There have been several articles and social media posts, including a recent Washington Post piece, on the praiseworthy choice of increasingly many people to be child-free. I already have a kid whom I love and care for immensely, but I find this very heartening. I am glad to personally know many such people, whose motivation for not having any child is ethical, with some also citing the additional factor of not wanting their personal time, freedom and aspirations curbed by the huge responsibility of child raising. Here’s an overdue post on why I endorse this (while child-free is now inapplicable to Seju and me, we are surely not going to have a second child), how we had tried to adopt – and should have adopted – our only child, etc.
While most people are aware of overpopulation being a cause of misery as an academic fact, the magnitude of that misery has not been internalized enough. The world obviously needs a multi-faceted fix, but not bringing more humans into existence is vital for ensuring environmental sustainability as well as reducing suffering. Imagine vividly a life in which you breathe dangerously polluted air, drink insufficient, contaminated water, struggle for enough food and living space. Millions are already living through that hell, which our breeding contributes to. And, having a child today will cause such misery to your that very child too, since the already menacing pollution and resource crunch is going to become intolerable in the coming decades. While you and I have so far been insulated from it by our monetary privilege, it’s unlikely to prevent a child born today from experiencing a lot of those atrocious conditions.
In addition to the ethical obligation to not co-cause the world’s population woes, there’s a personal reason why many opt to be child-free. Raising a child substantially curtails your freedom for other pursuits – aspirational, altruistic as well as recreational – in terms of time and money. As much as I love and look after my kiddo, no one can deny that caring for a child precludes you from doing many things you want to or ought to do. While this is not our primary reason for ruling out a second child, it would have prompted us to take the same decision on its own.
Staying with the personal, as most people close to us are aware, soon after marriage Sejal and I had decided to bring home an abandoned child instead of contributing to overpopulation by having a biological child. We had joined an adoption group (called PGCAI) and even attended physical meetings. Things, however, didn’t happen as per that plan.
I find it bizarre when someone is criticized as “self-centered” for not wanting a child, because having a (biological) child is a totally selfish act. People do it because they think – rightly or wrongly – that it will make them happier. They certainly don’t do it for the world, which badly needs fewer inhabitants. And, it’s also bad for the child herself to be bred into today’s polluted, resource-starved world, which will get dreadfully worse in the decades ahead. Peer/societal influence is a massive factor here. A lot of folks don’t challenge the societal norm and ask themselves if they really want to – or are cut out to – be parents, resulting in not-so-good lives for themselves and their kids.
A specific culprit is the ill-conceived glorification of motherhood, including the false notion that a woman’s life is “incomplete” without a baby. Apart from hindering critical thinking for this critical choice, it impedes us from giving due importance to the fact that women bear the brunt of the child-related agony. The long, painful and sleep-depriving process comprising the pregnancy, delivery, infant care and so on takes a huge toll on female bodies. A lot of women also suffer the disproportionate burden of child raising imposed on them by regressive partners. Just to be clear, let me state the obvious that I am all for respecting our mothers. The point is to also respect women who don’t want to become mothers.
Here’s hoping that the child-free choice receives way more adoption, be it for the ethical reason or undiminished personal time.