Your life is not a possession that children will destroy, ladies.
The childless by choice movement has taken thirty-somethings by storm and is now trickling down to women in their 20s, single or otherwise, as soon as they see their life as a possession that children destroy.
I can’t even count the number of articles I’ve seen on this topic, most recently this one, in which the author names a few basic reasons why she is confident she’ll never want kids, with the grand conclusion that her personal happiness is most important — and that children put that happiness in dire danger. The piece went viral, and it’s far from the first proud declaration against procreation.
Don't get me wrong: I’m thrilled women are able to separate their feminine worth from their desire and ability to bear children.
That’s a huge step for social progress. But I’m afraid it’s taken us in the wrong direction. The reasons these women are touting — sacrificing sleep, money and time, to name a few — don’t defend a woman’s right to be childless, they defend a woman’s right to be selfish. And this push for preserving "self" above all else takes us down a dangerous path — one that's not particularly safe for the individual and one that will surely lead to deterioration for society as a whole. We live in a culture where personal freedom and comfort have gone from privileges to our top priorities. We've long lost the beauty of sacrifice.
I can’t promise that you'll be happier if you have children, but I can promise you this: if you only live a life of self, if you continue to cherish personal freedom and protect everything you "deserve" over giving of yourself to others, you won't thrive. The sacrifices you make when you have children are things you need to exercise to be a person of value — from a quality employee to a reliable friend, and especially a loving spouse.
Thinking only about what’s good for you won’t lead to a happy life.
Why? Because that life lacks love and true love requires selflessness and sacrifice. Giving of your own life for the flourishing of another isn’t subservient, backward thinking. It isn’t "toxic" as pop-psychology often calls it. No, it’s more like heroism. It’s Harry Potter, the Iron Giant, Frodo Baggins... a glimpse of Jesus Christ on the cross. We love these characters because their complete personal sacrifice is so exceptional. Reflections of that type of sacrifice toward your colleagues, community, friends, and family are part of a life full of love.
No, women don’t need to have kids. But I argue that for a fulfilled life, you do need to participate in something that requires the curtailing of your freedom, desire and personal needs. Giving birth is the most tangible way to do this but it’s by no means the only way. It’s absolutely within your realm of choice and privilege to not literally give birth to life. But if it’s not through procreation, then please, for the sake of the world my children will live in, please find other ways to give life to others.
Engage in something that prevents you from being the permanent center of your universe. Your psychologist might be encouraging it but the "do what’s best for me" thing is new. Participating in the flourishing of others is as old as time and more gratifying, productive and powerful than years of uninterrupted sleep and complete personal freedom.
Yes, bearing, loving and raising children has turned my life upside down.
I’ve lost myself, my freedom and been utterly confused about my purpose. Amazing things tend to do that to you, shake you so hard that you drop everything and have to find it all over again and put it back in a better place. No one enjoys getting up at 3AM to a crying baby, wiping someone’s else’s butt, or worrying about the financial strain that surrounds giving our kids a good education.
This “child by choice” movement seems to insinuate we’re unaware of the work, slaving away like 50s housewives with no other option. Quite the opposite: We’re working for something bigger than the moment. We’re sacrificing now for the future. We’re giving life to someone else, often for their benefit over our own. That’s not delusional; it’s beautiful.
This rant illustrates my point exactly. Yes, she has every right to not have children, but there are good reasons to not have children and these simply aren’t them. She’s giving, self-admittedly, a spoiled and selfish explanation of why she won’t have kids and disguising it as social progress.
It makes surface sense to apply this author’s "I don’t want to get out of my comfort zone" feelings toward children because no one wants to see children with a mother who’s not willing to nurture them, and so we cheer her on. But truth be told she’s going to have to confront these issues any time she wants something worth hard work.
I’ve heard a lot of touching stories about people passing on their life advice on their deathbeds, or while dealing with a terminal diagnosis. Here’s one I’ve never heard:
I wish I had more time to myself in my thirties, had more nights partying and fewer family dinners. Gosh darnit why’d I spend that cash on my son's 4th birthday party instead of another pair of Jimmy Choos? And dammit, if I had only gotten more sleep and touched less people with my nurturing and compassion. If only I had sacrificed less and hoarded more. If only I had the love of less people.
It’s so very 28 of us to want what we want when we want it.
You sound bold and brazen at 28 but what about 82? You think you’re making a grand, feminist choice. You think you’re saying that you, in all your liberated thinking, have risen above a decade of wiping butts and cleaning highchair trays and vacuuming mini vans, that you’re wise enough to escape the lifetime of worry and burden that children saddle you with.
But what you’re really saying is that you’re an island, the only one worth serving, that your offspring are not worth your blood, sweat and tears. Which is your call to make. Just make sure you find something that is worth it. Because blood, sweat and tears? That’s what life is all about.