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Of Mice and Children May 3, 2012

Posted by therealtinlizzy in Uncategorized.

Ok this actually has nothing at all to do with mice. Although just to be topical, I have mice on the brain due to a particular scrum of them residing brazenly in the house who avoid all of my (humane, live-trapping) efforts to foil their continued residence herein.

So, onto the children portion of our post. Monday morning one of the segments on MPR’s morning show the Daily Circuit was titled “Is it immoral to have children?”

Irk point #1 was the title. I mean really? Is it immoral to have children? Probably couldn’t find a much better way to start an instant knee-jerk conflagration of sentiment and vitriol if one tried. Even among the relatively mind-mannered audience of MPR-listeners, posing such a loaded question set up an instant polarity potential. Even as one who has spent a lot of time over the arc of my adult life actively deliberating and debating the ethics of individuals’ decisions (generally, not specifically) to procreate as well as the collective impact of ever-growing human population, I would be (and am!) much more diplomatic and tactful in my choice of verbiage of engaging folks in what ostensibly is intended as a catalyst for a positive and lively, but not vitriolic, conversation. There’s nothing to put everyone, regardless of opinion or perspective, on the defensive straight-away like asserting in your hypothetical scenario that one side is necessarily accusing the other of being immoral.

Irk point #2 centers on one of the guests – Bryan Caplan, economics prof at George Mason University, author of “Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids.” Now I want to be careful here as I’m entirely capable of, and generally go directly to (do not pass Go, do not collect $200), being Snarky McJerkface when it comes to ax-grinding folks such as him. And while I’m perfectly sanguine keeping on with that  – I always want to be careful that my expressed ire doesn’t creep into personal attacking or character assassination just for funsies. I assume (quite seriously) – that Mr. Caplan is a loving capable father and generally good human. I generally assume such (i.e. people are generally/usually good) is the case with most folks, even the jerkfaces out there I want to metaphorically light on fire for their actions or perspectives.

That said, I found Mr. Caplan to be nothing more than a paternalistic mansplainer whose primary justification for his perspective of wantonly birthing as many kids as you feel like was nothing more sophisticated or nuanced than “cuz I wanna.” Additional justifications included (I kid you not): “if you don’t have kids, who will take care of you when you’re old,” “having kids saves you from boredom in life” & “people generally regret not having kids.”

Additionally, he actually said “raising kids isn’t really that hard” after spraining his arm patting himself on the back for having been up that morning until 5am with his 10-day old 4th child. And while it’s possible I may have missed s/thing in an ensuing attention gap while I was rage-tweeting about it, I didn’t once hear him speak to how the workload of raising his four kids was divided between him and his partner, or even give two bits of credit to his invisible partner.

But moving on from my specific crankiness about the spin of the show or guest thereof – I’m more interested for the moment in speaking to the fact that I am indeed someone who has actively and deliberately chosen that I will not have kids of my own, and pondered if not dealt with all of the ensuing cases of “therefore this” subsequent to that choice.

I do certainly have some philosophical notions and ethical concerns about unbridled human population growth; I think Agent Smith wasn’t entirely wrong in his assertion (oh COME ON – you gotta let me slide in a Matrix reference!):

“You move to an area and you multiply and multiply until every natural resource is consumed and the only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet.”

No, the Matrix didn’t turn me anti-child or into some zero-population growth fanatic (just a Trinity fanatic!). I can however use my own eyes and see the state of the world and our unrestrained takeover thereof. I can comprehend the notions that with the exception of humans, all life on this planet is usually constrained and self-regulated by geographic and resource limitations.

And all of that just happens to dovetail nicely with the simple reality that from early in my life continuing over the course of growing into an adult, I concluded that I’m just not made for having kids. I have no ticking-clock, no driving desire (physically or psychologically) and overall a complete lack of interest repulsion at the thought of being responsible for raising a child. Pair that with being possessed of drives, proclivities and goals that, while not mutually-exclusive of/with child-having, certainly are all flourishing quite nicely without competing with kid-raising. Which I don’t think makes me more advanced or evolved than those who choose to procreate – it just means I’m differently situated in that a) I don’t want to, b) I don’t have to, and c) I get NOT to!

I don’t deny or dismiss the fact that having children is a meaningful thing to many people in this world. And while it’s an interesting philosophical question as to where/how cultural & family norms and pressures end and one’s true innate desire begins, I think practically it’s rather moot. We’re each and all complex bundles of motives and pressures and influences and choice, whether we choose to have children or not. In any case, I don’t at all project/conclude that just because I’m ridiculously delighted  to unicorn bits with my child-free life, that clearly ALL people would be happier if they just went buck wild and child-free. So I get a bit irked when folks with children project their child-wanting aspirations on me and assert that I’m missing out on s/thing in life if I don’t.  Yes – yes I am missing out, deliberately, and by my own happy choice.

One thing I will assert: it’s a hell of a lot easier to default one’s way into having children in life than it is to make the deliberate choice not to have children. The entirety of society – including the substantial pressures of family, (most) religion and peers – is an inexorable downstream force on both women and men towards having children; significant psychological rewards are granted to folks who have children.  Purely as a default, for biologically male/female couples – having kids literally requires no more forethought or deliberation than having sex – which we all know takes little or no forethought.

Granted, for us gay folks it’s a fair bit less of a default path due to the fact that neither XX+XX nor XY+XY = baby. Gay folk generally have to go out of their way and do some deliberate planning to have children – whether that entails the pursuit of pregnancy or adoption – this entails at least some bit of forethought and intention. So while still in many cases being subject to similar societal pressures, having children for non-hetero folk  is pretty much never the oops or easy-as-falling-into-bed it is hetero folks.

Inversely – I’ll assert that overall it’s easier for me as a ‘mo to choose childlessness than it is for hetero folks. Neither my family nor my partner’s expects us to have kids, and both of families, given their respective progression (or lack thereof) along the continuum of accepting their daughters’  homo-lifestyles, would be Minnesota-nicely mortified at the prospect of either/both of us bearing or adopting children.

However many homos these days indeed do have plenty of family & peer pressure to keep up with the homo-Jones.  That said though – preggers generally* isn’t going to accidentally happen to homos after a drunken night of carousing or forgetting to take one’s birth control pills or just plain opting as a couple to stop with the fussy family-planning efforts.

Eh – I’ve now lost track of the rest of the pissed-off-anthill-ful of rant-threads that led me down this garden path. My bottom-line: I and many other folks are really and truly happy to be child free.  Also, I think that humanity would not at all be ill-served if all we all (unlike Mr. Caplan, if you still recall him from the beginning of this noodlefest) undertook more thought & deliberation of things beyond the end of our special-snowflake noses before defaulting down the “I can do what I want” path of wantonly bearing children just because our plumbing allows us to do so.

But that all aside – despite my philosophy and that I would like people generally to be more deliberate/mindful about just having kids by default or by the Quiverful™,  I grant that everyone gets to make choices for themselves as to whether they procreate or not. I support my friends who for their own complex reasons want to have children; I look forward to the fact that I, as something of a fairy godmother, will have the opportunity to interact with and influence one particular little human girl.

But I also think frankly and unvarnishedly that, in the words of Agent Smith – humanity has become most definitely not entirely unlike a virus, a disease, a  cancer on this planet, and I wish more folks would pull their heads out of the sand and just stop defaulting their way into populating us, and the rest of the biosphere, off the damn planet.

* obviously there are many more folks on the gray scale here when it comes to this topic than the binary of heteros or homos or hetero-sex versus homo-sex. I’m not unmindful of that, I’m just already over on my paragraph quota for this post 🙂


1. Stefanie - May 3, 2012

I didn’t hear the MPR piece, but there have been several articles on the topic around the interwebs lately beause of one or two books that have come on about it. As part of a hetero couple who has chosen to not have children, I can attest to the tons of pressure one gets especailly from family members, particularly parents. ugh! Like you, what I wish is for people to be more deliberate about their choices and not go for the cultural default of having children. I sent one of the articles to a coworker who drives me nuts pining over how she wants to be swooped off her feet by a knight in shining armor and spend the rest of her life raising his babies. She’s always asking me why I don’t have kids so I sent her the article and asked her why she wants to have kids. She admitted she had never thought about it. I said, huh, isn’t that interesting that I am expected to have a raft of reasons for not having children but she doesn’t have to have a good reason for having children. That kept her quiet for a little while!

2. therealtinlizzy - May 3, 2012

Yeah – this Caplan guy has one of the currently circulating books, and I was just hella gobsmacked by his Neanderthal-ish perspective on the whole topic, particularly given he’s an academic. But I guess being in academia doesn’t automatically grant one a nuanced perspective or ability to look past the end of one’s nose.

But yes it’s like you said – when queried, child-free folks often are expected to provide a litany of justifications for not wanting kids, and even then we’re generally still dismissed as “just don’t know what’s good for you, you’ll regret it someday…”. Meanwhile zero forethought or justification is required or expected of folk(s) who stumbled/accident/default their way into having kids.

If only folks had to prove up having had even some nominal forethought before they could procreate…but that’s a topic for spec fiction obv :D.

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