Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Ever since TIME magazine published an article about how great it is not to have kids, women on both sides of the fence have been chipping with their two cents (or twenty dollars, depending on the article).

One of these opeds I found particularly entertaining and borderline offensive. Jill Filipovic began her article attacking conservative women for having the audacity to think children are a blessing and joy to have in the home.

According to Filipovic, having children is selfish and mean because how dare you impose your religion and principles on others?!

At one point, the author even went so far as to compare childrearing with eating sushi or skydiving, just another adventure to try that may not work for everyone. While I agree not everyone is meant to be a parent, I would argue that the decision to raise a child moves beyond deciding where to have dinner on Saturday night. 

Then there's the argument that children don't belong in the world because potential parents might abuse them.

Romanticizing parenthood as beautiful and life-affirming obscures the reality that for many kids, a "parent" is someone who physically hurts them, belittles them, damages them or makes them feel small and worthless. Compulsory parenthood doesn't just limit those of us who are agnostic about having kids or don't want them at all; it breeds resentment and anger toward children, who are ultimately innocent in their parents' decision to bring them into the world.

Again, while I would never deny the existence of child abuse, that is no argument for parents who want children to not have them. While parenthood is often frustrating, painful, and requires sacrifice, it can still be "beautiful and life-affirming" at the same time. That's what parenthood is. It's hard, it sucks, and it's the most rewarding experience a person can have.

And by the way, I would be very curious to hear more about this "compulsory parenthood" that is being forced upon women like Jill. In my opinion, women in the United States are being pushed in the very opposite direction as we push for HPV vaccines on younger and younger girls and tell junior high students they don't need parental consent to get an abortion. 

On a side note, I have to ask: where are the men in these conversations? No one (on either side of the issue) has directly addressed the idea that the men in these relationships might have an opinion. Personally, my husband and I have made every decision of our marriage together, including the decision to put off having kids. 

To me, this is such a very vital part of the equation. Obviously, we women need our man's consent to carry his offspring, but more than that, we need a partner to share the load. 

No lies here. Kids are hard work. The long nights, the diapers, and the play dates all take their toll. At some point or another, you are guaranteed to look like a zombie with a killer hangover. This is where husbands are so useful. You made a human being together, so the responsibility of training up that being in the way he should go is yours together. Even just the responsibility of making sure Jr. lives through the terrible twos can be a nightmare, but at least you don't have to go it alone. 

Beyond the sanity of mommies, children need their fathers. Study after study has argued the importance of both parents in lives of their children. Kids with two parents inevitably do better in school than those with single moms and dads. Those same kids also miss out on important emotional and psychological opportunities. The instability and inconsistency that follows divorce or other instances of single parenthood can often result in trauma for children (especially younger kids). 

 This doesn't mean everyone should just stop having kids (like this guy), rather we should step up to the plate and take responsibility for well being and growth of our children. I don't have children right now, but I grew up in a family of seven, and I understand the importance of a stable environment. While many question my parents' choice to have so many children and there are days keeping them all in line is tough, I know my parents love us and consider us a huge blessing. 

Miss Filipovic may have been well intentioned in calling parents who choose to have large families selfish, but in my opinion, choosing to bring a life into the world and raise that child to adulthood is perhaps the least selfish thing a person can do. Parents are daily (and even hourly) laying down their lives for their children.

I would agree with Filipovic that "making choices that center on our own needs and desires isn't selfish. It's radical. It's transformational." ...............until you're about 18. 

Right about then, the world somehow ceases to revolve around what you want and starts telling you to grow up. If you're lucky, this process starts much sooner.

Miss Filipovic, I will not judge you for choosing to remain childless, especially here in America, that choice is up to you. But do me a favor and don't make the mistake of thinking everyone with more than one kid hates you for being different.