The Case for NOT Having Children

Category: Weekly Columns

Little girl smoking a cigarette

Every parent goes through ups and downs in the parenting journey. Up until recently, I felt every bump in the road was worth hitting the proverbial ceiling from those bumps and that the journey was well worth the costs; emotional and financial. Right now, for the first time in my life, I’m beginning to understand the Millennials that I meet who say they don’t want children. I also fully understand my oldest friend, who declared ever since he was a young adult that he didn’t want to have children.

Teenagers comic

There is a major cost, emotionally, practically, and of course to your bank account when having kids. Of course this isn’t “news” to anyone. And, that’s if you’re lucky. A dear friend of mine told me of a family that went bankrupt to pay to send their son to a special wilderness program to try and help his severe behavioral problems. Go to any Al-Anon meeting and you’ll hear story after story of parents who have been financially ruined or marriages destroyed by the incredible stress of addict kids (or any number of other parental challenges).

I often ask young couples if they’re married whether they want children. It’s no longer an assumption that a couple wants to either get married or have children. Most couples I speak to in my very scientific study declare a desire to get married but most also exclaim little desire to have children, except possibly one child, and THAT is only when they are more stable financially.

Little kid giving the finger

When the world was agriculture-based, somehow families had many children – and many died – but the issue of their expense was not a question. In fact, the more children, the more “hands” available to help. That is certainly not a factor in any part of the Western world today in the decision to have children.

Another response I often hear is the desire to continue the lifestyle a couple has presently that would be badly disrupted by having to deal with and care for a child or children.

My first reactions – in the past – to these responses were one of sadness and one of judgment that they were being selfish.

Teen Party

Now, for the first time since I became an adult I am revisiting this thinking and the “value” of having children. Of course this reaction and column is in direct relation to problems I’m experiencing at home with my boys. These problems go with their age, their generation, and are more typical than the success stories we tend to unilaterally believe that we hear from our friends.

As I heard once, “the only happy marriage is one in which I don’t know the couple very well.” Perfect and well-adjusted kids are not far off. Of course, some of our friends are blessed with good and successful kids or the world would be much more of a disaster than it is. My fears for the future notwithstanding, there are plenty of successful and well-adjusted young people in the world and a few of them are even procreating.

That the Western World is procreating at less than break-even is a statistical fact so much so that in Singapore – where the birth-rate is one of the lowest in the world – the government is desperately trying to financially incentivize couples to have one or, gulp, even two children. And, these efforts are not meeting with much success. Japan now sells more adult diapers than diapers for babies. Hello?

Trashy teens

My wife and me have struggled mightily in the past months dealing with issues with our relatively grown boys. And, we’re even mostly on the same page. Of course I get a number of “I told you so’s” from her and, on reflection, I mostly think she’s right when she says them. But, I also know I probably would have made the same mistake in a do-over since I was so sure I was doing the right thing at the time.

My boys are entitled and spoiled. That is our problem. That was mostly MY doing.

Do I love them? With all my heart. Do I respect them? I refuse to answer that on the grounds it will incriminate me. Will things change? I pray they do.

Kids and Fire

Right now my answer to “where did we go wrong” was in not using more birth control. Tomorrow, perhaps I’ll think differently. Right now, I just want to cry and go to sleep…and hope I wake up to a different reality!

  • David Weber

    I am Bruce’s oldest friend (mentioned in the first para.) who, except for a very brief period in my early thirties, never elected to seek out pursue opportunities to become a parent. I think that is a more apt way to express it than “didn’t want to have children.”

    To use the latter phrasing does something of an injustice to the feeling, self-reflection, thinking and tuning into intuition, that on this topic of having children has long been part of my life. It has never been a question of wanting or not wanting children…it has always been a question of what kind of parent do I think I would be, and how willing I would be to make the choices necessary to do right by my children.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      @disqus_dU5ulU60s7:disqus – I stand corrected but YOU would have made a MUCH BETTER parent than most, without a doubt. As you know, NOW I completely respect your choice (not to have kids)….

  • http://www.christinacraig.com.au Christina Craig

    I really enjoyed your article, thanks for being open about this still taboo topic. I myself never wanted children, simply because I didn’t think I had much to offer as a parent and also child-rearing held little interest. However, the man I fell in love with wanted children so I’m now a mother of two. Confession – it’s the hardest job in the frickin world (if you take it seriously). I can only hope my children can contribute to humanity in a way I have not. Otherwise I’m taking them to Bolivia and they can mine salt with the other children wearing hand-me-downs.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      @disqus_AE8xv7jHol:disqus – LOVED your candor Christina. I hope they become the model citizens too. The jury is WAY OUT on my two. The older one is struggling and the younger one is off to college. Time will tell. Good luck to you!

  • Steve (JoeBugBuster) Case

    Thanks for sharing the blood, sweat and tears Bruce. It’s got to be a lot harder now that society doesn’t appreciate parents – or kids – the way they once did. I hope the pendulum will swing back in the other direction

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      I’m with you @JoeBugBuster – and hope to see you at #DadChat ‘s return THIS Thursday and July 16!