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The women who choose not to be mothers.
July 29, 2010 11:39 AM   Subscribe

More women in the developed world are choosing not to have children. 'So why do friends, family, colleagues and even strangers think it's OK to question their decision?' 'A woman's fertility status is still very much considered public property. There are still assumptions about women's role in society, about families and about family size."''US Census Bureau says 36% of American women have no children.''Once this was considered insane or unnatural. Even today, it is viewed with suspicion - women with no desire to procreate say they sometimes face awkward questions and disapproval.'

'A woman at work was recently quite shocked by my saying I didn't want children. She said: 'You're a woman, you were born with a womb, God gave a womb so we could procreate'," Jenny Woolfson, aged 25, told BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour. "My friends and I have occasionally likened coming out as child-free to coming out as a gay person 40 or 50 years ago. There's the same sense of shock - perhaps that's too strong a word. But it's a lifestyle people don't expect and it may challenge their world view," says 31-year-old Rhona Sweeting.'

'"Many people assume if you a single and child-free that you haven't met the right man yet. But if you are in a relationship, they ask 'when are you taking the next step?'' '"An early study in Canada years ago found roughly half of all the women who were childless in their 40s actually chose to be that way from a very early age.

"But very many of them didn't say so because of the social pressure they would get if they mentioned a preference for staying childless.''
posted by VikingSword (301 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite

 
My friends and I have occasionally likened coming out as child-free to coming out as a gay person 40 or 50 years ago.

Well, except for the danger of being beaten to death.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:45 AM on July 29, 2010 [88 favorites]


Seems if the trend continues this won't be a problem in like 20 years.
posted by spicynuts at 11:45 AM on July 29, 2010 [4 favorites]


"My friends and I have occasionally likened coming out as child-free to coming out as a gay person 40 or 50 years ago. There's the same sense of shock..."

Really?
posted by NationalKato at 11:45 AM on July 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


My friends and I have occasionally likened coming out as child-free to coming out as a gay person 40 or 50 years ago.

And with that understatement, we are well on our way to ending well.
posted by DU at 11:46 AM on July 29, 2010 [10 favorites]


"My friends and I have occasionally likened coming out as child-free to coming out as a gay person 40 or 50 years ago."

Social pressure and judgmental comments aren't the same thing as – just to pick a few random examples – being disowned or beaten to death. That aside, this is an interesting article.
posted by infinitywaltz at 11:46 AM on July 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


Although, that aside, I know quite a few women who have been harassed pretty hard (especially by family) over the decision to not have children. Frankly, it's bizarre.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:46 AM on July 29, 2010


On preview, apparently we all had the same exact thought at the same exact time.
posted by infinitywaltz at 11:46 AM on July 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


I echo the sentiment that voicing the fact that you don't want children is like coming out of the closet back in the day. I've gotten a lot of flack for being a CF person, and it really pisses me off.
posted by Anima Mundi at 11:49 AM on July 29, 2010 [5 favorites]


When certain women friends of mine have told me that they didn't want children of their own, they usually followed it up with, "But I'm going to be the world's best aunt." They are always terrible, terrible aunts.
posted by ColdChef at 11:49 AM on July 29, 2010 [63 favorites]


My wife and I are filled with joy at the prospect of my younger sister's wedding this October, not only because we are thrilled that she has found the person she wants to spend the rest of her life with, but also because they have said they want kids and now maybe mom will Stop. Asking. Pointed. Questions. Every. Time. We. Talk.
posted by Shepherd at 11:49 AM on July 29, 2010 [14 favorites]


"But very many of them didn't say so because of the social pressure they would get if they mentioned a preference for staying childless.''

Glad to see they're focusing on this, although I had a major WTF on the equivalence to the gay closet. There's a TON of social pressure to have children. My wife and I opted to wait a number of years before we had ours, and it became a running joke between us how many people we encountered who would ask us when we were having kids. Not "IF" but "WHEN."

Some resources:

Child free dot com / News Blog

Also see Childfree by Choice's links page
posted by zarq at 11:49 AM on July 29, 2010


And yet some hipster still felt empowered to call my wife a "fucking breeder" to her face because she was pushing our daughter in a stroller in Crate & Barrel, so I think there's enough disrespect to go around.
posted by briank at 11:49 AM on July 29, 2010 [24 favorites]


And I am a terrible, terrible aunt.
posted by Shepherd at 11:50 AM on July 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Jenny Woolfson, aged 25

Emphasis mine.

At 25, I was more concerned with my brand of beer than potentially raising a child.

Talk to me when you get to 40 about your decision to remain childless. Also...

US Census Bureau says 36% of American women have no children

Old people are living longer. Childless women are living longer, too.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:52 AM on July 29, 2010 [4 favorites]


even as a little girl, i never ever wanted a baby. i always said i would adopt ever since i found out about the foster kids i went to school with. i never played pretend baby or anything, but i definitely remember older women and babysitters trying to play "house" or something similar with me and it just was not my gig and they were confused.

my friend who just got married has been dealing with her husband's family not understanding why they aren't trying to get pregnant RIGHT NOW and that they may decide to not have any kids at all.

and on preview, her comment about coming out was a little bizarre, but i'm willing to forgive her for it. i'm trying to think of a better analogy she could have used, but it's late in the work day and my caffeine has stopped working. i think there's more merit to the article and what she's saying than her poor but well intentioned coming out reference.
posted by sio42 at 11:52 AM on July 29, 2010


Many of her clients do not want children but feel pressurised.

In the unlikely event of a change in your attitudes towards children, four infants will drop from the overhead compartment. If you are travelling with your mother, please give her first choice. It's going to be her grandchild after all, and you've delayed enough as it is.
posted by lholladay at 11:52 AM on July 29, 2010 [67 favorites]


Seems if the trend continues this won't be a problem in like 20 years.
Oddly, a very high percentage of people who choose not to have children are in fact direct descendents of people who did have children. So, like, it's not like it needs to breed true.
posted by The otter lady at 11:53 AM on July 29, 2010 [21 favorites]


briank, did she say, "crate & barrel shopper!" back at the hipster? That seems like it'd be an awfully mean thing to say to such a person.
posted by mikeh at 11:53 AM on July 29, 2010 [11 favorites]


Actually women the world over are having less children in general. In fact there have been a few days on planet Earth recently when more people died than were born. This trend will continue and at some point in the 21st century the world population will peak and begin declining. This is not a bad thing but it does cause havoc in marketplaces -- recessions, depressions -- so whatever country you call home should support a liberal immigration policy, or be mostly socialistic. China's current boom is largely a result Mao's policy of encouraging lots of children who are currently at the peak of their productive years. Once the one-child policy generation comes to the fore they are going have a crash in economic growth. China knows it and so is backing off somewhat on the 1-child policy.
posted by stbalbach at 11:54 AM on July 29, 2010 [5 favorites]


Happens at the other end of the spectrum as well. I recently met a pregnant 19 year old who is so tired of explaining that she is choosing to have a child at her age that she sometimes just goes along with people's first impressions that it's a happy accident. It's amazing how strongly people believe in The-Right-Age-To-Have-Children™.
posted by symbollocks at 11:54 AM on July 29, 2010 [5 favorites]


My grandmother says no one should even think of children until they are 35.
posted by parmanparman at 11:55 AM on July 29, 2010 [13 favorites]


I'm in the middle of reading The Handmaid's Tale and this article appears. *shudder*
Me and my partner won't ever have children. We can only stand kids in small doses and will probably just spend our lives spoiling our siblings' children. We call our fish our child and even that seems to be too much at times. Then again our fish is like a toddler, jumping out of his tank and getting into things he shouldn't.
posted by msbutah at 11:55 AM on July 29, 2010


Is this really unique to childless women? Because in my experience there is a certain percentage of people who just can't ever fucking mind their own business about anything and will question anyone who does anything that they consider different.

Still though, I think at my wedding at least four people (all from my parent's generation) asked us when we were going to have a baby. I'm a parent now, but I still wish I had punched them that day. I generally think most people shouldn't have kids.

Anyone who questions anyone about having or not having a baby is an insensitive asshole.
posted by bondcliff at 11:55 AM on July 29, 2010 [4 favorites]


And yet some hipster still felt empowered to call my wife a "fucking breeder"

Wow, this time we got almost 15 comments in before the parents showed up to explain to us how this thread which is explicitly not about them should in actuality be all about them and their special, special problems.
posted by enn at 11:55 AM on July 29, 2010 [50 favorites]


Oddly, a very high percentage of people who choose not to have children are in fact direct descendents of people who did have children. So, like, it's not like it needs to breed true.

Wha?? If more people continue to NOT have babies, there won't be anyone left WITH babies to pressure them to have babies. What the hell are you talking about?
posted by spicynuts at 11:56 AM on July 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I've known since I was old enough to understand what babies were that I never, ever wanted one, so my mom has had roughly 25 years to get used to the fact that she will only ever be grandmother to my pets. About half of my extended family has been similarly cowed; the other half will adapt or die.
posted by elizardbits at 11:57 AM on July 29, 2010


"An early study in Canada years ago found roughly half of all the women who were childless in their 40s actually chose to be that way from a very early age.


Interesting. As someone who is in her early forties and has had a foot in both the developed and the developing world for some 40 peripatetic years now and I'm not Canadian, I too knew by the time I was 16 or 17. In fact, when I was 20 I had the most interesting talk with my very conservative housewife mother who said that if she'd had our choices she'd have never had us. go figure:)

Even today, it is viewed with suspicion - women with no desire to procreate say they sometimes face awkward questions and disapproval.'



I've never been questioned on my childless status in the "west", except perhaps as "getting to know you small talk" - I looked at it at the "individual" rights and the respect for privacy of American and European culture where I was free of the rules and roles of my ethnicity.

Whereas in my home culture my status implies, particularly for my generation (working adults before the IT boom) is as low as one can get (childless *and* divorced !!!).

I have been in more "painful" situations in the East than anywhere else - most recently in China two months ago, where the young wife with child of a guest at our location gave me such a pitying compassionate look when I responded to her curious "getting to know you" questions, that after decades it just hit me hard just what a woman's "true" role has always been etc I'd both forgotten the challenges of living in Asia as a woman and that too a single one
posted by infini at 11:57 AM on July 29, 2010 [4 favorites]


But what makes a good aunt? My favorite aunt is the one who's always stumbling drunk by 2pm of any family get-together, and by the time dinner's being served she's begging me to call up one of my friends and get her some weed.
posted by mannequito at 11:57 AM on July 29, 2010 [25 favorites]


Fuckin' breeders. amirite?

Seriously though, I wish to all holy-hell people would respect the decisions of others when they are of a personal nature. Diet, religion, fucking sans condom/pill etc.

None of your goddamned business!
posted by purephase at 11:58 AM on July 29, 2010 [4 favorites]


Doesn't every MSM outlet write this article every 9-18 months? I seem to recall this previously and previouslyer. It's a thing.
posted by Tesseractive at 11:58 AM on July 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


Jenny Woolfson, aged 25

Emphasis mine.

At 25, I was more concerned with my brand of beer than potentially raising a child.

Talk to me when you get to 40 about your decision to remain childless. Also...


If she's sure about it, what's it to you? It reminds me of how difficult it is for some women to find a doctor to perform a hysterectomy. Some doctor's simply won't do it for a woman under a certain age, no matter how much the woman insists, no matter what health problems it could solve. It's disgusting.
posted by kmz at 11:58 AM on July 29, 2010 [16 favorites]


I have a few conversational rules of thumb, and one of them is not to talk about whether or not a person intends to become a parent unless it comes up organically. It's surprisingly hard to stick to, too, even when you're consciously trying.

Plus it doesn't just stop once you've decided to become a parent. If you have one, people want to know when you are going to add to the family. If you have daughters, people want to know when you are going to try for a son (blerg). If your unmarried sibling is showing no signs of getting off his or her duff and continuing your mother's legacy as a grandmother, she doesn't mind telling you she'd be happy if you just went ahead and had another couple of kids, while you still can, just to tide her over, and she's not really joking about it.

People are really fucking invasive about the parenting decisions of others. It is insane and it seems unwinnable no matter what you decide for yourself.
posted by padraigin at 11:59 AM on July 29, 2010 [8 favorites]


I think the child-free/coming out of the closet comparison is way off base. As mentioned above, women haven't been physically attacked just on the basis of their reproductive choice, nor do they fear losing their job if it becomes common knowledge that they live a child-free lifestyle. Being child-free myself, I've had tons of people - even relative strangers I've chatted with during a flight or while waiting in a long line - tell me I'm making a mistake and that I don't know what I'm missing by not having children, and once I had one I'd want more. Are many gay people told by casual acquaintances that they'd change their minds about their choice if they'd only try sex with the opposite gender just once?

I never had any sort of urge to give birth. Back before my rheumatologist officially told me not to get pregnant for health reasons, I was regularly called selfish when I told co-workers or whomever that I didn't want kids because icky diapers gross me out, that I cherish my sleepful nights, and that I don't have the patience to handle temper tantrums, etc. Selfish? How? Because they had to deal with kidstuff and I didn't? I think that children should be born into or adopted into loving homes by people who want them. I don't think that they should be brought into the world by rote.
posted by Oriole Adams at 12:00 PM on July 29, 2010 [5 favorites]


You know, I'm more than okay with people being childless because they don't want children. That's a really good thing to know about oneself. I fully support people who make this decision for themselves and live their lives happily without children. I don't especially care if someone chooses or doesn't choose to have a child.

But I absolutely have no tolerance for the "childfree" who are so to the point that it extends to other people's children. You know the ones. The ones who don't think children should be in public anywhere ever at all. Those people annoy the crap out of me. They don't have to have their own kids if they don't want, but they have to deal with the fact that my kid, and every other parent's kid, is a person. Sure, my kid is not even two yet, but he's a not-even-two-years-old person. He has as much right as grown ups to be out in the world doing his things.
posted by zizzle at 12:01 PM on July 29, 2010 [56 favorites]


My wife and I are childless by choice, and thankfully we receive little flak about it...probably because my parents probably figured I was gay and her parents said her first words were "not having kids!" Our friends are half split between kids/no kids.

We have way too many people, so the more childless couples, the better off the world is.
posted by maxwelton at 12:02 PM on July 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm fortunate that no one in my family, either on my side or my husband's, has ever pressured us at all to have children. They may secretly think about it, but they keep their mouths shut, and I've been amazed in recent years as I've come to understand how rare that is.

I've always felt like part of that "you have to have kids!" sentiment you hear from other parents comes from, at least in part, a place of envy. I know parents love their kids and wouldn't trade them for the world - but I also hear quite a lot of bitching about loss of sleep, stretched finances, loss of privacy, relationship strain... It seems that many people want me to join their way of life so we can commiserate together. Guess what? No.
posted by something something at 12:02 PM on July 29, 2010 [5 favorites]


I have apparently never learnt to type nor use proper grammar either (serves me right for trying to have dinner at the same time ;p)
posted by infini at 12:02 PM on July 29, 2010


i can't remember where i saw it, but i'm sure it was on the blue, about a woman's struggle to find a doctor to tie her tubes. i know she was over 18 but i think maybe under 30 and had a really really hard time convincing doctors that no, she really really really didn't want babies. ever.
posted by sio42 at 12:03 PM on July 29, 2010


I sometimes have been accused of choosing to commute by bicycle because, as a 30-something white man, it allows me to feel like a member of an oppressed class.

...
posted by gurple at 12:03 PM on July 29, 2010 [12 favorites]


Sorry, spicynuts, I thought you were making the "if those freaky people don't have kids, then those freaky people will die out as a species!" argument. My apologies.
posted by The otter lady at 12:03 PM on July 29, 2010


And yet some hipster still felt empowered to call my wife a "fucking breeder" to her face because she was pushing our daughter in a stroller in Crate & Barrel, so I think there's enough disrespect to go around.

I didn't become a parent until I was in my 30's.

I took FAR, FAR more shit about not having kids *yet* than I did for being a parent after I had them. I don't think the two are equivalent.
posted by zarq at 12:04 PM on July 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


My personal gripe of the typical response when people learn I don't plan to have children: "Oh, you'll change your mind."

Fuck you, no I won't. Take your sophistic prediction and shove it. I've known I would be child-free since I was a teenager.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 12:05 PM on July 29, 2010 [13 favorites]


the parents showed up to explain to us how this thread which is explicitly not about them

I'm pretty sure people can discuss whatever they want in these threads.
posted by GuyZero at 12:05 PM on July 29, 2010 [28 favorites]


And it's not just the life decision thing. It's always astounded me that some/many people think it's ok to ask the most pointed and undoubtedly excrutiatingly embarrassing questions about the reproductive health of a woman. A person's or a couple's fertility and their attitude towards procreation shouldn't be subjected to peer pressure - this is one historical human norm of behaviour that needs to change. Thanks for the post.
posted by peacay at 12:07 PM on July 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty sure people can discuss whatever they want in these threads.

It is generally considered poor form to go into threads about other people's problems with these kinds of "but what about ME guys?" comments.
posted by enn at 12:07 PM on July 29, 2010 [7 favorites]


Wow, this time we got almost 15 comments in before the parents showed up to explain to us how this thread which is explicitly not about them should in actuality be all about them and their special, special problems.

That strikes me as an overreaction.

I'm shocked that people are so shocked at people being shocked that other people don't want to have kids. Why shouldn't it be considered odd that a woman chooses not to have kids? She's swimming against millions of years of development of highly evolved mechanisms designed both for her to reproduce and to have the desire to do so. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with it, but it's silly to characterize people's surprise at the choice as being the product of some strand of sexism. It's a surprising, counterintuitive thing for a species to reach a point in their evolution where they make choices that go against all the evolution that got them there.
posted by resiny at 12:07 PM on July 29, 2010 [17 favorites]


Generally, people are insensitive clods about women's fertility status. My poor mom got a lot of flack about not having children. It hurt her so much because she desperately wanted children, but doctors told her she was infertile. (I was a pleasant surprise years after she had given up on several failed IVF attempts. :P) People should mind their own business and not make assumptions; generally, people are very quick to judge other about parenting-related issues and it needs to stop.

TL;DR - mind your own damn business. You don't know the whole story.
posted by liesbyomission at 12:08 PM on July 29, 2010 [4 favorites]


It is generally considered poor form to go into threads about other people's problems with these kinds of "but what about ME guys?" comments.

FWIW, I took it as more of an "there are disrespectful people on all sides of this issue" comment, not one which was "LOOK AT ME" and content-free.
posted by zarq at 12:09 PM on July 29, 2010 [23 favorites]


Eh, older generations always interpret the decisions of younger generations in light of what was acceptable and expected when they were at that same age in their lives and people who are currently parents just want someone to talk to about the changes parenting has brought to their lives and to understand.
It's a safe bet that it will always be so.
posted by vapidave at 12:09 PM on July 29, 2010


I adore the Breeders' version of Happiness Is A Warm Gun.
posted by everichon at 12:10 PM on July 29, 2010 [4 favorites]


And it's not just the life decision thing. It's always astounded me that some/many people think it's ok to ask the most pointed and undoubtedly excrutiatingly embarrassing questions about the reproductive health of a woman.

This. I’ve been dealing with an ovarian cyst for the past month or so-one of the most aggravating parts of it has been having people overhear me talking about it, assuming that I’m ‘expecting’, and then attempting to fish for information.

I’ve started fantasizing about a ‘I’m not pregnant; it’s a tumor’ cross stitch that I can hang in my cubicle. . .
posted by dinty_moore at 12:13 PM on July 29, 2010 [12 favorites]


Then again our fish is like a toddler, jumping out of his tank and getting into things he shouldn't.

See, a parent wouldn't give their toddler a tank in the first place. They cause enough destruction without the assistance of mechanized force.

(sometimes wishing my life had a child/childless toggle button)
posted by Kabanos at 12:14 PM on July 29, 2010 [7 favorites]


I am 46; my wife is 52. We both knew from early childhood we had no interest in having kids, and this is one of the things that attracted us in the first place. All the people -- and there have been a LOT of them -- who insisted we would change our minds through the years have been proven wrong.

Some people simply cannot comprehend it. I once had this conversation with an older lady who worked with me when I was in my 30's:
She: So when are you getting married?

Me: Same time I said last time you asked -- never.

She: But what if you have kids? You should be married.

Me: We're not having kids.

She: Well you don't always get a choice about that, you know.

Me: She's on the pill, and it's 99.9% effective if you reliably take it, and I know she is obsessive about taking it.

She: Well it could still fail, what then?

Me: Well I can't say for sure, but I'm pretty sure she would have an abortion.

She (turning white): And what would you think about that?

Me: I don't get to think anything about that; I don't have to carry the baby to term. If it turns out I've been wrong all these years about her I'll suck it up and marry her and support the kid and do my best to be a father, but I really sincerely doubt that will ever happen.
It was awkward since the people I work for are at least nominally Catholic, but overall, it was a good thing because it FINALLY mostly put an end to the at least once weekly round of "when are you getting married." We finally did get married so I could put her on my company health insurance, when her personal plan became too expensive, but we're still childfree and considering her age very likely to stay that way.
posted by localroger at 12:14 PM on July 29, 2010 [12 favorites]


They don't have to have their own kids if they don't want, but they have to deal with the fact that my kid, and every other parent's kid, is a person. Sure, my kid is not even two yet, but he's a not-even-two-years-old person. He has as much right as grown ups to be out in the world doing his things.

Children have that right, yes, but that doesn't excuse poor decisions by parents or children. You have the right to free speech, but if you walk up and down the street screaming insults at people you're still a jerk. The same is true of bringing unruly children to places where there is an expectation or social convention of grownup behavior, such as quiet restaurants and movies not intended for, say, two year olds.
posted by jedicus at 12:15 PM on July 29, 2010 [39 favorites]


FWIW, I took it as more of an "there are disrespectful people on all sides of this issue" comment, not one which was "LOOK AT ME" and content-free.

Exactly, and thank you.
posted by briank at 12:15 PM on July 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


It's Uncle Jared.
posted by JaredSeth at 12:15 PM on July 29, 2010


I echo the sentiment that voicing the fact that you don't want children is like coming out of the closet back in the day.

Have you been arrested?

Have you been beaten?

Have you been ostracized from your family and friends?

Have you been forced into therapy because not wanting children is unnatural?

Have you been fired from your job?

Is it illegal for you not to have children?

50 years ago, it was 1960. The Stonewall Riots occured in 1969. Sodomy was still a crime in every US State. Forty years ago, it was 1970, and the year that Howard Elfland was beaten to death by the police. Three years later, thirty-two people were killed by an arsonist who set fire to a "gay" bar. Matthew Sheppard was murdered in 1998, only twelve years ago.

There is far more on the pages I linked to, and those are only a small fraction.

As a woman who doesn't want children but does want other women, I'm going to say no, being openly "child-free" is nothing like coming out of the closet "back in the day." Your comparison is frankly offensive.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 12:15 PM on July 29, 2010 [46 favorites]


My grandmother says no one should even think of children until they are 35.

Look I agree, but you have to think of them when they are much, much younger than that because they start to smell.
posted by The Bellman at 12:16 PM on July 29, 2010 [18 favorites]


She's swimming against millions of years of development of highly evolved mechanisms designed both for her to reproduce and to have the desire to do so.

And who's to say we didn't evolve behaviours that prevent overpopulation?
posted by Zalzidrax at 12:16 PM on July 29, 2010 [8 favorites]


I'm shocked that people are so shocked at people being shocked that other people don't want to have kids.

I think from a journalism perspective this is a evergreen lifestyle-section topic where you can run the same basic article on shifting childbirth demographics year after year after year. The real news is how the US still continues to buck the trend that is otherwise world-wide.
posted by GuyZero at 12:16 PM on July 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


Kids? No thanks we'll just get more pets 'til it feels like home!
posted by 2bucksplus at 12:16 PM on July 29, 2010


I'm not a woman but I learned long ago that letting any parent know that I don't want kids (even in answer to a direct question) is very often interpreted as some kind of direct attack on their own decision to reproduce. I don't think I could provoke a stronger reaction in the parent by calling little Johnny/Jenny a piece of crap to his/her face.

Very strange, these primal instincts! It's like fighting, and.. collecting stuff. I just don't get it.
posted by dickasso at 12:16 PM on July 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


Statistically, women not having children is a long-term problem for humanity.

Individually, it's none of anyone's effing business except your own.
posted by chavenet at 12:17 PM on July 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm sure it is very difficult to disclose alternate sexual preferences and don't question that the world meets out undue hostility, including beatings, but please consider the ratio of childless women and mothers who are beaten and killed every day because they are in a vulnerable position. Imagine being forced to marry and have children; it's not trivial compared to an alternate sexual lifestyle.
posted by effluvia at 12:19 PM on July 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


Seriously though, I wish to all holy-hell people would respect the decisions of others when they are of a personal nature. Diet, religion, fucking sans condom/pill etc.

Well, with some of those things, you're eventually going to run into issues where people decide that it is their damn business if you're externalizing your lifestyle onto them, in a way that causes them, or someone else who didn't exactly consent, to pick up the tab.

This is why becoming pregnant or impregnating someone at an age before you can be self-sufficient is viewed as irresponsible and worthy of scorn; it's generally a sign that you're about to externalize a whole lot of costs on society at large. I wouldn't hold your breath for people to just lie back and be accepting about stuff that they feel costs them money.

I actually see this getting worse rather than better in the U.S.; you can use the same logic that's used to justify seatbelt laws to justify a lot of other restrictions on what people can and can't do to themselves because they might end up creating costs that they can't themselves bear.

I'm not suggesting that there will ever be a widespread move to restrict people from having children by law; that's a bit of a stretch. But I think that the social pressures might invert against having children (or at least against doing so "irresponsibly" with a fairly high bar for what constitutes "responsibly") if it becomes something that most people don't do. I think you can already see this in certain populations/subcultures where the demographics have already turned the corner and birthrates are below replacement.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:19 PM on July 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I received questions about this at work, over and over again. "When are you going to get married? When are you going to have kids?" I eventually explained that I cannot have children (which is mostly true, but it is not flat out impossible), thinking that would stop the questions. I was wrong, because then, hey, I could adopt. Being curt about it was what finally stopped this. It went like this, "Repeating: Me. Kids. Nev-ver. Done!"

And then the instinct runs strong in some. I knew this poor gal who had ghastly, awful issues with her ovaries. She was down to a sliver of an ovary left by the time she was eighteen, after surgeries so numerous that she joked about having a zip-lock seal put in between her hipbones. Last I saw her, she was having frantic amounts of unprotected sex in an effort to get pregnant. She didn't want to just be a mother, she wanted to bear a child and make it with her own body and raced against the time when she would no longer be able to do so. It colored everything about her and I can understand how people with a similar drive might be unable to see outside of their own instincts.
posted by adipocere at 12:20 PM on July 29, 2010


Statistically, women not having children is a long-term problem for humanity.

More accurately, X% of women not having a minimum of Y children per generation. Stat/math geeks want to help out?
posted by griphus at 12:20 PM on July 29, 2010


Why shouldn't it be considered odd that a woman chooses not to have kids? She's swimming against millions of years of development of highly evolved mechanisms designed both for her to reproduce and to have the desire to do so. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with it, but it's silly to characterize people's surprise at the choice as being the product of some strand of sexism

It’s kind of sexist that fewer people seem to wonder why men don’t want/have any children (guys do get it, but not as much). For some reason, the biological imperative to breed usually translates as ‘men want sex, women want babies’.
posted by dinty_moore at 12:20 PM on July 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


Wha?? If more people continue to NOT have babies, there won't be anyone left WITH babies to pressure them to have babies.

Statistically, women not having children is a long-term problem for humanity.

I really doubt the number of childfree folks is even approaching being a problem to the survival of humanity, short or long term.
posted by kmz at 12:21 PM on July 29, 2010 [7 favorites]


No one ever asks me if/when I'm going to get married/have kids. I'm 27, hearty and hale, partnered, by all accounts in a perfect situation for intrusive questions from friends and family. Rather, my own mother told me, unprompted, on my last visit home, "You know, it's okay with me if you never have children."

I am torn between feeling grateful and wondering vaguely if there is something horrible and external wrong with me that I haven't noticed.
posted by peachfuzz at 12:22 PM on July 29, 2010 [8 favorites]


I think the child-free/coming out of the closet comparison is way off base. . . . I was regularly called selfish

I think being child-free is actually probably far more akin to becoming a single mother by choice, in terms of the unwanted reactions from people (SMCs are also often called selfish because they have children on their own without a significant other).
posted by amro at 12:22 PM on July 29, 2010


Wow, this time we got almost 15 comments in before the parents showed up to explain to us how this thread which is explicitly not about them should in actuality be all about them and their special, special problems.

What? If that happened to me I'd tie that little hipster punk up by his skinny jeans. You can be a dick regardless of which side of the argument you are on. Thanks for illustrating.

On preview and said more politely by zarq: FWIW, I took it as more of an "there are disrespectful people on all sides of this issue" comment, not one which was "LOOK AT ME" and content-free.
posted by Big_B at 12:22 PM on July 29, 2010 [5 favorites]


Oops, that first line should have been italicized, it was a quote.
posted by amro at 12:23 PM on July 29, 2010


Sigh.
The reason people assume that everyone want to breed is that it's a baseline functionality of our species. To continue the species, breeding is required. Humans do not spontaneously split asexually. It is a biological imperative that permeates in our genes. The conscious decision NOT to breed is seen as abnormal because if there is one thing anything that is alive does, is want to be alive more, but since we all deep down know we are going to die, we all sign up for the immortality on the installment plan, i.e. procreation to continue the species. Hell, even government policies are formed around the idea of continuing the species (child tax credit).
The reason many childless people do not understand the disdain or odd reaction to someone not wanting children is because it is a completely selfish and uncooperative thing to do. Social animals want to make sure the other animals in their group are socialized. If someone does not play the game by the rules, or refused to play the game at all, they are probably tagged as "something to watch" by the base emotional/lizard brain. It doesn't feel right, so all kinds of strange rationalizations are shoved out of the mouth to try and explain the feeling, or offer sympathy, or just plain badger the strange ones into following the rules set forth in genetic language which everyone understands but no one can speak clearly.

It's a selfish choice to dead end your genetic markers and not share with the group through procreation. Thus, your choice is questioned, because the goal is to keep the species going. I'm not saying that keeping the species going is right. It's just what animals are programmed to do.

I'm guessing a lot of childless by choice people also have a lot of social hang ups as well. But that's just a generalization that can be disregarded as supposition on my part, mainly because I am forming my opinion on the matter from personal interaction, rather than broad statistical consensus.

Those of you who have chosen not to have children, I am not going to condemn said choice. I just wish to point out that there are probably very specific reasons that "the breeders" don't understand the choice. Mind you, I've noticed that my own parents are getting to the "when are you going to have kids" stage. A few years ago, my mom was in the "don't have kids, it sucks" frame of mind. Now she's getting older, and something in her is saying "grandkids would be nice." I think it's another one of those biological things. At some point, your rewards system starts to tell you "kids are nice, we'll give you endorphines if you push for more" and they get totally ga-ga over smelly little humans that crap themselves and pee on the rug and throw up half of what they eat and make strange gurgling noises.
posted by daq at 12:23 PM on July 29, 2010 [9 favorites]


'So why do friends, family, colleagues and even strangers think it's OK to question their decision?'

Because the majority of couples do choose to have children, so those who don't stick out like a sore thumb? Because some people actually want to have kids? Because we are finite and painfully aware of that and long to see at least our family continue?

Honestly, they sounds like another in a long line of "Woe is me" attitudes from Westerners. The majority have kids. If you choose not to have them, fine, but don't be surprised when many people regard that as.

That's the way it goes for any minority.
posted by nomadicink at 12:23 PM on July 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


I find when asked the extremely rude questions such as "When are you two going to have a baby?" An answer like "When are you going to get your nose out of my ass?" Seems to slow that down.

As for the long term implications of the birth rate impact of these events I point to the news today that 40% of the ocean plankton are gone and are further going out at 1% a year, a rate likely to increase, due to warming. Having a child is a minor event when the food chain and the source of oxygen for the planet are fast becoming a foot note.

We blew it, too much, too fast, too many people. Thanks POPE, good job on that one and let's all hope the ring wing idiots who want to forbid birth control in all forms for all women get lots of votes. OK?
posted by Freedomboy at 12:23 PM on July 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


And who's to say we didn't evolve behaviours that prevent overpopulation?

Well, replacement is 2.2 children. A society that has an average of, say, 1.5 children/couple will eventually exterminate itself. I don't feel too terribly strongly either way about overpopulation and ethical questions contained therein, but I don't think you could really call any instinct that causes a species to eliminate itself directly evolutionarily selected for.
posted by resiny at 12:23 PM on July 29, 2010


SMCs are also often called selfish because they have children on their own without a significant other).

No, it's because people assume that the responsibilities of the missing S.O. will be imposed on them (them the taxpayer, them the parent, them the friend.)
posted by griphus at 12:26 PM on July 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Don’t worry, there are plenty of quiverfulls and the like to make up for my lack of babies.
posted by dinty_moore at 12:26 PM on July 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm sure coworkers are annoying, but parents can be the worst. Every time my mother calls she laments that I'm not married. Every. Single. Conversation. I'm 28 (and male.) No doubt if I get married, this would be followed by "Why aren't you having kids?" Every single conversation. I think I have a fundamental disconnect with respectable society if this kind of constant annoying shaming over... what, exactly? is what passes for conversing with your child. The problem is that she comes from an ultra-conservative culture in which marriage and kids are literally the be-all-end-all of human existence. She might just be incapable of thinking in any other framework. Considering just lying and telling her I'm gay to end the abuse.
posted by naju at 12:27 PM on July 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


Statistically, women not having children is a long-term problem for humanity.

I think a reduction in global population would, long-term, be the opposite of a problem for humanity. We need to think of another way to sustain ourselves than the traditional "more growth! more consumption!" model with its very obvious and problematic logical conclusion.
posted by dickasso at 12:28 PM on July 29, 2010 [11 favorites]


Looking at what kind of person I am, and the mental wiring I had, I decided very young that it would probably be for the best if I didn't create any miniature versions of myself.

I was very fortunate to find a woman who took one look at me and decided the same thing.
posted by quin at 12:29 PM on July 29, 2010 [9 favorites]


No, it's because people assume that the responsibilities of the missing S.O. will be imposed on them (them the taxpayer, them the parent, them the friend.)

No, not really. Statistically the majority of single mothers by choice make a very good living. It's usually more about raising a child without a father. But I suppose this is a derail; I was just trying to point out that they are another group whose choices about children are often questioned rudely.
posted by amro at 12:31 PM on July 29, 2010


A lot of these "reproduction is built in to humanity" arguments are sounding awfully similar to the "they can't have children" argument bigots make about gay marriage.
posted by kmz at 12:31 PM on July 29, 2010 [10 favorites]


metafilter's own jscalzi with a counter entitled "Why I Breed"
posted by ShawnStruck at 12:31 PM on July 29, 2010 [4 favorites]


And who's to say we didn't evolve behaviours that prevent overpopulation?

Well, I think we're still fucking as much (or more) than ever, so our behaviour hasn't actually changed. It's the development of accessible and reliable birth control that's ultimately driving this trend.
posted by rocket88 at 12:32 PM on July 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's usually more about raising a child without a father.

The accusation of selfishness, I mean.
posted by amro at 12:32 PM on July 29, 2010


Snowflakes. Snowflakes everywhere.
posted by sourwookie at 12:32 PM on July 29, 2010 [8 favorites]


I'm so tired of all of this. I know I'm supposed to own my decisions about not having a kid, but there are plenty of times I think (usually around the time just before my period starts) that if I were more secure in all aspects of my life, I would want to be a mom.

But I don't because I'm not secure financially or maybe even emotionally. I think it is all so much more complicated than just being like, "Oh, I'm childfree by choice." I tried to do the whole "Childfree Pride" thing and I tried to do the whole "maybe I do want to be a mom someday" and neither fits.

I have really complicated feelings about a lot of things involved with being pregnant and post-pregnancy and being a mother. I'm not the kind of person who could turn into the kind of mom I think kids should have or would benefit from. I am easily stressed and always have been. I think not being able to give my kid everything I think kids ought to have (things I wish I'd had as a kid and wished my parents could have given me) would make me feel worse than I already do about myself.

I have issues with my life not being what I imagined it would be career-wise and financially. Health insurance for a spouse and child would be more than half my husband's salary. We don't have a support network nearby.

I worry what becoming a mother would turn me into because I never learned to go with the flow or relax and I don't want to take the chance that it will make me a more stressed, unhappier, and wistful person, to say nothing of how my kid would feel because of how I am.

I'm shutting my eyes and just deciding not to because, above all, it's really expensive and that makes the decision for us. But if I could be the kind of person I wish I could magically turn into and was in a financially secure situation, I'd probably have a kid. But that would all be contingent on how my husband felt. I don't want to have a kid if he doesn't want to or isn't anything but 110% sure.

And I can't be the only woman without children who feels this way, could I? Maybe I am. But I think it's way more complicated and it's sad, too, because maybe I am the perfect model of a superficial and selfish woman in all my reasons for not having kids. And if I am, I don't think I should be passing any genetic material down anyway.

(I don't think I've cried while writing a comment on Metafilter before now. It's all so very complicated.)
posted by anniecat at 12:32 PM on July 29, 2010 [71 favorites]


My personal gripe of the typical response when people learn I don't plan to have children: "Oh, you'll change your mind."

I've actually made this fairly lucrative. When people say that, I used to say "wanna bet? I bet you $50 that by the time I'm 35 I will not have changed my mind." The majority of the people foolish enough to doubt me to my face take the bet. Don't doubt that the day after my 35th birthday I called in those debts. I turn 40 soon and I've already got plans for that money.

I've known since a child I didn't want to be a parent. My dolls were always students or orphans I tried to place elsewhere. Years ago when I moved out of the house, my mother tried to get me to take my childhood (sized) rocking chair. I asked her what the hell I was going to do with a kid sized rocker and she said "I hear cats like rocking chairs." (God bless her for accepting her grandkittens.)

I'm also one of the people who for years has rallied against my health care practitioners for appropriate birth control options. Long term monogamist relationship, still pleaded for YEARS for something other than the pill, despite potential complications (migraine sufferer = increased stroke risk). My original GYN was affiliated with a Catholic hospital, and swore every year that the pill was the best thing for me, in case I suddenly changed my mind. I finally found the world's best GYN, a man who listened to me, treated me as an intelligent adult who was able to make my own health care decisions. So now when anyone asks "when are you having kids?" I say "I am physically unable to." Yes, I'm a bit of a bitch about it, but it's not a lie - thanks to that Mirena I finally had implanted.
posted by librarianamy at 12:32 PM on July 29, 2010 [4 favorites]


Women really can't win, when you think about it. If you don't want to have children everyone wants to be your therapist. No one would question me if I declared that I wanted three children.

Pregnant women are also treated really rudely though. When she was pregnant, one of my old bosses was full of stories about creeps. Hell, the department chair thought he was allowed to pat her belly whenever he wanted to. We were eating lunch in the front office once and one of the professors pat my boss on the head and criticized her lunch. Why are pregnant women treated like public property?
posted by giraffe at 12:33 PM on July 29, 2010 [4 favorites]


When I came out of the closet as not wanting kids, it was exactly like revealing myself to be a Jew in Nazi Germany.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:33 PM on July 29, 2010 [17 favorites]


I'm guessing a lot of childless by choice people also have a lot of social hang ups as well.

This is pretty stupid. But then again, maybe you just have a lot of social hang ups about people who choose not to have children.
posted by VikingSword at 12:33 PM on July 29, 2010 [6 favorites]


Maybe she meant to say that coming out as child free is like coming out as gay will be 40 or 50 years from now. Man, I don't even know if I'm being pessimistic or optimistic any more.

It has always sucked to be outnumbered and on the wrong side of social norms, and it probably always will, but guess what, child free people, I'm real sorry you can't get Gramma off your case but nothing you deal with comes within a mile of the grinding everyday trials of being a parent. Why don't you all quit whining and, I don't know, say go out for drinks after work without any special planning or preparation, to unwind. Doesn't that sound nice? It sounds nice to me.
posted by nanojath at 12:34 PM on July 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


It is a biological imperative that permeates in our genes.

I was under the impression that humans are a sentient species who are not completely at the mercy of their various biological urges, whose intelligence give them some degree of free will to overcome blind urges and determine their life choices.
posted by aught at 12:35 PM on July 29, 2010 [11 favorites]


Oh, women who undergo fertility treatments get a lot of crap too. . . usually from people who think it’s easy to adopt.
posted by dinty_moore at 12:36 PM on July 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


it is a completely selfish and uncooperative thing to do

I'm guessing a lot of childless by choice people also have a lot of social hang ups as well

I am not going to condemn said choice


Hey, something here doesn't match!
posted by echo target at 12:37 PM on July 29, 2010 [15 favorites]


I'm simply amazed by how many women want children. Even friends who 10 years ago swore they never wanted one eventually end up selling out and having a couple.
posted by DieHipsterDie at 12:38 PM on July 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


metafilter's own jscalzi with a counter entitled "Why I Breed"

I don't really see that as a counter to anything substantive here. That's a response to the hardcore childhaters (like briank described above). That's not even close to the same thing as childfree.
posted by kmz at 12:39 PM on July 29, 2010


I'm guessing a lot of childless by choice people also have a lot of social hang ups as well. But that's just a generalization that can be disregarded as supposition on my part, mainly because I am forming my opinion on the matter from personal interaction, rather than broad statistical consensus.

As a childless woman by choice who actually functions quite well in society and rarely embarrasses herself in public, I will take your suggestion and disregard your comment.
posted by Evangeline at 12:40 PM on July 29, 2010 [8 favorites]


We have a friend who was very against having children.

She went to ~5 doctors to try to get her tubes tied at 25.

Finally she found one that did. She had to pay over $10k for it.

She's 38 now. She has been actively saving money for 5 years to try to get the tubal ligation reversed. Major regrets.

We all told her to just get an IUD.
posted by k8t at 12:40 PM on July 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm not a woman but I learned long ago that letting any parent know that I don't want kids (even in answer to a direct question) is very often interpreted as some kind of direct attack on their own decision to reproduce.

This is a character flaw. It is proof of their insecurity that they interpret discrepancies between your personal values and theirs as a kind of "unstated judgment".
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 12:41 PM on July 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


metafilter's own jscalzi with a counter entitled "Why I Breed"

Wow, that was unpleasant.
posted by aught at 12:42 PM on July 29, 2010 [10 favorites]


A lot of these "reproduction is built in to humanity" arguments are sounding awfully similar to the "they can't have children" argument bigots make about gay marriage.

Try maybe once in a while looking at the world through a different prism. This has nothing to do with gay rights, and to imply that there are bigoted undertones to my post without actually saying why--and I really don't see how asserting a biological fact could be called bigoted--is in itself pretty Not Cool.
posted by resiny at 12:43 PM on July 29, 2010 [6 favorites]


I was under the impression that humans are a sentient species who are not completely at the mercy of their various biological urges, whose intelligence give them some degree of free will to overcome blind urges and determine their life choices.

Heh. Naive. Check the newspaper sometime if you want to see how far "some degree" extends.
posted by GuyZero at 12:43 PM on July 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


It is a completely selfish and uncooperative thing to do

It's possibly worth pointing out that, actually, reproduction is the ultimate selfish act. Nobody does it out of any noble desire to help out the human race, it's pure "I want a part of ME to live on! ME!"
posted by dickasso at 12:44 PM on July 29, 2010 [27 favorites]


The lone article mentions research, but quotes one sociologist referencing an old study in Canada (Canada!) and a bunch of anecdotes. Weak sauce.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 12:46 PM on July 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Nobody does it out of any noble desire to help out the human race

Fascinating that you know the exact reason why every parent has had a child, ever.
posted by GuyZero at 12:46 PM on July 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


My parents didn't have any children, so I probably won't either.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:46 PM on July 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


dinty_moore: "Oh, women who undergo fertility treatments get a lot of crap too. . . usually from people who think it’s easy to adopt."

Remember when Martha Stewart's daughter went on Oprah to talk about her fertility treatments and how emotionally and financially taxing it was? Some of the reactions to that.. just.. ugh. Even people who are staunchly pro-choice. What happened to the right for a woman to do anything she wants with her own uterus, preferably without being shamed?
posted by giraffe at 12:46 PM on July 29, 2010 [5 favorites]


reproduction is the ultimate selfish act.

Yes, people long for the lack of sleep, endless owners, major destruction of their pesonal lives and time and of course the expense. Yes, of course, it's the ultimate selfish act!!
posted by nomadicink at 12:46 PM on July 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


My grandmother says no one should even think of children until they are 35.

Yeah, grandmothers are way better at that child-rearing thing than mothers, frequently.

I don't think many people under 35 are competent to *raise* children, but it certainly seems advantageous healthwise (and time-on-earth-wise) to have them as young as possible.

therefore I say, have a few pups at the age of 18 and let your parents raise them while you go to college and sort your career out, then you take them over around high school time, right about when they're getting ready to start breeding.

bet you'd have a lot healthier kids, raised in more stable households, and the young parents could get their own households set up in time to start raising the next generation. plus you'd have much denser families, age-wise, and more able to provide support for each other and enjoy each other's company.
posted by toodleydoodley at 12:47 PM on July 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think the reason this is always such a volatile conversation is that I don't believe that people really have reasons for having children or not having them. I know my wife and I didn't really have much of a logical reason for it. Something in us said "have babies now." So... ok. We did.

I suspect that on the other side, something in childless people either never says that or says "Don't have kids", and they, without that irresistible biological push, assess that having kids would be a huge pain and would greatly change their life and they think "Ok... I won't."

But on neither side is it a reasoned intellectual thing. You're either driven to it or not. So people who felt that drive have a hard time imagining someone else not feeling it -- like if someone told you they weren't going to breathe, because they didn't really feel like it. Just purely incomprehensible.

I don't understand people pushing others to have kids though. Why would we want a lot of parents who didn't want to have kids? I mean, its hard enough when you're positive that you had to do it and couldn't have not done it. I can't imagine raising children and always wishing you hadn't had them. It would be torture. So, please, leave your childless friends alone. People who need to have kids will need to have them without your pestering. People who don't will just dislike you for pestering. The species will not die out because you didn't tell a co-worker that "the clock is ticking!" Just leave them be.
posted by rusty at 12:48 PM on July 29, 2010 [26 favorites]


The phrase itself - child-free - is telling. (It's like the phrases pro-choice, pro-life, etc.) It seems to imply that having a child is like having a ball and chain, as opposed to being FREE...wait a minute...that's exactly right, come to think of it.

(Although I've had 18 incredibly rewarding years as a parent.)
posted by kozad at 12:49 PM on July 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


reproduction is the ultimate selfish act.

ultimate as in "the last" ... from then on out you've got responsibilities to others.

but yes, also true, for other definitions of selfish.
posted by chavenet at 12:49 PM on July 29, 2010


I think the whole "lots of women regret sterilization" thing is confirmation bias. What woman contacts her doctor a decade later to rave about how awesome the tubal has been for her?
posted by giraffe at 12:50 PM on July 29, 2010 [25 favorites]


I just tell people that it's going to be pretty difficult to make time for a kid with all the drinking I do.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:51 PM on July 29, 2010 [14 favorites]


Imagine being forced to marry and have children; it's not trivial compared to an alternate sexual lifestyle.

I don't think that Anima Mundi lives in a country where forced marriage is common; if she does, then it's likely that she also lives in a country where homosexuality continues to be illegal. If we're going to suddenly pick such nations as our basis of comparison, then let's at least be consistent.

I am not going to minimize the violence that women faced and continue to face around the world. But no, a woman in a first-world nation who comes out as "child-free" is generally not going to be treated the same way as an openly homosexual person would have been forty or fifty years ago. Hell, a woman in Iran who openly doesn't want children may face massive social and familial pressure, but is not going to be arrested and hanged for not wanting them.

One of the main reasons I do not describe myself as "child-free," despite not wanting children, is the comparisons that many more vocal child-free folks make to struggles for civil rights. When a privileged woman who is safe say that she doesn't want children says that the fallout she experiences is like "coming out of the closet back in the day," that's a type of ignorant co-opting of minority struggles that I don't want to be associated with.

The belief that women should all want children is a real issue. It is just not on the same level for the vast majority of women.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 12:52 PM on July 29, 2010 [6 favorites]


resiny in response to kmz:

This has nothing to do with gay rights, and to imply that there are bigoted undertones to my post without actually saying why--and I really don't see how asserting a biological fact could be called bigoted--is in itself pretty Not Cool.

Maybe he reacted that way because you what you asserted as "biological fact" is only a fact in your own poorly educated mind. Like this turd you dropped:

Well, replacement is 2.2 children. A society that has an average of, say, 1.5 children/couple will eventually exterminate itself. I don't feel too terribly strongly either way about overpopulation and ethical questions contained therein, but I don't think you could really call any instinct that causes a species to eliminate itself directly evolutionarily selected for.

Well, dear "biology expert", this is a pretty stupid statement. You apparently are unaware of the fact that species breeding dynamics change depending on the environment. In an situation of overpopulation, animals sometimes respond to cues and limit breeding - conversely, in a situation of low population density for a given ecosystem, their breeding behavior adapts upward. Thus, a dynamic system exists - not one that is only unidirectional "all up all the time" or "down to nothing".

So when you assert stupid things as "biological fact", you get called on it. Deal, or don't open your mouth unless you know what you're talking about.
posted by VikingSword at 12:53 PM on July 29, 2010 [6 favorites]


I'm a guy and I don't want kids. I never did. I never will. I've been this way since I was a kid and found out were babies come from and realized I had a choice in the matter. My position on this has but the brakes on several relationships I've had over the years. Some ladyfriends will say "oh, not right now" and think I'd change my mind. I've thought that maybe I could change her mind but quickly realized that wouldn't happen. It wouldn't be fair to her.

It's a selfish choice to dead end your genetic markers and not share with the group through procreation.

There's 6.7 billion people on the planet. My genetic markers won't be missed. Your genetic markers aren't that special either.

Don't belittle my choice by calling me selfish. I'm actually selfless -- I'm more concerned about the future of the species than whether or not my genetic markers are part of the future. I happily support my tax dollars going to education and healthcare for children.

Those of you who have chosen not to have children, I am not going to condemn said choice. I just wish to point out that there are probably very specific reasons that "the breeders" don't understand the choice. Mind you, I've noticed that my own parents are getting to the "when are you going to have kids" stage. A few years ago, my mom was in the "don't have kids, it sucks" frame of mind. Now she's getting older, and something in her is saying "grandkids would be nice." I think it's another one of those biological things. At some point, your rewards system starts to tell you "kids are nice, we'll give you endorphines if you push for more" and they get totally ga-ga over smelly little humans that crap themselves and pee on the rug and throw up half of what they eat and make strange gurgling noises.

Yes, it is natural to want to have kids. So those people like Kate+8, Octomom, that other "reaility" show family with 19 kids are just being natural, right? So if some people want to have 0 it keeps the mean and median numbers in check.

Thank you for not condemning people like me. You needn't understand my choice, just respect it. I'm happy for people with kids.
posted by birdherder at 12:54 PM on July 29, 2010 [8 favorites]


Conveniently enough, professional gay person Dan Savage (would that he was Metafilter's Own) has written a book about how he and his partner adopted a kid, called (appropriately enough) The Kid.

Among various portions of relevant information, he talks about something which has been touched on a couple of times above: the conflation of having a kid with making your own, and the attendent psychological issues with that. Not being physically equipped as a couple to bake their own, they were shocked to find out that for most of the other couples in their adoption program: Infertility did more than shatter their expectations, it undermined their sexual identities.
posted by ivan ivanych samovar at 12:54 PM on July 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think the whole "lots of women regret sterilization" thing is confirmation bias.

I agree with you. We actually know the statistics for sterilization regret:

In a study called the U.S. Collaborative Review of Sterilization, women were interviewed each year for 5 years after they underwent a tubal ligation. A final interview was conducted 8-14 years after the sterilization operation. The following question was asked at each interview. "Do you still think tubal sterilization as a permanent method of birth control was a good choice for you?" Overall, 13% of women said they did not think that the tubal ligation was a good choice. The percentage expressing regret was 20% for women aged 30 years or younger at the time of sterilization, compared with 6% for women older than 30 years at the time of tubal ligation. For women under age 25, the rate was as high as 40%. The regret rate was also high for women who were not married at the time of their tubal ligation or when tubal ligation was performed less than a year after delivery.

So some. Mostly, though, no.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:54 PM on July 29, 2010 [9 favorites]


Statistically, women not having children is a long-term problem for humanity.

hey, I'd have a few more in a heartbeat, but I have to provide for them too. Raise my salary! Problem solved. /woman.
posted by dabitch at 12:55 PM on July 29, 2010 [6 favorites]


More accurately, X% of women not having a minimum of Y children per generation. Stat/math geeks want to help out?

You don't need to be a stat/math geek. There's a handy statistic called "total fertility rate" (TFR) for a given population which is the number of pregnancies successfully carried to term per woman. The TFR for a population needs to be around 2.1 for a long-term steady state. Under that and population will decline, over that and population will grow. It doesn't take as a big a deviation as you might think for the decline or growth to be really fast, although the decline tends to occur many years after the TFR rate drops significantly under 2.1 because old people live so long. But once they start dying off, population contracts rapidly.

We are starting to see this right now in Russia where the population is going to be hugely less in 30 years than it was 30 years ago. We will soon see this is Japan, and a bit later in places like Italy and Spain. It's going to be an unprecedented event. We' seen depopulation before, of course, but it has always been because of war, famine, pestilence, or death by mass murder. There's a reason those are the four horsemen.

Most of Europe has incredibly low TFRs, some as low as 1.2. Ditto for industrialized east Asia (Korea, Taiwan, Japan, parts of China). South America has rates comfortably above replacement but not absurdly so. The problem is in Africa and parts of the Middle East. Huge swaths of Africa have TFRs over 5, large areas over 7. A TFR of 7 means that the average woman has 7 kids. It is not hard to see how rapid population growth becomes since roughly half of those kids are girls who then will also have an average of 7 kids. Note that TFR takes into account infant mortality; these are live births who live past infancy.

Basically, overpopulation is a solved problem in the industrialized world. But we need to get a handle on Africa and the Middle East. The way to do that? Educate the populace and ensure equal rights for women. Which is a good in and of itself so there's no downside. Except for the misogynistic theocrats who get their jollies oppressing women.

North America? Canada is down around 1.5 while the USA is a relatively healthy 2.07 or so. Which is almost exactly replacement level.
posted by Justinian at 12:57 PM on July 29, 2010 [9 favorites]


Some people have really bad genes and/or are very likely to develop postpartum depression and that's why they choose to not have children. Some people don't like kids and don't want to bank on "it's different when it's yours."

That's pretty much the polar opposite of selfishness.
posted by giraffe at 12:58 PM on July 29, 2010 [8 favorites]


I never ever wanted kids when I was young. I was engaged at 18 and kept telling my fiance "no kids" whenever he brought the topic up. After I broke up with him I went about my business....

Along about age 23 or so all of a sudden kids didn't seem so bad. Then I married at 24, and not long after that biology took over and ohmygoshiwantbabiesrightthisminute. It even weirded ME out.

Look, if someone truly does not want kids, I know it's a) not my business and b) really. that's fine with me. After all the Duggars and their likeminded tribe are certainly making up for you. And if one truly does not want kids and would be miserable with them, why would I think otherwise?

But I do caution people to be careful about the permanent solutions to the problem. What your twenty year old self and your thirty five year old self want may be two different things, whether or not you have kids. I had a friend who had her tubes tied after having three then years later remarrying, wound up getting them untied and then after five years finally got pregnant and gave birth successfully (this after miscarriages and one OVARIAN pregnancy where she lost an ovary and almost lost her life!)

These kinds of cautions are not a criticism of your childfree state or an accusation that you do not know your own mind. These kinds of cautions are simply some of us sharing the wisdom we have gleaned from either personal experience or observation that minds can and do change-and we don't want anyone ever being in the position where they robbed themselves of something they did not know they wanted till later in life.

That's all we are saying.

Meanwhile, whether or not you have kids or how many you have? NOT MY BUSINESS.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 12:58 PM on July 29, 2010 [13 favorites]


"I was under the impression that humans are a sentient species who are not completely at the mercy of their various biological urges, whose intelligence give them some degree of free will to overcome blind urges and determine their life choices."

I'm going to have to applaud GuyZero for beating me to a pithy response on that one.

Recorded history would point to your impression being greatly erroneous.
posted by daq at 12:59 PM on July 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Statistically, women not having children is a long-term problem for humanity.

Its interesting to see how this factor is playing out. Now in Singapore, the government is offering tax bonuses and other incentives to those who have a third child while Finland straight out gives you everything you need for a baby (baby clothes? stroller? pram? bottles? etc) when its born and there's more stuff besides.

On the other hand, having been born in Calcutta, my parents generation were the first to pridefully have ONLY two children, my mom took The Pill (with all its attendent side effects in the earliest days), where condoms and abortions are easily available and cheap and a tubal ligation is often SOP after your second child. (no, lets not get into Sanjay Gandhi and the Emergency right now)

Maybe the real fear is that world will become full of the poor people, the next four or five billion, who have children young and many of them (recent thread) and there won't be any educated elites left ? Just musing on a bombshell ;p
posted by infini at 12:59 PM on July 29, 2010


In fact, my weirdest encounter was with a DC based woman head of a very well known professional association who turned to me at a conference and said that perhaps we should have a conference on helping "white women have more kids, since your people don't seem to have that problem"

I kid you not.
posted by infini at 1:02 PM on July 29, 2010


I stated clearly in the sentence following my initial rumination that "But that's just a generalization that can be disregarded as supposition on my part, mainly because I am forming my opinion on the matter from personal interaction, rather than broad statistical consensus". I never said it was fact. I stated that is was a supposition based upon evidence provided with personal interaction with people who are adamantly anti-children.

And this continues to be stupid. If someone said: well, based purely on my own interactions, I think black people are all criminals, we'd call him/her a bigot. What is the point of making an derogatory statement about a group of people when you have absolutely no scientific evidence to back that up? Merely saying that "well that's my experience" doesn't absolve you from making bigoted statements. Next time, don't say "blacks are born criminals, but I could be wrong, it's just based on my experiences" or "childfree people have a lot of social hangups based on my etc.". It continues to be a stupid and bigoted generalization about a whole diverse group of people.

tl:dr - fuck you, buddy.

Ha! I love when people define themselves. I see I was right about those "social hangups" you were so keen to see in others. Congratulations.
posted by VikingSword at 1:02 PM on July 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


St. Alia, that was well said.
posted by zarq at 1:03 PM on July 29, 2010


Well, dear "biology expert", this is a pretty stupid statement. You apparently are unaware of the fact that species breeding dynamics change depending on the environment. In an situation of overpopulation, animals sometimes respond to cues and limit breeding - conversely, in a situation of low population density for a given ecosystem, their breeding behavior adapts upward. Thus, a dynamic system exists - not one that is only unidirectional "all up all the time" or "down to nothing".

So when you assert stupid things as "biological fact", you get called on it. Deal, or don't open your mouth unless you know what you're talking about.
You know, you're allowed to disagree with people without being a prick about it.

The sorts of stimuli that cause animals to lower their reproduction rates--lack of food/space/water/whatever--aren't generally present in societies where people are specifically choosing not to have children--wealthy, western societies. OTOH, many third world countries are seeing enormous growth in population even though they can barely cope with their current populations (or maybe can't at all).
posted by resiny at 1:04 PM on July 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


"I was under the impression that humans are a sentient species who are not completely at the mercy of their various biological urges, whose intelligence give them some degree of free will to overcome blind urges and determine their life choices."

I'm going to have to applaud GuyZero for beating me to a pithy response on that one.

Recorded history would point to your impression being greatly erroneous.


Clearly then, we shouldn't even try.
posted by kmz at 1:05 PM on July 29, 2010


Maybe the real fear is that world will become full of the poor people, the next four or five billion, who have children young and many of them (recent thread) and there won't be any educated elites left ? Just musing on a bombshell ;p

Of course, of those many many children, some will do superwell, many will do OK, and many won't.

There will, though, be something for selection to "work with."

In those countries way below TFR, not so much.
posted by chavenet at 1:06 PM on July 29, 2010


As a person who has at different times in her life a)come out as a lesbian and b)years after nimbly backtracking into hetero relationships come out as a person who does not want to have kids, I can see where the coming-out analogy makes sense. People are horrified in both cases, feel its their business to tell you how/what to do with your personal/sex life, and try and convince you that you will 'change your mind in a few years'. (Of course, after nearly a decade as a dyke I did start dating men again, so I certainly did nothing to advance that particular cause. The good news is that if I hold out another decade on the kid thing I'll be well into menopause and it will be a non-issue for me.)
posted by 8dot3 at 1:06 PM on July 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Is this really unique to childless women? Because in my experience there is a certain percentage of people who just can't ever fucking mind their own business about anything and will question anyone who does anything that they consider different.

Absolutely -- I find myself often having to say, "Kids are great, other people's kids are fabulous, but they're just not my thing. I'm more of a dog person than a people person." Because if you just say, "I don't plan to have kids," it's often perceived as actively attacking the other person's choices.

Same thing goes for saying, "Yeah, religion, me, not a great combination." But others seem to have no problem telling me that they hate country music or cats or fluffernutters or Bugs Bunny or lots of other things I love -- and I regard it as a personal insult that their tastes differ.
posted by FelliniBlank at 1:07 PM on July 29, 2010


er, I DON'T regard it. . . .
posted by FelliniBlank at 1:07 PM on July 29, 2010


"The reason many childless people do not understand the disdain or odd reaction to someone not wanting children is because it is a completely selfish and uncooperative thing to do."

First World Westerners, do your part and make more First World Westerners! How else will there be a new generation of people using up way more than their fair share of resources in this overpopulated world?
posted by randomname25 at 1:10 PM on July 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


If she's sure about it, what's it to you?

I was making more of a comment about breathless, overhyped journalism based in part on an anecdotal quote from a 25-year-old.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:11 PM on July 29, 2010


I don't think most people would suggest that adoption is cheap and easy, but I suspect it's cheaper and easier than IVF. Be nice if there were some solid numbers for comparison.
posted by kafziel at 1:11 PM on July 29, 2010


The sorts of stimuli that cause animals to lower their reproduction rates--lack of food/space/water/whatever--aren't generally present in societies where people are specifically choosing not to have children--wealthy, western societies. OTOH, many third world countries are seeing enormous growth in population even though they can barely cope with their current populations (or maybe can't at all).

Don't assert as a "biological fact" things which are not proven as fact at all. Do you have any research showing that human populations go into spontaneous extinctions like that? Do you? If you don't, you're talking out of your ass. Stop that. Stop asserting "biological facts" which are nothing of the sort.

And human populations have regularly seen booms and busts. It fluctuates. It doesn't just go only in one direction, as you assert. In fact, it is frequent that after significant depopulations, there's an explosion of births - as seen after major wars, for example. After WWII, there were big baby booms in most of the Western world. Why do you think that's impossible again - and please reference the exact research papers - once the population drops to a given level?

Again - the argument is that you should not be asserting "biological facts" when such "facts" don't exist. You got called on it. And yes, your arguments - based as they are on "out the ass" assertions - do smack of the same kind of bigoted arguments made against gay people. If you're going to do that, put up or shut up - give the references for you alleged "biological facts" or deal with the nature of how your arguments sound, unscientific as they are.
posted by VikingSword at 1:16 PM on July 29, 2010


I don't think most people would suggest that adoption is cheap and easy, but I suspect it's cheaper and easier than IVF. Be nice if there were some solid numbers for comparison.

I'm sure there are, though I'm not going to do your research for you. What I can say with certainty is that the cost of IVF in the US is entirely dependent upon what your health insurance covers, which varies wildly.
posted by amro at 1:16 PM on July 29, 2010


Damn, over a hundred comments. I'll be right back, I have to get my bingo card.

On the other hand, this might take a while. I have to get my Mac de-clawed and circumcised first.
posted by SteveInMaine at 1:18 PM on July 29, 2010 [8 favorites]


But I absolutely have no tolerance for the "childfree" who are so to the point that it extends to other people's children. You know the ones. The ones who don't think children should be in public anywhere ever at all.

Yes. There are a lot of these people in the US (at least more so here than in Portugal, which is the other place where I spend a lot of time) and some of them even have their own kids. It's a certain mindset wherein kids are their own category of person, one that doesn't belong on public transportation.

And I agree - kids are a very personal choice. I have a policy of never questioning anyone else's parenting decisions, and that includes never asking anyone if they want kids. Why do people do that? It comes up for me all the time since I work with kids - people want to know if I have my own, or want them. I kind of get that. But why on earth would you ask a recent acquaintance about their plans w/r/t parenting? It's so intrusive.

zizzle pretty much sums up my feelings on the way some "childfree" people treat kids: Those people annoy the crap out of me. They don't have to have their own kids if they don't want, but they have to deal with the fact that my kid, and every other parent's kid, is a person. Sure, my kid is not even two yet, but he's a not-even-two-years-old person. He has as much right as grown ups to be out in the world doing his things.

And really, I've seen this attitude from people with kids. It's really disheartening and I wish it would stop.

We have way too many people, so the more childless couples, the better off the world is.

I also wish people would stop saying this. I desperately want to have kids and I totally support your right NOT to. Could you maybe not make me feel like a bad person in return?

It's possibly worth pointing out that, actually, reproduction is the ultimate selfish act. Nobody does it out of any noble desire to help out the human race, it's pure "I want a part of ME to live on! ME!"

As someone who will eventually reproduce, it has nothing to do with a part of ME living on and everything to do with wanting to be a mother to a child. Why didn't I adopt, you ask? Because adopting isn't something I can financially afford to do right now and given that I'm lucky enough to have health insurance, I can afford a pregnancy. It is not at all about MY genetic material.

Maybe it's part of being goaded about kids all the time that makes folks who don't want them feel super-defensive, but I do get a really prickly sense from a lot of people who don't want children that if I want kids, I'm a bad person. This makes having any kind of discussion based on mutual respect really difficult. I respect you and see where you're coming from. Please don't tell me that I'm selfish and/or overpopulating the world. You are, however, free to whine all you want if any kid of mine personally destroys your evening. I will conceed you that point.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 1:18 PM on July 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


I have but one concern: both in a relationship should agree to have or not have kids.
posted by Postroad at 1:18 PM on July 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


[comment removed - take the "fuck off" stuff elsewhere, please. thanks.]
posted by jessamyn at 1:20 PM on July 29, 2010


a DC based woman head of a very well known professional association who turned to me at a conference and said that perhaps we should have a conference on helping "white women have more kids, since your people don't seem to have that problem"

Jesus christ, that's like three different flavours of contempt in one throwaway comment. I hope you sneezed in her face. or stabbed her with a salad fork, whatevs.
posted by elizardbits at 1:21 PM on July 29, 2010 [6 favorites]


I don't think most people would suggest that adoption is cheap and easy, but I suspect it's cheaper and easier than IVF. Be nice if there were some solid numbers for comparison.

From various anecdotes I gather that they’re two very separate-but-comparable types of invasive, expensive, and judgmental Hell.

I don’t have the time to search for past threads at the moment, but this topic has been covered on MeFi plenty of times before. The cost varies wildly (health insurance, no health insurance, type of adoption, age of adoptee, legal snafus, ect. . .)
posted by dinty_moore at 1:25 PM on July 29, 2010


I have but one concern: both in a relationship should agree to have or not have kids.

Agreed. It's why my ex is now my ex. He doesn't want kids. I do. There is absolutely no middle ground, much as we tried for three years to hammer something out. It doesn't work. It would be awful of me to force someone else into parenthood - especially since there would then be a child that they may or may not end up resenting. Not to mention that it's a horrible thing to do to a kid - "Oh yes, daddy had you because mommy made him do it."

On the other side - and this came up a LOT - I couldn't put my desire for kids aside. I tried. Oh, I tried. I loved my husband with every fiber of my being and tried so hard to accept not having kids as part of being with him. And I couldn't. It ate at me, all the time. I felt like I was being driven insane - on the one hand, I loved and respected my partner, on the other, I had this bottomless need that he would never be able to fulfill. After trying and trying and trying for years (literally, years) to reconcile these two things, I did some full on crazy shit. And ultimately, it was the cause of our divorce.

It's so hard to explain why I couldn't just say "Ok, we won't have kids," but I couldn't. The best example I can come up with as to how central this desire is to my entire identity is playing the joke game "What do you want on your tombstone?" after watching The Royal Tenenbaums. I practically broke down on the spot after revealing that my real answer (as in, not "She always said her feet were killing her") was "Beloved Mother."

So, yes, it's an important thing to decide way, way before you get married. Our problem is that he was on the fence and then decided a year after we were married that he absolutely never wanted children, already knowing that I was fully on the opposite side of the coin. We really wanted to believe that there's a way to make it work, but we absolutely couldn't do it.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 1:26 PM on July 29, 2010 [8 favorites]


And yes, your arguments - based as they are on "out the ass" assertions - do smack of the same kind of bigoted arguments made against gay people. If you're going to do that, put up or shut up - give the references for you alleged "biological facts" or deal with the nature of how your arguments sound, unscientific as they are.

For me the bigger problem with the comment was, even if the "biological facts" are sound, so fucking what? Are we always supposed to give in to our animal natures? Is deviation from some "natural" norm OK to be condemned? I assert no, that's not OK.

The most common non-religious homophobic argument I've noticed is something in the "it's unnatural" vein. According to various above commenters, so is not reproducing. Well guess what, there's a lot of shit we do that's "unnatural", and if it doesn't harm you any, kindly shut the fuck up about it.
posted by kmz at 1:29 PM on July 29, 2010 [8 favorites]


I had people say to me, "Oh, but you're the kind of people who should have kids!" To which my reply was, "No, the kind of people who should have kids are the people who want to have kids."
posted by jocelmeow at 1:29 PM on July 29, 2010 [17 favorites]


kmz said: A lot of these "reproduction is built in to humanity" arguments are sounding awfully similar to the "they can't have children" argument bigots make about gay marriage.

And then resiny said: Try maybe once in a while looking at the world through a different prism. This has nothing to do with gay rights, and to imply that there are bigoted undertones to my post without actually saying why--and I really don't see how asserting a biological fact could be called bigoted--is in itself pretty Not Cool.

I'll explain why. You're skirting pretty close to accusing people who don't want children of being unnatural and/or harmful to humanity, which are accusations frequently leveled against gay folks by a certain breed of bigot.

If having babies is "built into humanity," then what do you make of people who don't want to? Are we lying? Defective? Unnatural? As biological drives go, reproduction seems fundamentally different than eating and drinking, to me. I can survive without reproducing, and the species will survive if some of us choose not to. We aren't just animals driven purely by instinct. If we were, I'd probably going around punching a lot more people than I do on any given day.
posted by Mavri at 1:33 PM on July 29, 2010 [6 favorites]


The "coming out of the closet" comment is way overboard, but i understand the frustration behind the comment. For me, the decision about whether or not to have children, and the societal pressures surrounding it (exacerbated by my own anxiety), have been absolutely exhausting.

I don't want children, but I have lived in fear about the whole thing ever since i read that AskMe thread where the woman suddenly had a huge desire for children. This comment in particular has haunted me ever since:

It was the fall of my 29th year. I was driving home from work and, suddenly and very distinctly, I wanted a baby. Like, NOW.

I was 27 when I read that comment, and it scared me shitless. The sheer mass of women in that thread who chimed in to say that their bodies suddenly lit a baby torch terrified me. I started to worry that overnight, i was going to be brainwashed by my own body and turn into some Raising Arizona parody. Once I finally got that fear under control, I had to deal with every single one of my girlfriends either getting pregnant or deciding to get pregnant. I had no idea how strong my impulse would be to follow along with them, and I ended up feeling really confused for months because I wasn't going to keep in step with the friends that i had "benchmarked" against.

And the busybodies don't help. When my husband and I got married last year, everyone started asking when we would have children. Now that other people are having babies, everyone is asking when we will be next. Any refusals on my part are met with a smile and a "you'll see, just wait" sort of comment that drives me crazy.

I've resigned myself to eventually having a child, just because it seems so inevitable. I've even tried to convince my husband for us to just go ahead and have a child, to just "get it over with" and save me the anxiety of having to worry about it. And then I look around and realise how much I enjoy about our current lives - comfortable living, lots of travel, an interesting career and freedom to pursue new hobbies and interests, and I realise that I really, really don't want them, and start to panic all over again because it feels so inevitable.

So yeah - it's not on the scale with coming out of the closet, but it's really, really shit.
posted by ukdanae at 1:34 PM on July 29, 2010 [13 favorites]


elizardbits - I think she'd been hitting the red wine to hard, it was quite embarressing to the guy who introduced us to have her respond by sing songing my "firstname lastname" and saying it sounded like a song lyric

*rolls eyes*

now THAT one should NOT procreate, end of the world or no ;p
posted by infini at 1:34 PM on July 29, 2010


Anniecat asked "I can't be the only woman without children who feels this way, could I?

No, you are not the only woman without children who feels terribly conflicted and uncertain about it. I am right there with you. I've done the same vacillating between "proudly childfree" and "maybe one day" and haven't felt like either was quite honest.

I am scared of the idea of having a child for a variety of reasons. I have a terrible relationship with my mother, and the idea of anyone thinking of me the way I think of her is terrifying, even though I do understand its irrationality. I am 32 and just finishing graduate school and don't have a financial secure career. My partner and I occasionally talk about how fun it could be, but neither of us feels a burning need to get that kind of project underway, and I figure we should both be much more enthusiastic about the idea if we're going to make that kind of commitment. I feel too unfinished as a person myself to trust myself with caring for another.

On the other hand, I have a great rapport with my father and stepparents, and think it could be fun to experience that from the other side. In my social circle, there's a few folks with kids (from babies through 15 years old). I love being around those kids, but I also feel uncomfortable because it makes me want to figure out what I actually want in that regard. Watching the way these parent friends of mine are negotiating their lives gives me confidence that parenthood doesn't have to change everything, but none of them ever try to pretend that parenthood has been an unmitigated blessing.

Anyway, no, you're not alone. I sit here, quietly (and sometimes not so quietly) confused as hell about it, and basically letting the aging process make the decision for me.
posted by amelioration at 1:34 PM on July 29, 2010 [9 favorites]


Detroit: the grim truth of our dark future of declining population. Houses vacant, yards full of weeds and trash, and not a stroller in sight. Solution to Detroit's problems? MORE BABIES!
posted by filthy light thief at 1:34 PM on July 29, 2010


For women under age 25, the rate [of tubal ligation regret] was as high as 40%.

Eek. The paralysing fog of youthful indecisiveness I'm in is not looking quite so bad right now.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 1:34 PM on July 29, 2010


i can't remember where i saw it, but i'm sure it was on the blue, about a woman's struggle to find a doctor to tie her tubes. i know she was over 18 but i think maybe under 30 and had a really really hard time convincing doctors that no, she really really really didn't want babies. ever.

Me, at age 41.

"Well, why go through it, in a few years you'll go through menopause anyway.."
"Really? I'm going to go into menopause in my early 40's?"
"What happens if you break up with your partner and meet someone who wants kids?"
"at age 45? seriously?"

When you don't have great health insurance, you can't exactly move around until you'll find someone who will just do it.
posted by micawber at 1:35 PM on July 29, 2010


I don't think most people would suggest that adoption is cheap and easy, but I suspect it's cheaper and easier than IVF. Be nice if there were some solid numbers for comparison.

I've commented about this topic at length in other threads. There are no solid numbers to use as comparison, primarily because the costs and success rates of IVF are not only difficult to quantify, but also the clinics who submit their success rates to SART manipulate their ART (assisted reproductive technologies) numbers to appear as if they are more successful than they actually are.

Insurance in the US often does not cover ART without a rider, and those riders are very specific about how many cycles are covered. It's quite complicated.

Adoption costs vary from state to state in the US, and international rates / barriers may be higher or lower depending on where a child is being adopted from. There is also the added psychological stigma of having to bear one's infertility and financial status to strangers, who then may pass arbitrary judgement on whether you are fit to be a parent. This is generally not a factor with ART. Many people dealing with infertility view that as a reason not to adopt.
posted by zarq at 1:35 PM on July 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


My grandmother says no one should even think of children until they are 35.

Won't someone think of the children????????

No. Not until my birthday. Now get off the lawn I don't have yet.
posted by davejay at 1:36 PM on July 29, 2010


bare, not bear. :P
posted by zarq at 1:36 PM on July 29, 2010


he following question was asked at each interview. "Do you still think tubal sterilization as a permanent method of birth control was a good choice for you?" Overall, 13% of women said they did not think that the tubal ligation was a good choice.

That's a bad question, since it's going to hit women who regret it because they wish they could bear a child and women who regret it because it gave them cosmetic scars and probably at least one woman who regrets it because of serious complications from a botched procedure.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:36 PM on July 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


Also, adoption was discussed at length here in 2007.
posted by zarq at 1:38 PM on July 29, 2010


I'm kind of the same place with regard to deciding whether to have kids as I am regarding whether to watch The Wire. Enough people whose judgment I admire and respect have told me that it's awesome and totally worth it that even though I don't quite see it, I pretty much believe them that I would enjoy it and get a lot out of it. On the other hand, when I actually think about what's involved (to the extent that I understand what that is) it just seems difficult and exhausting and possibly depressing. So I haven't pulled the trigger yet, and may never.

It's true that the clock is ticking on one decision more than the other, though.
posted by yarrow at 1:41 PM on July 29, 2010 [8 favorites]


I have a few conversational rules of thumb, and one of them is not to talk about whether or not a person intends to become a parent unless it comes up organically. It's surprisingly hard to stick to, too, even when you're consciously trying.

You said it. I don't know how many times I've bit my tongue on the subject (that and "When are you going to get married?"- was tempted to ask friends on my wedding day, and just resisted the temptation; a week later, they had broken up) Nosiness is so effortless! Being polite is hard.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 1:42 PM on July 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


As biological drives go, reproduction seems fundamentally different than eating and drinking, to me. I can survive without reproducing, and the species will survive if some of us choose not to. We aren't just animals driven purely by instinct.

What's even more amusing, is that the "biological fact" folks could not be more wrong. Species reproduction is different on a group vs individual level. Not only do you not impair the group survival by not personally reproducing (as a gay person), you may in fact enhance group survival. There is a lot of research into the ubiquity of homosexuality in the animal kingdom and its possible evolutionary advantage to group survival. Specialized groups are more successful than non-specialized. This even extends to insects. There can be whole classes of ants or bees that don't reproduce (drones), but are vital in the survival - indeed domination - of the group... they do much better with that than would be the case with all competing for reproduction. A gay person, or someone who doesn't want kids (btw. tons of gay people adopt or reproduce using other techniques) may have vital functions in the society which overall promote the well-being and survival of the group.

Far from the species "surviving without me reproducing", they may even thrive and benefit from some not putting their energies into reproduction.

Bottom line: a pox on all those who assert phony "biological facts" to justify bigotry. They are as ignorant of biology - which actually undermines their very arguments - as of sociology.
posted by VikingSword at 1:43 PM on July 29, 2010 [17 favorites]


It's always astounded me that some/many people think it's ok to ask the most pointed and undoubtedly excrutiatingly embarrassing questions about the reproductive health of a woman.

Me, walking with my sister and her first child in Central Park. First child was a big girl.

Total stranger peers at child.
"Oh my goodness, what a cutie! How old is she?"
Statement regarding age offered.
"Seriously? No way. She wasn't delivered vaginally, was she?"
sister: mouth on ground
me: "did you just ask about MY SISTER'S VAGINA - in public??"
total stranger: scurrying away towards W 86th St
posted by micawber at 1:43 PM on July 29, 2010 [15 favorites]


And yet some hipster still felt empowered to call my wife a "fucking breeder"

Lots of people are assholes to others who look, think, or act differently from themselves, film at 11:00.

And BTW, this isn't just women. My family have gotten on my shit about me not having kids. When it comes up, I smilingly tell them to mind their own business. I think the weird victim mentality people have over "how DARE anyone question my personal decision" implies a deeper emotional issue.
posted by coolguymichael at 1:43 PM on July 29, 2010


Maybe it's part of being goaded about kids all the time that makes folks who don't want them feel super-defensive, but I do get a really prickly sense from a lot of people who don't want children that if I want kids, I'm a bad person.

I think it's more the first than the second. Here you have a thread where quite a few people have called being childless selfish and unnatural or disbelieving that it's even possible to genuinely not want children. It's shitty to push back against that with the same rhetoric, but, speaking for myself, I do get defensive. It's hard to be confronted constantly with people saying that children are wonderful you must have them omg babies!!!1!! I also have to say that the defensiveness goes both ways. If I say that I don't actually think children are all that wonderful, then the parents and future parents get all bent out of shape.
posted by Mavri at 1:44 PM on July 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


I mostly agree with the claim that people who choose not to have children are 'selfish', but only in the sense that society as a whole is getting more selfish. Having children is nominally a sacrificial think, it implies a permanent commitment of devotion to the well-being of another person, but these values are on the decline. Flexibility is much more important, so much that any permanent choice is considered a form of oppression. The consumerist value of freedom of choice is important, but also the freedom to change your mind and choose something else. Having a child is not a choice that can easily be changed, therefore children = oppression, and also children are viewed as needing stability and consistency in order to thrive, another limiting and oppressive factor in a potential parent's quest for freedom, self-expression, novelty, flexibility, self-discovery, self-reinvention, etc. -- all the ideals and achievements that make up our collective picture of the Good Life. This is best exemplified by the most common reason for not wanting kids: "I want to travel." Or for putting off kids: "I'm not done living my life yet." In this view, having children necessarily implies defeat: ideally, the well of self-discovery would never run dry, and therefore finding oneself in a situation where you could have a child means is the worst case scenario, where one buys a minivan and sinks into anonymity and meaninglessness. And it's not a coincidence that this vision of the Good Life corresponds neatly with the demands of late capitalism - flexibility means you can be fired at will; creativity, novelty and self-expression are harnessed to generate new and more exciting consumer products; endless self-discovery creates demand for these new products; individualism ensures that collective action in political parties and unions is minimized; government regulation is perceived as oppressive and unable to cope with the dynamism and creativity of the free market; solidarity with class struggle is replaced with optional and often patronizing charity. Our self-understanding has been fully colonized by capitalism, even (and often especially) if we are vaguely anti-capitalist or anti-corporation. (There is also something deeply paradoxical about this emphasis on flexibility & novelty - on one hand, it seems to be a way to guarantee that we will find what we want in life, but isn't it true that what we really want isn't experienced as a matter of choice, but as a necessity, something that fixates, overrides our choice-making and irrationally insists? In other words, real desire acts like a child. Far from helping us achieve our desires, the cultural value of flexibility puts us even further away from them.)

But of course, there is a problem with calling out childless people as especially selfish, because that ignores the fact that people with children are not immune to these social changes. This is easy to do because it's not immediately obvious that parenting is also about living out the same values, just vicariously. The most compelling reason for having a child today is that it offers one form of flexibility that non-parents don't have: to turn back the clock and relive the joys of childhood. No longer are we fettered by the oppressive constraints of time and age! So the construction of childhood is primarily for the aesthetic enjoyment of the parents. I read recently all adult humans love cute things, but small children under 4 don't, they prefer adult features in teddy bears for example. This makes sense because it's important for babies to bond with adults, not other babies. There's also a constant emphasis in parenting literature about the need to encourage independence in children, for them to "be their own people". I partly agree with this, but it's also ambiguous: one purpose of this is to sever the sense of permanence between parent and child, the idea is that the role of parent is to fill in the gaps in the child's ability, and the interest in child development is always about accelerating the removal of the parent from this role as quickly as possible. Ultimately, parenting is actually practiced as a temporary experience of cuteness, and then a rapid disentangling of ourselves from them when they grow past that phase.
posted by AlsoMike at 1:44 PM on July 29, 2010 [5 favorites]


There can be whole classes of ants or bees that don't reproduce (drones)

(Just to be pedantic, the drones are the only ones that do reproduce other than the queens)
posted by shakespeherian at 1:45 PM on July 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


metafilter's own jscalzi with a counter entitled "Why I Breed"

It's not exactly a counter, inasmuch as it was written six and a half years ago, not as a direct response to this article.

Nor, to be clear, do I find there is any problem at all with people choosing not to have kids. Don't want 'em? Don't have 'em. Simple enough. I celebrate your choice.

There is a small minority of people who choose not to have children who appear to be obnoxious about their stance, but then, with any social/political stance, there's almost always a small minority of people who have the stance who are obnoxious about it. I suspect it's because as people, they are obnoxious, and in that case it filters through that particular position.
posted by jscalzi at 1:45 PM on July 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


My brother has kids, and I used to feel like I didn't need kids, it was enough for me to be an uncle. But I'm older now -- 42 -- and my feelings have change.

I've realized I don't even really like being an uncle very much.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:49 PM on July 29, 2010 [27 favorites]


There is a small minority of people who choose not to have children who appear to be obnoxious about their stance, but then, with any social/political stance, there's almost always a small minority of people who have the stance who are obnoxious about it. I suspect it's because as people, they are obnoxious, and in that case it filters through that particular position.

See also: abortion, adoption, infertility, marriage, religion, sexuality, etc., etc.
posted by zarq at 1:50 PM on July 29, 2010


Egads, bearing and raising children is hard. I remember when my son was like five weeks old, and mr. ambrosia was out of town for work, and I was dealing with a baby with a tummy the size of a walnut who was hungry all the time and I was so exhausted I could cry and I found myself thinking "this baby is a very wanted child. I love him dearly, but wow this is tough. I cannot imagine what it would be like for women raising children from unplanned/unwanted pregnancies." And so having a child, as wonderful as it is, has also pretty solidly cemented for me the idea that birth control should be given away for free on street corners and if you think you don't want kids, for god's sake, don't. And anyone who doesn't like that can STFU.
posted by ambrosia at 1:50 PM on July 29, 2010 [19 favorites]


...it implies a permanent commitment of devotion to the well-being of another person, but these values are on the decline.

We're fighting tooth and nail across the world for same-sex marriage and you think that values of commitment are on decline?
posted by griphus at 1:51 PM on July 29, 2010 [4 favorites]


Child-bearing discussion is an interesting mix of casual comments ("When's that b-BABY due?"), social norms (married couples are married to have kids), familial traditions (carrying on the family name), religion (and spreading it through having kids of the same religion), against which personal emotions and beliefs may be pushed. Have kids if and when you're good and ready, not because you're getting older and you might have troubles doing so in the future, because social norms/ familial traditions/ religion will not help you raise your kids. Making the baby: generally pretty easy. Raising that baby into a well-balanced adult with you (and any significant others) keeping your sanity, financial stability and personal interests intact. Thinking of yourself versus potential babies is not being selfish, but being realistic.

You are not a baby machine, but an individual who might have the potential to procreate.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:55 PM on July 29, 2010


The fact that more women in the developed world are choosing not to breed is great news, and another vindication of our advanced capitalist economy.

As we all know, there are far too many people in the world, consuming precious resources and belching out the two most dangerous greenhouse gases, "CO" and "2".


Yet the non-developed worldarians have been mispricing the cost of child-production for aeons with their generous subsidies. Only when these economically naive nations start to send accurate price signals to the baby manufacturing sector will the oversupply of humans cease, easing the plight of fightoplankton and other less truculent forms of plankton.

So hip, hip, hooray! for our sophisticated capitalist system, and ya boo sucks! to the developing world.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 1:59 PM on July 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm surprised no one has linked to Why Parents Hate Parenting yet.
[Researchers] collected 1,540 hours of footage of 32 middle-class, dual-earner families with at least two children, all of them going about their regular business in their Los Angeles homes. The intention of this study was in no way to make the case that parents were unhappy. But one of the postdoctoral fellows who worked on it, himself a father of two, nevertheless described the video data to the Times as “the very purest form of birth control ever devised. Ever.”
posted by griphus at 2:01 PM on July 29, 2010 [8 favorites]


Have kids if and when you're good and ready, not because you're getting older and you might have troubles doing so in the future, because social norms/ familial traditions/ religion will not help you raise your kids.

Familial traditions can be a tremendous boon to young families. Monetary assistance. Grandparents or other family members who watch and/or help raise the children, or even just give them gifts or advice. Religious communities can also often provide resources to young families that they wouldn't have otherwise.
posted by zarq at 2:01 PM on July 29, 2010


VikingSword: Species reproduction is different on a group vs individual level. Not only do you not impair the group survival by not personally reproducing (as a gay person), you may in fact enhance group survival. There is a lot of research into the ubiquity of homosexuality in the animal kingdom and its possible evolutionary advantage to group survival.

this times a bajillion. In fact, I've always thought that the Old Testament (which every damn fool seems to use to rationalize any kind of bigotry or abuse) was a rockin' piece of instruction manual back when that was the kind of behavior the human species needed to survive - hence no men lying with men, gotta marry your brother's widow, kill everybody not of your tribe (or have so many kids you outcompete others for shared resources), don't eat the unclean food, etc. Once the population got stabilized, however, a new manual was issued ("Love One Another; that is all"), and the old one was superseded.

I'm not having a lot of success selling that piece of historic Lit Crit down here in the Bible Belt, as you might imagine.
posted by toodleydoodley at 2:03 PM on July 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


One thing you can do if you're a guy and people bother you about not having kids is to tell them that you lost your testicles in an industrial accident. It's a great way to preemptively end the conversation. Or any conversation, really.

For extra credit, cry a single tear, like Iron Eyes Cody in that "Keep America Beautiful" PSA.
posted by infinitywaltz at 2:03 PM on July 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


One little other point missing from that BBC article is that buying a family sized house in most areas of the UK is a financial commitment most couples can't afford until they are too old to have children.

And taking your chances with short term rentals does not appeal much, you can be kicked out with very little notice, particularly if the landord fails to pay the mortgage.
posted by Lanark at 2:05 PM on July 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is best exemplified by the most common reason for not wanting kids: "I want to travel." Or for putting off kids: "I'm not done living my life yet."

Or how about: I DON'T WANT KIDS. I have no desire to raise them, procreate, have a family. Not because they're inconvenient or might cramp my style.
posted by micawber at 2:09 PM on July 29, 2010 [7 favorites]


All this talk of people not wanting children and its potential impact on the human species is amusing.

People can't help but breed. It's only with the advent of birth control that it even became thinkable for people to decide not to have children, and it's largely a middle/upper class idea. As the saying goes, the rich get richer, and the poor get children (I'm enthusiastically living in the child-free camp myself).

The global population is still climbing on, and as long as there's a poverty-stricken third world with high birth rates we'll continue rapidly expanding the ranks of the human species for the foreseeable future. Talk of 'o noes nobody is having babies' is very premature.
posted by mullingitover at 2:15 PM on July 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Anniecat, you are not alone! Your comment really resonated with me. I just turned 40. I've always been ambivalent about having children, and throughout the past decade, as most of my friends have reproduced, I've felt nothing but guilt about that ambivalence. I keep thinking that if I were more together, more satisfied in my career, more *something,* I would develop the drive to have children.

My partner, male, is just as ambivalent but he doesn't carry the guilt. Money has been the deciding factor in our case as well.

It is a complicated, fraught subject and I could go on more if I weren't at work. I just wanted to post and say your story parallels mine, and send you a virtual bouquet.
posted by IcyJuly at 2:21 PM on July 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


micawber: "This is best exemplified by the most common reason for not wanting kids: "I want to travel." Or for putting off kids: "I'm not done living my life yet."

Or how about: I DON'T WANT KIDS. I have no desire to raise them, procreate, have a family. Not because they're inconvenient or might cramp my style.
"

Yeah. It's a confusion between "what people who do not want kids feel" and "what people who do not want kids tell everyone who won't stop fucking asking and do not accept "I don't want kids" for an answer.
posted by griphus at 2:21 PM on July 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


Is this really the only issue people routinely get hassled by their parents, family and random strangers about? Because I have kids, am married and people still have all kinds of goddamn suggestions on how I should live my life. Let me suggest that having kids in no way gets your parents off your back.
posted by GuyZero at 2:33 PM on July 29, 2010


First of all, the correct population for this planet is 1.1 billion people. Even a socially-retarded monkey with one lobe missing knows that.
Second of all, we desperately need more babies.

These two things are not in conflict: robot destroyers require fuel, and people are a fantastic fuel source when burned in the torso furnace. Unfortunately, to kill one person, we generally need three people worth of energy. Five babies are roughly equal to one adult person, in terms of BTU output from the torso-furnace.

Ergo, each and every one of you needs to have fifteen babies so that we can get enough power to the decapitation saws to kill you.

Snap to it.
posted by aramaic at 2:37 PM on July 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


One thing you can do if you're a guy and people bother you about not having kids...

This works well if you're female too, possibly better. When I went to an endocrinologist about the hormone problems I was having [which turned out to be a little tumor like mathowies, only less problematic and waaaay less scary] he was like "this is likely to be no problem.... do you want children?" and when I said no probably not, he visibly relaxed in front of me because I suspect he was going to otherwise have to deliver me some devastating news. And so now I tell people that "I can't" which is sort of true but mostly not but it usually stops the conversation which is what I really wanted.

That said, I'm with GuyZero, people still offer tons of helpful advice on how I should live my life, but few choices are so cultyurally loaded as child-having, marriage-doing and churchgoing. I think this article has now given me one more talking point about how my decision isn't particularly radical, it's more just boring.

And ColdChef, I am a GREAT FUCKING AUNT.
posted by jessamyn at 2:39 PM on July 29, 2010 [11 favorites]


Griphus: any ideas on where I can see some of that footage?
posted by quadog at 2:49 PM on July 29, 2010


I find lots of flaws with the "gosh we have too many people, so I'll not have any kids" arguments-- not on an individual level, do what you will with your gonads and I'll do my best to stay out of it, but as a logic based argument this doesn't pan out for me.

This statement seems to be based on a few things:

The assumption that the earth is overpopulated. While some areas are arguably overpopulated, in so much as resources needed for survival (food and water) are scarce, there are large areas of the planet hospitable to human life that are mostly unpopulated. It seems inaccurate to average out population densities over the whole earth, and make a statement such as this. Further lots of overpopulated/under-resourced areas are caused by political or military strife and the displacement of populations. Malnutrition in the DRC, a fertile land, is an example of this.

This also makes the assumption that a reduction in population in first world countries, which are arguably well equipped to handle people (sanitation, vaccines, clean water, etc) would make an impact in places with less resources and overpopulation. A first world lifestyle has a large environmental impact for sure, but individual choices are probably an ineffective way to change these things with industry, consumer culture, war, industrial pollution etc, having a much larger impact.
posted by fontophilic at 2:51 PM on July 29, 2010


Idiocracy, here we come.
posted by TSOL at 2:53 PM on July 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


My wife and I bounce back and forth. It is not so much about the lifestyle changes, or even the finances (though they are a concern), it is mostly about this world.

There are already too many individuals living an unsustainable life. We would be adding another. We don't believe it's fair when there are already so many on this earth that lack even the basic necessities and die by the hundreds every day.

We feel that, by having children, we've made a selfish choice. Sure, it is just a single individual. The global effect would be infinitesimal. But, it would be there.

Also, as I'm sure many generations before us have said, given the current trend in world events, I'm not sure I could ever truly look a child of mine in the eye without feeling remorse at the world we brought them into.
posted by purephase at 3:02 PM on July 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


fontophilic: What about the burning of fossil fuels, and energy and water consumption? These are global problems. If anything, first world population is much more environmentally damaging.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 3:06 PM on July 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


I can't think of a single problem in this world that is caused by overpopulation or would be improved by lowered birth rates. The problems have always been caused by massively skewed distributions of resources. I'm hopeful my offspring will be able to help correct that situation, even in a small way.
That said, I'm totally supportive of anyone who chooses not to have kids, for any reason.
posted by rocket88 at 3:13 PM on July 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


The fact that more women in the developed world are choosing not to breed is great news, and another vindication of our advanced capitalist economy.

Not to rain on your straw man parade, but it's not. Population declines do not allow for long term growth - the only reason the US is growing is because of immigration, and it's no coincidence that it helps our GDP.
posted by krinklyfig at 3:16 PM on July 29, 2010


Ha ha! Idiocracy!
posted by Xoebe at 3:20 PM on July 29, 2010


Oh boy, not having children! That's where I'm a viking!
posted by tzikeh at 3:22 PM on July 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


Idiocracy, here we come.

Hah, was a pretty dumb movie, but oddly the first thing I thought of as well when I read the post intro.
posted by samsara at 3:28 PM on July 29, 2010


rocket88: "I can't think of a single problem in this world that is caused by overpopulation or would be improved by lowered birth rates. "

Habitat destruction?
posted by giraffe at 3:28 PM on July 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


This article is SEO (and apparently comment) bait.

I really doubt the number of childfree folks is even approaching being a problem to the survival of humanity, short or long term.

You're not thinking very long term.

"When are you two going to have a baby?"

That's jerky, but I think that "Are you two considering children?" is a perfectly valid question to ask your friends.

I've had that conservation with several couple who said "no" or "probably not" and no one was offended whatsoever.

Again, as with sexism, racism, etc., progressive folks aren't going to see or receive offensive treatment as much. But it still happens.

reproduction is the ultimate selfish act

Yes it is. Yet at the same time, it is the ultimate selfless act as well. As someone in the Dear Jessica post commented, "It's like ripping out a piece of your heart and letting it run around free."

Your genetic markers aren't that special either.

Maybe not mine all alone. But mine combined with two friends ... combined with two more friends ... combined with two more friends. That's what it's all about!

it just seems difficult and exhausting and possibly depressing

You describe life in general ... Now don't you want to bring a child into that world? :p
posted by mrgrimm at 3:29 PM on July 29, 2010


I can't think of a single problem in this world that is caused by overpopulation or would be improved by lowered birth rates.

Yeah, aren't we all Buckminster Fuller fans here?
posted by mrgrimm at 3:31 PM on July 29, 2010


but I think that "Are you two considering children?" is a perfectly valid question to ask your friends

Unless, unbeknownst to you, they have been trying for years or have known fertility issues that prevent them from having a much-wanted child, and they really don't want to talk about it.

I just don't really think it's anyone else's business, and one shouldn't be terribly shocked if their friends burst into floods of tears on being asked that.
posted by rubbish bin night at 3:36 PM on July 29, 2010 [8 favorites]


The women in my family assure me that when I turn 30, I will magically start wanting a child. Since it's held true for a couple generations and lots of cousins, I'm inclined to believe them. Thankfully, this means that I'm spared all the "Have a baby!" drama now. As ambivalent as I am now about a kid, I don't think I'm a fortune teller. Someday, I might really want one. It's a thought that really really weirds me out right now.
posted by stoneweaver at 3:39 PM on July 29, 2010


It seems right that everyone has a right to replace or perpetuate just themselves - as one individual - in this world. Not more (stealing) or less (giving).*

If you don't want a child - then you should be able to sell that right to couples that do want more than two kids. This should be done on an open market where supply and demand determine the price. We should have a global open market for 'child rights' listed on an exchange. This could be something the US could export to China.

*when I hear people say it's selfish to not have kids; they seem very wrong. If selfishness is measured as the net impact (or consumption) in this world - those that reproduce are a potentially infinite burden compared to those that don't.

The general feeling in this last few generations seems to be that we've reached the point where more people means raising the total risk of extinction for everyone. It seems fair to say that people who choose to have more than two kids are annoying since they put their own genes in favor of the cute fuzzy animals that live in Jungles and forest their kids will eat. Like trying to save some mom's tenth kid from starvation in an ecologically destroyed country... more isn't better.

A world with a billion people would have a lot more cute fuzzy animals and people who eat them by having more kids should pay those that give room for life other than us.
posted by astrobiophysican at 3:39 PM on July 29, 2010


It seems fair to say that people who choose to have more than two kids are annoying since they put their own genes in favor of the cute fuzzy animals that live in Jungles and forest their kids will eat.

Concentrating on individuals in order to pick them out for shaming isn't really effective. Anyway, population growth in advanced economies isn't an issue. In fact it's a non-issue, since it shrinks. If we really want to slow the population growth, we need to increase the standard of living for everyone. That actually works.
posted by krinklyfig at 3:44 PM on July 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


The "like coming out of the closet" comparison is totally inappropriate.

I'm 40. I've not wanted children since I was in my 20s and I'm still waiting for this biological clock thing to happen, and glad that it hasn't happened. I do feel twinges of regret occasionally, but they're pretty mild and fleeting. The thing that annoys me most is that most of my old high school friends seem to only be interested in talking to other old high school friends if they've got kids. I suppose because there's not a lot else you can have in common with people you haven't seen for 20 years.

Mind you, there is a horrible degenerative genetic defect in my partner's family and we have an increased risk of having kids with said defect. We don't want to see a beloved child go through what his parents saw two of their sons go through. I don't mention it to casual acquaintances or strangers but if someone is nosy or judgemental I play that card and watch them get embarrassed. Serves 'em right.
posted by andraste at 3:51 PM on July 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Family planning can also mean choosing not to have a family.
posted by JV at 3:52 PM on July 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


peachfuzz: "Rather, my own mother told me, unprompted, on my last visit home, "You know, it's okay with me if you never have children."
I am torn between feeling grateful and wondering vaguely if there is something horrible and external wrong with me that I haven't noticed.
"

Sounds like there's nothing wrong with you, but rather there's a lot right with your mom. Good on her! My mother told me once something quite similar. She said, "Look, barnacles, I won't lie: I'd love to be a grandmother. But that's not my decision to make. You and your brother are living the lives you want to live and doing great, and if kids come along in your lives, that's great. But if not? Well, I'm just happy I had you two."

I love my mom. She's fucking awesome.
posted by barnacles at 3:56 PM on July 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


If you want to know the natural environment for people to have children, it's a group of about 30 people who will share the work and the spoils, including the work of raising the children.

A breeding couple keeping to themselves in isolation except for certain distant structured activities with people outside the immediate nuclear family is extremely unnatural. And if both parents happen to lack one of the skills necessary to help their child turn some developmental corner, they'll botch a job that would have been done right if all the child-interested people in the area were available to step in and help.

And should the actual parent be better at inventing cool spear-chucking devices to enhance the chances of feeding the kids than at raising kids, he'd have less reason to kiss off the idea of having kids.
posted by localroger at 4:17 PM on July 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


Unless, unbeknownst to you, they have been trying for years or have known fertility issues that prevent them from having a much-wanted child, and they really don't want to talk about it.


Well, you won't know that until you ask, right?

I just don't really think it's anyone else's business, and one shouldn't be terribly shocked if their friends burst into floods of tears on being asked that.

Oh please, it's an important life decision, it's not odd if friends ask or if it comes up in casual conversation. It's an innocent question, not a condemnation.

A world with a billion people would have a lot more cute fuzzy animals and people who eat them by having more kids should pay those that give room for life other than us.

What?
posted by nomadicink at 4:30 PM on July 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


quadog: "Griphus: any ideas on where I can see some of that footage?"

No idea. You could contact CELF, though. They're the ones who did the research.
posted by griphus at 4:30 PM on July 29, 2010


when I hear people say it's selfish to not have kids; they seem very wrong. If selfishness is measured as the net impact (or consumption) in this world - those that reproduce are a potentially infinite burden compared to those that don't.

At least in my mind, selfishness pertains to motivation, not outcome. The fact that my choices have beneficial outcomes to someone else might make them morally good, but that doesn't seem sufficient to make them unselfish. Otherwise, you could claim that being an iPad early adopter helps to drive down the cost for everyone else, therefore buying an iPad for yourself instead of buying Christmas presents for your family is fundamentally unselfish. This might hold if you are a moral consequentialist, but if you are, then motivation doesn't matter anyway, so the correct response would be "My actions have global benefits, it doesn't matter if me not having kids is motivated by selfishness or not." Instead, the claim is rather implausibly that not having kids is motivated out of unselfish regard for people (or animals) one has no relationship with and have virtually no chance of ever meeting. Or possibly unselfishness towards "Mother Earth" in general.

Which raises another interesting point related to my earlier idea that our self-understanding has been colonized by capitalism. Today, our predominant interpersonal ethical standpoint is that everyone should be free to pursue their own self-interest and this will rebound to everyone's benefit, i.e. Adam Smith's Invisible Hand of the Market.
posted by AlsoMike at 4:45 PM on July 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Unless, unbeknownst to you, they have been trying for years or have known fertility issues that prevent them from having a much-wanted child, and they really don't want to talk about it.

Well, you won't know that until you ask, right?

I just don't really think it's anyone else's business, and one shouldn't be terribly shocked if their friends burst into floods of tears on being asked that.

Oh please, it's an important life decision, it's not odd if friends ask or if it comes up in casual conversation. It's an innocent question, not a condemnation.


I suspect we come from different cultures; there's not really a definitive 'right' or 'wrong' here. I'm just putting forward my personal point of view. I tend not to ask super-personal questions, and I see this one as a super-personal question.

My point is really that it's not always a 'decision' that couples make. Sometimes it's made for them, and while some people are happy to be very open about this, others prefer to keep it to themselves.
posted by rubbish bin night at 4:49 PM on July 29, 2010


I have known from a very, very young age that I do not want to be a parent. There are a lot of reasons, but they boil down as follows: I'm the only child of people who did not want to be parents and who refused to raise me (handing me off to reluctant grandparents) thus coloring my view of parenthood forever, there's a long family history of inherited disease and mental illness, and frankly I don't believe I am capable of being a good parent.

I'm kind of baffled by the attitude that this makes me a selfish person. Wouldn't it be infinitely more selfish for me to have a child that I already know I do not want? Imagine that kid's life. Hell, imagine the childhood I had, being so unwanted. Is that something you would want a child to go through?

The other thing that baffles me is modern medicine's unwillingness to let me make my own reproductive decisions. Almost 5 years ago I had an IUD inserted, but I had to fight tooth and nail for it. First I was told I wouldn't be allowed to have it until I had a baby, since they "don't give them" to childless women. Eff that, I know that's not true as I have 3 childless friends with IUDs. I found a doc who would take my insurance and would work with me on what I wanted, but only after I swore to her that my boyfriend at the time was my "forever partner" (her words), because she wouldn't give me the IUD if I was going to be promiscuous like most single girls. (Again, her words. I would have walked, but I wanted that damn IUD.) And as she was doing the insertion, she reminded me that it's very easy to remove it, so if my "forever boyfriend" decided he wanted me to have a baby we could take it out.

I wish I could have seen my own face when she said that. I bet it was amazing.

Anyway, now my IUD is almost expired, and I'm looking into tubal ligation. I work for a big ol' software company in Redmond with super-awesome insurance that covers almost everything... except tubal ligation, of course. That's not covered at all. Fertility treatments are covered 100%, the company will assist you with adopting... but they won't help me. Forgive me, but that really really doesn't seem fair at all.
posted by palomar at 4:50 PM on July 29, 2010 [5 favorites]


Most of Europe has incredibly low TFRs, some as low as 1.2. Ditto for industrialized east Asia (Korea, Taiwan, Japan, parts of China).

I'm surprised that no one has said by two hundred comments in - so how long do y'all think the bans on human cloning are going to last? Russia with their crazy neo-Soviet nationalists seems ripe to me if the technology is developed. So don't worry, anniecat! Soon you'll be able to order babies on Amazon whenever you want, so it'll never be too late to change your mind. That is, unless the warrior lesbian ultrafeminist utopians kill all the rest of us.

I have no objection to people having kids but the argument that the need to ask other humans questions about it is built into our biology seems like crap to me. I could though go for what toodleydoodley was sort of saying, that there could be a memetic / extended phenotype cause for it; at some point in human history it must have been the case that the cultures which laid more emphasis on having children were the ones that survived better. Especially in China - the high population of East Asia seems to me at least partly due to a sort of arms race between Zhou-era kingdoms to have the highest population and therefore the largest armies and workforce. You can see it in Confucian political philosophy.

And beyond that it I would think a big part of the noseyness is that it's an easy way to make small talk. But I do find it rude, even though I'm not a parent nor have I been in a position to become one (at least not intentionally.) Especially when people ask couples who are just engaged questions like "How many kids are you going to have?" They might not even have discussed it themselves yet. It's like asking if they're going to have sex tonight.

Also - holy crap, I did not know it was so hard for women to get long-term birth control.
posted by XMLicious at 5:07 PM on July 29, 2010


Oh please, it's an important life decision, it's not odd if friends ask or if it comes up in casual conversation. It's an innocent question, not a condemnation.

Innocent questions can wound unintentionally.

Having children is a personal subject for some couples, and depending on how that question is worded, it may be interpreted as a judgment -- whether one is intended or not.

Infertility is an intensely personal issue for many couples who suffer from it. It often creates deep-seated psychological issues which they may find difficult to resolve. Men and women with infertility may feel that they are unable to fulfill one of their gender-specific roles. (i.e., the perception that they are not a "real" man or women unless they produce a child -- this is also a view that is inherent to some cultures.) They may feel that they have let their spouse down because they are unable to provide them with a biological child. Because of this, infertility is a contributing factor to some divorces. It's not unheard of for an infertile spouse to try to convince their partner divorce them and find someone else with whom they can create a family.

Reportedly, one out of every five pregnancies ends in a miscarriage. If a woman has had one miscarriage, the chances are one in five that she will have one again. Some reproductive endocrinologists say that the chances of a miscarriage or recurring miscarriage are probably more like one in three. But much of their patient base is probably people who are dealing with some sort of infertility issue.

As has been discussed above, there are a lot of 'supportive' and encouraging cues in most modern societies which pressure people to have children. It can be difficult to be child-free.

But if a couple can't become pregnant without assistance, or they have had a miscarriage... those pressures can be emotionally exhausting. Having been there myself, I never ask people whether they're trying to have kids. Or adopt them, even. If they want me to know, they'll let me know.
posted by zarq at 5:16 PM on July 29, 2010 [4 favorites]


My mother told my BIL that he was very selfish for not wanting kids. He is very selfish and will soon be my ex-BIL, but personal reproductive decisions are just that - personal. People should just stop being so damn intrusive.
posted by arcticseal at 5:17 PM on July 29, 2010


I've got to agree with various people (and conflated comments) that society should encourage people to examine whether or not they truly want children, and all that entails--will they be good parents, will they truly devote the time necessary to raising good people (to the best of their abilities, and to their definition of what a good person is), rather than going along with the massive societal expectation that that's simply what people do: school, job, marriage, kids.

I have nothing against people who have children--raising a good human being is, IMNSHO, the toughest job in the world. More power to you. I hope you love them, and they love you, and you can be proud of your kids, and they can be proud of you. I hope that, even though there may be problems and conflicts and all kinds of family strife, you feel you have done right by them, and that they become good people.

I knew since... forever, I guess, that I didn't want kids. The strongest driving force behind that was that I just didn't want them, at all, and it never occurred to me to want them. It's not in me. Second, when I stopped to think about it, I knew I didn't have the qualities necessary to raise children well. That is part and parcel of my belief that a) I'm not up to the job; and b) too many people have children without seriously examining why they do it.

I'm glad I'm alive and all, but my parents should never, ever have had children. There might be two who were less likely to do right by their children, but as far as I know, I haven't met them.

(For those who would argue that this must be where my desire never to have kids must have come from, I can only point out that my brother wants children with all his heart.)
posted by tzikeh at 5:21 PM on July 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


I work for a big ol' software company in Redmond with super-awesome insurance that covers almost everything... except tubal ligation, of course. That's not covered at all. Fertility treatments are covered 100%, the company will assist you with adopting... but they won't help me. Forgive me, but that really really doesn't seem fair at all.

My understanding is that there *is* a way around it. If you have a c-section and a tubal ligation at the same time, your insurance should cover both.

Of course, that really defeats the purpose...
posted by zarq at 5:24 PM on July 29, 2010


Anyway, now my IUD is almost expired, and I'm looking into tubal ligation. I work for a big ol' software company in Redmond with super-awesome insurance that covers almost everything... except tubal ligation, of course. That's not covered at all. Fertility treatments are covered 100%, the company will assist you with adopting... but they won't help me. Forgive me, but that really really doesn't seem fair at all.

I'm glad you've got good insurance with at least some options. It's gone progressively downhill for me as I've changed companies. The first place I worked at would cover only the pill (but Viagra and 3 abortions), the next only partial pill coverage (but again Viagra) and the place I am now covers nothing (but Viagra, adoption assistance, and you get a free carseat for your first kid). I paid out of pocket for my IUD, and it was one of the most satisfying uses of my tax refund ever.

Prior to getting my IUD, I had to have an STD test, that was also not covered. I didn't realize this, and when I got the bill I called the hospital. The gentlemen in billing couldn't even talk to me outright, mumbling about how "certain ladies do certain things that get them certain diseases." I went to a different hospital for insertion. Also, when I called the insurance company to see if it would be covered, I had to school the guy on the phone about what an IUD was, so that he knew where to look it up in the system. I believe his quote was "They put what, where?!?!?"
posted by librarianamy at 5:50 PM on July 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


If I say that I don't actually think children are all that wonderful, then the parents and future parents get all bent out of shape.

I can only speak for myself - but... it really does bug me all that much. Kids are a ton of work. Certainly not everyone's cup of tea. Just like some people don't like dogs.

(And now someone's going to come after ME.)
posted by grapefruitmoon at 6:06 PM on July 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


(Happy parent here)

What I do find a little strange is the discussion about young people getting tubal ligations -- I mean, St. Alia is right that it's a very big, possibly irreversible step for a young person to take, especially given that her views and desires might be different ten years down the line.

But -- that's kind of true a thousandfold for HAVING A CHILD, right? You might want one at 30 and discover at 40 you don't want one at all -- and you would be a hell of a lot more out of luck than the woman who regretted getting her tubes tied!

I guess all I'm saying is that life is full of irreversible decisions that you might regret, and I don't see why this particular one requires that people be protected from themselves.
posted by escabeche at 6:34 PM on July 29, 2010 [16 favorites]


Talk to me when you get to 40 about your decision to remain childless

ugh, I hated that attitude when I was 25, and still hate it now that I'm 40.
I've always known I don't want kids.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 6:38 PM on July 29, 2010 [4 favorites]


There are probably many excellent reasons to have children. However, all of the various arguments presented to me regarding why *I*, in particular, should have children are complete and utter bullshit. In no particular order, here are the ones I can recall:

1) My God! If everyone thought the way you do, the human race would die out! You need only make six billion converts, even though you're not trying to make converts, and even though almost all of them would need to be from cultures that have prized children for thousands of years. And then we're doomed! DOOOOOMED! How can you live with yourself?

2) Hi! I have no idea I'm a racist, but aren't you worried that other races will outbreed your own?

3) Hi! I have no idea I'm a classist, but aren't you worried that people from other classes will outbreed your own?

4) Hi! I *really* have no idea that I'm a classist and a racist and have little understanding of the relation between genetics and intelligence and am not nearly as smart as I think I am, but aren't you worried that stupid people will outbreed smart people?

5) YOU WILL WANT TO HAVE KIDS BECAUSE YOU ARE SECRETLY JUST LIKE ME! LIKE MEEEE! EVERYONE ON EARTH IS REALLY JUST LIKE MEEEEE!

6) You will want to have kids because evolutionary biology commands it! Evolutionary biology rules all and admits no exceptions! Evolutionary biology has no room for genetic complexity and no understanding of nongenetic influences! I have never studied evolutionary biology!

7) Not having kids is selfish because children are the only possible contribution you can make to the vast panoply of human existence. Science and art are as nothing to more warm bodies! ENDLESS WARM BODIES!

8) Not having kids is selfish because I worked damn hard on this kid of mine and if you don't have to work hard on a kid of your own then you're GETTING AWAY WITH SOMETHING!

9) Your country needs more babies to remain economically competitive! What do you neither believe this nor give a rat's ass even if it's true?

10) I want grandchildren. (This last argument is the only one I have any sympathy with whatsoever, but it still does not sway me. Sorry mom and dad.)

So, let's just say, I remain unconvinced.
posted by kyrademon at 6:45 PM on July 29, 2010 [58 favorites]


Is there a special childfree retirement investment planning or other industry? We need to get in on the bottom floor!
posted by XMLicious at 6:45 PM on July 29, 2010


Talk to me when you get to 40 about your decision to remain childless.

What did I just say?
posted by jessamyn at 6:47 PM on July 29, 2010


I'm nearly 60 and I breezily went through life--always saying these words: "Children apparently were not in my cards". I liked saying it like that--people always accepted that vague statement. Recently I talked with a friend who I met in 7th grade. "Isn't it funny, I said...neither of us had children!" "What do you mean, she replied..you don't remember? You always said you were never having children." OH RLY. You know, I did not remember that at all, but I was glad to hear it. I never ever felt a burning desire to reproduce. Those people who know this honor those feelings and all is well. There are some moments where I wonder what will old age be like (hopefully, I WILL reach old age). I have noticed NO ONE MUCH visits the senior center where I have a senior friend. Those people have children and great grandchildren...and no one comes around. So what is the difference between being someone with no relatives...or being something with relatives who ignore you? I love children and animals...so I hope in my old age I can volunteer somewhere and get my fill of both. It's a good way to go!
posted by naplesyellow at 7:05 PM on July 29, 2010 [4 favorites]


Idiocracy, here we come.

Actually it's Theocracy, here we come. I live in the American West and the people with a lot of kids? Mormons, Muslims or Catholic Mexicans.

Remember the ol' it's-a-vagina-not-a-clowncar joke? Her kids are the future.

My grandmother says no one should even think of children until they are 35.

They'll be dead of starvation or exposure long before they get that old.
posted by codswallop at 7:12 PM on July 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


I don't mention it to casual acquaintances or strangers but if someone is nosy or judgemental I play that card and watch them get embarrassed. Serves 'em right.

I've found "we don't want to pass [various things] on to our children" is the fastest way to shut up nosey people who think I should have had kids, particularly for race/class reasons. It would be one thing if it were our close friends or family asking, but when I was in my 20s, it was pretty clear that the contents of my uterus, present and future, were public property, or at least public intellectual property. (The public only gets hands-on when your womb is obviously full.) One of the joys of hitting 40 has been those questions stopping.

As annoying as it is to be hassled about my reproductive choices, I can't imagine comparing my problems along those lines with the trouble of coming out, though. It would be great if the worst thing gay people ever had to face was the kind of nosey-neighbor BS my childfree status has gotten me.
posted by immlass at 7:54 PM on July 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


I have no idea I'm a racist, but aren't you worried that other races will outbreed your own?

I don't agree that this necessarily a racist view without parsing it further. For example, if you were a Tibetan, wouldn't it be pretty valid to worry that because the Chinese government is encouraging and enforcing the Han migration and population transfer to Qinghai and the TAR, there soon will be many, many more Chinese than Tibetans in Tibet, and hence the culture of your race is in danger of being subsumed into the Tibetan Han culture and thereby lost?

I see no racism in one group looking at the expansion or immigration (or invasion, in the case of Tibet and First People / Native Americans) of another and taking steps to preserve their culture and the cultural things passed down from their forefathers in the face of it. At the moment I have no problem with immigration and overall U.S. demographics and culture changing as is projected; I'd be fine with it if we (including you if you're a U.S. citizen or resident, not sure) went to teaching both English and Spanish mandatorily in schools right now and make both the official languages of the country.

But it does seem to me that at some point, probably well after whites have become a minority, mainstream culture will have diverged from where it is now; it'll have much a much greater influence from the various Hispanic cultures, both the ones who have arrived and the ones who have been here the whole time [and I'm pretty gung-ho about that, I wish we had other very large, growing ethnicities to participate in a high-level fusion of cultures], influences from other American ethnic communities, and influences from popular culture from overseas, for example if we begin consuming lots of Bollywood movies or ones from the Chinese film industry. Consequently we (possibly including you if you consider yourself white, not sure) are going to want to take steps to preserve the parts of our culture that are no longer mainstream culture. I don't think that just because we were once mainstream we have to always take only the contemporary mainstream culture as our own.

No one should take measures to forcibly keep whites as the top strata of society or to denigrate or disadvantage any non-whites. Neither does any white person need to have any attachment to their own culture(s) or need to want to preserve it. But for those who do want there to be someone to remember them and their ancestors and their ancestors' traditions as they were, it seems to me perfectly reasonable and fair to take non-racist measures to ensure the preservation of the culture. And so at some point in the future I think that it would be a legit thing to have all of this contribute to a decision to have children.

But you were probably simply saying that in general someone saying that whites need to breed for the purpose of outbreeding other races is probably making the statement with racist motivations, possibly even with thoughts of RaHoWa. Which I would agree would probably be true.
posted by XMLicious at 8:25 PM on July 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


I can't think of a single problem in this world that is caused by overpopulation or would be improved by lowered birth rates.

Hmm. I can't think of a single problem that isn't, or wouldn't.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:46 PM on July 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


I don't think most people would suggest that adoption is cheap and easy, but I suspect it's cheaper and easier than IVF. Be nice if there were some solid numbers for comparison.

One round of IVF -- no guarantees, no refunds -- costs from $12K to $25K, depending on circumstances. More or less. Domestic adoption -- no guarantees, no refunds -- costs between $5K and $40K, depending on circumstances. There are outliers; if you're using donor gametes, IVF/ICSI, and PGD at a top-rated clinic, you can be looking at $60K per cycle. Similarly, adoptions in some cases can run from $50K to $100K and up.

Both processes are draining, undermining, fraught with physical and emotional complications, and carry no guarantees of success. People choose one over the other for their own reasons; neither one is cheap or easy.

As for the decision not to have children: I have to say that i fucking LOVE that we are now finally at a point in our scientific history that if someone doesn't want to have kids, they can by and large make sure that they don't. There is absolutely no reason whatsoever why everybody should be compelled by biology or culture to have children, any more than everybody should be compelled to climb mountains or become a doctor or any other rewarding but labor-intensive pursuit. Pregnancy (wanted) made me more pro-choice even than I'd ever been before, and parenthood (delightful) absolutely cemented my conviction that nobody who doesn't want to do this should be forced to.
posted by KathrynT at 10:36 PM on July 29, 2010


XMLicious, I understand where you are coming from in a general sense. But on an individual level, when elderly relatives are pressuring you not to marry the person you love because they are a different race from you, and then tell you that you are essentially betraying your race by rendering yourself unable to produce babies of the appropriate type (whether or not you ever intended to produce any babies at all in the first place), it is, take it from me, REALLY REALLY difficult not to see it as racism.

Telling an individual that they must have a baby for the future of the race is very different from generalized attempts to promote cultural continuity.
posted by kyrademon at 10:49 PM on July 29, 2010


Definitely. The parents I've known who say things like that have daughters who say, "Can you imagine if I came home with a black boyfriend? Dad's head would explode! They'd disown me!" One friend of mine from a fairly conservative background said that she thought her parents would prefer for her to be a lesbian than to date a black guy, which given their homophobia was saying alot.

At least they aren't talking about "race suicide" and eugenics like they were 100 years ago.
posted by XMLicious at 11:11 PM on July 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Interesting read. Happily I am oblivious as well as regret-free -- I never think about what anyone else thinks about my lack of children, and in my groovy bubble no one seems to have an opinion about my reproductive status. (Though last week on a trip through rural Wisconsin someone asked me, "How many children do you have?," with the assumption being some.)
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 11:23 PM on July 29, 2010


Here is an article by Albert Jay Nock, one of the big names of the early conservative movement in the U.S., entitled A New Science and Its Findings. He writes about a decline in birth rates in some British towns - gasp, all the way down to a stable reproduction rate! From a child every four years on average to a child every ten years! All because of social do-gooders putting forward laws to end child labor. Quite right that it should be outlawed, of course, but it's a terrible, terrible shame.

And this is a dreadful problem he tells us, because this means that a larger percentage of children are first-born and second-born now, and as we all know the first and second child are far more prone to "tuberculosis, insanity, criminality, and albinism".

So this is a crisis for Britain, because this disimprovement of the average quality of the population, by the witless and clumsy actions of those inept social "reformers", "may only penalize parentage, lower the birth rate, promote the reproduction of inferior beings, promote race degeneracy and, finally, race suicide."

He concludes by saying that this terrible fate also awaits the U.S. unless we embrace the science of eugenics. Which in later years we did and if I recall correctly during the 20's and 30's thousands of people were sterilized in U.S. government eugenics programs.
posted by XMLicious at 11:44 PM on July 29, 2010


Pregnancy (wanted) made me more pro-choice even than I'd ever been before, and parenthood (delightful) absolutely cemented my conviction that nobody who doesn't want to do this should be forced to.

Agreed. I'm still in the first-trimester "hush-hush" danger zone, but I will chime on this. Being pregnant - and I am by no means having a difficult pregnancy, things are going very well thus far (which is why I feel comfortable mentioning it at all at 8 weeks) - has made me even more solid in my pro-choice stance. My body has already been taken over by the demands of my hormones. I may not have a baby-belly yet, but my body has physically changed in many ways and my life has certainly changed to adapt the needs of baking another human being.

I would absolutely never, ever wish this upon someone who didn't want it. It's not easy, and I want this baby more than anything. If I had a friend who didn't want kids and got pregnant, I would help her find abortion resources myself. There's no reason why a woman who doesn't want her body to change completely should ever have to carry a pregnancy to term.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:18 AM on July 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


There's no reason why a woman who doesn't want her body to change completely should ever have to carry a pregnancy to term.

Well, if every mother was like that, We'd never get to stay up late to watch the sunrise the next day....we'd would never fall in love...learn how to sail...laugh...feel pain...joy...or dream of a better future. We wouldn't have any of those moments, rather we would be dead before we knew what was going on. No one would miss us, we'd have no friends or family to make. We'd never exist, possibly just for the sake of another in a difficult time of her own sacred life. That gift would never be received.

I mean this as no offense to you (seriously), I've just never understood the viewpoint you've raised. I suppose I might part of the "human is human at conception" crowd (without all the religious weight and trolling noise), but please don't be quick to put me in that category, because I'm really trying to understand the pro-abortion argument (outside of imminent threat to the safety of the mother). Your stance raises moral questions to me...is consciousness what makes a human human? Do those in comas cease to be human, even though their bodies are separated from the womb? Is it because a human is dependent on a womb that makes him or her disposable? Basically...what is the value of life when it can be terminated for convenience? Is it about semantics, using words like fetus, term, trimester, etc to distance or distinguish from the act of termination as ceasing life of another potentially intelligent human being (given the time)? Or, ok...here's another angle...if a fetus could be grown to maturity in a lab without depending on a mother's womb, does that make him or her less human, thus more eligible for disposal (considering still, no inconvenience is made to another)? Or would it counter the arguments that it couldn't survive without its mother, thus making him or her more eligible to be considered human at an earlier stage? Where is that stage? Who then makes that decision?

I know that not all of those supporting abortion are trying to get a rise out of others, as it's a very solid belief that seems to mostly stem from woman's rights. I'm all for equal rights. I also have several friends that seriously back abortion and they're otherwise perfectly normal and well adjusted to me. I suppose the same goes for anti-abortionists, they're not all right-wing fanatics...I'm sure there are lots of people on both sides of this argument really putting the effort into thinking this out and having rational, courteous dialog. For myself, I just never had a sense that the morality of abortions is being fully thought out or explored by those that support it (maybe just philosophically). Perhaps its solely a womans rights issue and stops there? There just seems to be too many loose ends...maybe we can pretend we're new to this debate..help me understand.
posted by samsara at 8:01 AM on July 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Who then makes that decision?

The women who are undergoing the pregnancy with the advice of their partners, friends and most importantly, their medical professionals. I can't see how any other answer is at all relevant to this thread or discussion.

This is an article about women who are choosing not to have children and how that's becoming more normalized in the US. This is not a thread about "let's debate where life begins, and why I should respect a woman's right to choose" and I'd thank you not to make it one. The internet is big, you can have this debate somewhere where it is on-topic.
posted by jessamyn at 8:09 AM on July 30, 2010 [7 favorites]


samsara, every mother isn't like that, which kind of ruins your whole point. Lots of women still want children, the world would still go on.

You're also assuming that for everyone who was ever born, there's some greeting-card stereotype of life being a "gift." I'm sure for a lot of unwanted children (especially those in poor socio-economic conditions), life is anything but.
posted by ukdanae at 8:09 AM on July 30, 2010


samsara - Did you miss the part in my comment where I indicated that I'm pregnant? And that I'm thrilled to be bringing a child into this world? You seem to gloss over the fact that I'm not "one of those mothers" and are focusing entirely on my pro-choice stance - neglecting the fact that my resolve in that matter has been strengthened by the fact that I am (gleefully) carrying a pregnancy to term. (I hope. That I carry to term, that is.)
posted by grapefruitmoon at 8:39 AM on July 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm really trying to understand the pro-abortion argument

I haven't seen one person here say they were in favor of having abortions. I have seen repeated responses champion a woman's right to choose.

mods, feel free to delete if this gets out of hand. but i'm tired of hearing that anyone is "pro-abortion". No one wakes up in the morning and joyously decides, "Hey! I'm going to get an abortion today!"
posted by micawber at 8:47 AM on July 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Interesting - maybe it's something about my group of friends - it would never even be *thought* of to question somebody's decision not to have kids. We have a friend who has made it very clear she never wants kids, and we are all very much in agreement that she never should. Why be judgmental about it?
posted by antifuse at 8:51 AM on July 30, 2010


I apologize, wasn't meaning to derail. I'll save the question for when it's more on topic. Thanks for the clarifications though. I wasn't trying to say everyone would if they could. And congratulations on your pregnancy. The topic of choice came up and I responded..you're right tho...wrong thread.
posted by samsara at 8:56 AM on July 30, 2010


I agree with deleting these comments if appropriate to avoid mayhem.

I think the issue was grapefruitmoon's statement,

There's no reason why a woman who doesn't want her body to change completely should ever have to carry a pregnancy to term.

(Emphasis mine) Literally that's saying that it's not just a woman's right to choose but there's no reason, valid or invalid, not to get an abortion in that case. This is possibly not precisely what grapefruitmoon meant, she probably meant that there's no valid reason, but I think that samsara is simply saying that he can think of a reason.
posted by XMLicious at 9:00 AM on July 30, 2010


I'm in the non-reproducing category, barring a little excess booze during one of my idealistic straight-curious episodes, and I've had to have the argument, over and over, about whether I can have a meaningful, fully-embraced life without participating in reproduction for all of my outed adult existence.

"We're born to reproduce ourselves," says Cousin X, Aunt Y, or clergy friend Z, "or the whole species would go extinct."

I like to be a provocateur and point out that organized, resourceful lesbians would single-handedly save the species and produce a pretty well-adjusted replacement batch, but that's just something I say to irritate the Southern Baptists in my family.

It's just such a silly, reductionist thing, this belief that our species is in danger of dying out from more selective reproductive habits, and it denies the very possibility that people, looking around at the opening landscapes and potential of a smaller human society as it emerged, would collectively think "well, this is actually pretty nice. I'd quite like to rear a kid or two in this world," and then have enough kids to support that kind of culture. Isn't it possible that, once the rough logistical stuff of a population slide was hammered out, there might be a cultural consensus that the new world was just fine?

People are enduring pessimists these days, alas.

I do spend some time, now and then, trying to talk to people who think they understand biology and evolution and yet who can't remotely grasp how there could be a genetic reason why a non-reproducing member of a social unit would not hurt the continuation of that social unit, or more precisely, how the genes that made me who I am could be passed to another generation if I don't directly reproduce them. Seems simple enough to me that a village where a certain number of villagers are trusted aunts, uncles, shamans, etcetera, providing material support, wisdom, and spiritual or philosophical solace would be more likely to survive and prosper (thus preserving and strengthening the genetic line) than one that's just a machine for reproduction, but maybe I'm the odd man out.

I have this box in my backyard, which contains a healthy, vigorous, and stable colony of fuzzy little bugs that are all going gangbusters in spite of the fact that, out of 60000 individuals, only one is reproducing, unless one or more of my bees is being a naughty laying worker and sneaking around laying drone eggs (they can only lay drones on their own, as drones have haploid genes). One bee is doing the task of reproduction, and fifty-nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety-nine (give or take) other bees are all going about their work, as nurse bees and forager bees and drones (very, very few of which ever get a chance to mate, and not within their own hive) and guard bees and undertaker bees and housekeeper bees and so on, and bees have been successfully avoiding species death for a hundred million years, at least until Bayer came along, even without direct bee-to-bee-to-bee DNA lineage.

We're not bees, of course, and we're not evolved in the same way they are, but one of these days, I'd hope we'd have some more reasoned and optimistic view of how we all fit together, with kids or without, and relax.
posted by sonascope at 9:03 AM on July 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


In an attempt to possibly reconnect Samsara's spin-off topic with the topic at hand here, you said

"as it's a very solid belief that seems to mostly stem from woman's rights."

Which is a statement that leaves me with the impression that you might not have a great understanding of what woman's rights means. When it comes to reproduction, women's bodies, and makin' love or babies, there is a societal expectation that the public (male and female) has some say, some right, or some ownership over women's bodies. Society can tell women how to dress, shame her when she has sex, or tell her she's stuck with a baby she doesn't want, or needs to pump out babies for society's benefit, or it's shameful her to have children without a husband.

In the words of Dr. Tiller (murdered abortion provider), you can probably best summarize pro-choice philosophy with two words, "Trust Women". Trust that women are capable of making good decisions for themselves, and their reproduction choices. All other commentary, suggestions, law or policy, needs to stop there.

It's not about life, or where it begins, or some other philosophic debate. It's about real choices that will irrevocably change your life. Why should someone be forced to make that change against her will? Trust women.
posted by fontophilic at 9:26 AM on July 30, 2010 [8 favorites]


fonto: I understand where you're coming from, but let's take the discussion outside of the thread with civility if that's ok with you. I'm not furthering it here, Jessmyn is right that its derailing.
posted by samsara at 9:41 AM on July 30, 2010


fontophilic: In the words of Dr. Tiller (murdered abortion provider), you can probably best summarize pro-choice philosophy with two words, "Trust Women". Trust that women are capable of making good decisions for themselves, and their reproduction choices.

samsara: fonto: I understand where you're coming from, but let's take the discussion outside of the thread with civility if that's ok with you. I'm not furthering it here, Jessmyn is right that its derailing.

I think it's not really a derail when looked at that way. Trusting that women will make the best choices for themselves about reproducing is really what this thread is all about, isn't it? I don't want this to devolve into a debate about abortion either. But the judgmental lack of trust which says that an outsider or the government somehow knows and should be able to control what women can or cannot do with their own bodies (and lives!) manifests in society's criticisms of those who are child-free. And the justifications are often similar to those levied by the prolife movement, too. Women who choose for themselves are often attacked as selfish, for example. We can see this in kyrademon's excellent comment above.

Jessamyn, if you disagree, that's fine. I understand that you want this thread to go smoothly and stay on topic. But I do think there's a sociological meta aspect that's worth exploring and discussing.
posted by zarq at 9:52 AM on July 30, 2010


I'm surprised no one has linked to Why Parents Hate Parenting yet.

That NYMag article was deftly (and perhaps too subtly) linked and rebutted in this post from last Friday: I don't care that I've never seen Paris. It's a pretty good read, imo.

Parents don't hate parenting per se. They hate the bad parts of it. Which are plentiful. Enough to make you "not so happy." Parents mostly hate:

a) the loss of freedom (see: nanojath) and the corollary burden of responsibilities

b) the no-fun tasks that go along with parenting (dishes, laundry, diaper/bathroom, transportation at best; complicated, traumatic medical interventions at worst); and

c) when their kids are acting like an assholes.

("If you're with a group of people that are trying to go somewhere, and you can't go--you can't go--because a member of your party just refuses to put their shoes on? That person is a fucking asshole." :)

Aside from all the expected difficulties of parenting--no sleep, loss of freedom, diapers, feeding--the two biggest I've experienced so far include one I expected and one I didn't quite expect

* The expected: The strain on your marriage. This one is a given. If your relationship is rocky, don't have kids. It will worsen and likely end.

Not only is every decision about your child new and unexpected territory for you personally; it's new and unexpected territory for you as a couple, and the process is unlike any you two have shared before: diapers, daycare, school, religion, pediatricians, vaccines, illnesses, accidents ...

Relationships are complicated. Relationships + children = complications^2.

There's no way to know how you two will work as parents until you actually do it. And by then it's too late to change your mind. It's a gamble. A big one.

(Let's not even mention sex ... because your wife won't either ... hey *cough cough* ... is this thing on?!)

* The unexpected: the introduction of a brand-new personality into your life, one that is a relatively complete unknown.

Sure, she may have genes from you and your wife, but everybody's different. "Here, meet this new random person. She'll be living with you for the next 20 years."

I.e. a Category 5 blowout is a piece of cake compared to any of the tiniest psychological dramas that can occur at any moment. You might be amazed at what can bring on a breakdown.

Depending on how emotionally volatile your kids are, and depending on your own personal psychology, you might be on edge 24/7. I am still struck wide awake with fright every time I hear an infant's cry in the middle of the night. It's changed me, if not forever, at least for a long time.

The NYMag article tries to frame its article as: parenting is full of joys, but not much happiness.

I would counter that parenting is the biggest trip of all. It's literally an alternate reality, except it never ends. I've always called "shenanigans" on the old "parenting changes you" or "you'll never know what it's like until you do it" tropes, because they're not totally true (e.g. "you're someone's child until you become a parent"), but they do have at least an aspect of the truth.

Words like "happy, "sad," "frustrated," "regretful," "scared," and "excited" don't mean the same things anymore. It's a whole new emotional landscape, with caverns and mountains you never knew existed.

It's a trip, in the very best sense of the word. It has allowed me to learn much, much more about myself and the world in which I live. I think I have become a "better" person, as nebulous and cliched as it sounds.

Having day-to-day access into the development of a is an amazing experience, and developing an emotional bond with a child from birth is ineffable.

So that's why I think it can be awfully hard for some parents not to say "Oh, you would be such a great dad" or whatever. It's not like "Oh, you should separate your recycling from your trash, jackass." It's more like "Oh, you should really try tai chi ... every day for the rest of your life."

I do want everyone to try it, even though I know not everyone wants to or would be good at it. That's completely irrational, but it does perhaps explain part of the phenomenon that does annoy those who intentionally or otherwise do not have children.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:56 AM on July 30, 2010 [5 favorites]


Jessamyn, if you disagree, that's fine. I understand that you want this thread to go smoothly and stay on topic.

Turning a thread about women's choices about becoming parents into a "help me understand the pro-choice position because I disagree strongly with it" is a strong derail. I'm sure there's a way to discuss the topic without it turning into a shitstorm and I would love it if people could try, but this thread has had a nice discussion of the complicated choices people make about deciding to become or not become parents and having someone show up who basically predicts the end of the world if people are given the freedom to choose is pretty much a textbook derail. My point is twofold 1) don't turn this thread into a referendum on abortion and/or one poster's position on it 2) please reconsider making comments like that in threads that are touchy but going okay.
posted by jessamyn at 10:13 AM on July 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


The choice of whether or not to have children is much like the choice of whether you want to declaw your cat.
posted by mullingitover at 11:09 AM on July 30, 2010


My point is twofold 1) don't turn this thread into a referendum on abortion and/or one poster's position on it 2) please reconsider making comments like that in threads that are touchy but going okay.

Fair enough. :)
posted by zarq at 11:21 AM on July 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


I got a vasectomy in my late 20's, with a lot of family and friends saying "Oh, you'll change your mind! They can reverse 'em!" Yeah, right, like I want more surgery on my nuts. Married a woman with two kids from a previous marriage, with a lot of "When are you two going to have kids of your own?" from other family and friends. "Never",we say.

My wife has been criticized by a family member for marrying somebody who's "sterile". Um, it was a feature, not a bug.

Anyway, anyone else wants to hear about my wifes' and my reproductive decisions, memail me and I'll send you the pamphlet.
posted by Cookiebastard at 11:27 AM on July 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Literally that's saying that it's not just a woman's right to choose but there's no reason, valid or invalid, not to get an abortion in that case. This is possibly not precisely what grapefruitmoon meant, she probably meant that there's no valid reason,

I have no idea what you're getting at because I don't grok the difference between an "invalid" and a "valid" reason. I meant what I said - if a woman who knows that she does not want to be pregnant becomes so, it is her right to terminate that pregnancy. Is that clearer?

posted by grapefruitmoon at 11:36 AM on July 30, 2010


MetaFilter: Yeah, right, like I want more surgery on my nuts.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:46 AM on July 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


I am 45. I got pregnant when I was 25, and the appointment with Planned Parenthood for an abortion was made the instant I knew I was pregnant, about three weeks into it. I canceled the appointment when an allergic reaction to the nonoxyl-9 spermicide in the Sponge caused a miscarriage and a great deal of relief on my part. It was the only accident I ever had with regards to pregnancy. I have never regretted it. I have never had any issue whatsoever with abortion, except for those folks who use it as a method of birth control, which is stupid and irresponsible. My pregnancy was a genuine slip-up. I have always been a staunch proponent of birth control and always will be. I never felt anything but utter relief over the miscarriage. I spend zero time wondering if my unborn child, if brought to fruition, could have been the one to do this or that incredible or amazing thing. With my genetic heritage, any child of mine probably would have grown up to be a fucking serial killer anyway.

No great loss, even if I meet people all the time who tell me what an incredible mother I'd be. No. Just...no. The only way I'd ever have a child is if I adopted one who had nowhere else to go. I would do that in a heartbeat. I'm not inhuman - I would never hurt a child or allow a child to be hurt if I could do something to prevent it or protect them. I just dont want any of my own. Ever. Never have, never will.

I dont understand people who are devastated by miscarriages. To my way of thinking, that mind set is pretty damn creepy. I would never treat them badly, because their grief is real and it's valid and I dont like being a douchebag if I can possibly avoid it, but that's how I feel about it. I would support them in their time of sadness and be as good a friend as I know how to be, but I just dont get it. That said, I dont need to "get it" to feel badly for their pain and love my friends when they are devastated.

Miscarriages are every bit as natural as pregnancy and death. What's the big deal? The chances are very good you can have another one anyway, so just get over it and move on and get busy making the next one if that's what you have to do. Or maybe you could take a break for a couple of years and, you know, live your life without them. There's way more to life than babies anyway, and a lot of life is a hell of a lot more pleasant than either having or caring for children. I think women (and men) who are defined by their absolute need to have children need psychiatric help. Again, that's my own personal viewpoint. It's not something I would ever impress upon someone or treat someone badly over, but it's something I feel very, very strongly about.

I've talked to a number of psych professors and psychologists over the years and many of them also believe that this sort of unquenchable need for children that so many women have (it occurs in men to an infinitesimal degree when compared to women) is definitely a psychological abnormality. That kind of obsession, that kind of feeling that you are nothing without a baby is just not healthy. It really isnt. It's kind of terrifying that someone like that would be a parent responsible for the well-being of an impressionable child. Almost as terrifying as the fact that hyper religious or ultra conservative people have so many children, which I consider to be outright child abuse. But that's another inflammatory topic for another day.

I've known since I was seven or eight years old that I wanted nothing to do with children of my own, and since that age, when people - almost always women - would question me about dont I love babies and can't I just WAIT until I can have babies of my own, I would answer invariably that no, I had no intention to ever have babies because I do not like them. Whenever I expressed that decision in response to those kinds of questions I often got the inevitably tolerant, all-knowing chuckle and some variation of the "Youll feel differently when you get older" idiocy in reply. A lot of people also told me I would "grow out" of rock and roll.

Every single one of them has been wrong.

Then as I got into my thirties I started receiving the judgmental statements about my being selfish and all that claptrap. I have been asked if there is something wrong with my reproductive system. I have been asked if I am a lesbian. I have been asked if I'm a manhater. I've been told that if I werent so terribly fat I would be able to find a man who would marry me and that would make me magically want hundreds of babies because then I'd be a real woman. Somehow, no matter how intelligent I was or how much I'd accomplished in my life, none of it ever seemed to matter as much as the fact that I neither want to have children, nor do I particularly like children very much. Or at all, really.

And that's one of the main reasons I never wanted kids - I really dont like children. I just dont. I never have. I dont understand why anyone would have such an unquenchable desire to have children. I dont see the appeal. I can't stand the little fuckers. More power to you if that's what you want, but I have met very, very few people that in my own elitist, insufferably arrogant point of view I feel should be parents in the first place. I never felt the personal desire to have children. I never felt baby madness. I dont think kids are cute, I am not charmed by the things they do. No, I dont want to look at your baby pictures and no, I do not want to attend your baby shower. Dont even think you're getting a gift from me, either. When your kid grows up to cure cancer, then we can talk about giving you a present for fucking. Otherwise? Get lost. Dont even start with me. And I won't even go into the fact that nobody, and I mean NOBODY, should be having kids before they're around 35 anyway. That grandma upthread was spot on with that one.

I have a group of friends who are thankfully much the same way I am. Some of them have children (and most of them are exactly the sort of people who should be parents, luckily), and some of them feel the same way I do about kids - they want no truck with children whatsoever and fail to see the appeal in throwing the best years of one's life away raising the little carpet sharks in the first place. We abuse each other mercilessly, the with and withouts, and we love each other regardless of our status as breeders. Because, you know, we all respect one another's point of view and none of us are so fragile that we can't stand to be around someone who doesnt feel exactly the same way we do about every single fucking thing.

I still get the occasional question about why I am childless, and now that I'm 45 it's leaning towards the "You must really regret not having kids, huh?" sort of deal. However, after many years of thought and aggravation as to how to address the incredibly personal and often rude questions and assertions as to my status as a baby machine and why I would choose to be a freethinking individual asserting her personal rights and freedoms over her own body, instead of a hopeless herd animal who has accepted her place in society as nothing more than a uterus on legs that belongs to the public at large*, in my mid-thirties I came up with what is for me the perfect response.

Now whenever anyone asks me why I never had or dont want children I tell them, "Because only way I like children is well salted." It makes 'em laugh, shuts 'em up, expresses my frustration with such a stupid question, and in many cases causes some good-natured chagrin for being so invasively nosy in the first place. I am not the kind of person who is really bothered much at all by most personal questions, but dont treat me like I'm supposed to breed just because I have girly bits. Dont ask me about my motherhood status and I won't ask you how much of your parents' money you wasted spending X number of years in college before you dropped out after you'd achieved your ultimate goal of finding a husband, okay?

Thanks ever so much.



*Im not saying that people who do choose to breed are hopeless herd animals. I'm saying that the idiots who think it's okay to ask those kinds of questions are largely adhering to and supporting that particular societal belief that women who dont want to breed are abnormal and weird.
posted by perilous at 11:51 AM on July 30, 2010 [7 favorites]


The choice of whether or not to have children is much like the choice of whether you want to declaw your cat.
posted by mullingitover at 11:09 AM on July 30 [+] [!]


No it isnt, really. There's never a good reason to needlessly mutilate an animal. There are plenty of great reasons not to have kids (or to have kids).
posted by perilous at 11:55 AM on July 30, 2010


I think women (and men) who are defined by their absolute need to have children need psychiatric help. Again, that's my own personal viewpoint. It's not something I would ever impress upon someone or treat someone badly over, but it's something I feel very, very strongly about.

I've talked to a number of psych professors and psychologists over the years and many of them also believe that this sort of unquenchable need for children that so many women have (it occurs in men to an infinitesimal degree when compared to women) is definitely a psychological abnormality. That kind of obsession, that kind of feeling that you are nothing without a baby is just not healthy.


Wow. Just to clarify for me, personally - I've seen therapists in my life. The only thing I was told about my life that was unhealthy was that I wanted a baby while I was married to someone who didn't. The fact that I want a child and that parenting is one of my goals in life was never, EVER questioned as "unhealthy." I wouldn't say that I feel like I would be "nothing" without a baby, but I've wanted to be a mother since I was 17. I know that if I didn't have children, I would regret it. I've been sane and rational about it and waited until I was in a stable and supportive relationship with a partner who wanted to be a parent as much as I do. Wanting, sometimes desperately, to have a child does not make you insane.

As for not understanding the grief of miscarriage - if you don't want to have a child, it's pretty easy to be rational about the fact that a lot of pregnancies end in miscarriage. On the other side of the coin, someone who does want a baby is probably going to be much more emotional about the loss of a potential baby. Everyone handles it differently and most pregnant women understand that it's a risk, but it's very different to look at the experience of miscarriage when you wanted to be pregnant in the first place. This might be a kind of shitty explanation, but think of it not as losing a family member but as losing a job you really, REALLY wanted. You just got a promotion and now you're fired. It. Sucks.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 12:08 PM on July 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


perilous:"No it isnt, really. There's never a good reason to needlessly mutilate an animal. There are plenty of great reasons not to have kids (or to have kids)."

Agreed. I was making a joke about the thread getting derailed, don't mind me.
posted by mullingitover at 12:13 PM on July 30, 2010


perilous:"No it isnt, really. There's never a good reason to needlessly mutilate an animal. There are plenty of great reasons not to have kids (or to have kids)."

Agreed. I was making a joke about the thread getting derailed, don't mind me.
posted by mullingitover at 12:13 PM on July 30 [+] [!]


And for my part, excuse me for missing the joke. My brain isnt firing on all pistons right now - PMS. When menopause finally gets here, I'm going to punch it in the tits for taking so damn long. =)
posted by perilous at 12:18 PM on July 30, 2010


Miscarriages are every bit as natural as pregnancy and death. What's the big deal? The chances are very good you can have another one anyway, so just get over it and move on and get busy making the next one if that's what you have to do. Or maybe you could take a break for a couple of years and, you know, live your life without them. There's way more to life than babies anyway, and a lot of life is a hell of a lot more pleasant than either having or caring for children. I think women (and men) who are defined by their absolute need to have children need psychiatric help. Again, that's my own personal viewpoint. It's not something I would ever impress upon someone or treat someone badly over, but it's something I feel very, very strongly about.

Picture this:

You've spent a year trying to conceive. You want to have a baby. Your husband wants to have a baby. When you have sex, it's become stressful to you both for several reasons. Sex used to be spontaneous and fun, and now it has to be timed and have a serious goal in mind. You're taking your temperature vaginally first thing in the morning and that sucks. You're tracking your ovulation cycle so you can schedule sex. Perhaps your husband is even having trouble performing because of the pressure you're both putting on yourselves.

Deep down, you're hoping that after 12 or 13 months of trying that something's not wrong with either of you. But with every month that passes you're seeing your friends either get pregnant or with their families and wondering what the matter is that you're not conceiving. When you're trying to get pregnant and it's not working, there are suddenly babies everywhere. They were there before, of course. But now you're noticing.

It isn't defining you. But because it's not happening, conceiving begins to eclipse other things that are happening in your lives. You start to wonder: "Is it me? Is it him? What will I do if it's me? Worse yet, what if it's him? How do I even broach the subject that it could be him? I can't imagine he'll take that well."

Look, you truly don't care if the baby is your own flesh and blood or not. But you don't think adoption is in the cards for you for financial reasons. So it's this, or nothing. And you're not just doing it for yourself. You want to make your husband happy to. He'd make a great father.

Then, it happens. Suddenly you're pregnant. You're both overjoyed. You're going to be parents! Suddenly, the stress and worry turns out to be totally worth it. And you're confiding in each other that you each were really worried that something might have been fundamentally wrong with you physically. But look, that obviously wasn't it!

Then at the 6 week mark, you miscarry and lose the baby. You knew this might happen, but never thought it was likely.

And even though it isn't a rational reaction, you feel like you've failed. It wasn't his fault you see. You were able to make a baby together, but it didn't survive once it was inside you. So it must be your fault. Even though the doctors are telling you that it wasn't, and that miscarriages can be the result of many things including a number of male factors, you're no longer convinced they're right. So you blame yourself. Women and men are raised in modern societies to believe that making a baby is part of what defines them as woman and men. When they can't, they may come to the conclusion that they are damaged in some way. Not a "proper" man or woman. In such situations, this is a natural, psychological reaction which it can be difficult to move past. We're not talking about some sort of all-encompassing obsession here, either.

I agree with you that there's much more to life than having children. But please keep in mind that miscarriages can be traumatic, especially when someone has spent a lot of time and effort to become pregnant in the first place. There's nothing wrong with that. And telling people to get over it is not particularly constructive. Loss, mourning and trauma of any kind take time to process.
posted by zarq at 1:24 PM on July 30, 2010 [20 favorites]


Miscarriages are every bit as natural as pregnancy and death. What's the big deal?

Do you not think pregnancy and death are a big deal? Being devastated by a miscarriage makes as much sense to me as being devastated by a death (or even being devastated by a pregnancy).
posted by Mavri at 1:35 PM on July 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Jesus fucking Christ, zarq. I don't want kids. I don't like kids. But if you ever find the time to make it to a meetup, you've got a drink on me.
posted by griphus at 1:43 PM on July 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Miscarriages are every bit as natural as pregnancy and death. What's the big deal?

Yeah, what's the big deal about death? Nobody has any hang-ups or unresolved emotional issues about death, right?

Thanks, zarq. Well put.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:00 PM on July 30, 2010


I just want to come back here to say that just because I dont think it's a big deal doesnt mean I dont respect the fact that it IS a big deal to others. I thought I made that point adequately in my post, and I dont like having to make disclaimers with every other sentence.

Dont read more into what I'm saying that I actually said, that's all. And make sure you do read the parts that say just because it's not my thing doesnt mean I dont understand that it IS someone else's thing. I am capable of being cognizant of other people's feelings even when they are the polar opposite of my own, and I expressed that several times in my post.

To me, pregnancy and miscarriage is no big deal. I dont want one and I was happy to have the other. Death is a big deal individually, yes, and on a personal level, it offends me deeply, to be honest. But on a grand scale, death doesnt mean squat. It happens to everyone.

Great post, Zarq. I do understand everything you expressed, absolutely. I just dont feel the same way myself, on a personal level, and I dont understand why anyone would. That does not mean, as I said before, that I do not feel sympathy for those to whom it is a devastating event. I dont have to personally experience a tragedy to have empathy for those who must endure one.
posted by perilous at 2:05 PM on July 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Jesus fucking Christ, zarq. I don't want kids. I don't like kids. But if you ever find the time to make it to a meetup, you've got a drink on me.

Thanks. I'll buy you one, too. :)
posted by zarq at 2:09 PM on July 30, 2010


I just want to come back here to say that just because I dont think it's a big deal doesnt mean I dont respect the fact that it IS a big deal to others. I thought I made that point adequately in my post, and I dont like having to make disclaimers with every other sentence.

I definitely misread what you meant, then. My apologies. For a lot of reasons, the subject of miscarriage is a personal one for me. I used to work with a fertility clinic. Interviewed many patients who told me their stories, and the same themes came up in conversation again and again. People blamed themselves and felt they were hurting their partners by not giving them a baby. I had a hard time relating to their feelings -- and found it quite frustrating because I couldn't help them the way I wanted to. Then, the same thing happened to me. My wife and I tried to conceive for an extended period of time and she had a miscarriage.

FWIW, my comment wasn't intended as an attack against you. I was just hoping to explain how some people might feel before and after having a miscarriage, and why they might need to process that experience. It took experiencing it myself to fully understand what they'd been going through.

Great post, Zarq. I do understand everything you expressed, absolutely. I just dont feel the same way myself, on a personal level, and I dont understand why anyone would. That does not mean, as I said before, that I do not feel sympathy for those to whom it is a devastating event. I dont have to personally experience a tragedy to have empathy for those who must endure one.

That's entirely reasonable. I understand. Thanks.

Also... sorry if I've derailed the thread in any way folks. That wasn't what I set out to do.
posted by zarq at 2:26 PM on July 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think that the misunderstandings in this thread can be generalized as "I think *this* way, why don't you--what's the big deal?"

As for my thoughts, our fourth child was born 12 days ago. We do appear to be the butt of a few jokes, which is of course as insensitive as insisting someone will wish to reproduce.

I can hold a soft spot for the meddlesome doctors, though. If your entire worldview holds that people want to get pregnant,--eventually--it would be rather negligent of a doctor not to advise patients based on this perception (however misinformed). And it's hard to change decades of social conditioning.

Jessamyn, it's probably just as well you don't want to be a parent because in much the same way I read this thread and have absolutely no desire to be a moderator despite being impressed by how you handle a difficult job. Witty comparisons of parenting vs. moderating omitted.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 1:17 AM on July 31, 2010


I think its something from the chorus of You.Will.Change.Your.Mind types have an awfully hard time understanding; I never fantasised about being a mother, I never felt that push, that urge. I just knew it wasn't for me from an early age. The most I could muster was wondering what it felt like to be pregnant, but even that was really fleeting. It gets exceedingly frustrating have to explain, yet again, why I made the choice I did and, then get treated like an freak because of my choice.

Women and men are raised in modern societies to believe that making a baby is part of what defines them as woman and men.

I think its beaten into our collective heads, as are other roles we're supposed to play out, but I never believed that just because I possess a uterus its predetermined destiny that biology will ultimately decide for me. No more than I believe as a possessor of boobs that I should be the only gender who knows how to operate a Hoover.
posted by squeak at 9:53 AM on July 31, 2010 [3 favorites]


Gee, I thought my "permanent commitment of devotion to the well-being of another person" was what my marriage vows were all about.
posted by agregoli at 4:32 PM on July 31, 2010 [3 favorites]


I never fantasised about being a mother, I never felt that push, that urge. I just knew it wasn't for me from an early age.

Thing is, that was me too. Until it wasn't.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:15 PM on July 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well St. Alia, as I said upthread I'm 46 and my wife (who is the only woman I have ever, shall we say, "known") is 52 and we're heading into old age childless and quite satisfied with our life decision in that regard. So some people never feel that push, that urge, at all.
posted by localroger at 5:27 PM on July 31, 2010


Well, that's fine. And, as I said, none of my business. I'm mostly talking to young folks who don't know YET if they will be like you OR like me. I am truly glad you are happy with the choices you made.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:54 PM on July 31, 2010


Yeah, but those young folks aren't just hearing it from you - they're hearing it from dozens and dozens of people every time their reproductive decisions become fodder for public conversation. I guarantee that you're not the first person to tell a childless person that they'll change their mind, and you won't be the last. You're not imparting a special secret; you're repeating the same boring cliche as nearly everyone else, and it's incredibly irritating.

You might as well chant "One of us, one of us" as soon as anyone voices a desire to follow an unusal path in life. What difference would it make if you didn't bother to inform everyone that sometimes people change their minds about having kids? People who change their minds would be pleasantly surprised without your forewarnings. People who don't change their minds wouldn't make a mental note that you are boring and rude.
posted by harriet vane at 2:37 AM on August 1, 2010 [4 favorites]


You obviously did not read my earlier post.

I don't care if people have kids or not. I care that they do something permanent and then one day realize they changed their mind. I don't care if it's irritating or not, it is a FACT that some (NOT ALL) folks do change their minds. I have seen people go thru a lot of expense and heartache because they DID change their mind.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 3:39 AM on August 1, 2010


It's not wrong not to want children, but i was convinced i didn't want children and looking back i was filling my life with child substitutes: the problem was i couldn't face sexual intimacy (issues i didn't recognise; not abuse or anything terrible) so i couldn't start a family, and i'd always been brought up i'd want to go to uni, have a career etc. So i realised what i did want when i was 35 and it seems it's too late, infertile. I think women need a test for when they'll become infertile so they can decide the year before, like a handy alarm clock for important life decisions. Modern life is really not compatible with children - not modern life the buying marmalade, problems at work, bills, real thing but modern life the image - career, internet, travel, being cool - all the fun stuff you want. So it's hard to keep track of the fun life and the real life, if that makes any sense
posted by maiamaia at 4:23 AM on August 1, 2010


Although I noted days ago (so not many people are still here) that I have had 18 glorious years being the primary child care provider in our little nuclear family, I am not sure I would choose to have a child today, and not for personal, psychological, or population control issues. I just think the world is going to be a very difficult place to live in fifty years from now, and I would not want to bring someone into the world to experience the dystopia I envision, despite the present joy of life in human form.
posted by kozad at 4:51 AM on August 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


I have seen people go thru a lot of expense and heartache because they DID change their mind.

I did read your earlier comment, it sounded very familiar too. Do you restrict your "you might change your mind" lectures to close friends or family considering vasectomies or tubal ligation? Or do you pop it out as soon as you hear of anyone hesitating about whether or not they might want kids in the future, just in case? I've had hundreds of people comment on my reproductive choices over the last 20 years, and about half of them said pretty much the same thing you did. It's like a damn script.

People considering going without kids are well aware of what the decision means, and it *is* insulting to assume they don't. They think about it every time they decide to renew their prescription for birth control, or start a new relationship, or one of their friends or relations has a baby. They've changed their minds about things before, they've seen other people change their minds before. You're merely repeating conventional 'wisdom', not anything special, and it's not even correct a lot of the time - see the original article where it's shown that more and more women are childless and fine with it. You say it's none of your business - then why are you even talking about it?

Sometimes people make decisions they regret. But that's a risk all of us take every day.
posted by harriet vane at 5:50 AM on August 1, 2010 [4 favorites]


I care that they do something permanent and then one day realize they changed their mind.

I mean this in the most non snarky way imaginable, even though the comments are making me seethe a little but, its really none of your business. It gets ever so tiresome to be harangued like I'm a cause that needs to be lobbied for or, against when I'm asked. I'm 42 and, I still haven't changed my mind when is the universe going to stop telling me I will?


And, what harriet said in spades.
posted by squeak at 10:54 AM on August 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


I have seen people go thru a lot of expense and heartache because they DID change their mind.

Please take this to email or MeTa if you want to continue this. You've said your piece, this is going to turn into a derail if it goes further.
posted by jessamyn at 1:40 PM on August 1, 2010


For would-be parents trying to define a "responsible" family size in light of human population dynamics as well as parental maturity (Justinian points out 2.1 children is the replacement level, parmanparman's grandma says wait till youre 35, etc...)

Birthing X offspring at age 18 is actually twice the birthrate of X offspring at age 36

The relevant (approximate) equation is from Malthus:

birthrate = age * loge( offspring / 2 )

it means if you have your 2.1 kids at 18, you can actually produce 2.2 kids at 36 and still be breaking even! or better still: 3 at 45 is the same birth rate as 2.26 at age 14....
posted by dongolier at 4:33 PM on August 1, 2010


correction: birthrate = age-1 * loge( offspring / 2 )
posted by dongolier at 4:48 AM on August 2, 2010


Thread is pretty much dead but this has been bothering me a bit, in part because I'm not sure I made my point all that well and, my second comment isn't sitting too well with me.

Thing is, that was me too. Until it wasn't.

Every time I hear that I wonder what does that mean? What are you driving at exactly? Is it just a statement that you think you felt the same way I do, but ultimately changed your mind through circumstance? If it is, great! Or, is there the unspoken implication that I haven't given the idea a fair shake/I should put myself in a position to get pregnant because I'm wrong? The latter is problematic because I do think children are a huge social/emotional/financial responsibility for anyone to undertake and, I wouldn't want to test the hypothesis just to make a point about who's ultimately right or wrong at the expense of another human.

The other part of it is in saying I never felt the urge is a matter of biology, not an act of conscious will to deny my true nature or, over thinking a plate of embryo's when I should just do it already. I think those who can't grok my position is similar to trying to wrap my head around someone who says they're asexual. Not like sex!? How could anyone not like that? And, because I've always felt my choice is my default state of being I haven't lived my life to try and, prove otherwise, especially considering the rest. So, we're left at an impasse where I feel my hackles raise any time the topic is broached, because often times people get so damn judgemental and, assume things about my character which just aren't true.
posted by squeak at 9:02 AM on August 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


MY mind changed. I don't go around telling people that their minds MUST. If you understand totally that if you choose something permanent at a relatively early age that you are betting you won't change your mind, that's fine.

It's like when people delay kids. Up to them, but they need to do that with the full understanding of how and when fertility starts to drop off as one gets older. That is their choice to make.

Please, I am NOT being critical of anyone's personal choices here, at all. I mean, after we had our three we decided on permanent means (vasectomy.) Even after all that I did go thru a year or two of being a bit upset that we weren't having any more altho I did NOT want any more when the operation took place. It's just hard when the OPTION is gone, is all.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 2:16 PM on August 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


But don't you agree, St. Alia, that the choice of having kids is even more permanent, and an even higher-stakes bet that you won't change your mind?

I mean, I think we're agreeing -- all I'm saying is that whatever you do, you're making a bet. It's not just the kidless who are rolling the dice. Growing up is (partially) about discarding some options and hoping for the best. I think most people end up happy with the choices they've made, whatever they are.
posted by escabeche at 2:33 PM on August 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Chiming in at the last minute...

I'm three years away from the age my mom went through menopause. The odds are against me being fertile for much longer than that. While I experienced the "sense" that perhaps I "should" have a child for about 6 months somewhere in my late thirties, it was more of an intellectual exploration plus a sense of the loss to the gene pool ;p I knew in high school that I didn't want children and that just hasn't really changed enough into any kind of a deep throbbing need to get pregnant and give birth - I'm describing what I've seen friends feel and go through and even divorce to satisfy when their partner didn't want children.

Otoh, a male friend framed that "option loss" or even impending infertility in a different way - he said that what I was feeling was the sense of loss of potency (fertility, creativity, ability to give life) rather than an urge to have a baby.

that actually made far more sense... the monthly is after all a signal of a very potent life force within me, and its loss will change the who and what and the way I am in a very fundamental way just the way its start 30 years ago changed me

not the actual baby making and having

just imho only
posted by infini at 2:37 PM on August 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


as an aside, when I've been asked don't I feel the mythical maternal urge, I usually respond with the line that when it overcomes me, I lie down in a dark room till it fades away...
posted by infini at 2:39 PM on August 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


But don't you agree, St. Alia, that the choice of having kids is even more permanent, and an even higher-stakes bet that you won't change your mind?

Oh, heck yes. It was the scariest part of getting pregnant. I felt similarly when I got married-(divorce laws notwithstanding) that's a pretty permanent change of status. If that freaked me out (and it did) how much more so when I got pregnant!

Thankfully, for me, it turned out to be one of the best decisions I'd ever made in the long run. But yes, yes, yes, there were terribly hard parts to it. But for me the good parts way overwhelmed them.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 2:56 PM on August 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's just hard when the OPTION is gone, is all.

Yeah I get that it can be, I really do. But the other half had a vasectomy very early on in our relationship because he didn't want them either and, he doesn't regret his decision one bit and, I don't resent him for depriving me of a choice. We've always been that sure of what we wanted.

that actually made far more sense.

It does and, I've been feeling that feeling off and on for the last year or so.
posted by squeak at 8:59 PM on August 4, 2010


It's possibly worth pointing out that, actually, reproduction is the ultimate selfish act. Nobody does it out of any noble desire to help out the human race, it's pure "I want a part of ME to live on! ME!"

I just wanted to chime in here because this idea gets me all stabby. Yes, there is some form of selfishness, of egotism, to decide to have kids that will be a bit of ME going forward to the future. I get that.

But the reasons a lot of people (my friends, MOST people on this thread, it seems) don't want to have kids because it would interfere with their lifestyle. They don't want to change diapers, they don't want to wake up every three hours, they don't want to deal with temper tantrums at the grocery store. Etc. And I don't blame them one bit for thinking that.

But tell me honestly, which is more selfish? Seems to be selfishness for totally different reasons on both sides. Which side has more? I don't know, but that opinion at the top is just one side of that coin.
posted by zardoz at 10:39 PM on August 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


i have always believed that its more selfish to undertake this magnitude of responsibility without forethought and a genuine wish. Nothing to do with lifestyle and everything to do with self knowledge
posted by infini at 11:30 PM on August 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


But tell me honestly, which is more selfish? Seems to be selfishness for totally different reasons on both sides. Which side has more? I don't know, but that opinion at the top is just one side of that coin.

You ask which choice is more selfish. I think that imposes an inappropriate and unfair judgment.

Characterizing such decisions as "selfish" is wrong. Having children isn't selfish. Not having children isn't selfish either.

We are individuals and under obligation to no one. We don't owe it to ourselves, our race, gender, species, deity, planet, government, family, the universe or pet hamsters to procreate. And the same goes for not procreating. In a population of 6 billion human beings a single person will only make a negligible impact on the resources and environment of this planet.

Childfree. Natural conception. Assisted Conception. Adoption. Surrogacy. These are choices which really shouldn't be subject to the judgment of outsiders.
posted by zarq at 4:16 PM on August 5, 2010 [6 favorites]


zarq--I agree with everything you said. But I was reacting to that quote I read previously that had a couple dozen favorites. My point is that whether you do or don't decide to have kids, both can been viewed as selfish. I understand both viewpoints and think they are apples and oranges.

My frustration is that a lot of people on this thread think that having kids is selfish, period, end of story. No self-contemplative consideration of the "other side", their "side". Which strikes me as very glass-housy and stone-throwy.
posted by zardoz at 8:01 PM on August 5, 2010


You might begin to feel that way as well if you were constantly surrounded by media and friends & family that felt the need to call you selfish for not having kids. Hard and unceasing lines tend to cause people to see themselves as being on one side or the other. The way through this is not to reinforce the negative message ("No, really, you're selfish not me!") but to erase that message and the line. If you're sick of hearing about "sides" than don't reinforce them.
posted by stoneweaver at 4:02 AM on August 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


My frustration is that a lot of people on this thread think that having kids is selfish, period, end of story. No self-contemplative consideration of the "other side", their "side". Which strikes me as very glass-housy and stone-throwy.

Stoneweaver said what I would have liked to, far better than I could have.

There have been lots of infertility here on threads on MeFi over the years. Invariably, a participant will announce to the group that anyone who opts for IVF, IUI or any other type of infertility assistance is selfish. The reason typically cited is "millions of existing children who need adoption." In January, there was a thread discussing the denial of fertility treatment to women who smoke or are obese. Infertility in women is rarely caused by lifestyle factors, (and a primary cause of infertility in women: PCOS, can cause obesity) but that didn't stop people from enthusiastically endorsing the institutionalized shaming of women for something that can be beyond their control.

The people who have commented in this thread are understandably frustrated by a society that consistently shames them and portrays them as self-absorbed for being childfree. The only reason they're let off the hook is if they are *unable* to have kids. So yes, they may respond in kind out of anger or as a defense mechanism. Or, they could be as shallow as those who are casting them in a bad light. Who knows? People like to cast blame, and they like to sit in judgement of others. IMO, we should rise above that. I don't think the comment you're referring to is right, either. But characterizing either decision as selfish is problematic.
posted by zarq at 7:33 AM on August 6, 2010


They don't want to change diapers

I'm convinced that some of my child-free friends are utterly terrified of poop (and they may have a reasonable point.)

I had a real interesting conversation with a woman who, with certainty, proclaimed it was absolutely wrong to have children. Most of her line of thinking was along kozad's:

I just think the world is going to be a very difficult place to live in fifty years from now, and I would not want to bring someone into the world to experience the dystopia I envision, despite the present joy of life in human form.

Admittedly, that's a viewpoint with which I sympathize. It really was the biggest reason why I didn't want to have children and why I'm scared for my daughter's generation--climate change, toxic overload, and nuclear war are only three of a million possible disaster scenarios for the future.

Her other arguments were along the lines of: there's too many people anyway; and there are lots of kids without homes, both true. These ideas did hold sway as well.

However, what it came down to for me were two questions: 1) do you think the human race should give up and quit? (echoes of Pynchon and Hereros swirling in my brain)? 2) would you want to be created at this time and place (if you had a choice?).

My answers were eventually no and yes (though I struggle with #1 daily).

I once had a friend who hated life. He drank too much and injured himself on purpose. He was usually depressed and swore he would never bring another life into this world. He eventually killed himself. He should not have had children, and he didn't.

For the rest of us, those who think that life is more good than bad, it's still not an easy choice. Ultimately, it's no one's business but the individuals involved, even right down to our last two people on Earth.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:28 PM on August 6, 2010


now this kind of thinking is what does have me thinking (when I do actually seriously contemplate my childless state) about things like maybe one should have a child ... its the logical stuff including the gene pool aspect, jokes apart, but not the instinctive unthinking maternal urge type of thinking. I fear in the low probability event I did end up having a child it would very much be a rational intellectual decision (and 20 year commitment) than anything less fuzzy...
posted by infini at 2:35 PM on August 6, 2010


Conversational snippets between two African women

From Mywage Madalitso Kateta in conversation with Muza Gondwe:

Last born in a family of three children and leading a successful single life, Gondwe believes that the social pressure on girls to be raised for marriage and child bearing has been a major cause of many young girls’ academic failure.“The general feeling in many African societies is that girls have to be raised to be married and have children. However, the world is changing and we need to move away from this perception that sees women as baby-making machines,” she said.

Continuing she indicated that:

“We are living in a changed society and we have to accept the reality that marriage is not for everybody. We have to move away from cultural and traditional principles that girls have to marry and have children, to a society where girls are able to make their own decisions based on what they aspire to be in life,” she said.

posted by infini at 3:56 AM on August 11, 2010


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