Retirement planningPosted: November 14, 2012
Potnia Theron notes a NYT article about the heresy of not having kids, despite fertility and resources and a marriage. My wife and I decided very early on not to have kids. One of the main benefits that I can see is that it saved us years of agonizing over when to have kids. We knew that the world makes it harder for both people to have careers and interests and passions along with kids, and that the burden is almost always asymmetric. We’ve watched this strain and, to our eyes, undermine several friends’ marriages. That some of them were objectively happier before is obvious to us and sometimes to them. We’ve seen over and over one partner lose or sacrifice their personal and professional goals, usually but not always the woman.
Of course, these people get to have kids who to varying degrees fill their lives with joy. I like kids a lot, and I love my nieces and nephews and some of my friends’ kids. Let’s be honest though…kids are people, and some people are assholes. I get that we’re wired to parent…our cat gets a ridiculous amount of attention (and she never gets too big to cuddle). And people with kids tell us we don’t know what we’re missing. No doubt, I believe them. But frankly, having been around some of them a lot as parents, there is definitely a lot we don’t miss. And, of course, they don’t know what they’re missing. Because life without kids is not like being in your 20s forever. It is much, much better, and keeps improving. We travel a lot. We do what we want. We do things together, rather than trying to have social lives in shifts. We have a house and savings and no debt and we are the only peers we know in that position. We are the happiest people we know, and I wouldn’t trade all the things we’ve done and will do as a couple, or the way our friendship and undivided loyalty, attention, and commitment has grown in ways I can’t imagine it could with kids around, for anything, let alone for the honor of producing the world’s 7 billion and first resident.
But who will take care of you when your old? some people ask. My god, I hope neither of our parents think we are going to tend them in their dotage. They certainly don’t seem to expect it, and the last thing I can imagine wanting of my child is that I be dependent on them, or an obligation. I’ve known various old people who never had kids. They seemed cool to me. Often much cooler on balance than those suffering from the all-to-common various chronic and unpleasant emotional entanglements between parents and their adult children.
The idea that this is “selfish” has always baffled me. We recognize that we want to contribute to the next generation, and that being around kids and young people is good for us. We make a lot more charitable contributions and do a lot more volunteer work than we could if we had kids. I’ve been a mentor for at-risk students. These are living people, often very different from us, who we can make bonds with and hopefully help, not notional, non-existent semiclones of ourselves. Not trying to be superior here, but I feel a little defensive because I usually get it the other way… by not having kids, we are somehow narcissistic non-contributors, and we are always in the position of needing to offer a special explanation. (“WHAT?! Why not? You’d be GREAT parents.”) We made the right decision for us, and I don’t think we should be embarrassed by all the wonderful and happy things about being childless. Plus, you just spent $400 on a stroller, chump.