TO BREED OR NOT TO BREED: The Pros & Cons Of Having Kids vs. Not Having Kids
IN THIS EPISODE, we explore the biggest decision you can probably make in your life
We dive into parenthood, looking at the landscape of it in culture and in personal life.
We see how parenting has evolved from a social obligation to a personal choice.
And we lay out a list of reasons you just might want to skip the Parent aspect of a long term relationship
And reasons why you would want to embrace it.
On today’s episode we are breaking down one of the most important choices you can make in your life, and how it impacts your relationship and the world
This important choice is whether to become parents.
This might sound ominous, and it is a topic that instantly causes controversy, especially in family circles. Who hasn’t nervously sat through the “when are you having a baby” interrogation, innocently administered by everyone from strangers at the grocery store, to casual friends, to your own anxious parents?
So often, there’s this expectation when you are in a deep, committed relationship, that the next logical -and required- step is to start a family of your own.
It’s a social script. It isn’t a real requirement in life, and really it never has been. Sure, in the agricultural age or earlier, the more kids you had the better, so the choice became more enforced, and the expectation became codified through law or religion. But we live in a different age.
Higher standards in the world of health, education, and even the relative liberation of women’s roles in much of the world have brought about a Golden Age of baby-making. It used to be your child had a 1 in 5 chance to see adulthood. Nowadays it’s closer to a 1 in 5 chance that they won’t. Just since 1990 alone, the child mortality rate (under 5 years old) has halved, and the childhood survival trend is still growing. https://ourworldindata.org/child-mortality
All to say that a New Normal is here: Whereas the past dictated that we personally must procreate or humanity itself could face extinction, there are now enough people in the world, making enough babies, that we can truly see the wonders of parenthood as a personal choice we have the privilege of making, and not as a cultural obligation.
But we are just at that turnover point in history where that is becoming true, only in the last couple of generations has the personal idea that you could choose not to become a parent started to take hold, and there’s still plenty of stigma surrounding that choice.
Socially speaking, there really is a kind of dividing line between parents and non-parents. Parents normally seem to just assume that you want the same for yourself. And in social spheres, distance can grow quickly between friends who are parents and friends who are childless. This isn’t all due to conscious choices or some prejudice, a lot of it is logistical; lives become very different between the two groups. Priorities change, life-rhythms change…
Before we go further, I want to make clear that this isn’t a talk where we tell you you have to have a baby. We are also not telling you you shouldn’t have a baby. As usual, we strive for more nuance than that.
We are exploring the pros & cons of each choice, and illuminating both paths in an attempt to help clarify what each choice entails.
We honestly believe that this is a sacrosanct personal opinion, as important to the stability & health of your relationship as it could be for the stability & health of world.
Either is a path not to take lightly, and it isn’t for us to judge which is right for you. If you feel you’re at some sort of crossroads and have to weigh the options, we hope our little chat can help with that.
Getting started: THE PROS & CONS OF PARENTING: * Forget traveling! * I don’t mean the easy vacation, although that becomes harder too. * Talking about climbing the Himalayas, backpacking the amazon… * The risks are greater, and the cost is multiplied by having to bring kids (or not bring them, also a cost) * Just the logistics also get harder too. The baby seat, the potty breaks, the airplane trips… (train them way early, like 6 months or younger) * Harder to do an adult thing on a trip (like a cocktail in the lobby bar) if you have kids with you. * Caveat: it can be great to show kids the world, but it will be a lot harder and some stuff will be off-limits (lion safari? not kid friendly) * Career takes a backseat * especially women for stupid reasons (maternal expectations etc) * middle-age mothers are the most passed-over-for-promotions employee group (expectations of days-off requests, childcare issues etc). * Younger women are overlooked because they’re expected to take off on maternity leave * prejudiced & sexist, but it is what it is. If you start a family, expect some glass ceiling action.
* Watching your child develop is a miraculous experience * from the first time they open their eyes to when they get their first driver license or diploma, every step & milestone is a unique wonder * These are memories you’ll cherish forever * The physical warmth of being a parent is euphoric * from baby snuggles to adult hugs, it’s an emotional ride unlike any other
* Your Social Life “ENDS” (makes a dramatic metamorphosis) * childless friends still invite you to stuff you can no longer attend * Deep intelligent chats over a glass of wine with no interruptions? Nope * Over time, it’s likely that your social group will morph into parents-only (& neighbors at that) because they’re the ones most suited to be your friends, same logistics, regardless of what else you may have in common. * Alone Time becomes a thing of the past * babies crying, kids demanding attention throughout the day and well into the night. * If you enjoy privacy while spending time on the toilet, becoming a parent often whittles down that little moment of peace to almost nonexistent. * taking off time for oneself becomes a logistical improbability, even as it multiplies in necessity
* Lifelong companionship * Always a friend when grocery shopping * sharing unlike any other sharing * “who’ll take care of you when you’re old” * “Training” a child to become a conscious person helps you develop too * every new experience -the ocean, a carnival- is brand-new to them and can be new for you too * Teaching a child to be kind, hopeful etc can remind you to be the same.
* The EVER PRESENT state of parental anxiety * the nagging fear that you’re fucking up your kids * Am I being neglectful? Am I being too Helicopter? * Should I try to enforce healthy habits, or will it backfire & they rebel? * Do we let the kid play sports, even though there could be injuries? * Do they need more from me? Less from me? * Are their friends good or toxic? Am I toxic? * will they do drugs or engage in unhealthy stuff? * who’s that guy in the white van parked near the school? * Kid alone in the house, you constantly check on them * kids go on a weekend trip with friends, you go crazy for 2-3 days * The worry never seems to end. Some people say it’s what defines parenting * The end of a good night’s sleep * kinda related to the Constant Worry, some sleep loss for that * also, just normal: diaper changes, teething agony, nightmares, late night feeding, wanting to sleep in your room between the two of you… * It’s hard to imagine sleeping for more than a few hours until preschool starts
* Tax breaks! * you can get thousands in tax credits just because you’re a parent * I’m sure it doesn’t offset the costs of having a child but every bit helps * You & you partner evolve together * your life is no longer only yours * your relationship w your partner becomes about more than just you two * Not always the case, but in a healthy situation is quite likely * Helps keep arguments & differences in a larger perspective
* THE MONEY * From the moment they’re born they start to suck up your savings * diapers, day care, formula, clothes, flu shots, the right lunchbox, then the right shoes, then the right outfits, then sporting gear, braces, piano lessons, pizza with friends, field trips with the choir team…. * Raising the average American child to 18 costs $272,000. That’s more than the median cost of an American home https://www.investopedia.com/articles/personal-finance/090415/cost-raising-child-america.asp * this does not count college. College is another cool quarter-million * Amortized over time, the savings from not having a child can be huge. If responsibly invested, that 272K amount over 18 years could become more than a million dollars. https://www.budgetworksheets.org/invest/invest.php?amount=250,000 * People ask: “who will take care of you when you get older?” a million dollars gets you a decent amount of elderly care. People who are trained in dealing with elderly, and not “obligated” because they’re family. * And what about the physical impact bearing a child and then laboring to bring it into the world has on one’s body? * Stretch marks, swollen breasts, then saggy deflated breasts, and if you’re able and choose to nurse, you may have the great joy of dealing with cracked & bleeding nipples, breast milk needing to be pumped on the regular, and highly embarrassing leaks if you weren’t quite as on top of it as you had thought. * Speaking of nursing, (while amazing for the baby’s health and the connection you share with them), it also increase the depletion of calcium from the mother’s bones, so you may have osteoporosis to look forward to in later years. * Oh, and if you want to nurse but aren’t able to get the infant to latch or if you aren’t able to produce enough milk to sustain them, then you have the great joy of battling the shame of feeling like a “failure of a mother”. * Then there’re all the hormone changes, hair growth, hair loss, morning sickness, swollen ankles, the risk of high blood pressure, heartburn, loss of bladder control, potential tearing of your perineum if you have a vaginal birth, or the super fun scarring and recovery from having a cesarean. * And what about your relationship? Will having a child augment the magic you already share with a partner? Or will it change it completely and not for the better? Being parents is a TON of work and not every person, couple, etc. are built to withstand the strain, the stress, the energy, and resource heavy requirements that raising a child to adulthood entails.
* You become super-motivated * a friend once told me that having his son motivated him to excel in his business like no other thing ever did. * you’re responsible for the life of another human, so in most healthy situations, you’re really motivated to reach a higher level of success & stability so you can successfully raise the kid, if nothing else. * When you age, you won’t be alone * parenting 2.0 is being a grandparent, you get to replay the good parts without the risk or responsibility * when old age incapacitates you, others may be around to help you settle into your softer, slower life * A friend has told me that the end of life isn’t so scary anymore after having children, because something of her will continue
It’s wild how touchy this personal subject can be, like perfect strangers act as if they had a personal stake in the matter of you & your family plans.
Yeah, like it’s anyone’s business but that of you & your partner(s)
But ultimately, this is one of the most intimate & private choices you & your partner can make together
Elon Musk has stated concern about the lack of population growth in the modern world, says “population collapse” will be a problem not population explosion. Because of how it affects economics & industry.
It’s probable, but maybe a more childless future will be a thing society adjusts to, like we adjusted to every other change in the modern world.
Bottom line: If you have an innate, burning desire to become a parent, please do! Those are the kind of parents that are needed. Chances are you’ll be exemplary parents, and will get as much from your parenting experience as you give to it.
But if you don’t burn for it, and just feel you “should” be a parent for no reason other than it is vaguely expected, take a deep look inside. Your parents or friends passively harassing you, or the expectation of your church, culture, or society simply isn’t enough reason to embrace a journey as deep and life-changing as this one.
We have the privilege these days to truly consider whether that path is the right one for ourselves as individuals, and also as couples. Two partners need not necessarily become parents. Some people like their relationships just the way they are, without some huge metamorphosis changing everything.
We do. We like it just the way it is, and we personally envision ourselves happily growing old together without children, grandchildren, and all that. It’ll take conscious planning, and determination to live a satisfying life this way, but it would take the same if we decided to have children, because that is what any satisfying life requires.
If you’re thinking of having children because it’ll “help you stay together”, THINK HARD. This is a red flag and children do not fix relationships. Sometimes, children entrap you in relationships that never should’ve gone that long.
But if that pull to parenthood is natural in you, and you’ve thought deep & long about it, and both of you feel it is the much-desired next step, then good luck to you!
And if you choose not to become parents, we will see you on that around-the-world adults-only cruise!