The case against procreation

Many of you probably don’t have children, yet.  Many of  you will ask yourselves whether it is better to breed or not to breed.

Partners, family, friends, tradition and instinct will pressure you to have kids. I offer the alternative argument. Consider skipping it.  Save your time and money for yourself.  For those of you who have already reproduced, this advice comes too late; I apologize.

I’m older than many of you, and I’ve observed some of my friends’ lives changed after they had children. I observed how their lives changed. In comparison, I’ve gotten to experience the advantages of married life, and I enjoy them because of our decision not to have kids.

My friends love their children dearly, and they are great parents.  But I noted the look of shock, dismay and fatigue on many of their faces as they admitted how radically their lives changed when they became parents. For some people, having children is a good choice.  But consider that having children might not make you happier or more fulfilled.

A study called “A Global Perspective on Happiness and Fertility” by the Max Planck Institute surveyed over 200,000 respondents from 86 countries, bears this out. “People seem to poorly predict how children affect their lifestyles and underestimate the costs,” according to the study.

This study also examined numerous other studies on the subject and concluded: “Most research finds either a negative or insignificant relationship between parenthood and well-being.”

Our brains are hardwired through hundreds of millions of years of evolution to make us want to reproduce.  It’s the same instinct programmed into the brains of the birds and the bees. For much of human history, this instinct served us well  children served important utilitarian purposes. We needed more members of the clan to help hunt, gather food and fight off rivals.  Then we needed more labor for farming and then for factory work.

But many of us don’t really need children any more. Machines and  robots are performing an ever-increasing number of jobs that humans used to do.  In the future, there will be less need for human labor, and fewer jobs.

There are many advantages to going childless. My wife and I enjoy far more free time to recreate, travel, exercise, engage in our hobbies or just relax compared to our friends who must care for their children. We don’t have to bother changing diapers, cleaning up ugly plastic toys,  dropping our kids off at daycare or finding a babysitter just because we want to enjoy a night on the town. We don’t have to experience the stress of worrying about our children’s emotional welfare if they come home crying,  having been picked on by a bully or a teacher.

We still feel like kids ourselves with the freedom to be spontaneous and adventurous.  If we want to wake up on the weekend and have a beer for breakfast  — no problem. If we want to run off to the park to play Frisbee after work or go for a bike ride, there’s nothing stopping us.  And keep in mind, I’ve been told by more than one new parent that your sex life may suffer some when you have a child.

As environmentalists,  we enjoy the feeling of self-satisfaction knowing we are sparing the planet a considerable carbon impact. According to a study by Oregon State University, each child born in the U.S. will likely add almost 10,000 metric tons of carbon-dioxide emissions to the atmosphere over their lifetime.  We could drive around a Cadillac Escalade, leave all the lights on and skip recycling without guilt if we wanted.

My wife and I got lucky that both of us happened to feel the same way about not having kids, and neither of our families put pressure on us to provide them with grandchildren, nieces or nephews. I encourage you to think long and hard about whether or not to have children. There are plenty of people on the planet already and the human race will survive just fine without more genes in the pool. It’s not selfish not to have kids, and think of all the fun you can have and money you can save without all that responsibility.