Why You Shouldn’t Have Children

Insight and unsolicited advice from a childless woman

When I was 12 years old I placed an ad on the church bulletin board advertising myself as a babysitter. I had taken a class through the city parks & rec department and had held a lot of baby cousins, so I was obviously well qualified. As an adult now, I would never hire a young neighborhood kid, but many trusting (or desperate) souls did and I began my long career in childcare. Over a dozen years later, I have been invited into the intimate home lives of countless families and learned a lot not only about kids, but about parenting.

The most important thing I have learned about parenting is that it’s not for everyone. Most anyone can produce offspring but raising that offspring thoughtfully is something completely different. It is our biological imperative and societal expectation that everyone will reproduce, but far too many do so without really understanding what it means to parent day in day out. As technically a parent to no one, I don’t even really get it, but after helping to raise so many children over so much time, I've seen enough of the shape of it to be humbled and a bit terrified.

If you've already had a kid, good luck. I have nothing but respect for you. If not, please consider the following:

Parenting is a rigorous, full-time career.
Not always, of course. If you've never spent time with a child who is teething or potty training, though, you have no idea what horrors await you. The worst sound in the whole world is ceaseless, inconsolable crying or screaming. You’ll also have all manner of human excrement on your hands, and I mean that literally. There are sweet, heart-swelling moments, but only you can decide if you’re hearty enough to survive the rest.

You must cease selfishness and relinquish freedom.
Unless you’re already living like a parent, massive shifts in your lifestyle must occur as you welcome a child. Every decision you make must now reflect your new role. There will be a period of time when you don’t really sleep. Your child will ground you deeply, limiting your ease of movement. Gone are the days when you can skip out for a drink with friends or a weekend trip without some planning. Everything will take more time than it did before. You’re just in charge of the health and well being of another human life. No pressure.

You must learn exquisite self-care and the art of receiving help.
The most healthy, happy families I've known are those where the parents take good care of themselves and ask for help. If this is something you’re not good at or comfortable with, parenting is going to be 80 times more difficult. Your oxygen mask goes on first, then you assist the person next to you. You can only do your best moment to moment, but you will be an infinitely kinder, more effective parent if your needs are met. Your health and the health of your relationship with your child and your family overall will rely on it.

The way that you are teaches your children how to be.
This may be great news. Perhaps you’re especially well adjusted and your offspring would be nothing short of delightful. For the rest of us, take heed: no matter what you say, your kids will watch what you do and follow suit. If you are weird about food or your body, so shall your children be. If you are full of anger or anxiety, so shall your children be. Before having a child, please consider what you have to give them and how you might need to grow before giving it a shot. Dysfunctional family systems keep countless people across many fields employed, but wouldn't it be revolutionary to make many mental health professionals, etc, obsolete by choosing to parent with utmost consciousness, or not at all?

Fertility is an intimate, personal topic. I wouldn’t dream of telling you what to do with your body. However, there are several wrong reasons to have children, including but not limited to:
-The desire to heal or relive your childhood
-Out of a sense of obligation or by coercion
-To see your unmet dreams fulfilled by someone else
-To have a friend
-To quell your fear of mortality by making something that looks like you
-To fix your relationship or force an unwanted level of commitment

All babies are beautiful miracles, but the idea that we must reproduce in order to be complete, successful adults must be retired. Parenting is an incredible experience (from what I hear), but there are innumerable, wondrous experiences in life that don’t include having children. Remaining childless is not only a legitimate option, but sometimes the best possible option for the individual, and it pays a kindness to our planet struggling to support the ever-swelling 7.1 billion person population.

If you do decide to have a child, please also decide to parent them consciously and lovingly. Work out your issues so that you offer and teach your children only the best of you. Allow the experience to grow and change you and your life in fundamental, wonderful ways. Sign on for all of it, even the heartbreaking challenges. Your commitment, or lack there of, will inform the way your children feel about themselves. This is the most important job on the planet. Are you up for it? Choose well. Choose wisely.

Show your support

Clapping shows how much you appreciated Kirsten Elise’s story.