I’ve thought a lot about having children over the years. Not so much whether I wanted to have them, but why people in general want to have them. More specifically, I’ve been trying to determine whether or not it’s becoming immoral to do so.
Everyone knows that once a good parent has a child they become rather selfless. We often hear things like, “It changes everything”, or, “…all you care about is the baby.”, etc. That’s fair enough and quite admirable, but what about before you had the child?
What are the modern reasons for having kids in the first place? I have some rather unflattering ideas on how most people answer that question.
Everyone Else Was Doing It
Typical groupthink. Chris and Julie had a child and it was just precious. It seemed to make them happy. Maybe we should do that too?
It Just Happened, and I’m Glad It Did
Typical adolescent mentality. I wasn’t really planning on this, but I can definitely see the attraction now that I’m committed. I guess I’ll just go with it and embrace parenthood. It’s not like I have much of a choice at this point, and I was probably going to do it later anyway.
It’s What You’re Supposed to Do
Typical mature conservative. Grow up, go to college, get a job, get married, have kids. Natural. Basic. Timeless. That’s what we’ve been doing for thousands of years. It’s what we’re supposed to do.
Ok, so if I’m arguing that these are not good reasons (although the “nature” argument is the best of them), then what are good reasons for having a child? That’s my problem — I don’t really see any. Not in today’s world anyway. I see excellent reasons for being a good parent once you have a child, but not for bringing a new life into the world in the first place.
I’m toying with the idea that having children in a world where there are children awaiting adoption (and where overpopulation is a real issue) ultimately reduces to selfishness. I think the reason people become parents comes down to one thing: desire. People want kids. They want their own kids.
That’s perfectly understandable, of course, as we are programmed to want things that help us survive as a species. But that doesn’t make it right. We have plenty of other desires given to us by our biology that we control for the benefit of society. Perhaps the desire to procreate is simply one to be added to that list.
It’s a strange thing to contemplate, but the real reason we seek to bring children into the world is for our own benefit. Children bring us joy. They’re there to take care of us when we age. Children are selfish expressions all the way up until they are born. At that point we become mostly selfless, but we can’t use our selflessness after they are born to justify the selfish act of bringing them into the world.
In earlier times we needed to reproduce in order to keep ourselves alive. We have plenty of people now. Some believe that they’re providing a service to humanity. They feel their belief system needs to be expanded, and that creating a few offspring is the best way to make it happen. Aside from the highly self-important slant of that approach, i.e. I’m going to help better the world with my seed, it doesn’t seem very efficient.
So what are good reasons for logical and compassionate people, living in today’s world, to have children?: