Not me. Them.
In my latest insomnia-fueled excursion around the internet I ran across the above-linked article at The Daily Beast. Go read it. I’ll wait here…
It’s quite a piece of work, isn’t it? It is, in case you were too smart to take the bait, an article cobbled together from reader comments that The Daily Beast had solicited in response to an earlier Newsweek piece about the birth dearth. The intentionally childless—er, childfree, they like to be called—don’t take too kindly to the idea that what they’re doing is foolish, but it is, and for a multitude of reasons.
When I read this article last night, I didn’t feel very strongly about it. In fact, I almost skipped right over it, because there’s nothing new here. Just a bunch of people doing what people have always done when given the opportunity: living for themselves, and seeing no problem with it whatsoever. In fact, Ayn Rand-like, they have managed to make a virtue out of selfishness. A few quotes from the article:
I don’t like it when people and the media imply that I’m not doing my job. I am far more than a baby factory.
I never wanted to put another human/soul/awareness through anything as miserable as what I was dealing with…
I just see it (having children) as a losing battle on the way to an eventual future straight out of the movie Idiocracy.
I read The Population Bomb at puberty, around the first Earth Day. I decided at 15 that I’d like to adopt one kid of every race, to have a rainbow house. When I grew up and realized humans were causing mass extinction, I got cats instead…
…I don’t want to be defined first and foremost as a mother…
I saw how much my mother hated the drudgery of caring for children on her own…
Yawn. Just the chatter of a self-absorbed, affluent culture that thinks children suck, mostly because their parents thought they sucked. Not my demographic, though, and no need to address it, I thought. So I ate some ramen noodles and went to bed. (I’ll do penance for that indiscretion by doing low-carb next week. Pinky-swear.)
However, by the time I woke up this morning, I was feeling a little restless about it. There’s a lot of worldly reason here that just makes sense to the natural mind, but I get comments to this effect all the time from people who identify themselves as Christian!
These people quoted above are correct, according to the logic of their own worldview. Raising children is a very poor way to try to give life meaning. If you’re adding children to your life for the sake of finding purpose, you will most likely find yourself with nothing but a handful of trouble. Parenthood is just drudgery on the World’s terms. These (I’m guessing 100% non-Christian) non-parents believe that the purpose of their lives is to, as I once heard Voddie Baucham put it, “get all you can, can all you get, and then sit on the can”. Why in the world would anybody add more people to this miserable existence when they don’t particularly like kids?
Why carry on something as meaningless as human existence?
It makes sense to the World. Of course it does!
But Christians, who have changed hearts and transformed minds, ought to know better. The next generation does matter. We do need them to take up where we leave off. And our hearts ought to be softer than this toward those younger Christian brothers and sisters whom God has given us as offspring. In fact, our hearts, when they are in the right place, will turn to our children.
“See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.”
While this was a specific prophecy, and I don’t want to take it out of its Messianic context, it does show one of the benefits of repentance to a nation. Their hearts turn toward their children, and the children in turn incline their affections toward their fathers so that the generations benefit from mutual love and protection during the vulnerable years at both ends of life. The hearts of men and women in this nation are so hardened toward their children that they don’t even care enough to bring them into existence. This is a form of self-hatred, as evidenced by those commenters who reveal that they believe the human race (to which they must surely realize that they, themselves, belong) is a scourge and shouldn’t be encouraged to continue.
There is a consequence—a curse–to this hard-heartedness.
The generational pyramid scheme always topples.
The European nations, Russia, and Japan (to name the most recent examples history has to offer) have amply demonstrated the fact that when the burden of the economy suddenly shifts to a generation that is much smaller than the one before it, a nation’s resources begin to be used up at a rate that exceeds creation of new wealth. A nation can only be as healthy as its inventors, builders, thinkers, and fighters, after all.
I admit freely that the hole in my individual argument for allowing fertility to proceed naturally is that some people are indeed just fine, thank you, with no kids to take care of things for them. They cruise through to the very end of their lives with both enough money and enough health to set things up to their own liking, and no offspring need ever cramp their style. For many, that happy ending is a pipe dream, but it works out often enough that it still seems plausible to try.
However, even if it turns out well for some individuals, in the aggregate, it never turns out well. No amount of saving and planning will save any but the very lucky once the economy that their savings and investments rely on teeters over the edge of the generational cliff. As nations depopulate—whether voluntarily or not–poverty and discord follow.
In addition to financial devastation, the responsibility for elder care becomes physically and emotionally too much for the few offspring left behind to do all the work. The bulk of their effort—mostly in the form of tax money, because the children are as hardened toward the parents as the parents were toward them–goes toward keeping up the last generation rather than raising the next, and so the next generation is further depleted. Further, the increasing frailty of the aging population makes it ripe for conquest by immigration. There’s simply no getting around the severe social and economic costs of a population implosion.
I can enjoy the results of other peoples’ child-rearing while I live MY best life unhindered by duty. Let the people who like kids (aka suckers) do that job for me:
Among the comments that really got my attention were the ones who are relying on their family and friends to provide un-wrinkled hands to hold in their old age.
I am fortunate to be very close to my nieces and nephews and to experience a form of grandparenting with their children. I have mentored dozens of my friends children through college frustrations and job searches.
I’ll be the cool, hip aunt to my sibling’s kids, or godmother to friends’ kids…
I don’t begrudge my childfree relatives that, because I want my children to care for the elderly. We have a duty to help the lonely and destitute wherever we find them, and no matter how they ended up in that condition.
However, there’s an attitude of entitlement here that shouldn’t go unrebuked: You do the unpleasant work. I’ll just sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labor.
While these commenters confess that they are emotionally freeloading (I don’t know what else to call it when it’s on purpose), I doubt they’ve fully understood that they are financially freeloading as well. Economies aren’t built on dollars and gold. They are built on people.
But freeloading doesn’t bother this crowd much, because they’re happy little grasshoppers, and who cares whether there’s a next generation? After all, they’re not going to be around to see the world in a hundred years anyway!
I got a lot of outraged comments (and emails…oh, the emails.) on my post about the need to breed because of the strong wording I used. I make no apology for it. I meant it when I said “I truly hope you find the accommodations to your liking.”
I really do hope that, for those shortsighted individuals who intentionally have no children, things turn out better than they have historically proven to turn out for the childless. When people start to feel justified in their selfishness to such an extent that they’re proud to spend their entire lives without sacrifice to the f-word (family), what happens to the sick and infirm in the resulting culture is a fate not fit for any human being, whether they unwittingly asked for it or not. Naturally, I wasn’t speaking to those people who are for one reason or another unable to have children, though their end may, tragically, be the same. I will personally (whenever possible) be thrilled to hold their hands and listen to their stories about the good old days when they are in their dotage and need a neighborly ear.
When I see someone heading for trouble, and with a smile, that seems like a very bad time to use soothing and choice-affirming words, so comments about my “merciless” attitude fall on deaf ears. “Merciless” is the word I’d use to describe allowing people to continue in wrong beliefs just because we don’t like to ruffle their feathers. Choosing vivid words to wake people up (and yes, tick them off enough to keep them awake) might just be the most merciful thing I can do.
I am, at the very least, showing mercy to my own children. It is they who will suffer the most for the loss of their generation’s strength to the selfishness of the intentionally childless, and so I do have a vested interest in pointing this out. My passion in the matter is justified, because I love my children and want them to have a secure future.
These Daily Beast readers are right, though. They shouldn’t have children. They should repent of their sins, and God will add the blessings afterwards, as a gift, and a reward.