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September 23, 2005



whoa, this touches on a serious issue i have with childbearing/childrearing. full disclosure, at this point in my life i have no desire to have children, but i never say never.

here's the question i have, though - why do people have children at all? i know there are numerous answers to that question. but when one invokes the reasons above, i have trouble with that. hugo notes:

"But I ask again, who will be there in the end? The nurse whose shift it is you happen to die on? Or those whose souls you brought into this world, whom you once cared for, and who will now in due course be there for you?"

holy cow! so i should have children in order to have someone to care for ME when i'm old? they call people who don't want to have children "selfish" (believe me, i can attest to it), and yet this seems to me the more selfish thing. going on the assumption that your children owe you a debt large enough just for bringing them into the world (something that they didn't ask for, mind you) that they should be responsible for you when you grow old is, in my mind, an inherently selfish act.

i know i'm going to get slammed for this. and this is not to say that i don't love and appreciate my parents, and yes, i will certainly attend to them as they age. what i question is the assumption parents make that their children SHOULD do this for them. i question why more people don't just admit that's why they have children in the first place - so as not to feel so alone in the world.

i'm going camping for the weekend now - i look forward to reading this thread of comments when i get back!

Amanda Marcotte

Fair enough, but the one-way needy stuff is the problematic thing. And the actual dependence...


"But I ask again, who will be there in the end? The nurse whose shift it is you happen to die on?"

Holy Moly Hugo...you need to start working out again because you get serious, when you have nothing to do with yourself...

BTW, don't depend upon your kids to be there either. Since today with smaller families and kids moving half way across country, you'll be lucky if they happen to be in the same region as you if you fall ill, never mind same state. You have to depend upon your friends and the 'family' you create, once your children are grown to do these things for you, as you'll do for them if the need arises...

I do a lot of stuff for friends that people USED to only do for families...and they respond in kind...I had my friends actually down as my childrens' guardians if something ever happened to me. It's a moot issue now as my children are adults, my granddaughter is ten, but the friends I had (and still have) I would have trusted raising my children.

There's nothing wrong with depending on good friends...


Let me clarify that I'm not suggesting people have children in order to give them end-of-life care. Rather, I am trying to make a point about autonomy. The young and the healthy are often reluctant to think about the inevitability that they will not always be so, and it's worth thinking about who will be there for them at those times.


My husband and I are childless. I don't know whether we will ever have children but I suspect it is highly unlikely, by our own choice. I am quite happy to be childless and I resent the notion that I should feel pressured by the highly publicized "ticking biological clock" that is supposed to be a concern of women my age. My thought is to let things take their course. If the circumstances are right to adopt (or conceive) a child we will, and if not, it was not meant to be.

I sometimes wonder whether I will regret my childlessness when I am 70, 80, or 90. But I think there are plenty of other sources of fulfillment and connectedness to the human race than raising one's own offspring. I don't really mind the notion that at the end I may be dependent on strangers. My main priority is to die with a clear conscience (if such a thing is possible!), with a sense of having lived life to the fullest, and a sense of having contributed my part.

There is also a huge difference in my mind between being dependent on others because one is forced into dependence by circumstances (such as illness or disability) and being pressured or forced into dependence based on a sexual division of labor that assumes that women should always be the primary caretakers of children.


I think you're talking about two different things. It's not dependence vs. independence. The way I see it, you have dependence and then you have interdependence. One could also make the distinction between financial dependence and emotional interdependence.

Dependence tends to bring bad news, implying an unequal arrangement of power within a relationship (or several) whereas interdependence seems to me like a healthy acknowledgement of our human nature.


"There is also a huge difference in my mind between being dependent on others because one is forced into dependence by circumstances (such as illness or disability) and being pressured or forced into dependence based on a sexual division of labor that assumes that women should always be the primary caretakers of children."

NYMOM said: No it should not be a 'burden' forced upon women if they do NOT want it, but it should be a 'right' we automatically have if we so wish. One that is ours ALONE to assign to someone else if we chose to do so...not something we have to contest and prove ourselves more worthy of then anyone else, as many would have women doing...


Delurking. Hugo, you have had some posts dear to my heart lately. My wife and I are going through some of the real life issues around these posts. We have been married for going on twenty years now. We got married a week after her 17th birthday. Our son was born nine years later. Our marriage was by love and by choice, but now we are both at a point in life where we are growing up and learning who we are as individuals. Your line, "Because if you're needed by someone, you can never rest assured that you're wanted by someone.", is very applicable to us at this point. My wife is struggling with that thought right now in life. I am enjoying watching her
grow. It is not easy though. Keep up the good work. I will keep reading.

Amber Taylor

Delurking to say that I find the prospect of having your partner at your side at the end of life to be a far safer bet than having a child there (which is beside the point for me, since I'm another childfree by choice type). We choose our partners but not our parents, or our children.


Not in any way to dis on those who choose not to have children, but the idea that a partner is a safer bet strikes me as very strange.

and it's worth thinking about who will be there for them at those times

This is a wake-up call to form social networks and care for others, so that others will care about you. Marrying or having children, by itself, doesn't guarantee you anything. I've sure we all have known some pretty awful people who found that having a spouse or kids doesn't mean they'll care for you if you taught them to hate you.

Friends, too, can be a social network. And frankly, having more than one or two people who are willing to go the extra mile for you is smart. I wouldn't want my care to fall on just one person.


Well, i'm a "mostly-lurker" -- i've posted once or twice, but not often.

I just had surgery, earlier this summer, to ensure i could NEVER have children (and incidentally, to ensure that i would never have a horrible menstrual period again -- i'll now get at most a day or two of bleeding -- which was as much a reason for doing it as the barrenness). I DO worry, sometimes, what i'll do in my "old age", if i have one. I'm middle-class at best, and i don't imagine i'll ever be affluent. Who WILL care for me? I don't know. But "to have people to take care of me when i'm old" was not, for me, sufficient justification for doing something that i know, have ALWAYS known, is utterly the wrong decision for me.

You're a Christian, Hugo, so it's sometimes irritating but never surprising that you conflate marriage/partnership/commitment with childbearing and -rearing. It is one of the deep and abiding things that bothers me about the Christian faith that it seems to believe that everyone in the whole world is called, sexually and spiritually, to one of two paths: marriage PLUS parenthood (or at least the potential for it), or lifelong celibacy.

Now, i won't even get into the fact that i'm polyamorous, and anti-government-marriage, and therefore even more at odds with your ideas about commitment and partnership -- suffice it to say that i do want, very deeply, to be a part of a loving and committed relationship. I'm in the process of having one fall apart right now, one i thought i'd be in for"ever", or at least for much longer, and it's just as deeply painful to me as it would be to a monogamously-inclined, non-barren woman. We had strong commitments to each other, financial and otherwise, and to have them fall apart is causing a lot of suffering which doesn't seem to me to be significantly reduced from what it would be if we were "married".

All of which is to say that "rhapsodize about being single and childless" hit me terribly the wrong way. I want to be childless, and single at least as far as the government is concerned -- but that's not to say that i'm not concerned for my future, and desperately desirous of love and commitment. It IS to say that i don't believe that human vocations, as far as love and sex are concerned, fall so neatly into slots; and it is also to say that your remark sounded terribly patronizing.


Every living thing in the universe dies alone.


And in space, no one can hear you scream!

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