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The Case Against Children
Written October 7, 2002


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.


“So when are you — stop it, Tyler — when are you gonna have — Tyler, no! — when are you gonna have kids?”

—Alex Baze online, May 3, 2015

“If humans could walk the day they were born, no one would have babies.  Infants are only tolerable because they're immobile.”

—Virginia Montanez online, May 23, 2017 

“I've never been crazy about kids.  They're like small drunk adults.”

—“Phil” in NBC series Ed, March 27, 2002


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!


I'm proud of this environmental accomplishment, although it was an unintentional byproduct of my distaste for kids.


I was thinking of fairness the other day when considering my next car purchase. I figure I need to do my part to conserve energy. I considered buying a fuel-efficient car that would give me no joy whatsoever. It’s the fair thing to do. We all need to pitch in.

Then I remembered I’ve never procreated. That’s a huge energy savings. When you create new humans, they start leaving the lights on, driving, eating, pooping, and doing all sorts of energy-inefficient things. By not creating any new humans, I’m saving a huge amount of energy!

I walk to work. That saves a lot of fuel too. If you consider my total energy drain on the planet, I could own a small fleet of gas-guzzlers and still be greener than 95% of the citizens of the United States. That seems fair to me.

—Scott Adams, "The Dilbert Blog," April 27, 2007


Now that we’ve had “Mother’s Day” and “Father’s Day,” let’s set aside this Sunday to celebrate people who are neither, with a new holiday called “I Didn’t Reproduce Day.”

There’s literally nothing you can do that’s better for the environment that to not produce another resource-sucking, waste-making human being, probably with a bad attitude.   You can do it all — you can get the hybrid car, do the recycling, not throwing batteries in the trash — it all adds up to a fraction of the good it would do to have just one less child, because that child increases your carbon legacy by over 9,000 tons.

And let me be clear:  I get it; lots of people love kids.   I am not saying there’s anything wrong with having a small number of children.  There’s not a moral dimension to it.  It’s just your taste.  I don’t have kids for the same reason you do: because that’s what each of us wants.

Everyone is so used to “married with children” being the norm that nobody noticed that single people are actually the majority now.  In August 2014 the unmarried for the first time surpassed the married in sheer numbers.

And yet we still remain a somewhat suspect group, somehow incomplete.  Whenever we’re at a party, people always feel free to tell us how good it would be to get married and have a kid.  But somehow it’s rude if I say, “And you know what, you guys should totally get divorced!”

When you’re childless, people love to tell you, “You have to have a baby!”  But you don’t have to.  You have to have car insurance.  Remaining single isn’t for everyone, but it’s a perfectly rational decision.

Stop asking a woman why she isn’t married or why she doesn’t have children.  She doesn’t owe you an explanation.  You owe her 9,000 tons of carbon.

—Bill Maher, "Real Time," June 23, 2017


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.)

So if you absolutely have to have kids, make it just one.  Contrary to popular belief, the life of an only child is generally happy.  See here.

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.



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