“Be fruitful and multiply” is one of the Bible’s first directions to mankind, and until recently, humanity has followed without question. However, in recent years, the fertility rate in America and across Europe has hit an all-time low. More and more men and women have been opting not to become parents – a trend that is causing everyone to re-examine long-held (and perhaps outdated) societal expectations and take a hard look at current societal factors impacting this life-changing decision.
Below, we’ll explore three reasons to give parenthood a second thought, and three reasons to keep on starting families.
Less is More
It’s irresponsible to bring children into a world with an uncertain future.
We’re living in uncertain times. But even before the COVID-19 upended life as we know it, the world was already in bad shape. Global warming threatens food security and economic prosperity, and fuels conflict. At present, the wars in Ukraine and in Israel are having widespread impact that affects the entire world. War side, political, gender, racial and economic inequality pervade every society. With no answers to these quagmires readily available, or even the promise of breathable air, how can we justify introducing more humans into our collective calamity?
Life is plenty fulfilling without children.
Many of humanity’s most inspiring leaders were not parents. Jesus, Gandhi, and even Oprah (among countless others) prove that parents do not hold the monopoly on self-actualization or contribution to society. In fact, most achievements which advance society have little or nothing to do with parenting skills, as Susan B. Anthony demonstrated in leading women to the vote in 1926, and as Nikola Tesla proved through his many inventions. Whether these figures chose to forego becoming parents in order to dedicate themselves to the betterment of society or simply for lack of want, they show that fulfillment is available in equal measure to parents and non-parents alike.
Children require a tremendous amount of resources.
Parenting is an enormous responsibility. The average American family spends more than $310K over 17 years, according to think tank the Brookings Institute. This is to say nothing of the physical and emotional demands of child-rearing. Parents worry more and sleep less; the latter of which can have significant consequences on health, productivity, and even income. When one looks objectively at the material and emotional resources required to responsibly care for a child, passing on parenting is a completely logical conclusion.
The More the Merrier
Parents are more productive and live longer.
It’s easy to understand how the challenges of parenting – sleep-deprivation, increased worry, and less time and money for self-care, to name a few – might contribute to a shorter lifespan. But somewhat counterintuitively, a number of studies have shown that people with children live longer than those without them. In addition to enjoying longer lives, mothers in particular seem to receive a competitive edge with regard to workplace productivity when they have children. One writer for Quartz calls motherhood “the ultimate efficiency hack” and explains that a 30-year review of productivity of female economists (mothers and non-mothers alike) revealed that mothers outperformed their childless counterparts. Not a bad trade for a few (hundred) sleepless nights!
Children are an excellent contribution to society.
Children are quite literally the hope of the future. Those without children who lament the price society pays to send them to school forget that those children will later be the scientists who patent new technology to treat their ailments, the doctors, nurses and caregivers who’ll administer them, and the bankers who will help them to finance it all. China’s former and infamous one-child policy, initially intended to curb its population bulge, but revealed itself to be short-sighted, as China now struggles to cope with a large aging population and a lack of youngsters to support them. More than ensuring safe passage of the elderly and securing the future, children anchor the economy. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the Educational Services sector accounts for more than 3.9+ million jobs. With education expanding in every country on the planet, children propel the movement of trillions of dollars in the global economy.
Children bring out the best in us.
Any parent can testify to the intense admiration young children have for their parents – they are wowed by the way you effortlessly remove candy wrappers and are dazzled by how you tie shoes. Children (well, the little ones, at least) believe their parents know all and that their kisses have magical healing powers. And guess what – being admired makes parents want to be admirable. Parenting asks men and women to model the behavior they’d like to see in their children. Parents look both ways when crossing the street, eat their vegetables, and (attempt) to speak kindly to their partners. Children promote emotional growth by reminding their parents that life is not solely about them, and by shining a light on their parents’ weaknesses and therefore providing an opportunity to improve upon them.
The Bottom Line: While there is no clear-cut evidence to suggest that parenting leads to a happier or more meaningful life, children bring out many positive sides of humanity. What would you say to a friend who is considering having kids? Would you have children?