Retirement planning

imagePotnia 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.

11 Comments on “Retirement planning”

  1. […] to have children. I learned about this article from the reaction posts by Potnia Theron and rxnm, which are also worth checking out. I had a pretty strong visceral reaction to these […]

  2. namnezia says:

    Some of us, however, thrive on chaos. Plus you get have much funnier things to write about in your blog posts.

  3. rxnm says:

    Both good points… I do keep a log of funny stuff my nephew says. He’s a total weirdo.

  4. DrugMonkey says:

    Oh I totally hear you. I feel fortunate that I know that I would have been perfectly fine if I’d gone your route but I’m *also* totally stoked that I went down the chaos path. What kills people (probably including your “objectively” unhappy friends) is the regret for the path not taken.

  5. the bigger issue is people (like me) who put off having kids. many people (especially women for obvious reasons) start scrambling like crazy at 35 to get their “life in order.” reality is, life never gets in order. just do it.

  6. Dave says:

    Good post. I admire your position on not having kids and I have a few married friends who have exactly the same philosophy as you do. Many of them, however, appear to waste their “freedom” by doing, well, not an awful lot with each other. At least you seem to be taking full advantage of your choices and that is great. I definitely want kids and so does my partner and, for me at least, I feel this need comes from wanting to correct some of the wrongs that I experienced as a kid growing up (i.e. broken family, poverty, instability etc). At this point that seems far more important and achievable to me than a career that does little to reward hard work, commitment and dedication.

  7. DrugMonkey says:

    “waste their freedom”? Isn’t the point that people are free to do what they want, even of that’s sitting on the couch watching the teevee?

  8. rxnm says:

    Ha…. yes, uninterrupted tv/movies and never having to watch children’s television are things I cherish. I saw 30 seconds of Super Why once and wanted to end my life. Also, usually no one whines about what’s for dinner. Stay up? Go to bed early? Sleep in? All fine, pretty much every day. I could go on.

    On the other hand, yes, you want to make it “count,” too. And I think we do.

  9. Dave says:

    waste their freedom”? Isn’t the point that people are free to do what they want, even of that’s sitting on the couch watching the teevee?

    Yeh, yeh OK. You know what I meant, but you are right still. Everyone has a different use for freedom I suppose.

  10. DrugMonkey says:

    I meant- who are you to judge if someone chooses to be slothfully self-indulgent in their free time? It’s a free choice, just like choosing to have kids or play in the symphony or build Habitat for Humanity houses. We shouldn’t judge any of those choices.

  11. […] to write for awhile in response to an article from the NYTs back in November and a post from Reaction Norm. I’m a little late to the game, but the issues haven’t changed in the past month and a […]

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