About two years ago I had a reaction to an article that I read that criticized the increasing number of adults who are choosing to not have children. The author described childless couples as being self-absorbed, misguided, immature, and irresponsible. She wasn’t even sympathetic towards couples who are childless due to infertility issues because, in her opinion, these couples often focused on their careers or other personal goals during their reproductive years and are having infertility issues now as a result of waiting too long.
Although I’m glad that the author is passionate about the importance of her role as a dedicated mother, I was shocked at how disparaging she was towards people who made the choice to not bring children into the world. I very much support people, like the author, who know that they are destined to be a committed parent, but I don’t think it is fair to condemn individuals who are self-aware enough to know that they are not destined to be a parent.
Interestingly, if you research prominent individuals who have chosen to not have children you will find that an overwhelming majority of them are authors, actors, poets, psychologists, philosophers, anthropologists, and philanthropists. Perhaps thinkers, creators, entertainers, and helpers more often choose not to have children because their work has a fulfilling purpose that decreases their desire to have children; or perhaps they pursue purposeful work to compensate for the fulfillment that they have missed by not having children.
Should people who literally don’t enjoy being around children be made to feel guilty for not wanting to be a negative or resentful parent to an innocent child? Should people who teach or counsel or provide day-care for children be made to feel that the contribution that they are making by serving many children is less significant than if they were to raise their own children?
Parenting is the most important and sometimes one of the most challenging and rewarding jobs, but if a person’s instincts are telling them that having a child is not a part of the plan for them, for whatever reason, it is important to honour that decision. We all have an internal compass that guides us through life and helps us to make decisions that are right for us, regardless of what is right for others. We experience the most stress and unhappiness when we go against our own instincts and try to live out the expectations of society or the unfulfilled wishes of other people.
Parenting is a difficult, full-time, expensive, and life-long commitment that should not be taken lightly. There are over 9000 children in foster care and over 1000 children waiting to be adopted in BC; the divorce rate is just over 37%; 26% of children are raised in single parent families; over 50 % of children under the age of 5 years have to be in daycare.
I can’t see how it is helpful to pressure people into having children if it is not right for them, or to criticize people for making the conscious choice to not have their own children. I equally respect those who are doing the hard work parenting healthy and well-adjusted beings that will make our future better, and those who follow their instincts to not become a parent despite the pressures and expectations that often tell them otherwise. We all have different special purposes that allow us to leave a legacy in life -the trick is to find the one that is destined for you.