The moral obligation not to have kids

Child-free, guilt-free and happy

Most individuals who have expressed any interest in serious relationships can relate to the constant familial, societal and media pressure to become parents and bring a joyous bundle of babies into this world. This pressure often takes the form of shaming individuals by using religious and patriarchal archetypes to talk about the duty of bearing children, especially the duty of motherhood.

In the spirit of fairness, I thought it only right to present the opposite argument. If you want to bring a crying, pooping, environmentally disastrous creature into this world, more power to you. Genuinely, I believe that choice belongs to everyone, but there needs to be a realization that discussions in favor of childbearing don’t really have any right to claim moral superiority.

Environmental concerns

Babies might look cute, but they will inevitably grow up to be just like the rest of us. The average American will produce 102 tons (about 204,000 pounds) of waste in their lifetime. That’s 102 reasons right there to hold off on baby-making.

When climate scientists are warning of our eventual planetary doom, it seems rational to want to do all we can as mere individuals to reverse the consequences of our existence. I feel pretty confident that refraining from making children will be a lot more beneficial than switching to metal straws or doing Meatless Mondays. 

Analysts have found that having children is seven times worse for the climate in terms of carbon dioxide emissions annually than any of the next 10 possible mitigants of emissions that individuals can produce. 

Psychological concerns

One of the big pulls the pro-parenting crowd makes has to do with how much it enriches their lives, how much joy is involved in having and raising children.

Jennifer Glass, a sociologist at the University of Texas, has found that the “happiness bump” that parents describe right after a baby is born will tend to disappear throughout the first year of an infant’s life. Then, the levels of happiness between parents and non-parents converge, with non-parents gaining more happiness over time.

Welcome to the world baby Kayleigh Rayleign. I sure hope you like blistering heat and constant existential dread, because that’s the Earth we all live on now. But on the bright side, there’s no need to plan for your retirement!

Being a parent might come with some satisfying highs, but it also comes with stressful and turbulating lows. As Glass says, “Life without children is simply much more stable.” As someone who subscribes to the chemically imbalanced portion of the population, stability is not something I need to be messing around with.

Relationship concerns

I don’t know about you, but when I’m trying to spice up my romantic life, the first place my mind goes is to changing diapers, watching Elmo and trying to discern if the look on a kid’s face means they’re actively pooping or if they’re about to vomit. Sexxyy.

According to a study from the American Psychological Association, couples who are childless have been found to have relationship satisfaction that is nearly twice as high as those of couples with children. This is not at all surprising.

When you have a tiny human with a head the consistency of a mushy tomato, the level of professionalism between you and the other idiot responsible for keeping tomato head alive goes up exceedingly. 

The time you might have spent cooking together, watching a favorite show, going out for a drink or indulging in some recreational coitus is now spent force-feeding Cheerios and plotting the deaths of toy manufacturers that make noisy bouncy chairs.

Monetary concerns

It’s fair to say that some of the stressors or psychological concerns associated with parenting are as relevant in all parts of the world where parental leave or universal health care is widely available. The same is true for monetary concerns.

In 2017, a study found that U.S. parents are much less happy than parents in other developed nations with much more generous family policies. So, if you want to afford having a kid, I recommend migrating north and learning how to stifle a laugh when someone says “aboot” (and you probably unironically say ‘ope’ so I wouldn’t get too cocky).

CNBC estimated that the average American household with children spends $11,000 a year in child care costs alone. In 2015, estimates put the total estimated cost of raising a kid in America at $233,000

Last week I saw two students genuinely discussing whether or not to forgo buying toothpaste and instead using drawing charcoal to clean their teeth until they got their paychecks. I use a space heater to get water to come out of my sink. We’re the young adults who are supposed to be able to afford raising a child? 

Sorry squirt, hope you like off-off-brand baby food and getting carried around in an old Jansport backpack because mommy can’t really afford something that costs more than her already overpriced rent.

Child concerns

Here’s the really moving argument against having kids: it’s not really fair to the kids. Babies today are being born into a world that is politically polarized, societally unequal and environmentally disastrous. 

Scientists warn that we have passed the point of no return climate-wise and we could be sticking our kids with the possibility of growing up in a place where natural disasters are everyday, crops fail and pandemics are the norm. This could be an exaggeration, but the moves to make sure these climate and societal problems come to an end for our children simply aren’t happening at a fast enough rate or aren’t happening at all.

“Welcome to the world baby Kayleigh Rayleign. I sure hope you like blistering heat and constant existential dread, because that’s the Earth we all live on now. But on the bright side, there’s no need to plan for your retirement!”

Should you really be having children?

The truth is that the people who are choosing to remain childless for environmental, relationship or financial reasons aren’t really stopping the people who don’t care about any of these factors. While you’re choosing not to have a child, someone who wouldn’t mind if their grandkids had to bathe in nuclear waste is having a dozen kids.

You could have a kid who cures cancer, finds a way to help reverse the climate crisis or to slow down pandemics. I mean, it’s not likely (have you met you?), but it could happen. Parents raising their kids to be socially and environmentally conscious are still a benefit to this world in some way.

Not having children won’t necessarily save the planet, your relationship or be the ultimate decider in your mental health, but it could be. No one is morally superior or inferior for their choice to or not to have children.

When someone says they don’t want to have children, you don’t need to ask, “Why,” or suggest they’ll change their mind or that, “It’s different when they’re your own.” Just be quiet, because your choice to have kids isn’t exactly a beacon of good judgment either.

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