My wife and i have always been very open communicators. After having a kid when people would ask us if we are enjoying parenthood we've always answered honest.
"It's the most work we have ever done in our life" (and I build startups!)... "We got no sleep last night, she woke up at 2 AM and wouldn't go back to bed."
And it is amazing to me the backlash we got. People who plan to have children were telling us "all I ever here is the bad stuff!" and essentially saying we should lie and say everything is perfect.
The fact is, having a child is the biggest life commitment you will ever make and if you and your significant other are not prepared, you're in for a bad time.
But at the same time I think this whole "you're not allowed to say anything bad about parenthood" is unhealthy.
This article talks about people who are willing to speak their truth about parenthood and I think overall that is a good thing.
If more people talked honestly about he burden of parenthood we'd maybe have less unwanted kids. We as a species are well past the point where we have to have 10 kids just to ensure the bloodline continues. Be honest with people about how difficult being a parent is. Some people like my wife and I will choose to do it anyway knowing exactly what we are getting into and other's won't. And that's OK.
And simultaneously, it's just about the most rewarding thing I've ever done. Watching them grow, seeing some of the hard work finally paying off, having little conversations with my 4-year-old, glimpsing the kind of guy he might grow up to be. There's this amazing bond that is really hard to describe.
Whoever you are, you deserve to know the truth on both sides. Depending on your values, kids might be easily worth it (for us, they are), or you might want to wait, or you might decide that it's not the right choice for you.
I can feel exhausted and wrung out when my daughter responds to my attempts to make her life better and more comfortable by screaming at me and throwing things. I can feel angry when she does things that she knows are naughty and ignores our rules. And at the same time I can feel proud of her and connected to her and love her and be in awe of her learning and feel incredible when she tells me she loves me.
And I don't think it makes sense to sort of try to treat those like they are just positive and negative numbers and say what does it sum up to, positive or negative? They coexist, they don't cancel each other out. No matter how much I feel great when she tells me she loves me, that doesn't make it less exhausting to worry about the absurd hoops that I have to jump through for an education for her. And no matter how upsetting it is to have someone kick you when you try to help her feel safe after a nightmare, that doesn't make me feel any less deep satisfaction that someone that I help create and teach will (hopefully) survive me and always be part of my life.
We can all use more of these lessons.
I guess it depends on what you expect in return. I was so crazy amazed at the process of watching my daughter solving the 3D puzzle of putting the dummy back in her mouth. Plus just watching the process as a crying baby gives in to tiredness and falls asleep.
The first three months were a nightmare, but the payback was also there at the same time.
My dad missed out on this and I'm sure his life was poorer for it.
We are also biologically inclined to ignore thinking about what kind of pain we are in for and just be...excited. Otherwise, I doubt anyone would have kids and humanity would just go instinct. Likewise, once the kid has arrived, nature pulls more tricks to keep us parents motivated (evolved cuteness, for example).
1. Development/physical disabilities, or overall health issues
2. Reaction from others, will immediate/extended family help? It's one thing to ask, another for the reality to set in. Overall support base in general.
3. Employment realities. Will a lot of employers have explicitly stated policies, the day-to-day realities often differ (and can be very different between mum(s)/dad(s)).
4. Just general variations in children/growth. I have two, one eats but doesn't sleep well, the other doesn't eat well but sleeps soundly. One enjoys time to himself, but has a temper. The other is far more social (so much social) but is very even-tempered and empathic. No amount of preparation can provide enough knowledge/experience to deal with these qualities, not withstanding 1/2/3.
As others said, we read books, attended classes, looked after nieces/nephews, younger siblings, baby sat etc. We were still woefully unprepared for our own.
So, is it possible that some folks are "fully prepared" for parenthood? Almost certainly. I'd expect that the numbers work out such that people like this do exist. Parents that were fully ready for the children they got.
However, this is like expecting someone can know exactly how to play poker, following the rules on when to bet and when not to, and then getting shocked to see that you still don't win every game. Statistically, you will lose games. Best you can do is have the game setup so that the losses are small and the wins are leveraged.
"You can definitely be prepared for what cohabitation/marriage is like before your first relationship. It may be a lot of work, but it is not beyond comprehension."
Yes, the brain is capable of comprehending life in cohabitation, as proven by the current mental state of all who are currently in the situation. Getting to that mental state without experiencing cohabitation is practically impossible.
Now swap out "romantic partner" with "small person completely dependent upon you for survival for the next 18+ years".
I guess this is the result of having so few children nowadays. But not so long ago, many people got a very real and practical first experience by helping in raising their siblings. And depending on how large the family was, I assure you it could prepare you very well.
I dunno...to me that's just a cop-out excuse to avoid simply admitting that you didn't do your research, or that you turned a blind eye to warning signs of what parenting is like. Do people go through life not knowing other people that have kids and not see what they go through?
I don't have kids. I had a vasectomy earlier this year to make sure I don't have kids. I watched my brother have them. To call them a handful is like calling Hurricane Harvey just some light rain and winds. They require constant supervision. Can't even spend 5 minutes taking a dump or they'll scribble on the walls with a Sharpie (Yes, that happened).
> (evolved cuteness, for example)
I don't think babies are cute in the slightest. To some people, that makes me a monster.
I like baby animals. Kittens, puppies, even baby elephants. But baby humans? Nah, I just see some creature that is probably about to decide to start screaming or shit itself.
Also, nobody knows the extent of what one must give up to parent. No matter how prepared a person thinks he or she is, they aren't. Having kids is very abstract right up to the point that it's not. The concrete realization starts to happen earlier and more intimately for the mother because of the gestational period, but that realization sets in eventually for both parents.
What complete nonsense. There are 7Bn+ people in the world. Making more people is not a problem the human race has. Far from subsidising the child-free, you are destroying the ecosystem with your selfishness.
I would have a bone to pick with folks who feel entitled (or "commanded by $deity") to have 6, 7, 8 or more kids. That's just absurd stupidity.
I, personally, found parenthood to be enormously rewarding. And that may not be something one comes to grips with when kids are 3. Or 10. Or even 18. Having kids with medical problems, or mental health problems, can be a challenge, and you can miss out on the immediate sense of accomplishment when it's overwhelmed with "just get through today". This is a big-picture thing.
I'm also not blinded by illusions of; having a legacy, having something that is a "permanent" accomplishment, or even just having someone else in this world who I can relate to. My feeling is that my kids turned out to be pretty good people, and the world as a whole is a better place with them in it. In Net. Considering even their resource consumption. They are part me. They are my intention and will. But they are their own beings as well, with their own hopes and dreams.
Hell: we're all worm food in the end. It's not pleasant facing or contemplating death. Maybe we all would have liked to have been asked permission before being brought into this world against our will. I think the main difference it made for me was that I participated in life. The process of life. The continuation of life. The strife for survival. I did not look at the world, and decide to simply persist until I perished. I lived. Even if I have another 30-50 years on this world. I gave it a shot.
I have to laugh at this, because 3 years ago I was this person and I know exactly how the conversation would go. I had 3 kids and planned for 6-7 of them, then I left the Mormon religion.
But I would love to hear the conversation. I can't speak for everyone, but in Mormonism at least you literally believe that having children is commanded by deity and any environmental offsets are not an issue because the Second Coming is soon and the earth will be cleansed by fire at that time anyway. Besides, God created the earth, he would never let man destroy it.
There just is no real discussion to be had with somebody who believes those things. Fortunately, higher education and sex ed are highly correlated with lower birth rates, so I'd push for those if you're looking to reduce birth rates - even in Mormonism or other religions.
If you look at my wider family, you'll see some people with no children and some with five. But even on such a small scale, we average out at around replacement rate.
The solution would need to happen in less than three generations.
If everyone adopted your rationale, the human race would go extinct. We haven't gone so far that we are indifferent to the survival of our own species, have we?
Seems to me there is ample evidence of the young supporting the old.
Consider what your aged life would be like if everyone suddenly elected to not reproduce. What would it be like to be 70, when the youngest person is 60?
Clearly, the young support the aged.
The young, by definition live in a world built by their elders, benefiting from all the infrastructure and institutions they created. So it’s not nearly as one-way as you think. Any care of the elderly is merely a part payment on that debt the young owe them.
Those cultures will be gone forever.
She drinks milk. That comes from cows. Cows are bad for the environment. By having another person on the planet, we need that much more milk.
Isn't that simply a consequence of how people today and in the past decided to solve these problems in general? This issue is not limited to diapers.
> Cows are bad for the environment.
Interesting, so cows are not part of the environment? What separates things from being part of the environment and not being part of it?
Every child that's born is a child that will eventually need their own shelter. Will probably drive their own car. Will need food.
The best way to reduce your carbon footprint is to not have children.
All I'm saying is that our current population growth is unsustainable and we're killing the environment. Until we adapt to only consume renewable resources, or at least sufficiently reduce our consumption of non-renewables, and stop pumping CO2 into the atmosphere, the best thing to do is slow down reproduction.
Seems like a criteria for overcrowding to me.
My tax bill sure indicates otherwise.
I decided at an early age not to have kids - at 12-13 I figured out that I was not suitable to be a father - one, I wanted the chain of crappy childhoods to stop with me, and two I have various conditions that I believe are largely genetic - I didn't want to pass those on.
Even if they were a huge fraction, you're considering one single axis. You're not considering population support or economic contributions by and on behalf of children, both of which are arguably much more significant than tax bill distribution.
The tax-funded support for “people in lower income brackets” are themselves very much slanted toward support for parents with children, largely because the American public is broadly fine with blaming poor adults for their condition, but somewhat less so for children in poverty.
Having benefited yourself, you shouldn't be bothered that others also benefit. It is only fair.
BTW, you can earn a 6-figure income and have negative taxes. The key is to have a double-digit family. This is what I do. Nothing is stopping you from doing likewise.
Choosing a life partner? Choosing a stock? Scoping a programming project??
Choices in the above can seem great at first - but maybe they turn out better over time, maybe worse, probably a roller-coaster mixture of elation, unknowns, and heartache.
But you'll never fully experience them until you've fully lived through them.
What it us about parenthood that makes people think we should just present only happy side of it constantly and ever talk about side we don't like or cost us?
This seems like an unfair interpretation of the above. Absolutely talk about the parts you don't like, just acknowledge that you followed a path of your own choosing (whether the consequences were expected or not).
Kind of like smokers getting cancer, or needle-sharers getting HIV: the social context requires a little humility.
No one sane expect smokers sick with cancer to acknowledge they smoked each time they want talk about cancer. For christ sake, seriously.
And I don't even think that having children is like sharing needles. There we are getting into category where you imply that having children is somehow morally bad (or is it having children while not being 100% happy about every aspect of child raising? )
One doesn't need to "acknowledge... each time they want to talk" (whether it's smokers, needle-sharers, parents, or whatever). Rather, it's just a matter of how one phrases things, e.g. avoiding a sense of entitlement or being condecending.
> And I don't even think that having children is like sharing needles.
I think it it, in precisely the sense that I mentioned it: that it's avoidable, and may have severe negative consequences. No more, no less.
> There we are getting into category where you imply that having children is somehow morally bad
Not at all. I wasn't passing moral judgement, I was giving examples of situations where someone complaining about problems they're suffering may have to choose their language carefully, to avoid being judged harshly in a social context. No more, no less.
> or is it having children while not being 100% happy about every aspect of child raising?
Again, that's a straw man.
To help you understand how absurd your position is, consider if even one of the hundreds of thousands of reproduction "decisions" that are in your line had not been made, you wouldn't be here to express your point of view that it's "just a personal choice."
I chose to get a vasectomy. I'm 35 and have never in my life desired reproducing. I do not feel that supposed biological imperative.
I do feel the imperative to have sex, but having sex and producing babies are entirely different things. You can have one without the other.
> To help you understand how absurd your position is, consider if even one of the hundreds of thousands of reproduction "decisions" that are in your line had not been made, you wouldn't be here to express your point of view that it's "just a personal choice."
This is not a convincing argument.
In that respect maybe it is not that different than climbing a mountain, or achieving mastery in a fencing or long distance running. Would you tell those people "I resent your complaints, you brought this upon yourself, should've stayed home and bother bother with your marathon running" say when they the talk about how hard it is and how they got injured or weather was bad.
You’re constantly putting the needs of a tiny human ahead of your own. If you do a good job then they benefit far more than you do. And they won’t realise the extent of your efforts until (or unless) they have children of their own.
Seeking praise is pointless. But it’s driven by the same themes the parents in the article talk about.
For instance my parents strongly believe that having kids is a duty, the more the better. They will brag about having 4 kids and they’ll tirelessly push married people to make them (the endless “is it on the way yet ?”). I also saw a lot of people of their age care a lot about the family lineage not disappearing. Some even atrocely cared about the name being carried on.
Even trying to have serious discussions about it just ends in “that’s how the thing have been, that how they should be” kind of rethorics.
I sympathize with couples that have their surroundings constantly repeat them they should have a baby, and wouldn’t fault them for thinking it was part of their duty to do so.
If you're a good person (sweeping generalization), having a kid is pretty much the only thing you can't walk away from in your life.
This really gets me.
We as a society do not need more children. Popping out a baby is not an accomplishment. Hell, most babies these days are accidents. It seems strange to me that someone would choose to do something that a lot of people do accidentally, and then expect some sort of recognition for their supposed sacrifice.
We as a society simply don't need more babies. The "sacrifice" is unnecessary at best, and possibly egotistical at worst.
New generations innovate, and they take care of the aging.
Having kids is actually a huge sacrifice on the part of the parents that ultimate benefits society as a whole.
I am convinced that if you are going to reproduce this is the way to do it. Even though I make significantly more money than them I am jealous of their lifestyle :D . These parents take vacations without their kids, which I know many of valley friends think is impossible.
Moving away from home and having kids away from your family is a much bigger task than having kids in your hometown where all of your family lives. I get that it's normal mode of operation for a lot of people to move all over the country for jobs, but IMO that is where the biggest struggle comes from.
You take for granted being able to call a grandparent to pick the kids up from school if you're working late, to come over for a bit when you need to do something during an evening, to drop the kids off if you need to run an errand or even keep them overnight if you have to go out of town for work. That's before even figuring in extra-curricular activities and trying to get each child where they need to be.
My in-laws moved closer to us last year and it has been life changing for my wife and I who both work.
The prime example would be how you raise your kids. Alone, you the most influence, in a family, you have a little less. For some that is OK, for others it's red flags.
Just wanted to open your eyes to what you may not be seeing.
Given the impending arrival of my second child, I find myself wondering about those with less support. What does a pregnant single mother of one do when she goes in to labor? Where does her child go? In to state care??
I have great respect for parents with less support than I have.
Crazy to think, isn't it? It is hard enough during those first few years for a couple with a stay-at-home parent. I can only imagine how hard it is for a single parent who has to not only pay the bills, but take care of somebody who needs an adult 24/7.
I don't think people can begin to fully appreciate this stuff until after they have kids.
It's nice to finally understand that yes, for a couple (especially where both have careers), raising a child is harder than it should be and harder than it used to be, because of this lack of tribe, and no we are not just self-pitying moaners. I don't think this trend is going to reverse itself, which makes me hope in some vague way that some sort of communal tradition emerges, where the tribe is formed by some social grouping (close friends) other than the extended family.
I think that sounds awesome. Realistically not everyone has those choices though, and unfortunately I don't see that changing any time soon.
My family for example, is spread out across 5 states. My nearest relative is 150 miles.
Thankfully I was never forced into it by marriage or otherwise. People who want children can have them and people who don't want them should not be shamed into it. Kids would be better off being genuinely wanted.
I personally was an accident kid, born before abortion was legalized and there was always a subtextual theme of being unwanted in my childhood. I decided early that I would not have a kid unless I really wanted one. And I never did have the desire. I'm glad I stuck to it and didn't give in to the immense peer pressure.
Japan has managed this fairly well, considering, but it's just going to get harder and harder for them, Western Europe, and soon the rest of the developed world, China, and even the US and on to what is currently the developing world.
People don't know it yet (although they should, since it's pretty clear where the demographics of urbanization and development are headed), but population decline is going to be the problem of the 21st century, much as the population explosion was a problem in the 20th.
And we just can't rely on an increasing population indefinitely, even if we lived on Jupiter-sized planet. At some point, there are more people than the planet can support.
It's an unsustainable economic model.
I'm just talking about maintaining a stable birth rate.
EDIT: If you have two nations, otherwise identical and self-sufficient and cut off outside contact, and give one too many young folk and the other too many elderly, then 100 years later, the one that starts with too many young folk will be richer than the one with too few. EVEN on a per-person basis due to returns to scale.
Right now we're doing okay, but we haven't seen whether the planet can support us long term like this (or more accurately, whether 10 billion people can adapt successfully to a world we've changed).
Already, we're worried about the decline in pollinators, frogs, insect splatter, coral reef loss, and tropical forest deforestation. What do you think just that looks like in a few decades with 2-3 more billion people?
The human population is ultimately independent of the biosphere through technology. And, in fact, some of the worst impacts on the biosphere are when we lean strongly on the biosphere to provide for us (for instance, cutting down forests to provide fuel and to clear land for inefficient farming practices vs using solar/wind/nuclear to provide energy while using dense and hyper-efficient farming practices).
Technology has huge returns to scale, and technology is how we're already able to handle our current population. So I'd say we are indeed better off with more people than less, particularly if we reduce agricultural land usage (which we're already doing) and switch to non-burning energy sources (so no fossil fuels and no biomass). An effectively vegan diet (either truly vegan or using lab-grown meat and dairy and eggs) would, by itself, drastically reduce both our reliance and impact on the biosphere. Vat-grown staples (think specialized microalgae) substituting for field-grown staples like corn or wheat or soy would further drastically reduce our impact.
The Earth ought to be a garden, but not one empty of people! And a human society without children would be some kind of dystopia.
It's a good thing for some people to choose to pursue other things and not have kids. There's plenty of room for both kinds of people. But choosing to have kids in today's society is a huge challenge, and society as a whole should help women (and their partners) who choose to have kids. We should, as a MINIMUM, make healthcare free for children and mothers (and really everyone). We should also make it easier for mothers and fathers to balance family and work. Women shouldn't have to choose between their career and the normal (and very important) decision to bear children.
And we can't get too far down this road before asking the question: Are humans fundamentally a bad thing or a good thing?
This is obviously subjective. But if we say some things have intrinsic value, such as the quantity and diversity of life, then we can make some progress:
From Gaia's perspective, if humans evolved, wiped out a bunch of species, then disappeared, then humans are like an asteroid. Bad at first, but ultimately just changed the direction of evolution, not the actual presence or absence of life.
BUT, if humans are able to go beyond the Earth and establish niches for life beyond Earth, then from Gaia's perspective, humans are a net-good. Sure, there's a lot of terrible habitat destruction as humans become a technological species capable of interplanetary travel, but now humans are capable of seeding life far beyond what other species have been capable of. Humans could create diverse, rich niches for life on other planets and moons that otherwise would never experience life. Humans would then be a net-good.
That becomes impossible if we just view humanity's impact in a zero- or negative-sum way. The more humans, the worse it is for life. BUT 10 billion may be just about the minimum needed to support a large-scale interplanetary capability that's able to establish a foothold for life to flourish across the solar system and eventually the galaxy. Therefore: have children! And reduce your impact on the Earth by eating smart and using efficient energy and transportation options.
Not everyone agrees social safety nets are a good thing. Some of us think properly preparing ourselves for retirement is more important.
> population decline is going to be the problem of the 21st century
We have too many people already. Population decline due to reduced birthrate sounds like a solution, not a problem.
I think you're missing the point. It doesn't matter if the State or the Individual is paying for it. Ultimately, services and care provided during retirement is provided by the young and healthy. If there aren't any young people, then no one will be available to provide care no matter who is trying to pay for it.
No, the best I can do is continue living and convince as many people as possible to not have children. If I kill myself now, many more people might be created than if I die later. Natural reduction in population without resorting to violence is entirely possible. Open your mind to ideas that don't involve killing anyone.
Value doesn't come from humans. It comes from machines. Workers income tax is just historically convenient way to tax machine owners as long as machines need operators.
We just need to find a better way to tax machines.
Everyone should be happy to pay for schools because everyone benefits from being able to be paid a pension. And being able to spend the money they get from their pension on useful things, like food.
It shouldn't be possible to get a full time job and not be able to support kids. If it was possible in the 60s it should be possible now. GDP has gone up 400% since then and the dependency ratio only went up 15%.
The story I usually tell my friends who are just becoming parents is about this one night the first month, we were up constantly most nights. I don't remember on this particular night what I was up doing, it's not important, but what I do remember is being in the bathroom, sitting on the can, and looking down and seeing the floor move under my feet. Vividly. However, that memory sticks as a turning point for me - I didn't have a whole lot of self doubt about doing a good job as a dad after getting through sleep deprivation induced hallucinations!
I don’t think I’ve ever heard young parents talk about anything else. If I am to believe the stories, until the age of 3 it’s not blood running through a child’s veins, but pure high-grade Colombian roast.
To the point where I’m considering sardonically suggesting we suspend driver’s licenses for new parents.
Also, any excuse to avoid dealing with car seats.
That's how I felt. Now I see that parents either sugarcoat everything about parenting, or are eager to relay their current source of misery: "you think it's hard now? Just you wait until they are 2/3/5/10/12/16/18!" The truth is every stage of child development has its own unique joys and challenges, with previous challenges being replaced with new ones before you even get a chance to feel a sense of relief. But, if you aren't a parent, you don't really know this, and probably ask questions that bring out the sucky parts of parenting, and remember other people's negative experiences more.
Now that I think about it, it seems difficult to really convey the full emotional experience of being a parent. Only seeing parts of it makes it easy to get an overly optimistic/pessimistic view of things.
But it has lots of irreplaceable moments and provides a general sense of satisfaction for well-spent effort. I echo several comments on the joy of seeing my boys develop as people, learn, ask questions, and explore. Even the squabbles bring back fond memories of my own childhood tussles with my two brothers, and how those interactions are part of children learning how to relate to other people.
Aside from all that, once they are born (and beforehand for my wife and me), the profound sense of duty to care for them compels putting any thoughts of self aside. We alone chose to create them and we alone are responsible for raising them to be good adults. I'm not going to shirk such an important duty in life. Such a sense of duty is a cultural norm encouraged by community moral condemnation of those who fail to adhere. I reluctantly support such condemnation as essential for the successful continuation of our civilization. As such, I say that parents who shirk their duties are committing a moral wrong and should be criticized.
The article doesn't come out and say it, but it seems to suggest that this is widespread. I don't think that is true. Watching my parents' generation embrace grand-parenthood, and the explicit statements that many of them make about the importance of family, convinces me that the vast majority push through the tough parts and find the overall experience to be the most important thing they did in life.
Final point, and one that I am cautious to make for not wanting to offend anyone needlessly: I know plenty of singles and couples who are childless, and several that are childless by choice. Suffice it to say that my anecdotal view is that sadness, eccentricity, and empty hedonism seem to develop over time in these couples, especially in the women.
Modern society is all about the individual, in very pervasive and insidious ways. And that's what your final point speaks about: Having kids gives us a reason to think beyond today, beyond money, beyond MY wants, MY needs, MY life, MY MY MY MY MY.
Having children is selfless, in ways that people without kids cannot comprehend. And it is not a glorious, noble sacrifice. It is painful, scary, hard work. And it's worth it, because of the person you become when you matter to someone more than just yourself.
Most of the comments I saw in the article I consider selfish, childish, and shortsighted. "I hated fatherhood and I don't like the people my kids became." Well gee, maybe those things are connected. "I resent my kids because I keep thinking about all the things I wanted to do." Speechless. Like a 4 year old screaming on the floor of WalMart because they want a piece of candy.
I was raised to think about others and about my place among them. In almost ALL the comments in the article, I see otherwise. I can't respect their position even if I understand it. They're just a bunch of adults who never learned what being adult means.
As a parent, I was appalled how much bad advice there is out there. Some was from books and some from other parents or family. It seems to be that every human (at least here in the US) starts from scratch and uses their gut to guide them in parenting. Most people don't learn much from previous generations, and that seems crazy to me.
If I were to do it over again, I would definitely do better the 2nd time around, but I have no interest. Raising my son (with my wife) was the hardest thing I've ever done, and I'm enjoying life now that he's 17.
With some reflection I don't think I was 100% ready. But I did at least make sure my finances were in order, I knew what it would do to our budget, and my wife and I had expectations set going in who would bear what responsibility. It sounds like the people in this article didn't think of that stuff. And I'm not sure I entirely blame them. We as a society make it a taboo to talk about anything but good stuff when it comes to parenting.
I noticed a similar pattern with other parents I talk with. They all have complaints, they got no sleep last night, child cried all morning, wouldn't eat dinner, etc. but behind all those words you can see a glimmer of something in their face that tells me they are downplaying as well.
A lot of life events are the same way.
When someone asks how work's going, I don't want to be honest and talk about how goddamn happy I am seeing that fat number land in my Mint sidebar every two weeks since that promotion. So I say "It's hard work!" instead.
They are also fun, goofy, beautiful, and potential life long friends. It's also hard to see that sometimes when you're kids are screaming at 2am and you're seeing a shitty day at work or caring for kids ahead of you.
This is the best song ever about parenting
I tend to agree, but I think the limits apply to voicing regret for having specific children, especially in front of said children.
I think about the most sickening thing that anyone has ever described to me is meeting somebody who, in front of his own (tween and teenage) children, referred to them as basically a regrettable burden foisted upon him by his wife. It's bad enough suspecting that your parents don't care for you, I'll bet it hurts more to know for certain.
Still, it is nuts to receive backlash for saying that it's incredibly hard work. Of course it's hard work!
what do people expect when they have babies? that it will take care of itself? There's a thing called Postpartum Depression that is real and usually occurs right after having kids. Raising babies are hard but once they become toddlers it gets far easier. I don't have sympathy for anyone who complains about not getting enough sleep in the first 6 months.
I was watching The Walking Dead at 1am in the mornings because baby woke up and had to feed him till he slept again. Oh and then right to work at 8am for almost 2 months. He's 3 now and now attempting to wipe his own ass for a change.
You're a parent, deal with that responsibility.
To me, this seems related to the purpose of the article: being a parent requires a stiff upper lip according to our culture, unlike most everything else in life.
If that were the way marathons worked, I think the reaction of the audience to someone's struggle to finish the race would be different.
Not really. There are bad people who had wonderful parents and great people who had bad parents or no parents at all.
Child is separate new fresh human being, getting to human level from the level of vegetable over 18+-3 years.
The fact that it got some half of your genes doesn't make you special and if you don't let it die or get malnourished and give it chance at some positive human interaction and variety of fairly safe objects to tamper with it'll be fine and won't be much better off even if you tried you hardest.
Indeed, I would expect more support instead of less. "You should have known" may be accurate but it feels unhelpful.
Motherhood or parenting or children aren't the problem, the basic breakdown of people being able to live and relate with other people is.
>"I love my son with all my heart,” she says. “My life revolves around this child.
Sorry, no. Love means desiring what is good for that person. Not existing is not good for that person... As well, her life revolves around her happiness, which is why her decision wether or not to do it again is answered by it's impact on her happiness.
But we've built a society in the west based around worshipping our children. Politicians can do anything if it's "for the children", no matter how draconian or insane. It's rude to ever comment on how someone else chooses to raise their children. It's considered horrible to not do everything you can to make your children happier, better, etc. Better go buy a house with a yard because your kid might want a yard, because everyone knows that kids need yards.
The really interesting question isn't whether it's okay to regret having children- it's what's going to change when society unshackles itself from this strange obsession.
I remember seeing some of the rage reaction to it online at the time. When a study like that gets that kind of response, you know it's probably hitting close to home for the people responding.
Now with that said, should parents be able to gripe without repercussions? Absolutely. But griping is not the same as expressing regret, and expressing regret can imply you weren't really up for the job.
Intrinsically, deep down, I feel in complete agreement that you're right about that statement. And then I stop and think "wait, isn't that the very point I was just trying to make above? That something is wrong with this?"
Why do children have to me more important than parents? Why not 'just as important'? Consider: if we had a friend who had a new boyfriend and constantly put the boyfriend's needs above her own saying 'that's just how relationships work, you put their needs above yours, always', we'd have an intervention for that friend. We'd say that's not healthy, that there has to be give and take, that we all have our own needs that are important too.
But make the other side a child and well, now that's just the right way to do things.
I'm not saying that we're wrong for thinking that- I'm saying we should really look at that deeply and figure out if we're sure that it's right. How far is too far? Are we past that point? Maybe our own happiness should sometimes win out over our children's happiness and that's not a monstrous thing.
The rest of your post...I think doth protest too much? Some people have children. Some people don't. We're a product of an evolution that makes many of us want to procreate. Strange obsession? What a bizarre statement.
Secondly, many of the things people complain about are only tangentially and superficially actually related to the child. Every Christmas some parents go to herculean lengths to get the must have toy (or the $900 stroller or only the best school, etc) not because their kid actually wants or needs it, but as a status symbol/achievement among their clique. Humans are imperfect - story at 11.
It is neither weird nor obsessive.
People don't like hearing "I wish my children were never born", because it sounds a lot like desire to commit homicide.
People also don't like hearing "I wish I were never born", because it sounds a lot like suicide.
I understand the need to talk about things the way they really are. But don't be surprised if regretting life is deeply abhorrent to most.
My first thought isn't about the shitty parent or my own choices, it's about the kid who's a secondary character, or whose mere existence appears to be exclusively a cause of grief for their parents. How does the kid feel? What is being done to ensure the kids aren't fucked up if their caretaker is moping around saying they'd rather have a lifetime of wine parties instead of going to soccer practice twice a week?
Do you also believe the "bullies are just jealous of their victims" story?
It's kinda violating a social contract. Everyone's the product of thousands of people over thousands of generations who chose to have kids. By choosing not to have kids you also choose to not contribute the the labor force that will likely take care of you in your old age. You can say all you want about contributing money or inventions, but money is just a claim on future labor and few people's inventions are really that valuable.
The problem is, now you're stepping into quantifying the context on heavily subjective terms. Here's how that goes then:
How valuable have most of the last 15 billion people been on average? How about the bottom 50% of those people in terms of productivity and what they contributed to the betterment (subjective) of humanity or the earth? How valuable, in similar terms, have the bottom 10% of those people been?
And that's why - among dozens of other good reasons - it's entirely unreasonable to judge a person's life in such a manner.
We're not some small tribe in danger of going extinct. It's a terrible argument to say someone who doesn't reproduce is a freeloader. We need less people on this planet, not more. We're on pace to have 10 billion by mid century. That's going to be a challenge to support that many people while not ruining the environment in the process.
To be honest, that's a very freeloader-like mindset: "I don't have to contribute to X because someone else will take care of it for me."
It's not actually so clear cut. In all times there was a huge sways of people who won't have kids.
Handmaids, sailors, mercenaries, servants, slaves, etc, etc. Some of them could have children but it was never guaranteed.
This was offset by other people who'll have more children. Sometimes it wasn't. At all times a lot of lines will wither. Some vast tribes will be reduced to a few dozen families.
Social contract is XX century construct and obviously unsustainable at that. Once children stopped being source of labor but labor sinks, it tried to also became unconscionable contract. As in, everybody tries to slack off their duty while praising it to other people. It's like with conscription.
1. Lack of support network -- many people living as just a couple or alone (and the strain on couple is so high that likely they will be alone soon).
2. Social emphasis on individualism rather than self-sacrifice or community focus.
3. Breakdown of community and trust -- so watching and keeping kids safe is full time job. Must be driven to and from everything, no playing by themselves after school.
4. Increased education -- older parents with more debt and pressure, working in more demanding and/or rewarding jobs.
5. Children need more -- expense of having child keeps increasing. The cost of all goods rising relative to wages, but also the cost of school, daycare, extra-curriculars, etc. Basically having a child is a huge cost, the medical bill just to have the child can be $20K in some hospitals. In most of the world that would mean no one could have a child in a hospital.
6. Changing norms have greatly increased what is expected of a parent raising a child. Ignoring external cost increases, this has profoundly increased the cost and time investment to having a child.
7. Economic changes (e.g. 30 years of wage stagnation) all but force a family with both parents working, meaning parents have to work, and then thanks to #6, also do more at home.
So parents are expected to do far more with far less, with no support from family, community, or society.
This structure has fallen apart in the last 100-150 years or so as wealth, individuality, and other factors you note have dominated western, especially American, life, although the same thing has happened widely in Europe.
Thus the burden, instead of being born by many and therefore not being "so bad", is instead entirely born by 2 or 1 and it is of course that multiple more work. If 25 people would have shared the burden before, you, alone, are now doing all of it, along with the burdens of increased costs, expectations, responsibilities, etc. It's no wonder that raising kids is such a non-starter for many.
The solution, from my point of view, is not to not have kids. That just promotes losing our humanity. For me it is to change those structures that make family so hard.
If we lose what makes us human... wtf is the point of all the things we build.
Now we work 40h+ per week, not including the daily commute, the various appointments, the kids soccer game/karate lessons, helping them with their homework, doing various chores around the house, preparing meals, etc...
We have more comfort, luxury and product selection than ever, but there's a price to pay in terms of energy, time and money.
Until that becomes a rare viewpoint, or at least one with no power, we will have these problems
I have a 20-month-old. Honestly, for the first ~14 months of my son's life I felt... responsible for him, but any "love" was more of an abstract, theoretical thing than a real personal affinity. Babies -- my son, anyway -- under that age are just a black hole of time and attention that require everything from you and give nothing back.
But over the last six months or so, our relationship and my feelings have changed a great deal. On a practical level, he's able to entertain himself for longer periods of time without requiring my input. But more importantly, he's starting to understand and discover principles about the world. Seeing that process of discovery is incredibly fulfilling, and I can honestly say I love my son and enjoy spending time with him and engaging in that learning process, in a way I didn't during the first year.
His growing emotional repertoire is especially gratifying to see. We went out to see Christmas lights over the holidays, and as we passed one house with a particularly luminous display he pointed to it and exclaimed "WOOWW" with eyes full of awe and wonder. Rediscovering the beauty of the world through the eyes of a child is a sort of joy I've never before experienced.
(And don't let "teach them sign language" think you need to teach full on words. Basic signaling that is agreed between you and them is all I mean. Typically "want" and "hungry" are the only ones you need.)
Wow, this is a very strong point. It made me appreciate my parents very much, the way you worded this type of love. It is like the outpouring of love from one life to another. I hope I will be ready for this when I too one day have kids. Thank you!
Before you make any judgments about more kids, wait a year. I think your opinion might change.
I see stuff like this posted all the time when the topic of having babies comes up.
And it's why I don't have sympathy for parents that cry about not knowing how hard it was going to be. You're making an 18-year commitment! Do your research!
Yes, raising children is difficult (especially the first one, since in radically changes your life, you're no longer independent). It's also rewarding, but it _is_ difficult. And that's for the best case, when you get a normal child - I don't know if I can even grasp the difficulties of raising a problematic child (e.g. diabetic).
You should absolutely not do it on a whim; but if you do it, I'd say "go all in and enjoy it". Don't regret your previous life, fully embrace the new one. It has its perks, too - and they are not few. And (at least I hope so), it only gets better as times goes by.
Nah, most things that are worth it are easy, but the easy worthwhile things you just do day-in and day-out and reap the benefits without reflection or even much notice of it as “doing something”. You only notice then when adverse conditions make them hard or impossible.
Most things that you need to put notable effort into (and that therefore don't fade into the background) that are worthwhile are hard, but the worthwhile part of that is superfluous, since the first part is equivalent to being hard.
I wasn't trying to say that it's bad/ that's it's an useless mental model. I was trying to say "don't apply it to important life decisions, if anything, the opposite of it is true there".
Yeah I think if anybody thinks that Occam's Razor is anything other than a way to give weight to two competing theories, they're misunderstanding it entirely.
However if we were to apply the same logic to life decisions, you need to note that the premise of the Razor is "given the same outcome...". So even if you were to apply it to life decisions, it would say "given two paths in life that take you to the same place, choose the simpler one". Which I think can still be useful, even if a completely separate idea than Occam's Razor. Having kids and not having kids are not equal outcomes.
You use big words and don't really say anything, therefore you're reeeeaaallllyyy smart.
Accidentally got my girlfriend pregnant in my early 20's got married and had another child, on purpose, 5 years after the first.
I wouldn't change anything and even with all the sacrifice and hard work the rewards run deep and i couldn't imagine the person i would be had i not ended up a father.
My oldest is heading to college in next fall and i am already feeling sad about how her daily absence is going to leave me feeling a bit empty.
It's not for everyone and i can only speak for myself but i never knew i wanted them or how much more fulfilling my life would be until i had them.
The advice I give anyone who asks me and is on the fence is this: "Unless both people actively _want_ kids, don't do it. Wait until you're both in violent agreement or it's a bad decision."
I'd never walk out on either my kid or my wife but were I a weaker person, I might have and my wife can see it in my face. It's a hard place to be.
I am a stay-at-home father for a 4yo. It can be interesting at times. Mostly however it is frustrating and deeply lonesome, some days I've gone all day until dinner-time without being able to talk to another adult other than a passing "good morning" in the street.
And I look at my childless-couple friends with jealousy, they jump in the car and go for a weekend break or spend ten hours composing an award-winning photograph or just spend a Saturday doing nothing
I don't mind posting this under my usual ID because it's not something I hide anymore. Often though it is considered shameful to say "I don't enjoy being a father". Rewards? An hour here or there when my wife can take the child out of the house.
But if I could tell my younger self one thing about those days, I'd say: Don't miss what you have by focusing on what you lost. Be present with your kids, instead of mentally withdrawn, wishing for what you could do if you didn't have them.
It could be that my younger self wouldn't get it. It could be that, without the kids making me less selfish, I never would have seen how selfish I was being. Looking back, though, my biggest regret for that time is how little love I gave to my children.
When I was dating, one of the first things I would ask was "Do you want to eventually have kids one day?"
People think it's a terrible first-date question, but I wholeheartedly disagree, because the question isn't "Do you want to have kids with me?". That would definitely be a bad question on a first date because they don't know you very well. But most people at least know if they'd want to have children at some point in their lives.
The desire over whether or not to have children needs to be an absolute deal breaker in a relationship, and if you and the other person aren't on the same page on that subject, it's best to move on and find someone else within the first date rather than invest tons of time into a relationship only to end up heartbroken or regretful.
But it was never a successful design. Women found staying at home stifling; teens found suburbia stifling. The lack of a deep social structure deprived parents and children alike of a massive support structure.
Other social organizations sprang up to fill the void, but clubs are no match for generations of closeness, and frequent moves made even that ineffectual. The only segment of society that clearly benefited was and is Corporations. Having a worker class that can be shuffled around like game pieces allows easier optimization of cost center locations.
Do you have any sources supporting this? I'm pretty sure the "nuclear family" + suburbia have worked out fine.
The big downside is that kids do need to be driven places, which is less true "in town", but it's not like the suburbs don't have lots of advantages too.
Even the millennials are now starting to finally get married and have kids, and guess what: they are moving to the suburbs too.
I don't begrudge anyone their preferences, but all this hipster trashing of the 'burbs just flies in the face of what most families actual want.
And this goes back to the title of this article, part of the reason people see parenting as so burdensome is they now have to deal with the added realities of a Civic planning policy that is a miserable failure.
Edit: To add data, to build a basic house ( 4 corner ) at a Good, but not luxury level averages $147/sq.ft. , to build a multistory residential unit at highest quality it averages $150/sq.ft. If you build over 15 stories the average price can drop by about 11%. Those are raw construction costs, including labor and materials, and take into consideration most new housing developments in the suburbs are _not_ basic 4 corner houses.
100% true. I work as a real estate data researcher. Totally agree suburban sprawl is a significant failure, and we're seeing in this thread yet another example of dragging out the old reliable cop-out "market forces" as a way to pretend that bad decisions made were good decisions. Up is down, sun rises in the west, etc.
We absolutely have got to get out from under this pervasive market fundamentalist quackery.
Contract that with the sprawl in most sections of the northeast. Houses extend for miles with little to no public green space, except for a handful of county run parks that you drive to. Newer developments will try to incorporate parks more frequently, but generally they will all have parking lots because the only way to get to them in by car.
Both of those environments are a stark contrast to small town America which has a very different operation then either. Small towns are driveable, lower density then even the suburbs, and generally more pleasant to live in so long as they have the economic driver required to sustain them. Small towns have had their own problems with the rise of big cities and their suburbs, and I think they are a model that _could_ work if we as a nation set them up to succeed, but today all our regulations favor the bigger cities and towns and we have been watching the small towns die out
But I also think that while some dads would be happy at home long term, just like some women really are, majority would have same problems then women at home do. However, the stigma of "it was your choice don't complain" etc could be even larger.
It is risk time for alcoholism and depression, statistically speaking. Social isolation, pretty complete. No external motivation to do anything, little chance to do things you like and even less to do them competitively. It just become all pointless. Loss of confidence. Lack of challenge, especially external challenge. Because your existence is pointless most of time. And people stop treating you as you and star treating you as generic mom. Complete routine, every day the same.
I mean, that book was pretty accurate.
And that hiking around becomes same old slooow quite quickly.
But really, if you have that kind of personality that is happy in such situation and just can't wait to hike with kiddo, go for it.
Comment from throwaway2016a:
> "We got no sleep last night, she woke up at 2 AM and wouldn't go back to bed."
> The fact is, having a child is the biggest life commitment you will ever make and if you and your significant other are not prepared, you're in for a bad time.
My grandpa had 10 siblings and from his stories I can tell that if he as a kid woke up at 2 AM and woke his parents (who worked their asses off from dawn till dusk to support the family) up for no good reason - he'd be the one to have a bad time and he learned that at a very young age. He did grow up to be a stand up guy who never complains about anything and the lack of all the rights, freedoms and attention that today's kids get didn't seem to get in the way of that.
While convenient for others, this is not quite healthy. It's possible to traumatize a child into quiet and obedience, but times have changed and we don't approve of that anymore.
Parenthood can be soul-crushing when your child has a chronic illness. Our son is a type 1 diabetic which means one of us is always near him (aside from when he's in school, and my wife is in constant communication with the staff, we watch his blood sugar remotely using NightScout.) I can't imagine what it's like for parents who have children with more severe illnesses (cancer, paralysis, etc.) Just for some perspective for those who aren't familiar with Type 1 Diabetes, our son's body no longer produces any insulin. If his blood sugar goes too low without intervention he can pass out and die. If his blood sugar is too high he can go into DKA and he can slip into a coma. This goes on 24/7 and will for the rest of his life (unless they find a cure.)
He was diagnosed four and half years ago and he just turned six. My wife and I have been out without him less than a handful of times because he's not old enough to self-manage his condition and our parents are (rightfully) scared of caring for him. No sleepovers, no leaving him with a neighbor/family/etc. More often than not one of us is up several times per night to check his sugar.) When he's low in the middle of the night we have to wake him up, force him to eat something (glucose tabs, chocolate, etc.) He'll go back to sleep and we'll wait 30-60 minutes to make sure his sugar returns to safe levels before going back to sleep.
We have no regrets. We tell ourselves that we're happy he doesn't have something much worse. If I were to have a supposed-adult tell me that they regret having (healthy) children because it's hard, I would have the urge to tell them to go do something anatomically impossible.
I'm not entirely sure this is true (for everyone at least), since many people don't live as close to the children's grandparents as they would have typically in the past.
All the tech in the world doesn't make up for 8 additional (in the best case scenario) eager helping hands.
As for the rest of your comment, I have a ton of respect for your handling of this hardship. I'm not entirely sure what else to say other than I always vote in such a way as to build a society that makes life easier for people dealt such an unfair hardship such as yourself and many others.
I have friends without kids and with the adventurous life style and I tell myself: It'll come again, take it easy, raise kids, enjoy the ride. Still sometimes I feel myself hoping they reach the age they can ride a Mountain Bike asap and I can get back to adventurous trips... But it will come, there are a lot of things to enjoy now, watching children explore the world, it's absolutely great, but don't compare yourself to people without children, or if you do make the comparison holistically... do not just look at their Facebook lives. There are many childless couples that would swap with these regretting mothers and fathers in a heartbeat.
All that said, I think it is good taboos as in this article are being lifted, perhaps kids are not for everyone and it is not all fun and roses even though society almost expects you to say and act like it is. Strangely it is also not very appreciated if you go on about your deep love for your children either... these are strange times perhaps.
Stagnating wages, delayed careers due to the 2001 and 2007 crashes and subsequent recessions, and increased debt all conspire to put people in a position where having kids in their 20s is simply not an option.