Case Against Children
One of my junior high school teachers asked us, as an exercise, to draw up our personal timelines for life. I dutifully predicted the dates when I would graduate from college, get married, have my first child, have my first grandchild, and retire.
But something went wrong. Here it is more than 40 years later, and I'm still unmarried and childless. I haven't followed the master plan.
That's probably a good thing. I was always an introvert, and I realized in my teens that not only was I socially shy, I did not even like children. I decided that I would be happier living by myself. So far, I haven't regretted that choice.
Should You Emulate Me?
Obviously, the childless choice isn't for everyone. If we all lived for ourselves and did nothing to propagate the species, the human race would soon become extinct.
But there seems to be no danger of that. In fact, the world is overpopulated with humans. Food, water, and other essentials are in short supply in many areas. Which is more important, to reproduce or to preserve the planet?
We have accomplished the former. We have been fruitful and multiplied. We have taken dominion over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
Now we have a new imperative, to keep the earth habitable for future generations.
There are many little steps that we can take to help save the environment. Given two choices, we can select the less polluting one. However, any small choice that I may make on my own has only a tiny impact on the planet as a whole.
Also, some conservation strategies are contradictory. I can install a bank of solar cells to generate my own electricity, but the manufacturer of those cells uses more energy than I'm likely to generate. I can save dishwashing water by using paper plates, but I can save a tree and landfill space by not using paper plates. Which is better?
All these little measures pale compared to the one big step that I've taken, a step that accomplishes far more than all the little steps combined:
I haven't had any children.
No sons and daughters of mine are out there using up the planet's land, water, fuel, and other resources. More importantly, my non-existent 2.3 children are not producing 5.3 grandchildren and 12.2 great-grandchildren and 30.0 great-great-grandchildren. By remaining childless, over the next century I will have saved 50 times as much of the earth's resources as I will use in my entire life!
RESOURCE-CONSUMING PEOPLE PER GENERATION
I'm proud of this environmental accomplishment, although it was an unintentional byproduct of my distaste for kids.
Pros and Cons
Now I don't have anything against kids per se. They are necessary for the survival of the human race, and it's not their fault that they're so childish.
(I was a kid myself once. I was an only child. That meant that I lived in an adult world. I felt that I should act like an adult. When I caught myself behaving childishly, I was embarrassed.)
There are undoubtedly benefits to parenthood. Some people get great enjoyment from successfully raising a family and passing on their experience and knowledge to their offspring.
There can even be economic benefits. It used to be that adolescent children were a source of cheap labor to help out in the family business, do chores around the farm, or work in the fields. It is still true that grown children can support their parents late in life.
But nowadays, on balance, American children are an economic burden on their parents. Each represents a huge lifetime expenditure in food and clothing and college tuition.
Also, especially when they're young, children require an enormous share of their parents' time.
Some of my co-workers, the ones who have recently had children, confirm that parenthood really does change your life. The kid takes over your life. The kid is king. Everything revolves around his welfare instead of your own interests.
Particularly if you're a working mother, those childish needs often demand that your very career be put on hold.
New Parents on TV
Because I work in the television industry, I note with amusement how television comedies deal with the arrival of a new baby.
During sitcom pregnancies, the story lines revolve around how the adults are preparing for the birth. There are usually episodes dealing with Lamaze classes or the expectant mother's discomfort. Finally, the big day comes; all the adults rush off to the hospital in great excitement, and there's much oohing and aahing over the new infant. Then, starting with the next episode, the baby virtually disappears. He's asleep upstairs somewhere, while the adults get back to doing interesting adult things with their adult friends. That's not the way it works in real life, people!
Unfortunately, a show that tries to depict parents dealing full-time with their infants, such as Mad About You, is no longer funny. We once enjoyed the characters as independent, active, interesting adults, but they are no longer the same people. Now they're tangled up in diapers.
Plaudits to Parents
If you're not like me, if you are selfless enough to truly love your children and turn your whole life over to them, then more power to you! The world needs parents like you.
However, rather than creating children of your own and adding to the planet's burden, it might be better to adopt children that already exist.
And remember what Bob Barker says. Protect the planet. When you bring your newly adopted children home, don't forget to spay or neuter them.
No, that's a bad joke. That goes too far. Your offspring should of course have the opportunity to choose for themselves between parenthood and childlessness.
Just be sure that they know that there's no shame in choosing not to be a parent.