Apparently it is now selfish and self-centred not to want to have children (see comments section here – it was amusing to watch Jai’s casual comment on a dog’s ugliness escalate into people comparing other people to Nazis for not thinking that wanting a child automatically makes one a saint). It would be alright if this was one individual being her/his usual, egregiously stupid self, but that is, rather sadly, not the case.
Most people I know can’t quite understand why someone might not want to have a child. Before I tried explaining it to a surprisingly large number of people, I didn’t think this was very hard to comprehend:
- I don’t want to have children.
- I have no wish to be mired in a mindboggling number of dirty diapers (I tried to count once, but it was inhuman, the continuous flow of warm, smelly wetness).
- I can’t really tolerate the personified-human-ego phase of children for more than … say … five seconds.
- I don’t like teenagers.
- And I don’t. Effing. Want to. Have children.
I don’t think wanting to have an actual life is particularly selfish. After all, these same people don’t berate me for not doing social work, or for being a consumer. But children – apparently the only way one can be a true person is by having children.
But why does anyone want to have children anyway? For their personal increased happiness. For the feeling of achievement (in the absence of any other) of having brought another human being into the world and for having raised it to a certain socially determined age without having it break down … too much, at least. For transferring their own stunted emotional growth, combined with that of another such person, into a new creature made for that express purpose so that one day they might stand back and say, “There, now how does that make you feel?”
How is any of that selfless? It’s not as if the yet-to-be-conceived child is actually clamouring to be born. It doesn’t give a fuck.
So essentially, I think that the burden of explanation should be with those who want children, rather than those like me who do not. And I think it should be a damn good explanation at that.
But no. Apparently, it is some sort of gift to humankind when someone brings a child into a world that is overpopulated and undernourished. As if the earth itself, while dividing its already deficient rations into even smaller parts, is going to praise you for having had the monumental courage to have … erm … shagged without a Johnny.
It would be different if I was a woman. Then, all of the above would still be true, but at least I would have had the firmness of resolve to go through it even with the knowledge that I would have to break my back for nine months and then push a 6-to-8-pounder out of an opening which is, well, smaller. That, while still selfish, is at least an achievement. But something I do? No.
Around the time my sister had her baby (which, if you’re curious, is where I get my experience of dirty diapers from), I thought this stuff through to the extent that it would be relevant to my own personal life. My niece is a gorgeous little kid, and it is one of the biggest concepts in my life that she is going to be a person someday – an entire person. What my sister is doing sounds monumental to me, and I admire the hell out of her for that. But taking full responsibility for another human being is a daunting task, and the returns for that seem not entirely worth the risk.
It’s going to be demanding, it’s going to take up your life, and, with a very few exceptions, your child is not going to be as successful as you want it to be, and it is, most probably, going to love at least one of you less than you think it should. That, frankly, smacks of masochism to me.
But once you have done it, you can’t escape the consequences – having a child means that you have responsibility over its life. You have brought it into the world, and it is your duty to make sure that it fares as well as it possibly can. Anything less is at best negligence and at worst a crime. I love my niece, but that is a choice. This choice wouldn’t be available to me when I have my own child. I love my niece all the more because I have a choice not to. My child having a father who doesn’t want to love it is not an idea I’d like to entertain.
So, since I see nothing beneficial to anyone in particular in my having a child, I have chosen not to. To interpret this as my being scared of responsibility would be, while not quite wrong, rather simplistic. I just think this is not something to be taken as lightly as I see it being taken. It is not a pretty sight. One would think that people would learn from their own experiences of being a child, but most seem to block it out, which is perhaps an ancient defense mechanism of our genes to make us perpetuate them.
But most people dismiss my opinion with one ghastly sentence: “That’s what you think now.” I know that, but for some reason they think they know more about what I will think in the future than I do. Their rather sublime explanation is that I am too immature for this, because I don’t want to have children. One would imagine the fact that I have thought about it rather than accepting it as my sacred duty because people tell me it is would count for something.* Apparently not.
[ * Better put by a commentor on Aishwarya’s LJ, what they are really saying is “mindless conformity is what adulthood is all about!” ]
All this argument does is remind me of the religious nitwits who, in their inimitable and simplistic patronising manner, assure me that I am not actually an atheist, I just think I’m one.