Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Child free by choice

I come from a large family (on both sides). To give you an idea of just how large of a family, my grandmother (and chanson's) mentioned in a family e-newsletter that three of my cousins are currently expecting. One Aunt and Uncle are also expecting (this uncle was born in the late sixties/early seventies, same time as my oldest cousins were also being born. So there are multiple layers to every generation). Just one baby each (as far as we know! Ha!)

One of my cousins on the other side (my mom's side) is also expecting.

And I thought our last family reunion was huge!

I read an opinion the other day (dpc's) on one of my posts here that everyone who is physically and psychologically capable should have at least two children to replace themselves in the society. His argument is that it takes too long to try and assimilate people from other cultures/society into our own. And that each couple should replace themselves with another two people to continue the society. Otherwise, the theory is, society will disintegrate.

I disagree.

I don't feel that anyone owes any sort of debt to society where they should be forced to have children. Obviously, we all owe a great deal to our society and culture. But we shouldn't be required to have children to repay that debt.

This suggests a couple of assumptions:

1 - Our American/Western society is better than everyone else's and other societies/cultures are flawed. Yes, there are a lot of advantages to American/Western society. Women's rights. G_ay rights. Freedom of Religion. Education for everyone. Civil Rights, etc. But there are times when I'm not sure we're the best society. And who makes that call? Within the "western" societies, who can say if the Finnish or French or Canadian don't have a better, more supportive framework than Americans?

2 - I think the assumption that it takes immigrants longer and more money to assimilate is also flawed. As I've mentioned before, my great grandparents immigrated from Ukraine to Canada. While they never learned English (for various reasons), all their children (9) became very well-educated and/or successful in their own right. All have been prominent members of their communities. One uncle actually taught Ukrainian for years, and was invited back to Ukraine to teach Ukrainian (since it had been suppressed during Soviet times). Maybe there are immigrant communities that do not assimilate or share common values. But I think the vast majority do share those values (that's why they immigrate here/to the west in the first place).

3 - Thinking in terms of the environmental impact, each new child creates a new carbon footprint. I don't think that the entire child bearing decision should be based on the impact on the environment, but I think it should be considered. So if one person or couple decides to not have children, and thereby decreases the number of people stressing the environment - we should applaud that decision.

4 - This is also assuming that someone can only support/strengthen society through parenthood. This is not the case. What about all the teachers, social workers, volunteers, doctors, nurses, etc. that make sacrifices each day for fellow human beings? As a parent, I would not survive without the vast support system that I have - made up of just these people. I would not be a viable member of the community (either) if a support system hadn't helped raise me (in addition to my parents).

I just think that the decision to raise a child is an intensely personal one. It's incredibly time-consuming. It can be thankless. Who can say that the most attentive, giving parents don't end up with a child who is a burden to society (due to no fault of their own?) I think that it would be hard emotionally to have a parent/child relationship where the child knew - my parent didn't want to have me - they only wanted to fulfill their societal obligation.

I don't know how to send the message to my friends who choose not to be parents that I completely support that decision. I think that's great.

I think that if more people decided not to raise children (instead of abusing/neglecting those children) everyone would be better off.

I'm certainly not suggesting that someone who chooses not to have children would have neglected them.

But I feel we all benefit when these decisions are personal - not a requirement. And there are certainly many ways that everyone can support and give back to society without raising children.


C. L. Hanson said...

Given the carbon footprint of each new person, the amount of effort it takes to raise a child, and the fact that many foreigners would like to immigrate but it's hard to assimilate them, the truly responsible choice is obvious: instead of having kids, spend your energy and resources volunteering (or working) for schools or other social services for immigrants.

I don't think having two or three kids of your own is a selfish choice, but it isn't a selfless choice either, nor is it a responsibility.

Freckle Face Girl said...

When I hear that couples should replace themselves with at least 2 kids, it makes me think of skin heads. They are always trying to make sure that the US isn't taken over by "minorities." Crazy notions.

I agree with your post. Like you, I come from a large family (you probably know that). I love kids even though I don't want a lot of them. Having kids should be more about loving them & being able to take care of them. Some people are fine with 1 others do well with 10. Deciding not to have any can be tough, but for some it is best.