My wife and i have always been very open communicators. After having a kid when people would ask us if we are enjoying parenthood we've always answered honest.
"It's the most work we have ever done in our life" (and I build startups!)... "We got no sleep last night, she woke up at 2 AM and wouldn't go back to bed."
And it is amazing to me the backlash we got. People who plan to have children were telling us "all I ever here is the bad stuff!" and essentially saying we should lie and say everything is perfect.
The fact is, having a child is the biggest life commitment you will ever make and if you and your significant other are not prepared, you're in for a bad time.
But at the same time I think this whole "you're not allowed to say anything bad about parenthood" is unhealthy.
This article talks about people who are willing to speak their truth about parenthood and I think overall that is a good thing.
If more people talked honestly about he burden of parenthood we'd maybe have less unwanted kids. We as a species are well past the point where we have to have 10 kids just to ensure the bloodline continues. Be honest with people about how difficult being a parent is. Some people like my wife and I will choose to do it anyway knowing exactly what we are getting into and other's won't. And that's OK.
And simultaneously, it's just about the most rewarding thing I've ever done. Watching them grow, seeing some of the hard work finally paying off, having little conversations with my 4-year-old, glimpsing the kind of guy he might grow up to be. There's this amazing bond that is really hard to describe.
Whoever you are, you deserve to know the truth on both sides. Depending on your values, kids might be easily worth it (for us, they are), or you might want to wait, or you might decide that it's not the right choice for you.
I can feel exhausted and wrung out when my daughter responds to my attempts to make her life better and more comfortable by screaming at me and throwing things. I can feel angry when she does things that she knows are naughty and ignores our rules. And at the same time I can feel proud of her and connected to her and love her and be in awe of her learning and feel incredible when she tells me she loves me.
And I don't think it makes sense to sort of try to treat those like they are just positive and negative numbers and say what does it sum up to, positive or negative? They coexist, they don't cancel each other out. No matter how much I feel great when she tells me she loves me, that doesn't make it less exhausting to worry about the absurd hoops that I have to jump through for an education for her. And no matter how upsetting it is to have someone kick you when you try to help her feel safe after a nightmare, that doesn't make me feel any less deep satisfaction that someone that I help create and teach will (hopefully) survive me and always be part of my life.
We can all use more of these lessons.
I guess it depends on what you expect in return. I was so crazy amazed at the process of watching my daughter solving the 3D puzzle of putting the dummy back in her mouth. Plus just watching the process as a crying baby gives in to tiredness and falls asleep.
The first three months were a nightmare, but the payback was also there at the same time.
My dad missed out on this and I'm sure his life was poorer for it.
We are also biologically inclined to ignore thinking about what kind of pain we are in for and just be...excited. Otherwise, I doubt anyone would have kids and humanity would just go instinct. Likewise, once the kid has arrived, nature pulls more tricks to keep us parents motivated (evolved cuteness, for example).
1. Development/physical disabilities, or overall health issues
2. Reaction from others, will immediate/extended family help? It's one thing to ask, another for the reality to set in. Overall support base in general.
3. Employment realities. Will a lot of employers have explicitly stated policies, the day-to-day realities often differ (and can be very different between mum(s)/dad(s)).
4. Just general variations in children/growth. I have two, one eats but doesn't sleep well, the other doesn't eat well but sleeps soundly. One enjoys time to himself, but has a temper. The other is far more social (so much social) but is very even-tempered and empathic. No amount of preparation can provide enough knowledge/experience to deal with these qualities, not withstanding 1/2/3.
As others said, we read books, attended classes, looked after nieces/nephews, younger siblings, baby sat etc. We were still woefully unprepared for our own.
So, is it possible that some folks are "fully prepared" for parenthood? Almost certainly. I'd expect that the numbers work out such that people like this do exist. Parents that were fully ready for the children they got.
However, this is like expecting someone can know exactly how to play poker, following the rules on when to bet and when not to, and then getting shocked to see that you still don't win every game. Statistically, you will lose games. Best you can do is have the game setup so that the losses are small and the wins are leveraged.
"You can definitely be prepared for what cohabitation/marriage is like before your first relationship. It may be a lot of work, but it is not beyond comprehension."
Yes, the brain is capable of comprehending life in cohabitation, as proven by the current mental state of all who are currently in the situation. Getting to that mental state without experiencing cohabitation is practically impossible.
Now swap out "romantic partner" with "small person completely dependent upon you for survival for the next 18+ years".
I guess this is the result of having so few children nowadays. But not so long ago, many people got a very real and practical first experience by helping in raising their siblings. And depending on how large the family was, I assure you it could prepare you very well.
I dunno...to me that's just a cop-out excuse to avoid simply admitting that you didn't do your research, or that you turned a blind eye to warning signs of what parenting is like. Do people go through life not knowing other people that have kids and not see what they go through?
I don't have kids. I had a vasectomy earlier this year to make sure I don't have kids. I watched my brother have them. To call them a handful is like calling Hurricane Harvey just some light rain and winds. They require constant supervision. Can't even spend 5 minutes taking a dump or they'll scribble on the walls with a Sharpie (Yes, that happened).
> (evolved cuteness, for example)
I don't think babies are cute in the slightest. To some people, that makes me a monster.
I like baby animals. Kittens, puppies, even baby elephants. But baby humans? Nah, I just see some creature that is probably about to decide to start screaming or shit itself.
Also, nobody knows the extent of what one must give up to parent. No matter how prepared a person thinks he or she is, they aren't. Having kids is very abstract right up to the point that it's not. The concrete realization starts to happen earlier and more intimately for the mother because of the gestational period, but that realization sets in eventually for both parents.
What complete nonsense. There are 7Bn+ people in the world. Making more people is not a problem the human race has. Far from subsidising the child-free, you are destroying the ecosystem with your selfishness.
I would have a bone to pick with folks who feel entitled (or "commanded by $deity") to have 6, 7, 8 or more kids. That's just absurd stupidity.
I, personally, found parenthood to be enormously rewarding. And that may not be something one comes to grips with when kids are 3. Or 10. Or even 18. Having kids with medical problems, or mental health problems, can be a challenge, and you can miss out on the immediate sense of accomplishment when it's overwhelmed with "just get through today". This is a big-picture thing.
I'm also not blinded by illusions of; having a legacy, having something that is a "permanent" accomplishment, or even just having someone else in this world who I can relate to. My feeling is that my kids turned out to be pretty good people, and the world as a whole is a better place with them in it. In Net. Considering even their resource consumption. They are part me. They are my intention and will. But they are their own beings as well, with their own hopes and dreams.
Hell: we're all worm food in the end. It's not pleasant facing or contemplating death. Maybe we all would have liked to have been asked permission before being brought into this world against our will. I think the main difference it made for me was that I participated in life. The process of life. The continuation of life. The strife for survival. I did not look at the world, and decide to simply persist until I perished. I lived. Even if I have another 30-50 years on this world. I gave it a shot.
I have to laugh at this, because 3 years ago I was this person and I know exactly how the conversation would go. I had 3 kids and planned for 6-7 of them, then I left the Mormon religion.
But I would love to hear the conversation. I can't speak for everyone, but in Mormonism at least you literally believe that having children is commanded by deity and any environmental offsets are not an issue because the Second Coming is soon and the earth will be cleansed by fire at that time anyway. Besides, God created the earth, he would never let man destroy it.
There just is no real discussion to be had with somebody who believes those things. Fortunately, higher education and sex ed are highly correlated with lower birth rates, so I'd push for those if you're looking to reduce birth rates - even in Mormonism or other religions.
If you look at my wider family, you'll see some people with no children and some with five. But even on such a small scale, we average out at around replacement rate.
The solution would need to happen in less than three generations.
If everyone adopted your rationale, the human race would go extinct. We haven't gone so far that we are indifferent to the survival of our own species, have we?
Seems to me there is ample evidence of the young supporting the old.
Consider what your aged life would be like if everyone suddenly elected to not reproduce. What would it be like to be 70, when the youngest person is 60?
Clearly, the young support the aged.
The young, by definition live in a world built by their elders, benefiting from all the infrastructure and institutions they created. So it’s not nearly as one-way as you think. Any care of the elderly is merely a part payment on that debt the young owe them.
Those cultures will be gone forever.
She drinks milk. That comes from cows. Cows are bad for the environment. By having another person on the planet, we need that much more milk.
Isn't that simply a consequence of how people today and in the past decided to solve these problems in general? This issue is not limited to diapers.
> Cows are bad for the environment.
Interesting, so cows are not part of the environment? What separates things from being part of the environment and not being part of it?
Every child that's born is a child that will eventually need their own shelter. Will probably drive their own car. Will need food.
The best way to reduce your carbon footprint is to not have children.
All I'm saying is that our current population growth is unsustainable and we're killing the environment. Until we adapt to only consume renewable resources, or at least sufficiently reduce our consumption of non-renewables, and stop pumping CO2 into the atmosphere, the best thing to do is slow down reproduction.
Seems like a criteria for overcrowding to me.
My tax bill sure indicates otherwise.
I decided at an early age not to have kids - at 12-13 I figured out that I was not suitable to be a father - one, I wanted the chain of crappy childhoods to stop with me, and two I have various conditions that I believe are largely genetic - I didn't want to pass those on.
Even if they were a huge fraction, you're considering one single axis. You're not considering population support or economic contributions by and on behalf of children, both of which are arguably much more significant than tax bill distribution.
The tax-funded support for “people in lower income brackets” are themselves very much slanted toward support for parents with children, largely because the American public is broadly fine with blaming poor adults for their condition, but somewhat less so for children in poverty.
Having benefited yourself, you shouldn't be bothered that others also benefit. It is only fair.
BTW, you can earn a 6-figure income and have negative taxes. The key is to have a double-digit family. This is what I do. Nothing is stopping you from doing likewise.
Choosing a life partner? Choosing a stock? Scoping a programming project??
Choices in the above can seem great at first - but maybe they turn out better over time, maybe worse, probably a roller-coaster mixture of elation, unknowns, and heartache.
But you'll never fully experience them until you've fully lived through them.
What it us about parenthood that makes people think we should just present only happy side of it constantly and ever talk about side we don't like or cost us?
This seems like an unfair interpretation of the above. Absolutely talk about the parts you don't like, just acknowledge that you followed a path of your own choosing (whether the consequences were expected or not).
Kind of like smokers getting cancer, or needle-sharers getting HIV: the social context requires a little humility.
No one sane expect smokers sick with cancer to acknowledge they smoked each time they want talk about cancer. For christ sake, seriously.
And I don't even think that having children is like sharing needles. There we are getting into category where you imply that having children is somehow morally bad (or is it having children while not being 100% happy about every aspect of child raising? )
One doesn't need to "acknowledge... each time they want to talk" (whether it's smokers, needle-sharers, parents, or whatever). Rather, it's just a matter of how one phrases things, e.g. avoiding a sense of entitlement or being condecending.
> And I don't even think that having children is like sharing needles.
I think it it, in precisely the sense that I mentioned it: that it's avoidable, and may have severe negative consequences. No more, no less.
> There we are getting into category where you imply that having children is somehow morally bad
Not at all. I wasn't passing moral judgement, I was giving examples of situations where someone complaining about problems they're suffering may have to choose their language carefully, to avoid being judged harshly in a social context. No more, no less.
> or is it having children while not being 100% happy about every aspect of child raising?
Again, that's a straw man.
To help you understand how absurd your position is, consider if even one of the hundreds of thousands of reproduction "decisions" that are in your line had not been made, you wouldn't be here to express your point of view that it's "just a personal choice."
I chose to get a vasectomy. I'm 35 and have never in my life desired reproducing. I do not feel that supposed biological imperative.
I do feel the imperative to have sex, but having sex and producing babies are entirely different things. You can have one without the other.
> To help you understand how absurd your position is, consider if even one of the hundreds of thousands of reproduction "decisions" that are in your line had not been made, you wouldn't be here to express your point of view that it's "just a personal choice."
This is not a convincing argument.
In that respect maybe it is not that different than climbing a mountain, or achieving mastery in a fencing or long distance running. Would you tell those people "I resent your complaints, you brought this upon yourself, should've stayed home and bother bother with your marathon running" say when they the talk about how hard it is and how they got injured or weather was bad.
You’re constantly putting the needs of a tiny human ahead of your own. If you do a good job then they benefit far more than you do. And they won’t realise the extent of your efforts until (or unless) they have children of their own.
Seeking praise is pointless. But it’s driven by the same themes the parents in the article talk about.
For instance my parents strongly believe that having kids is a duty, the more the better. They will brag about having 4 kids and they’ll tirelessly push married people to make them (the endless “is it on the way yet ?”). I also saw a lot of people of their age care a lot about the family lineage not disappearing. Some even atrocely cared about the name being carried on.
Even trying to have serious discussions about it just ends in “that’s how the thing have been, that how they should be” kind of rethorics.
I sympathize with couples that have their surroundings constantly repeat them they should have a baby, and wouldn’t fault them for thinking it was part of their duty to do so.
If you're a good person (sweeping generalization), having a kid is pretty much the only thing you can't walk away from in your life.
This really gets me.
We as a society do not need more children. Popping out a baby is not an accomplishment. Hell, most babies these days are accidents. It seems strange to me that someone would choose to do something that a lot of people do accidentally, and then expect some sort of recognition for their supposed sacrifice.
We as a society simply don't need more babies. The "sacrifice" is unnecessary at best, and possibly egotistical at worst.
New generations innovate, and they take care of the aging.
Having kids is actually a huge sacrifice on the part of the parents that ultimate benefits society as a whole.
Thankfully I was never forced into it by marriage or otherwise. People who want children can have them and people who don't want them should not be shamed into it. Kids would be better off being genuinely wanted.
I personally was an accident kid, born before abortion was legalized and there was always a subtextual theme of being unwanted in my childhood. I decided early that I would not have a kid unless I really wanted one. And I never did have the desire. I'm glad I stuck to it and didn't give in to the immense peer pressure.
Japan has managed this fairly well, considering, but it's just going to get harder and harder for them, Western Europe, and soon the rest of the developed world, China, and even the US and on to what is currently the developing world.
People don't know it yet (although they should, since it's pretty clear where the demographics of urbanization and development are headed), but population decline is going to be the problem of the 21st century, much as the population explosion was a problem in the 20th.
And we just can't rely on an increasing population indefinitely, even if we lived on Jupiter-sized planet. At some point, there are more people than the planet can support.
It's an unsustainable economic model.
I'm just talking about maintaining a stable birth rate.
EDIT: If you have two nations, otherwise identical and self-sufficient and cut off outside contact, and give one too many young folk and the other too many elderly, then 100 years later, the one that starts with too many young folk will be richer than the one with too few. EVEN on a per-person basis due to returns to scale.
Right now we're doing okay, but we haven't seen whether the planet can support us long term like this (or more accurately, whether 10 billion people can adapt successfully to a world we've changed).
Already, we're worried about the decline in pollinators, frogs, insect splatter, coral reef loss, and tropical forest deforestation. What do you think just that looks like in a few decades with 2-3 more billion people?
The human population is ultimately independent of the biosphere through technology. And, in fact, some of the worst impacts on the biosphere are when we lean strongly on the biosphere to provide for us (for instance, cutting down forests to provide fuel and to clear land for inefficient farming practices vs using solar/wind/nuclear to provide energy while using dense and hyper-efficient farming practices).
Technology has huge returns to scale, and technology is how we're already able to handle our current population. So I'd say we are indeed better off with more people than less, particularly if we reduce agricultural land usage (which we're already doing) and switch to non-burning energy sources (so no fossil fuels and no biomass). An effectively vegan diet (either truly vegan or using lab-grown meat and dairy and eggs) would, by itself, drastically reduce both our reliance and impact on the biosphere. Vat-grown staples (think specialized microalgae) substituting for field-grown staples like corn or wheat or soy would further drastically reduce our impact.
The Earth ought to be a garden, but not one empty of people! And a human society without children would be some kind of dystopia.
It's a good thing for some people to choose to pursue other things and not have kids. There's plenty of room for both kinds of people. But choosing to have kids in today's society is a huge challenge, and society as a whole should help women (and their partners) who choose to have kids. We should, as a MINIMUM, make healthcare free for children and mothers (and really everyone). We should also make it easier for mothers and fathers to balance family and work. Women shouldn't have to choose between their career and the normal (and very important) decision to bear children.
And we can't get too far down this road before asking the question: Are humans fundamentally a bad thing or a good thing?
This is obviously subjective. But if we say some things have intrinsic value, such as the quantity and diversity of life, then we can make some progress:
From Gaia's perspective, if humans evolved, wiped out a bunch of species, then disappeared, then humans are like an asteroid. Bad at first, but ultimately just changed the direction of evolution, not the actual presence or absence of life.
BUT, if humans are able to go beyond the Earth and establish niches for life beyond Earth, then from Gaia's perspective, humans are a net-good. Sure, there's a lot of terrible habitat destruction as humans become a technological species capable of interplanetary travel, but now humans are capable of seeding life far beyond what other species have been capable of. Humans could create diverse, rich niches for life on other planets and moons that otherwise would never experience life. Humans would then be a net-good.
That becomes impossible if we just view humanity's impact in a zero- or negative-sum way. The more humans, the worse it is for life. BUT 10 billion may be just about the minimum needed to support a large-scale interplanetary capability that's able to establish a foothold for life to flourish across the solar system and eventually the galaxy. Therefore: have children! And reduce your impact on the Earth by eating smart and using efficient energy and transportation options.
Not everyone agrees social safety nets are a good thing. Some of us think properly preparing ourselves for retirement is more important.
> population decline is going to be the problem of the 21st century
We have too many people already. Population decline due to reduced birthrate sounds like a solution, not a problem.
I think you're missing the point. It doesn't matter if the State or the Individual is paying for it. Ultimately, services and care provided during retirement is provided by the young and healthy. If there aren't any young people, then no one will be available to provide care no matter who is trying to pay for it.
No, the best I can do is continue living and convince as many people as possible to not have children. If I kill myself now, many more people might be created than if I die later. Natural reduction in population without resorting to violence is entirely possible. Open your mind to ideas that don't involve killing anyone.
Everyone should be happy to pay for schools because everyone benefits from being able to be paid a pension. And being able to spend the money they get from their pension on useful things, like food.
It shouldn't be possible to get a full time job and not be able to support kids. If it was possible in the 60s it should be possible now. GDP has gone up 400% since then and the dependency ratio only went up 15%.
I am convinced that if you are going to reproduce this is the way to do it. Even though I make significantly more money than them I am jealous of their lifestyle :D . These parents take vacations without their kids, which I know many of valley friends think is impossible.
Moving away from home and having kids away from your family is a much bigger task than having kids in your hometown where all of your family lives. I get that it's normal mode of operation for a lot of people to move all over the country for jobs, but IMO that is where the biggest struggle comes from.
You take for granted being able to call a grandparent to pick the kids up from school if you're working late, to come over for a bit when you need to do something during an evening, to drop the kids off if you need to run an errand or even keep them overnight if you have to go out of town for work. That's before even figuring in extra-curricular activities and trying to get each child where they need to be.
My in-laws moved closer to us last year and it has been life changing for my wife and I who both work.
The prime example would be how you raise your kids. Alone, you the most influence, in a family, you have a little less. For some that is OK, for others it's red flags.
Just wanted to open your eyes to what you may not be seeing.
Given the impending arrival of my second child, I find myself wondering about those with less support. What does a pregnant single mother of one do when she goes in to labor? Where does her child go? In to state care??
I have great respect for parents with less support than I have.
Crazy to think, isn't it? It is hard enough during those first few years for a couple with a stay-at-home parent. I can only imagine how hard it is for a single parent who has to not only pay the bills, but take care of somebody who needs an adult 24/7.
I don't think people can begin to fully appreciate this stuff until after they have kids.
It's nice to finally understand that yes, for a couple (especially where both have careers), raising a child is harder than it should be and harder than it used to be, because of this lack of tribe, and no we are not just self-pitying moaners. I don't think this trend is going to reverse itself, which makes me hope in some vague way that some sort of communal tradition emerges, where the tribe is formed by some social grouping (close friends) other than the extended family.
I think that sounds awesome. Realistically not everyone has those choices though, and unfortunately I don't see that changing any time soon.
My family for example, is spread out across 5 states. My nearest relative is 150 miles.
The story I usually tell my friends who are just becoming parents is about this one night the first month, we were up constantly most nights. I don't remember on this particular night what I was up doing, it's not important, but what I do remember is being in the bathroom, sitting on the can, and looking down and seeing the floor move under my feet. Vividly. However, that memory sticks as a turning point for me - I didn't have a whole lot of self doubt about doing a good job as a dad after getting through sleep deprivation induced hallucinations!
I don’t think I’ve ever heard young parents talk about anything else. If I am to believe the stories, until the age of 3 it’s not blood running through a child’s veins, but pure high-grade Colombian roast.
To the point where I’m considering sardonically suggesting we suspend driver’s licenses for new parents.
Also, any excuse to avoid dealing with car seats.
That's how I felt. Now I see that parents either sugarcoat everything about parenting, or are eager to relay their current source of misery: "you think it's hard now? Just you wait until they are 2/3/5/10/12/16/18!" The truth is every stage of child development has its own unique joys and challenges, with previous challenges being replaced with new ones before you even get a chance to feel a sense of relief. But, if you aren't a parent, you don't really know this, and probably ask questions that bring out the sucky parts of parenting, and remember other people's negative experiences more.
Now that I think about it, it seems difficult to really convey the full emotional experience of being a parent. Only seeing parts of it makes it easy to get an overly optimistic/pessimistic view of things.
But it has lots of irreplaceable moments and provides a general sense of satisfaction for well-spent effort. I echo several comments on the joy of seeing my boys develop as people, learn, ask questions, and explore. Even the squabbles bring back fond memories of my own childhood tussles with my two brothers, and how those interactions are part of children learning how to relate to other people.
Aside from all that, once they are born (and beforehand for my wife and me), the profound sense of duty to care for them compels putting any thoughts of self aside. We alone chose to create them and we alone are responsible for raising them to be good adults. I'm not going to shirk such an important duty in life. Such a sense of duty is a cultural norm encouraged by community moral condemnation of those who fail to adhere. I reluctantly support such condemnation as essential for the successful continuation of our civilization. As such, I say that parents who shirk their duties are committing a moral wrong and should be criticized.
The article doesn't come out and say it, but it seems to suggest that this is widespread. I don't think that is true. Watching my parents' generation embrace grand-parenthood, and the explicit statements that many of them make about the importance of family, convinces me that the vast majority push through the tough parts and find the overall experience to be the most important thing they did in life.
Final point, and one that I am cautious to make for not wanting to offend anyone needlessly: I know plenty of singles and couples who are childless, and several that are childless by choice. Suffice it to say that my anecdotal view is that sadness, eccentricity, and empty hedonism seem to develop over time in these couples, especially in the women.
Modern society is all about the individual, in very pervasive and insidious ways. And that's what your final point speaks about: Having kids gives us a reason to think beyond today, beyond money, beyond MY wants, MY needs, MY life, MY MY MY MY MY.
Having children is selfless, in ways that people without kids cannot comprehend. And it is not a glorious, noble sacrifice. It is painful, scary, hard work. And it's worth it, because of the person you become when you matter to someone more than just yourself.
Most of the comments I saw in the article I consider selfish, childish, and shortsighted. "I hated fatherhood and I don't like the people my kids became." Well gee, maybe those things are connected. "I resent my kids because I keep thinking about all the things I wanted to do." Speechless. Like a 4 year old screaming on the floor of WalMart because they want a piece of candy.
I was raised to think about others and about my place among them. In almost ALL the comments in the article, I see otherwise. I can't respect their position even if I understand it. They're just a bunch of adults who never learned what being adult means.
As a parent, I was appalled how much bad advice there is out there. Some was from books and some from other parents or family. It seems to be that every human (at least here in the US) starts from scratch and uses their gut to guide them in parenting. Most people don't learn much from previous generations, and that seems crazy to me.
If I were to do it over again, I would definitely do better the 2nd time around, but I have no interest. Raising my son (with my wife) was the hardest thing I've ever done, and I'm enjoying life now that he's 17.
With some reflection I don't think I was 100% ready. But I did at least make sure my finances were in order, I knew what it would do to our budget, and my wife and I had expectations set going in who would bear what responsibility. It sounds like the people in this article didn't think of that stuff. And I'm not sure I entirely blame them. We as a society make it a taboo to talk about anything but good stuff when it comes to parenting.
I noticed a similar pattern with other parents I talk with. They all have complaints, they got no sleep last night, child cried all morning, wouldn't eat dinner, etc. but behind all those words you can see a glimmer of something in their face that tells me they are downplaying as well.
A lot of life events are the same way.
When someone asks how work's going, I don't want to be honest and talk about how goddamn happy I am seeing that fat number land in my Mint sidebar every two weeks since that promotion. So I say "It's hard work!" instead.
They are also fun, goofy, beautiful, and potential life long friends. It's also hard to see that sometimes when you're kids are screaming at 2am and you're seeing a shitty day at work or caring for kids ahead of you.
This is the best song ever about parenting
I tend to agree, but I think the limits apply to voicing regret for having specific children, especially in front of said children.
I think about the most sickening thing that anyone has ever described to me is meeting somebody who, in front of his own (tween and teenage) children, referred to them as basically a regrettable burden foisted upon him by his wife. It's bad enough suspecting that your parents don't care for you, I'll bet it hurts more to know for certain.
Still, it is nuts to receive backlash for saying that it's incredibly hard work. Of course it's hard work!
what do people expect when they have babies? that it will take care of itself? There's a thing called Postpartum Depression that is real and usually occurs right after having kids. Raising babies are hard but once they become toddlers it gets far easier. I don't have sympathy for anyone who complains about not getting enough sleep in the first 6 months.
I was watching The Walking Dead at 1am in the mornings because baby woke up and had to feed him till he slept again. Oh and then right to work at 8am for almost 2 months. He's 3 now and now attempting to wipe his own ass for a change.
You're a parent, deal with that responsibility.
To me, this seems related to the purpose of the article: being a parent requires a stiff upper lip according to our culture, unlike most everything else in life.
If that were the way marathons worked, I think the reaction of the audience to someone's struggle to finish the race would be different.
Indeed, I would expect more support instead of less. "You should have known" may be accurate but it feels unhelpful.
Motherhood or parenting or children aren't the problem, the basic breakdown of people being able to live and relate with other people is.
>"I love my son with all my heart,” she says. “My life revolves around this child.
Sorry, no. Love means desiring what is good for that person. Not existing is not good for that person... As well, her life revolves around her happiness, which is why her decision wether or not to do it again is answered by it's impact on her happiness.
But we've built a society in the west based around worshipping our children. Politicians can do anything if it's "for the children", no matter how draconian or insane. It's rude to ever comment on how someone else chooses to raise their children. It's considered horrible to not do everything you can to make your children happier, better, etc. Better go buy a house with a yard because your kid might want a yard, because everyone knows that kids need yards.
The really interesting question isn't whether it's okay to regret having children- it's what's going to change when society unshackles itself from this strange obsession.
I remember seeing some of the rage reaction to it online at the time. When a study like that gets that kind of response, you know it's probably hitting close to home for the people responding.
Now with that said, should parents be able to gripe without repercussions? Absolutely. But griping is not the same as expressing regret, and expressing regret can imply you weren't really up for the job.
Intrinsically, deep down, I feel in complete agreement that you're right about that statement. And then I stop and think "wait, isn't that the very point I was just trying to make above? That something is wrong with this?"
Why do children have to me more important than parents? Why not 'just as important'? Consider: if we had a friend who had a new boyfriend and constantly put the boyfriend's needs above her own saying 'that's just how relationships work, you put their needs above yours, always', we'd have an intervention for that friend. We'd say that's not healthy, that there has to be give and take, that we all have our own needs that are important too.
But make the other side a child and well, now that's just the right way to do things.
I'm not saying that we're wrong for thinking that- I'm saying we should really look at that deeply and figure out if we're sure that it's right. How far is too far? Are we past that point? Maybe our own happiness should sometimes win out over our children's happiness and that's not a monstrous thing.
The rest of your post...I think doth protest too much? Some people have children. Some people don't. We're a product of an evolution that makes many of us want to procreate. Strange obsession? What a bizarre statement.
Secondly, many of the things people complain about are only tangentially and superficially actually related to the child. Every Christmas some parents go to herculean lengths to get the must have toy (or the $900 stroller or only the best school, etc) not because their kid actually wants or needs it, but as a status symbol/achievement among their clique. Humans are imperfect - story at 11.
It is neither weird nor obsessive.
People don't like hearing "I wish my children were never born", because it sounds a lot like desire to commit homicide.
People also don't like hearing "I wish I were never born", because it sounds a lot like suicide.
I understand the need to talk about things the way they really are. But don't be surprised if regretting life is deeply abhorrent to most.
My first thought isn't about the shitty parent or my own choices, it's about the kid who's a secondary character, or whose mere existence appears to be exclusively a cause of grief for their parents. How does the kid feel? What is being done to ensure the kids aren't fucked up if their caretaker is moping around saying they'd rather have a lifetime of wine parties instead of going to soccer practice twice a week?
Do you also believe the "bullies are just jealous of their victims" story?
It's kinda violating a social contract. Everyone's the product of thousands of people over thousands of generations who chose to have kids. By choosing not to have kids you also choose to not contribute the the labor force that will likely take care of you in your old age. You can say all you want about contributing money or inventions, but money is just a claim on future labor and few people's inventions are really that valuable.
The problem is, now you're stepping into quantifying the context on heavily subjective terms. Here's how that goes then:
How valuable have most of the last 15 billion people been on average? How about the bottom 50% of those people in terms of productivity and what they contributed to the betterment (subjective) of humanity or the earth? How valuable, in similar terms, have the bottom 10% of those people been?
And that's why - among dozens of other good reasons - it's entirely unreasonable to judge a person's life in such a manner.
We're not some small tribe in danger of going extinct. It's a terrible argument to say someone who doesn't reproduce is a freeloader. We need less people on this planet, not more. We're on pace to have 10 billion by mid century. That's going to be a challenge to support that many people while not ruining the environment in the process.
To be honest, that's a very freeloader-like mindset: "I don't have to contribute to X because someone else will take care of it for me."
It's not actually so clear cut. In all times there was a huge sways of people who won't have kids.
Handmaids, sailors, mercenaries, servants, slaves, etc, etc. Some of them could have children but it was never guaranteed.
This was offset by other people who'll have more children. Sometimes it wasn't. At all times a lot of lines will wither. Some vast tribes will be reduced to a few dozen families.
Social contract is XX century construct and obviously unsustainable at that. Once children stopped being source of labor but labor sinks, it tried to also became unconscionable contract. As in, everybody tries to slack off their duty while praising it to other people. It's like with conscription.
1. Lack of support network -- many people living as just a couple or alone (and the strain on couple is so high that likely they will be alone soon).
2. Social emphasis on individualism rather than self-sacrifice or community focus.
3. Breakdown of community and trust -- so watching and keeping kids safe is full time job. Must be driven to and from everything, no playing by themselves after school.
4. Increased education -- older parents with more debt and pressure, working in more demanding and/or rewarding jobs.
5. Children need more -- expense of having child keeps increasing. The cost of all goods rising relative to wages, but also the cost of school, daycare, extra-curriculars, etc. Basically having a child is a huge cost, the medical bill just to have the child can be $20K in some hospitals. In most of the world that would mean no one could have a child in a hospital.
6. Changing norms have greatly increased what is expected of a parent raising a child. Ignoring external cost increases, this has profoundly increased the cost and time investment to having a child.
7. Economic changes (e.g. 30 years of wage stagnation) all but force a family with both parents working, meaning parents have to work, and then thanks to #6, also do more at home.
So parents are expected to do far more with far less, with no support from family, community, or society.
This structure has fallen apart in the last 100-150 years or so as wealth, individuality, and other factors you note have dominated western, especially American, life, although the same thing has happened widely in Europe.
Thus the burden, instead of being born by many and therefore not being "so bad", is instead entirely born by 2 or 1 and it is of course that multiple more work. If 25 people would have shared the burden before, you, alone, are now doing all of it, along with the burdens of increased costs, expectations, responsibilities, etc. It's no wonder that raising kids is such a non-starter for many.
The solution, from my point of view, is not to not have kids. That just promotes losing our humanity. For me it is to change those structures that make family so hard.
If we lose what makes us human... wtf is the point of all the things we build.
Now we work 40h+ per week, not including the daily commute, the various appointments, the kids soccer game/karate lessons, helping them with their homework, doing various chores around the house, preparing meals, etc...
We have more comfort, luxury and product selection than ever, but there's a price to pay in terms of energy, time and money.
Until that becomes a rare viewpoint, or at least one with no power, we will have these problems
I have a 20-month-old. Honestly, for the first ~14 months of my son's life I felt... responsible for him, but any "love" was more of an abstract, theoretical thing than a real personal affinity. Babies -- my son, anyway -- under that age are just a black hole of time and attention that require everything from you and give nothing back.
But over the last six months or so, our relationship and my feelings have changed a great deal. On a practical level, he's able to entertain himself for longer periods of time without requiring my input. But more importantly, he's starting to understand and discover principles about the world. Seeing that process of discovery is incredibly fulfilling, and I can honestly say I love my son and enjoy spending time with him and engaging in that learning process, in a way I didn't during the first year.
His growing emotional repertoire is especially gratifying to see. We went out to see Christmas lights over the holidays, and as we passed one house with a particularly luminous display he pointed to it and exclaimed "WOOWW" with eyes full of awe and wonder. Rediscovering the beauty of the world through the eyes of a child is a sort of joy I've never before experienced.
(And don't let "teach them sign language" think you need to teach full on words. Basic signaling that is agreed between you and them is all I mean. Typically "want" and "hungry" are the only ones you need.)
Wow, this is a very strong point. It made me appreciate my parents very much, the way you worded this type of love. It is like the outpouring of love from one life to another. I hope I will be ready for this when I too one day have kids. Thank you!
Before you make any judgments about more kids, wait a year. I think your opinion might change.
I see stuff like this posted all the time when the topic of having babies comes up.
And it's why I don't have sympathy for parents that cry about not knowing how hard it was going to be. You're making an 18-year commitment! Do your research!
Yes, raising children is difficult (especially the first one, since in radically changes your life, you're no longer independent). It's also rewarding, but it _is_ difficult. And that's for the best case, when you get a normal child - I don't know if I can even grasp the difficulties of raising a problematic child (e.g. diabetic).
You should absolutely not do it on a whim; but if you do it, I'd say "go all in and enjoy it". Don't regret your previous life, fully embrace the new one. It has its perks, too - and they are not few. And (at least I hope so), it only gets better as times goes by.
Nah, most things that are worth it are easy, but the easy worthwhile things you just do day-in and day-out and reap the benefits without reflection or even much notice of it as “doing something”. You only notice then when adverse conditions make them hard or impossible.
Most things that you need to put notable effort into (and that therefore don't fade into the background) that are worthwhile are hard, but the worthwhile part of that is superfluous, since the first part is equivalent to being hard.
I wasn't trying to say that it's bad/ that's it's an useless mental model. I was trying to say "don't apply it to important life decisions, if anything, the opposite of it is true there".
Yeah I think if anybody thinks that Occam's Razor is anything other than a way to give weight to two competing theories, they're misunderstanding it entirely.
However if we were to apply the same logic to life decisions, you need to note that the premise of the Razor is "given the same outcome...". So even if you were to apply it to life decisions, it would say "given two paths in life that take you to the same place, choose the simpler one". Which I think can still be useful, even if a completely separate idea than Occam's Razor. Having kids and not having kids are not equal outcomes.
You use big words and don't really say anything, therefore you're reeeeaaallllyyy smart.
Accidentally got my girlfriend pregnant in my early 20's got married and had another child, on purpose, 5 years after the first.
I wouldn't change anything and even with all the sacrifice and hard work the rewards run deep and i couldn't imagine the person i would be had i not ended up a father.
My oldest is heading to college in next fall and i am already feeling sad about how her daily absence is going to leave me feeling a bit empty.
It's not for everyone and i can only speak for myself but i never knew i wanted them or how much more fulfilling my life would be until i had them.
The advice I give anyone who asks me and is on the fence is this: "Unless both people actively _want_ kids, don't do it. Wait until you're both in violent agreement or it's a bad decision."
I'd never walk out on either my kid or my wife but were I a weaker person, I might have and my wife can see it in my face. It's a hard place to be.
I am a stay-at-home father for a 4yo. It can be interesting at times. Mostly however it is frustrating and deeply lonesome, some days I've gone all day until dinner-time without being able to talk to another adult other than a passing "good morning" in the street.
And I look at my childless-couple friends with jealousy, they jump in the car and go for a weekend break or spend ten hours composing an award-winning photograph or just spend a Saturday doing nothing
I don't mind posting this under my usual ID because it's not something I hide anymore. Often though it is considered shameful to say "I don't enjoy being a father". Rewards? An hour here or there when my wife can take the child out of the house.
But if I could tell my younger self one thing about those days, I'd say: Don't miss what you have by focusing on what you lost. Be present with your kids, instead of mentally withdrawn, wishing for what you could do if you didn't have them.
It could be that my younger self wouldn't get it. It could be that, without the kids making me less selfish, I never would have seen how selfish I was being. Looking back, though, my biggest regret for that time is how little love I gave to my children.
When I was dating, one of the first things I would ask was "Do you want to eventually have kids one day?"
People think it's a terrible first-date question, but I wholeheartedly disagree, because the question isn't "Do you want to have kids with me?". That would definitely be a bad question on a first date because they don't know you very well. But most people at least know if they'd want to have children at some point in their lives.
The desire over whether or not to have children needs to be an absolute deal breaker in a relationship, and if you and the other person aren't on the same page on that subject, it's best to move on and find someone else within the first date rather than invest tons of time into a relationship only to end up heartbroken or regretful.
Comment from throwaway2016a:
> "We got no sleep last night, she woke up at 2 AM and wouldn't go back to bed."
> The fact is, having a child is the biggest life commitment you will ever make and if you and your significant other are not prepared, you're in for a bad time.
My grandpa had 10 siblings and from his stories I can tell that if he as a kid woke up at 2 AM and woke his parents (who worked their asses off from dawn till dusk to support the family) up for no good reason - he'd be the one to have a bad time and he learned that at a very young age. He did grow up to be a stand up guy who never complains about anything and the lack of all the rights, freedoms and attention that today's kids get didn't seem to get in the way of that.
While convenient for others, this is not quite healthy. It's possible to traumatize a child into quiet and obedience, but times have changed and we don't approve of that anymore.
But it was never a successful design. Women found staying at home stifling; teens found suburbia stifling. The lack of a deep social structure deprived parents and children alike of a massive support structure.
Other social organizations sprang up to fill the void, but clubs are no match for generations of closeness, and frequent moves made even that ineffectual. The only segment of society that clearly benefited was and is Corporations. Having a worker class that can be shuffled around like game pieces allows easier optimization of cost center locations.
Do you have any sources supporting this? I'm pretty sure the "nuclear family" + suburbia have worked out fine.
The big downside is that kids do need to be driven places, which is less true "in town", but it's not like the suburbs don't have lots of advantages too.
Even the millennials are now starting to finally get married and have kids, and guess what: they are moving to the suburbs too.
I don't begrudge anyone their preferences, but all this hipster trashing of the 'burbs just flies in the face of what most families actual want.
And this goes back to the title of this article, part of the reason people see parenting as so burdensome is they now have to deal with the added realities of a Civic planning policy that is a miserable failure.
Edit: To add data, to build a basic house ( 4 corner ) at a Good, but not luxury level averages $147/sq.ft. , to build a multistory residential unit at highest quality it averages $150/sq.ft. If you build over 15 stories the average price can drop by about 11%. Those are raw construction costs, including labor and materials, and take into consideration most new housing developments in the suburbs are _not_ basic 4 corner houses.
100% true. I work as a real estate data researcher. Totally agree suburban sprawl is a significant failure, and we're seeing in this thread yet another example of dragging out the old reliable cop-out "market forces" as a way to pretend that bad decisions made were good decisions. Up is down, sun rises in the west, etc.
We absolutely have got to get out from under this pervasive market fundamentalist quackery.
Contract that with the sprawl in most sections of the northeast. Houses extend for miles with little to no public green space, except for a handful of county run parks that you drive to. Newer developments will try to incorporate parks more frequently, but generally they will all have parking lots because the only way to get to them in by car.
Both of those environments are a stark contrast to small town America which has a very different operation then either. Small towns are driveable, lower density then even the suburbs, and generally more pleasant to live in so long as they have the economic driver required to sustain them. Small towns have had their own problems with the rise of big cities and their suburbs, and I think they are a model that _could_ work if we as a nation set them up to succeed, but today all our regulations favor the bigger cities and towns and we have been watching the small towns die out
But I also think that while some dads would be happy at home long term, just like some women really are, majority would have same problems then women at home do. However, the stigma of "it was your choice don't complain" etc could be even larger.
It is risk time for alcoholism and depression, statistically speaking. Social isolation, pretty complete. No external motivation to do anything, little chance to do things you like and even less to do them competitively. It just become all pointless. Loss of confidence. Lack of challenge, especially external challenge. Because your existence is pointless most of time. And people stop treating you as you and star treating you as generic mom. Complete routine, every day the same.
I mean, that book was pretty accurate.
And that hiking around becomes same old slooow quite quickly.
But really, if you have that kind of personality that is happy in such situation and just can't wait to hike with kiddo, go for it.
Parenthood can be soul-crushing when your child has a chronic illness. Our son is a type 1 diabetic which means one of us is always near him (aside from when he's in school, and my wife is in constant communication with the staff, we watch his blood sugar remotely using NightScout.) I can't imagine what it's like for parents who have children with more severe illnesses (cancer, paralysis, etc.) Just for some perspective for those who aren't familiar with Type 1 Diabetes, our son's body no longer produces any insulin. If his blood sugar goes too low without intervention he can pass out and die. If his blood sugar is too high he can go into DKA and he can slip into a coma. This goes on 24/7 and will for the rest of his life (unless they find a cure.)
He was diagnosed four and half years ago and he just turned six. My wife and I have been out without him less than a handful of times because he's not old enough to self-manage his condition and our parents are (rightfully) scared of caring for him. No sleepovers, no leaving him with a neighbor/family/etc. More often than not one of us is up several times per night to check his sugar.) When he's low in the middle of the night we have to wake him up, force him to eat something (glucose tabs, chocolate, etc.) He'll go back to sleep and we'll wait 30-60 minutes to make sure his sugar returns to safe levels before going back to sleep.
We have no regrets. We tell ourselves that we're happy he doesn't have something much worse. If I were to have a supposed-adult tell me that they regret having (healthy) children because it's hard, I would have the urge to tell them to go do something anatomically impossible.
I'm not entirely sure this is true (for everyone at least), since many people don't live as close to the children's grandparents as they would have typically in the past.
All the tech in the world doesn't make up for 8 additional (in the best case scenario) eager helping hands.
As for the rest of your comment, I have a ton of respect for your handling of this hardship. I'm not entirely sure what else to say other than I always vote in such a way as to build a society that makes life easier for people dealt such an unfair hardship such as yourself and many others.
I have friends without kids and with the adventurous life style and I tell myself: It'll come again, take it easy, raise kids, enjoy the ride. Still sometimes I feel myself hoping they reach the age they can ride a Mountain Bike asap and I can get back to adventurous trips... But it will come, there are a lot of things to enjoy now, watching children explore the world, it's absolutely great, but don't compare yourself to people without children, or if you do make the comparison holistically... do not just look at their Facebook lives. There are many childless couples that would swap with these regretting mothers and fathers in a heartbeat.
All that said, I think it is good taboos as in this article are being lifted, perhaps kids are not for everyone and it is not all fun and roses even though society almost expects you to say and act like it is. Strangely it is also not very appreciated if you go on about your deep love for your children either... these are strange times perhaps.
Stagnating wages, delayed careers due to the 2001 and 2007 crashes and subsequent recessions, and increased debt all conspire to put people in a position where having kids in their 20s is simply not an option.
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 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 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.
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..
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.
Also: It is pretty irresponsible to have a child even though you know you don't want to take care of it.
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.
"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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
Is there something to their feeling? Yes. Is it how they say it is? I don’t think so.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
That case (<2) is the case for most of the developed world.
Though I was definitely wrong to say 'exponential growth' since that isn't actually true.
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.
It depends on your perspective. For instance, if all your cells decided to totally stop reproducing one day, you'd die eventually.
>> 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.
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.
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.
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.
 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?"
I guess I should go with "you should go to engineering school"
As far back as June 2014, Pope Francis spoke about this phenomenon.
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.
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.
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.
Sorry, can you help me parse this sentence?
My point is that folks who have the "get a dog" mentality are supporting the forces that make child rearing increasingly burdensome.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
This gets old eventually. This shifts from being novel to repetitive. Having children lets you have a whole new set of experiences.
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.
Nothing evident about it in parent comment. You should probably re-read it, hold your platinum thoughts steady.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Appreciate your parents.
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.
"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.”
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.
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 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.
Hopefully your mother waited until you were an adult to give you this advice!
I had no choice in the matter of being born so I don’t feel bad about getting this advice.
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.
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.
"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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
...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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Read this: Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting by Pamela Druckerman
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.
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.
If we take CO2 it's another thing, but low emissions won't save you once all the biosphere is literally eaten.
If all countries start living like americans we'd need 5 times the surfaces area of earth.
I can see that you don't actually value Earth, just pity that it's so small you have to ration it.
Demographics will shift dramatically if we are to prolong youth instead of prolonging old age.
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.
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.
It's interesting to contrast this concern (is concern the right word?) in Canada with articles about the same thing in parts of Africa . The only difference being what side of the replacement level the population is on.
But, still, there is a choice - nobody needs to have children if they didn't really want.
Perhaps there never was a taboo, just a different conception of what a human life should aim for.
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.
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.
As a statement of fact it's ok. As an activity it's usually a waste of time.
Sorry, where are these norms supposedly coming from then?
Some very talented tech people I follow had kids early and it worked out well for them!
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.
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)
 This will be the last time I say this - sorry, I don't have the link, this is as best I can remember.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
The only things I really regret are things I asked for and found out I didn't actually want.
On what sacred tablet did you find this meaning of life?
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.
"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