They Say You Should Have Kids Because...: My Responses
Updated: Apr 16
The question of whether or not to start a family has become a frequent topic of conversation since I got married and turned 29. This is not coming out of the blue. Indeed, research suggests 30 is the magic number where after age 30, women's fertility starts to decline.
Growing up, I have always been someone who wanted children. I didn't think too much and thought that was just natural thing that human beings did.
However, in recent years, I have been more and more on the fence...
In my recent conversations on this topic with family and friends, I've heard some fascinating (but quite common) arguments for why one should have children. I want to share some of those arguments and my responses to them.
They Say You Should Have Children Because...
"You will have someone to look after you when you get old."
First, this sounds like a selfish reason to have kids. Second, you can't just assume they will be willing or be able to take care of you. This is just not guaranteed. Furthermore, there are other ways to get care when you get old, such as getting professional caregivers or living in assisted living facilities. You can be well taken care of without having any children at all.
Also, there's this idealized image of being surrounded by loved ones as you pass away on your deathbed. Reality is you cannot control how you die. Even if you do have your family around near your passing, you will most likely be unconscious right before your die, so you won't know who will be there...
"You will regret not having children!"
This argument assumes that I will want children when I get older, but quickly falls apart if I'm pretty certain I won't want to have children even when I get older.
Even if I do end up regretting it, this is just like any other thing that I may be regretting in life. It could well be the case that I have children and then I end up regretting having children! In fact, there are people who regret having children! Check out this fascinating book: Regretting Motherhood.
Also, we are actually quite bad at predicting what makes us happy (according to Stumbling on Happiness). Therefore, doing something now to try to prevent us from regretting it in the future could be futile.
Of course, if you have any concerns about feeling regretful of not having children as your older self, then that is a perfect reason to have one!
"To continue the family lineage."
This is probably one of the worst reasons I've heard for why I should have kids.
To begin, this argument assumes that continuing the family lineage is something I value (which I don't). Since this is traditionally men's responsibility to carry the family's name (because historically only men can) and I'm a women, I don't have that obligation.
Even if were a man and had children in attempt to continue our family lineage, this is not guaranteed. Even if I had children, I cannot control whether my children or children's children will have children.
Oh, did I mention that historically only men are able to carry the family's name? This means in order to continue our (more my husband's side of family) family's lineage , I not only need to have children but I need to have a son! Thus, this is a sexist argument!!!
"To tie down your partner/keep your marriage together." (usually told me women to "tie down" their husband...)
Research does suggest that married couples with children are less likely to get a divorce compared to couples without children. This is likely because divorce without kids is much easier!
However, I'm pretty sure that maintaining a marriage alone is not the ultimate goal. More important than staying married is being happily married. This is something that having children will not guarantee! In fact, the opposite may be true.
For example, a longitudinal study found that self-reported relationship satisfaction declines after the birth of a first child. Another study found that there is a greater decline in relationship satisfaction for couples who have children than for childless couples, especially in cases of unplanned pregnancy.
So if you are having thoughts about having kids to save your marriage, pause and think twice!
Moreover, if your marriage is already problematic, it is unfair to bring a child into this and have them suffer together with you.
Don't rush into having children as a means of saving your marriage. It is probably a good idea to improve your relationship first and then consider having kids.
"To look normal/fit in society"
My parents' generation did not give marriage and having kids much of a second thought. When I ask my parents why did they have children, they say: "That's just what everyone did after they got married." People will start to question whether you have some physical or mental problems if you do not have children soon after getting married!
If you are truly worried about being isolated if you don't have kids, you may be over-worrying. As society becomes more developed, the fertility rate has consistently decreased and more and more people are choosing to be childless. Finding others who share your decision to forego having children is now easier than ever.
Nowadays, there is less consensus on what a "normal" life should be like. In fact, we all have the right to define what success and happiness means for us and to strive for that life we want regardless of others' opinions. Moreover, with online communities, it is easier than ever to find groups that share your ideals, so you are not alone.
"To be happy."
It is not a fair assumption that having children will automatically guarantee you happiness. Every one of us is unique and what makes us happy is also unique to us. This is why there are for example, women who regret being a mother! There are myriad ways to have a happy and fulfilled life and having children is just one of them.
So what does research say about the link between having children and happiness?
Interestingly, a study found that those with and without children have similar levels of life satisfaction, but those with children experienced both more positive and negative emotions on a daily basis!
If you choose not to have children, you may find greater fulfillment in life since you have more control over your schedule and finances. You can also expect to retire earlier and with more wealth than people who choose to start a family.
All of the arguments above overlook the downsides of having children
Having children expends significant physical, mental, and financial resources and is probably one of the most life-transforming decision you can make. You need to take the responsibility of another human being for the rest of your life!
So you deserve to take the time needed to gather all the information you need to make the best decision for you!
Tips for Communicating with Those (Parents) Who May Be Pressuring You to Have Children
💡 Have an open and candid conversation. Ask them to list all the reasons why they think you should have children. Then explain to them why you may disagree. I hope some of the common arguments I listed and my responses above can help you out when you have these discussions!
💡 One of the best ways to ease parental pressure if you've opted against having children is to show them that you can be truly happy without kids, too. If they can see that you are content with your life, they should stop trying to persuade you to start a family. After all, your parents most likely just want you to be happy!
Reasons To Have Kids (According to ChatGPT)
On the flip side, there are many good reasons why someone may choose to have kids. Here are some thanks to ChatGPT:
To experience the joys and rewards of parenthood: Many people find the experience of raising children to be fulfilling and rewarding, and enjoy the bond and connection they develop with their children.
To pass on family traditions and values: Having children can be a way to pass on family traditions, values, and cultural heritage to the next generation.
To contribute to society: Raising children who will go on to become productive members of society can be a way to contribute to the well-being and development of one's community and society at large.
To create a sense of family and community: Having children can create a sense of family and community, and provide individuals with a support network and sense of belonging.
To experience personal growth and development: Raising children can challenge individuals in new and meaningful ways, and provide opportunities for personal growth and development.
ChatGPT's Conclusion: It's important to note that having children is a significant responsibility and should be approached with careful consideration of one's abilities, desires, and circumstances. Ultimately, the decision to have children should be a personal one based on an individual's values, goals, and capabilities.
No matter what others think whether you need to have children or not, it is ultimately your decision. You will have to put in the effort day in and day out to raise them and take on this lifelong responsibility.
So the only right reason for having children is that YOU truly feel like you want to have one.
Deaton, A., & Stone, A. A. (2014). Evaluative and hedonic wellbeing among those with and without children at home. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(4), 1328-1333.
Watling Neal, J., & Neal, Z. P. (2021). Prevalence and characteristics of childfree adults in Michigan (USA). Plos One, 16(6), e0252528.
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