Over the years I have gotten into it with a lot of parents about my desire to not have children. The conversations all go pretty much the same. They ask me when I am going to start a family and when I tell them that I don’t want to start a family they tell me that I am being selfish.
When I was younger I thought that their comment was a slag on me, that I was somehow less of a human being because I had thought about the consequences of having children and made the decision that it wasn’t something that I wanted. As I get older and start to see the first wave of divorces in my peer group, I feel more comfortable with my stance. It is also very clear that any person who tells me that I am selfish for not having children has either found the right partner, has always wanted kids or is trying to justify their own child creating actions by getting others to do the same.
If you have the right partner, the desire to be a parent and the resources to afford it go ahead and start a family. If you are missing one of these three things, don’t.
First off, individuals of our species are able to effectively cold read a lack of love between two people. When you have children with the wrong person, the child is able to pick up on it and will learn this to be the normal dynamic between two people. This lesson will be carried with them into adulthood and may lead them to choose partners that help them to facilitate the same loveless experience.
If you end up getting divorced, the lives of your children become more difficult. There is plenty of research out there indicating the single parent families can result in well adjusted children, often better adjusted than children in a loveless two parent household, but there is also the undeniable finding that the environment changes in a way that eliminates many of the advantages of a loving two parent household.
Next, if you do not want children but end up having them, you better be able to want them unconditionally because they will pick up any feelings of contempt. Contempt is very much like the universal emotion disgust that all human beings are capable of feeling and reading on other peoples faces. To develop optimally, children need unconditional support and love from their primary care givers. Feelings of contempt immediately add conditions of behavior to the feeling of love that children may not be able to satisfy. While it may be appropriate for you to expect your partner to not find a frenzied excitement at the sound of pots banging together, this expectation is not going to be met when your 2 year old realizes that they can control the sounds in their environment by hitting two things together. You need to be proud of their discoveries and be very accepting of the fact that a young persons lessons about the world are often very destructive and disruptive.
Finally, while money is not necessarily a critical component in child rearing, having it does make life easier. The most highly taxed demographic in society tends to be that of the young family. (Okay, this isn’t entirely accurate, but young families need to spend more than child-free two person income households so a larger percentage of their after-tax income is already accounted for). The more money you have, the easier it will be to provide all the necessities and privilege that help to shape a well adjusted youngster. Having money will also allow you to maintain some of the quality of experience that you enjoyed before starting a family. Having children will shift your priorities, but having children shouldn’t mean the end of all the things you love doing. But it could if you don’t have the funds and have to choose between your gym membership or baby formula.
Given that the consequences for having children are life long, people should be spending as much time considering this decision as they spend thinking about their retirement. Buy accessories on an impulse if you like but plan your family and know what you are getting into before you begin.