Your Life Isn’t Over if You Have a Kid

And you don’t need to be rich to raise one, either.

I’ve read at least three articles on Medium recently about people defending their right not to have children, why we should stop breeding, how much we lose by having children, etc.

This latest piece by Wudan Yan is what really inspired me to take this further, however. I get it — the world is in major shift. Everything people have been taught is in upheaval.

Frankly, though, I’m terrified that a “scientist and environmental journalist” has enough faith in the human race to think making the choice not to have children is an intelligent and beneficial thing for the planet. It’s true, it will definitely encourage the faster extinction of our race, but I find the idea of having to live during that process to be pretty frightening.

Realistically, could you imagine what the world might be like if scientists and environmental journalists, or other people who are conscious of the horrid effect our species is having on this planet and are working to create change decide to stop producing the human future?

We can hope and pray that indigenous knowledge will survive the catastrophic events which would follow, but we’d also be contending with fundamentalists of all persuasions who’d disregard all warning signs and continue on with their agendas. Choosing this route of human extinction sounds painful and awful. I don’t want to live in that. I don’t want my child to live in that either. Or any of the next seven generations.

Think about it, people. There are folks out there who don’t believe in a woman’s control over her own body or right to choose whether or not to procreate, and there are people who believe a big man in the sky has given them the directives of going forth and multiplying paired with manifest destiny. Some of us may choose to stop participating in this, but not all of us. Some of us still believe in a return to Eden. It’s just as possible.

Humans are not all on the same page when it comes to our points of awareness, and I don’t think we ever will be unless faced with instant mass extinction — and perhaps then, the only time we will share a group consciousness is during our collective “OH SHIT” as the asteroid hits. I’m still not sold on the “stop breeding” campaign. We’re part of the ecosystem, y’all. We have a place on the food chain. We just need to stop thinking we’re at the top of it. Being human can be a really beautiful thing, but this extinction movement doesn’t think so. That’s disheartening to me.

Am I the only person who was so deeply affected by the film Idiocracy?

Mind you, there are some fairly scary aspects to that, as well. This guy has a point when it comes to talking about the darker premises presented by Idiocracy, but at the same time…

If your only reasoning for not having children is to propel the human race toward extinction, or so that you can have your early morning writing hours, maybe rethink this (it has been noted that the author I have quoted below considers her choices might possibly be selfish).

Your gifts are only worth so much if you don’t give them away and nothing is a guarantee when it comes to children. Ever. No one is really, truly ever ready to have a kid, especially a first one. What would life be like, however, if we didn’t take chances?

…with a screaming and crying baby, I would no longer have my quiet mornings to write. I would no longer be able to leave for a weekend adventure at the last minute. I wouldn’t be able to go abroad for long reporting trips. Arguably, I could bring a baby with me, but flights would be brutal — not only for me, but also for the other passengers. There’s no guarantee that once they grow up, they’ll turn out okay, despite the time I spend with them. And the expense of raising a child and sending them off to college is almost prohibitive, particularly when working as a journalist means that there’s a degree of uncertainty with our income and job stability. Having a child could ultimately mean quitting the meaningful, satisfying career that I love. Are these reasons for not wanting to have children selfish? Perhaps, but at least they are my own.

I have a child. She is seven years old right now. I had her later, when I was nearly 40, after years of spur-of-the-moment adventures and early morning writing hours. Yes, I did, I stepped away from some things in order to give her the kind of attention I felt she deserved, especially during her first years in this world — it hurt at first, sure.

Most certainly there were needs in me that went unfulfilled. Motherhood involves sacrifice and a whole re-creation of who you are. No one is ever the same once they become a parent. Some folks are perfectly fine with who they are, already, I get that. I was, too, that wasn’t an issue. I just wondered what else I could be, too— and as my skills as a mother grew, as my daughter gained more independence, I realized that this was a boon, honestly.

I grew as a person — moralistically, spiritually, and emotionally. I grew creatively. As an “older” mother, I also take better care of myself now — I’m mindful of the fact that I will be nearing AARP status when she graduates high school. I want her to be proud of the healthy, fit, beautiful crone I have the potential of becoming, the one who can still pull off dancer pose and hike the PCT.

After becoming a mother, I also grew to respect my personal time and space even more and to be ten times more productive with it. I learned (I’m still learning) how to be present for and with someone else. I am learning even better self-discipline. And I have even more drive and encouragement to live my truths and be who I really am. Suddenly, I am everything in some little someone’s life, and I am now an example — I want it to be more positive than anything. It’s monumental. Fuck yeah it’s scary.

I didn’t, and still don’t, have financial stability, but I have survival skills, and in this changing world, people might want to consider that those are more important right now anyway — we have no idea what the future is going to be like or what the world will be like even ten years from now.

Considering what’s risen to the surface in just in the past two years of “making America great again”, I think it’s safe to say that we don’t even know what the world will look like in another two years. For the love of god though, people — we’re going to have an even bigger mess on our hands if we don’t raise the next generation with some concepts of education, tolerance, and compassion. Trust me, your choice not to breed isn’t going to stop anyone else. Learn to chop wood, carry water, grow your own, and by all means, pass it on.

Traveling with a kid? Again, don’t bank on the difficulties. The worst thing I’ve actually ever encountered is the sense of overall dread from other passengers after I entered a plane with a baby strapped to my chest, though I learned to live with that initial sense of dread after our first flight, which wound up being painless and fairly scream-free. She had her first camping trip at three months — and I’m not talking some rented cabin at a resort or a panicked “oh shit we need to buy a travel trailer now”.

We hit the road at three months postpartum and slept in a tent in a national forest. Actually, over 30 state parks and national forests and both ocean coasts by 9 months old. We crisscrossed the US in a 1995 Suzuki Sidekick with a safari rack on it, some camping gear and a GPS set to “no interstates”, and I was no spring chicken either — just either stupid or courageous or both.

I had other chances to parent, but chose not to. I was still young then, too. I was still attached to my career, to the idea of spontaneous adventures. I’d never planned to parent, ever, but when I found myself in a family way that final time, there was something else that spoke to me. I’d accumulated a lot of life experience and knowledge at this point — I’d traveled the world, learned another language, and was living wild in far out rural New Mexico. Growing food, nurturing plants, livestock and pets, had also taught me something about compassion, self-reliance and responsibility. When we care for others, we feed ourselves.

My daughter was not a hindrance to my ability to move freely and respectfully in the world. Moving freely in the world was a privilege bestowed upon me, and one that I am able to pass on to my daughter by showing her what I know, and by showing her how to make beneficial, ethical and caring use of this gift. By five, she’d crisscrossed the nation on airplanes and in cars, traipsed around the big island of Hawaii with me for nearly a month, experiencing places that are now buried under lava, explored the entire Cascadian bioregion from northern California to British Columbia.

It was she who decided we should set down some roots for a while; it was she who decided she wanted to go to school outside of the home, to take in a cat and another dog, to redirect the course of a life I’d already defined, and that’s okay. Working in partnership with others to define how life is lived is beautiful. It’s community. It’s tribal. It’s village life. It’s almost-lost knowledge.

We have no idea what adventures await us, or what we’ll find behind closed doors, if we decide never to open them at all.

And honestly, the wonder? Those who never parent will never have an idea. Sure it’s a pain in the ass sometimes. Other peoples’ desires generally are.

But then again, she sings and dances like no one’s watching. She is deeply empathic, cares about the planet, hauls others’ trash out of the forest and off the beach, and she calls me out when I contradict myself and the things I’m trying to teach her. She is already better than me, and that is everything I could hope for for our future on this planet.

But totally though, I support your right to choose. All I ask is that if you choose not to have children, please at least use your gifts to encourage these next generations. If we’re going to think about fantastical realities for the human race, what would you rather have? Extinction or a return to the garden? I know what I’d prefer.

Compulsive storyteller. Ada Comstock Scholar at Smith College.

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