This debate is not about states limiting or banning people from having children. Nor is it about individuals who, for medical reasons, are unable to have babies. Instead, the house may be understood as people, couples or just women. The debate will therefore focus on pros and cons of individuals having children. Globally more and more families are choosing not to have children. In Canada in 2006, 17.1 percent of women aged 30 to 34 said “no,” as did 18.3 percent of men in the same category when asked whether they were planning to have children. In the U.S. National Center of Health Statistics reports that the number of American women of childbearing age who define themselves as “child-free” rose sharply in the past generation: 6.2 per cent of women in 2002 between the ages of 15 and 44 reported that they don’t expect to have children in their lifetime, up from 4.9 per cent in 1982. In the UK in 2004 almost 50% of married couples were living without children. Also, 58% of cohabiting couples were childless. It has becomes so worrying in many countries that many countries are introducing policies to encourage couples to have children (tax reductions, benefits, subsides). At the same time many developing countries are trying to reduce their population growth which results in discouraging having children. For example, China governmental one-child policy means that couples are fined for having more than one child.
Parenting effectively prevents people from pursuing their own interests and fulfilling their own goals. The child becomes the center and the only valid part of parents’ lives. By having kids, people turn from free individuals into servants. They often have to abandon their careers in order to take care of the offspring. Women’s careers are most heavily affected, as women usually end up being the major childcare provider. Furthermore, people with children have much less time for socializing resulting in losing friends. Couples’ relationships are also bound to deteriorate as mother and father become more interested in a baby than in themselves. It has also been proven that couples with kids engage in sexual activities far less often than those who are childless. All of these reasons contribute to general dissatisfaction of parents who feel they have lost their own lives. As the evidence for that we can quote Daniel Gilbert, who holds a chair in psychology at Harvard. Based on his research findings, he reports that childless marriages are far happier.* Such a view is supported also by Madelyn Cain, a teacher at the University of Southern California, who says "Statistics show childless couples are happier. Their lives are self-directed, they have a better chance of intimacy, and they do not have the stresses, financial and emotional, of parenthood."**
*Kingston, 2009, http://www2.macleans.ca/2009/07/24/no-kids-no-grief/3/
**Goldberg, 2003, http://dir.salon.com/mwt/feature/2003/05/06/breeding/index2.htm
Having children is one of the most fulfilling and rewarding experiences in life. When people become parents obviously they experience a major change in their lives. However, change doesn’t mean a change for worse. Raising children is not easy, but it brings about a feeling of fulfillment. For many people, having children is the main purpose in their lives. Kids enable parents to rediscover the world around them. Additionally, parents feel empowered as they can shape another human being to a previously inexperienced extent. Relationships with kids seem to be the deepest, most enduring ones. These are the very reasons why people become so upset when they cannot have children. The development of treatments such as in vitro fertilization proves how much we want to have babies. There is also substantial evidence supporting the claim that having children has a constructive rather than destructive influence on parents. Dr. Luis Angeles from the University of Glasgow in the UK has just published in the Journal of Happiness Studies, claiming that the research he has conducted suggests that having children improves married peoples' life satisfaction, making them happier.* A recent Newsweek Poll also found that children add to general levels of parents’ happiness. Fifty percent of surveyed Americans said that adding new children to the family tends to increase their happiness levels. Only one in six (16 percent) said that adding new children had a negative effect on the parents' happiness.** The evidence that having children has a devastating effect is mixed at best and in many cases outright wrong.
*Bayaz, 2009, http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/169018.php
The level of emotional involvement in bringing the child up is immense. Parents pour all their souls into children, who, in turn, often leave them disenchanted and exhausted. Parents also have to share their child’s problems, fears and traumas, so that the amount of grief that parents take on themselves doubles (or even triples, depending on how troublesome the child is). Not only that, but those who have offspring also become more vulnerable. They worry about their kids from the moment they are born until the day they themselves die. Parents’ to-worry-about list is endless: from child’s nutrition to summer camps, from accidents to social acceptance, from choosing a school to moving out. Having raised children, parents become emotional wrecks. All parents agree that it is emotionally draining and stressful, in 1975, advice columnist Ann Landers asked her readers, “If you had it to do over again, would you have children?” seventy percent of respondents said “no.”*
*Goldberg, 2003, http://dir.salon.com/mwt/feature/2003/05/06/breeding/index2.html
Having children enriches parents emotionally. The experience of parenting triggers deep and genuine emotions, which parents would not experience otherwise. Attachment, caring, compassion, understanding, moral outrage, joy, and wonder are all inevitably a part of parenting. Many parents claim that they have never loved anybody as much as their children. Thus, having children actually enlarges both the spectrum and the intensity of emotional experiences for parents. Worrying for kids is a natural consequence of praising them so much. The more valuable something is, the more attention we pay to it. The fact that parents worry about their children that much is only a further evidence of how much children’s contribution means to parents.
For majority of people children are the biggest expenditure they ever undertake. The United States Department of Agriculture reported in 2008 that the average annual expenses associated with raising a child can be as high as $22,960.* If we assume that a child will live with their parents until the age of 18 and add average cost of sending a child for 4 years to college, we arrive at the conclusion that bringing up a child in a developed country costs around $500,000. This money can be far better spent, for instance, on enhancing the standard of education or health care, subsidising economic initiative in developing countries, investing in green technologies, etc.
*Boy Scouts of America, 2011, http://www.scouting.org/filestore/media/ES_Finances.pdf
Any money spent on children is well used. Is there a better way to invest money than to use them to support future generations? The more we spend on children’s health care, the more productive our society will be; the more we spend on their education, the wiser our society will be; the more we spend on their cultural awareness, the more conscious of art our society will be. There is no better use of money than spending them on our kids.
Four out of every five children will be born to families whose members survive on less than $10 a day. Around one third of children in developing countries is estimated to be underweight or stunted.* Research suggests that even in the USA, 20% of children live in poverty. And such an extreme plight of the child is only the beginning. Even if a child is born into a relatively well-off family, there are endless devastating situations he has to face during his life: war, death of family members, chronic illness, divorce, crime, and social exclusion. The list can go on and on forever. Having children is the equivalent of forcing innocent people, against their will, to experience the misery of life. Thus, it is inhumane.
There is no better present for somebody than to give him a life. Our lives are not just about money. There are so many valuable emotions, situations, experiences that have nothing to do with wealth level, for example falling in love or simply being enchanted by the world’s beauty. Even if the child is born to an impoverished family that doesn’t mean he won’t be able to rise out of the poverty. There are numerous sponsored programmes that encourage social mobility in both developing and developed countries. However, we need to accept this simple truth that life is not a sequence of only joyful events, and sometimes we have to experience a difficult situation to be able to appreciate all the good out there. Additionally, positive experiences in lives usually outweigh those negative, that’s why a vast majority of us would never change our lives for not being born. Therefore, giving a child a life is more than morally right.
The more people consume in the world, the greater the environmental damage. An average American produces 52 tons of garbage by the age of 75.* However, producing extra litter and pollution is not the only hazard that every child poses to the planet. Increasing world’s population also places incredible stress on Earth’s resources. It is estimated, for instance, that by 2025 three billion people will live in water-scarce countries. By reducing the number of human beings we will manage to avoid numerous overpopulation crises and reverse the damage done to the environment.
* Tufts Climate Initiative., 2006, http://sustainability.tufts.edu/?pid=106
Not having children is not a good way to combat environmental problems. The real answer to environmental issues is developing clean technology and promoting ecological awareness. If we start to produce energy from renewable resources, switch to electrical transportation, recycle waste etc. we won’t need to reduce population in order to sustain the environment. Furthermore, a higher population living in a more eco-friendly manner would be less harmful than the current level of population with its lifestyles.
Social and economic inequalities between men and women stem primarily from the fact that women are the child bearers, and mothers overwhelmingly spend more time on childrearing tasks than do their male spouses. Not surprisingly then, many employers still discriminate against women when recruiting to work. They view females as those responsible for parenting and thus not reliable, devoted or loyal as employees. Even when there is little or no discrimination in recruitment women often hit a ‘glass ceiling’ due to breaking their careers in order to have children, in the UK a recent report by the Chartered Management Institute found it would take until 2109 to close the pay gap.* On a social level, not having children will mean more gender equality as there will be no ground for justifying an unequal labour division.
There are better ways of eliminating gender inequality. First of all, inequality between sexes is far more complex of an issue than the proposition would like us to believe. There are many reasons why gender inequalities prevail in the society. They are grounded in different physical, psychological and social features of males and females. Moreover, they date back to prehistoric times when men and women occupied themselves with different tasks and had different responsibilities. It is too simplistic to say that by not having children gender inequalities will be eradicated. Furthermore, there are other more effective and less damaging ways of heading towards equality between sexes, such as education, affirmative action and social policy encouraging men to participate in childcare on equal basis with women.
We cannot live without the society; it is that very society that provides us with basic goods and services such as education, health care, transportation, work. We can only interact with other people and fulfil our most basic needs if we live within the society. Therefore, we owe it to the society to ensure its continuation. It is only by having children that we can do this. Falling rates of population growth in developed countries highlight how dire the need for reproduction is. If people don’t have children today, the society will run into an enormous economic crisis tomorrow, as there will not be enough citizens to work for the growing numbers of the elderly. In the long run, not having children will lead to human beings’ extinction. If present trends continued it would only be 25 generations before Hong Kong’s female population shrank from today’s 3.75 million to just one. Similarly on current trends Japan, Germany, Russia, Italy and Spain will not reach the year 3000.* It is therefore clear that by not having children people fail to fulfil their most fundamental duty.
*The Economist Online, 2011, http://www.economist.com/blogs/dailychart/2011/08/populations
People are free to choose whether or not to have children. Human beings are granted freedom of choice. The decision to have offspring is, like many others, only a matter of personal choice and there is no duty here that we can talk about. The only real responsibilities towards society that people have are those imposed on them by law. (Paying taxes or protecting a country being prime examples of these). Because society has not chosen to create a law forcing everybody to have children, we see that choosing not to bear offspring is accepted by society.
The most basic purpose of every human being, like of any other animal, is to reproduce, thus ensuring the continuity of ones species. Reproduction is even included in our very definition of life “the state or quality that distinguishes living beings or organisms from dead ones and from inorganic matter, characterized chiefly by metabolism, growth, and the ability to reproduce and respond to stimuli”.* Our bodies (physiological features), behaviour (flirting, dressing up) and sexual drives all point to that fundamental aim of our lives. It is only by having children that we can fulfil the most natural goal of our existence. Until very recently the family and ensuring its continuance has been the goal of almost every human. This is shown by how hereditary has been one of the defining features of almost every society in history, whether it is in government; through monarchy or an aristocracy, in the economy; through passing wealth down from one generation to the next.
* Collins English Dictionary, 2003, http://www.thefreedictionary.com/life
There is a lot more in humans’ lives than having children. There are numerous differences between humans and other animals. While it may be true that the purpose of animals’ lives is to produce offspring, it is not the case when we talk about humans. People, being much more complex creatures, can contribute to society in many other ways than by having kids (for instance by artistic or scientific activities). So, although our physiology and behaviour may point to reproduction as the main purpose of our lives, these indicators are simply misleading.
From parents’ point of view it is also beneficial to have children as they are the only guarantee of help and support when parents get old. It has been one of the most prevailing practices around the globe for children to return their parents care and dedication. When they become elderly, parents that have lost their spouse often come and live with their children. Additionally, kids tend to look after their parents when they get chronically ill towards the end of their days. It is also the child that visits its parent in hospital. Moreover, many kids support their parent financially, which may become crucial in an era of population ageing, which will bring about drastic reductions in pensions. In China a traditional saying is “Raise children in preparation for one’s old age’ as families often have to care for senior citizens but with a declining population each person may soon be caring for two parents. There is very little in the way of social care there are old-age beds for only 1.8% of the population in China, compared with 5% to 7% in most developed and 2% to 3% in developing countries.* The best way to secure a safe future is to have children to care for you rather than assuming an overburdened state will provide.
*Worldcrunch, 2011, http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2091308,00.html?iid=pf-mai...
There is no causal link between having children and being supported later in life. After children leave home they become fully independent individuals. They haven’t chosen to be born and so they shouldn’t be burdened by the parents. If kids do look after their parents it should be out of choice as it is not their duty to do so. It is government’s responsibility to take care of its citizens, so that the elderly can spend their last years in fair conditions with the possibility to live in decent old people’s homes if necessary.
Not only does parenting teach responsibility, but it also triggers such feelings as love, compassion and helps develop such features as patience, devotion, tenderness, understanding. For instance, if parents learn the benefits of being patient towards their children, they are more likely to react patiently in other life situations, which in turn will lead to less aggressive society. Therefore, the more people have children, the more desirable our society becomes.
Having children can be counterproductive in achieving a desirable society. First of all, having children is by no means necessary for possessing all those valuable traits. All of them can be developed though other experiences as well. Secondly, having kids may actually lead to society being less desirable. For instance, parents being exhausted by constant absorption with their children become less productive. They can also become disillusioned or frustrated by their offspring, which will result in their general bitterness.
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