Nearly one in four parents (22%) say that if they could do it over they would not have children, according to a Dear Abby poll. Dr. Phil found that 40% of parents “would not have children if they knew the problems in creating a family.” And way back when, a 1970’s Ann Landers column reported that 70% of parents wished they had not had children.
Don’t become one of those people.
I chose not to breed after a lot of self-examination and pausing frequently each day to ask myself “if I had a kid, what would I be doing now? Would it be better than what I actually am doing now?” Many people would go through the same exercise and conclude that they would prefer parenting to the childfree life, and I’m sure their synopses of each of the following would differ substantially. Nevertheless, to help you make a thoughtful decision instead of just getting preggers because that is what folks do, consider my conclusions about the following.
- Pregnancy and childbirth: I don’t need to detail how the pros and cons balance out here, even for men – who will, after all, usually have to live with and tend to the ballooning mom-to-be.
- Babies: They are often loud, smelly, and damp with fluid or goo of unknown origins. (Spit-up? Snot? Drool? Or something grosser?) Your baby care and maintenance routine will include frequent diaper changing, interrupted sleep, and suctioning snot. Stores actually sell special devices to stick up Junior’s nose and slurp everything out, traumatizing both yourself and your little angel. My husband swears he remembers undergoing this torture even though he was an infant at the time.
- Toddlers & Up: Loud, whiny, clutchy, demanding, and destructive, with a penchant for self-injury. Your pastimes with these tots are repeating yourself, being interrogated (“Why? Why? Why? But why?”), suffering tantrums without throwing any yourself, and being the bad cop.
- Teenagers: Loud (when in groups or listening to music), sullen, secretive, and disobedient. Your new hobby: finding a balance between respecting their privacy and needing to know whether they are smoking, drinking, having sex, sexting, doing drugs, doing their homework, depressed, or being bullied. Fun bonus automotive obsession: dreading the day they can drive, teaching them to drive, arguing over which car they will drive, and worrying about them when they do drive.
- College Students: If you are blessed with charming teens who are a pleasure to live with and treasure their close relationship with you, prepare for heartbreak when they move out and leave you alone and your checking account empty. If, like normal people, you and your children are looking forward to a break from each other, there is still the pecuniary problem.
- Adult Children: They live too far away, pursue the wrong career, partner with the wrong person, and botch the job of raising your grandchildren or – gasp – don’t give you any!
- Sandwich Generation: When you get old and need help, your children will either (1) boss you around, make you leave your home and move into or near theirs, and butt into everything, including your finances and toileting habits, or (2) live far away and be useless, though likely still bossy.
- Nobody Else Will Complete You: Your progeny will not fill the void in your life, shower you with unconditional love, realize your frustrated aspirations, or save your marriage. All that you have to do for yourself.
- The Bottom Line: Raising kids will cost you. Numbers vary, but a United States Department of Agriculture calculator offers a conservative estimate of $350,000 per head, including college.
- Conventional Wisdom: Contrary to what parents may say, if you decide that you don’t want to be one of them you will not be a lone freak (about 19% of American women aged 40-44 have never had children: see here and here), you will not regret it someday (surveys confirm this – see here and here), you will not be worse off when you are old than people with children are (see #7 above), you will not be depriving the world of the priceless gift that is your DNA (people have actually told me this is why I should breed), and your decision that you do not want children will be no more selfish than others’ decisions that they do.
So think long and hard, and once you have made up your mind, do what you want. They’re your loins.