Thursday, August 13, 2009

Here we go...

Normally, this isn't something I would post on the blog, for fear that it might be misintepreted.

So I offer this disclaimer:

I am neither advocating nor rejecting the claims in this article. Instead, I am attempting the impossible: to present the article without my opinions attached. I will tell you this - there are parts I agree with, and parts I don't (oh shoot, I already ruined it, didn't I?)

Just read it, and see what you think. Just by reading the title, I am sure some of you are already gasping and calling me names. I hope not. Mostly, I am just interested in this conversation on having and not having children. And I am interested in the way society treats this issue. If you are too, take a read. If you want to punch me, please reconsider.

The Case Against Having Children - Anne Kingston - "Maclean's Magazine"

*And one more disclaimer - if you are a mother, I respect and admire you. You are doing something amazing and selfless everyday. I promise, I just like the conversation.


ashleyalvina said...

haha...much like my most recent conversational exploration on 'afterthoughts' - i seriously love how much you buffered this :) isn't it great that we have to be so dainty when talking about things like (*GASP!*) marriage and (*SHOCK AND AWE*) babies and (*REPENT YOU SINNER!*) offering different opinions than the norm? Not even different opinions necessarily, just the willingness to discuss that MAYBE there are some people who don't fit into our tiny cultural boxes.

sheesh. sorry about that rant.
please still be my friend, even though I don't fit into a tiny box.


kschafer said...

I think it's a good conversation, but it seems silly that it has to be such a debate. If people want to have kids (like myself) that is awesome. If people don't, then they probably shouldn't. It is okay to have other priorities and if you do, you probably shouldn't have kids because aside from your marriage (if you're married), kids do have to be your priority. People should be supportive either way-people generally know themselves well enough to make up their own minds over such an important decision. I know lots of couples who don't plan to have kids and although their lives will look different than mine, I don't see anything wrong or unnatural with choosing that path.

Ang said...

I've been thinking about how to comment for a bit this evening. I have to admit that I have judged in the past when people have told me that they will never have kids. In my mind it was like the equivalent of saying "I'll never join facebook"...we'll see about that. I guess I am in the "never say never" camp. However I think that it makes perfect sense that not everyone should have to be a parent.

Maybe the reaction is a little bit of jealousy? Like.. "hey wait, we have a choice?"

We always were taught that "first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the baby carriage" right? Or maybe it was something about kissing in a tree, I sort of forget :)

Really I think having the option is such a new thing. Our grandmothers certainly didn't have a choice when it came to reproduction. And most of the women around the world still don't either.
We are the lucky ones, with money, and education, and supportive spouses, and equal rights.
We (meaning the women that will enter this conversation, not speaking for all women in our neighbourhoods) have way more opportunity and freedom to choose what our lives will hold then women anywhere (ever?)

I wonder if our knee jerk reaction to the kid-less has to do with the taboo of talking about money. It's like we assume a women not choosing kids must be choosing career. So her telling people that not having kids is her life decision is like saying "I want to have the good stuff, and never have to care for anyone else."

This is why the rest of us look at her in envy. For some crazy reason, we know we will have kids. We know we won't be able to resist them. We know we won't have the good stuff and that we will have to give up our lives every day.
We will live in the hurt of that much love and so much to lose.

I say "Lucky bitch" to her. :)

Lindsay said...

Thanks for posting this Sharelle.

If I’m being honest. My initial reaction to this article was feelings of irritation. I became emotional – which was a red flag for me in and of itself – so I needed to take some time to set my emotions aside and think about it rationally ☺ No one needs to be judged…yet it is SO easy for our heart to go to that place. Well mine anyways. I’m going to do my best as not being a “judger” while explaining my thoughts…

Personally, I have always wanted to be a mom. I can say with all honesty that being a mother is what I, let me repeat, what I have been made to do. But, that is just me. Not everyone. Just like I wouldn’t want you to judge me for what I believe I’m not going to sit here and judge you.

So I started to think about WHY I was feeling so irritated with the article and this topic. I disagree with some of the article but I do agree with some of it. However, if I’m being honest (again)...I feel sad for people who don’t have children. As a daycare teacher I spend my days with children who are 1 – 5 years old and they bring so much laughter and life to me. I guess I just wish that for everyone. But, as I kept thinking…I was able to recognize that not everyone enjoys being around children like I do. Yes, some days they drive me crazy and I feel like I’m going to loose my mind if I hear any more whining…but they are constant reminders of the joy and life, I believe, God wants in our lives. They haven’t yet been wounded and hurt by life experiences and each day they demonstrate unconditional love and acceptance in a way that is so easy for us adults to forget.


Are these good enough reasons for me to believe that “all people should have/want children?” No.
Again, because I work with children and their families I have learned over the past few years that not everyone should have children. I didn’t used to believe this. I used to believe that all people should have children and I was, hate to say it, a person her judged (gasp!) those who chose differently.

Lindsay said...

My thoughts continued..

Going beyond the article I think the question here should not be “is it okay for people to choose to not to have children?” but “what are your reasons for wanting/not wanting to have children?”

I think if we ask ourselves “why do I want or not want children?” we might be surprised with our responses. For many years, even with my longing to be a mom one day, I was TERRIFIED by the idea of carrying a child in my stomach for 9 months, the pain and anguish of labor, and then being totally responsible for a little being. Would I be able to do it? Would I fail? What if I failed them? What if they grew up and didn’t like me? How will I know how to be a “good parent?” As I’ve taken a look at each of these questions I have been able to expose the real truths behind my fears. I’ve had to learn, and be okay with, that when I’m a parent I’m not going to know how to handle every situation, I’m going to make mistakes, I’m going to let my child (and myself) down, I’m going to make some serious sacrifices. But, for me, I believe that if I am able to communicate with my children in a real and genuine way perhaps being a parent won’t be quite as scary as I once thought. I want to be able to admit to my mistakes (something my parent’s weren’t able to do) and say I’m sorry (again, my parents not so great at this), to let my children know I don’t “know” everything (oh, I’m sensing a trend here…not my parents), honor my child’s feelings (even when it hurts me), and teach them the best way I know how.

Just like God doesn’t call each of us to be married….God doesn’t call all of us to be parents. But, before you decide – one way or another – I challenge you to dig deep and ask “Why do I want/not want children?” Be honest with yourself…don’t just do what “society” tells us is supposedly right!

Let’s also not allow ourselves to be affected by the “judgers” walking around in our world. When I’m confident in my choices I am able to choose to disregard stupid comments made by people who are trying to tell me I should live differently. I don’t even take the time to defend myself to people who have already judged me…have a conversation with people who actually care to have a DISCUSSION (like this), yes…but judgers…they don’t get my time.

Hope this blabber makes sense…sometimes my head has too much in it that I’m not able to get the information out and into sentences properly ☺

kate said...

so i don't agree with everything in this article obviously but i completely agree that you shouldn't have kids just because of the social pressure your because of some vain reason like, "our kids will be so beautiful." that's what will solve the problems in this world, more good-looking people.

it frustrated me that they didn't mention there are other things you can do with your life that are equally noble to having children.

I'm certainly not anti-children or anti-family but as a twenty-five year old single woman I do appreciate this discussion.

Tyler said...

Sharelle, you certainly did decide to pick an emotionally charged issue to throw out there into the bloggosphere.

I don't think I have much to add to the current comment conversation here as it pertains to whether or not a couple/individual ought to be able to choose not to have a child without fear of public shaming (I think most of us are in agreement that they should). I would like to add a few comments on the article itself and how we might frame this discussion from a 'proper' perspective.

I wonder if Kingston could have chosen some more constructive (and intelligently articulated) proponents of the 'child-free' choice? Am I really going to listen to someone who frames their decision in such self-centred language: "my career, my finances, my lifestyle and my independence"? This is not to suggest that there is something intrinsically wrong with this approach, but it doesn't work with me (and I'll tell you why soon). Furthermore, are they really going to convince me that having less (or no) children is the socially responsible thing to do, that this choice will lead to "less unemployment, less congestion, fewer wars"? Suddenly children have gone from being a blessing to a threat to the environment, the economy and the future well-being of humanity? If you think these people are being facetious, let me tell you that there are actually studies being done to measure the extent to which having children impact a person's 'carbon-footprint'. Is this how we choose to understand childbirth: as a ecological threat?

How then ought we to understand childbirth and parenthood Tyler? Thanks for asking; let me give you some suggestions.

I would tend to frame this issue in the context of love. On the question of 'independence' (ie. the loss of it from having children), I would suggest that as a married man I have already chosen against unmitigated independence. Every time I look at that shiny piece of metal on my third finger I am reminded that for the sake of love I have chosen to restrain such independence. So let's be honest, independence isn't necessarily the greatest good (if you think it is, then you've likely made the right choice in not having children).

What does 'having children' involve? It starts with the most incredible even that could possibly take place: new life begins. It amazes me that when a child is conceived the universe is forever changed, someone who previously didn't exist now exists. If we are discussing an irreversible, universe altering act of creation, how can we frame this discussion in the terms laid out in Kingston's article?
What does child-rearing involve? As I see it, it involves sharing in the formation and growth of a dynamic, unique person. It involves the proliferation of love. Love, by its very nature, is both inclusive and pro-creative; that is to say, it grows and expands as it seeks to welcome and embrace others. I love my wife, and our love is such that it will grow, both inwardly between ourselves and outwardly towards others. Raising a child involves (at its very core) the inculcation of unlimited, unqualified love.

Since I am framing this discussion within a paradigm of love, let me also say that love requires that I respect the views and thoughts of others. Discussion and dialogue are always the best way to deal with such questions. I ask you, whether you want to have children or not, how should we understand children: as little miraculous gifts of love or as little ticking ecological and economical time-bombs? Most of the arguments put forth in this article don't seem to deal with the reality of being a human being, they don't address the deeper issues. Let's address those issues.

A good friend of mine once said that the unexamined life is a life not worth living (a little bit harsher than I'd phrase it); let's examine our lives and our deeper motivations for having or not having children. Thanks Sharelle!