Sunday’s Deseret News reprinted an article from the Chicago Tribune detailing how a "Growing Number of Couples [are] Opting Not to Have Children." While the choice to have children or not is obviously a personal one and unique to each couple, I am a little disturbed at the implications of the choices which are being made by a growing number of people (especially in light of Erica’s recent post over at T&S regarding the Bishkek Baby House). While I can understand some of the concerns, outlined below and forwarded by these voluntarily childless couples, which cause couples to decide not to ever have children, I have a feeling that there are more important things at stake. Things that matter whether you believe in God or not. But before going on, let’s examine the context here.
Here is the situation discussed in the article:
Growing number of couples around the country are electing to have what they call "child-free" relationships.
A lot of young women today . . . are realizing that the feminist ideal that you can have it all — kids and a successful career — is not feasible.
There are many reasons why a woman might not conceive, but the conscious decision to avoid children appears to be playing a larger role these days.
Here are some of the reasons given by those who wish to remain forever childless:
Desire for greater Freedom
"When [one couple] decided to keep their marriage free of children, they took a lot of things into account. They considered their mutual desire for greater freedom, something that enabled her to get a graduate degree and start a small consulting business."
Enjoyment of the "smaller things"
There was also their enjoyment of what she called "smaller things" like being able to sleep late when they wanted and dine out whenever the mood struck them.
General uncertainty about issues such as global warming
But there were larger issues as well. "We worry about global warming," said the 25-year-old who lives in Charlotte, N.C. "We worry about what the world will be like in the future. There’s so much uncertainty, and I can’t see bringing a life into such a world."
Getting married for "us," not for children
"Babies have just never interested me," [one 24-year-old Chicago retail saleswoman] said. "My husband and I didn’t get married to have children. We got married for us."
Lack of parenting qualifications
[One 44 year old consultant who has decided to remain childless] said after 11 years of marriage she and her husband had concluded that they would make terrible parents. "We didn’t feel we would be qualified," she said. "It was not that we wanted to be rich or anything like that."
- Desire to take advantage of "opportunities"
Nicki Defago is a Britain-based author who recently wrote a book titled "Childfree and Loving It." She said that for her and many others like her, the decision not to have children was the result of many factors. "In short it’s because there is so much more opportunity for women these days," she said in an e-mail exchange. "You don’t need kids to fill your life." Defago observed that not having to raise children had given her and her husband a great many material advantages. "We have a wonderful life," she said. "We have a home in London and a home in Spain. We work hard over the summer and take the winter off to travel. We are not tied into school timetables."
Obviously, not everyone agrees with the sentiments expressed by these non-progenitors. Take, for example, the words of one Evangelical Christian, the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville:
"God’s purpose in creation is being trumped by modern practices," Mohler said in a phone interview. "I would argue that it (not having children) ought to be falling short of the glory of God. Deliberate childlessness defies God’s will."
So I guess one reason given by those who feel couples should at least try to have some posterity is that God wills it. That’s good for those of us who (1) believe in God, and (2) believe that God wants us to have at least some children (even one). Latter-day Saints tend to believe both of these premises, and believe that one of the first commandments given to men on Earth was to "[b]e fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth" (Moses 2:28). Not that Latter-day Saints believe, as often sterotyped, that they must do so single-handedly…
Short of having a posterity because one believes God commands it, what are some other reasons why couples ought to have children, in your opinion? Are there more philosophical or other types of reasons, aside from pleasing God, why couples such as those detailed in this article should re-consider creating posterity?
This article has provided a list of why certain couples choose NOT to have children. What is a good list of why we choose to?
Here are some possible reasons, unconnected to a belief in God:
Desire to leave a part of us behind when we leave this world:
My children embody many of my physical, emotional, and cognitive traits. When I die, the part of me that resides in my children will live on through them, and through their children, etc. Assuming there were no God or life after this life, it would be a way to live on perpetually in some form.
Insurance policy to ensure care later on in life
Although one can never guarantee that children will care for their aging parents, I have to believe that most children would not forsake the man and woman who gave them life. Having children is one way to ensure that we will not be thrown to the mercy of society for care, but will be able to survive well by having recourse to familial resources.
Betterment of society in general
By raising the next generation of workers and custodians for this world, we contribute to society’s well-being.
Those are a few reasons I can think of. However, without God in the equation, these reasons (for the most part) seem just as selfish to me as those propounded by couples who don’t ever desire children. By selfish, I mean that the reasons are generally self-serving, not that the reasons are bad or somehow evil.
As the father of four children (one of whom still resides in his cozy uterine home), my reasons (of which I must sometimes remind myself when frustration occasionally causes me to question our choice to have children) revolve around faith in the promises God has made regarding parents having "joy and rejoicing" in their posterity. At times, I have nothing more than that faith to sustain my decision to have children, because it is often frustrating. And then there are other times where that faith gives way to certain knowledge of "joy and rejoicing", and I truly have cause to rejoice right at that moment because of the blessings which are my children.
I guess what I am trying to say is that children bring joy, despite their associated inconveniences and frustrations. They bring joy, both to the couple, the children, and society at large, regardless of whether or not God was a factor in the couple’s decision to bring those children to the earth. Children enrich our lives and our society in many ways.
While I can understand some of the reasons forwarded by those not ever wanting children, I can’t help but think that this choice ultimately limits happiness, both now and in the hereafter.