Having Children in Troubled Times: Should We Have Them At All?

in steempress •  last month

People always asked my man and I if we were going to have a kid together. Having had my maternal clock tick noisily at 25, leading to a pregnancy to a man I didn't love, I knew what it was like to long for a child, and knew what it was to love one so. Though I loved my boy beyond all reason, my wings had been clipped slightly. I knew how much a child would throw this brilliant new love into another dimension, bind us into some other contract I didn't want. My man wrapped me in his warm embrace and said that our baby was our love, quite possibly the corniest thing he'd ever said before or since, but a beautiful answer.

We didn't need a child to fulfil us, despite expectations from society. He particularly felt that there were enough children in the world already, and enough problems with overpopulation and all the disasters that brings, so it was our responsibility to not add to that. Besides, we wanted to travel, and wanted certain freedoms that another child would just not quite work.

Years later, we still feel twinges of regret balanced with the knowledge we made the right decision. We're about to go on another adventure, and we're free and young enough to do that, and the world isn't getting an easier place to raise a child. I quietly and often sadly think of his family tree and how this branch stops here, and what a shame there's not another HIM in the world, and that he never felt that unbounded joy of fatherhood, though he did a great job at being a stepdad.

I look at people our age and in our situation, and don't envy them their lives. Whilst we're nearly mortgage free and with no financial obligations to anyone but ourselves, it's easier to feel high and mighty, as if we've somehow stumbled across a secret everyone else is too busy following their biological imperative and social conditioning to see. But there's things we are missing out on too - the Christmases surrounded by children and grandchildren, the fear that we will lose the only one we have, the loveliness of seeing your children grow up - all of them, not just one. I like to think that in another life I'll live in a forest and have ten children and be poor and happy with the richness of their laughter filtering down like sunlight.

But this is simply nostalgia getting in the way of rational thought. We didn't. End of. When we're dead and gone, no one will care and we certainly wont know!

Ecotrain's question of the week this week asks whether it's good or bad idea to bring children into this world in these troubled times. Given the anecdote above, I can easily say it's a bad idea because it's another way to live with the fact we never had a child together. But it's far more complex than that, and like usual, I can't answer either, or. It is both a good and bad idea, and a bad one. Good? My internal jury is still out on that one, but I know how much joy personally my boy has brought into my life.

You can't begrudge people wanting that.

I dismiss these feelings as I don't want to sadden my life by listening to these base, primal desires. It's only a biological imperative, after all - some deep, driving force that's imprinted on us so that our species survives. Being aware of this desire as _sensation_probably leads to far greater happiness - we should never follow our base desires for the sake of desire, regardless what society or culture wants us to do.

Our world is suffering, too. My beautiful, quiet and wild coast is quiet and wild no longer, and all the wild spaces seem to be trembling in anticipation of development. I feel an unwilling anger rise - there are far too many people and it's ruining what I treasured so much. I try not to think about it. There's not a lot that I can do. I can't scream 'stop having children, people, we gotta unfuck this world!' at the top of my lungs the way I really want to. Because, love. Because, human. And because its not the people, but the poor systems we have in place to MANAGE people.

As I considered the relationship between chaos and order in our natural world, I argued in this post that man disrupts the natural order. Someone commented quite rightly that man IS part of the natural world, so maybe we should trust the situation to right itself and not worry about fixing things so much, let we just cause more problems. In many ways, he's right, but I can't help this train of thought that despite human beings being 'nature' too, we're the only one that disrupts natural feedback loops for their own greed and desires - not just simply survival, but for greed. Whilst 'progress' has made us thrive as a species, it also has had a great toll on the earth. Being civilised, progressive, technologically capable and able to tame nature's wildness has always been a _good_thing which has differentiated us from beast, but hasn't quite removed our beastliness - the following of our base desires without awareness of the impact we might have. We aren't very good at putting systems in place that might manage overloads on current systems.

A shark will bite because it wants to see what you taste like. It's not thinking about the impact on your life, the repercussions for your family, and the fear it's creating in mankind. Human beings have the capacity for empathy and forethought. Our ancestors would know if the natural world has been disrupted because it affected them, and thus it changed the way they interacted with it. We don't take all the apples on the tree but leave some for the birds. We don't take all the mushrooms and the ones we do, we shake in the hopes their spores will spread so that more will follow.

We are conscious enough to know that the more of us there are, doing the same amount of damage, the more problems we are going to have - environmentally, socially, culturally. We all know about the effects of overpopulation - it's been part of a wider dialogue globally for a long time now.

But if we argue that it's a bad idea to have so many people in the world, yet still desperately want children, how do we reconcile that? And are we juts getting over emotional about it and buying into fear mongering about overpopulation without looking at how we CAN manage it if we do it right?

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In Spielberg’s 'Ready Player One', people escape cramped reality to a VR landscape. Is this the world we want for our children?

Would having less - or no - children really make a difference?

One might argue that there is a limit to how much power an individual decision to _not_have children can have. Because we don't talk about not having children as a solution, and because the problem of overpopulation is so vast (one billion added every 12 years - how will my one or two children or absent thereof make a difference?) that it can feel pointless no matter what we do.

There is both empowerment in the drop in the ocean theory (if I form part of many drops, I can affect change) and despair (how can my one single drop make a difference?). Clearly, collective impact is powerful - and thus, if we can accept collective responsibility for environmental issues then this can flow on to businesses, hospitals, schools and so on. Together, we're stronger - and this togetherness is more conceivable at a local level that we can see and understand.

What if, for example, schools were not allowed to accept children outside a particular radius so that walking or public transport was easier than parents driving you? If all textbooks were digital? If every school planted green zones and had kitchen gardens that contributed toward food security? That had mental health programs such as mindfulness to mitigate the stresses of our lives? That worked on solutions to environmental problems rather than focused on results? Or, if we completely restructured the school system, like the Green School in Bali?

Organisations and people working for organisations with huge environmental footprints much bigger contributors to environmental sustainability and growth than those who decide not to have kids - especially if we haven't reached critical mass on the whole 'let's not have kids thing'. Think of it in numbers. 5,000 people die in floods in Bangladesh every single year. EACH HOUR, 15,000 babies are born. That means that within 20 minutes, that population is replaced. Unless everyone decides to have only one child, or none, right now, our individual decisions aren't going to matter much.

Can reducing consumption be another key?

Affluence, rather than overpopulation, can be a bigger contributor to climate change and environmental issues than having ten children. If you are well off, you can buy the latest TV every year, the latest iphone, a second house in the countryside, a bigger house with a bigger environmental footprint. It's not the number of people that impact the planet but our consumption habits. We simply can't have all these people consume the amount of meat, water, plastic and so on as they do now. Thus, changing our consumer habits can have far more impact than the decision not to have children.

We have to consider that we are absolutely brainwashed to consume at every level - capitalism DEPENDS on it. We can reduce that by not having children, or we can have children and teach them to resist these forces.

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In the Pixar film 'Wall-E', mass consumption leads to pollution so bad that it is necessary to move the population off planet entirely.

Birth Control as A Western Luxury - And Child Bearing as a Human Rights Issue

Limit the amount of children born, and eventually you'll have less woman of child bearing ages, leading to human trafficking. This isn't a future speculation - this has already happened in places like South Korea and China. Birth rates are linked to economies whether we like it or not, but this can have a terrible effect on woman's reproductive rights and identities. In 2016 in South Korea a map was published a map which showed a real time map of woman of child bearing ages in the hope to spur competition between regions. Whilst this was taken down in a day due to public outburst from woman who felt they were seen as little more than reproductive organs, it is situations like this that make enforced birth control policies a human rights nightmare.

Having only one child, or none, is also a luxury of the west and more affluent areas. 12 percent of woman globally actually don't have access to family planning. Gender preferences lead to the abortion of girls - and later, increased sexual violence and trafficking as a consequence. Begin to limit population by arguing we should not have children - or, only one child, or give perks to families with less children, opens up far more human rights issues than it solves. Some might argue that western, privileged citizens of the world should shoulder this responsibility for less privileged by having less children - but try telling that to a mother who desperately wants a baby in her arms.

At 25, with my maternal clock ticking, I didn't give a flying HOOT about world population - my beautiful boy was everything. This drive could not be ignored despite any _moral_imperative I may have also felt.

I would never change the fact that I, by one beautiful child, added to a populations of billions. But what I can do is consider how much strain my presence - and his - has on the planet already, and act accordingly to adjust my habits.

This is a response to the Ecotrain question of the week, asking whether it's a good idea or a bad idea to bring children into the world in these troubled times. Find the guidelines for writing on this topic here - anyone can write, but please use the tag#ecotrain so we can read each other's responses to this controversial, but essential, question!


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I'm just writing up something on this myself. I did start putting in my concerns on the over population issue we often hear so much about, but as others have already said in the comments and as you've touched upon yourself, it's not so much over population as over consumption that is the biggest issue. At our level of consumption, the earth cannot sustain us, but those that often advocate depopulation don't seem to want to reduce their own consumption. That's another topic again, though. I'll leave you with this intesting graph from an article I might link to in my post.

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This is an awesome graph and says it perfectly! Damn, I keep wanting to edit my post, but love the way you added value with this amazing visual. That's what I love about these questions - it's such a conversation rather than a heap of us being authoritative! This is SO true - it really is the arrogance of privilege to advocate for small families or low birth rates as we're busy using up all the resources that poorer, and larger, families don't consume! Thanks for commetning, off to see your post now!

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I haven't finished mine yet. Needs some polish.

Often the conversations on these sorts of posts can be just as interesting as the post which sparks them. You can be about to say something, then read a comment which adds another perspective.

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It’s hard to respond to all of this post! I will focus on one point I’ve come to believe. Overpopulation is a relative myth. You mention that consumerism and the systems desire to keep people buying. That’s what’s unsustainable. We can sustain a larger population if we properly consume resources. What that is and how it can be achieved is beyond the scope of my knowledge but don’t let the bioethicists confuse you that children are bad. They are absolutely not. We are in a similar situation as you; we could have more children but we also want to do things besides stay at home raising them all for decades. If we have less we can focus more and spend time enjoying things more. It’s our choices that are important because they work for us. There are lots of people having multiple children to balance it but there are also lots more people believing the bioethicists. We will be at a sharp decline in population in the coming decades because of the success of their program aiming at convincing people its bad and unsustainable to have kids.

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Couldn't have said it better myself. In fact, I should have said something like it. We can sustain larger populations with good systems in place. As I went through this post I was conscious I was emotionally responding to overpopulation narratives, and that it wasn't that that was the problem but how it's managed or dealt with, but perhaps I didn't clearly show that's what I meant.

Then again, sharp population declines aren't a bad thing if managed properly either.

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Glad you brought this up. I am in agreement too. Barely a day goes by that I don't feel that modern society is in decay around me. What must I feel guilty about today? What is it about my existence that has forever stained the world that makes me beyond redemption? With the majority of the culture starting to support depopulation programs, how can the current population hope to maintain a positive outlook for their offspring? Not sure I have an answer to my own question, but I think we are going to need some inspiring leaders to reinvigorate the culture to take pride in their historical ancestry and the future of their descendants.

@riverflows, At the end of the day only our decision matters. Sometimes people come under influence of society and they take decisions no matter they like it or not. So always it's important to hear the inner voice because it guide us towards the right and Awakening path. Stay blessed.

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I think this was a great observation: " maybe we should trust the situation to right itself and not worry about fixing things so much, let we just cause more problems." Humanmind has a bad habit of creating more imbalance when we try to "fix" anything. Perhaps the imbalance is being quietly redressed by Mother Earth in ways we cant yet imagine. A poignant contribution, my dear.

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mmm, wow,, every post i have read has led me further to discovering my feelings on this..

This is a really deep and really important post to read! You bring up SO many things, and it sounds like you found your own balance. What i have just learned reading this is that its not so much IF you have children, but more if you have the time and space to give them what they really need,. i think most people living in the mainstreem barely have any time even for a newborn child.. For example, a woman is more or less compelled to return to work, if she works, just a few WEEKS after giving birth.

There is no right or wrong answer to this of course.. if we all did the same thing we would be in trouble no matter which choice we made. If we all had kids we would be overpopulated in terms of our current model of capitalism and what the world can sustain the way things are working right now..

and if no one had kids, well we'd be screwed in no time.. I think Japan is headed in that direction and they even had negative growth last year.,.

Thank you for putting your truth out there, and congrats on following your path despite the pressure of conforming to the our inner impulses and societal pressures..

xx

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Thanks so much for your great comment. These questions are such great food for thought, and dare I say it, the most controversial ones on the outside are the most fun to explore (except for Trump, don't EVER do that again!).

i think most people living in the mainstreem barely have any time even for a newborn child.. For example, a woman is more or less compelled to return to work, if she works, just a few WEEKS after giving birth

This is so true, and I know woman who do it. And men, of course - I think some woman would much prefer to work than stay home with kiddos, and that's fine too. Ideally, we'd live in a situation where the kids were with us, but in this society, it's not possible and that's sad. Why have kids if you can't spend time with them? Why send them off to boarding school? I don't get it. But then it's not my world so I guess I shouldn't judge. i was really lucky to have nearly 10 years at home pretty much with Jarrah - I was studying and on a single parent pension for a few years, and waitressed some nights when my folks looked after him. We spend so much time together, on the beach, travelling, learning, growing together. And then I moved overseas and only worked part time and he was at school but I was there most nights when he came home because thats the way we worked it. I am sooo grateful I did it that way - poor, barefoot, happy. Part of the reason I didn't want a second child is that I couldn't replicate that again - I knew I had to work to pay for this land we really wanted, to have a bit of security (yeah, I know, there are alternatives to that too) and so really, really didn't want to shove him off to daycare.

Phew. I went off on a tangent there! xx Thanks again for this awesome question, seriously forgot how much I loved these QOTW!

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im glad you enjoyed it! i was thinking it might not be so popular as it was, but WOW was I wrong! All the posts so far are super brilliant!

I never wanted kids and thanks to my age my fertility is on a fast downward spiral so not much chance of having one now without some sort of medical intervention. But I'm fine with that and have no regrets cos having kids has always been one of my nightmare scenarios.

On the whole China (and India) thing, it's really scary. This is one of the best articles I've read. Basically these 2 countries have more men than the population of France and Belgium combined. I started researching this a while back after binge watching "The Handmaid's Tale", and half wrote a post, which I've never finished. Maybe I'll finish it after the 3rd season has aired...

https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2018/world/too-many-men/?utm_term=.7585d82cbe72

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Truly frightening!

50 million excess males are under age 20? You just know the problems before you even read. I felt so sorry for the parents with 7 boys and her keep WISHING for a girl... and the guy tearily flipping pancakes thinking of the wife and kids he can't give them too. You know that rape is common/harrassment, but this other side of it is terribly poignant.

Still love the Handmaids Tale and loved the series - looking forward to sEason 3. Would love to read your post about it!

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It's hard to get your head around those numbers. The mind boggles! So sad that girls are not cosidered to be worthwhile. Well, it turns out there are consequences to that!

This is also worth watching.

Fantastic post, @riverflows, your story really speaks volumes. You bring up so many great points about not wanting to be adding to the suffering of the world, and about the luxuries of the Western world in the choice to have fewer children. One thing that interests me is that here in the US we are not replacing ourselves, our growth rate is 1.7 children. All of our growth as a nation depends entirely upon immigration (Need to have two children to at least replace each couple, 3 for growth). It seems, though, that developed nations trend towards this decline in growth. Makes me wonder what will happen when the whole world has been "developed."

Also..If only shitty people (lack of better term?) are having children, then won't the future surely be shitty?

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Exactly.. that worries me too. But not all people raised by shitty people are shitty people. Trying to have faith in humanity... 🙏 New habit xxx

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I see myself in your writing with an almost uncanny frequency. I had my only child at 24 with a man I didn't love, married the right one, and after much discussion, decided not to have any more children. I don't regret the decision, but he does. His branch also stops with him.

Many of my friends have only one child, and we've discussed the issue of overpopulation at great length. One thing that keeps coming up is that yes, we contributed to the world population, but we're all committed to raising children who are aware and responsive about the state of the world. Not just more mindless consumers, but thoughtful, caring and empathetic young people who could actually make a difference. Essentially, it's not terrible that you bring a child into the world, but it really helps if you work to raise that child to respect the earth and work to make it better. The numbers may not look like they're in our favor, but how many heroes will it really take? Those of us who have tried to raise really great people (and obviously I know that's subjective. We all think our kids are great) feel pretty good unleashing them on the world. They will make their mistakes just as we did, but they will come back to the values they were raised with, and will seek out others with similar values, and maybe, by fits and starts, change could actually happen. It certainly won't happen with our generation. We need them to take up the torch.

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This is EXACTLY what I was trying to say. I agree wholeheartedly!!!

Funny how we have so many things in common!! And cool!!!

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Sisters from another mister, perhaps? Haha. I loved your post.

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Maybe haha. Thank you full stop and one day maybe we will meet in real life. Wouldn't that be cool. However I may just steal all your puppies.

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That would be awesome! The meeting in real life part, I mean. You could steal the puppies but I highly recommend waiting until they're potty trained.

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Woah this is such a loaded question and controversial topic. Let me say I appreciate that you answered so eloquently, as a reflection of your experiences and knowledge. Nobody has an objective way to give a perfect solution to every person considering whether or not they should have children.

I might take a stab at answering the question too, but I don't think my wisdom perspective will be as welcomed by many. Ultimately, though we might feel strongly whether or not someone is ready to have children...

... it might be one of those "you can't handle the truth" type of statements. Not sure I want to upset anyone.

Again, I really commend your writing. You separate your own impressions so well from any assertions on what other people should or should not do. Bravo!

Do you think it would be wrong to take it a step further and challenge people to reconsider their own values?

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I don't think it would be wrong at all. We should always be ready to question our values! It is controversial... thanks @eco-alex haha ... but this doesn't mean we shouldn't discuss it or be willing to listen to what others say. We can always disagree with a war! I'd love to hear your response now! Do write on this, please! Xx

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Phew.

Yeah, interesting to hear thoughts from parents and non-parents with this one.

Similar context at this end... have my gorgeous, wondrous, genius daughter from previous marriage. Current partner doesn't want to have kids at all, but happy to be the role-model for daughter (she does that so well, too! I am so fucking fortunate).

I wanna just talk to the link with the TSU Chaos/Order piece.... as I was reading this, a few other pieces dropped in (since it's you and I that have been having this ongoing conversation)...

"Someone commented quite rightly that man IS part of the natural world, so maybe we should trust the situation to right itself and not worry about fixing things so much, let we just cause more problems. In many ways, he's right, but I can't help this train of thought that despite human beings being 'nature' too, we're the only one that disrupts natural feedback loops for their own greed and desires - not just simply survival, but for greed. Whilst 'progress' has made us thrive as a species, it also has had a great toll on the earth. Being civilised, progressive, technologically capable and able to tame nature's wildness has always been a _good_thing which has differentiated us from beast, but hasn't quite removed our beastliness - the following of our base desires without awareness of the impact we might have."

The Taoist perspective is that humans are a part of nature, but culture/civilisation removes us from it, which is what brings on the mindless raping of the finite resources, and so on. The Confucianists argue that selfish desires come from that wildness, and culture 'civilises' us, allows us to reason why we should not pollute the planet, and so on.

The truth methinks (if there is any such thing) is somewhere in the middle. Yeah, our selfish desires to procreate are an evolutionary imperative.... but our desires to constantly consume are not, I think that is an example of social conditioning.

After all, nothing sells better than fear! Anyone got the actual figures for sales in all industries after 9/11? Or a war? Or a flood/earthquake/cyclone/etc?

Love is also a particularly human thing too, compassion, benevolence, etc.... the desire to care for another at the expense of our own survival.... this is very human, I would argue. And it's also what drives us to not let people die..... (this is getting into territory for another QOTW methinks....).

😊🙏🏽💜

wow what an answer, I don't really want to write too much as I have to write mine in the next few days, but I respect your opinions and understand them, we have a responsibility look after the earth, to move forward in ways that promote respect for all living things. This is such a huge question and you have answered it brilliantly xx

I should have written a post that said "ditto to what @riverflows wrote" because you said everything and more, and in a much better way that I ever could. I thought it would be easy when I first read the question but holy moly, it was actually such a challenge because there was so much packed away in my head.

This is perfectly susscint and exactly where I stand too!!

I would never change the fact that I, by one beautiful child, added to a populations of billions. But what I can do is consider how much strain my presence - and his - has on the planet already, and act accordingly to adjust my habits.

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You're raising an interesting point: Humans ARE part of nature. So instead of trying to control what can't be controlled anyway, we should trust in nature's control mechanisms. I wonder if bacteria in a petri dish have had the same conversations (or lily pads on a pond, or any examples often used to illustrate over consumption of its resources)? I bet they do, and in the end they acknowledge that they are going to keep growing for as long as they can, because that is what they do. Of course us humans have a hard time (in general) accepting our own individual deaths, not to mention that of our species, or even of our culture.

Oh I always love your replies to these QOTW.
Love how you bought up the issue of

following of our base desires without awareness of the impact we might have.

That's a big one to be able to recognize these base desires so as not to act unconsciously on them.

I think you're right there that it is more important to change our consuming habits for greater effect as to not having any children or only one child.

Well said and I'm with you on that one, to change our consumer habits to help change the world!