Reasons not to have children/reasons to have children

UPDATE: Someone else has written a rebuttal to Davenport’s article.
I like this list by Jacob Davenport of 20 reasons not to have children, and 10 reasons to have children.

You may be surprised that I like a list that has reasons to have children. In fact, there is a contrast between the two parts. The list of 20 reasons not to have children not only includes selfish reasons, but also discusses the catastrophic moral and ethical impact of deciding to create new life. But the list of 10 reasons to have children, even though heartfelt I am sure, is a perfect example of the deep selfishness and callousness of people who have children. Let me go through each of these in turn to demonstrate the point:

1. They’re cute. In fact, your own child is adorable. Every sigh, every laugh, every motion is bliss. You fall in love with them.

If you want cute things every day, go on Cute Overload. Creating new life and its associated suffering just so you can look at a cute thing is pure callousness.

2. Re-experiencing childhood. Regardless of how good your own childhood was, your child allows you to vicariously relive childhood. Usually it’s much better the second time around, when you have all the wisdom of age but can enjoy the energy of youth. Playing with a two-year-old feels like being two years old again.

If you need to vicariously re-experience childhood with a child, become a kindergarten teacher. Davenport here is explicitly admitting that people have children as a mere means to the end of feeling better. Treating people as means to an end is evil, no matter what the reason is.

3. Learning. Watching your child learn is fascinating and fun. Each new skill or idea or word learned is a little victory. If you watch carefully, you will see that something new is discovered or conquered every single day. Your child will need to learn a lot from you, as he or she starts without much knowledge at all except for perfect sense of his or her feelings. While you are busy teaching your child about practical aspects of the world, your child will be teaching you emotional sensitivity. The active teaching and learning process is rewarding and fulfilling.

You can get the same satisfaction from a pet, without having to unethically control another human life for your own personal “learning process.” Besides, I’m sure that parents watching their children die of cancer or terrible deformities would have some choice words about the “learning process” they are going through. The trouble with many of these points is that they assume a perfect scenario, while none of the negative points assume the worst scenario.

4. Reflection. Everything that you already can do probably take for granted, but your child will remind you that all those skills had to be learned. It reminds you of how far you have come in life, and shows you the sorts of difficulties you probably had when you were your child’s age. Your child will also notice things that you have long since filtered out. I didn’t realize how many birds there were outside my house until my daughter showed me.

So apparently one’s own children are to be used as case studies in child psychology as well. And once again, why can this process not be accomplished by working or volunteering around children?

5. Reincarnation. Your genetic makeup is a small part of your identity. More important are your ideas, beliefs, manners, and stories. All of these things will be taken up by your child and then changed around. Your child will never be a clone of yourself, fortunately, but instead will be a new variation of you and the other people that raise him or her. If you like yourself then this is very satisfying.

Now here we go into the more disturbing area of “the child as mini-me” or “vicariously living through your child.” I find it interesting that Davenport listed this as a good point, as if adults indoctrinating their “ideas, beliefs, manners, and stories” (one assumes religious and political bigotry is part of the “beliefs” part) on their own children, who don’t know any better, is wonderful. Trying to make other people like oneself is a psychological problem or sheer sociopathic callousness, not a benefit!

6. Socializing. Every society has a subculture for people who raise children. At every age you can find people also raising a child in a similar situation. You can make many new friends with whom you have a lot in common. The comradely and shared experiences ease some difficulties.

This is clearly not a benefit, but a compensation for difficulties, so I don’t know why it’s even listed here. Apart from that, how callous do you have to be to create new life so you can make friends?

7. Control. You must not tell other people how to raise their own children. However, if you raise your own child, you get to do it your way, which you presumably believe is the right way. People might disagree with your methods, but if you have thought at great length about it–and you should if you plan on having a child–then you probably have good reasons for all the decisions you will have to make. When you find that your methods are not perfect, which you will, you can change them appropriately.

Do I even need to say anything more here? This is sickening to a high degree. Even worse than on point 5, having unethical control over another human being is praised as a way for you to prove that you can take good decisions. This is a dictator’s rationalization for his actions, not a reasonable benefit. I hope this will not come as a surprise to anyone on an Anarchist blog, but holding power over other people’s lives is evil, not good.

8. Adoption. There are lots of children in the world without parents. Adopting a child is an excellent way to greatly improve the life of someone who would have a very hard time otherwise.

This is actually a good point, and I support it completely. Adoption is indeed socially beneficial and highly superior to making children.

9. Entertainment. Children have lots of energy and can be lots of fun. They develop imaginations, a sense of humor, and lots of excitement. Little kid laughs are infectious. Playing with children is very enjoyable.

Same answer as many of the previous points. Get a pet or work around children. Listening to a child’s laughter or playing with them is not a reason to create new life.

10. Love. You are the center of your child’s world, and as much as you may love and need your child, he or she will love you more. Children that are shown love and affection show it back many times over.

People who are starved for love and affection should not have children, for such aspirations backfire. If their children don’t love them back, or even if the children do not obey them, they will often lash back and engage in child abuse. Basically, holding another human being responsible for your need for love and affection is a recipe for disaster. It is also extremely selfish. How would you have felt as a child if you realized that you were born solely to provide love and affection to your parents?

Parents should not give love to their children because they expect love in return. If you are that selfish, you should not have children, at any cost. Children are owed your love, whether they want to give any back or not. You are responsible for their well-being, but they are not responsible for yours.

Again, as I said before, all of these reasons assume the best case scenario, while none of the negative reasons assumed the worst case scenario. So there is a severe ingrained imbalance in the way these reasons are laid out, which the author probably didn’t even realize.

Furthermore, what nine out of these ten reasons have in common is that they treat human beings as tools that the parent can use in order to unlock some higher state of happiness. Anti-natalism, on the other hand, demonstrates is that children are used as objects, as means to an end, which is always evil regardless of the end. Furthermore, these positive reasons are all based on a perfect scenario where the relationship between the child and the parent is so good that the parent can always extract these conditions of happiness that they have invested in this human being. This is highly unrealistic.

What this article proves is that the reasons to have children are utter bullshit, and that anti-natalism is the only reasonable position for any person who is not so completely collapsed into himself that he thinks other human beings exist as means to his own happiness.

23 thoughts on “Reasons not to have children/reasons to have children

  1. alleee March 4, 2011 at 09:55

    A lot of these points can be applied to adoption scenarios.

  2. […] Less Work and More Fun Than You Think.” Disgusting enough, right? Not to mention redundant: all reasons to have kids are selfish and ethically wrong. There is no such thing as an altruistic or ethically justifiable reason to have […]

  3. Tammie December 5, 2011 at 23:39

    I’m glad you responded to that article. I read the list just a few minutes ago and was thinking the same things. Glad to know that I’m not alone!

    • Francois Tremblay December 6, 2011 at 01:15

      As a followup, I had a discussion with the author. I expressed my criticisms as I wrote them here, and he said that it was meant that way.

  4. Marie December 12, 2011 at 19:59

    You obviously don’t have children.

  5. V. Blackledge February 24, 2012 at 22:13

    I wrote a blog post on Davenport’s list too (see second part), eerily similar:
    After I posted it, I was doing some more research and stumbled upon your blog. I was a little disheartened that you wrote the same thing a year ago, but I admit I’m impressed by your exceptional writing. I’m delighted someone else shares my beliefs. And I promise I didn’t copy you!

    • Francois Tremblay February 24, 2012 at 23:27

      Very good. Yes, I see we had the same idea. I actually email the author a few times, and I guess it didn’t really come to anything.

  6. […] entry, I thought I would make a little entry to tell you readers that I’ve made an update to Reasons not to have children/reasons to have children to link to someone else’s rebuttal of the original Davenport article. Share this:Email This […]

  7. […] may remember the entry I wrote on someone’s list of Reasons not to have children/reasons to have children. Someone pointed me to this page: 101 Reasons For Having […]

  8. vombi April 9, 2012 at 02:40

    I don’t get it. What are the proper reasons to have children, according to you? Or should nobody have them and we should all slowly die out?

  9. vombi April 11, 2012 at 23:11

    I have to admit I agree with you most of the time, especially with “Better Never to Have Been”. I find it kinda ironic that someone like you (I’m assuming you’re from France, a country which is rich and doesn’t have problems like poverty or starvation) would have such strong opinions about antinatalism where on the other hand, people from countries like Somalia probably don’t. Aren’t you afraid that if civilized world stops reproducing, that eventually the Muslims and other agressive people like them will just run your people over with sheer numbers and you with them?

    • Francois Tremblay April 12, 2012 at 00:15

      I’m from Canada, actually. But I’m glad you like the antinatalist entries. (I’m not going to answer your question because it’s absurdly racist)

      • vombi April 12, 2012 at 00:28

        It wasn’t meant to be racist. But it is a reasonable concern, don’t you think? If all the people who are farsighted enough to foresee the downfall of overpopulation stop reproducing, it won’t stop the people who don’t care. And it seems to me, as racist as you may want to make it sound, that the world will eventually belong to Muslims and Chinese. Chinese skin dogs alive because it’s faster. How to convince someone like that that it’s unethical to have more children? Does someone like that even know what ethic means? That was what I was going for, not racism. If I could have pinpointed this to some caucasian folk I would have but none springs to mind at the moment.

        • Jamie April 14, 2012 at 10:26

          People in developed nations actually do unethical things as well. We slaughter animals by the masses to keep up with demands for profits, and are selfish. Not to mention, we have superiority complexes.

          To answer your question, it would actually be more of a concern if developing nations who are a threat to which ever country you or I belong to started to control their population by attempting to limit it. It’s the only method of bringing a nation out of poverty that’s consistently held positive results. If a country is faced with over-population, quality of life goes down for the majority of people because of the limited amount of resources.

          So, essentially, I’d be more worried about countries that were saying “Hey, let’s not have too many kids”. Look at China, they’re practically a superpower now, and they’ve been trying to limit their population for years – it’s working.

  10. Haley June 17, 2013 at 14:36

    Wow this is a wonderful article. I’m still a child (teen, whatever,) but am starting to get into antinatalist activism. I think it’s important that we teach the existing children about this so people my age and older think a lot harder about creating a human life that is only going to absorb more resources on this limited earth.

    • Francois Tremblay June 17, 2013 at 22:23

      That’s great! Come by the chat room sometime.

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