Monday, April 2, 2012

Should You Have a Baby?

Wanting something does not make it ethical. No matter how much you want a baby, before you create a life, consider:

Your physical preparedness: contrary to what we were taught in high school biology, our DNA does change. The healthier you are when you conceive, the healthier the DNA you pass on to your offspring will be. In many ancient cultures men and women spent a year or more maximizing their physical health before breeding. This person you want to create will have much of his life determined by how healthy you are when you conceive him. Consider your current state of health and your potential child--would it be kind for you to conceive him now or, out of respect for him and desire to give him the very best you have to offer, would it be better to spend the next year getting healthier? So many children today are born retarded, autistic, emotionally imbalanced, with physical deformities, allergies, eye problems, crooked teeth, infertile... the list goes on and on. Whether or not you have a perfectly healthy child or a mess is not luck, it is a choice.

Your financial preparedness historically, inability to support a child financially was the number one reason people chose to remain childless. Rational people take responsibility for their lives and do not expect the government or their mothers to bail them out. It would be unkind and disrespectful to your child and whomever was forced to take responsibility for your child if you were to have a child for whom you could not provide.

Your emotional preparedness: the world has enough people who suck. It is not ethical to contribute another irrational ass hole to the human population. You will neither make your life happier or your child's life a good one if you are emotionally infantile. Wanting to have a child is a tremendous opportunity for personal growth--have you taken it? Would it be ethical to wait until you have a needy baby wailing and not getting his needs met before you realize you need therapy? Or would the wise decision be going now, growing first and then breeding, respecting your child before you conceive him?

Rational people know that the only thing they should do with their lives is follow their own bliss--as long as it does not negatively impact other people. Your baby is an "other." If you know you suck in a way not mentioned above, your choice to force your suckiness onto that innocent child is not ethical.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Do You REALLY Want a Baby?

Rational people have the best lives because they choose them consciously. They don't pretend there is a man living in the sky who has decreed they must have ten children even if they would really rather dedicate their lives to something else. They don't get lazy with their birth control and let an accident make the decision for them. They don't look for a sign. They don't do anything just because it is the custom. They make a choice.

There are many good and rational reasons to have a child. There are many good and rational reasons to remain childless. There are even good and rational reasons to postpone making the decision. Not making the decision is the only irrational choice. 

In The Baby Decision, Merle Bombardieri wrote, "When we decide to have a child, we cut ourselves off from the freedom and other satisfactions of child-free living. Similarly, the decision to remain child-free means that we must give up the intimacy and joys of parenting. By not deciding, we hold onto the illusion that we can have it both ways--that we don't have to give up anything. Nor do we face the risk of discovering that we've made the wrong decision."

Bombardieri goes on to explain that making decisions is how we take responsibility for our lives; it's how we grow up. People who avoid the decision miss out on the growth opporttunity, the chance to learn about themselves and the chance to live a life they designed, a life more ikely to lead to happiness and satisfaction than a life accidentally lived or a life lived by the decrees of others.

Bombardieri's book, though extremely helpful, has a major flaw in that Bombardieri does not know how you plan to raise your kids nor does she have any opinions about how kids ought to be raised. In order to properly weigh the decision, the significant financial, emotional and physical costs of having children versus pursuing a career and various personal pleasures like world travel, mastering languages, instruments or particular sports, climbing Mount Everest, etc. Without knowing a great deal about the realities of how YOU would raise your children, this decision is very hard to make.

I also read somewhere--I cannot remember where--that people raised in consumerist societies like ours will find raising children unrewarding. From a young age, we are trained to consume things and experiences. Our only goal is our own personal happiness. Sometimes we have to make sacrifices for the future (how education is sold to us) but otherwise all of our decisions are based around whether or not something will bring us pleasure or pain. Raising children in America today cannot be called "fun".

To solve the problem of consumers not finding the consumption of the Children Experience fun enough, the government and media have done a wonderful job of convincing the masses that one must have children, no matter how miserable it makes them, in order to feel fulfilled. We are also plummeted with images of people who "have it all": the career, the family, the social life and world travel! When many people think about the choice to have children, they are not able to make an accurate one--all they can see are visions of movie stars strolling a street in Paris with their tot in tow.

In many countries in Europe, so many people thought about it and decided that having kids just wasn't worth it that the result was a negative population growth. Instead of seeing this as the reality of consumers making the best choice for their lives or even possibly a good thing considering the world population, governments stepped in to convince people to have kids. Taxes were levied up to 80% in some countries so that the government could dangle free health care, day care, nannies, maids, and more to people to get them to procreate.

The US, full of religious people who think Santa will only love them if they have kids, has not had to do this yet but from the number of comments in the media about how lucky those Europeans are, I am not sure we are far behind.

Unfortunately, not enough people are asking: why is having kids so undesirable these days? Why is it so hard and expensive? Does it have to be? Is there a way to make raising kids today in America fun?

I spent my twenties contemplating this question while I worked for the uber-rich and often famous families of Los Angeles. From my readings on the history of childrearing and methods of child rearing around the world and my experiments with family life over the last decade I have come to the conclusion that it can be fun. But only if you think for yourself, properly prepare and buck the mainstream model.

A note on my personal experience: I feel it is important for me to say that my husband and I made a wishy-washy we-think-we-want-to-have-a-baby choice. We ordered The Baby Decision to reflect a little more but before it arrived we had already gotten lazy with our birth control, both of us secretly hoping the decision would be made for us. That's all it took. The Baby Decision arrived three days after I found out I was pregnant. We read it and did the exercises anyway.

To help you make a wise decision:

The Baby Decision: How to Make the Most Important Choice of Your Life by Merle Bombardieri

Raising Children is an Act of Philosophy blog -- there is no single more important thing for you to read (according to me:) if you hope to make parenting a fun and worthwhile way to spend decades of your life