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Mothers who regret having children are speaking out (macleans.ca)
284 points by gerbilly 4 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 454 comments

If given the choice I would choose to have my daughter again I would. But even so I can definitely empathize with many of the people in this article.

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.

Edit: 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.

I try to give both sides. It's easily the hardest thing I've ever done by a good margin. You pour work in and potentially don't see anything for it, or at least very little, for years. It's a huge lesson in selflessness and humility. It's required a lot of changes, and a lot of opportunities have come off the table, or had their overall "cost" adjusted (e.g. moving cross-country is still possible, but we'd think about it a lot more), because I want to make sure I invest appropriately in my family.

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.

Fatherhood has made me keenly aware that there isn't just one sort of undifferentiated pile of warm emotion that we can call "happiness."

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.

For a job this important, I find it remarkable that there is so little guidance on the matter unless you are a highly-motivated parent. We force kids to go to school but we don't force teens to learn the "Best Of" parenting facts. The closest thing I had in school was "Home Economics" and that wasn't even close.

> It's a huge lesson in selflessness and humility.

We can all use more of these lessons.

> You pour work in and potentially don't see anything for it

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.

All in favor of being open about the ups and downs of parenthood. What I do resent is when parents try to make their struggles look like some sort of noble sacrifice they've performed for the greater good, when ultimately having children is just a personal choice they made. I can sympathize up to a point, but when parents complain that they hate their lifestyle (or lack of one) now that they have children, it's hard not to think "well, gee, maybe should've considered that before making such a momentous decision."

That’s a bit harsh. First, you really have no idea what you are getting into when you have a kid, no one can prepare you for it, all of what you think you know about having a baby is probably wrong (unless you’ve had one).

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).

You can definitely be prepared for what it is like to have a child before having one. Everything you know is not wrong. Yes, it may be a lot of work but it is not beyond the realm of comprehension for us mere mortals.

The variables with children are nearly impossible to prepare for. No amount of preparation will do handle:

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.

This is like saying you can learn to write a perfect program, without ever writing one. Sure, while maybe theoretically possible, I'll take someone with 10 years of experience over 10 years of study everyday. Because at some point, experience is a thing; having lived through the event and having the scars. And that experience is really an irreplaceable part of being human and the learning process.

TIL I'm the equivalent of a badly written "Hello world".

We went to all the classes and read all the books. And no, we weren’t prepared, had way too many misconceptions about baby behavior, and this is above all babies being different.

To strengthen your point. This is ultimately my problem with any statistically based thing. If parenthood was deterministic, then it would be easy.

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.

I disagree. I have three kids, and before them being born I was aware that being a parent means a lot of work. But I realize now that I was not really understanding what being a father really means. It's much more laborious, complex yet satisfying and marvellous than I could ever have imagined.

This is not practically true. Imagine if the same could be said for romantic relationships:

"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".

You're not wrong, but in most areas of life there's a reason we make a distinction between education and experience. Knowing that there will be sleepless nights with a crying baby is very, very different than surviving sleepless nights with a crying baby.

> First, you really have no idea what you are getting into when you have a kid, no one can prepare you for it, all of what you think you know about having a baby is probably wrong (unless you’ve had one).

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.

> First, you really have no idea what you are getting into when you have a kid, no one can prepare you for it, all of what you think you know about having a baby is probably wrong (unless you’ve had one).

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.

You don't need to be prepared for raising a child to know that it is difficult and that it will require major sacrifices.

In America, at least, having children is most definitely a sacrifice. "Noble" is a subjective qualifier that's actually irrelevant. The fact is without kids the thing that fuels our economy, consumption, disappears. In many ways parents are subsidizing the childless. It isn't a bad thing to note that.

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.

In many ways parents are subsidizing the childless

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.

Honestly, having children is one of the most selfish things you can do. I.e. thinking your genetic material is special and passing it on to another person in an overcrowded world. Any “sacrifice” in raising a child is not — they are half you and an extension of self.

Not so sure having kids AT ALL is an immoral choice in an overcrowded world. 1 kid, or 2 kids; is replacement level at worst.

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 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 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.

Replacement rate is a smidge over two _on average_. That doesn't mean that it's wrong to have more than two children, any more than it means it's wrong to have fewer than two.

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.

Personally I believe that bringing a consciousness to this world without the subject's consent is morally corrupt.

I know you're probably pulling my leg, but how many times has a subject ever willfully consented to being brought to consciousness? Answer: {}

Correct. You have identified the problem.

The solution would need to happen in less than three generations.

I have 4 and I really hope that makes you feel bad.

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?

I am a father myself and don’t think you are a “bad person” or anything like that. But seriously, we have no shortage of humans - you are not doing mankind a favor by having lots of kids.

Odd. I wonder how many not so thoughtful people think your way and act upon it. To the extent there is a genetic component to "thoughtfulness," or even a trait that can be nurtured by other thoughtful people, is the extent that thoughtfulness will be selected against and disappear.

Social Security is one example of the young subsidizing the old. Medicare is another. Old folks homes are another.

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.

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.

Cultures are going extinct due to lack of children. A good number of cultures in Europe and East Asia have close to 1 child per woman, meaning that the population is cut in half with every generation.

Those cultures will be gone forever.

How is bearing children destroying the ecosystem?

Any idea how many dirty diapers a baby produces? We don't use cloth diapers with our daughter, so those go to the landfill.

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.

> We don't use cloth diapers with our daughter, so those go to the landfill.

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?

All things that are bad for the environment are part of the environment.

Because children are people and people by necessity must displace natural ecosystem fixtures to survive.

Does this mean the natural ecosystem fixtures are more valuable than people?

The problem is that our current pace of ecosystem destruction in order to satisfy people is not sustainable.

Does deciding not to bear children solve this problem?


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.


But doesn't that lead to the extinction of the human race? What good is it for mankind to save the environment if it sacrifices itself in the process?

If everyone stopped having children, well yeah. But you and I both know that that's not going to actually happen.

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.


There were only half as many people in the world when I was born!

What population number makes childbearing selfish, and why?

And how are you determining the correct number of people and on what criteria? Or do we take your word for it?

Get in car. Drive to work. Wait in line on the freeway for opportunity to use freeway to get to work. While we're waiting in line; burning fossil fuels and contributing to carbon buildup in the atmosphere; which is essentially permanent. All - to spend a day earning imaginary money - whose value is arbitrarily and capriciously set by others.

Seems like a criteria for overcrowding to me.

That's not very specific. What about your scenario indicates overcrowding?

In many ways parents are subsidizing the childless.

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.

No, your tax bill does not indicate otherwise. Credits for children are a tiny, tiny fraction of tax subsidies for people in lower income brackets, and property taxes are generally quite low and cover much more than schools.

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.

> Credits for children are a tiny, tiny fraction of tax subsidies for people in lower income brackets

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.

The tax code is geared up to help people who are married and have children - my married friends pay 20% less than I do, my married friends with kids pay even less then they do. I take umbrage with this.

You benefited when you were a child. You took those benefits. You might say it wasn't your choice, but your parents made that choice on your behalf.

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.

How exactly does one have a double-digit family?

2 parents and 8 kids?

Everybody now paying taxes once was a child. Without children no one would be paying taxes.

I don’t know about America, but it’s the childless that subsidise the parents in the UK. Having kids is a massive draw on the state - the vast majority of people go from being net contributors to net drains on the public purse when they have kids.

On the other hand, having children isn't exactly cost-free, and society needs the next generation around to support the previous in old age.

Given that parents need to buy diapers, kid clothes, and other stuff needed by babies, if UK still has VAT I do not believe that parents are «net drains».

Those things are specifically exempt from VAT

Really?! Then I should consider moving from Italy to the UK! (I am a father of three, and here there are no exemptions at all for diapers, baby food, bottles, and so on. VAT here is 22%.)

As my old buddy John McGinty put it "I knew having kids would be a big job; I just didn't know it would be relentless!"

There are plenty of choices in life that are hard to assess until you're fully invested in them.

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.

That’s a good point, but it worries me that with just a change of nouns we could be talking about taking a speedball, taking bloody revenge, or eating rocks.

Do you apply same restrictions on other livestyle complains? Should people never complain about job, because they picked it up voluntary? What about social club, Facebook that read voluntary and complain about constantly and so on and so forth.

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?

> 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.

Complain about your job or management, but acknowledge each time that you have chosen it. Complain about Facebook, but acknowl edge each time you sign up voluntary ...

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? )

Again, I think you're being uncharitable and attacking straw men.

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.

I feel like parents are humans too and some times just need to express their emotion. It doesn't mean they regret their decision necessarily. They might just be going through a difficult day or time. We could use a little more empathy.

You come from a very long line of parents that reproduced. It's a biological imperative to do so (i.e., we think we have a choice, but in fact have much less than we think we do).

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."

> It's a biological imperative to do so (i.e., we think we have a choice, but in fact have much less than we think we do).

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.

> What I do resent is when parents try to make their struggles look like some sort of noble sacrifice

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.

Caring for and raising children is a sacrifice. It’s a difficult and unpaid 24/7 job that you’re locked into for 18 years.

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.

While I agree with you, it is a personal choice, I think that’s not the framing most people are in.

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.

What if it something that you thought you wanted, but it turned out to be much more than you bargained for? I agree than people shouldn't act like they're making noble sacrifice (because for all intents and purposes, it was your choice), but sometimes you can only prepare so much a priori.

My wife and I spent years talking (as a married couple) before having a kid, because as stated elsewhere in the comments, it's the biggest commitment you make in your life.

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.

> What I do resent is when parents try to make their struggles look like some sort of noble sacrifice they've performed for the greater good, when ultimately having children is just a personal choice they made.

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.

If we don’t have more children, we have population decline which comes with huge negatives. The economy contracts. Social Security implodes, etc.

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 live an puerto rican neighboorhood in chicago. People live here in combined family structure with many generations living in the same building. I've become acquaintances with many of them and i've noticed that parenthood is much less of a burden for them since they have extended family to support them. Not just a matter of practical convenience but the immense moral and pshyclogical support you get from living next to your parents, cousins is immeasurable. I always see kids playing outside and everyone keeps an eye on them, you are not dealing with your kids 24x7 nonstop.

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.

This is honestly one of the biggest factors that we did not fully appreciate.

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.

I have extended family helping me. I'm beyond grateful for it. I'd die without them. But there is a something you don't see. There is a lot of inter-family politics going on. For some people, it's no big deal. For others, it is a real drag. Personally, I'm a no big deal person, but i empathize with people who don't like it. To some Americans, it's like a never ending thanksgiving dinner.

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.

This comment reminds me of the “big fat greek wedding.” Is that accurate?

It is, that's why it was so popular, many people could relate.

This is a major factor. I have a 2-year old girl with another baby imminent. I have 6 households of my family all within a 20 minute drive. Like you say, aside from the practical benefits and savings on childcare, clothing etc., the psychological benefit of knowing we have that support is immeasurable.

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.

> What does a pregnant single mother of one do when she goes in to labor? Where does her child go? In to state care??

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.

I was raised like this (of Russian background) but I will not have the same benefit, there is no extended family from either side anywhere near me or my partner. And this applies to most of my social circle, all of whom have moved around for career and/or restlessness.

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.

Dear god yes. We have no family nearby and even with my wife as a stay at home mom, it's brutal. We're super jealous of her sister who lives with the grandparents and can just leave the kids at home whenever or wake up at 10 or 11 on a weekend because they just go downstairs and hang out with the grandparents when they wake up. Every time we visit my parents we get a taste of that and it's absolutely glorious. We're at the point where we're considering a move and probably a major pay cut just to be within reasonable driving distance of them.

I was just thinking about this the other day. Large familial units have pretty much been the modus operandi of humanity since the beginning. It's not just adults taking care of kids, the kids take care of the kids also. Each generation has their own sense of responsibility for the generation before them because that's the established culture. After a couple generations, the responsibility loses its feeling of work and simply becomes an expected aspect of life.

You have hit the nail on the head! African villages are pretty much the same. Kids play in age groups and whichever adult is around looks after the kids. This gives parents time to hang with other adults and the opportunity to actually miss their kids. In the city it is different spending 24 hours with a 5 year old can be taxing.

I wonder if it is also the experience the kid get raising their younger siblings. As the oldest boy in my family when my parents were away I was taking care of my baby brothers and got to see the terrors they would get themselves into.

> I am convinced that if you are going to reproduce this is the way to do it.

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.

Humbolt Park?

The first few times I casually mentioned I had never been interested in having kids, the reactions were unreasonably vitriolic: "Well, you aren't a good person and should stay away from them then!!" and "You look like the sort of person who doesn't want kids", etc. I eventually learned not to bring it up.

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.

More people should feel free not to have kids. There's enough humans as it is. We don't need everyone reproducing. Only the people who really want to and can support their offspring properly should do it. It's dumb to have a social pressure to reproduce when there are 7.5 billion of us.

We basically do. If half the population chooses not to bear kids (pretty normal) and the other half has like on average 2.5 kids, then social safety nets are going to collapse without massive immigration. If the WHOLE WORLD does this (which will become possible some time this century due to everyone thankfully getting richer and more urbanized), then there's nowhere for the immigrants to come from, and our social safety nets for the elderly will collapse.

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.

Would you rather the problem be too many young people or too few? At least with too few, the environmental problems are lessoned. What's the point in having enough workers if we degrade the biosphere and change the climate too much to survive? That's the danger of an increasing population.

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.

We are extremely far (in the developing world) from there being too many young people. We're rich as a society, so we should be able to handle more than in the past when we had fewer productivity-enhancing innovations.

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.

Will this argument apply in mid-century when we top off around 10 billion (hopefully), and the full effects of climate change, pollution, and degradation of the biosphere the past century start to really hit us?

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?

10 billion people with a broad mix of ages will be more capable of coping with those changes than 7 billion people without anyone younger than their 40s.

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.

Your reductio-ad-absurdum assumption is that because some people don't want to have children - no one else will either. But the fact remains, there are people who genuinely want to and those who don't. It should be personal choice, not something forced upon them.

I don't think that at all. Please read my comment in its context.

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.

Arguably, it is the young people in a society who are most concerned with these long-run environmental impacts. If there's going to be a political (and scientific and technological) mobilization to address them, it's going to require young people.

EDIT: 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.

Robots. Lots and lots of robots is the answer, like 10:1 robots to humans to work 24/7 fixing infrastructure and cleaning every home and street.

Yes, bring the robots. Especially the maid one. And then the gardener one.

> our social safety nets for the elderly will collapse.

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.

> Not everyone agrees social safety nets are a good thing. Some of us think properly preparing ourselves for retirement is more important.

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.


Not sure if you're serious. So if you believe that, why haven't you already killed yourself? That would be the best you could do, right? Unless you have some plan to 'take out' others besides you. But I can't believe you really believe that.

Some people don't want to have children - this will of course lead to the entire human race shrivelling up into a crisp and going extinct! Reductio-ad-absurdum for the Lose!

You're right. The future belongs to the descendants of those who have children. But you're attacking a strawman by ignoring what he's actually replying to.

> That would be the best you could do, right?

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.

I hope no one listens to such misanthropic suggestions. But at least you're being honest with the implications of your philosophy.

> ...then social safety nets are going to collapse without massive immigration.

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.

Following on from a sibling comment: it's in society's interests to help parents to pay for their children. Not just because those children will be working to look after and provide for the older generation in retirement, but because the better educated they are, the more able they'll be at doing that.

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.

I would draw the line at "really want to". An argument could be made that only rich people should have children and that would be fascist in the other direction.

What's fascist is to forbid people from having children based on arbitrary criteria, which is just one obvious but wrong way to address an otherwise reasonable idea, that not everyone is fit for parenting. It doesn't mean the idea itself should be discarded. Here's another solution that doesn't trample on anyone's freedom: better informing people about the costs and benefits of parenthood. That would go a long way to prevent people from having children without the means to raise them.

You don't have to forbid anyone from having kids. Providing women with education and the pill is enough to drop in fertility below replacement level.

>Only the people who really want to and can support their offspring properly should do it.

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%.

I totally agree with you. I have a 5 year old - I love her, she's great, and if I got to choose again I'd do it all over. But the first year is the hardest I ever worked. We knew it would be a lot of work, but nobody ever talks about just how much work it is with any kind of detail. Parenting has a lot of good, but the bad parts really do suck - lack of sleep, running to the doctor, the ER trips, etc.

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!

> but nobody ever talks about just how much work it is with any kind of detail.

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.

It’s not a bad idea. Sleep deprivation combined with distraction is terrible. Try driving safely with them choking on something or screaming about something. It’s not good.

Also, any excuse to avoid dealing with car seats.

Parents do talk about how hard it is – but if you do not have kids it’s hard to fully comprehend the message.

In my experience, they only repost pictures on Facebook about how motherly love is unconditional and infinite.

> People who plan to have children were telling us "all I ever here is the bad stuff"

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.

I have three boys, aged 6 months to 4 years. It is extremely hard work and a major life change, especially if you get started in your 30s (as I did) after having already established yourself financially and professionally (yes, the resources makes it easier, but you've also had the time and resources to habituate yourself to a comfortable and self-oriented life, and you're not quite as robust as you were in your 20s, when an all-nighter was not a big deal). It also puts strains on even strong marriages.

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.

In my anecdotal evidence many of the childless couples I know seem to be composed of the happiest, healthiest, and high achieving individuals I know. I live in a large American city. It is probably different out in the boonies but I'm quite envious when I see couples in their 30's without little ones.

Those joke bumper stickers with the couple and the pile of money next to them instead of kids aren't wrong.

Sometime in the 40's and 50's, American marketing worked to convince everyone that parenthood (and especially Motherhood) are this beautiful, sanctified experience. They did everyone a disservice when they did this; such a belief was not prevalent before then. Before that, having kids was seen as a duty to continue the family line at worst, and at best a pretty intense effort that one willingly engaged, because well life is about duty and hard work.

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.

I try to always reply honestly when talking about having kids. And I'm lucky to only have friends who do the same. Usually I say something like "It's really hard, but it's so awesome at the same time that you forget how hard it is all the time. In the end, you feel like it's worth it." I confess I wasn't that positive when I was totally sleep deprived. I also have the impression that no two situations are the same... Some parents have it very tough while some others have quite an easy time with their kids. You gotta have some luck...

Even people that think they want children are sometimes unprepared. My son is now 17, but when he was in grade school he had a friend that was always in trouble and generally a very unhappy kid. I understood perfectly when I hung out with him and his friend at the park, when his mother was around. She was well meaning, but one of the worst parents I have ever witnessed. She constantly threatened him with punishment, but it was clear she never followed through with it, so the kid basically completely ignore her. At one point, she turned to me and commented how good my son was and how she really just didn't know what to do. I firmed bit my tongue and said nothing. Those conversations never go well.

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.

Worth noting that extreme difficulty of being new parents is in large thanks to the weird NA/EU habit of raising kids without extended family. I think that's a relatively novel "disruption" of how kids should grow - and a fairly failed one.

No one can ever be 100% prepared for children.

Excellent point. I removed the "100%"

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.

My little one makes me so deeply happy that none of the downsides are really that bad, but I tend to overplay them because I feel like doing otherwise would be gloating.

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.

>I tend to overplay them because I feel like doing otherwise would be gloating.

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.

My brothers and I (we all have quite 3-4 kids) joke that kids ruin everything. It's hyperbole, but feels true a lot of the time.

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.

Here this will make you feel okay about the kids ruining things.

This is the best song ever about parenting


> But at the same time I think this whole "you're not allowed to say anything bad about parenthood" is unhealthy.

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!

When asked, I always give a honest and unbiased response. I tell my friends and family the truth: it's hard work, you won't get much sleep in the 6 months and the nonstop crying is a huge huge source of pain. but, I talk about the good stuff too. Kids says the cutest things. And, in my opinion, parenthood gets easier every year because the child's behavior improves every year.

When you're up to your neck in hard work, it's kind of hard to sugarcoat how damn tired you are. Anyone who "only here's the bad stuff" sounds like someone who isn't prepared to work harder than they've ever worked before.

We choose to to have a child not because they are easy, but because they are hard.

This comment is a spot on example of the behavior stdbrouw was advocating against further up in the thread. The nobility of having a child should not be factored into the decision. There is no "greater good" agenda pushing people to reproduce. It is a personal decision that each and every one of us need to come to terms with.

We choose not to have a child because they are not easy, but because they are hard.

How do you answer when someone asks if you're enjoying building a startup?

> "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."

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.

I don't understand the "no sympathy" part. When a friend runs a marathon, yes, they expected to be totally out of breath and have jellified legs, but I still cheer them on and help them recover and celebrate. I don't think I'd be a very good friend if during the race I were saying (or even thinking) "I have no sympathy for you, what did you expect?" -- even if they're complaining.

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.

I think the difference in perception, as compared to running a marathon, is that parenting is more an equivalent of entering a marathon where you have no option to stop, regardless of circumstances, and your performance has a massive impact on the life of another person.

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.

> ...your performance has a massive impact on the life of another person.

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.

> 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.

Indeed, I would expect more support instead of less. "You should have known" may be accurate but it feels unhelpful.

Anyone who had kids because they thought kids would make them happy is in for a bad time, but that's not what this is about. This is about narcissism and people not being able to learn from what is going on around them. Clearly even after kids the people in the headline of this story didn't understand life or how to live with others. Just the tale of their parenting lets you know that not only did they not have a good relationship ( claim of 90% of work by one parent, and spending most days carting the child around to "activities" ), but then the burden of this unfulfilled and damaged life is placed on the child, if you could do it again you wouldn't have a child, therefore that child will see it as their fault they have ruined your life. You can't hide those emotions for long and they end up with bitterness and resentment. The truth is even without kids the realtionship was not in good shape, and these people would have had an empty and shallow partnership. That is how human relationships work, when hard times come they don't break your relationships they revel them for what they are.

Motherhood or parenting or children aren't the problem, the basic breakdown of people being able to live and relate with other people is.

The doublespeak is palpable too.

>"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.

I don't see anything contradictory in what she says. You can love someone, yet not always take actions that are best for them. Your life can resolve around someone else, while you wish it didn't.

The outrage at saying you regret having children seems to me to be evidence that there's a nerve there to hit. It's a bit like accusing 10 supposedly straight people of being secretly gay, and one of them losses their mind screaming denials. 'Methinks he doth protest too much.'

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.

It's the exact same nerve this story hit, about how the years after having a child tend to be among the most miserable and unhappy for parents (demolishing the fairy tale).


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.

I agree completely with the outrage being a product of people propping up denial of their own dissatisfaction with their decisions. Though I am biased having gone through the homophobic denial thing myself, it seems to be a very common pattern, and can only really only be addressed by society not signally so strongly that everyone "should" be a certain way.

Maybe that is part of it. But I think it has more to do with the enormous responsibility inherent in parenting. Because with parenting you can't just quit. Becoming a parent is equivalent to deciding that for 18 years someone else's life is more important than your own, and if you weren't willing to commit to that then you have made an unpardonable mistake by being a parent.

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.

> deciding that for 18 years someone else's life is more important than your own

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 `outrage' (at least the imagined outrage) is that it's considered really unfortunate/unhealthy for your children when you say that you regret having children, because children generally will think themselves to blame.

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.

Hell yeah, there's a nerve to hit.

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?


> I wonder who's outraged by someone else saying something about their own life and feelings?

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.

> 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.

So you're saying those "outraged" parents don't like it either and don't like to see people freeloading and not taking their share of the pain? They're "outraged" because some people are getting off scott-free?

You can still love your job and feel that someone else is a freeloader. I'd think the same would apply here.

There's no shortage of humans on this planet, and by the time we're retired, automation will have advanced considerably.

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.

> There's no shortage of humans on this planet, and by the time we're retired, automation will have advanced considerably.

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."

I guess the proper response to this in context of the conversation on moral imperative to reproduce, would be, "So what? Why should I care? Either I want kids or I don't, and that's the end of it for me. And since society isn't going to make anyone reproduce, go fuck off."

> It's kinda violating a social contract. Everyone's the product of thousands of people over thousands of generations who chose to have kids.

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.

Many, many species have members that don't reproduce. After all, "It takes a village to raise a child". The genes of non-reproducers are even selected for - children who share a lineage with them, do better. So the gene carries on.

Its obvious that having children must be a positive biological function that prior generations somehow wanted to do, or we wouldn't be here. Any species that doesn't breed goes extinct. So I believe these factors are the root cause of why children suddenly seem like such a "problem":

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.

Great list, but there's a couple of important missing pieces:

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.

There were definitely large swaths of history where having kids was a net economic gain (they could work the fields, help with chores, etc).

Great points! There's also something about the isolation most modern adults feel. Look around at all primitive humans and apes, not a lot of singles and couples raising children. Think it would be a lot easier if it was less "you vs the world, oh and raise these kids" feeling to it.

There used to be a saying, "it takes a village to raise a child." This was a very real phenomenon where kids would run around an entire town, and everyone felt responsible for them.

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.

I absolutely agree. Something natural, like having children, has become complicated and this is problematic. Knowing that there's single parents struggling to care for their children because they're alone, without support network or community, is heart breaking.

That's an interesting line of thought about the artificial complexity/problematic aspects overlaid on something so natural. A society that can reduce any friction about so necessary a behavior should enjoy a strong long term competitive advantage. The barren lifestyle can only proceed as long as generation+0 then another will inherit it by default. There's some funny quote I heard once, "the future belongs to those who show up". We need people to show up, how can we make it not so complicated?

Raising children has become complex because living in our modern society is complex. We are far from the times in which men went to hunt and women worked on the field or made various objects in the village and the elderly cared for the children.

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.

It's a product of straight greed. Look at any business that is making large profits but still won't give paternity or even maternity leave because they don't want to pay for their employees choices. Many people and companies viee themselves as individuals who are extracting value from society instead of members of a community who are adding value to their society.

Until that becomes a rare viewpoint, or at least one with no power, we will have these problems

These are great points. My wife and I realized being isolated in the city we moved to for work was a big component of our unhappiness. The "go it alone" nature of American society is not how humans were built to live.

Your notes on "trust" and "support network" are very, very interesting and good points. I can imagine in smaller towns or old villages, you would be more or less okay with your children playing by themselves. Maybe you could even trust your neighbor and local granny to watch over them. But now, there's so much fear of crime and kidnapping. What a horrible situation!

While I agree with most of your points, I'd like to point out that it's not necessarily true that prior generations wanted/enjoyed having children. People didn't have much in terms of birth control for most of human history, so having sex would often lead to children whether the parents wanted them or not.

Great points. We live 1000 miles from family and it has made it much more difficult on us

Both my wife and I never wanted to have kids. In fact I tend to dislike most kids, especially babies. We accidentally got pregnant, but then lost the baby a few months in. After that my wife wanted to try again. I went along because I love her and a small part of me did want to have kids. He is now 7 months old and I love him to death. But holy fuck, what a pain in the ass this is. And he is a good baby! But he needs 100% attention (not just supervision, but engagement) or else he freaks out. I can’t imagine what a “bad” baby would be like. I totally feel what the article is saying about feeling trapped. I feel like I do not exist anymore, but that everything I do is for him. There are risks I can’t take now. Ideas I can’t pursue. Hobbies I won’t have time again for years. Haven’t had sex in months. I see all these dudes, who after having kids, love kids. I thought that might happen to me, but no, the thought of having another kid makes my skin crawl. I love my son more than I thought was possible, but my wife asked if I wanted to have another one and without hesitation said “no fucking way”. Time to get snipped.

> I see all these dudes, who after having kids, love kids. I thought that might happen to me, but no, the thought of having another kid makes my skin crawl.

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.

This was me about 4 years ago. Now I have 3 children ages 2-6 years, and I'm definitely back into the "I feel like I don't exist" territory again. I can share a lot with all three of them, but if they weren't there I wouldn't volunteer 5 hours every day for free at the local daycare to develop relationships with children and cook them food they don't want to eat.

For what it's worth, I think a 7 month old is just about the hardest age of kid to have. They are old enough to scream and complain but young enough to not be able to fix any of their problems themselves. Hang in there, and good luck ;-)

Something that worked really well for us, teach the kid sign language. It isn't just that they are screaming and complaining. They are trying to communicate, and failure to do so is frustrating. I can only imagine how frustrating it is when you haven't learned the emotions, yet.

(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.)

The "Baby Signing Time" series was a game changer for us. It was nice to know what the problem was before my kid could speak. Other parents warned me this would be the most difficult time because of the not knowing, but this absolutely minimized it.

we taught our girl to nod "Yes". after that it became much easier. She was able to nod "Yes" when she was hungry. After you rule out hunger, there are only a couple more things to check before you typically fix the problem.

> I feel like I do not exist anymore, but that everything I do is for him.

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!

Keep in mind that 7 months (really, the first year) is a black hole. You're not going to get much sleep, you're going to get sick, and your social life is going to suffer. It's just how it is (at least, how it was for my wife and I). But, sometime around the one year mark, things get MUCH easier. I don't look back on the first year fondly, but I'm happy I put the work in then, because the payoff is incredible.

Before you make any judgments about more kids, wait a year. I think your opinion might change.

> I feel like I do not exist anymore, but that everything I do is for him. There are risks I can’t take now. Ideas I can’t pursue. Hobbies I won’t have time again for years. Haven’t had sex in months.

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!

Babies are hard. Real hard. It gets easier (never easy), but this phase will for sure come to an end.

get it snipped. trust me. there's nothing wrong with how you feel but don't have another one. you'll thank me later :)

Most things in life that are worth it are hard. I find that Occam's razor is deeply misleading - when it comes about the important life decisions, the exact opposite applies: the easy path is one of superficiality, short-term gratification, that you will come to regret later.

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.

> Most things in life that are worth it are hard

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.

What does Occam's Razor have to do with making life decisions?

(I think you edited? People do have a tendency to over-apply it, from my observations. To extend from "chose the simplest model that explains something" to "when faced with a choice, chose the simplest solution")

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".

Yes sorry I edited right after just to soften the tone.

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.

Do you not make decisions based on theories or hypotheses about how the world works or is?

Occam's Razor -> simplest explanation is likely the right one.

You use big words and don't really say anything, therefore you're reeeeaaallllyyy smart.

>And (at least I hope so), it only gets better as times goes by.


Well, I have three, and the oldest is going to be heading to college soon. So it's not a completely uninformed hope :) - though it is, of course, a deeply subjective one.

Kids are hard work, expensive, a huge responsibility (it's your job to make sure they don't end up entitled little assholes) and you have to give up a 3rd of your youth. I never wanted kids.

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.

Of the few regrets I have in my life, not getting a vasectomy in my 20s is probably the biggest. All the financial mistakes I've made (the jobs I didn't get/take, the investments I should have made, etc) are nothing compared to the regret I feel about becoming a father. I love my kid but the only reason I have one is because my wife wanted one and I want her. I absolutely get why people would want kids (watching a child progress is beyond interesting and the reactions are often priceless) but the loss of self and freedom isn't worth it to me. I told myself I'd never have kids but I lost a lot of backbone when I got married because I love her more than I could ever love anything or anyone.

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.

You are not alone.

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.

The losses are real. Loss of freedom, money, time, and often the loss of your wife's figure. I get it. I really get it. (Martin Mull said, "Having children is like having a bowling alley installed in your brain.")

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.

fellow regretful father here and I couldn't agree more. Anyone who thinks that having a kid because they're partner wants one is a good idea should take note. A lot of relationships won't survive one parent resenting the other because of a kid. +1 on the loss of self and freedom. I got my vasectomy after my second and couldn't be happier.

I've seen a lot of stories on /r/childfree similar to yours.

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.

When we enthusiastically adopted the "Nuclear Family" (along with Levittown suburbia) after WWII, we knew at the time it was new, but new was Good(tm) and Sciency! Soon, we seem to have forgotten that it was a recent decision, one we can change.

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.

>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.

Do you have any sources supporting this? I'm pretty sure the "nuclear family" + suburbia have worked out fine.

I am curious to hear your take on the benefits of suburbia? To me I see people with long commutes, who live in relative isolation. They waste resources and time they lead to sprawl that destroys landscapes. They have made us dependent on cars and high energy transportation mechanisms. They have increased the wealth gap, and increased our segregation. As a follow on to results of their increased overhead they have made it harder for families to operate in a normal fashion. Kids have a lower density of fellow kids, and rely on parents for driving them around to places, parents spend less time with their partners and family's due to longer commutes and more overhead with doing anything, because of that overhead we started to outsource all aspects of family life ( childcare, cooking, entertainment ). In general I see the suburbs as an abject failure.

Not all suburbs are the same. I live in suburban Minneapolis and most things seem to work pretty well. The schools are great, the houses are fairly large and comfortable, the commutes for most people I know are not very long, the yards are big (and enjoyed), there are lots bike rail trails, and weekend summer days are full of people walking, riding, etc.

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.

As one of those Millennials who has kids, I can tell you the push to the suburbs is mainly due to the supply of houses and the prices in cities not because they offer any better quality of living. From everyone I have talked to they would prefer not to be in the suburbs, but because for the past 60 years that is where we built all the houses for families there isn't much of an option. Take a look at housing prices for three bedroom houses and notice how big of a drop in price there is once you get outside the city. People aren't moving to the suburbs because they are better, they are moving there because that's the only thing they can afford. Developers have no incentive to build family sized houses in the city as its cuts into their profits and after decades of family flight to the suburbs there is no one on city councils to actually make zoning laws to accommodate what people want.

Also the schools. Houses in the our city in safe-by-city-standards neighborhoods are not only way more expensive (and, nonetheless, smaller) than the 'burbs, they're usually served by some of the worst schools in the area. So then you're paying for private school, on top of more expensive housing. The math for living in the city doesn't work out unless you're really rich—or don't have kids. You could maybe do it with one and not hurt your wallet too much, but the costs scale quickly with 2+.

Yes, affordable large homes is one of the benefits of the suburbs. If you like the city so much, just live in a two bedroom and make the kids share. It's how it used to work before all those evil developers built the suburbs that everyone moved to.

Except its not. The housing stock in cities used to be much more diverse, but then we spent 6 decades not continuing to build it out because we decided cars and gas were free and there was no detriment to unchecked waste. The whole point I am making is that you _could_ have affordable family housing in a city and not have all the associated problems of suburbs of which there are many as I listed, but without someone holding those "evil developers" to building it, they will just do what makes them the most money, and then you have a whole generation who is watching their house value skyrocket as we run into the limits of suburban style housing planing and they don't see how they possibly could have made a bad decision. I guess if its working out ok for you then everything is fine.

You want something that is intrinsically expensive (a large home in a high-density urban area) to be cheap, which is understandable if not very realistic. It is not because of greedy developers, or bad zoning, it is because of simple market forces. Tiny condos don't sell and in the suburbs and big SFHs are too expensive in the city for most people. Everybody trades off a variety of concerns when choosing where to live, but pretending that if only you were in charge then everything would be better is just silly totalitarianism.

Except it's not, building costs are relatively fixed per square foot, but it's more profitable to sell them in one and two bedroom units, then using the extra space for a third bedroom. This is why in almost every high density building project you only see one or two bedroom units. Because that third bedroom isn't going to bring in as much money as an additional one bedroom unit. The result is the only place you build those kinds of houses are out in the burbs, it no more cost effective it's just that no one would buy a one bedroom house in the middle of no where so they build the only thing that will sell on the quickly diminishing resource of undeveloped land. Since we have been doing that for sixty years the only undeveloped land is well outside any reasonable commuting distance to a job, so you end up with house prices in the previously developed location soaring, then when the idea that maybe using up all that space on low density housing was a bad idea the response is there is intrinsic limitations.

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.

>Except it's not, building costs are relatively fixed per square foot [...]

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.

You can't really evade market forces, you can only dodge them for a limited time. The only solution you are really going to have is fixing housing prices. Sounds like a winning plan!

You don't need to evade market forces, you just need to actually think about the implications of your zoning laws. Allow more high density houses to be built and require them to have family friendly units. Stop subsidizing the suburban sprawl to the detriment of urban development and fix the broken school systems.

Unchecked density isn't a good solution. You can find lots of examples of how that works out in places without zoning laws.

Destroys landscapes? At least there is a landscape. One that's much nicer than being surrounded by concrete in all directions. I don't know how narrow a definition of "suburbia" we're taking, but I grew up mostly in a smallish town in a valley and there weren't any of these problems. The rich people had bigger houses, whatever. Going places was a short nice drive instead of having to take crowded public transit (I've taken public transit, I'd drive instead any day). Are you really painting walking/taking public transit everywhere in a city as a plus?

I understand the concrete in all directions comment, and that is definitely a problem. As I look at some of America's big cities I think you can see the time frames where we valued open green space and incorporated that into the landscape and where we stopped doing that and let development proceed unchecked. In the Capital Hill neighborhood of DC they did an exceptional job of incorporating green space. Other parts of the city or in places like Baltimore and the newer parts of Philadelphia they didn't do a good job of that and its depressing.

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

Yeah, small town is really nice to live in, with commercial zones nearby to get stuff from or have malls. Miles of houses with no green space sounds nearly as bad as the concrete. I don't think I've ever seen such a thing in person, though. I was thinking of where the houses are generally separated by a certain amount of trees/woods. It was easy to take for granted how nice of a place the Hudson Valley was to live until I had to move away in order to be within driving distance of my job. "All that is within me cries out to go back to my home on the Hudson River" is a quote attributed to FDR, and I really get where he was coming from nowadays.

Clean air, low noise, safety, land, large living spaces, nature, usually better schools. Unless you're living on farm land, suburbs are full of roaming children. I never had any issue with finding people to hang out with.

Its funny because across the country as the suburban community's age none of those things are true. I am thinking of my experience with Levitttown, PA where over time all those metrics you just said declined to the point where the city is much better in most regards then the suburban utopia, and the end result is a place that is worse for everyone then the city ever was.

You can cherry pick all you want, people move to the suburbs for a better quality of life.

Betty Friedman book gives pretty accurate picture. Plus there was that feminists revolution where women fought to not be at home.

Suburbia doesn't preclude two working parents or a stay at home dad.

He asked for source of multiple claims one of which was "Women found staying at home stifling".

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.

What's stifling about staying at home, and if you have kids, staying at home with the kids? Sounds perfect to me. Exactly what activities are you proposing someone would do in place of staying home that would be less "stifling"? Parks and hiking trails are nice, for one thing, which also happen to be more accessible in suburban or rural areas.

Stay, if you want and if you are that type of person. For me, going to work did the trick, that I would propose.

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.

This reminds me of https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15800082 which in my opinion is relevant to the subject. Today's parents spend too much time with kids, too many helicopter parents and all that stuff, so it's the parents who overreact, overdo and exhaust themselves.

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.

> never complains about anything

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.

I believe he would laugh and say he doesn't have time to be traumatized. He's 86 and still going strong, always working on something, the man is like a shark (certain species of sharks die if they stop swimming) and doesn't look traumatized at all. Our generation though, we are a lot less stoic. Times change.

I think that throwaway2016a was speaking about an infant under year. Would you be hitting a newborn child? I bet you won't. What outcome would you ever expect here?

Not about hitting at all. It's about sleep training and crying-it-out, both of which can be done for infants > 6months old (we've done it with our boy).

It is very difficult for those who have already had children to consider, if in retrospect, it was the right decision. Once you have children it is no longer a cool, abstract decision. The subject in question (the child) has been made real and it is difficult to reflect on the decision to have children without considering the living, breathing person in front of you and how that person would not have existed had you chosen otherwise.

Exactly right. Even those that think their life would have been better without children likely don't want to hurt the kids they do have.

I don't get it. Parenthood is the easiest it's ever been. Diapers show up at your door. You can monitor the baby with a camera. Some of us work from home, etc. Yes in the early years they entirely depend on you 24/7. Be happy if your children are healthy.

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 don't get it. Parenthood is the easiest it's ever been.

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 think this is a result of the ever increasing age at which people have children. One of the first things I said after having a son at 30 was: "Man I could have handled the sleepless nights much better at 23." In fact I often went out on Friday night, take a shower and proceeded to work 10 hrs in the super market, this would kill me now (at 35). Moreover, the longer you wait, the more accustomed you are to freedom and a lot of money. Not having children at 35 you can work for a small house and travel a lot (where I work now you can easily get away with 2 months of vacation a year, part of it unpaid) or perhaps do a lot of gaming of you wish... then you have children and that all ends, or it doesn't and it becomes hard work.

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.

I think the age thing is because we're all coached to wait until we're "ready", but in reality no one is ever ready. You just have to dive in.

Don't ignore economic factors.

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.

That's a fair point, too

Spot on about the allnighters ability in our 20s, I'm convinced that was our bioligical optimum for progenerating. Peak attraction, peak energy levels, peak libido, minimum sleep requirements. Your point on the the longer you grow more accustomed is spot on too. There some some interesting talk I watched somewhere by Charles Murray that made the distinction between a startup marriage vs a merger marriage. A startup was one that begun early in life while attitudes and worldviews of the couple were still green and flexible. A merger marriage was said to be one where both had long established reigns of adulthood where tastes and preferences fixed onto whatever they did and one has to deal with the complexity of reconciling compatibility rather than growing in unison in a commonly forged compatibility. Something to that extent.

I suspect the main reason it's difficult is because of the individualistic nature of western nations. In a society where people live with multiple generations of family raising children is probably much, much easier.

Add to this the fact that everyone wants to have the best schools, houses and things in general, and the income that's necessary to get and maintain said things and you see that having modern children is a trap.

I don't have biological children - I was never in a position where I would have considered it a good idea to have them (for various reasons, internal and external), and I've always seen it as about the biggest responsibility that you can have. However, about 9 years ago I met my current girlfriend, who had 4 kids from her 16-year marriage, and I'm now considered by them to be their step-parent.

I remember I found it absolutely exhausting when I first started seeing her - it took a couple of years for that to not be the case - and they are -not- difficult children; quite the opposite, they are all really wonderful, and we generally get on very, VERY well. But it's an immense amount of work, and every time my girlfriend compares herself to where she would have been had she not had children and committed her time to be (what I consider to be) and excellent parent, I have to remind her that she's been a full time + (and then some) parent for about 12 years. Returning to the workplace for her has been difficult as she now works a full time job as well as being a mum - and one who cooks just about every night of the week, and has generally impossibly high standards for herself as a parent; despite her/our eldest now currently studying at Cambridge University.

I can totally understand why some would regret having children; it's presented as being a utopian existence that you get immense satisfaction from in many quarters, and anyone who dares question whether it's the right move for them (or indeed their prospective children) is given short shrift. It's not for everyone, but everyone is expected to have children. I have been given long-winded lectures in the past for not having my own, and I'm sure anyone who dared to question the experience with said inquisitors would have a very hard time!

I honestly never understood why you'd put yourself through all that for someone else's genes to propagate.

Half the genes are those of my partner... and I guess it could be that way even if they were biologically my kids? TBH I used to think about it a lot when we first got together, but now I don't really think about them other than they are my kids... not biologically, of course, but there's more to life than biology. Otherwise I'd be my Dad, and that would be Worst Case Scenario for me.

I guess so.

Maybe because you see children as human beings, capable of giving and receiving love.

I think you misunderstand the nature of parenting pal.

I don't know. I've got a bunch of biological kids, and while propagating my genes is not the only reason I care for them, it's an explicit strong positive for me.

You really care about their genes? What if they adopt kids or choose not to have any? Will it distress you greatly that you went through all that effort just to have your genes not continue to the next generation?

I think it's likely you're applying an evolutionary explanation to your parenting behavior, but don't really care that much about your children's actual genes. You care about your children as persons, not their molecular machinery.

If you really, really cared you would have your genes cloned and be donating massively to sperm banks and what not.

Oh, I definitely care. I'd prefer at least some of them have biological kids, but the odds of that are good with my buckshot approach.

I think mine is actually the simpler explanation, and yours is reaching a bit. We're surrounded by vicious competition for genetic reproduction, I don't know why humans would be the exception.

And I don't want a clone, I want to pick a partner with all kinds of good genes to bring to the mix and toss them together, which I did. A partner I'm attracted to in part because of a lot of cues she gives me indicating her genes.

I think when you've had the pride of a son or daughter who is the spitting image of you, or walks just like you, or is noticeably muscular in the places you are, it's hard to deny exactly where that is coming from..

You're admitting that you want someone else's genes in addition to yours to be passed on. Someone you're not related to, which is your wife. And then your kids spouses. Your genes will get diluted each generation.

Anyway, there was an interesting philosophy podcast that rejected reductionistic evolutionary explanations for human behavior. The reasoning goes that yes, evolution is responsible for creating our minds, but once we have the ability to be conscious, to reflect, ask all sorts of questions and form new ideas and what not, that this is a new level of explanation. Thus the need for psychology, sociology, etc.

Call it an emergent if you like. Evolution itself is emergent upon physics, chemistry, geology, climatology, etc.

Maybe. The cost-benefit of kids never really seemed to make much sense to me. Perhaps I'll live to regret it or change my mind in future. Either way, I make my bed...

Why do the genes matter? Human beings matter, not genes. Who really cares what genes propagate, with the exception of defective ones that cause diseases.

I'm not sure why this is so surprising. Having children just because everyone else has children is not a good plan. If that's not what you want to do in life, why wouldn't you regret it? It eats out enormous chunks of your life for something you apparently don't want to do. Some people genuinely want to do it, some people genuinely don't...

Also: It is pretty irresponsible to have a child even though you know you don't want to take care of it.

It's not so simple, because the concept of parenthood is cultural, so a person grows up under a sort of brainwashing.

Note that brainwashing is not an attribute of the people ("those who like children are brainwashed"), but of the culture, where opposition is rejected. As a matter of fact, people who openly don't like children are (at the very least) frowned upon.

I know at least a couple of fathers who clearly "are not children lovers" (to put it mildy), but they had them, and they even think about having more than one. There's no pressure on them, and they're not fools; they just think it's "the way" - in this perspective, it's no different than a religion.

Probably, a hypothetical world where the opposite would hold true - people would be brainwashed that children are a burden - would be better placed, since only (more) motivated people would be parents.

I wouldn't call the concept of parenthood cultural. There's a pretty substantial biological component.

It's aggressively reinforced on a cultural level. There's a huge stigma against not having children, let alone advocating that other people should consider following suit. If you've consciously made the decision to not have children, people feel quite free to call you selfish or immature. You're likely to be bombarded by relatives asking "when are you going to have children?" People with children often take your decision as a personal attack on their choice. The top comment on this thread can be surmised as "Having children is hard, but ultimately worthwhile", but the commenter felt the need to use a throwaway account. A lot of people find it easier to lie and say that they're infertile.


Really? In this comment page alone we have shit like:

"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."

"Spot on with the final point. I have 3, now aged 22, 19 & 16. I like to joke that I have parentdar: it's like gaydar, I just know if someone is a parent or not without them telling me. There's a selfcentredness about the childless that gives itself away in a thousand minor tells. It's more pronounced in women than men."

Parent comment seems to be referring to concepts such as "it is a burden" or "it is a noble sacrifice."

I find t hard to believe anyone genuinely doesn’t want to. I suggest they’re wrong about their feelings. They only exist because every ancestor of theirs has children. Every person who exists today shares that quality. It seems like a critical part of life to have kids or a kid at least.

We haven't had to make decisions solely based on survival and bloodline continuation for a long time.

We're also capable of meta-cognition, so even if some realize that they may want children, they might reason that it's an infeasible idea.

Further, some people simply would rather spend the time for themselves. Personally, I grew up in a below poverty line single parent home and would like to spend time and money for myself and my SO now that I'm doing OK financially.

"I find t hard to believe anyone genuinely doesn’t want to. I suggest they’re wrong about their feelings."

Consider that this is a failure of cognitive empathy on your part. When other people don't feel the same way we do, it's natural to believe that ours is the only reasonable perspective, and maybe even that it's our duty to enforce it on others. But it is possible to develop empathy, and discover that maybe we don't actually have access to all the data like we thought.

Are there wrong povs? Your comment addresses nothing specific about mine.

Essentially all of everyone's ancestors had straight sex; is this good evidence against the existence of people who dislike straight sex?

The point is that your finding it hard to believe that someone feels a particular way is very poor evidence that they do not feel that way, especially when applied to a population.

We know that longtime meditators are able to distinguish micro-expressions in others that reveal emotions that they might not even realize they are having. And they are experts in identifying their own emotions as well. Do you have any such qualifications?

If not, then your disbelief in other people's claims about their experience is likely much stronger evidence of your own difficulty empathizing.

If people can be wrong about their feelings then that seems like good evidence, save for some biological disorder, yes. I suppose you’re saying I can’t make this argument unless I’m a master meditator? And what if I don’t believe in meditation the way you do?

Your argument seems to be that all people who believe they have this feeling are mistaken about it. The fact that people can be wrong about their feelings is not good evidence that everyone with a particular feeling is wrong about it. It's usually much better evidence that the person making the claim is not yet able to take on a particular perspective that exists in others.

But that wasn’t the only fact I used, that’s secondary. Also give me a break with the empathy shtick.

I don't know which part you think is a shtick. If you genuinely believe that millions of people are all wrong about how they feel and that you are right, I think it's likely that there are elements of their experience that aren't yet visible to you, i.e., that you haven't yet fully explored their perspective. This skill of perspective taking is also known as cognitive empathy.

I have no doubt that some are wrong about how they feel, and that would have been an interesting discussion. If I've been misunderstanding this whole time, I'm sorry. Best wishes.

If any can be wrong about their feelings then so can millions. I don’t find your argument by popularity convincing, and I’m annoyed this whole time that you decided to attack me than even consider my point.

Is there something to their feeling? Yes. Is it how they say it is? I don’t think so.

I'm sorry you feel attacked.

An argument by popularity would be "millions of people say that they like Britney Spears, so she is the best singer." The argument I'm making is that "millions of people say that they like Britney Spears, so it's likely that at least one of them actually likes her."

I'm a person who has no desire for children. I haven't engaged your argument because I believe my existence makes it moot.

Likewise, if I were to make an argument that nobody can feel genuinely annoyed because [insert any argument here], I don't think your first step should be to engage my argument. I'd expect you'd help me see that I'm likely misunderstanding you, because you genuinely felt annoyed.

If you'd like to talk more, maybe we can find a channel better than HN.

Your logic here reminds me of this Onion article: https://www.theonion.com/report-finds-children-of-parents-of...

Nonetheless, common misconception that everyone on earth is having children. Nearly half of women in the U.S. have never had children. The exponential population growth that would follow from every single adult having at least one child every generation would be insane and absolutely unsustainable.

It seems like it could be a natural response to crowding in populations that people stop having children, or it could just be a result of people feeling uncertain about their future. Not sure, but either way, I know for an absolute undeniable fact that right now, I could not want anything less than having a child. I'd rather go to prison.

Besides, not everyone should be a parent. There's plenty of criminals with mental disabilities that make them hugely unfit parents even if they wanted to be. The world really would be a better place if said people simply chose not to procreate.

Fertility rate in the US is below replacement rate and falling, as is the rest of the developed world.

It's a problem that across the world in cities with educated populations, they are not reproducing at a sustainable rate.


> If too low, there's a danger that we wouldn't be able to replace the aging workforce and have enough tax revenue to keep the economy stable.

Well, what if our current economic structure in itself bears a fairly large responsibility for the declining birthrate though? It's something I wonder at times.

Declining birth rates may not be a problem per se. But if they are, many economies I think need to adjust some of their policies. Certain countries seem to have paradigms that are not terribly friendly towards the idea of families and raising children.

This paper (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4255510/) identified some socioeconomic factors that might cause a delay of, or even outright rejection of, having children:

Lack of affordable housing

Lack of flexible and part-time career posts for women

Lack of affordable and publicly funded (free) child care

I'll add that education expenses are rapidly rising for some countries. Also, said career paths often come with a financial penalty for mothers (particularly for college women -- it is well known that motherhood in itself is a big reason for the pay gap between the sexes -- https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/13/upshot/the-gender-pay-gap...).

Small wonder that the birthrate is declining. In fact, in some countries, you might postulate that the economic system in itself is actually hostile towards having children.

I'm getting married to my long term partner in a week, and that's the biggest things that's weighing on our minds. We both want to have children, but we live in a big city, just bought a house, and our economic situation is quite dreary.

We'd like one of us to be able to stay home with the kid, but we just can't. Where I live a programmer isn't the best paid position, and both of our jobs are important to our financial success. It'll probably be a matter of getting back to the workforce as soon as possible, and that's really disheartening when you want to give the little one as much of a chance as you can.

The current economic systems seem to be built on the assumption of constant growth all the time always. If the population dipping for a while leads to economic despair, then fine, bring on the despair; it's GOING to happen.

I agree with your other points but, every person having one child would not even sustain the population. The birth rate per woman needed to keep the population stable is 2.1 as each parent needs to be replaced and some people will die before having children

Isn't it perfectly sustainable if adults have, on average, two children per generation? (Since each child has two parents, you can account for them twice.)

That case (<2) is the case for most of the developed world.

No - because the U.S. life expectancy is somewhere in the ball park of 80 years, whereas adulthood is reached in a forth of that. So before the average parent dies off, they will have seen around 2 or 3 generations of adults who are all having children, and their children having children. Also, in the U.S.'s case, you have to consider externalities like immigration, and the fact that some areas are already massively overpopulated.

Though I was definitely wrong to say 'exponential growth' since that isn't actually true.

USA is one of the most under-populated country in the world. Even its densest populated areas in the North East is still "expansive". From arable land to person ratio, US has lot of room to grow.

The over-population problem is not of US, or even not of even Americas (North and South) they are pretty much stabilized at around 1.1 Billion. The coming population "boom" is in Africa which will likely grow from 1 Billion to 4 Billion.

Americans use such a grossly disproportionate share of the world's resources that the US is drastically overpopulated compared to African nations. We could fit the entire world's population into a city the size of Texas at a perfectly liveable density, but we can't magic up more oil or copper or neodymium. We have enough arable land to easily feed 20 billion people, but not if we squander 95% of those calories by raising cattle. Population growth is a total non-issue if we're halfway sensible about how we use finite resources.

http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0956247806063978 http://data.footprintnetwork.org/

I don't think at all that the U.S. is overpopulated, but I think that there are areas of the U.S. that are severely overpopulated. The distribution of the population isn't equal, most people would not be able to thrive at all in rural areas.

That's like saying homosexuals can't be real because all of their ancestors clearly had heterosexual sex.

Guy here, I genuinely don't want kids and honestly can't see that ever changing.

I remember saying that to myself ...

That you find it hard to believe does not make it any less true.

This can be used to rePly to any comment anywhere.

A critical part of life would suggest to me that you die without it. Food and water are critical. Kids are not.

> A critical part of life would suggest to me that you die without it. Food and water are critical. Kids are not.

It depends on your perspective. For instance, if all your cells decided to totally stop reproducing one day, you'd die eventually.

No it doesn't. Kids are not analogous to bodily cells and you will not drop dead by deciding not to have any.

I said:

>> It depends on your perspective.

You didn't change yours. If too many people choose to not have kids, their community dies. So, if you change your perspective to the community then childlessness starts to sound like:

>>> A critical part of life would suggest to me that you die without it.

I first downvoted you, but then undid that, because what you believe or not is really none of my business.

Nothing can prepare you for what it's like to have kids. Since it's essentially a big jump into the unknown, some people will find out (too late) that they were not meant for this. Hence the regrets...

I'd be interested to see how the age of the children correlates with regret. That is, do parents regret having children when the child is 2? How about 12? How about 22? I don't have a hypothesis on how that would play out, but it is important to remember that people are (ever increasingly) programmed for short term reward and child rearing is the ultimate long term investment.

What's up with all this "Having children is bad, you will regret it. get a dog" mentality lately?

Have you heard the expression, It takes a village to raise a child? We don't have villages, so many people have to be a village for their child, and it's very hard and requires a lot of sacrifice. It's good to question whether it's worth it.

I sympathize with the people, but why is our society like this? A society that punishes having children is almost by definition dysfunctional.

I think it's partially a outcome of work getting more specialized. You need to move to find work that's a good fit and you need to move before that to acquire that skill set at a good University. If you don't get very skilled you likely will end up poor at some point which brings its own issues. It's true in any developed country I know of. Fingers crossed that this is temporary till remote work and education becomes the norm and we maybe even get guaranteed basic income.

It's like this because people are inclined to instant gratification. In America this effect with respect to raising children augments the inclination toward selfishness (disguised as individualism).

Looking at birthrates in other countries I'm not inclined to believe this phenomenon is limited to the US. In fact it seems weaker than in many other developed countries. I'm also not sure if I would call it selfish to decide against reproducing yourself. The other extreme of having children just because you want them for yourself and then not being able to give them proper opportunities is much more selfish to me. I think we should try to avoid moral judgements of people we don't know especially on something this intimate.

I'd be more inclined to agree with you if the language of people who eschew children weren't so often focused on their selves ("independence", "freedom", etc.) or simultaneously accusational ("how could you bring a child into this world!"). "Selfish" isn't a moral judgement in this case: it's an accurate description.

I think having children is pretty selfish also. You bring a child into this world... for what? To see yourself continued in the next generation? To make some future friends for yourself? To have that experience? How are these not selfish things? Both choices are selfish in different ways. The fact that one requires some personal sacrifice doesn't make it selfless.

Forget about dysfunctional, it has no FUTURE.

As you point out the support network is gone for many people, especially more ambitious people who moved for career reasons and likely also have student debt...

On top of that though it seems like requirements for parenting have gone through the roof. Between helicopter parenting and all the activities one is supposed to do these days the effort must have gone up tremendously.

I haven't seen any massive upsurge in the sentiment, and I pay attention, because I'm someone who gets grief about choosing not to spawn.

But what's surprising about that "mentality"? Breeding is something some people indeed come to regret, and having the self-awareness to recognize that likelihood in one's self leads to better outcomes for the not-parent and the not-child[1].

A big part of what what I've seen in having these discussions is people resenting those who made different choices. A lot of people follow a script - get married around this age, acquire home, make a kid or two once you can afford the tax privileged accounts, etc. Some of those people resent those who saw they can write their own script and fail to look unhappy about it.

[1] I always hear, "but what if you're wrong?" To which I reply with some variant of, "You should go to medical school. Sure, you're a bit old for that, it is expensive, a huge, somewhat risky commitment, an enormous change in your life for a long time, and you think you'd hate being a doctor. But what if you're wrong?"

That medical school thing is an awesome response, if only I could use it on a doctor.

I guess I should go with "you should go to engineering school"

Can you give some other examples of this mentality on display? Have there been other articles on HN? This sentiment has been prevalent among my peer group (b. Late 80s/Early 90s) for at least a decade. Very few of my friends outside of the very religious are looking forward to having children.

As far back as June 2014, Pope Francis spoke about this phenomenon.


It's a very common sentiment to hear on Reddit. There are subs dedicated to promoting and discussing a child-free lifestyle (e.g. /r/childfree/).

There are also subs devoted to how much an individual character in a book series sucks (eg, /r/fuckmoash). The existence of a subreddit does not really imply a dominant cultural phenomenon.

From the first page of a google search for "reddit parenting": /r/parenting, /r/parents, /r/raisingkids, /r/askparents, /r/newparents, and /r/parentsofmultiples. I suspect it depends on what part of reddit you hang out on.

As a person who doesn't want children, I still hear much more of the "you're deluded to believe you don't want kids," "you'll change your mind," "you're a bad person for not wanting kids" and (from coworkers) "your personal/work-life balance needs must always be immediately and completely subjugated to mine because I have kids" mentalities.

It's a side-effect of modern societies. This is actually a trend spanning at least several decades. As societies become more modern, they start wanting fewer to zero kids.

This is actually the main reason why I've never been so worried about those overpopulation predictions, or worried about what happens if the technology starts allowing us to live hundreds of years.

Well, if we knew for sure that we would live 500 years (and continue to be young and health), nobody in their right mind would want a kid at 30. And you'd likely still be able to die from accidents for the next 100-200 years.

This was my reaction. I was surprised to see all the sentiment in these comments that this is _counter_ to the popular narrative. I see articles like this all the time, and hear it expressed by friends in person.

I think this might be one of those things like atheism, where your ideology becomes generally accepted enough that you forget you're not being rebellious anymore.

At what point in the last 10-20 years has the image of the nuclear family not been under attack?

Beyond medicine and the fact that it's less violent than 200 years ago, it would be incredibly hard to argue we now live in healthy societies.

There is a growing anti-natalist movement, lately.

Rather than help address then problem a sister comment alludes to "get a dog" folks are helping to perpetuate it.

> Rather than help address then problem a sister comment alludes to "get a dog" folks are helping to perpetuate it.

Sorry, can you help me parse this sentence?

Sorry, "then problem" should be "the problem", and the "sister comment" is the one about how we (in America, presumably) no longer have "a village" to raise children: parents are mostly on their own for the task.

My point is that folks who have the "get a dog" mentality are supporting the forces that make child rearing increasingly burdensome.

I'd say that the "get a dog" mentality is more of a symptom of the root forces than support of them. Others have already explained it but essentially the trend of tribe/village -> urban neighborhood multigenerational/extended family single home -> suburban nuclear family -> transplanted dual-career couple has eroded any support network parents had. On top of other lifestyle, economic, and environmental pressures, the "get a dog" people are just saying "fuck it." Sure they add some social/peer pressure but that's blue on black compared to everything else.

> I'd say that the "get a dog" mentality is more of a symptom of the root forces than support of them.

Perhaps it is both? These things tend to be cyclic. "Fuck it" tends to breed conditions where more people say "fuck it."

That said, I do believe in something like a "get a dog and help care for the community" mentality that's not a "fuck it" at all.

We're mostly in agreement. By "fuck it" I meant "fuck it" to having kids, not towards contributing to the greater community. Anecdotally the "get a dog"/DINK married couples I know are probably the most active in community building, local political and social issues, helping out the underprivileged in their area... all that good stuff.

Mainstream media nudges the unfit to choose a child-free life by their own volition. It's a lifelong marshmallow test: do you want to have fun now, or do you want to have a legacy? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanford_marshmallow_experimen...

Sounds like you want (or already have) children to fulfill your own self-interested goals ('to leave a legacy'). That's a recipe for disappointment.

If you have children you do it for them, not for yourself.

And there are better, more predictable ways to leave a legacy. Having a kid is a shot in the dark; sure maybe they'll cure cancer, but maybe they'll be the next hitler, or more likely, they'll be an average joe with no lasting impact on humanity.

I love my parents but I am not their legacy.

By definition you are their legacy.

Do you think people shouldn't talk about it?

Immaturity. People refusing to grow up and get on with life.

It takes a specific type of person to enjoy parenthood. I, however, am not one of them. I love my children but being a parent fucking sucks. It has its moments of joy. But the day-in-day-out sucks. If I could do it over again I wouldn't.

Most people will research a car purchase more than they will parenthood before getting pregnant. I was one of them. You have that urge and you just go with it never questioning the reality and magnitude of the commitment you're getting into.

I didn't want a second child and my wife did. When she said she was pregnant I was not happy. I resented her for much of the first years of my second child's life because I never wanted another screaming baby in my house.

My wife used to talk about wanting a big family but on the second pregnancy she realized that was an idealization - not reality. She thought she would enjoy staying home with our son when he was a baby. The reality was she ended up job hunting after less than a year.

We're both happy I got a vasectomy after our second.

As a father of three young kids I can tell you it's a lot of work, it's not always fun, it's not always rewarding and it's not always what you want it to be.

But I can also tell you I never felt love like the love I feel for my children. I never felt as proud before I saw my children do things that astonish me. I never felt as close to my wife before I had children.

The feels man. For me it makes it all worth it. I absolutely get that it's not for everyone, but for the people that are undecided: there are a lot of happy parents out there and I am one of them.

I would love to see a comparison between similarly aged mothers in countries with more equal gender benefits for child rearing (Scandinavia? France?) and those where mothers are still the de facto responsible for the day to day labor.

Part of this might be caused by the need for a two parent income to survive. It means that the default parent has two jobs, whatever their ambition might be.

We also, as a society, put a lot of conscious and subconscious pressure on women in particular to have and to want children.

Girls are exposed from a young age to overt and covert suggestions that their value is in their reproductive appeal and reproductive potential. Women who don't have children are constantly questioned about it; treated as "less than"; and perceived as having something wrong with them. Women who don't want children are perceived as subversive. (We put some of these same pressures on men, but it's perceived as "normal" for men not to want children.)

And then the burden of childbearing and childrearing falls more heavily on women than on men.

So it's unsurprising that a lot of women have children and then regret it. What's infuriating is that the same pressures and stupid norms that push women into having children for the wrong reasons are the same ones that prevent them from speaking up about it and warning others once they realize they have.

I married my wife 10 years ago. When we got married she was ready to have "at least 3 kids". Now she is not even sure she wants 1.

I know it sounds selfish and absurd but we enjoy our life so much: all of our time we spend with each other, we travel 4-5 times a year to different countries, on the weekend we go for hikes in some national parks close to us. I could go on, but the theme is that we enjoy a lot our company and both me and her we are terrified of changing this.

And if that was not the selfish part here it comes: I am actually afraid for both me and her when we are old that no one will come to visit or we won't have friends in this late stage in our life, we have moved to different countries 3 times.

Those that have more or less the same lifestyle, how and what do you deal with this? I am quite interested in learning how others cope with the selsifh feeling that you should have someone to be with you.

Oh man, we went through a lot of this. We've moved to different states, not countries, but that selfish aspect of 'what happens when I get old' was definitely a topic.

I think one of the realizations that helped us was my wife's experience working in a nursing home. She gets grief all the time for not having children, meaning most of her patients do have children.

The thing is, most of their children rarely visit, or don't visit at all. Having children is no guarantee that they'll be there in the end, and once their adult, that relationship is completely different, especially in the world of cheap travel and communication that we live in.

There was lots of things that went into our decision, not all of them within our control, but ultimately we decided we should focus on our lifestyle, making good friends, and saving enough to afford and quality retirement lifestyle.

> all of our time we spend with each other, we travel 4-5 times a year to different countries, on the weekend we go for hikes in some national parks close to us.

This gets old eventually. This shifts from being novel to repetitive. Having children lets you have a whole new set of experiences.

This person has made their choice. They didn't ask to be offered an alternative perspective, and they've evidently thought it through. What do you gain by trying to convince them they're wrong or to change their mind?

And this goes both ways! I often see parents talk about how rewarding parenthood is, only to be replied to by folks who insist on pointing out how difficult it can be, even if those comments were entirely unsolicited.

I often wonder if comments like this are borne of defensiveness. The GP, in their comment, made mention of all the things they can do absent children, and that could be seen as an indictment of parenthood.

Unfortunately, this makes it impossible for folks with and without children to have a rational conversation, since it's all but impossible for each to speak of the advantages of their lifestyle without implicitly criticising the lifestyle of the other person.

> This person has made their choice. ...and they've evidently thought it through

Nothing evident about it in parent comment. You should probably re-read it, hold your platinum thoughts steady.

My wife and I have been married for a little over 14 years and, from the beginning, knew that neither of us wanted to have kids.

There's nothing at all selfish about being happy with your current life. The real question is why you'd feel selfish for not wanting to have children. It's simply a choice. It's neither selfish nor unselfish, it's just a decision based on a very real cost-benefit analysis.

As for old age, I'll point out a few things:

First, having children is no guarantee you'll be cared for in old age. My grandmother on my father's side was virtually abandoned by most of my family during her greatest years of decline. And she's unfortunately a datapoint in a much larger trend of neglected elderly. Heck, I read a story recently of elderly people in Japan dying in their homes and no one realizing it until the smell disturbed their neighbours...

Second, one can, and should, build an extended support network. The great irony is that having children makes that a lot harder--it's tough to build and maintain friendships when parenting is taking up most of your time--which means this will become more difficult as your own friends have kids. Be prepared to have to work harder to maintain those friendships and to build new ones. But don't neglect this. It'll be tempting to let your social network shrink to just you and your wife. Don't let that happen.

Third, you can plan for your own care. Being child-free means you're more likely to have funds to ensure you can retire healthy and get the necessary care needed as you become infirm.

In the end, though, it's unquestionably a tradeoff, and it's certainly the case that, by not having children, you're more likely to have less support during your declining years.

Personally, I choose to take that risk knowing my wife and I are doing what's right for us, today. We can't be living our lives, now, for an unknown future decades from now.

Appreciate your parents.

I don't like to say insulting things on this platform that values civility. But this is one of the most naive comments I've read this year. Perhaps I speak from stories, but many of the parents I know in my family aren't involved in their children's lives, abuse their children or just plain weren't in appropriate social and economic conditions to have children. Many, maybe most, parents are just not worth appreciating.

I lost my dad when I was 18. I've lived now over half my life without him. You're being downvoted because you can't differentiate wisdom from naivete.

Appreciate your parents.

That's really terrible. I lost my mother to mental illness a little younger than that, she's still around but she's not my mom, she's terrifying. I'm honestly not sure which is worse.

Well, sentences tend to become a lot more awkward when all the necessary caveats are inserted. There is something healthy in the comment, if you're willing to find it. If you're reading naiveté, perhaps it comes from your own pain, and I'm sorry.

This article is a bit of a let down. They repeat the same thing over and over again. That there are mothers who regret having children, and how they are criticized by some other people as soon as they voice those regrets.

What the article doesn't address is exactly why they regret having children, and what could be done to alleviate their problems. Or how mothers who regret having children differ from those who don't. Is it a personality trait, or does it have to do with the environment? Probably mostly the latter, but in what way exactly?

The topic is interesting, the article not so much.

I mean, they definitely talk about how the specific demands of modern motherhood are exhausting. Here's a quote:

"Feeling trapped or suffocated is a common theme in Donath’s work; mothers felt “as if the metaphorical umbilical cord binding them to their children were in fact wrapped around their neck.” Many women said they felt pressured to have children. So did German novelist Sarah Fischer, author of Die Mutterglück-Lüge (The Myth of Mothering Joy: Regretting Motherhood—Why I’d Rather Have Become a Father), published in 2016, who writes she knew she’d made a mistake “when the contractions started.”

> what could be done to alleviate their problems

Nothing. You can't put the bun back in the oven.

The best you can do is talk openly about how for some people having a kid is a terrible, irreversible, regrettable decision.

That seems defeatist. Healthier/stronger support networks would almost certainly benefit everyone.

Damn. I’m 30; my fiancee is 32. We are going through this HARD right now.

I’ve asked tons of folks why they’ve decided to have kids and what their experience with them has been like. Nearly everyone has said that it was extremely hard upfront EXCEPT for a friend of my fiancee’s who had family nearby to take care of her child while her and her husband worked. But my gut feeling is that those that legitimately regret having kids won’t say it in fear of feeling like they are a monster.

My Mom is guilting me pretty hard into having kids. My fiancee’s sisters are both pregnant as are many of her friends. It also doesn’t help that most of the people in our age in our neighborhoods also have kids.

Our lifestyle is mostly: lots of going out, lots of fun, lots of “us” time mixed with time for ourselves when i travel for work. Whenever the “do you want kids” question comes up, the answer is never an immediate, resounding YES on both sides, which means that it’s a no. The thought of never being able to do what I’m doing now seems like it would destroy me. But “everyone” says that their feelings towards their kids replaces that, so maybe it won’t be so bad?

But not having them is feeling harder and harder by the day, not because I want them more and more but because I feel like I need to have them for some reason and she’s running up against her “soft limit” (35).

I was a single parent for six years and regret not a minute of it. But my own mother’s advice to me many years ago was, “Don’t have kids. They mess up your life and I regret it.” Although I wouldn’t have existed otherwise I am sorry for her that society 50 years ago dictated that she had to have kids.

I loved this quote in the article:

> One commenter called Dutton “an utterly miserable, cold-hearted and selfish woman.”

It’s the commenter who was selfish, presuming some obligation on the part of Ms Dutton.

> my own mother’s advice to me many years ago was, “Don’t have kids. They mess up your life and I regret it.”

Hopefully your mother waited until you were an adult to give you this advice!

I was about 18. My dad was annoyed and got her to “apologize” which I think was unfair: she lives her kids and wants the best for them, hence gave important advice.

I had no choice in the matter of being born so I don’t feel bad about getting this advice.

In general, I think that readers/posters/commenters here at HNews are above (? not sure if it's the right word) the average population in terms of reading, thinking, planning ahead (and are even able to discuss planning strategies like "should I go waterfall or RUP or Agile or XP or...").

And it's easy to notice that this subject arises many points-of-view without any effort.

Extrapolate that to the whole population, where some pregnancies happen without planning, without even noticing, without previous discussion between the couple, or even without too much thinking ahead for single-alone parents.

Yes, given that each child is different, it's no surprise that hardly anyone is prepared to be a parent, and that parenthood can last even after you have grandchildren, becaus yes, even when your child marries and get their own children, you'll might end up helping here and there.

I really appreciate that people outspeak about how hard is to be a parent, because the easier way is to do like those who are inside the cold pool.

I am late for the discussion, but maybe I could shine something on this whole discussion.

Having a kid is the most hard/stressing/demanding thing if you are doing the best and the right thing.

Kids don't choose when or what disease they get. Have you a meeting in the morning? That's sucks you are on ER at 5:00 am since 2:00 full of vomit.

Want to move to Nepal and be a monk for one year? Your kid will not wait.

A lot of people outsource or do different decisions, but EACH decision has a price. You pay now or in the future with interest.

Yesterday was my kid first day after vacations. He was throwing a fit. But yesterday was different was not a common fit. So I asked what the problem was? Are the schools? Teachers? Friends? No. he said:

I want to be with you daddy.

That got me, real hard. I started to cry, and he hugged me. I want to be with him all the time. But that is not life about. He is growing. Soon will be a teen and later married and have kids. And I will be left missing him. But still, this is marvelous.

Having kids hurts and it is not for everyone. But I will do everything again 1000x times.

When people tell me they are having their first kid I send them this song.

"You Ruined Everything" by Jonathan Coulton


My favorite title in life is being a dad. I loved changing the dirty diapers for my wife. I love joking with them about how they puked on head when I was carrying piggy back down the stairs. I loved seeing them succeed. I have 2 "bios" and 3 "adopts" and I loved all of them deeply.

Sure there are hard crappy things. I hated how my first was super colicky and cried 8 hours a day. I hated when they were feeling down or hurt. I hated when my middle son was diagnosed and then 4 years later died of cancer, but I wouldn't want to trade any of the bad things because I would have missed the highs and the norms.

I applaud you for sharing and I'm so glad there are dads out there like you that just plain love being a Dad.

However, I would highly recommend you never use this narrative in response to anybody who opens up enough to say they regret being a dad (or a mom).

So if you kids are good I am fine that your regret it, but if you publish it so your kids can see it I am pissed.

I work with kids. I see neglected kids everyday. I see abused kids everyday. I don't have much sympathy when kids are neglected or not nurtured. If a kid feels unwanted the mental trip is bad.

Ugh, wouldn't want to hear that from my mother.

Raising a child is hard work, when they are a tween or teen it is even harder. My wife and I found a better system called Love and Logic that made it a bit easier. It would have been nice if we learned it earlier.

Our son is in college now and helps us out, while I help him with homework and edit his essays so he gets better grades.

Since 2003 I've been on disability and been mostly a stay at home dad while my wife works. I taught my son how to fix computers and build them. He fixed his friends computers and then learned how to fix cars, ECT.

I would go through it again if I had to.

Not everyone is cut out to be parents and children can vary, as you never know what you are going to get.

Wait -- you edit your college-aged child's essays??

I proof read them to check for mistakes.

Having kids (a boy and a girl, 9- and 8-years old respectively, both adopted) changed my life in a profound way. I made me much more materialistic (as in providing for my family), more interested in day-to-day life than the myriad artistic and intellectual pursuits of my younger self.

Today I cannot imagine my life without my kids, but I also know that once they start their own adult lives and their own journeys, my life will stop revolving around them, and we will get back the freedom that we sometimes miss so dearly today. As much as I enjoy my kids, a part of me can't wait for this chapter to be over.

As our kids have grown up we have found our parents becoming more dependent on us, we are getting squeezed from both sides.

One possible resolution of The Fermi Paradox and The Great Filter are: We figure out reliable and cheap contraception and raising kids is too difficult and/or expensive, so everyone basically stops doing it.

...in the meantime, you'd get collapse of social systems as the weight of a society composed nearly entirely of the elderly brings growth to a halt as the few young try to take care of the huge number of elderly people.

Luckily, in the West, we still have immigration so we don't have much to worry about. But when the poorest countries start becoming wealthy and get access to cheap/reliable contraception, there will be no one left to immigrate into their countries.

We might get lucky and have the machines take care of us as we age. But thus ends the human race.

EDIT: My solution is for society to stop treating child-rearing as a second-rate job and for us to fully support both fathers and mothers as equal caretakers, giving both full support in the form of leave and childcare, etc. And universal healthcare, too.

Without massive immigration, childbirth is way too low in the West (and now, increasingly, in the Far East) to maintain a stable population. I'm a huge fan of immigration, but not every country in the world can rely on that at the same time.

I don't have kids but it seems to me that the way the U.S. is structured for middle and upper middle class families exacerbates the issue. Suburbs are not walkable communities. Kids don't seem to play in the streets in their neighborhood like I used to do when growing up. It's taboo to let a 10 year take the bus by himself or to be alone. Activities are much more structured and that means a lot less flexibility.

In my job, I meet a lot of elderly people many of whom have significant medical illnesses. I wish it could be otherwise, but almost all the people that have 'aged well' have children.

Many of the arguments against having kids are from the perspective of a 20 - 40 year old. More than half our lives are going to be spent being older than this, and it is easy to optimize for things that will simply be irrelevant after a while.

I thought I heard something in this direction once, that a woman adds years to her life in a linearly scaling fashion with the number of children she bears, which plateaus beyond some count like 5 or 6 I think it was. I think this news came around the time they discovered maternal-fetal “chimera” cells which apparently go in and fix stuff in mama IIRC. Sometimes I wonder about all these medical records we gather and how they'd contribute to measuring stuff like you point out. With all the data enumerated in the future it should be a relatively straightforward analysis right?

There are definitely tangible health benefits. Giving birth and breastfeeding reduce the risk of breast and ovarian cancer. The protective effect for breast cancer goes away if the woman becomes pregnant when she is older however. Pregnancy also reduces the risk of multiple sclerosis. For most of human history however, the dangers far outweighed any benefits, with maternal mortality being a major cause of death.

There are probably many other fascinating things going on as you highlight.

I should add that there could be selection bias going on - perhaps those that have children have existing social, economic, psychological and health attributes that also predict successful ageing.

Great comment, this provoked some day dreaming about mammalian physiology around the design of live birthing trading against maternal mortality where live birthing clearly wins in the risk/benefit evolution of such species. I'm very curious how maternal mortality distributes across other mammals, is it a pretty constant thing? I'm also curious about the aggregate extension of life women have experienced from birthing vs those tragically lost during child birth, say the sum of the ages of all such lost women, how those two figures would stack up.

Looking at this hit http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs348/en/ gives a figure 385 per 100,000.

"Maternal mortality refers to deaths due to complications from pregnancy or childbirth. From 1990 to 2015, the global maternal mortality ratio declined by 44 per cent – from 385 deaths to 216 deaths per 100,000 live births, according to UN inter-agency estimates.

Doing some back of the envelope calculations

  100,000   sample size

      385   maternal deaths in sample (picked the higher figure)

       30   average maternal age at death (my own guess, leaning high)

   11,550   years lost (385*30)

        1   age increase per birth (my own guess, leaning low)

   99,615   added years from successful births

   88,065   net added years of life to mothers in sample.
Even if I choose a more pessimistic mortality rate of 1000 per 100,000 it's still a net positive with my figures; I roughly estimated that the break even point is 3226 deaths per 100,000 according to the above calculus. This analysis only works because the mortality rate is a thankfully such a small fraction, but tragically not 0. I wonder if there was ever a period in human history where the mortality was ever above 3%?

Of my two grandmothers, the one that died had the most children.

That may be so, but is it possible that children are what cause it more likely that your customers use the services your job provides?

Not for cancer, no.

TIL children might cause cancer.

American child rearing is unbalanced.

Read this: Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting by Pamela Druckerman

I like the concept of that book and it does a good job of explaining a very different culture in an approachable way, but its important to point out there is nothing "french" about good child rearing, and nothing "American" about bad parenting. There are plenty of American parents who can make the bold claim that book makes, but there are plenty more who refuse to listen to advice and have very low expectation so of being a parent. There is nothing magical about having your kids sleep through the night, or play quietly, or be able to behave in a public place, or eat the food you give them. You just need to put in the work.

Trying to raise your kids differently from that in the US is quite the hassle though. There are plenty of news headlines where it got ridiculous, but here's two examples from my life, with my oldest daughter (I'm sure I'll have more as her siblings get older):

Someone called the cops on me for leaving her, at 8 years old, in a car, parked in the shade, on a cool day for 5 minutes.

She was questioned by a stranger at age 10 (where are your parents, what are you doing alone &c.), when I let her walk by herself through the safest part of town for 3 blocks from my office to an after-school activity.

TFA is Canadian

> Thomas Gilovich—a Cornell University psychologist famed for research that indicates people are far more likely to regret things they haven’t done than things they have—examined people with high IQs: not one regretted having children; several reported regretting not having a family. That assumption has been challenged, however, by the “childless by choice” movement and research debunking the myth that babies have a bonding effect on marriage or that children bring happiness: a 2010 American Sociological Association study found that parents were more likely to be depressed than their child-free counterparts, and that people without kids were happier than any other group.

Not one high-IQ person studied reported regretting having children, and yet the objection made here is that another study showed "that people without kids were happier than any other group"? There seems to be some conflation of ideas here. Lack of regret and happiness are by no means the same thing. You can have no regrets about doing something while simultaneously admitting you would probably have been personally "happier" having not done it. I would say most sacrifices are like this. For example, you wouldn't fight for a cause you believe in (say, protesting against a corrupt regime) and put yourself in great personal danger in order to maximize your happiness - that would be a terrible strategy. You're much more likely to have a happier life by keeping your head down, staying quiet and not rocking the boat. You would only fight for a cause because you believe it's greater than yourself, and more important than your personal happiness. The belief the pervades this article - both implicitly and explicitly - is that your happiness is the highest value in life. If you believe this - and I don't - perhaps not having children is the most logical choice. It does seem to be the case from the data that childless people are happier. What can be made of this? Maybe this: having children is not about making you happy.

Indeed, children go far beyond happiness. Your happiness dies with your mortality. What is sacrifice? It is the expenditure of self, as a resource, to achieve...? Whatever purpose.

It's not just that one partner wants kids while the other doesn't. Don't forget the influence of would-be grandparents who ask, "so when are you going to give me grandchildren?" Of course grandkids are fun to play with and occasionally take care of but (usually) aren't a full-time responsibility.

To anyone who has become a parent recently and wondering what you have done to your life: I feel your pain.

After my daughter was born I had dark moments. Boy, was I naive about having kids. It was by far the most exhausting task I ever had to do. Especially the first year was tough. Relationship with mother, work, self-confidence, everything went down.

But let me tell you this: it gets better!

My daughter is turning three and she has grown into something splendid.

I didn't expect this, but I can honestly say that she is giving me as much as I give her. She has her own personality and it is a lot of fun to get to know her better every day.

I still miss my old life, a lot, but now I get to have fun with this creature and can learn from her every day something.

The saddest part of all of this to me it's just how many marriages and lives have been destroyed or severely hurt by the inability to have children, while others can so easily produce them, and either take it for granted or regret it.

I don't think there's anything to solve here, per se, but there does seem to be a massive disconnect between our biology and psychology in many of these cases, but the people most deprived are the kids in these situations.

Maybe the thing to solve is the readjustment of our expectations of genetic continuity, rather than cultural, moral and personal continuity, so that adoption and fostering are seen as a valid alternative. I know a lot of parents do see this as an option, but sadly, it does seem to be treated as a consolation prize rather than being a decision that benefits society and the parties involved.

Society has lost its way if arguably one of our most fundamental, carnal functions is too burdensome to carry out. Whether the burden is monetary (day care, cost of goods) or social (sports, parties), there's got to be a reckoning coming. There's no way we can sustain this way of life.

On the contrary, this is probably good news as we are nearing the carrying capacity of our planet. I don't think birth rates will ever decline to the extent that the global population collapses but a declining birth rate is really something to celebrate.

It's only declining in the places where people give a shit about the Planet in these terms.

One of the funnier aspects of the stereotypical basket of progressive views is that they end up holding their own societies to high standards and criticize qualities of those societies that were necessary for the fostering of their own worldview.

They "give a shit" but at the same time pollute a thousand times more (per capita). So one less American and one more Indian is a net positive for our green earth.

I'm not sure about that. USA has a lot of nature preserves and strict environment laws. 3rd world countries may experience runaway population growth where no land left undisturbed and nothing is preserved.

If we take CO2 it's another thing, but low emissions won't save you once all the biosphere is literally eaten.

That has nothing to do with cost to earth. We just export our pollution to seas and china.

If all countries start living like americans we'd need 5 times the surfaces area of earth.

Preserving biosphere is precious. "Cost to earth" is meaningless by itself - the planet isn't going anywhere. The only fragile thing here is biosphere.

I can see that you don't actually value Earth, just pity that it's so small you have to ration it.

The main problem there, the elephant in the room, is that we live till 85 but the decision about having each and every child has to be carried before 45, and 'soft limit' is a decade lower. Subtract your own childhood, education and getting some money and experiences, and you can see it becomes very very narrow.

Demographics will shift dramatically if we are to prolong youth instead of prolonging old age.

I agree. This may be one of the most deranged articles I've read on HN. One thing to decide not to have children for a number of reasons. To go forth and regret it after the fact and use a bunch of complacent excuses is rather sickening. These people need to really do some soul searching.


Why "damn"? And why the downvotes? You have children to have/start a family. Nothing to do with difficulty, that is relative. Life is difficult, get over yourself.

I can't image a friend, partner, colleague, family member..whatever. With such little heart they regret their own children. This is the kind of person that believes in "shithole" countries because they lack all the qualities that make up compassion.

I think countries with cheap labor are lucky. We're in Malaysia, and while maid here is more expensive than in Indonesia, we still can afford a fulltime maid (from Indonesia). We're middle income family, both working.

Of course, there are some horror stories about maid mistreating/abusing the baby, but that's minority.

I work from home, working on my startup, still zero revenue for almost 2 years (giving me stress, _my_ savings almost gone). But it's like blessing in disguise, as I can monitor the maid and give more attention to the kids.

Having baby is very stressful and time consuming (even with maid), I even told all my newly-wed friends, "If you can, don't have kids yet." But I told them it's the best thing I've ever had.

Odd that this post was directly above this one in my feed: "The desire to have a child never goes away": https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16133646

> Declining fertility rates and older, more educated first-time mothers have also contributed to heightened expectations. The fertility rate in Canada has dropped from 2.1—the replacement level needed for the population to renew itself without immigration—in 1971 to 1.6 in 2016.”

It's interesting to contrast this concern (is concern the right word?) in Canada with articles about the same thing in parts of Africa [0]. The only difference being what side of the replacement level the population is on.

[0] http://blogs.worldbank.org/health/female-education-and-child...

There is a huge interest from the government that people pursue the white-picked-fence ideal: three kids, big house, etc. This moves the economy, at expense of happiness.

But, still, there is a choice - nobody needs to have children if they didn't really want.

It might be worth exploring the reason why the "taboo" on this subject has recently been breached. Could it be that how we define life and our expectations of it have shifted? In a world where the goal in life is personal enjoyment, of which ease is a precondition, childbearing is more commonly regrettable.

Perhaps there never was a taboo, just a different conception of what a human life should aim for.

This is clearly a ruse by Big Childbirth who want to talk other people out of having children so that their offspring has less competition.

This article seemed more like the documentation of a cultural phenomenon (mothers able to publicly admit regret) than a sociological study. But I still want to know why mothers regret having children. The comments seemed to be filled with uncharitable explanations, but are there any publications (other than the isreali one) that summarises the reasons for regret?

Seems to me like a wider trend of people, for some reason, starting to believe that life should be easy when in the past people believed that life explicitly shouldn't be easy. Guess which group was happier.

Regret is unhelpful and indicates a lack of acceptance of the past and present. As such, it is personally irresponsible and shouldn't be celebrated.

Stepping back, norm breaking seems to have gotten even more newsworthy lately. However, publicizing a broken norm is not always an obvious good. Propagation of the news of a norm being broken encourages more breaking of this norm. And often we have little understanding of the work this norm is doing.

Is it damaging for a child to entertain the idea that their parents might regret their existence? Probably. Is it damaging for all involved to have a big conversation about motherhood regret and its being ok? Also, probably. Not every thought deserves to be aired.

How about remorse? Perhaps even that is not the appropriate word here, but do you believe there are any circumstances in life where grief is a natural and even healthy response? If so, why not this circumstance?

I would suggest that if you encounter a situation in life where there's genuine remorse for a choice you've made, there aren't only two options of "celebrate your regret" or "suck it up." There's such a thing as honoring pain without dwelling on it, and if done properly, it actually enables your growth in a way that's healthy for both you and the world. And if so, perhaps it's okay for the world to learn from your growth.

The trouble is that "regret" is doing too much work. It's at once a statement of fact and an activity.

As a statement of fact it's ok. As an activity it's usually a waste of time.

Well I, for one, feel that I'm benefiting from hearing from people who regret having children. So in the right context, I think it's indeed helpful.

> norm breaking seems to have gotten even more newsworthy lately

Sorry, where are these norms supposedly coming from then?

Why do you smile when you see a friend? Was it a rule you decided on or something you just do? What if you suddenly stopped?

Huh, interesting contrast to https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16133646

Any parents here see a benefit in raising children on their productivity in a weird way?

Some very talented tech people I follow had kids early and it worked out well for them!

Yep, the lack of free time helps me procrastinate less.

I regret that ... I don't have access to all the parallel universes so I know which way things turned out for every important decision I ever made!

One factor here is that people spend much more time with their kids than they used to. There was an article recently, I think on the NYTimes, and my comment would be much better if I could find the link with the data, but here goes. I am reconstructing this from memory, and unfortunately, I have to admit, I may not remember this accurately...

I read that the amount of time married men spend, on average, with their children in 2017 exceeds the time that married women spent with their children in 1960 (hand waiving, I really wish I could find that link). So, now that men have stepped up, women are able to spend more time on leisure and work, right? Nope! Women almost doubled their time with children in that time period. I think it was 54 minutes per day for a woman in 1960, and something much lower for men. Now, 56 minutes per day for married men, and 106 per day for married women[1].

The tragic thing here is, I don't think it's even all that good for the kids, past a point. I grew up in the 70s and 80s, in SF west of twin peaks, and yeah, even here in SF, we would leave the house, find our pack of neighborhood kids, and not come back until someone yelled "dinner", at which point the kids would all start to go home. My parents and grandparents had similar experiences.

That is gone. At least in SF. There is a little bit out outdoor play, but it's a whisker of what it used to be. A tiny fraction.

And like I said, the sad thing is, I don't think all this supervision is good for kids, not to this extent. I see parents, more often women but plenty often men, standing outside a skate park, bored, browsing their phones, then getting the kids into the car and driving them off to their next scheduled thing. Hell, a supervised skate park visit is the most unstructured thing they'll do that day, more often it's a dance class, then a cello class, then baseball practice, them swimming lessons.

Oh, this is even more ironic - if the data is correct, women spent less time on child care back in 1960 when they spent less time at work! So the increase in child care is coming out of a diminished amount of leisure time, not more.

Yeah, of course this makes people unhappy. And like I said, the real tragedy is, I seriously doubt it makes the kids any happier. It's not that they don't want time with their parents, they do, they often love that time. But they don't need constant supervision - if they knew better (many kids today don't even know what that play outside freedom feels like), they'd realize they're happier without constant supervision as well.

Not sure why this all happened. I don't quite buy the theory that we all became irrationally afraid. I think something else happened here, something that brought about the collapse of a critical mass of kids. I'd let my kids play outside, but there's no pack there anyway (of course, in SF, the population of kids under 18 has collapsed in my lifetime, maybe there are greener pastures - but I've read this has happened all over the place, not just in cites that have experienced a huge drop in the population of children - also, my neighborhood is one of the few in SF that still does have a lot of kids, they just don't play outside anymore)

[1] This will be the last time I say this - sorry, I don't have the link, this is as best I can remember.

Yes thank you, it was the economist not the nytimes.

Was on Geary earlier this week and saw a ~11-12 year old waiting/riding the bus by himself.

Could almost hear David Attenboroughs voice describing this nearly-extinct animal crossing some dangerous territory filled with predators.

It is great to see some in the new tech age stayin and having kids in the city. If you saw a baby stroller 10+ years ago, there would have been a dog in it.

Having a child introduces a stubborn force that presses hard against our own selfishness.

Kids are awesome. So much fun.

Well, what now? What are these mothers going to do about it?

> She never wanted children (“I was very independent,” she says)—her husband did.

Premarital counseling would have caught that.

> “It would have been a deal-breaker.”

IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN!!! Now you made a new person that you don't want! Shame on you and your husband!

Kids, money goals, debt, work goals, travel goals, where to live; these are all HUGE things that need to be discussed, while in the presence of a trained counselor, before saying "I do."

Absolutely agree, though I don't think its necessary to have done so in front of a counselor.

Before we got married, there were a number of things that we discussed and had to make sure we were on the same page. Of those, the most important were children and religion.

I personally made it a point to get an understanding before we were even serious.

Now that we're married, the question isn't "Will we have children?", it's "When..." and that's much easier to figure out if both people are playing the same endgame.

I say in front of a counselor because most people just are not honest with themselves. A trained counselor will help them come to terms with things.

Oh, and thanks for pointing out religion, I forgot that on my (knowingly incomplete) list.

Edit: I say most, but I probably should have said some.

I believe that relationship and marriage counsellors are treating symptoms rather than the root cause.

This is anecdotal, but:

I attended family counselling with multiple counsellors for many years, I found those sessions helped only for as long as they were scheduled. Rather than gaining tools to assist in resolving future problems, we were provided with solutions to our immediate problems.

Personal counselling is a different story, and I think the root cause for these marital issues is that people don't have an understanding of themselves, or what they need in order to be happy. Personal counselling can teach you how to express yourself and your needs, which would obviously go a long way in helping you structure your relationships.

In group counselling everyone still has opportunity to believe they're not the reason for the dysfunction.

It's hard enough to know what you want when you have it. Knowing whether you want something that you've never had and have only experienced vicariously is basically impossible.

The only things I really regret are things I asked for and found out I didn't actually want.

> in the presence of a trained counseler I agree with your sentiments that people need to be more open and have these harder types of conversations with their prospective spouses, but you shouldn’t need a counseler to have an adult conversation.

Life isn't that simple. Even people who have studied and think they're prepared for all that having kids entails aren't really prepared for it.

Thus the counseling.

Counseling may have revealed an incompatibility. She married him and had a child in spite of her own desires, though. Perhaps her desire for that relationship would have clouded counseling as much as it did herself anyway.

This is cruel, they never said it's a child they don't want.

Personal responsibility?!

Good for them. I really dislike a lot of the cultural dogmas that exist (at least in the first world) about stuff like this. We have too many people on this planet already, and no you don't need to breed unless you and your partner are some sort genetic miracle. I think nurture is more important than nature, and if you really want to parent you're better off giving an underprivileged child an opportunity through adoption than breeding.

This is kind of a weird comment. The author wasn't really complaining so much about the physical process of creating a child as much as the burdens and difficulties of raising a child, which would be the same or worse with an adopted child.

Those are my thoughts, not the thoughts of the author.

Edit: I should clarify, my 'good for them' comment was about how it's okay for people to have regrets about having children, even though it's culturally taboo. If more people acknowledge this, then perhaps fewer people will take on the burden.

It's remarkable that anyone could with a straight face say that the drive and desire for children is a "cultural dogma". In the nature vs. nurture debate, not everything is a tie.

There are a lot of folks making this same argument. I studied evolutionary biology in University and can say confidently that you are on a lot shakier ground than you think.

There is not necessarily an innate drive to make a traditional family. Sex, sure. Most people have a sex drive but what happens afterword need not be familial bliss, or even sticking around to raise the child at all. In fact there a lot of very successful strategies in nature to offload that work to the other parent or even fool unrelated adoptive parents.

Evolution can go quickly if the selection pressure is high. (example: done in under 24 hours if we shot everybody without blue eyes)

Our environment has been drastically changed by birth control.

Previously, a desire for sex was essentially equal to a desire for reproduction. Selection for one would select for the other, so they didn't need to be distinguished.

So essentially we are now unfit for our environment. We will rapidly evolve to fit this new environment. People of the future will desire actual reproduction, not just sex.

Thanks for responding! If you have some favorite sources that would help me learn more about this, please pass them along.

It's strictly subjective.

No, it's not. We don't just throw our hands in the air and say, "I guess we'll never know!"

It's not a tie. There is evidence for one side or the other. And in this case, the evidence couldn't possibly be stronger for one particular side.

I'm not convinced. Is there evidence that the parent/child bonding only occurs if you share DNA? My personal experience suggests otherwise, especially given that my mother was adopted.


Why is being remembered important? Just curious.

Furthermore, doesn't that make having kids an even bigger risk? What if they then choose not to have kids. According to the "being remembered" metric, you've been doubly duped because you had to raise children and are eventually unremembered anyway.


Life is not about self pleasure, it is about making sure that you try to make as many people that you encounter in your life as happy as possible.

On what sacred tablet did you find this meaning of life?

Simply through observing narcissists rob people of their happiness to fill the the hungry void in their dark hearts


Like Slashdot and Reddit, once Hacker News became influential enough it was taken over by political actors.

It makes sense from a political actor's point of view to push their message on whatever platform reaches the most influential people, and Hacker News was that platform once, but it destroys the platform in the long-term, and I don't think they care about people wanting a platform for discussing news for hackers.

In this article, the message being pushed is one of social change, and although I agree with the agenda, I don't think it's appropriate in Hacker News either.

This is what I am not getting, why are all these articles that have absolutely nothing to do with technology popping up, and then making it to the front page, is the algo messed up?

"On-Topic: Anything that good hackers would find interesting. That includes more than hacking and startups. If you had to reduce it to a sentence, the answer might be: anything that gratifies one's intellectual curiosity."

"Please don't complain that a submission is inappropriate. If a story is spam or off-topic, flag it."

Both from https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html

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