It’s just so…distasteful.
Just about any time I write about the blessing of children (and that’s a lot, because there’s a lot to be said), someone will leave a comment the gist of which is that…well, here. Let me give you one of the more interesting examples:
We used to procreate to keep the human race going, we used to have several kids so that we’d have people to look after us in our old age (before things like pensions and retirement homes were around), we used to breed out of necessity and also because we didn’t have the medicine/technology to prevent it. We no longer live in such times, and some people have realised that and are perhaps simply more socially evolved.
There are so many problems with this line of “thinking” that it’s hard to even know where to start. (I’ll note only in passing the fact that, unless I missed the invention of some new way of doing it, procreation is still the only way to keep the human race going. Rather ironic that the position that would lead to extinction should be considered the more “evolved” one, isn’t it?) All I really have to say to that commenter is:
Enjoy your stay in whatever fine old-age establishment our broke-ass healthcare system chooses for you. When you get there, don’t come crying to me about the fact that your night-shift CNA is more interested in timing her next smoke break to coincide with the janitor’s for a little hanky-panky in the linen closet than she is in whether you’re getting turned in your bed and fed properly. After all, you haven’t really lived until you’ve had a bedsore try to kill you. Wouldn’t want to leave this world without that experience. I used to work in that sad and hopeless industry and….well, you asked for that, and I truly hope you find the accommodations to your liking.
Another common complaint I get is that our children cost us more in time and money than they used to because “we’re not farmers anymore.” I will concede that most people aren’t farmers anymore, and don’t need our kids to become farm-hands for us. What I don’t concede is that that was ever a very strong reason for having children anyway. You see, I have several of them at the moment, and not one of them has proven (yet) to be more of a help than a hindrance. My 8 year old is reaching an age where he can wash dishes and put them away on his own, maybe do a little light housework between imaginary battles with dragons, but that’s a far cry from being a real financial plus.Slave labor. Right.
While children were indeed given more responsibility one hundred years ago than they are now—whether rightly or wrongly is another topic entirely–the idea that we were popping out ready-made slave labor back then, whereas they are nothing but liabilities now, is a silly one. There has always been a solid decade and a half of investment in the life of each child born to a family before any real pay-off can be expected. Most parents love their children, and even in the distant and “unevolved” past they wouldn’t break their children’s backs with hard labor before they were strong enough to survive it. Even after they’re grown, they have this annoying tendency to run off and have kids of their own, so they’ve practically never meant money in the pocket to their parents. However, they are a different kind of asset, and a more important one than money.
The huge up-front investment required of parents is, in fact, the primary reason for the traditional division of labor we’ve so blithely tossed to the side in our more evolved times. Children have always needed a mother devoted to their care, because they can’t even care for themselves, let alone haul in your harvest for you! That’s half of the labor force, devoted to raising the next generation. We don’t have the social structure for that in America anymore, I agree, because we’ve judged that to be a job that isn’t worth doing . Where we differ, dear commenters, is in believing that the dependent state of our offspring is a curse, rather than a blessing.
New humans are no less useful today than they were yesterday. Old humans seem to be considerably stupider, though. We don’t seem to understand (and by “we”, I mean “not me”) that children are a literal investment. You have to put in the work to get the payoff. You can’t contribute no people to the future and then expect that future to go well for you any more than you can put zero dollars into your 401K and expect it to be there when you’re ready to retire. (Not that I expect that to pan out, either, but let’s just roll with the CW for this example, OK?)
I hate to have to spell all this out, because a) it feels like talking down to people and b) it’s not even all that interesting to think about, but apparently there is a large number of people of reproductive age who actually need these bald facts pointed out to them before it is too late for them to decide to procreate for their own good.
You are going to be old and vulnerable someday.
Your retirement funds–assuming they mature the way you expect them to, which they won’t–can’t make people care about you. You need people to look out for you who aren’t being paid to do it, but who do it out of familial duty. The d-word might be considered an uncouth one in our self-centered age (especially when prefaced with the f-word), but it is still a necessary part of human relationships, no matter how hard we try to do away with it.
Money might (possibly) put that dismal, overcooked food in front of you, but it won’t make Fat Nancy* the CNA give you more than your allotted ten minutes in the dining room to coax your finicky old appetite to accept it. I’m not even exaggerating a smidge when I tell you that the elderly often die of malnutrition in rest homes simply because it takes them too long to eat. Even if you luck into a good staff at your last home on earth, your 401k certainly isn’t going to contain enough cash to give Nancy the leisure to hold your withered old hand as you rattle off your last regrets. She has twenty other (childless) people to look after, too, you know.
Even assuming that your old age is secured from inhumane treatment by the (never witnessed in human history) loving kindness of state-paid strangers, somebody is still going to have to work to pay those taxes that our beneficent state will rely upon to support your wrinkled old butt. I have 5 future taxpayers in my home. You’re welcome. (Actually, no you’re not welcome. I resent the heck out of your presumption on the future labor of my children, who deserve the fruits of their own labor.)
I’d love to end this post with something uplifting, or at least clever, but I don’t have time to come up with anything. I have to go feed the five people to whom I hope to ingratiate myself at this end of their lives, so that they might care enough to devote themselves just as carefully to the end of mine. Now, go. Make babies. Your future depends on it.
*Apparently, the word “fat” is setting off some outrage sensors. Sorry about that. Was going for a word picture, not describing an actual human being. I write. Sometimes for effect. Sometimes I get carried away. I’d also like to apologize to people named Nancy.