We are all prone to pride and selfishness; in many ways it is the fundamental posture of fallen man. So, while the demographic bust and the culture of consumerism has been canvassed here and elsewhere before, I wanted to post on this story for the macro-statement of selfishness it makes.
My lovely wife Sharon sent along this story, in a state of fitting consternation. Though I couldn’t fit into one post (even posts as wordy as mine often are) all of the comments I could make, I kept returning over and over to the sadness I see from the many wonderful, faithful couples I know who cannot conceive, or who have great difficulty conceiving and/or begetting as many children as they would like.
It’s one thing to point out the incredible shallowness of the couples quoted here, or to lament the lack of handing down of the proper ends of marriage in their right order of importance. But it’s another to see the absolute shamelessness of the societal death wish these people have espoused. Every canard of modern life has been swallowed hook, line and sinker.
The article is quite long, so I will post some selected paragraphs here. I will only comment when I just. can’t. stop. myself. For a final insult, take the quiz at the end to determine whether you should stay childless!
The No-Baby Boom
A growing number of couples are choosing to live child-free. And you might be joining their ranks.
By Brian Frazer
This summer, 28-year-old Anthony Shepherd and his wife of seven years, Cynthia, will fly from China, where they’ve been teaching English since 2009, to Wisconsin for a vacation. In addition to relaxing, catching up with friends, and attending her brother’s wedding, they plan on stopping by a vasectomy clinic. The People’s Republic may be notorious for its one-child policy, but the Shepherds’ attitude toward reproduction is even more stringent. Call it the zero-child policy.
Even before the Shepherds left Asheville, North Carolina, for Sichuan province, they’d made their life decision based on the experiences of their “childed” friends. “We watched them struggle to pay bills, find suitable apartments or houses to fit their families, and work at jobs they didn’t like because they needed the insurance,” Cynthia says. So she and Anthony enthusiastically took a pass on parenthood, an increasingly common decision for America’s couples.
Considering the state of the economy, it should come as no surprise that the ranks of the child-free are exploding. The Department of Agriculture reports that the average cost for a middle-income two-parent family to support a kid through high school is $286,050 (it’s nearly half a million dollars for couples in higher tax brackets). Want him or her to get a college education? The number jumps to nearly $350,000 for a public university, and more than $400,000 for private. Undoubtedly it costs more to raise a child than not to raise one. But I have always wondered from where these astronomical figures come that are so often cited in the kids-are-bad-for-__________ template stories. Call me suspicious. And of course, this does not take into account, even on a mercenary, economics-only basis, the contributions of adult children to the quality of life of their parents.
Though if your kid’s planning to major in Male Sterilization, it could wind up being a good investment: The vasectomy business seems to be one of the few in America that is booming. In the past year, the Associates in Urology clinic in West Orange, New Jersey, has seen a 50 percent jump in the procedure. So you could stress over starting a college fund, or you could consider that you can get a vasectomy at Planned Parenthood for less than the cost of a Bugaboo Cameleon stroller. The crying shame here is the fact that the author sees a vasectomy at Planned Parenthood as something comparable to a shopping decision ON. ANY. LEVEL. Unless you’re among the less than 2 percent of Americans who farm for a living and might conceivably rely on offspring for free labor, children have gone from being an economic asset to an economic liability.
But for the child-free, the benefits go beyond dollars and cents. There’s less guilt, less worry, less responsibility, more sleep, more free time, more disposable income, no awkward conversations about Teen Mom, no forced relationships with people just because your kids like their kids, no chauffeuring other people’s kids in your minivan to soccer games you find less appealing than televised chess. Because it is always always always about me. Of course, why spend all that time stressing about a spouse, for that matter?
In his best-seller Stumbling on Happiness, (warning!) Harvard psychologist (I warned you) Daniel Gilbert writes, “Couples generally start out quite happy in their marriages and then become progressively less satisfied over the course of their lives together, getting close to their original levels of satisfaction only when their children leave home.”
No wonder so many are choosing to spend their entire marriages as empty-nesters. A 2009 University of Denver study found that 90 percent of couples experienced a decrease in marital bliss after the birth of their first child. Still laughing at that one. And in a 2007 Pew survey, just 41 percent of adults stated that children were very important for a successful marriage, down from 65 percent in 1990. Meanwhile, nearly one in five American women now ends her reproductive years without children, up from one in ten in the 1970s. Not surprising, considering the upbringing we receive these days. But more on that below.
Now, I am part-Italian, so no emails, please–but, is the novelty the bribery, or merely that it is for reproduction? Germany’s baby shortage results in an annual population loss of 100,000. Just think of that number– and Germany is not the worst. And the sheep-to-human ratio in New Zealand, which currently stands at 10 to 1, seems sure to increase, since a staggering 18 percent of adult men there have elected to get vasectomies.
You don’t have to Netflix Children of Men to figure out that if everyone shirked his breeding responsibilities, humankind would die out. It takes an average of 2.1 kids per woman to keep a population stable. Fortunately, to pick up the slack, we have breeding machines like the Duggars (of the TLC show 19 and Counting), an Arkansas couple who have said they would welcome a 20th child, and the Bateses (featured on Nightline in January), a pair of Tennesseeans with 18 kids who want two more in order to even the gender ratio of their brood. Half a century ago, these families might have seemed less outrageous. Then again, half a century ago, we didn’t have reality shows to parade them on. First, note the wonderful attitude that even in propagating the species these geniuses are willing to sponge off of the work of others. Also note the defensiveness in labelling people who actually live out the marital vocation as “machines”, “breeders” and such like.
“I’m actually kind of grateful to Octomom, because it’s the first time in American culture we’ve said, ‘Wait a second…We do have the right to judge these people,'” Laura Ciaccio says. “Because before, we had these strange attitudes about motherhood and parenthood and children and babies in our culture. That changed the national dialogue. We now feel we have the right to question whether it’s a good idea.” Ah, the tolerant crowd! They will be the first to condemn the lack of “tolerance” by religious people of whatever outrage is the flavor of the day, but NEVER forget that THEY “have the right to judge these people.”
For Heather McGhinnis, a married 35-year-old marketing specialist in Elgin, Illinois, motherhood is simply a lifestyle choice that’s not for her. “The job of being a parent doesn’t interest me,” she explains. “Just like I don’t want to be an accountant, I don’t want to be a parent.” According to Laura S. Scott, who surveyed 171 subjects for her book Two Is Enough: A Couple’s Guide to Living Childless by Choice, that kind of attitude is linked to a specific personality component. “A lot of introverts, thinkers, judgers—these are people who think before they act,” she says. “They’re planners, and they’re not the kind of people who can be easily led into a conventional life just because everyone else is doing it.” And yet the point of this article is that being a childless married couple is the thing that more and more people are doing. Maybe the irony meter is broken. Scott, whose documentary The Childless by Choice Project will come out this summer, claims that there are four types of child-free couples: Early Articulators, who made the decision early in life; Postponers, who perpetually put off having their baby; Acquiescers, one of whom accedes to the other’s desire to be child-free; and Undecideds, who say they’re still thinking about it.
Many assume that an eventual feeling of regret is another drawback of the choice to remain childless. What if you reach middle age and begin yearning for the family life you never had? Who’s going to care for you when you’re old? And yet, of the more than 60 people Laura Scott interviewed for Two Is Enough (some as old as 66), not one expressed qualms about his or her decision. Actually, regret is more common among the breeders. In a 2003 survey of more than 20,000 parents that Dr. Phil conducted for his show …um, of parents who would watch Oprah’s husband’s show in the first place, you mean?, 40 percent reported that they wouldn’t have had kids if they’d realized the difficulties of raising a family.
“I guess the point is that we feel that we’re fulfilled,” proclaims Heather McGhinnis. “There’s no void. There’s nothing missing. We’re happy the way things are.”
So are my wife and I. As we back out of our driveway, cranking up the music to cover the nine-octave wails emanating from our neighbors’ back yard, I think to myself, Maybe Laura Scott needs to add a fifth category for couples like us: Relieved Quitters. Great. Let me know when you want my children to send your Social Security check, OK, pal?