When having no children means…having it all?

I joined Fox & Friends this morning to discuss TIME magazine’s recent cover story which marks a significant cultural shift: not having children in order to live a more fulfilled life.

  • Ann-Marie

    Great interview! How would you know that you won’t make a good parent until you actually become one?

    • Partho

      And what if you have one and still find out you cannot become a good parent? What about the child? You have ruined its life!

  • http://concerningpurity.blogspot.com/ Lynn Grey

    Whenever I see discussion of this topic, I notice that the side that is critical of the childfree decision makes a lot of assumptions about those couples that aren’t necessarily true. Like the idea that couples are making this choice purely out of a desire to have fun and be selfish. I’ve never met a childfree couple where this is the case. It’s most often due to a complete lack of desire to parent, and a well-thought-out recognition of the toll parenting would take on them. For instance, the majority of childless-by-choice people are introverts who highly value alone-time for their mental health. People who truly want kids usually find a way to make it happen, and won’t let things like vacations or peace and quiet replace a desire as big as having a child.

    I also think the argument of parenting being self-sacrificing is a poor one to use in this situation. Of course parents end up making a lot of sacrifices through the course of their lives, but they didn’t choose that path because they love sacrificing themselves. Most parents choose to have children because they think they will enjoy that more than not having children. How is that a less selfish decision than those who choose not to for the same reason?

    • Patricia

      Thank you for saying this so well! I am an introvert. I love other people’s children. I am good with kids. But having my own children has never been a given for me–not while i was single, and not for my husband and me now. (I do have an adult step-son.) In contrast, my sister always knew she wanted to be a mom…and she and my brother-in-law are expecting their third child in October. My husband and i both know the commitment involved in good parenting. Right now, our commitment is in service to others. I several friends and co-workers who are childless and play important roles in the lives of their nieces and nephews, children in their churches, and children they help in their careers.

  • http://www.likeawarmcupofcoffee.com Sarah Mae

    You did excellent! Great job! :)

  • Victoria

    Having an opinion about whether or not a couple should have children is about as appropriate as having an opinion on how other people raise their children. It’s private and nobody else’s business.

  • gle1244

    Jen immediately took the discussion down a path that, for me, took things “off topic.” EE you did a good job inserting truth about the attitude of our society. As EE pointed out, the cover and title is an accurate perception of a self indulgent culture of today, not unlike the ancient Roman empire. In my opinion Jen deflected the issue with pointing to a “freedom of choice” stance. I am a strong advocate of freedom of choice, btw. But, not always how it’s used in many arguments. EE made an excellent point about the need for intelligent parents raising the next generation. Of course there are likely people who need to have the right to not have children. Of course. But Jen used a justifiable argument to “demonize” a family building approach to life. The article was appealing to the right of self gratification in the way it was being marketed. EE…you win!

  • Family Paw

    I did not like about your comments on Fox & Friends this morning. The assumption that choosing to not have children results in a self indulgent lifestyle without any civic or charitable contribution is rubbish. Let me tell you that the absence of children has enabled me to be an animal rights advocate affording me the opportunity to run my own business of a boarding and rescue facility for dogs and cats and affording me the time to be a volunteer transport for a variety of SF Bay Area animal rescue organizations. And when I am not working, as the only child of parents who are in their mid-eighties (I am only 45) I cannot imagine caring for a 10 or 15 year old child while dealing with elder issues and care. I made the right decision to not have children and I do not appreciate you lumping every situation where a woman / couple have chosen to be MORE involved in community. It takes a great deal more to deal with those who dump their dog at a shelter because they have had a baby, or dump their parents at a convalescent hospital because they are too busy. And yes, without children I do have it all. I have a great education, a wonderful husband, a rewarding and challenging career, and my heart goes into everything I do. I do not miss dirty diapers, runny noses, soccer practices, and minivans. I do not miss the stress and worry that parents have to deal with raising their children in a world full of pedophiles, bullying, and forced inoculations. I do not miss any of it. And I could do without your judgment.

  • tulips

    I was disappointed with the direction of the debate. I dislike framing the parenting question with what basically amounts to sadistic choices. Either have life balance, goals, recreation, insert privilege reserved for childless couples here and accept that you are a selfish narcissist OR have a “meaningful” but stressful and unpleasant life with children that hopefully fulfill the gaping losses their birth evidently requires of you sufficiently to prevent bitterness and longing for a time machine. I think a better question revolves around asking why we have set up parenthood to be such a high stakes gamble in the first place.

    • Rachel Heston-Davis

      Agree! Agree agree. As someone who is contemplating having a child in the next few years, and who has many parent friends who all do parenting a different way and all have different opinions, I agree 100% with everything tulips has said here. Parenting is presented as this situation that will make you miserable, but not parenting is presented as being selfish and empty. Those look like the only two options….until you actually talk to purposefully childfree couples, or to parents who worked to keep many of their pre-child priorities in tact. Then the debate looks a lot less scary and a lot more rational.

  • Carly

    I am surprised and a little dismayed that you judge people who choose to remain childless as selfish or as not wanting to do good in the world. It is so much more complicated than that. They key thing is, a child does not exist until you decide to create it. The only reasons for creating another human being are “selfish” or perhaps “self-motivated” is a better term. To create another human being so that you can learn lessons about selflessness is a major selfish act in itself. That is ok, Having kids or not having kids – I think we should remove the words selfish or selfless from the equation.

    You are not “doing good” by having kids, because those humans did not exist until you created them. Doing good is helping people who already exist. Once you choose to have a kid, then you are committed to doing good to that kid.

    Childlessness is not really equated to selfishness at all. This is a question I have been wrestling with for years, and it terrifies me. I know that I were to assess my situation objectively, knowing my personality my traumatic past, the severe mental illness in my immediate family, that having a biological child would be very selfish and irresponsible. And yet because of the powerful conditioning that I have recieved since birth, I truly feel that I will not be a real woman, no, not a real HUMAN, if I don’t have a child. Like I won’t really exist. I will only be half a person, and everyone will judge me forever more as one of those people who “just doesn’t know what it’s like” and “only people with children can understand”. And I am afraid of regretting not having a child. These are huge issues. If I do choose to not have a child, my only options then are to focus on work and hobbies, and I may as well do that with enthusiasm, but I know if that happens it will always be laced with guilt, because of the emphasis on selfishness.

    You should know that these decisions are never taken lightly.

  • Nancy

    I just read this article over the weekend. My two best friends from college have chosen not to be parents, and they work for a non-profit and are not inherently selfish — and I know not everyone who remains childless is self-centered, etc. But I do think you’re onto something here, EE. The trajectory of our culture is so comfort-oriented . . . I often wonder if I would’ve had what it took to live through the times during WWII (or heck, just the average life of a farm wife 75-100 years ago!). So many contributed to the WWII effort by going without everyday things like sugar, gasoline, etc. I wonder if our nation is even capable of doing that any more — too much self-sacrifice for most of us, I suspect.
    Many people who remain childless are doing so those same kind of “comfort” reasons . . . even if their personalities aren’t “selfish,” our culture’s trajectory is toward ease, even if that means being able to pursue hobbies unfettered, or take vacations, or whatever. It doesn’t mean they’re terrible people on an individual level, but it is definitely a reflection of the things our culture values.
    And it is ironic to me that the wealthiest and most educated people, who would have the easiest time sending kids to college, etc. are less likely to have children. Lots to ponder here.

  • Nicole B.

    I think our species will survive a segment of the population deciding to remain childless. The decisions of whether to have children and how to raise them are so important to most people, that we tend to get very nervous and judgmental when someone else makes different choices than us. I enjoy parenthood tremendously but I tell my childless friends — whether by circumstances or by choice — that it’s not the end-all-be-all of human experience. Now, let’s return to the inane mommy wars and leave the child-free folks in peace.

    • Nicole B.

      P.S. You looked great on the show!

  • KristinC

    The tone of the article, and the assumptions I inferred from the trajectory of your argument, were very hurtful to me, honestly, and way off base. I am married and in my early thirties, and I want children very badly. My husband and I have decided not to have them at this point, however, because doing so would be selfish. We are not in a place financially to care for a child. Our marriage is not such that it would not be a great environment in which to start adding more people–and anyway the two of us don’t agree on practically anything regarding the raising of children, so that fact adds another element of chaos. My psychological health has always been a tad bit fragile, and I have to focus really hard on caring for myself in order to contribute anything meaningful to society. For these and many more reasons, we are not in a position to be having children, so we don’t. Even though, as I said, we really, really want them.

    I am not selfish (well, I mean, not more than your average person….I have my moments of course!). My education and career are very much service-oriented (and involve children!!). My life is definitely not like the carefree, luxurious child-free life depicted in these debates, nor would I want it to be if I could make it such.

    The thing that bothers me the most is that several people have already said similar things to you and you have not even so much as acknowledged their protests, let alone concede that they may have a point. That, perhaps, you should have been more clear about the fact that you do not think everyone who chooses to remain childless are selfish. That, in fact, the choice to have a child can be a selfish choice. That we’re all just trying to do the best with what we have in life, and not a single one of us ever really has everything we need to get through.

  • Kim L

    Really! This is even being discussed? What’s wrong with choosing not to have kids? When did it become our personal responsibility to society to have kids? I’m so glad to be an American and have the freedom of choice! BTW, I have 5 kids, but it was my choice to have them. If someone else chooses not to, that is their prerogative to make that decision.