Why To Have Kids - An Immodest Proposal
"Speaking - a few hours before his son's arrest (for planting pipe bombs in Iowa mailboxes) - outside his house at the intersection of two gravel roads just north of Pine Island, Cameron Helder said that he wanted people to know his son 'is not a dangerous person.' Helder said he believes Luke 'is trying to make a statement about how our government is run. I think Luke wants people to listen to his ideas, and not enough people are hearing him, and he thinks this may help. You have the attention you wanted.'"
Bob von Sternberg, Pat Doyle and Robert Franklin
A friend of mine just had a vasectomy. Now he will never be able to have children. This was such a wrong decision but, I suppose, inevitable given what he heard before he made the decision. Not one parent was willing to give him a compelling, truthful reason to have children, though such reasons must obviously exist. Instead they spouted the old chestnuts that would be inadequate to convince a complete moron to have kids, much less an intelligent man. "Your child might discover a cure for cancer or be the next Albert Einstein!" cried the procreation apologists, beseechingly. "Who will take care of you when you're old? Who will solve the world's problems if no one has children? You're so intelligent - we need the kind of bright children you'll have!" My friend knows that no one has kids expecting them to cure cancer, a notion that hasn't been taken seriously since the Nixon administration in any case. Naturally, faced with such patently dishonest reasons for having children, my friend elected to permanently prevent himself from having kids. It must have sounded like the only people who support child-bearing are ignoramuses, utterly self-serving or proponents of eugenics. Who would take the advice of such people? Yet there are good reasons for having children, none of them related to any possibility that your child might "discover the cure for cancer." Why won't anyone come forward and simply be honest about why they have children? Surely, it's impossible that childbearing would be so widely praised and frequently practiced if it was as bad an idea as it seems, and yet voluntary childlessness is at an all time high. Clearly, intelligent people are hearing unintelligent reasoning and it's leading them away from the most important job in the world. Therefore, I offer these truths about why people have children to counteract the bad influences leading so many young people to avoid the virtues of parenting.
Your work life will improve: My brother has a job that grinds him to the bone. He works all day, then has evening parties and promotions to attend; every time he meets a goal, the bar is raised. He's so exhausted he sometimes says he wants to cry from weariness. Shouldn't he quit? Maybe he could get a job that pays less or has less complete benefits but that isn't killing him the way his current job does? Oh no. He has three little children. There's a roof to be put over their heads, clothes, toys, doctors, minivans, vacations, food, furniture - an endless litany of economic needs accompanies children. Single people can tell overbearing bosses where to go. They can work long hours if they want to and if they find that work isn't paying off, they can walk away whenever they like. You can sleep on a friend's sofa and drive a minimally insured junker if you're just responsible for yourself. You can join the Peace Corps and do meaningful but low-paid work. You can clerk in a grocery store and be out the door with your surfboard the minute your shift is over, but if you have kids you need a good job - one that will cover decent housing, a safe car and medical insurance. You swallow your pride. You work extra hours at your boring, grinding, meaningless job if you think it will help you keep it because you can't afford to be unemployed. Think of the benefits of this. No more resume-damaging job-hopping. You'll be one of your employer's best workers. You're never the troublemaker, never the one who opens his mouth and speaks up. You'll work when you're sick, when you're exhausted, when you're so depressed you can hardly hold your head up. You'll work 15-hour days if you have to. You'll never be a slacker again. No wonder married men who have children and stay-at-home wives make more money than single men or men whose wives work. Employers know the value of someone who can't afford to stand up for himself. No wonder fiscal conservatives are so in love with family values. Family values means that your employees are feeding the machine that grinds them down by producing more little workers. Family values means that you can make your employees work late every day because they can't afford to piss you off. They have kids.
Your social life will improve: no matter what a loser or geek you have been in the past, when you're a parent everyone approves of you. The mom and dad who couldn't be bothered to give you a dime for college will now be showering you with money and gifts. The boss who has been trying to fire you for incompetence will suddenly be your best friend. You'll no longer have to work the weekend and night shifts because, after all, you need to go home to those kids. Sure, your childless co-workers will gripe at having to cover for you but no one listens to them. You'll have lots of built-in friends - every parent on your block will be wandering over to swap baby spit and diaper load stories. Your weekends will be filled with informal kaffeeklatsches on the soccer field bleachers and your evenings on the phone with doting grandparents recounting every moment of your baby's day. You'll never be at a loss for conversation because your kids are an endless and endlessly fascinating source of discussion. You'll never need to talk about anything else. Even if you're a high school dropout, your opinions will have more weight that those of anyone without kids, as long as you preface your comments with the phrase "as a parent." You can patronize doctors, psychologists and university professors who don't have children because, as a parent, you'll be considered privy to depths of understanding that elude the childless. Since, as a parent, you won't have any time to read or even think once you're combining full-time work and full-time child care, you will probably be far less informed than you were prior to having children but that will be no problem at all. As society's gift to you for having children, your opinions, as a parent, no matter how denial-ridden, uninformed or just plain stupid, will be given the weight of pronouncements from St. Peter's chair.
No more difficult decisions: you could have gone to medical school. You could have been a marine biologist. You could have started your own business. You could have run for public office but - well, the kids came and there just wasn't time. Maybe you'll do it later. For ordinary people, one of the most wonderful things about having children is that they put an end to the agonizing need to make choices. The decision to have a child is the last decision you will ever freely make. All your future decisions will be dictated by or at least heavily influenced by your children. There was a time when it was no problem for a man to have two or three kids, then go off to law school or medical school. That was a time when it didn't take two weeks of full-time work at minimum wage to pay for health insurance for a family. That was a time, before no-fault divorce, when it was easy for the ambitious man to find a woman dumb enough to work at a menial job and do 100% of the work of the family while he was in the law library. It was a time before women clued in that putting hubby through medical or grad school and taking care of the kids too was a fast route to being replaced by a pretty nurse or a cute young grad student. Now the smart young woman with kids who wants to be a doctor just needs to convince her husband to work an eight-hour day, pick up the kids from childcare, make dinner, do laundry, clean, put the kids to bed, pay the bills and be comforting when she gets back from that 36-hour shift in the hospital. Cross that option off your list - it ain't gonna happen and medical school is so hard and so demanding and the stakes are so high. You don't really want to do that. You already have the most important job in the world.
Based on some of the conversations I've heard, avoiding decisions is the number one reason women have children. They talk about how well they were doing in their Ph.D. program but then, smiling diffidently, confide that once the children came, it just made more sense for them to drop out and care for the kids. I get the feeling that it usually isn't too hard a decision. Ambition carries a big risk of failure. You have kids and you automatically defer that risk to your children. They will accomplish the feats you were too busy or scared to attempt. Or maybe they'll just have kids instead. Either way, you win.
You will be a perfect parent: my mother is infantile and self-centered and to her, truth is a whore to her bottomless emotional neediness. Anything that doesn't serve her is, by definition, not true. Unsurprisingly, she was a lousy parent, abusive and manipulative. Of course I wonder how I can be a good parent when I have such a poor example of how to parent. Indeed, childfree people often say that they don't have children because their own parents were such poor influences that they don't see how they could possibly overcome their upbringing to do a better job themselves. There is no need to worry about this. No parent ever does anything mean, selfish, irresponsible or cruel to his own children, no matter how bad the parenting he received.
Based on what parents say, you can be a good parent even if you neglect, abuse or murder your children, since many people who loudly aver they know what is best for their children do so. At her sentencing, Andrea Yates declared her love for her children and thanked God for giving them to her. If Andrea Yates can drown her children in a psychotic fit and still see herself as a loving parent, who isn't? OJ Simpson murdered his wife, then had the effrontery to tell the press a few years later that he was concentrating on being "a great dad." Since being a great dad excuses murdering your kid's mom, what is it that you're afraid you'll do?
How often have you heard some malfeasant wail to the press: "I love my children. I would never do anything to hurt them" as they're led away to prison for ghastly crimes committed against those same beloved children? Even so, if you ask them, these felons will tell you how their children are the most important thing in the world to them and how they sacrificed everything to care for them. Other parents, not yet in the criminal justice system, are equally wonderful and loving. No parents ever smoke, exposing their children to a greater probability of sudden infant death syndrome, allergies and asthma, and no parents drink to excess or use drugs, even if they do. No parents are irresponsible, even if they are. No parent ever cheats on his or her spouse, risking the destruction of the family, or tears apart a family by divorcing a decent but unexciting spouse to look for something more exciting, even when he or she does. No mother would live with a boyfriend who abuses her kids just so she can have a man around, even if she does. Indeed, parents gladly make these sacrifices because being a parent means you are without fault. Whatever your sins, if you are a parent, all you need to do is speak the incantation: "I love my children with all my heart and I would do anything for them," and you will magically melt the hearts of all who hear and wipe out your culpability for anything you have done, no matter how reprehensible it would be in someone without children.
Recently in Texas, a man was convicted of having sex with his 12-year-old daughter by his first marriage. The jury found him guilty but gave him a suspended sentence. After all, he had a three-year-old and his wife was pregnant, and it was all about getting him back with those kids. If they sent him to jail for 15 years, by the time he got out, the three-year-old would be way to old to fuck.
You will have a perfect child: your family might be on the questionable side - irresponsibility, suicide and mental illness are not the kind of genetic heritage anyone wants to pass on to his children, with good reason, but any parent with a similar family history can tell you that it won't happen to you. Although Physicians for Social Responsibility estimate that as many as 14% of children will have a birth defect apparent by their teen years, any parent to whom you talk absolutely knows that her child will not be one of them. You need never face the reality of a child with schizophrenia for the simple reason that it can't happen to you. Even when your child sees that second head growing out of his shoulder for the first time, you can easily pass it off as "a phase" or, better yet, stress. Your strange brother who has spent the last 20 years in the attic picking invisible bugs out of the insulation? What do you expect? With lousy selfish parents like yours, of course they screwed him up. You'll do far better. Even if your child somehow ends up with the biology of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, your brilliant parenting will allow him to overcome it, move out of the house at 18, get a Ph.D., cure cancer and provide you with grandchildren.
Many childfree people also worry about the potential pain of dealing with children who are engaged in criminal or self-destructive behavior but, once again, it won't happen! Even when your child tries to paint a happy face across the map of the Midwest with pipe bombs, you will know in your heart that your child is not a dangerous person, just someone who wanted to make a statement about the government. Since, as a parent, you know your child best, you can feel free to tell the press what a great kid you have and allow as how he didn't mean any harm. The six postal workers and patrons he deafened, injured and traumatized will be angry at your denials but in a nation of 200 million parents, they won't be heard over the outpouring of support from everyone else in the parental chorus. Do you worry about your future child using drugs and alcohol? Having unprotected sex and catching a disease? Stockpiling weapons and explosives for an all-out orgy of murder and suicide at the high school? Don't. Although studies show that a horrifyingly large number of teens use alcohol and drugs and have unprotected sex, parents know it isn't their children and who knows their children better than they do?
You'll live in a perfect world: environmentalists live in a very sad world. In their world, global warming will potentially lead to catastrophic results on a scale unprecedented in either human or natural history. Heart-breakingly, this year the island nation of Tuvalu gave up its losing fight against warming-driven sea level rise and will begin to abandon the archipelago its people have called home for over 700 years. All over the United States, the wild lands that make this country beautiful are falling to the relentless grinding locust jaws of human population growth. Five percent of the Western wetlands that once supported bountiful sea bass and flatfish fisheries remain. Urbanization of the Mississippi Valley, again as a direct result of human population and its insatiable need for homes and services, led to the worst flooding in history in 1993, a pattern that is being duplicated all over the country and elsewhere in the industrialized world. In the mid-1990s, after many years of ignored warnings, the once boundless fisheries of the Northern Atlantic collapsed. Forty thousand Canadian fishers lost their livelihood when the government closed fisheries which had been devastated by overfishing. A third to a half of the world's fisheries have followed suit, thus depriving this planet's exploding human population of the food it so desperately needs. Similar scenarios of greed run amok and wanton destruction of natural resources follows the endless human appetite for more children and all the goods required to support them. Environmentalists know all these things and more and they despair. How depressing these facts are - how gloomy, how unpalatably unpleasant. You can make them all go away though - just have children and you'll suddenly see the bright side and be able to completely deny the grim truths. We don't know for sure that global warming will lead to environmental disaster do we? And if you teach your children to recycle, won't that reverse the bad effects of their consumerism? Sure it will! Global warming comes from fossil-fuel burning which releases carbon dioxide into the environment, but plants consume carbon dioxide so if every one of your children has his own little flower bed, that will reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide and solve the problem! If you have children, you too can be filled with hope for the future. In fact, maybe one of your children will solve the looming problem of environmental disaster caused by human population growth! Better have three or four then.
Oh wait. Even a complete moron wouldn't believe that.