My husband wanted a baby.
Meanwhile, I literally had a whole list of reasons NOT to have a baby.
But in the interests of fairness, I interviewed and studied various parents. I came up a list of reasons why (other) people want children…along with reasons why those reasons are screwed up.
#1. RELIGION. Various religions have spent centuries insisting it’s God’s will that their congregations reproduce like rabbits. In Utah, for example, Mormon Elders are horrified when women talk about putting off marriage or childbirth. “But what about the poor souls in Heaven?” they ask. “You’re not thinking of the poor little souls just waiting for a body!”
Why, sure, Mr. Elder. And you’re not thinking about how the more your congregation procreates, the more money their progeny’s 10% tithes generate. (Fun fact: The LDS Church will actually bill their members based on their W2 forms.) And the evangelicals? Don’t get me started on how those pastors actively seek to expand their flocks and their control of their flocks by insisting on 19 kids and homeschooling.
Since I don’t believe in God or Heaven, though, I am unmoved by the supposed horror of spiritual traffic jams. Next.
#2. SECURITY (i.e., Medieval Social Security). This one is especially big in Chinese families. It’s expected that the son will take care of his aging parents, physically and financially. Even my Chinese-American husband Andy, who has a 401K, a pension, and a social security check waiting for him, has made comments about how a child would care for him in his old age.
But depending on your children is questionable. Even in a rule-following, age-respecting society like Japan’s, adult children dump their aging parents. Some grandparents even seek imprisonment to get shelter and food.
#3. SOCIETAL EXPECTATIONS That Motherhood Is the Highest Calling and All Women Shall Aspire to That Pinnacle of Womanhood. More medieval logic — the kind that coincides with keeping women away from the corridors of power and sometimes financial autonomy.
Modern women, armed with modern birth control, can pick their own pinnacles. Everyone else, shut up.
#4. LONELINESS. I know women who can’t stand being alone. They think that having a child will mean never being alone again. They have a point. A demanding child means you won’t even go to the bathroom alone for about 5 years.
Yet how entitled and repulsive to make your own child’s small presence responsible for your happiness. I suggest therapy instead.
#5. A SENSE OF PURPOSE. This was my mother. She was addicted to being pregnant and shepherding new life into the world. It’s a little (OR A LOT) like today’s conservatives, obsessed with the survival of All The Zygotes — until they leave the womb.
Once Mom’s kids were born, though, we grew up moderately feral, as she was too busy shepherding in the next new baby to get her kids to school. Or the doctor. (Notice again the parallels with the GOP’s slashing educational funding and medical insurance for children.)
#6. ENTRAPMENT. I hate, hate, HATE that I have to mention this one, because it wounds my liberated female soul, but I’ve seen it firsthand. One of my dance partners – an independently wealthy one – had a hookup deliberately get pregnant and get child support.
What a special scenario. Someday the kid asks, “Mommy, how was I made?” and she’ll get to answer, “Through greed, child.”
#7. GLORY DAYS. There are parents who’ve realized that their own dreams of greatness will never be realized. So these Sports Dads and Dance Moms live for the successes of their progeny. Sometimes, the progeny succeed. Mostly, though, these children wind up in pain or even suicidal.
#8. THEY JUST LOVE BABIES. These persons are also known as “Baby Hogs.” Loving babies is sweet, sure, but remember that babies are much like puppies: cute and squishy when small, but destined to grow into less cute, more obstinate creatures with astounding destructive powers.
I suggest puppies or kittens instead, as they at least don’t have the opposable thumbs necessary for automatic weaponry. (Thank God, right? Imagine your hungry, pissy, sociopathic cat with a Glock.)
#9. TROPHY KIDS. Nope, it’s not just for wives. There’s a whole bunch of McMansion owners who, not content with having just one kid, use a second, third, fourth, or even fifth child to proclaim their status: “Look at us! We can afford the $250,000 necessary to raise an American kid 4 times over! Suck on that, Joneses!”
#10. IMMORTALITY. People like the idea that a piece of them will live on after they’re gone. And the more kids you have, the more likely that one of them will survive to pass on your DNA. Once upon a Black Plague, this attitude was understandable.
Now that overpopulation is the greatest accelerator of climate change, a desire for immortality through multiple kids only serves to ensure that it’ll be cockroach DNA inheriting the earth — not yours.
As you can see, I found not a single noble — or even rational — reason to bring a small human into being.
On the other hand, I did think of an amazingly noble reason to raise a child.
I thought of the millions of adoptable kids around the world. Children who lost birth parents to war, poverty, or disease. Their birth mother might not have had access to birth control. She might have been raped. Maybe she struggled with addiction. Whatever the reason, when there were so many existing children who needed loving homes, I found it difficult to justify creating new ones.
Maybe, just maybe, I could get my husband on board with that.
Shout out to adoptive parents around the world
and two particular Moms in Los Angeles.:
Well done, you.