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Early non-adopter here, too. I assumed one of the added benefits of being queer was fewer kids to deal with. I see how well that worked, what with the gayby boom and many of my over-40 friends reproducing, so much so I know just two couples having kids before the age of 35, and one of them by happy accident. (What, most people aren't in their 60s when their offspring are in college?) I also respect others choices as I expect folks to respect my choices.

I have zero urge for infants/children other than to get away from them as quickly as possible; my refusal to touch small people is a notorious eccentricity in my social crowd. I prefer not to touch (adult) strangers or people I dislike, so avoiding children is consistent.

I am grateful to the technological and social changes that have made it possible for me to avoid sex with people who could get me pregnant, or having to bear/raise children as a consequence of those unwanted encounters. Yay the western enlightenment/Jewish haskalah, industrial revolution, separation of church and state, inexpensive energy, representative democracy, progressive/labor movements, birth control, feminism, queer activism, and all the rest.
posted by Dreidl at 12:50 AM on September 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


If nothing else, having kids has brought home the fact no one should have children unless they really, really want one. Parenthood is hard, and there are days when only the knowledge that I chose this keeps me semi-sane.
posted by snickerdoodle at 4:14 AM on September 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I feel like I live in some crazy, topsy-turvy alternate universe where I may or may not have kids and both options would probably turn out ok in the end. Am I some kind of monster? Must I choose a side and then accuse the other side of being Selfish World Ruiners?
posted by showbiz_liz at 6:41 AM on September 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


Yes and you must listen to everyone else's opinion about it too, apparently!
posted by h00py at 6:44 AM on September 3, 2013


The amount of animosity on this subject really suggests that having children or not having children is a cultural marker. That some people see having children or not having children as part of their tribal identity, and take offense at other people acting differently because it shows disloyalty to the tribe.

I'm surprised no one has mentioned the Shakers yet. They're the epitome of what happens when a cultural group rejects reproduction.

Because those kids are paying for your Old Age/Social Security and Medicare and subsidised long-term care facilities -- which cost way more than education.
....
I don't get this argument. Without extra mouths to feed, isn't it way, way easier to save for retirement?....Not if everyone is retired and no one is making money / keeping society running.


The fairest thing might be to tie social security/medicare benefits to number of children a person had in their lifetime, rather than lifetime earnings, since those programs aren't really savings programs at all (even though they're marketed that way).

Children aren't literally nursing over their parents in their old age as as they used to in earlier generations, but they are still doing so more abstractly, via taxes and government.

I think there may well be some kid-specific hardwiring separate from the sexual instinct. I've liked sex a long time, but it was only in my mid-twenties that I started feeling peculiarly strong emotions when seeing other people's babies and thinking about having my own. Maybe that was just social programming coming to fruition, but it certainly felt deeper than that.

Yeah, I agree. I think there's hard-wiring for both sex and kids, but the former is probably more prevalent than the latter, since it was good enough until recently. Evolution doesn't exactly smile on organisms that fail to contribute to the reproduction of their species, so we may be close to peak voluntary childlessness.
posted by cosmic.osmo at 8:24 AM on September 3, 2013


Evolution doesn't "care" about what any individual member of a species does or does not do. As long as there are sufficient members of the species reproducing, evolution is all "okay, sounds good." Evolution doesn't even "care" if an individual carries a gene that will kill it - as long as it doesn't die until after it's capable of reproduction.
posted by rtha at 8:33 AM on September 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't care if you want to have kids or not.

I don't mind if you talk about your kids a lot.

I don't mind if kids/families hang out in public spaces.

But, for the love of god, keep your %*#&@ing children out of the Amtrak quiet car!
posted by schmod at 8:55 AM on September 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


Evolution doesn't "care" about what any individual member of a species does or does not do. As long as there are sufficient members of the species reproducing, evolution is all "okay, sounds good." Evolution doesn't even "care" if an individual carries a gene that will kill it - as long as it doesn't die until after it's capable of reproduction.

Yes, I realize that. I was trading absolute technical accuracy for something that I thought sounded better while still making my point, but I should have realized that this is one of those bits of technical accuracy that many people are sensitive about. Feel free to read that clause as "Natural selection doesn't exactly smile, in a totally impersonal and non-anthropomorphized way, on traits that cause their possessors to fail to contribute to the reproduction of their population"

posted by cosmic.osmo at 9:21 AM on September 3, 2013


I appreciate the rewording, but I still don't understand. What are these traits that natural selection punishes, and how does that punishment play out against the individuals that display the traits?
posted by rtha at 10:25 AM on September 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


My least favorite babymaking related comment is ‘You and your boyfriend will have the most beautiful babies’! Which would be somewhat understandable if they said it after they saw the guy (well, I think he’s hot), but it’s always said as a response to finding out that he’s Puerto Rican. Sometimes months after they’ve met him at the first time. It’s happened so often that my response has stopped being a blank stare until the moment has passed and changed to a deadpan “Yes. I get that a lot”.

Oh, and that time that I had a cyst and everyone in the office thought I was pregnant and was excited about it while I was decidedly not excited about the thing growing inside me.
posted by dinty_moore at 10:29 AM on September 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


But, for the love of god, keep your %*#&@ing children out of the Amtrak quiet car!

Hah! Yes!

As the parent of older children, I find that I've lost the tolerance for little screamers that I once had. I can still make them shut up, mind, but people find it terrifying when purple-haired strangers offer to rock and snuggle their screaming baby.

So, yes, please, either let me snuggle the Little Monster into silence, or move to another fucking car so I can go back to sleep.
posted by MissySedai at 8:42 PM on September 3, 2013


i think a lot of the pressure to have kids from people who already have them is that it rationalizes a decision they have already made. cupcake1337
Exactly. People buy a house and think you should, too. People get married and think you should, too. Hey, gay people, welcome to Pressure to Get Married. Lots of people can't understand why other people don't make the same choices they did. And lots of people make decisions because "That's what everybody else does." Humans being social, this is going to happen, though it's incredibly obnoxious to lobby people about such personal choices.

The whole If we choose to be child free , why should we have to pay tax bills for public school? Why punish us because we did not have 7 kids? - Isn't that Libertarianism in a nutshell? It feels like the world is more that way than it used to be. I hate having my taxes pay for a sports complex, you hate having taxes pay for the Symphony, they hate paying taxes to build roads, etc. I don't want to live in a Libertarian community, though if anybody knows of one, it would be interesting to visit.
posted by theora55 at 12:20 AM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I don't mind living in a district with slightly higher school taxes than some. I'd rather have kids around who know how to use their brains than kids who don't, and I'd rather have adults around who are happy with their kids' education. I love walking home after work and hearing different instruments being practiced in different houses because our schools haven't had to cut their arts programs yet. I don't want a bunch of morons with no basic education running the country in forty years, just in case I happen to still be around, and I'm happy to pay my share to try to make sure that doesn't happen.

And for me, "supporting our troops" means buying Girl Scout cookies from as many daughters of friends as I can. I was that kid whose own parents would never buy fund-raiser stuff because "that would be as bad as doing your homework for you."
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:31 AM on September 4, 2013


if anybody knows of one, it would be interesting to visit.

I really doubt such a thing exists. It would be an absolute third world wasteland.

Look at what happened to the states that got seriously taken over by teaparty wankers. Everything gets cut to the bone and starts falling apart.
posted by emptythought at 11:37 AM on September 4, 2013


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