Children. Gawd bless ‘em. Little lambs. We can live vicariously through them, and whilst they may ultimately be more trouble than dogs, at least there’s a chance they’ll get rich and famous and buy us a nice house, one day.
Before you start, I have three children of my own. They are all quite remarkably bright and beautiful, and my absolute pride. If anything justifies my presence here, it’s their presence here, and they are self made, self determined people that I can take no credit for. They also deal amazingly well with questions like ‘How are you here, if your mum’s a big lezzer?’ I apologise to them for having to deal with that, but goddamn, they can give good answers.
My life choices have affected their childhoods in a variety of ways, not all of them good. But I hope I’ve been supportive, open and loving to them, and always will be. I hope I’ve taught them to be the same. I love my children.
But, not everyone loves children. Not everyone wants them. Women are supposed to be genetically predisposed to hit puberty, and want babies. Men are supposed to be genetically predisposed to want to have lots of sex so they can propagate their genes. Women are supposed to be led to choose a mate based on their ability to give them good strong babies.
Which is fine, if your only consideration is your hormones, and that’s what your decision making is based on.
Jesus. Imagine for a moment if all your decisions were based on your hormones.
We’ve evolved as a species to live in a larger society, and to have wider concerns than our own selfish drives. We have empathy, spirituality, quantum mechanics and science. Our ability to override primal urges and work together are what have made us the dominant species on the planet. Compassion and intelligence are what will keep us there.
Children are lovely. But they are not a prerequisite to being part of society. It has been part of the issues raised against #equalmarriage – gays shouldn’t be allowed to marry, because marriage is all about bringing forth offspring.
Bollocks. Marriage (as stated in previous blog) is about two people making a declaration that they as adults would like to be joined together. If they would like to then raise children, well, that’s lovely.
If they don’t, then no one says they have to. (Apart from the Catholic Church, but that’s a whole other thing) No one who matters says they have to.
Some people want children, desperately, but can’t have them, and my heart goes out to them. Science has done a lot to change this, but sometimes it just doesn’t happen. There are many good people who would be excellent parents, but can’t be. I hope all of them find a way to give that love to children who need it.
Then, there are people who really don’t want children. It’s just not something they feel a need for. Perfectly normal, heterosexual people. They may like other people’s children. They may not actively hate all children. They just don’t feel any need to breed.
And you know what, they have a hard time too. From their parents, from society, from Mariella Frostrup (http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2013/may/19/i-dont-want-children-husband-broody)
I’ve nothing against Ms Frostrup’s column. She very often gives good, reasoned advice, and advice columns are by their nature subjective. She has a valid point of view – I just disagree with it in this instance.
As a species, we are breeding far too fast for the resources available. Yes, you may be middle class and both have nice jobs and are able to provide for little Emily, Joshua and Beatrix. But oh, your carbon footprint. Three children from two adults…? That ways lies species death!
Yes, one of them will be an amazing scientific prodigy (he could read at two, you know?) and solve world hunger. Fine. Keep your children. Yes, I have three too.
I would never advocate breeding control. What I would and do advocate is people’s right to make a choice, and not have to put up with pressure from anyone to change that. It’s not selfish not to have children. Lots of people have children for very selfish reasons, and you know what – that’s a much worse thing to do. I understand that one day, a woman can wake up and realise that the time has passed, and she will never have her own biological child. But that regret is a much smaller and less damaging thing than waking up and realising that you should never have had the children you did.
People have unexpected pregnancies. There is a whole industry devoted to telling us tales of stomach ache turning into a baby rather than the expected large poo. Women find themselves pregnant for a variety of fascinating reasons, and find that the child they end up with is the best thing they ever did. Babies can come from awful relationships, traumatic events, hellish pregnancies and then, then they hand you that baby, and you become overwhelmed with an all consuming love that never leaves you.
Of course, you can have a lovely relationship, glow through your pregnancy, plop out a child with ease and find that you look at that little scrunched up purple alien and feel… nothing. There are no rules, and no easy solutions.
The important, the vitally important thing to remember through all this is that you are bringing a whole new person into the world. Whilst you can never be fully prepared for all this will bring, even when you’ve done it before, you can at least try to make sure that it’s something you really want. And if you don’t want it, don’t do it. If you do regret that decision later, then adopt, foster, start a playgroup, sponsor a child in another country, become a teacher… You can channel that need in ways that will help children whose parents perhaps made the wrong choice, or circumstances shat on.
I work with children, and I see the problems that unprepared, unwilling or damaged parents can have, every day. These problems are fixable, and children are redoubtable creatures, but they are the reason that no one should ever feel pressured into breeding. At three in the morning, even the most wanted and loved baby, toddler or heaven help us, teenager becomes a beast from hell. Everyone with children has had one of those hours. Everyone with children has had a dark hour of despair. How you deal with that, and get through it may well depend on the decision you initially made, and if it wasn’t for the right reasons, it becomes so much harder. I won’t go into politics, and funding for vital support networks here. I will however bless our interconnected society, the NHS and its subsidiaries, and even social care, and hope that no one ever feels they are alone with whatever issues they find themselves up against.
If you feel the need to have something that will give you unconditional love, that you can give a silly name to and dress up – get a small dog. If you want to raise a child, and are prepared for the shit and vomit and angst and expense, if you want to lose your lovely designer home and fill your life with Balamory, Barney and Blues Clues, felt-tip on your white walls and Sudocrem on your ipad, if you are ready for pain and arguments and destruction, the end of your independence and sheer exhaustion, fine. Go ahead and breed.
But if you don’t, then be strong. We breeders need you for babysitting.
Which is a good final sentence to this. But I do have to say, if you really don’t want children, think of the people that do. Consider donating your eggs or sperm to help those that do. You’re not using them, and there are people out there that need them.