Slate recently ran a piece called "What Is It Like To Be an Adult and Not Have Kids?" Inside, two contributors detailed what their lives without children are like: the first was largely positive - she can go on vacation whenever she wants, she has a niece she loves but whose diapers she never had to change. The second contributor had a vastly different take, and ended the article by saying he plans to go make some babies immediately because his life thus far has been meaningless.
I feel bad for the latter contributor.
Don't get me wrong; I understand that having children can imbue life with new meaning and purpose (assuming you're one of the good parents). But I'm not foolish enough to believe that my parents' lives were meaningless - a.k.a. pointless - right up until the moment I came into the picture. After all, what are the implications of such an assumption? That their sole purpose in life was to create me, and therefore my sole purpose in life is to create another child, and so on and so forth? Where, exactly, is the meaning in that rote logic?
You can probably see where this is going: I'm not sure if I ever want to have children. In fact, I'm almost certain that I don't.
Yes, I'm one of those young people you keep hearing about - the ones who have to keep saying, "No, really, I'm not barren! I'm child-free by choice!"
There seem to be several schools of thought when it comes to adults without children. First, that they're too selfish to have kids. I just got a puppy and it has pretty much turned my life upside down: I have to run him outside to pee every twenty minutes, I have to schedule my showers into the small windows of his nap times, and my concentration has taken a huge blow because half of my attention is always focused on his needs. It's more than a little annoying at times, but I know it will pay off. I'm giving up a lot of my own comfort now and for the next several months in order to make sure I have a happy, well-trained dog in the future. I guess that's kind of what it's like with kids.
But dogs grow up in a matter of months. Kids take 18 years, minimum. I'm not sure if the fact that I've realized that I don't want to deal with another person's every need for years and years makes me selfish or smart. Maybe both.
But truth be told, selfishness is beside the point, because I'm simply not a kid person. Ask my mom; I never played with dolls as a child. I always opted for the stuffed dog or the model horse instead. I don't feel the urge to hold other peoples' babies - and when forced, I do it so awkwardly that mothers usually ask for their kids back - and my so-called "maternal instinct" is maxed out at the first sign of a dirty diaper or runny nose.
But I'm not a monster (not completely, anyway). I like kids on a case-by-case basis, and I'm sure I'd be pretty fond of my own kid if I ever had one. But that's not enough to make me feel I need to have a child - and if you don't really, really want one, isn't it more selfish to go ahead and have one anyway?
Maybe I'll change my mind someday - though I won't hold my breath - but if I don't, I hope I won't find myself looking back on my life as a huge, useless waste of time. I don't really think I will, though. At least my dog certainly thinks I'm important.
This groaning planet needs neither more kids nor more dogs.
All the same, most couples seem to crave some of each. Oddly, in our society, while you need a license to own a dog, any pair of darn fools - provided one is male and the other female - can create a child. This, our courts inform us, is a Constitutional right.
Disposing of an unwanted child is more complicated. Exactly 40 years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court decided in Roe v. Wade that a woman has the unfettered right to abort a fetus during the first trimester of her pregnancy. After that, the government can step in. Down the past four decades, most states have sought to narrow this right by such statutes as require teens to consult with their parents before aborting or compel clinics to counsel clients before conducting procedures. Although Roe v. Wade remains good law today, the right-to-lifers are relentless in their efforts to whittle it away.
All this fuss and fury over the fetus flies in the face of the fact that during my adult life - that is, since the 1960s - the population of this poor old planet has doubled… from 3.5 to seven-plus billions. While the Catholic Church and the rest of the right-to-life crowd rant, we are willy-nilly gobbling up all the oceans' fish, heating the atmosphere by ever-more-dangerous degrees, and crowding out - and often obliterating - other species by the thousands.
Meanwhile, silicon brains are taking over more and more of the tasks that once required human minds and hands. While more and more of us crowd the earth, fewer and fewer of us are needed to get the jobs done. Eventually - probably in Claire's lifetime - the dry computer will be smarter than the wet one that invented it.
And so, while I might welcome another grandchild or two - our son has provided us with one already, and a cutey at that - I get where Claire is coming from and applaud the insight and honesty of those of her generation who see beyond the knee-jerk primal urge to procreate.