The morality of having children
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26-03-2017, 12:38 PM
RE: The morality of having children
Just to put this thread back on track ...

I probably shouldn't have gone into details of my own personal purgatory. My main point is that I think most of us (and I include my younger self here, most definitely) are careless about having kids. We do it for no particular reason, because it's "what one does", or because we just want to have the experience, and we seldom consider or are humbled by the fact that we are bringing a living, feeling being into existence that isn't asking for it. I am not so idealistic or pessimistic that I think, as pure antinatalists do, that it's immoral to have children, full stop. But I think ti's somewhere between selfish, impertinent and immoral to have them mindlessly. That's all I'm arguing for at bottom.

My bolted-on cautionary tales about good outcomes not being a foregone conclusion no matter how diligent and well meaning you are, is just a self-interested reason to think twice about having children, if that's what you need to help you to slow down, stop and think about what you're doing.

I don't dislike children or the concept of family, and I don't pronounce the human experiment "failed" such that it should be halted by refusing to procreate. I'm just arguing for mindful and realistic consideration of child-making decisions, and against the notion that it should just be the default for most people.

But I have to be honest: if I magically had it to do over again, much as I love my children, I wouldn't take that opportunity. It has been too much pain for me and them, for too little gain for them in my view -- even discounting my own cost / benefit analysis. Your mileage may well vary.
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26-03-2017, 01:15 PM
RE: The morality of having children
(26-03-2017 09:44 AM)Escape Artist Wrote:  The whole "I'm gonna have kids so someone will take care of me when I'm older" seems kind of selfish to me. My children didn't ask to be born. They had no choice in it. And so I feel they have no obligation to take care of me when I am elderly.

Probably you got that from my post.

I agree with you, but it is, in the scope of time, a very novel idea that children don't take care of their parents in old age.

Traditionally, when it became time for dad to reduce his work load, mom and dad would move into the "little house" every farm had on the grounds. The oldest son and wife would move into the "big house" and take over operations of the farm. The parents would come to the big house for meals, or meals would be sent over to the little house. Parents lived independently and still helped out with work as much as possible, but many responsibilities were removed and food and shelter were provided.

Of course we don't have farm houses anymore and the whole thing is obsolete. It made sense for many centuries though to do it that way.

Lately "nannypods" have become increasingly popular, they are kind of the modern way to maintain ones parents similar to the old ways.

Personally, I am damn glad that nobody makes it their business to tell me where I need to live in my old age. I am never, ever going to an old folks home. Everything about that idea makes me shudder. Of course, other people feel differently.

[Image: dobie.png]Science is the process we've designed to be responsible for generating our best guess as to what the fuck is going on. Girly Man
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26-03-2017, 05:37 PM
RE: The morality of having children
I should clarify. My gripe was more with, not the OP, but just that some folks I've heard talk over the years seem to be saying that one of their bigger reasons for having kids was so someone would take care of them when they're older, and I felt that was a bad/wrong reason to have children, but people also say they had kids so they can make them do chores, and I often take things too literally and these things may have been said in jest.

As much as I had resentment toward my mom for the whole wanting to plan my life out thing, when she has needed assistance, I have stepped in. I feel an obligation there. She had a surgery at one point and did not have use of her arm during recovery so she needed help getting ready and everything, and I did it. It was awkward because I'm not the caregiving type (I don't have much of a motherly instinct - I don't even have it toward animals. I honestly don't like taking care of things or being responsible for other living creatures.) but I did it anyway because she has helped me out tremendously with my own kids and because, well hell my brother wasn't going to help her and my dad would have perhaps have been worse at it than me. Tongue

Anyway, mainly I feel strongly that my kids should feel no obligation to care for me when I'm old. If they do want to care for me, that's great and I would appreciate it, but I hope that I can provide myself with the financial means to not have to have them care for me. I do not want the role reversal of them caring for me. It would be awful, I think.

Perhaps I feel more strongly about this precisely because neither of my kids were planned. I can't quite articulate why that makes a difference for me, but they didn't ask to be born, I'd not have had them if I'd been better educated on pregnancy prevention, and so I feel they should have no obligation toward me in my later years because I'd not have had them if things had gone "according to plan". I feel often I am not the motherly type and don't have the motherly instinct that is necessary or desirable. I always wanted to be in a long term relationship. That was something I wanted for a long time, but having children was never something I dreamed of or longed for. It just kind of happened.

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26-03-2017, 05:54 PM
RE: The morality of having children
(26-03-2017 12:38 PM)mordant Wrote:  Just to put this thread back on track ...

I probably shouldn't have gone into details of my own personal purgatory. My main point is that I think most of us (and I include my younger self here, most definitely) are careless about having kids. We do it for no particular reason, because it's "what one does", or because we just want to have the experience, and we seldom consider or are humbled by the fact that we are bringing a living, feeling being into existence that isn't asking for it. I am not so idealistic or pessimistic that I think, as pure antinatalists do, that it's immoral to have children, full stop. But I think ti's somewhere between selfish, impertinent and immoral to have them mindlessly. That's all I'm arguing for at bottom.

My bolted-on cautionary tales about good outcomes not being a foregone conclusion no matter how diligent and well meaning you are, is just a self-interested reason to think twice about having children, if that's what you need to help you to slow down, stop and think about what you're doing.

I don't dislike children or the concept of family, and I don't pronounce the human experiment "failed" such that it should be halted by refusing to procreate. I'm just arguing for mindful and realistic consideration of child-making decisions, and against the notion that it should just be the default for most people.

But I have to be honest: if I magically had it to do over again, much as I love my children, I wouldn't take that opportunity. It has been too much pain for me and them, for too little gain for them in my view -- even discounting my own cost / benefit analysis. Your mileage may well vary.

I'm pretty sure I agree with you that the rationalizations for having kids are post hoc, and don't withstand logical scrutiny. However, pragmatically, until we develop better robots, we need younger humans to support the aging population.

I also agree that parents can follow all best practices and have negative outcomes, or vice versa. My parents brought me up to become a Good Christian Wife and Mother. I fell very far short of that status, despite it being modeled for me for many years, despite my parents' working for that outcome for many years with their best efforts. It was the best thing they could think of that they wanted for me, but blech...I get worried about my kid deciding that every value that I love is worthless, and how I'd manage the fallout from that.

I find it mysterious and subrational*, and more than a little off-putting and hypocritical, that I--a being who has never enjoyed being alive, per se--decided to reproduce. Also weird is that my son has told me that he's happy to be alive and isn't resentful of my having brought himself into this world. (while having brought me into this world is something tht I feel I have to work, just a bit, not to blame my parents for)

*I use subrational to mean underneath thought, not necessarily before or after it. It's a muddy term, but prerational doesn't get at what I mean
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27-03-2017, 01:34 AM
RE: The morality of having children
(26-03-2017 12:38 PM)mordant Wrote:  ... My main point is that I think most of us (and I include my younger self here, most definitely) are careless about having kids. We do it for no particular reason, because it's "what one does", or because we just want to have the experience, and we seldom consider or are humbled by the fact that we are bringing a living, feeling being into existence that isn't asking for it.

I'd have to disagree with this generalisation about "most" of us having kids unthinkingly (although it may well have applied to you).

Me and my former wife thought at great depth about having kids—after we were married—and we mutually decided the answer was an emphatic NO. And morals, per se, had very little if anything to do with that resolution. Our reasons were made almost solely on the basis of hedonism, avarice, and self-indulgence. And we never once regretted that decision, made half a century ago.

And I'm glad to say that a number of younger people have asked me over that time about the pros and cons of parenting, and why and how my decision not to be a parent affected my life—either positively or negatively. I like to think that I caused some of them at least to have second thoughts about bearing kids as some kind of "rite of human passage".

If one likes to contemplate any "morality" about child-bearing, then one only has to consider the fact that 16,000 children under the age of four die every day in sub-Saharan Africa. From preventable diseases, dehydration, and malnutrition.

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27-03-2017, 03:40 AM
RE: The morality of having children
(26-03-2017 12:38 PM)mordant Wrote:  But I think ti's somewhere between selfish, impertinent and immoral to have them mindlessly. That's all I'm arguing for at bottom.
Whose to say what the "right"reasons are for having kids.
I completely disagree with your statement above.

"immoral" is just your way of saying that you hold this choice to be wrong. Your beliefs don't apply to others, you don't get to decide what is "immoral" for them.
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27-03-2017, 07:06 AM
RE: The morality of having children
(27-03-2017 01:34 AM)SYZ Wrote:  
(26-03-2017 12:38 PM)mordant Wrote:  ... My main point is that I think most of us (and I include my younger self here, most definitely) are careless about having kids. We do it for no particular reason, because it's "what one does", or because we just want to have the experience, and we seldom consider or are humbled by the fact that we are bringing a living, feeling being into existence that isn't asking for it.

I'd have to disagree with this generalisation about "most" of us having kids unthinkingly (although it may well have applied to you).
Surely you would not disagree if I had phrased it "many of us"? I mean, I just don't as a rule see people IRL or on fora or Quora or FB openly musing about whether or not to have kids, and if the topic comes up, I don't see much besides others egging them on as if it's axiomatically the finest experience a human being can possibly have. Even less often do I see any arguments from the point of view of the proposed children themselves, or any assessment of one's emotional, volitional, and financial ability to nurture and be responsible for them. Overall, it's just assumed that it's a no-brainer decision, and that good intentions and love amply cover the territory.

Not to mention, it's assumed that a lack of keen interest is somehow "selfish" or ignoble.

I'm delighted you and your spouse made this decision, even for purely self-indulgent reasons. It matters less to me what your reasons were than that you HAD them and THOUGHT about them.

I'm even happier that you have been in a position to influence others about it.

But I don't buy the notion that most people are substantively mindful about such decisions. Personal observation, and the whole of popular culture, argue against it for me. I am not simply projecting my own carelessness onto others.

In my case I will say it was probably more personal weakness than utter unmindfulness. I had some thoughts about it ... I was aware that I was fairly indifferent about having children or not having children -- or at least not in any great hurry. At the time it was more a matter of my first wife very much wanting them "yesterday" and gaslighting me about being selfish for not strongly desiring them. I caved. I am sure that happens often enough too: you're young, scarcely know yourself much less understand life in any kind of perspective, and even any mindfulness you bring to bear on the matter runs into the wishes / desires of your spouse, parents, parents-in-law, and the culture at large.
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