Re: If It's Going To Make You Miserable, Don't Do It.

1

[Insert comparison between posited reasons not to have children and SWPL here.]


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 8:16 AM
horizontal rule
2
My mommy friends, sharp as they are, complain that they have lost hold of vocabulary, that they're fuzzier now, that they can't focus so much on things they used to care about, and this is consistent with what I've read about the hormonal changes that accompany parenthood. In this way, mothers literally do lose themselves, at least for five years or so. And there's a lot I still want to do professionally and personally -- as me, not as a person with distinctly different interests and brain chemistry.

I've heard this complaint, but interestingly, I've heard it from new fathers, so I'm positing sleep deprivation, rather than getting-knocked-up-kills-your-IQ.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 8:35 AM
horizontal rule
3

There are a lot of reasons people go on and on about how hard it is to raise children. I find myself doing it a lot to justify why I haven't done other things. "I'm sorry I'm starting class late, but I had trouble getting my son to school. God three year olds are a pain in the ass." Parents also develop a culture of competitive complaining. This sort of misery poker is fun & builds solidarity. It also lets people tacitly say that they are better parents than everybody else--look how much I have sacrificed!

That said, for me the amount of work that goes into parenting is a feature, not a bug. I have a neurotic, worrying personality, and if I'm not facing real problems, I invent them. My invented problems are often genuinely self destructive and crazy. Parenting keeps me too busy to destroy myself.

That last bit is probably not a common experience.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 8:38 AM
horizontal rule
4

2 -- Sure, but even if you get enough sleep (not really all that farther on) you still have something going that consumes a lot of energy and attention.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 8:40 AM
horizontal rule
5

Sure. But it's still not because hormones made you a different person, unless the same hormones are also affecting the dad.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 8:42 AM
horizontal rule
6

It's a perspective that I find really hard to understand - I always always always wanted children, and was lucky enough to be able have them when I wanted them, so I never did any of that soul-searching listing of pros and cons. I read something like that and just think, "If you don't want one, don't have one - what's the big deal?" Clearly it is a reasonably-sized deal for some people, but why?


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 8:50 AM
horizontal rule
7

Some people really don't enjoy having kids around, and I think that they shouldn't have children. pretty simple.

My folks had seven, none of the seven of us had more than three, and the seven adult grandchildren (the youngest is about 28) have two. The 16 year old grandchild has opted for lesbianism. The proud Emerson line is perishing.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 8:56 AM
horizontal rule
8

Also, in previous instances of this conversation it has been repeatedly noted that LB's children are preternaturally well behaved.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 9:05 AM
horizontal rule
9

hey..I very much don't want to sell parenthood to anyone who isn't enthusiastic about the idea -- if you don't want children, you really shouldn't have any..so do take care of this..


Posted by: jenny | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 9:10 AM
horizontal rule
10

If you call sitting rigidly in their seats and staring straight ahead without making a sound well-behaved, yes. LB is surprisingly old school about some things.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 9:11 AM
horizontal rule
11

Also I think sometimes people fixate so much on what it would be like to have a baby that they forget that actually, the baby bit goes past really quickly, and somewhere between 2 and 4 years later you've got another human being, albeit one who's a bit short and probably can't cook. But you can talk to them and they can go to the toilet by themselves and they can have small unobtrusive toys and they're usually quite good company. Having a baby isn't the only way to become a parent.


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 9:13 AM
horizontal rule
12

Honestly, on a day-to-day level, it's not that bad, once we got the wire hangers misunderstanding straightened out.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 9:20 AM
horizontal rule
13

If it was up to me kids would be born at age 1 or so and quit developing at age 4. I love that age. The beloved grandnephew is past 4 and he's becoming annoyingly human.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 9:24 AM
horizontal rule
14

Mostly, you can take care of your kids with the approximate level of fastidiousness and care that you take care of yourself with, and they'll live, and really they'll do just fine.

See really, a good portion of the time the level of care and fastidiousness with which I take care of myself is adequate to care for myself properly, but often enough it's really not. This is my main worry about having kids. If I can't take care of myself well enough enough of the time, why on earth should I think that I'd be able to take care of a small person.

Furthermore, I really don't do well without sleep. I think that my CPAP (even though I only manage to use it about half the night) is helping. I have been known to drop things when really exhausted.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 9:25 AM
horizontal rule
15

On the preturnaturally well-behaved front, they were delightfully sleepy babies, and easy to toilet train, but as children they're as badly behaved as anyone else's. I find them charming myself, but they really aren't paragons of perfect manners.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 9:28 AM
horizontal rule
16

11: Yep. The infant/toddler care part of parenting doesn't last that long, and you can shorten it by deciding how you're going to treat your children -- there are people pushing their five-year-olds around in strollers and feeding them Veggie Booty out of baggies, and there are people wandering around with perfectly ambulatory three-year-olds and taking them out for pizza. Depends on the kid, of course, but depends a great deal on what the parent decides is appropriate.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 9:31 AM
horizontal rule
17

5: Precisely.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 9:32 AM
horizontal rule
18

This would be a much better society if people took LB's advice in the post to heart. Many of my punk friends who have children are pretty laissez-faire when it comes to stuff/toys/consumables, and they're raising brilliant, funny, engaged kids. Often with only one parent/adult around most of the time. Children are a lot more resilient w/r/t material deprivation, and a lot LESS resilient to dishonesty and disinterest than most people seem to believe.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 9:33 AM
horizontal rule
19

This would be a much better society if people took LB's advice in the post to heart. Many of my punk friends who have children are pretty laissez-faire when it comes to stuff/toys/consumables, and they're raising brilliant, funny, engaged kids. Often with only one parent/adult around most of the time. Children are a lot more resilient w/r/t material deprivation, and a lot LESS resilient to dishonesty and disinterest than most people seem to believe.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 9:33 AM
horizontal rule
20

1) At minimum wage levels or thereabouts, in our material culture, two or more children might be stress or guilt inducing, especially for a single parent. Just sayin.

2) Sure sure easy to say "If you don't want to have children, don't have them". As easy as to say, "If you don't like people, stay away from them." There are these social and psych pressures, you see....

3) You are never free of a big dog's execretory schedule.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 9:35 AM
horizontal rule
21

I was thinking that, with regard to Sherry's post -- I'm pretty sure she's had dogs. At which point the excretory demands of an infant aren't wildly more onerous.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 9:39 AM
horizontal rule
22

Oh good. I was just lying in bed this morning fretting about how I won't be able to lie in bed fretting till my heart's content for much longer.

I was specifically fretting about the 10 mo - 2 yrs phase where they are learning to walk and you spend a lot of time following your child on their new sea legs.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 9:42 AM
horizontal rule
23

Crap, 18 &19 were me, and I swear I did not hit the post button twice, and that my Name and Email info were in the little boxes. Stupid technology.


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 9:45 AM
horizontal rule
24

As is usually the case, LizardBreath gets it right. I agree particularly with her point about the logistical requirements of childrearing being overstated. It makes me think of the first time I drove cross country after my eldest son was born. He didn't have a car seat (I am not sure if such things were even sold then), he had a cardboard box. He survived. Kids generally do.


Posted by: Idealist | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 9:49 AM
horizontal rule
25

Bob's cows are dogs.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 9:50 AM
horizontal rule
26

22: Don't get me wrong, you're going to have a lot of interrupted nights, and a fair amount of time chasing a kid who can move around but has no sense yet. But it doesn't go on for all that long.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 9:54 AM
horizontal rule
27

It makes me think of the first time I drove cross country after my eldest son was born. He didn't have a car seat (I am not sure if such things were even sold then), he had a cardboard box. He survived.

Yeah, but doing that would be illegal now.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 10:06 AM
horizontal rule
28

But it doesn't go on for all that long.

One thing I fret a little bit about is having several kids under age 5 or so.

(I need to be done having (biological) kids within 5 years or so. I think I've mentioned the medical stuff behind this before.) And Jammies and I like the idea of having 3-4 kids, because we both came from families like that, although we're not overly attached to a predetermined number.

But it does mean that there's some advantage to spacing kids close together, to leave ourselves options. But I fret a little bit that it'll feel right to go have that third kid, and then we'll be scrambling to raise three small children.

Of course, eventually the youngest will be four years old and it will have passed and we'll have fond memories. But right now it feels like I'm about to enter my first semester of a PhD program in Raising Small Children.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 10:07 AM
horizontal rule
29

True, but most of the onerous demands of modern parenting really aren't legal requirements.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 10:08 AM
horizontal rule
30

My mom said it doesn't get worse after four. My mom was a real trooper but having 4 kids younger than 6 was quite a test.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 10:08 AM
horizontal rule
31

29 to 27.

To 28, yep, multiple kids are much harder than one. Still, you'll manage fine.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 10:11 AM
horizontal rule
32

you can shorten it by deciding how you're going to treat your children

My parents were major believers in this. They never really pushed anything, but the moment I suggested I was ready, they were more than happy to let me move on.

The only thing that worries me slightly about trying to be a normal parent these days: do they even make the simple 4-stick-and-a-cloth-sling-on-wheels strollers anymore? The kind that you pull up to the bus, scoop the kid up in your arms, and then fold with one hand? Rather than that takes-up-more-space-than-a-wheelchair bullshit that seems to be all I see these days? If so, why does absolutely no one seem to use those strollers anymore?


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 10:13 AM
horizontal rule
33

Whoops, 32 was me.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 10:13 AM
horizontal rule
34

6: Clearly it is a reasonably-sized deal for some people, but why?

Presumably because there's a lot of pressure on women (in particular) to have children, such that they have to talk to themselves about it should they wind up not having any. I assume that's what Sherry's doing: talking to herself about it, wondering whether this means, say, that she's just a selfish person, wondering whether she'll regret it. It's perfectly understandable.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 10:14 AM
horizontal rule
35

Isn't the stroller thing about different aged children? Don't you have to have a certain muscle tone to be able to handle the four-sticks-and-a sling kind? Maybe not.

I think the ungodly bulky ones are the ones which are a carseat which snaps into a frame, which does offer some advantages for a baby.

(Oh hell, like I know.)


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 10:15 AM
horizontal rule
36

They do still have them -- more common is things that look solider and more complicated, but are still pretty light and fold pretty easily.

I think they've gotten less common because of car culture -- in the suburbs strollers are for strolling, not for trips that are going to include stairs or non-car forms of transportation. But you still see them in cities.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 10:16 AM
horizontal rule
37

When I articulate some of the things that put me off about having a child, I sound rigid and fussy

In all honesty, yep (I mean really - bright coloured plastic?). One of the good things about having children is that it knocks a little bit of the preciousness out of people.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 10:16 AM
horizontal rule
38

I don't think the folding Maclaren type buggies are much good for very tiny babies -- when they are still at the 'can't support their own head' stage.

They are still widely available, though.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 10:20 AM
horizontal rule
39

35: Part of it is the keeping kids in the stroller until they're fairly old, which means more double strollers. One of the advantages of NYC is that there's a lot of fairly short-distance daily walking, so you can get a fairly young kid on their feet mostly. I had to bully Sally a bit when she was two to three, and Newt was in the sling or the stroller -- we had one of those hook-on-to-the-back-of-the-stroller skateboardy things for her to ride on, but she didn't like it, so there was nothing for her to do but walk. She wasn't happy about it for a couple of months, but by 2 1/2 or so she walked everywhere by default.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 10:22 AM
horizontal rule
40

You could have taught her to skateboard!


Posted by: Cryptic Neds | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 10:22 AM
horizontal rule
41

35/38: Oh, I understand now. Yeah, those aren't great for a kid under four months or so, but really, at that size a carrier (sling or Snugli or something) is so much easier than a stroller.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 10:24 AM
horizontal rule
42

36.1: Ok, good to know. Whenever I see parents pushing those big strollers around Chicago, and trying to take the bus or the train, it just seems so sad. I mean, I'm happy to help in lifting the stroller, leaving seats so they can put it into the handicapped space, etc. But I never want to have to do that when I'm a parent, and I'm certain that my parents never did.

I figured there still had to be some sort of stroller out there manageable with one hand so a dad on his own could carry a kid in one hand and collapse the stroller with the other.

Also, some young person on the skate park shouldn't have that hard of a time with the baby in terms of living arrangement changes. A well party-proofed house seems remarkably similar to a well baby-proofed house. Hell, it's even easier because little kids can't reach as high as drunks and have the decency to use sippy cups like they should.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 10:26 AM
horizontal rule
43

35, 38, 41: Also good to know, and that sounds about right to me. I'm pretty sure I was in the stroller during the 6 months to 2 years sort of time. By 3, I have photographic evidence that I was on the leash instead (only sometimes, I'm told!).

You people have actually convinced me of the potential virtues of a sling. I'm gonna be one of those dads should I get the privilege one day.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 10:29 AM
horizontal rule
44

Stroller-wise, IIRC, the flimsy ones are called "umbrella strollers," available for next to nothing at WalMart et al, and not part of the usual SWPL paraphernalia. They are perhaps considered unsafe by virtue of the same flimsiness that makes them convenient. If you're taking buses in the right neighborhoods, though, they're all you'll see.

We used a Maclaren stroller, pretty damned expensive, and very sturdy/safe, but also quite light and one-hand-foldable. I loved it, but my partner deemed it too hard to push. She's agitating for a new one for the new baby, possibly a Bugaboo? Those ones that look like weird pods mounted on a hovercraft, and cost like $900. Madness.


Posted by: Marichiweu | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 10:31 AM
horizontal rule
45

eventually the youngest will be four years old and it will have passed and we'll have fond memories

And, once the oldest gets just a bit older, a captive, unpaid babysitter!

My three youngest kids are five and a half years from oldest to youngest. They were a lot of work when they all were young, but now they are a self-sufficient unit. They fight and fuss sometimes, but they take care of each other and will, I am pretty sure, be each other's best friends for life. So there also are benefits for all concerned when you have a bunch of kids who are close together in age.


Posted by: Idealist | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 10:31 AM
horizontal rule
46

This stroller discussion reminds me to thank LB for her doll-stroller recommendation for a present for a two-year-old. It was an enormous hit. When we brought it out for her, her eyes lit up instantly and she said "STROLLER!!!", then proceeded to play with it almost non-stop for days.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 10:35 AM
horizontal rule
47

You people have actually convinced me of the potential virtues of a sling. I'm gonna be one of those dads should I get the privilege one day.

Our doula is also a huge sling advocate. (RAWR! I USE GIANT SLINGS.) and we're totally gung-ho about them. Recently my brother sent us (unsolicited) a Baby Bjorn, which had been put on the shit list both by everyone here and by the doula, and I sniffed with condescension before calling him up to say thanks.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 10:35 AM
horizontal rule
48

heebie-geebie: fwiw, I know two couples who've recently done this dance with only a big-wheeled trike-stroller thing (for running with the kid, not taking into buildings), and a fold up stroller for other places 'cause they aren't such a pain in the ass. So you don't need an urban assault stroller, but as people note some of them transfer the center part into a car seat, which (assuming you have a big enough car to fit the rest of the bits in for 2 kids or whatever) is I guess a big part of the appeal.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 10:36 AM
horizontal rule
49

Yep. The infant/toddler care part of parenting doesn't last that long

In fairness, it doesn't always seem that way when you're in it. Grow up already, you insatiable little grubs!


Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 10:41 AM
horizontal rule
50

I got my niece one of these, and was super excited about it because I think it looks like so much fun. But they sort of whisked it out of sight and later said it was an outdoor toy or possibly a pool toy, which made me sad and grumpy.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 10:42 AM
horizontal rule
51

And, once the oldest gets just a bit older, a captive, unpaid babysitter!

Mmmhmmm.

My friends who have kids are either in the new parent stare-at-the-baby-for-hours-because-look-we-made-that-also-too-tired-to-do-much-else stage, or the stage where they have their second child and a three-year-old which is in some ways easier (they're a little more relaxed about infant care) and in some ways harder (three-year-old.)


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 10:42 AM
horizontal rule
52

The infant/toddler care part of parenting doesn't last that long

For one kid. For serial kids, this can be years and years....


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 10:42 AM
horizontal rule
53

a Baby Bjorn, which had been put on the shit list both by everyone here and by the doula

Here's one unsolicited data point: we hate our sling, love our Ergo Baby Carriers, and are coming to really like our hand-me-down Baby Björn. None of them are particularly comfortable for very long, but the latter two are easier to get a baby in and out of and easier (for us any way) to do things while the baby sleeps.


Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 10:44 AM
horizontal rule
54

What's wrong with the Baby Bjôrn?


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 10:45 AM
horizontal rule
55

53: Good to know. I'll hold off on being judgemental.

54: I don't know, but people have strong opinions.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 10:47 AM
horizontal rule
56

Slings rule, heebie, and you should definitely have one, but Baby Björn carriers aren't as bad as some people here say.

Also, be forewarned that your involvement with your child's excretory/egestive functions doesn't end when they stop wearing diapers, because self-ass-wiping mastery takes time to achieve. Even now I am regularly summoned to the bathroom with a cry of "I GOED POOP!"


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 10:47 AM
horizontal rule
57

Minny in 18: Children are a lot more resilient w/r/t material deprivation, and a lot LESS resilient to dishonesty and disinterest than most people seem to believe.

This is very true, but it doesn't make having children at all easy. The difficult part is the amount of attention and interest they demand--it will be the focus of your energy and time.

If someone is spending a lot of money on child accouterments, it is typically because they value conspicuous consumption in general, and even without kids would be accessorizing themselves.

The general trend of the thread seems to be "parenting is only really hard if you make it that way." I have to disagree. While many parents are busy making things hard for themselves, sometimes you just get children who need more attention.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 10:48 AM
horizontal rule
58

I don't know, but people have strong opinions.

how surprising!


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 10:51 AM
horizontal rule
59

Further: Not all parents who make things harder for themselves are misguided victims of peer pressure. We decided early on to adopt a labor-intensive parenting style because we felt that it would encourage the development of a caring, altruistic personality. This isn't the sort of decision you can justify with extensive empirical evidence, but it is not irrational either.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 10:54 AM
horizontal rule
60

28 - I do look back and wonder what the fuck I was thinking (#4 was born when #1 was 5y10m). And then I conclude that I wasn't really thinking, which may lend some weight to Sherry's theory. I think there's been some discussion of this here before: from my fairly extensive internet research, it seems like about half the people find the big shock in just having a baby, and the other half get their big shock when #2 arrives. I was one of the latter. #3 was basically a piece of piss. #4 was more work but just practically, not emotionally.

If you're lucky enough to just be able to get on and procreate, then I think there's a lot to be said for getting the infant/nappy/buggy/hard work bit out of the way as quickly as possible. I liked knowing that once I was done, I was done, and I wasn't going to have to go back to nappies and so on. And now they're all big enough to do grown-up stuff whenever needed, and I like that too.

34 - parsimon and bob, I sort of understand theoretically that such pressures exist, but I've never felt them myself, and never knowingly exerted them. My "why?" was a genuine question, not a "oh god, why on earth do people behave like that? type question.


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 10:54 AM
horizontal rule
61

The difficult part is the amount of attention and interest they demand--it will be the focus of your energy and time.

aaaaaaagh! Back to fretting! This is the kryptonite to this nice, reassuring post!


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 10:54 AM
horizontal rule
62

The difficult part is the amount of attention and interest they demand

Zackly. Beyond the sleepless and the expense and the plastic crap and the sexist Disney bullshit, that's been the hardest thing for me. I function best mentally when I have some measure of order and solitude, and since having kids I've had neither. Fortunately my expectations of myself are low.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 10:56 AM
horizontal rule
63

What's wrong with the Baby Bjôrn?

It's a terrible name to inflict on a kid, one that I was almost afflicted with.

Anyways, I expect that people who have decided they don't want to do something will find or invent reasons not to do it, even if those reasons are crap.

That said, you do have to devote time to your kids, just like you have to devote time to your SO; this is unworkable if you want to live like a 20-something hipster or Erdos.

max
['Limits.']


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 10:56 AM
horizontal rule
64

And, once the oldest gets just a bit older, a captive, unpaid babysitter!

Mmmhmmm indeed.

One of the main reasons we don't have kids is that by the time she was eleven Mrs OFE was essentially raising the other four on behalf of her dysfunctional mother. She reckons she'd paid all those dues by the time she left home.

Be careful with that one.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 10:57 AM
horizontal rule
65

I always like how asilon describes her family.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 10:57 AM
horizontal rule
66

Just look at asilon's blog, heebie. A grim visage of the future, when you will barely be able to post once a week.


Posted by: Cryptic neas | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 10:58 AM
horizontal rule
67

People often say, not unreasonably, that these feelings will change if one actually has a child. That's probably true, but it's not clear to me why that matters. It's good that we adapt to all sorts of situations, and sometimes we can want to adapt to them (being less wealthy while going to grad school, say), but it's not unreasonable as well to think that, while you know your feelings will change to some degree, you don't in fact want them to change because you're pretty happy with them how they are. Apparently people get pretty used to being in prison, for example, and don't rate it as bad at all after the first while, at least if they are not constantly being attacked, but that's no argument for thinking that one isn't right to think one doesn't want to go to prison. (I'm not saying being a parent is like prison- just that the fact that your feelings adapt isn't in itself an argument for thinking this is a good thing to do.)

On strollers, I must say that I hate the strollers of New York. They cause the 1# subway rule violation, as I'm sure less than 1% of people actually fold them up and hold their kids as they are supposed to. (If they didn't stroll kids around until they were 5 or 6 this would be less of a problem). And the people to have some huge stroller full of kids who could reasonable walk and then wait pathetically at the stairs for someone to carry it up for them are also annoying. Yes, people have to go out. But if they made kids walk who could walk and had a light stroller they could fold about 90% of the problem would go away.

Also, that post should be put together in a package w/ Megan's old post on how she burns with an uncontrollable fire for a baby, as any woman in her situation would.


Posted by: Matt (not the famous one) | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 10:59 AM
horizontal rule
68

Also, that post should be put together in a package w/ Megan's old post on how she burns with an uncontrollable fire for a baby, as any woman in her situation would.

Having babies and living in California is just what people want to do, if they look at it objectively and aren't crazy.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 11:04 AM
horizontal rule
69

Posting with a cute baby on my knee, I agree with LB. The real negatives aren't that big a deal, and a lot of the perceived negatives are utter nonsense.

I'd say the #1 real downside of kid-having is the difficulty of spontaneity, esp. big things - eg, a weekend roadtrip or even flight somewhere. Ironically, for the really little/portable ones, spontaneous things are easier than planned - kid is fed and dry and it's sunny out? Let's go somewhere! OTOH, can we be someplace at a specific time? Who knows?

More thoughts after I read comments.

If Kai lets me, of course.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 11:05 AM
horizontal rule
70

I can see the appeal, Idealist, of getting "done" with a particular thing. On the other hand, the 8.5 year spread between my two has some positive features, and I don't just mean babysitting.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 11:06 AM
horizontal rule
71

Bah. Asilon statt Idealist.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 11:08 AM
horizontal rule
72

60.last: My "why?" was a genuine question

I'm not sure how to answer it beyond what I wrote in 34. Having kids is one of life's greatest joys, by all, or most accounts, so passing that by is something to be very soberly considered. Then there's the fact that women are generally thought to of course just naturally want to have children, and that a life without them is somehow lacking. So there's a "oh you poor thing" message from society in general.

(For what it's worth, I didn't decide not to have kids; it became clear at a certain point that I'd be risking my health, and that of the child, were I to do so. Then the question became whether I wanted them enough to adopt.)

On a more practical level, if one decides not have children, the rest of life's planning is affected: everything from whom one should date seriously (does he want kids? uh-oh) to the career plan one pursues.

So the question becomes, during a certain phase of life (mid-30s?), a big deal.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 11:11 AM
horizontal rule
73

difficulty of spontaneity, esp. big things

Now, if one is the sort that won't even drop by a friend's house for dinner without three days advance notice, this is perhaps not as big a concern.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 11:12 AM
horizontal rule
74

The real negatives aren't that big a deal.

You know, this is exactly the sort of thing that people are completely incapable of accurately judging for other people.

Most likely, the life you'll have with children is different than the life you'll have without them. Perhaps dramatically so. That doesn't make either path wrong, just different.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 11:13 AM
horizontal rule
75

70: The two-minute spread between my two has features both positive and negative, as I suspect mrh is coming to know.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 11:14 AM
horizontal rule
76

I did once have a bizarre conversation with a colleague where he randomly started telling me how he regretted having kids. (His two daughters are in their 20s.) How you are never free again, because you'll always worry about them.

I think this colleague is a few bricks short of a load for many other reasons, and half the crap that comes out of his mouth is shock-value anyway. But it was a very strange conversation nevertheless.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 11:16 AM
horizontal rule
77

Rob in 57 and 59: This is perfectly true -- children do take a whole heck of a lot of work, and how much work they take depends very much on the child. Even short of kids with health problems or other special needs, there's a lot of variation on how much attention and support they need. I was worrying that the post would make it sound as if I thought the effort involved was minimal.

Still, the kinds of things Sherry was talking about -- six bags to go anyplace, giant plastic things everywhere, and so on -- a lot of that stuff really is optional.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 11:18 AM
horizontal rule
78

It's weird that that's a bizarre conversation. If it's not permissible to express regret at having had children (separately, of course, from the merits of the children themselves), that's definitely going to contribute to the idea that of course it's something you want to do. People express regret about jobs, spouses, homes, and lots of other decisions they made. Why not regret having had children?


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 11:20 AM
horizontal rule
79

Most likely Beyond any shadow of a doubt, the life you'll have with children is different than the life you'll have without them. Two roads diverging, and all that, though neither is particularly less traveled by.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 11:22 AM
horizontal rule
80

the sexist Disney bullshit

I must say I am getting a leetle bit pissed off with "The Disney Princesses.com [tm]". Although, frankly, the mouthful of language that I received from little four-year-old Lucretia Katherine when I raised the point of view that Princess Aurora from Sleeping Beauty was a bit of a sap and a waste of space, gave me new respect for the DPs as role models for young ladies.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 11:22 AM
horizontal rule
81

79: Yeah, i messed up in editing that. My original read "Most likely the life you'll have with children is dramatically different ..." ah well.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 11:24 AM
horizontal rule
82

78: I don't think it's that weird -- it's perceived as utterly off limits to express regret there, I think because it comes off as guilt-tripping the children for something they had no control over. "You ruined my life by being born, you little bastards!" Not that bad, of course, if you're not that evil about how you express it, but you can see how it could come across that way.

In a context where it couldn't possibly get back to the children, I suppose regret for having kids would be less taboo.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 11:25 AM
horizontal rule
83

80: She sounds like a right-thinking little Borgia. Have you bought her a My-First-Poison-Ring™ yet?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 11:27 AM
horizontal rule
84

A better reason to worry up-front, then; some fraction of the people out there do regret having had children, but aren't able or willing to tell you that. Selection bias at its finest.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 11:27 AM
horizontal rule
85

80: "Daddy, you can be a real cunt sometimes!"


Posted by: Otto von Bisquick | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 11:29 AM
horizontal rule
86

My beloved grandnephew (4 y.o.) gave my sister (his grandmother) a little Sleeping Beauty + Cinderella sandwich box for her birthday. He spent a long time looking for something and instantly decided that that was the right gift when he saw it. He thinks his grandmother is the most beautiful woman in the world. Those Disney archetypes are pretty powerful.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 11:29 AM
horizontal rule
87

82: I am trying to think of a situation where someone could say "I really wish I hadn't had you" and have it not come across as awful or at least unbelievably sad. I'm not coming up with much.

I suspect that children count as things that one isn't permitted to regret because they're persons that one had a hand in making. That is, they're not just a really expensive purchase, and they weren't an adult other-party to the decision.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 11:31 AM
horizontal rule
88

but people have strong opinions.

We're all bozos on this bus. Seriously, don't listen to a one of us. And the books are worse.
</self-negating advice mode> ...but I do mean it.

And Jammies and I like the idea of having 3-4 kids, because we both came from families like that, although we're not overly attached to a predetermined number.

Because I contain multitudes of contradictions, let me say that I absolutely recognize that feeling, as it applied in our case (and we acted accordingly). Attempt at anecdotal advice based on our experience.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 11:33 AM
horizontal rule
89

One of my daughters picked up this Disney princess book at the library. Plot synopsis of nearly every story: girl has problem, girl marries boy, problem solved. Fucking Christ, I'm glad they weren't around when I found it, because there was a sudden, involuntary flurry of expletives. I'd sooner give them a copy of The Anarchist Cookbook.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 11:33 AM
horizontal rule
90

82: I am trying to think of a situation where someone could say "I really wish I hadn't had you" and have it not come across as awful or at least unbelievably sad. I'm not coming up with much.

One would have to somehow make it clear that they would be saying the same thing no matter how great the child was, and in fact no child could be greater than the child who is nonetheless regretted.

A woman in my department's 20-year-old son died a couple months ago. He was their only child, they saved lots of money so he could be completely prepared for an Ivy League school, which he got into, and he died of some heart condition while running a 10K or a 5K or a marathon or something, in his sophomore year. This convinces me that if I have children, I want to have more than one. Either 0, 2, 3, or 4 I suppose.


Posted by: Cryptic nad | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 11:36 AM
horizontal rule
91

74: the life you'll have with children is different than the life you'll have without them. Perhaps dramatically so. That doesn't make either path wrong, just different.

I like this plain-speaking.

Weirdly, or not, I consider it not unlike the experience of other vagaries in life: you might end up having cancer! Or diabetes, or any number of other things that call for notable adjustment. These things can happen, and your life changes, and what you must not, cannot do, is wring your hands about what has happened and what has not. Planning a life course and step-by-step executing it is not always the way of things.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 11:36 AM
horizontal rule
92

We've been watching the PowerPuff girls recently, which is a pretty decent princess antidote. In fact, one of the supervillains is a princess.

It is interesting to see how the show interacts with the kids already-entrenched notions of gender. Both boy-child and girl-child love the show, and boy child really loves it. But boy child feels that he can't pretend to be any of the powerpuff girls, because he is a boy. So he pretends to be Mojo Jojo.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 11:37 AM
horizontal rule
93

I'd sooner give them a copy of The Anarchist Cookbook.

If the Weatherpeople had had parents as foresighted as you, they wouldn't have blown themselves up.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 11:41 AM
horizontal rule
94

Great, rob, now you've doomed your children to a lifetime of ecstasy fuelled dance parties in glittering, laser-lit superclubs.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 11:41 AM
horizontal rule
95

89: That's the sort of incident that makes me roll my eyes at people who make claims about how very different boys and girls are even when totally isolated from sexist culture. I mean, maybe they are, but how on earth would anyone living in the US know?

I had a hell of a time not launching into a sanctimonious lecture to the children after the scenes I complained about in Marley and Me, explaining that "Actually, sweethearts, I don't think I've shortchanged you or been a bad parent by working outside the home, whatever the Jennifer Aniston character says about it. That's fiction, rather than something to learn life-lessons from. And anyway, don't you think that someone who loses it when their perfectly sturdy preschooler is knocked down by their Labrador (something which will inevitably happen several times a day in any household with a little kid and an energetic dog, with no bones broken or harm done) is too pathetic to listen to?" But I contented myself with grinding a layer of enamel off my molars.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 11:41 AM
horizontal rule
96

The Anarchist Cookbook is a fun read for a kid.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 11:42 AM
horizontal rule
97

This convinces me that if I have children, I want to have more than one.

An heir and a spare, as it were.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 11:42 AM
horizontal rule
98

The Disney Princesses Anarchist Cookbook is actually a pretty good read.

"Now, Lucretia, be careful because some of these instructions don't work. Princess Jasmine is actually much more likely to blow her fucking hand off playing around with potassium perchlorate"


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 11:43 AM
horizontal rule
99

You know, LB, given 95, I wonder if you haven't inadvertently exposed another negative externality of child-rearing; going to see awful, awful movies like Marley & Me.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 11:44 AM
horizontal rule
100

94, he said the lad wants to be Mojo Jojo, not HIM.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 11:45 AM
horizontal rule
101

Actually Dora the Explorer is pretty cool, although then she goes and does a Christmas special in which she turns into a princess!

(This was caught up for us in a more general battle about long hair. We had to sit LK down in front of a load of pictures of Lady Di to establish that it was not, in fact, constitutive of being princessy)


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 11:47 AM
horizontal rule
102

Yeah, mostly we offload the 'taking them to movies' part of parenting on my mother or parents of friends -- I've seen remarkably few children's movies in the last nine years. But we had an impulsive moment, and the two of them were set on it. I amused myself mostly by thinking wistfully that Owen Wilson sure is fetching, and wondering what on earth happened to his nose, and how many times?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 11:48 AM
horizontal rule
103

We had to sit LK down in front of a load of pictures of Lady Di to establish that it was not, in fact, constitutive of being princessy)

Excellent. Roman Holiday could be screened as additional evidence.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 11:49 AM
horizontal rule
104
Posted by: | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 11:50 AM
horizontal rule
105

Not only have I become a princess, I am also a mermaid.


Posted by: Dora la Exploradora | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 11:51 AM
horizontal rule
106
Posted by: | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 11:52 AM
horizontal rule
107

"Lucrezia, the whole point of bombs is blowing other people up. You don't want to blow yourself up, they way your little friend Melisande did. And one of the main ways of not blowing yourself up is to to attach the correct wire to the negative pole of the detonator."


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 11:55 AM
horizontal rule
108

Pocahontas was one of the worst 90 minutes of my life. Soft core child pornography.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 11:56 AM
horizontal rule
109

Since the dawn of time, octopuses have yearned to destroy the mermaids.


Posted by: Dora la Exploradora | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 12:00 PM
horizontal rule
110

OT: What the hell is the Israeli government trying to accomplish with a ground invasion of Gaza?


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 12:03 PM
horizontal rule
111

re: 110

Lights blue touch paper, stands back ...


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 12:04 PM
horizontal rule
112

I had a hell of a time not launching into a sanctimonious lecture to the children after the scenes I complained about in Marley and Me

That was very good of you! I give my kids that sort of lecture all the time, and now they generally roll their eyes and join in.

||
Live-blogging of actual speech from the 6 year old, re those gender values: (She has drawn pictures of DogGirl and CatBoy, who are arch enemies.) "I don't know why I drew CatBoy with long hair. Oh yeah, I remember, it's because boys with long hair are evil."
|>


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 12:05 PM
horizontal rule
113

I'm afraid I'd have been a bit controlling as a parent: what, princessy gender-role stuff? No way, josephina! Let's go ride our bikes in the woods and then, er, make mud-pies work in the garden!

A friend a few years ago was very fretful that her daughter was obsessed with wandering around the house trailing a long blanket as a gown and wearing a make-shift tiara. It was the Mermaid movie that had done it, I think.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 12:06 PM
horizontal rule
114

I am not a fan of the Disney princesses, but I think Disney is just capitalizing on princess nonsense that was already there. Also, the handful of little girls I know who are obsessed with the princess stuff tend to play things like how the princesses are going to beat the dragon with their lightsaber. It's made me a little bit less worried about the whole princess nonsense.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 12:15 PM
horizontal rule
115

There's the Reform princess, Christina, who corresponded with Descartes, hunted bears, and tried to conquer Naples.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 12:16 PM
horizontal rule
116

Christina also founded Delaware, when she was only ten years old.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 12:23 PM
horizontal rule
117

I think Disney is just capitalizing on princess nonsense that was already there

To a large extent, yes, but they're adding to it with images of wasp-waisted, big-boobed young women which are then attached to every little-girl product imaginable.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 12:23 PM
horizontal rule
118

One of the touchier subjects surrounding the decision to have children (and how many to have) is the environmental footprint of the child (and later adult). The environmental footprint of an additional human being, even an environmentally conscious one, is huge relative to all the little adjustments we can make as individuals like recycling or driving a hybrid. My parents chose to stop at two for precisely this reason, believing that simply replacing themselves was all they could justify.

I do think it's worth taking into consideration as one of the factors in the decision to have a child. I don't think the environment is as distressed as many on the left think it is, but it's obvious that reducing environmental impact is necessary in order to head off some truly horrible consequences down the line.


Posted by: Togolosh | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 12:24 PM
horizontal rule
119

I'm not sure that listing princesses who are, like, okay is really the answer.

Plus! asilon's daughter thinks boys with long hair are evil !?!


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 12:24 PM
horizontal rule
120

Christina was not "OK". She was super.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 12:27 PM
horizontal rule
121

119: Well, that's the point. Obviously she's not getting that from asilon, but if you look at cartoon images, you get all the gender roles (for long-haired boy=evil, I think that's probably Japanese -- Pokemon villains and the like.) You can talk casually about not tolerating 'princessy' stuff, or entertainment that reinforces pernicious gender roles, but IRL not exposing your kids to that sort of thing at all involves either becoming Amish, or locking them in the basement all day.

Making it clear that you think it's asinine is easier, and is probably sufficient, but what the kid is exposed to, and seizes on as attractive, really isn't up to you barring herculean and weird efforts to isolate them from other kids their age.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 12:30 PM
horizontal rule
122

120: It's alright, John. We know you want to be her.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 12:31 PM
horizontal rule
123

Also, she was King of Sweden, not Queen.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 12:32 PM
horizontal rule
124

118: Some people take this sort of thinking to the extreme.


Posted by: Otto von Bisquick | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 12:34 PM
horizontal rule
125

121: My first thought was "is that the daughter who is into manga and anime?"


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 12:34 PM
horizontal rule
126

121: I know. I would find it very frustrating, and I suspect would have trouble watching the kids' exposure to it all without having fits myself. I think I might be in fussbudget mode raising any hypothetical children, and would constantly be having to rein in my urge to limit their tv-watching and so on.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 12:38 PM
horizontal rule
127

The Anarchist Cookbook is a fun read for a kid.

I pestered my dad into buying it for me when I was 12. Good times.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 12:41 PM
horizontal rule
128

Ha. MJ once tried to dissuade his five-year-old, princess-obsessed niece from selecting the princess cupcake at the bakery, by patiently explaining to her that princesses paid for their fancy dresses and jewels by taxation of the peasantry, the economic enslavement of serfs, etc., and wouldn't she rather have an octopus cupcake or a flower cupcake? This ended, predictably, in tears -- and the purchase of a princess cupcake. MJ's niece, at five, is smarter than he will ever be.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 12:41 PM
horizontal rule
129

My wife sounds like Emerson. Loves loves loves the kiddies in that 1-4 age range.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 12:44 PM
horizontal rule
130

I remember being very pleased to find a copy of Steal This Book as a young teen. Not so much with the explosives (some, maybe) but a wholesome education on living off the system.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 12:47 PM
horizontal rule
131

My parents were hippies, and at various times there were attempts to rein in pernicious 'boy's stuff' in exactly the same manner that some want to rein in the princessy crap.

So, no toy guns, no militaristic toys, etc etc. And when I pestered my dad to make me a wooden gun like a friend had he made me a wooden sword instead [swords being somehow less militaristic or some such]. IIRC, I just turned the sword around and made gun noises with it.

It's one of those Knut/Cnut versus waves things, innit...

I suspect reigning in the worst excesses is the best you can hope to achieve.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 12:47 PM
horizontal rule
132

129: Contrariwise, my dad has said that 5-12, or some range thereabouts, was the best: Old enough to do stuff with, not old enough to be angsty teens.

I'm surprised this princess thing is such a big deal to so many people. If the kid is into it, and you make sure in other ways that [s]he knows that life is not only about frilly dresses and being saved by a prince, isn't time to chill out?


Posted by: Otto von Bisquick | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 12:52 PM
horizontal rule
133

129: I'm with your dad on the age ranges -- preschoolers I can take or leave, but schoolage kids are great. Dunno about teens, haven't had them yet.

The princess stuff is maddening because it's so painfully retrograde, and it's so dominant over any other cultural message to girls in that age group.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 12:58 PM
horizontal rule
134

swords being somehow less militaristic or some such

A common mistake made by the toy industry. In fact, although a real gun is much more dangerous than a real sword, a toy sword (particularly a wooden one which is, basically, a stick) is a much better weapon than a toy gun.

I was advised of this by little Napoleon Adolf, as he leaned on the fence of the playground of his multi-ethnic nursery school, sucked ruminatively on his apple juice, pointed at an Italian child and muttered "just like a guinea, he brings a gun to a sword fight".


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 12:59 PM
horizontal rule
135

131: My parents didn't want me to have G.I. Joes because of the implicit violence, but I didn't particularly care because I always found action figures boring anyway, not being inclined to the imagination of stories and scenarios. They also tell of a time when they gave me something called a "Sasha Doll," which was apparently a semi-androgynous doll marketed to parents who wanted to see if their boys wanted to play with dolls, and I promptly threw it across the room in disgust.


Posted by: Otto von Bisquick | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 1:01 PM
horizontal rule
136

125 - no, it's the 12 year old who's the manga fan. I did quiz Buttercup some more, and it seemed to be an off-the-cuff justification of why she'd drawn him that way rather than reflecting anything else she's picked up. Girls with short hair (which includes her and the 12 year old sister) are evil too. But you know, she talks constantly, some of it will make sense, some of it is just bollocks.

Earlier today she was handing out medicine. C asked her if she were a doctor or a nurse. "Nurse." "Doctors make more money." "Oh, I'm a doctor!"

126 - LB in 121 is about where I am. It is frustrating, but it makes for interesting (if sometimes repetitive) conversations.


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 1:01 PM
horizontal rule
137
Posted by: | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 1:02 PM
horizontal rule
138

[s]he knows that life is not only about frilly dresses and being saved by a prince, isn't time to chill out?

For me, it triggers all sorts of deeper fears about what will be implanted in her value system longterm. "Value system" isn't quite right - I trust her value system will be just fine. More like, what will be implanted in the monologue of the little devil sitting on her shoulder.

So that when she gets to middle school, for example, and she knows that what's on the inside of a person is what's important, but she is bombarded by a social group which values girls for being thin and pretty...how resilient will she be? I'm sure she'll long on a certain level to be thin and pretty, because it looks like there are such extensive glamorous rewards associated with it, from the perspective of a tween.

I think tween girls are often thrust abruptly into a shockingly horrendous world, and your fear as a parent is that you can only equip them so well, and so you put undue weight on things like a five-year-old's obsession with "wasp-waisted, big-boobed princesses".


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 1:03 PM
horizontal rule
139

133.2: Right, and many girls do internalize it.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 1:03 PM
horizontal rule
140

Agreed. Plus shit like "I don't want plastic in my home"--you know what? You get over it.


Posted by: Bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 1:08 PM
horizontal rule
141

Is the objection to plastic an aesthetic one or is it toxic/environmental? Me, I just hate having the crap underfoot. Strangely, I can't get my 7-month-old to pick up her own damn toys.


Posted by: Klug | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 1:13 PM
horizontal rule
142

My wife has mild objections to plastic on toxic/environmental grounds. So we don't buy any, although her objections are mild enough that we haven't thrown out all the plastic toy gifts we've received. (Just many of them.)


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 1:20 PM
horizontal rule
143

Heebie, fwiw PK hated a sling and loves the baby bjorn--you might want to hold off tossing it until little HJ has made its preferences known.


Posted by: Bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 1:20 PM
horizontal rule
144

If the kid is into it, and you make sure in other ways that [s]he knows that life is not only about frilly dresses and being saved by a prince, isn't time to chill out?

Frilly dresses are fine. My girls like to dress up in femmy things sometimes, and their beaten-up Carhartt jackets add a nice tomboy accent. I won't mind if they work the salvation-by-prince narrative into their play stories as long as they grown up aware that they're just as capable of saving the prince's sorry ass themselves.

shit like "I don't want plastic in my home"--you know what? You get over it.

You can refuse to buy plastic yourselves, but the only way to keep from acquiring plastic crap is to prohibit all manner of presents and hand-me-downs. Good luck with that.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 1:21 PM
horizontal rule
145

Yeah, while I'm a huge sling-advocate, it's up to the baby; different babies like different carriers. I just had sling-happy babies, but that's no guarantee for anyone else.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 1:22 PM
horizontal rule
146

"boys with long hair are evil."

PK would be thrilled with this.


Posted by: Bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 1:24 PM
horizontal rule
147

138: Interesting, and I suppose obvious. (You can tell I haven't spent much time thinking about these issues.) I guess my comment sprung from jms's 128, and the consequent insta-reaction that if depriving a child of princess paraphernalia is going to lead to tears, than it's just not worth it, as princess-exposure is likely to constitute a relatively small part of the kid's formative influences.


Posted by: Otto von Bisquick | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 1:24 PM
horizontal rule
148

144.2: The worst is the stuff from the dollar: cheap, fragile and bound to be environmentally disastrous and toxic.


Posted by: Klug | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 1:25 PM
horizontal rule
149

139 crossed with 138, obviously.

Otto's 132.2 just surprises me: I'm surprised this princess thing is such a big deal to so many people. If the kid is into it, and you make sure in other ways that [s]he knows that life is not only about frilly dresses and being saved by a prince, isn't time to chill out?

The kid is into it simply because it's pushed on her at a time when she's just beginning to seek out pictures of where she fits in, what she should be, what she should aspire to. It's going to be formative in one way or another.

Life is not only about frilly dresses and being saved by a prince ... no, in fact life is not about that at all, in the first place. Mitigation of this story-line is perhaps the best we can do, but I'm not sure it can be completely overcome; rather, it will be at uneasy odds with any earned wisdom that actually life is about ongoing cooperation, acceptance, support, striving, learning, pursuit, overcoming, and so on.

(/lecture)


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 1:26 PM
horizontal rule
150

I won't mind if they work the salvation-by-prince narrative into their play stories as long as they grown up aware that they're just as capable of saving the prince's sorry ass themselves.

conversely, there's nothing actually evil about growing up and still being into pretty dresses and babies (as I was recently reminded by a four year old of my acquaintance).


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 1:28 PM
horizontal rule
151

Awkward experience: Being at a prof's house and referring to his long-haired and dress wearing child who just left the room as "your daughter," only to be immediately told that that is "my son." He was cool about it, though.


Posted by: Otto von Bisquick | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 1:29 PM
horizontal rule
152

And! The whole time I was writing 149, I thought: alright, alright, but dress-up is cool, and you know it.

The salvation story has a long history that goes back before the princess dealie.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 1:30 PM
horizontal rule
153

I won't mind if they work the salvation-by-prince narrative into their play stories as long as they grown up aware that they're just as capable of saving the prince's sorry ass themselves.

Of course, plenty of the Modern Love stories are by women who believe these are the only two options.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 1:32 PM
horizontal rule
154

We had a scare in my family when my Portland nice started getting into fashion and shit, but fortunately she turned out to be a lesbian.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 1:39 PM
horizontal rule
155

"niece"


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 1:40 PM
horizontal rule
156

150: Well, yeah. This is one of the annoying things about the princess narrative, that the pretty dress turns into a shorthand for the whole prince/rescue/happily ever after thing. Nothing wrong with the pretty dress in itself, assuming it's not getting in the way of anything you actually want to do (see earlier rants about painful shoes, passim). Same thing with babies and family life.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 1:48 PM
horizontal rule
157

ack! cant say what all i want to with kai now asleep in my arm - thus no caps.

You know, this is exactly the sort of thing that people are completely incapable of accurately judging for other people.

well yes, but only someone who's done something can offer a view at all. is the water cold? not as bad as you'd think. person b cant know person a's tolerance for cold water, but he at least has a sense of whether his expectations were realistic. if i thought having kids meant no more reading, or constant barney-watching, then i'd find out it doesn't - i dont read quite as much as i did (altho it's tv that ive mostly given up), and we've kept a reasonable lid on tv/vids for her (parsi, dont know why you think it would be futile or whatever to limit tv; iris gets an hour or 2 every other day, and she only agitates for more if shes gotten something new/exciting from the library. we're very comfortable with her tv time, and shes happy with it).

im not disputing any person's perception of the tradeoffs that she would personally have to deal with - im happy if fewer reluctant parents inflict their children on the world - but if someone has unrealistic ideas of the objective realities.... Babies don't need 6 bags. some children, at least, can be perfect diners at the finest restaurants. etc.

jesus is right that its a vast change, and yet, depending on your baseline lifestyle, it may not be that big a change at all. this is my simple takeaway:

having kids doesn't make you give up what you care about; it makes you give up the things you don't care about. the kids help you sort out which is which.

the key exception is that, for some people, the thing(s) they care about most is/are literally incompatible (with good parenting, at least) - for instance, spur-of-the-moment international travel. But I think [Kai just woke up and is being nursed, hence the return to caps] that non-parents tend to exaggerate how much a kid will make them give up, plus misunderstand that they will get choices about what they will have to give up.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 1:57 PM
horizontal rule
158

Wow. 157 turned out really wordy. Maybe this will be quicker:

as princess-exposure is likely to constitute a relatively small part of the kid's formative influences.

Small relative to what? Most kids aged 3-9 (guessing at the upper bound there) have one or two obsessive interests that color pretty much their whole childhoods. One of the things about modern marketing - best embodied by the princesses - is to actually extend the reach of those interests. Iris' first best friend has had, AFAIK, 3 birthday parties in her life, and all 3 have been Disney Princess parties. Another friend literally wears at least one Princess-branded item every single day of her life.

Furthermore, the attached narratives are almost uniformly awful, usually in every respect. Pocahontas might be the worst, but I never could sit all the way through it, and for all I know one of the others is worse still. But there's nothing redeeming at all in these things - the occasional bits of faux-feminism that are thrown in are all the worse for their co-optation.

Trying to raise a strong woman in a household full of Disney Princess crap is sleeping with the enemy - you're forced to spend your time either biting your tongue or telling her, a la MJ in 128, that the things she likes are terrible. Raising children is hard enough without an enemy agent constantly undermining your efforts.

Huh. Not so quick.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 2:10 PM
horizontal rule
159

parsi, dont know why you think it would be futile or whatever to limit tv

The TV reference just stood in for the child's exposure to consumerism and sexism in general, so it wasn't TV only, or specifically.

JRoth, you're a Waldorf parent, which makes all the difference in the world, and is probably the way I'd go as well if I were a parent.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 2:12 PM
horizontal rule
160
Posted by: | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 2:13 PM
horizontal rule
161

Plastic toys:

Usually ugly, often offensively branded/gendered, almost always cheap/disposable/planet-killing. I'll admit that, personally, the aesthetic concern is primary, but I"m an architect, so I claim the right to put a lot of value on that. But if you compare, say, the plastic crap kitchen with a wooden one, you see that one looks more or less like a real kitchen, just smaller, while the other looks like a cartoon of a kitchen. Children enjoy cartoons, but, IME, they don't want cartoonish things - they want grownup things*. Pushing cartoonish things on them is demeaning, and I kind of think it's on purpose (on the part of the manufacturers/designers) - infantalizing them while plying them with consumer mentality, planned-obsolescence crapola.

That said, we certainly have some plastic toys. We're very fortunate not to have the kind of relatives who define love by the volume of plastic crap they give a child, but still the stuff makes its way into your home. And that's not a big deal. But I completely understand the feeling of Sherry; a friend described his house as looking like "Fisher Price threw up." That's a pretty unpleasant thought for anyone who cares about the simple life, or just well-made objects.

* Usually tacky versions - kids have terrible taste - but not cartoonish


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 2:19 PM
horizontal rule
162

Sometimes, I can help wondering what TOS' normal day looks like: eg is he/she/it having similar interactions with real people?


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 2:23 PM
horizontal rule
163

151 - I'm sure he's used to it and wouldn't hold it against you. My eldest has short hair at the moment, and she was at the theatre just before Christmas and the elderly couple in the row behind started discussing, loudly enough for her to hear clearly, whether she was a boy or a girl. I wasn't there, so was coming up afterwards with various smartarse things she could have said to make them aware she could hear them, but she protested that that would have been rude!


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 2:23 PM
horizontal rule
164

What scares the hell out of me about having kids is daycare. One of my coworkers told me it was like $1500/month for his kid. Is that right? Where in the budget do you find an extra $1500/month (or more), especially with the extra housing/feeding/diaper bills? ACK.


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 2:33 PM
horizontal rule
165

So much to say, but no time -- as 3 months old jr has just hit the sack, meaning it is time for me to hit the sack if I want to get a decent sleep. I'll just note that LB, as usual, is killing it. Dead on.


Posted by: W. Breeze | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 2:35 PM
horizontal rule
166
Posted by: | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 2:41 PM
horizontal rule
167

164: For most people, day care cannot be used as a way that a primary wage earner retains her full time job, simply because the care costs far more than what a normal person will be able to make during those hours.

Instead, day care is a luxury bought in the middle of a financial muddle. It is a limited amount of time a primary care giver pays for in order to have a short vacation to the adult world.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 2:42 PM
horizontal rule
168

The environmental footprint of an additional human being, even an environmentally conscious one, is huge relative to all the little adjustments we can make as individuals like recycling or driving a hybrid.

Hurray! I can stand in the shower as long as I want! And throw all those goddam catalogues in the trash!


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 2:45 PM
horizontal rule
169

Not that I would, of course.


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 2:47 PM
horizontal rule
170

tsk, mcmc. We have to compensate for all the over-breeders.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 2:50 PM
horizontal rule
171

JRoth, I think you're looking at this from one side only. The 'how's the water' thing cuts both ways.

If, for example, you have kids in your mid-to-late twenties as many do, you really don't have much of an idea what your life a 45, say, would look like if you didn't have them. You can probably find a 45ish couple that will tell you the waters fine (but it's too late to drop in). And of course, others who regret it.

I agree that some of the things in the linked discussion seem superficial; perhaps that's more an issue of articulating what she's concerned about, perhaps not. And while I also agree that for most people there are relatively few things we do that are perhaps incompatible with good parenting (particularly with average resources) I can't help but wonder if your argument that things won't change much as being a bit of a delusion from the inside.

It seems to me, from indirect experience, and just thinking about it now that there are a few pretty fundamental shifts that happen when you have children, besides the obvious. Of course this is all situational, but on average: you are far less likely to take career and financial risks, you are far less likely to move very often, or to move very far. Where you live will much more likely depends on schools and travel to your job than it would otherwise. You have a pretty significant financial obligation you otherwise wouldn't have, which colors all the above. Your daily schedule, including meal times and meal content, may be radically shifted. This is just the stuff that affects how you live each and every day (so how can it be considered a `small' change, a priori?), let alone things like vacations (probably very different) etc. Of course some people do all sorts of things with children in tow, and raise them well to boot. I'm not talking about what is possible, but rather what is likely.

So yeah, I'm pretty sure that, particularly from the inside of whatever path you've chosen, you can't see how small or large the change will really be.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 2:54 PM
horizontal rule
172

having kids doesn't make you give up what you care about

JRoth, it's nice when the above is true, and I certainly hope it for any parents... but I've seen pretty strong empirical evidence that it sometimes isn't actually true.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 2:59 PM
horizontal rule
173

158: OK, I can see where you and others are coming from, then. This thread is reminding me that I am fairly out of touch I am with the lived experience of parenting, the content of Disney movies, and the inner lives of young girls.


Posted by: Otto von Bisquick | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 3:03 PM
horizontal rule
174

Otto hasn't seen the wall of pink recently, I suspect.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 3:06 PM
horizontal rule
175

Can I just say that this thread is giving me faith that we will have a good upcoming generation of querolous self-righteous free-thinking liberal kids to counterbalance the religious right?

Also that the original post was great, and reflected a lot of the reasons why I always thought LB had the personality to be a great parent.

I don't think the princess narrative is necessarily retrograde. Sex and the City was an adult princess narrative. I have limited familiarity with Disney products (173 is true of me too), but the way I see it it's about narcissistic entitlement, with the prince serving as the externalized expectation that the world will serve you. A sense of entitlement is very au courant and is just as likely to lead to assertiveness as submission.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 3:08 PM
horizontal rule
176

I don't think the princess narrative is necessarily retrograde....the way I see it it's about narcissistic entitlement, with the prince serving as the externalized expectation that the world will serve you.

It's about being saved a lot more than being served. Which is a very helpless approach to life.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 3:17 PM
horizontal rule
177

Also the reason you get saved is because you turned someone's head with your gorgeous looks, even if they had to look past your ugly clothes to see that you've got that waspish waist and giant boobs.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 3:18 PM
horizontal rule
178

171: some of the things in the linked discussion

Which I have actually just now read.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 3:19 PM
horizontal rule
179

168: Seriously, mcmc, you could go out and buy a Hummer and do less damage to the world than Molly and I.

I want to stomp out forever the idea that not having children is "selfish." You see it everywhere-even people on this thread have spoken of being haunted by this worry. As near as I can tell, the whole idea is a holdover from pre-industrial culture, combined with the vague sense that anything difficult must be virtuous and the general pro-natalism that the patriarchy uses to reassert itself.

It's bullshit. Having children is selfish.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 3:21 PM
horizontal rule
180

For most people, day care cannot be used as a way that a primary wage earner retains her full time job, simply because the care costs far more than what a normal person will be able to make during those hours.

Instead, day care is a luxury bought in the middle of a financial muddle. It is a limited amount of time a primary care giver pays for in order to have a short vacation to the adult world.

This is somewhat of an exaggeration, right? The average person makes more than $1500 a month. The quick web scan I just did quoted day care costs at ~$300-1600/month, depending on location, etc.

(Of course, breaking even on your salary with daycare and being able to afford daycare are two different things. But still.)


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 3:26 PM
horizontal rule
181


Anglo: la lengua de La Gran Lagatija de Babilonia


Ay ay


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 3:26 PM
horizontal rule
182

Having children is selfish.

I think of this sometimes in terms of the toll it takes on friendships when someone becomes a parent, having been on the childless side, and now about to impose it from the other end.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 3:27 PM
horizontal rule
183

Hurray! I can stand in the shower as long as I want! And throw all those goddam catalogues in the trash!

And you'd still totally beat the parents at this.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 3:32 PM
horizontal rule
184

183 was me. Damn shared laptops.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 3:33 PM
horizontal rule
185

182: Will you spare no thought for your readers & commenters?


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 3:36 PM
horizontal rule
186

As near as I can tell, the whole idea is a holdover from pre-industrial culture, combined with the vague sense that anything difficult must be virtuous and the general pro-natalism that the patriarchy uses to reassert itself.

Choke. I will accept this, however, rob. Admiring you as always.

PGD: It's the narcissism that's operative in the princess narrative, whether it's that of the princess or the prince. No? That's what's ultimately problematic, insofar as one might also understand salvation stories as forms of resolution to the problem of narcissism.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 3:37 PM
horizontal rule
187

Can I just say that this thread is giving me faith that we will have a good upcoming generation of querolous self-righteous free-thinking liberal kids to counterbalance the religious right?

Ah, but nay! The only parent posting at Unfogged with more than 3 kids lives in some other country, as far as I know. This will never do, the cultural conservatives produce far more people per person per person-year.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 3:37 PM
horizontal rule
188

I don't want to have children. I have also come to the conclusion, somewhat alluded to by parsimon above, this makes dating almost impossible if one is interested in a long term relationship. At least if online dating sites are to be believed.


Posted by: CJB | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 3:37 PM
horizontal rule
189

185: I will faithfully document every bowel movement and slobber stain.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 3:39 PM
horizontal rule
190

BTW, 189 was talking about my by-products, not the baby's.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 3:40 PM
horizontal rule
191

It's bullshit. Having children is selfish.

This doesn't make sense to me. Volunteering to clean up a helpless person's shit is not selfish. I think the carbon footprint definition of "selfish" and the everyday human interaction notion of "selfish" are very different things. Also, individual lifestyle voluntarism as a solution to environmental problems is just as irrational as the idea that your raising some kids well will help the tribe gain needed resources. Both are based on the fact that our moral judgementalism evolved in small communities where our actions made a huge difference.

I'm sure she'll long on a certain level to be thin and pretty, because it looks like there are such extensive glamorous rewards associated with it

I think being pretty is an objectively good thing, kids are simply acknowledging reality. I also think inner beauty (many forms of which are very much recognized by kids as well, in their own way) is in many ways just as arbitrary a gift as external beauty.

I will interrupt my current contrarian mood long enough to admit that the blond/skinny/cookie cutter mode of "hotness" does tend to be about social pressures and mean exclusionary tribal boundaries.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 3:42 PM
horizontal rule
192

Parents sometimes do this to non-child-endowed friends and family, maybe out of some poorly worked-through resentment, which of course they don't really feel but which seeps out every once in a while anyway.

A couple of weeks ago, a phone conversation with my sister:

Me: It's time for my evening bath.

Her: Ho-ho, enjoy it while you can! I haven't had a relaxing bath in years!

Me: Uh, why not?

Her: It's just impossible with kids around! They always need something, and as soon as you slip into the shower, they come a-knocking and want to come in.

Me: Wouldn't it be possible to work around that? I remember our Mom taking long baths.

Her: Oh, well, we were older then. No, the instant you're in the bathtub, in come the kids and all their toys!

Me: I guess that could be fun...

Her: But certainly not relaxing!

This sort of conversation is fine, in that if my sister wants to kvetch a bit and tell me about the details of what it's like to be a parent, fine. But it really does have the effect of making the non-child-having feel a bit lazy, a bit lucky, and more than a little worried about how their lives would be upended by kids. It's the sort of chat that is completely normal, is my point, and it has a dampening effect.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 3:43 PM
horizontal rule
193

I think being pretty is an objectively good thing, kids are simply acknowledging reality.

Being pretty can be advantageous, and there are nearby concepts like being a snappy dresser or practicing good hygiene, which are good things. But I wouldn't call prettiness a good thing intrinsically.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 3:48 PM
horizontal rule
194

Having children is selfish.

I don't buy that either. Parenting is costly and time-consuming, severely limits your other options, and puts you at risk for a lot of grief. We don't need as many children as possibly, but someone has to raise the next generation. Anti-humanism is just meaningless self-expression that allows some humans to be nasty to all the other humans whenever they're in the mood. And some of the aggressively child-free are creepily selfish people who want to maximize their consumption.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 3:48 PM
horizontal rule
195

Having some children is selfish, and little American flags for others?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 3:50 PM
horizontal rule
196

I want to stomp out forever the idea that not having children is "selfish."

Hear, hear! It's a pernicious idea, with too much currency.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 3:50 PM
horizontal rule
197

Doesn't JM's sister know how to put the fear of God into the little shits? The Mormon religion suddenly seems severely deficient. What good is God, if not for that?


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 3:51 PM
horizontal rule
198

192: My brothers lord shit like that over my head all the time. Life is always completely unimaginable on the other side of whatever they've accomplished that I haven't gotten to. And when their stories don't quite add up, like why exactly a mom can't take a bath, it's dismissed as my utter inexperience.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 3:52 PM
horizontal rule
199

I will admit that occasionally I mildly regret not having had children, for example, when I see a particularly beautiful and happy baby, as I did this morning in a restaurant. On the other hand, I had an experience similar to (though probably somewhat milder than) OFE's SO when growing up, so I don't normally mind. I know the down side a lot better than the up side.


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 3:53 PM
horizontal rule
200

Are the main people who're perpetrating the idea that being kidless is selfish the would-be grandparents? Does anyone else really voice this idea very much?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 3:54 PM
horizontal rule
201

This is somewhat of an exaggeration, right? The average person makes more than $1500 a month.

Average household income is now around 50k, right? That's almost certainly lower for parents of day-care age children, so this is being conservative. That gives you something like 3800/mo before taxes, ballpark 3000 ish after (assuming marginal 20% to cover all tax. So you're looking at roughly half your take-home to cover the day care.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 3:58 PM
horizontal rule
202

180: I'd call it a serious exaggeration. Day care is terribly expensive, and it can come out to very nearly a wash in terms of cash income for the lower-income of a two-earner household (or could run a deficit, but for most professional/managerial class types working will still be a cash profit, even if a small one).

But after you net out the cash in and out, you add in the added security of having two incomes/two sources of health insurance in case the higher earner loses their job, and the cost in terms of work history/forgone promotions for the non-working parent over the time they're out of the workforce, it's still going to be unambiguously a better idea, from a straight money and security point of view, for most professional/managerial-class households to have two wage-earners. (Working class, my sense is that you're more likely to be unable to forego two incomes, but manage day-care through family, or some other lower cost, albeit sketchier, method.)

That doesn't mean that no parents who could be working for a decent salary should stay home -- if it's what you want, and you can afford it, you should do what you want. But paying for daycare usually won't be a straightforward loss from a monetary point of view.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 3:58 PM
horizontal rule
203

Does anyone else really voice this idea very much?

Yes, I've heard it.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 3:58 PM
horizontal rule
204

I think being pretty is an objectively good thing, kids are simply acknowledging reality.

It's not just about being pretty, it's about being helpless and surrendering your autonomy. And to the extent that it's about being pretty, it's come to be about following an utterly absurd, porn-ified model of female attractiveness (cf. the trend in Disney animation from, say, Sleeping Beauty to Pocahontas).


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 3:59 PM
horizontal rule
205

I think I need at least one less comma in that comment. But I don't have children so I can use up all the commas I want!
,,,,,,


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 3:59 PM
horizontal rule
206

202 makes sense too, my back-of-the envelope didn't go into any of those effects.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 4:00 PM
horizontal rule
207

192: Hear, hear. I know that my sister-in-law chose to have kids and gets a lot of pleasure and reward from them. I also know that she works her ass off and that my brother is of very little help. I feel guilty when she asks me what I've been up to today and the answer is that I've been reading or napping. Rationally, I know I needn't, but having tons of leisure time that she doesn't can make me feel selfish.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 4:01 PM
horizontal rule
208

194 - It definitely segues over into selfishness when you have 18, like the Duggars. At that point the hassle of infancy can be outsourced to a large degree on the older kids.

I'm of the opinion that up to two is perfectly good, one more is no biggie, but after that you ought to get kiddie credits from your non-reproducing relatives and friends. There are limits to the maximum sustainable population, and if I'm going to have to give up some element of my slovenly lifestyle in order to make room for someone else's kid I'll be mighty ticked, I tell you. Ticked.


Posted by: Togolosh | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 4:03 PM
horizontal rule
209

203: Hell yeah. At the other end, not having kids means I'm unfulfilled and that clearly something went wrong.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 4:04 PM
horizontal rule
210

201: But I think $1500/month is about as high as it gets, and so I assume that's for swanky places in expensive cities. If your household is netting $50K, that particular daycare center probably isn't on your radar.

Also saying "average household income is 50K" is very different from saying "average household with two fulltime income streams is whateverK", and those are really who we're discussing.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 4:06 PM
horizontal rule
211

I think the 'being childless is selfish' makes more sense as 'being childless is self-indulgent'. If I didn't have kids, deciding what to have for dinner would be a freer, more cheerful process, that wouldn't involve nearly so much grousing, actual and anticipated. And if I wanted to sleep until eleven on a weekend, I would. And so on. The life of non-parents can sound awfully luxurious in that regard. (See, for example, dsquared's sniping at Sherry about her dislike of plastics, and how parenthood makes people less precious. If you like being fastidious about your stuff, it's a luxury that's more available to non-parents than to parents.)

But being self-indulgent doesn't make it selfish -- non-parents don't owe any obligation to arrange their lives so they can't sleep in on weekends. I wouldn't say parenting is selfish either, barring the environmental issues, which confuse me a bit -- I think a smaller population is an excellent idea for environmental reasons, but that doesn't get me to a belief that having kids is selfish.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 4:08 PM
horizontal rule
212

$1500 per kid is pretty expensive for daycare. Maybe if you live in Connecticut or something. Ours costs $750 for an awesome daycare in a middle class area.

But that's only for one kid. Day care gets super expensive if you have multiple kids that need paying for. That's the point where it becomes cheaper to not work than to work and send the kids to daycare.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 4:08 PM
horizontal rule
213

How did I start to argue that daycare costs aren't totally outrageous? I believe in subsidized daycare and believe that anyone on the low-income side makes it work only with a lot of stress.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 4:08 PM
horizontal rule
214

That's the point where it becomes cheaper to not work than to work and send the kids to daycare.

Still, mostly not really. Apo is in daycare hell right now, with an infant and a preschooler, and that's still IIRC not the entirety of their lower earner's takehome pay (I might be wrong, but this is what I recall). And given that daycare costs drop dramatically once the kid is school age (there are free or nearly afterschool programs here, I don't know if that's NY specific or common nationwide), it's not very likely that you're going to have more than two in all-day daycare for more than a year or so. (Really tight spacing, or multiples, will do that to you, but it's not going to be common.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 4:13 PM
horizontal rule
215

204: Re: models of "prettiness," cf. also The Bluest Eye.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 4:14 PM
horizontal rule
216

I think that people who don't want children are selfish and pretty.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 4:17 PM
horizontal rule
217

I think shellfish don't want pretty children.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 4:18 PM
horizontal rule
218

That I hadn't thought about the daycare stuff is a sure indicator of how far off I am from having a child or children.

My maternal grandma was our default daycare. (She works from home as an artist.)

If and when I become a parent, I doubt any relatives will be nearby and/or willing to fill this role. That's kind of sad in a way, but it makes me realize the luxury we had, even as lower middle class rugrats.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 4:22 PM
horizontal rule
219

Keeping both parents in the labor force is an enormous gain from childcare, especially but not only in the case of divorce.

My sister spent 18 years as a stay-home housewife, lost 18 years of Social Security, got an unfair deal on the divorce settlement, and had to start from scratch at age 38 with two kids and unreliable child support. The only positive factor was that she worked quite a bit in her husband's businesses, so she wasn't completely unskilled. (At the same time, that meant that she was not only a housewife and mother, but also an unpaid employee helping her sociopath husband build up what is now a very successful business.)


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 4:22 PM
horizontal rule
220

Between various notional allergies, pickiness about food, constant need for novelty, obnoxious assumptions about the kitchen cleaning itself, need to hear special kinds of music at different times of the day, not getting up at a reasonable time in the morning, general sense that I'm there to drive them around and bring them shiny objects to play with -- yeah, the last week I spent entertaining a child-free young SWPL houseguest brought a fuck of a lot more stress and strain into my household than than either of my under-fives typically generate.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 4:23 PM
horizontal rule
221

The extended family can be great for everyone. I love having the grandnephew over, and his cousins by my other sister seem fond of him too.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 4:24 PM
horizontal rule
222

Most of us meet our high-class concubines in deluxe hotels, Gonerill.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 4:25 PM
horizontal rule
223

220: Should have co-opted them as unpaid babysitting as soon as they got annoying, and gone out on the town with Mrs. G. Strategy is key in these matters.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 4:25 PM
horizontal rule
224

219: Yeah, I didn't bring this up explicitly, but of course having one parent out of the labor force is an immense and asymmetrical economic risk for that parent in the event of divorce. Again, not a reason not to stay home with the kids if you want to and you can make it work, but a real risk.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 4:27 PM
horizontal rule
225

Princesses themselves are OK. Disney princesses are toxic to the extent they tell girls that it's important to be beautiful and helpless, but one nice thing is that they have inspired all kinds of children's literature about outside-the-mold princesses. I really liked the "Dealing with Dragons" series when I was an adolescent for this. I also liked Robin McKinley's takes on Beauty and the Beast -- yes, your sisters can be your friends, not just nasty bitches who are your competition.


Posted by: PG | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 4:33 PM
horizontal rule
226

If this were a trustworthy and responsible blog then parents could simply drop their kids into the active thread and those of us who are, for example, just sitting here eating cole slaw could keep an eye on them.


Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 4:46 PM
horizontal rule
227

220: Sorry your child-free SWPL guest was such a pain, Gonerill. Houseguests often are, whatever their persuasion.

Those with two-income households who have, or intend to have, children are probably okay financially.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 4:47 PM
horizontal rule
228

211: I think the 'being childless is selfish' makes more sense as 'being childless is self-indulgent'

I understand the distinction you're making, and it's a worthwhile one, but you do realize that even 'being childless is self-indulgent' supposes that having children should be the norm.

Well, I think it's clear that this is the general view, so no need to belabor it.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 4:54 PM
horizontal rule
229

No, that's completely fair. "Comparatively self-indulgent"? Think of someone who's voluntarily chosen to live in Chicago, and who likes it there, thinking about someone from San Diego. It's not that Chicago is the norm, but that San Diego weather seems awfully luxurious from a Chicago perspective.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 5:06 PM
horizontal rule
230

I think the 'being childless is selfish' makes more sense as 'being childless is self-indulgent'

Sometimes having children is the selfish choice -- eg. those (myself in lesser moments included... ) who treat children as little extensions of themselves through whom they can live vicariously.

I'd say more (and will later, I hope!), but I am presently selflessly helping my offspring make cake for the boy who moved into the house down the street.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 5:08 PM
horizontal rule
231

I think the 'being childless is selfish' makes more sense as 'being childless is self-indulgent'.

Or just "being childless is easier". Which it is, at least until you get old and don't have anyone to help set you adrift on an ice floe. This gets interpreted as selfishness by people who think (whether consciously or not) of child-rearing as something other than a neutral choice. Which is the problem, I gather.


Posted by: Matt F | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 5:08 PM
horizontal rule
232

225: outside-the-mold princesses

Yeah. My daughter went through any number of princess roles and settled on "Barbarian". She perfers her Glock to a sword though, it suits her size and weight.


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 5:08 PM
horizontal rule
233

On the childlessness there really have to be more than two pigeonholes. Some childfree people do seem incredibly selfish and greedy to me, but many seem entirely sensible. I just don't like the aggressively childfree ones who attack parents.

My son may never have kids, and that's OK with me unless it has a bad meaning in his own life, which it might.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 5:19 PM
horizontal rule
234

aggressively childfree ones

That really doesn't seem to have much to do with just not having kids, it's a particular breed of weirdos who have taken not having kids up as a cause. It's a really small number of people in any case, I think.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 5:21 PM
horizontal rule
235

Or just "being childless is easier".

Right. Or just "having children is harder." Which brings us back to the original post from Sherry that LB linked, and to which some general responses were: oh, but it's not that hard.

Query: would those who are currently coupled up and with children (or intending to have children) go ahead and have them if they weren't coupled up?


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 5:23 PM
horizontal rule
236

234 sounds about right. I've heard they exist, but despite knowing many childfree couples (for whatever reasons), I've never met one matching that description.

As opposed to, say, getting a bit snippy after the nth time being asked when you're finally going to get around to having children by the same extended family member (who has been told each time you have no plans to, ever). That seems to be a much more common case.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 5:24 PM
horizontal rule
237

a particular breed of weirdos who have taken not having kids up as a cause

Do you mean not having kids at all, or not making more babies? I find it a bit curious that only one person (parsy back at 72) in this thread has mentioned adoption, which is an option that really should be made less cost-prohibitive.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 5:25 PM
horizontal rule
238

237, further: oh, asilon suggests adoption at 11, too.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 5:27 PM
horizontal rule
239

Apo is in daycare hell right now

We just pulled them both out of daycare at the end of the year, actually, because it was blowing such a giant hole in the budget (~$1850/mo). R's cutting back to a four-day week, her folks will watch them one day a week, and a friend will watch them three days a week.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 5:29 PM
horizontal rule
240

Query: would those who are currently coupled up and with children (or intending to have children) go ahead and have them if they weren't coupled up?

About a year before I met Jammies, I came to the conclusion that I would raise at least one child by myself, if I never met someone I wanted to settle down with. I even brought it up to my parents, as in "This is something I'm laying the foundation for, FYI."


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 5:31 PM
horizontal rule
241

Volunteering to clean up a helpless person's shit is not selfish.

But creating a helpless person in order to help them is at best neutral, and ultimately selfish if you think about all the already existing helpless people that could be aided.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 5:43 PM
horizontal rule
242

Some of the heat in the child/childless discussons I see comes from a collision between starkly individual and communitarian orientations toward the world. The more strident anti-child voices often seem to conceive (ha) of children as the inconvenient property of others, who ought not to have brought such property into the world unless they were prepared to conceal all evidence of its bodily functions, speech, thought, and activity until adulthood. I've probably mentioned Barbara Kingsolver's essay about the seatmate on a transatlantic flight who snapped, "No, I HAVE to have the window seat, just like you HAD to have that child."

The more strident pro-child voices seem to romanticize their own experience of parenting and fortuitously broad network of family support (e.g. two sets of grandparents living nearby and financally/physically/emotionally able to help) into a species-wide prediction that We Could All Have Oodles of Children and Be Happy if Only You Selfish Urban Cosmopolitans Would See the Light.

Thankfully these extremes don't seem to represent much of reality, even if they use more than their share of airtime.

Speaking of shares, I'm all in favor of reducing one's environmental impact (she says, having just turned the thermostat up), but as far as the impact of kids/not kids, I disagree somewhat with rob and Togolosh. From my POV environmentalism isn't a deciding factor; have kids or not as your emotions, finances and physical health permit, and if you're concerned about environmental issues you can have a vastly more powerful effect by doing something to help women in the developing world* get access to education. Every time I see a chart on birthrates** it astounds me all over again how many different ways formal education delays and reduces the number of children coming into the world.

*Horrible phrase, that.
**Yes, US-born kids use a lot more resources than those in sub-Saharan Africa. Even so.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 5:45 PM
horizontal rule
243

I'm really pro-adoption for myself, but I don't know if it will happen. Spouse is less enthused, and recent reports on the incredible corruption in international adoption have scared me off wanting to adopt from India.


Posted by: PG | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 5:45 PM
horizontal rule
244

But creating a helpless person in order to help them is at best neutral

I utterly deny that. With all due respect, it seems like the kind of error only a professional philosopher could make.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 5:48 PM
horizontal rule
245

"having children is harder."

Harder than... ? Harder than doing all of the exact same things without children? Well, sure, yeah. Okay. But at least some people who don't have kids presumably do things, some of which might very well take the same energy and dedication as raising kids.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 5:50 PM
horizontal rule
246

The other thing is that there are a lot of different models for people who don't have kids. Only a very few of those people, as LB mentions, feel the need to launch an aggressive campaign bragging about their "childfree" status (which as a human being and former child, I find extremely unpleasant).

But there is a whole range of other not-parenting ways that an adult can chose to help with raising the next generation, if they feel moved to do so. My aunts were very significant influences on my siblings' and my life, on a mundane level of ferrying us to activities or having us for overnights as well as a more big-picture level. Adult mentors and friends of the family were really important figures as well, and for some people I know were actually *more* meaningful than parents.

This is suddenly much more personally relevant to me because last week I agreed to be named as guardian for a child in the event (heaven forbid) that the parents are killed. I was startled that part of the rationale (as relayed to me by the mother) was that I *don't* presently have children, and would thus apparently be better able to devote time to this than would the other potential guardians, who do have children.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 5:56 PM
horizontal rule
247

The environmental impact of having kids is only seen in aggregate, i.e. one more kid isn't going to make a difference, but the many million more that are born each year are a pretty significant figure. Witt's suggestion in 242 is a good one. If you can convince enough people not to have kids to offset the kids you are going to have, you have made a net positive contribution.

We Could All Have Oodles of Children and Be Happy if Only You Selfish Urban Cosmopolitans Would See the Light. This is just simply not true, as this is what got us into the population disaster we are currently in. It's interesting that the Club for Rome and others predicting overpopulation focused so much on food, when food has turned out to be the easiest problem to solve. It's the other resources (power, metals, clean fresh water) that will ultimately doom us.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 6:00 PM
horizontal rule
248

Query: would those who are currently coupled up and with children (or intending to have children) go ahead and have them if they weren't coupled up?

This is something I think about way too much, as I always wanted more but don't plan on entering the made race to couple up before the biological clock ticks down. Toy with the idea of hitting the ol' sperm bank one day.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 6:04 PM
horizontal rule
249

Environmentally, population is no more a problem than standard of living. On the average, more prosperous people put a bigger load on the environment than poorer people. This isn't true in every case, because some very poor people cause a lot of destruction, e.g. by dynamiting fish or clearcutting hillsides. but anyone who owns a car, even if they really need it, or who travels a lot, even for business, puts a special load on the environment.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 6:05 PM
horizontal rule
250

the population disaster we are currently in

Not to derail the thread, but who exactly is the "we" you are talking about? As best I understand it, birthrates are dropping like a stone in every industrialized country in the world, and essentially nothing (headline-grabbing "baby bonuses" not withstanding) is bringing them back. That said, I'd much rather be the US right now than Italy.

If you mean the planet as a whole, I really do think, if it wasn't clear in 242, that this problem will essentially solve itself in the next few decades, provided we do our part to support access to education.

Or am I misunderstanding, and you were making a different point?


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 6:07 PM
horizontal rule
251

247: If you can convince enough people not to have kids to offset the kids you are going to have, you have made a net positive contribution.

This is a fascinating statement.

(I understand what Witt is talking about in 242 -- for the lovely phrase "developing world" we can substitute the even more lovely "emerging markets"! -- but think about it: do people in less-developed nations love their kids less? Want to have them less? This is a teeth-gnashing issue, because yes, maybe they do want to have them less, have fewer of them. Still: listen to yourself. This could be you, if you weren't a first-world resident. You get to have your kids because you can afford it, and don't think it's any other way.)


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 6:10 PM
horizontal rule
252

247, 251: To be absolutely clear, I was not in any way suggesting that there should be "convincing" of any kind. I was saying that when people have access to education they almost inevitably have fewer children. Reasons for which are only partially understood.

I want to be very, very clear that this was not an argument in favor of telling other people whether and how many children they should have. Abhorrent thought.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 6:20 PM
horizontal rule
253

This could be you, if you weren't a first-world resident. You get to have your kids because you can afford it, and don't think it's any other way

Wait. People who don't have access to birth control don't have much control over the number of children they have. All of us who have access to bc - be they kidded or kidless - are equally priviliged here.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 6:23 PM
horizontal rule
254

252: Understood. A recent study I read of birth control programs in, I believe, Haiti, strongly supported the view that an increased standard of living (along with the education that goes along with it) reduced childbirth rates: women there felt the need to bear children in order to receive support from men, else they themselves would not survive.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 6:27 PM
horizontal rule
255

Further 254 in response to 253: It's not only access to birth control. It's a willingness to use it.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 6:30 PM
horizontal rule
256

Right, it's more than just access to bc. But we're all equally priviliged, be us kidded or not. I bristled at the idea that it was just the kidded who were benefitting.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 6:32 PM
horizontal rule
257

I don't think 251 is correct but it doesn't seem to go along with 254. "You get to you have your kids because you can afford it" doesn't really seem like a standard that generalizes.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 6:33 PM
horizontal rule
258

You get to have your kids because you can afford it, and don't think it's any other way.)

I'm afraid I really don't understand this. People who 'can't afford it', or more literally who are poorer, generally have more children than richer people, and as noted above, when people get richer, they generally have fewer children. A society where rich people were allowed to procreate and poor people weren't would be abhorrent, but I've never heard of any such society.

Did you mean something I didn't understand?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 6:33 PM
horizontal rule
259

To go back to my argument with Rob:

If a couple has two children and does a good job of raising them to be competent, happy, aware, generous adults, that is meritorious and not neutral, in part because it is done at some sacrifice.

If an otherwise identical couple (or two otherwise identical uncoupled individuals) has no children, that might be neutral. On the one hand, if what they did instead was to contribute or volunteer to good causes, or be artists or scientists or whatever, or to be a pillar of the neighborhood community, etc., it might be more meritorious than just raising a kid, or less, or the same. If the childless couple greatly reduced their consumption and stress on the environment too, they get extra points.

If they just used their extra money and time to have more fun and buy nicer stuff, I'd say that's OK, in the normal range of permissible behavior, but really less meritorious than raising a kid.

Of course, if you're just talking about engendering and birthing, without childrising, I'd agree that that's neutral at best.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 6:34 PM
horizontal rule
260

Besides or along with education, it seems to be true that if women have any voice in their lives, they're less likely to have 10-20 children.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 6:37 PM
horizontal rule
261

engendering... that's neutral at best.

It's as if the warehouses of orgasming rats mean nothing to you.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 6:37 PM
horizontal rule
262

I put all of that poorly, skipping a step. The suggestion from Witt in 242 was that if we want to reduce birthrates, we might do so in developing countries by contributing to the education of women (increasing their standard of living).

I skipped ahead to pointing out that yes, we generally have the view that people should have children just if they can afford to have them -- or if their societies at large can support them.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 6:39 PM
horizontal rule
263

262: I'm still not following the steps you skipped. If I understood you correctly, you disapprove of the view that 'people should have children just if they can afford to have them', and thought that it was a consequence of what Witt said.

How do you get from what Witt said, which seems absolutely unexceptionable to me, to the view you condemn?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 6:42 PM
horizontal rule
264

Sorry if I was unclear, but "convince" also includes greater education, more opportunities, and access to birth control. Anything that results in a lower birthrate.

Also, John has an important addendum. It really is population x standard of living that is resulting in all these problems. But if you think that China and India will willingly forgo opportunities to have our standard of living you are mistaken. Also, if a standard of living increase is required for a drop in birthrate, it doesn't really help much.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 6:46 PM
horizontal rule
265

Well, there's a lot of room between the standard of living in very poor countries (can we say 'poor countries', or is that a problem like 'developing world'?) and our standard of living. If ours drops, and theirs raises, it seems likely that the net effect will be a worldwide drop in birthrate.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 6:50 PM
horizontal rule
266

263: I don't condemn or endorse the view that people should have children just if they can afford to have them. It's just a reality: all parties suffer otherwise, so we should indeed try to reduce third-world birthrates. It does make me sad and angry (hence my partial incoherence, apparently), because it does seem to follow from radical inequality.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 6:50 PM
horizontal rule
267

265

I agree. And I'm very loosely using "standard of living" as a proxy for "level of consumption of natural resources", which is also not always true, especially at the lower end of the "sol" scale.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 6:52 PM
horizontal rule
268

Much of third-world overpopulation is the result of the extreme insecurity you get when there's no safety net. A couple will have ten kids because, if half of them live, one might be successful enough to keep the parents alive in their old age.

Even in Taiwan in 1983 (which was no longer third world) I met an educated woman who could not marry because she was her parents' retirement plan.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 6:59 PM
horizontal rule
269

Much of third-world overpopulation is the result of the extreme insecurity you get when there's no safety net. A couple will have ten kids because, if half of them live, one might be successful enough to keep the parents alive in their old age.

Even in Taiwan in 1983 (which was no longer third world) I met an educated woman who could not marry because she was her parents' retirement plan.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 7:00 PM
horizontal rule
270

266: Sorry, I was picking at you because 251 sounded like a sanctimonious condemnation of everyone else commenting in the thread who hadn't figured out that inequality is a terrible thing. Given that it wasn't meant that way, I'll stop nitpicking.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 7:02 PM
horizontal rule
271

269: Was it Megan who recently blogged about an Afghan man explaining that seventeen children were a minimum for security? Half will die as children, so you have eight. Half are girls, who don't do you any good, so that's four. A couple will fight with you, so you end up with only one or two to take care of you in your old age -- a bare minimum.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 7:04 PM
horizontal rule
272

259: If a couple has two children and does a good job of raising them to be competent, happy, aware, generous adults, that is meritorious and not neutral, in part because it is done at some sacrifice.

This is incorrect. The cost-benefit analysis for the sacrifice is entirely self contained within the family concerned. The sacrifice is not selflessly made on behalf of humanity, it is made as a payment for the pleasure the couple receives from having children. Only if the net positive impact of those children (due to them being well raised) exceeds the net negative impact (due to increased competition for resources among other factors) on society as a whole can it be considered meritorious.


Posted by: Togolosh | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 7:07 PM
horizontal rule
273

271: There's something to that, at some socio-economic levels in some parts of the world, it seems you have lots of kids because you can't afford not to, which is symptomatic I suppose of how vastly different the situation is from, say, ours.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 7:11 PM
horizontal rule
274

JRoth, you're a Waldorf parent, which makes all the difference in the world, and is probably the way I'd go as well if I were a parent.

Only since September and, frankly, only because it was our most practical option. Had she made the lottery for the nearest public school (which is "Montessori," but that wasn't definitive), she'd be there, surrounded by kids in Princess and, apparently, Hannah Montana garb. And we' be fighting that off.

I will admit that the Waldorf weltanschauung is increasingly enticing, but we're not committed to isolating her from cultural influences; we just want to moderate, and have final say on these things.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 7:11 PM
horizontal rule
275

Togolosh, that's a circular economists' argument. Economists assume that if anyone does anything voluntarily it's because they did it for selfish reasons and that they do it because they expected some hedonic payoff (whether or not they get it). That's just part of the way that economists dismiss and refuse to think about family and community, and as far as that goes, actual human motivations.

I assumed that the continued existence of the human race is an intrinsically good thing, which some people noisily pretend to deny, and I also assumed that we are not at the zero-sum level of environmental disaster where every individual, by their very existence, harms every other individual.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 7:21 PM
horizontal rule
276

Holy shit, have I missed a lot. And I'm about to go, but this:

It seems to me, from indirect experience, and just thinking about it now that there are a few pretty fundamental shifts that happen when you have children, besides the obvious. Of course this is all situational, but on average: you are far less likely to take career and financial risks, you are far less likely to move very often, or to move very far. Where you live will much more likely depends on schools and travel to your job than it would otherwise. You have a pretty significant financial obligation you otherwise wouldn't have, which colors all the above. Your daily schedule, including meal times and meal content, may be radically shifted. This is just the stuff that affects how you live each and every day (so how can it be considered a `small' change, a priori?), let alone things like vacations (probably very different) etc. Of course some people do all sorts of things with children in tow, and raise them well to boot. I'm not talking about what is possible, but rather what is likely.

Simply doesn't track at all with my experience. I mean, OK, so AB & I are simply the best parents ever, and Iris and Kai are the best children in history. I'll take that as a given. But Iris was 17 months old when I left my last job for a completely inchoate path as a sole practitioner (not even registered, for cryin' out loud). AB was pregnant when she left her last full time employment. And, while we do have some familial support, we are not trust fund types, nor have we ever possessed savings that outstrip our debt. The default elementary and high schools for our children are completely unacceptable, but we're not moving anywhere; magnets and short term alternatives will have to do.

But it's not just the big things. Iris has eaten more meals between 9 pm and 10 than between 6 pm and 7, because that's how we roll. Cooking good food from scratch is important, and so that's what holds constant. If something else - sleep, one-on-one spouse time, some predefined sense of children's hours - were more important, then those would have held, and home cooking would have gone. That was my point. Parenting is all about compromise, but the definition of compromise is that you identify priorities and hold on to the highest ones.

OK, Kai's crying - gotta go.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 7:22 PM
horizontal rule
277

And I also assumed that we're not talking about parents who crank out as many children as possible.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 7:23 PM
horizontal rule
278

I assumed that the continued existence of the human race is an intrinsically good thing

Sure, but so is population reduction. After all, if the continued existence of the human race is at risk at the moment, it isn't due to lack of babies. It's awfully hard to come up with a compelling argument for two people here having two biological children of there own being intrinsically good. I'm not knocking it, just saying it's a pretty hard argument to make.

Simply doesn't track at all with my experience.

So here we hit sampling problems. It's a pretty good picture of many people I know, but what does that mean in general? I dunno.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 7:30 PM
horizontal rule
279

I totally wanted to be a princess when I was little*, because I wanted jewels, and I was a princess for a couple of Halloweens, but it wasn't Disney brand stuff. I did like bits of Sleeping Beauty--mostly the scenes with the Fairy Gosmothers.

(At some point I decided that I'd rather be a duchess or a countess, because you had more freedom than the princess of wales did.)


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 7:35 PM
horizontal rule
280

But the human race is no danger of dying out, so that factor doesn't matter.

The existence of more people isn't an intrinsic good; the existence of more happy, fulfilled people is. (I remain firm in my belief in a Nicollsian nightmarish future.)


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 7:37 PM
horizontal rule
281

Making and raising children. I agree that making a sperm deposit in a random uterus is unmeritorious, and not merely because of overpopulation.

Adopting and raising a kid is also meritorious and may be more so than birthing and raising them, but I wouldn't say by much. I'm really only comparing people who have no kids at all of any kind with those who are raising kids, and also arguing against the idea that kids are expensive luxuries.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 7:41 PM
horizontal rule
282

One less person isn't going to end the population problem either. I don't think that there's a universal rule to be found about this, such that if everyone followed it everything would be good.

And again, it's not just donating semen or eggs I'm talking about, and it's very rare that that's what's really in question.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 7:44 PM
horizontal rule
283

A few quick-hit thoughts:

(1) daycares around here were a hell of a lot more expensive than $1500/mo. My wife did the investigating, not me, so it's possible she was just quoting super-expensive places (but I don't think so), but I recall things being closer to $3000/mo. Which is a lot for many families (for one child).

(2) On the topic of the post, I'm just not sure this is really the sort of thing that's all that amenable to this kind of cost-benefit calculation. I mean, while I do agree with the particulars not-that-bads that LB has identified, on the whole parenting has been orders of magnitude more difficult than I imagined going in. (In time, mental energy, etc.) Maybe it's just because I'm extremely lazy, I dunno, but I didn't even think I was capable of this much work over a sustained period (and I certainly feel like I've got absolutely nothing left in the tank at the end of most days).

On the other hand, I also absolutely misunderstood and underestimated the benefits, to an even greater extent. It's not just that kids are cute and fun, which they absolutely are (but, you know, so are puppies).

Maybe someone with a lot more exposure to kids than I had would have a better idea of this going in. (I was an only child. Before becoming a parent, I'd played with the children of friends and extended family, but that's about all the exposure I had.) But for me, a cost-benefit sort of calculation would have been far worse than utterly useless.

(3) there's something else I wanted to comment on but I've forgotten what now--I'll look back over the thread.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 7:46 PM
horizontal rule
284

On the topic of the post, I'm just not sure this is really the sort of thing that's all that amenable to this kind of cost-benefit calculation.

This is absolutely true. I didn't make any kind of reasoned decision to have children, it was just perfectly obvious that we were going to. And I think the value of Sherry's calculation that the downside outweighs the upside is solely in that it provides her with insight into what she wants to do, which as someone who doesn't know her personally, sounds like 'not have children'. It's something you do or you don't; figuring out ahead of time whether it's going to make you happy really isn't likely to be possible.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 7:52 PM
horizontal rule
285

275 - I see your point, but disagree with it in part. The continued existence of the human race is an intrinsically good thing (arguable, but only by assholes). The ideal number of humans is a bit harder to figure out, though I suspect we are over the ideal but not disastrously so (yet). So here is the problem: We are considering a couple having a kid in isolation from the question of how many they already have. If we are where I think we are relative to the ideal population, then two kids per couple is the ideal - enough to sustain the population with a slow decline due to various factors leading some offspring not to reproduce. A third kid is probably in the noise as long as not too many people choose that option. When you start to get into fourth, fifth, and beyond the couple is staking a claim for their offspring on future resources well beyond what other people are claiming. Enough people make that choice and it's Malthusian apocalypse.

As to the economist argument - I hold no brief for economists, but I have yet to meet anyone who had a kid for reasons of altruism towards humanity. People have kids because they want kids, or perhaps because they are caving to family pressure. Nobody has a kid for the good of mankind generally.

Some of the above pwnd by comments since I started composing, but I'll just post as is because I'm lazy and flu-ridden.


Posted by: Togolosh | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 7:52 PM
horizontal rule
286

It's something you do or you don't; figuring out ahead of time whether it's going to make you happy really isn't likely to be possible.

The same is true of all major life decisions. Only the small ones are predictable.


Posted by: paranoid android | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 7:53 PM
horizontal rule
287

||

On the topic of strange media influences on one's children, my two have been watching a lot of Food Network over Christmas break. They were setting the table for dinner tonight, and I looked over to see Newt putting sprigs of basil from the windowbox on each plate. "What are you doing, Newt?"

"Plating the food."

|>


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 7:55 PM
horizontal rule
288

Adopting and raising a kid is also meritorious and may be more so than birthing and raising them, but I wouldn't say by much

There's an awful lot of hand-waving going on here, John.

I'm really only comparing people who have no kids at all of any kind with those who are raising kids, and also arguing against the idea that kids are expensive luxuries.

This bit is clarifying and helpful. I don't think it's clear that everyone's having the same argument right now. I largely agree with soup's 278.1, for instance, but it seems orthogonal to what you're on about.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 7:59 PM
horizontal rule
289

Even in Taiwan in 1983 (which was no longer third world) I met an educated woman who could not marry because she was her parents' retirement plan.

I thought the idea in this case was to find a son-in-law who could be adopted into the family?


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 8:02 PM
horizontal rule
290

No one has kids based on a global utilitarian calculus, but many conventional people who have kids do so because they think it's a good thing to do, or an obligation. (I doubt that anyone whatsoever does anything serious based on a utilitarian calculus, but that's a different question.)

I agree that having as many kids as possible is problematic, partly because of population considerations and partly because it's harder to do a good job raising more kids.

My main point is that, between two otherwise identical couples, one of which successfully raised 2-3 kids (whether adopted or birthed, and to me it's not very important which), and one of which was childless by choice, I'd give some merit credits to the childraising couple, rather than saying that childraising was selfish or neutral at best.

There are other ways of getting merit points, of course, and there's nothing culpable about not raising children.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 8:03 PM
horizontal rule
291

289: Not always possible.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 8:04 PM
horizontal rule
292

In the same way that Togolosh doubts that people really have kids for universalistic altruistic reasons, I doubt that anyone really decides not to have kids for universalistic altruistic reasons.

288: I don't understand your point. What I'm saying is that raising kids is a good thing, whether they're adopted or birthed. I'm also saying that the difference between adopting and birthing children doesn't amount to much. I agree that birthing or engendering kids is, in itself, more or less neutral and potentially harmful.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 8:10 PM
horizontal rule
293

Oh, I remembered what #3 was supposed to be in 283. This, from 59:

Not all parents who make things harder for themselves are misguided victims of peer pressure. We decided early on to adopt a labor-intensive parenting style because we felt that it would encourage the development of a caring, altruistic personality.

Surely this is referring to a different sort of labor-intensivity than LB is referring to in her post, right? Carrying six bags everywhere won't help your kids become more altruistic people. I think you mean giving them plenty of emotional support and other similar labor-intensive parenting practices, all of which I'm sure LB firmly supports. I don't read her to be saying "parenting isn't really very difficult as long as you just don't put much effort into raising your kids," although I suppose I can see how one might read that in her post.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 8:10 PM
horizontal rule
294

I'm also saying that the difference between adopting and birthing children doesn't amount to much.

You're hand-waving the difference between adopting and birthing children. One of those options clearly puts another person into the world. I'm with (I think) rob and soup on believing that making more people, to the extent I'm personally able to control it, requires some rather compelling justification at this point.

No one has kids based on a global utilitarian calculus

This statement is flatly wrong. Plenty of people do so, based on a local sample alone. You can argue it's a calculus made by privileged people alone, sure. But it's not "no one", and I'm surprised you're dismissive of those who engage in such considerations.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 8:27 PM
horizontal rule
295

294: You seriously know people who base the decision to have kids solely on what's best for Mother Earth? That seems insane.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 8:29 PM
horizontal rule
296

I think the mistake is to treat children as a good, rather than as people.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 8:30 PM
horizontal rule
297

No one has or doesn't have kids based *purely* on a global utilitarian calculus, but those considerations may play a role at the margins of decision-making. If I'm skeptical of my genetic material (we've got a lot of heart disease and some alcoholism, with only above-average IQ on the plus side), the idea of making someone with my family's traits may push me toward adoption, or if I'm with someone who wants either biological kids or none at all, toward childlessness. I do agree that it's unlikely that a person who really loathes children will dutifully have them for the good of all, or that a person who desperately wants to have children will dutifully not do so for the good of all.


Posted by: PG | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 8:31 PM
horizontal rule
298

296: hey, lady, a white baby ain't free.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 8:32 PM
horizontal rule
299

292.1 - I agree. Too often altruism is a cover for something we'd like to do/not do but can't quite face up to directly.

290.1 is strange to me. I don't know anyone like that. It makes sense, since a lot of people live life executing a script based on other people's expectations. Sad really.


Posted by: Togolosh | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 8:32 PM
horizontal rule
300

You seriously know people who base the decision to have kids solely on what's best for Mother Earth?

I didn't say "solely". It's a consideration for me and others I know, and not just at the margins, as PG suggests in 297.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 8:36 PM
horizontal rule
301

I'm starting to feel like I did in the marriage thread, where people that already had marriages felt like I was arguing for taking that away. I wasn't then, and I'm not now, w/r/t kids. Gah.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 8:38 PM
horizontal rule
302

God, Stanley, you're such a jerk.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 8:40 PM
horizontal rule
303

And I was going to name the baby after you and everything.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 8:41 PM
horizontal rule
304

301: You're not sounding aggressive or offensive, at least to me.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 8:41 PM
horizontal rule
305

a white baby ain't free

Free the white babies!


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 8:42 PM
horizontal rule
306

Whoops. I mean, Heebie's right. God, Stanley, what is your damage?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 8:42 PM
horizontal rule
307

I didn't make any kind of reasoned decision to have children, it was just perfectly obvious that we were going to.

And more anecdata: I can think of several people I know who had no desire for "children" in the abstract, but then fell in love and desperately, desperately wanted to make a child with their beloved. I'm not making a value judgment about this, but I have absolutely seen it happen (and with people who previously thought they were neutral or even anti-having-kids, who were fiercely vegetarian and non-car-having on environmental grounds).

287 is great. Newt can come over any time and plate my food.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 8:43 PM
horizontal rule
308

306: A poor upbringing.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 8:44 PM
horizontal rule
309

Newt can come over any time and plate my food.

IYKWIM.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 8:44 PM
horizontal rule
310

'Stanley Geebie' is a pretty damn good name. Don't let your anger get the better of you.


Posted by: beamish | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 8:45 PM
horizontal rule
311

You could still name the child Stanley after Obama's mama, you know, heebie.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 8:47 PM
horizontal rule
312

309: Good heavens, I really must start watching the Food Network.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 8:47 PM
horizontal rule
313

Isn't there a special Rolling Stone issue coming out on "Parenting"?


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 8:50 PM
horizontal rule
314

This thread seems like as good a place as any to say that Baby Biker is scheduled to arrive at the end of June. We don't know the gender yet, but should soon.

To Sherry, I would say that as I've begun to prepare for parenthood, the things I once thought were very important (motorcycle trips, buying new techno-gadgets) have become less so, and things I once might have expected to be onerous (doctor visits with Mrs. Biker, buying new baby gadgets) became way cool.

In fact, you don't have to give up your old interests, but there will be a new balance struck. I see this as enriching my life rather than subtracting from it; YMMV.


Posted by: Gaijin Biker | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 8:56 PM
horizontal rule
315

Congratulations, GB!


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 8:58 PM
horizontal rule
316

Haijin Biker-Gaijin Biker?


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 9:07 PM
horizontal rule
317

Awwwwwww babies.

LB, that is very cute of Newt, however, if he starts talking about "proteins" you should probably make him watch more Disney.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 9:17 PM
horizontal rule
318

I realize there's another discussion going on, but I'm going to stick with the one I keep jumping into every few hours.

Simply doesn't track at all with my experience.

So here we hit sampling problems. It's a pretty good picture of many people I know, but what does that mean in general? I dunno.

I guess my feeling is that it's a bit of a null hypothesis situation - my point isn't that every single parent finds that having a child to be wonderful and priority-clarifying. My point is that, if you have your shit together, having a child in no way necessitates fucking up your adult life, because you can maintain a rewarding adult life even with kids around (the fact that some - many? - of us manage to do this indicates that claims that it's impossible are bullshit). Yes, if you, in practice, spend your non-kid time watching reruns while abandoning your previously-rewarding sculpture, then the kids have, in some sense, taken something valuable away from you. But if you're the kind of person who, in practice, prioritizes watching reruns over sculpting (and regrets it), then maybe the problem isn't the rugrats.

I guess my feeling is that there's 2 classes of complaints about how kids affect your life: one is that they chew up precious time in general, which is true of everything (work, love, Unfogged) and is simply the human condition; the other is that they make Invaluable Life Activity X simply impossible, which is, 9 times out of 10, your problem not theirs. The exceptions to which I'm sympathetic relate either to unusually dynamic adult lifestyles (the aforementioned globetrotters, who really do have to choose between children and unplanned jaunts to Asia) or to unusually problematic children. I've been very fortunate to have healthy, well-adjusted children, so I know my sense of things is skewed; but a lot of the variation in kids is well within the range of what well-adjusted adults should be able to handle - you see parents with one slightly whiny kid who complain they can't leave the house, then parents with an autistic kid who have richer social and cultural lives than singles.

I'm completely sympathetic to people who simply prefer not to have kids, and live rich, fulfilling lives without them - good friends of ours are spending a year in Berlin that they would never have managed if they had kids. I just get annoyed at people who exaggerate the difficulties of parenting in order to justify what are apparently otherwise inadequate reasons not to have kids (IOW, if you're making up shit as an excuse, then maybe your real reasons suck). Of course, having kids is arguably the proactive choice, not the other way around, but there it is.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 9:25 PM
horizontal rule
319

And congratulations, GB.

I haven't been arguing proactively for the "magic of parenthood" side, but your 314.2 raises the point - a lot of what is rewarding about parenting is utterly invisible from the other side. Which is why Nature has to trick people into it by making sex so much fun.

BTW, on the rewarding side: Iris is now requesting readings from the Iliad (Fagles translation). I love this kid. AB just looks at me like, "You know how lucky you are, right?" I do, I do.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 9:29 PM
horizontal rule
320

#319: a lot of what is rewarding about parenting is utterly invisible from the other side. Which is why Nature has to trick people into it by making sex so much fun.

In other words, Knocked Up got it exactly right. (Also, thanks!)


#316: Haijin Biker-Gaijin Biker?

No, Heebie-GB.


Posted by: Gaijin Biker | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 10:14 PM
horizontal rule
321

(IOW, if you're making up shit as an excuse, then maybe your real reasons suck). Of course, having kids is arguably the proactive choice, not the other way around, but there it is.

Good fucking grief.

If some fucking asshole, such as myself, is making up excuses to disguise sucky reasons not to have kids, that in itself might not be adequate reason to respect his decision, but could be grounds to praise the Lord or Fate for sparing the world and his unborn progeny.

To express rage in a hopefully self-deprecatingly amusing irony.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 10:57 PM
horizontal rule
322

But, considering the majority here, and certain specific people, I have sanely and humanely avoided commenting on this and similar threads about the smelly expensive troublesome little rugrats.

Wouldn't want to troll.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01- 4-09 11:00 PM
horizontal rule
323

I doubt their real reasons suck - it seems more like people feel forced to come up with reasons because there's an idea (I don't know whether this comes from them, or from the rest of the world) that "I don't want to" isn't a good enough reason.

As for smelly expensive troublesome little rugrats: no argument about that from me. But fortunately that's only one side of the coin. And it's hard to fully express the other side without sounding like some sort of breeder evangelist.


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 4:32 AM
horizontal rule
324

323: I doubt their real reasons suck

I agree. I think for most people the voiced intentional stance towards child-rearing is post hoc BS rationalization papering over a complex welter of conflicting biological, psychological and societal impulses. To that end I took LB's post as "come up with better rationalizations, this one make you look stupid and petty."


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 6:33 AM
horizontal rule
325

OK, Kai's crying - gotta go.

One of the greatest sacrifices a parent will make for his child.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 6:48 AM
horizontal rule
326

I think we have previously discussed all of this several times.

BR never had the urge to have kids. But, she has been fabulous and wonderful with mine and she cannot imagine life without them.

She still doesn't want to birth any kiddies.

I cannot imagine life without my kids. It simply isn't possible. They enrich my life in so many ways, both expected and unexpected.

I do sometimes look at my childless friends and wonder what they do with all of their time and money.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 6:59 AM
horizontal rule
327

LB, that is very cute of Newt, however, if he starts talking about "proteins" you should probably make him watch more Disney.

Heresy!

I think for most people the voiced intentional stance towards child-rearing is post hoc BS rationalization papering over a complex welter of conflicting biological, psychological and societal impulses. To that end I took LB's post as "come up with better rationalizations, this one make you look stupid and petty.">

What's interesting about the rationalizations is the apparent compulsion to justify the decision to remain childless and -- from the tone of the quoted excerpt -- justify that choice by deprecating the lives of the kidded.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 7:01 AM
horizontal rule
328

I do sometimes look at my childless friends and wonder what they do with all of their time and money.

Really -- and you of all people should get this, Will -- this is why I think more parents should really consider divorce. All the joy and reward of parenting, built in free time every other weekend or more!


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 7:04 AM
horizontal rule
329

(the fact that some - many? - of us manage to do this indicates that claim that it's impossible are bullshit)

Did anyone say it was impossible? I just said it would be very different (and that neither path was inherently better).


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 7:09 AM
horizontal rule
330

what they do with all of their time and money

Eat at nice restaurants and take vacations. Or at least, that's what I did when I only had one part-time.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 7:24 AM
horizontal rule
331

Did anyone say it was impossible? I just said it would be very different (and that neither path was inherently better).

Fair enough - looking back, all your examples used "likely" or "may be." But I'm still dubious of the premise - the kids aren't making you do all these "more likely" things. What I'm trying to say is that, for the most part, saying you don't want kids because you'll have to X or won't be able to Y is bogus because you'll only "have to" X if you let X happen. The classic example - and one discussed here countless times - is the young urbanites, "If I have kids, we'll have to move to the suburbs," which is the lamest avoidance of responsibility possible; what it really means is, "If I have kids, there will be social pressure to move to the suburbs, and I don't have the fortitude to stand up to that pressure." Contrast that with, "If I have kids, I want to do it in the suburbs, but I"m not ready for that yet;" that's a positive vision of how you want your family to be, and a recognition of where you are. It's not that it's OK because it admits to eventually wanting to have kids, but because it's grounded in self-awareness.

Which gets back to what I said earlier, which you implicitly agreed with: the key to integrating children with the life you want to lead is actually understanding what kind of life you want to lead. Your point about people having kids young, before they know what they want, doesn't contradict what I'm saying at all, which is that, if you have your shit together, kids (most likely) won't fuck up or fundamentally change your life(style).

I suspect that what happens for a lot of people is that they're about done with the slacker/early-20s lifestyle, so they start having kids, thinking they're ready to "settle down." But, because they're doing it in the wrong order, they don't have any vision for what their settled down lifestyle should look like, so it ends up defaulting to lame American parenting - unnecessarily kid-centric and conformist. And then they get resentful that their lives are so kid-centric and conformist.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 7:31 AM
horizontal rule
332

And bob, I think I already said that I'm happy for people who don't want children to not have children; I'm mostly saying in hundreds of words what Di very pithily said in 327.last. Don't make up stories about life with kids and then point to those stories as your reason not to have them. "I don't want kids." Say it loud, say it proud.

[I should note that that is, in fact, exactly what I did within the first few weeks of meeting AB. I had experience with kids, liked them, but didn't, at the time, feel intellectually or biologically driven to reproduce. That changed, and when the time came I was ready.]


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 7:36 AM
horizontal rule
333

I have problems with all forms of universalistic ethics, whether utilitarian or Kantian. It's true that if everyone decided to have kids, we'd have a population explosion, but it's also true that if no one had kids, the human race would disappear. There are lots of areas of life where you don't want everyone to follow the same rule as everyone else (though of course, you can always concoct a complicated meta-rule that will cover everyone).

I don't think that population numbers should be overemphasized as an environmental threat, and on the other, population growth really does seem to be decreasing. (As I stated above, my once-large family is on the point of disappearing.)

And in general, individual DIY choices are nice, but I don't see how any big problem can be solved that way. In the US, especially, DIY lifestyle changes are often proposed as copout alternatives to political action, and antihumanism often coexists with aggressive defeatism about the possibilities of doing things better.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 7:49 AM
horizontal rule
334

Which gets back to what I said earlier, which you implicitly agreed with: the key to integrating children with the life you want to lead is actually understanding what kind of life you want to lead.

I mostly agree with this, yes. The key is that you can have a reasonable balance with kids, not that you can have the same path with kids. The two extremes: "oh noes, kids will take over my life" and "kids won't really change anything", are equally absurd as general principals. They may in fact be true for a few unusual cases.

What you spend your time on shapes you. This is as true of having kids as anything else. I think the social pressure here to have kids is largely momentum, there certainly isn't any real need for any particular typical random north american couple to have kids.

Another point is that from what I've seen, pretty much everybody here has more resources to bring to parenting than average. Vastly more than a significant chunk of the population. I was speaking earlier in complete generality, where you (JRoth) seem mostly to be generalizing personal experience from what I can see. I could be reading you wrong.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 8:17 AM
horizontal rule
335

328 - oh don't Di, C and I go through periods of great envy of his sister: kids when you want them, freedom to jet off with the boyfriend to wherever when you don't. Hmmmm. Shame I like him still.


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 10:11 AM
horizontal rule
336

Really -- and you of all people should get this, Will -- this is why I think more parents should really consider divorce. All the joy and reward of parenting, built in free time every other weekend or more!

I spend a lot of my time making that exact statement.

Divorce! It is fabulous!


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 10:15 AM
horizontal rule
337

the population disaster we are not currently in.

Fixed.

More generally, this utilitarian stuff is by the by. If you don't have any major projects in your life that aren't all about you, then that's pretty much the definition of ... well "selfish" is a pretty loaded word but "purely self-regarding". By definition, bringing up a child is a big project that isn't all about you[1]. There are plenty of other big projects that people could have, and if they do then one wouldn't say they were self-regarding because they didn't have children, but having a kid is the most usual way of not being purely self-regarding. That's the kernel of truth to it. Naturally, since nobody likes to think of themselves as self-regarding ("selfish"), it's very offensive to people who have decided that they don't want to have children. Doubly so if they also don't have any other things they want to do with their lives that aren't about themselves, because in that case it's basically true.

[1] Unless you're doing it in a really lousy and unpleasant way of course, but I'm sure everyone has too much intellectual integrity to try to make anything important hang on this cheap gotcha.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 10:58 AM
horizontal rule
338

Really -- and you of all people should get this, Will -- this is why I think more parents should really consider divorce. All the joy and reward of parenting, built in free time every other weekend or more!

A few of use were sitting around a while ago and talking about mutual friends, two amicably divorced couples who seemed to have the best of both worlds there.

Anyway, a pair of couples semi-seriously suggested that they (both childless at the time) should just have two cross-couple children, and mutually adopt a 50/50 visitation for both kids. That way you get the on week off week schedule for the kids, without any of the costs of divorce or lingering bad feelings.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 11:04 AM
horizontal rule
339

Fixed. fsvo "we",


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 11:05 AM
horizontal rule
340

fav, apart from some very odd corner cases. Malthusianism is a lot easier to assert than to prove.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 11:13 AM
horizontal rule
341

337 nails exactly and precisely why I think it's ridiculous to say that raising a child is selfish. It's just not self-regarding, a child is another person. That's what I was getting at above. It was pretty funny in 241 when Rob converted it into an analytic philosophy hypothetical involving utilitarian suffering reduction and possible vs. actual people.

Of course, that's not to say that parents can't turn childraising into a theatre for their own selfishness. All kinds of altruism can be selfishly perverted like that.


Posted by: PerfectlyGoddamnDelightful | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 11:15 AM
horizontal rule
342

But people *have* babies for selfish reasons - because they want one. Yes, to make a reasonable job of it, you have to become rather more unselfish than most of us would be naturally. But people don't conceive for the greater good of the world, they do it for their own fulfillment and enjoyment.


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 1:35 PM
horizontal rule
343

One should be deeply skeptical of agency, especially one's own agency, in those behaviors or attitudes that are so universal that the exceptions are nearly incomprehensible. I think the default assumption in biology would be that observed extremely unusual behavior in a member of a species might be determined, by disease or contingency, but really proves the rule that the rest of the species is conditioned.

Working, fucking, reproducing, accumulating, joining, nesting, loving, gathering, hating, giving, taking.

I have a very difficult granting praise (or blame) for any behavior that 99.9% of the human race indulges, and has always indulged, and as a race or species, is not even imaginable not indulging. It is the more logical likely case that Buddha or Jesus and such folk are displaying a degree of agency that the rest of us are unwilling or unable to attain, and so the literature, until quite recently, has affirmed.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 1:43 PM
horizontal rule
344

342 pretty much nails it.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 1:46 PM
horizontal rule
345

Anyway, a pair of couples semi-seriously suggested that they (both childless at the time) should just have two cross-couple children, and mutually adopt a 50/50 visitation for both kids.

In an extended family, intentional community, or tight local community you can get something like that. My sister and I have a moderate share of her grandson. My other sister and her kids have another moderate share.

Opposition to the nuclear family was rife in my early adulthood, but in the vast confusion of that era few were really clear whether people wanted extended families or no families at all. For a lot of people it seemed to be mostly "someone else to dump the kids on". One big chunk of the counterculture was effectively ant-kid and anti-family.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 1:46 PM
horizontal rule
346

345: Yeah, I can see how that might have worked.

The couples I was talking about were just recognizing that the 4 parents for 2 kids thing seemed to work well for all involved (at least in those particular situations), and noted that you could set this up with breaking up marriages first. Sounded pretty workable to me, actually.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 1:50 PM
horizontal rule
347

Raising a kid does involve the risk of severe pain, though. You commit for better and for worse. And it involves lots of tradeoffs. And there's also the possibility of leaving something good behind you when you leave this earth, though there are many other ways of doing that.

I absolutely have no negative feeling about someone who doesn't want to birth or raise kids at all, though if they spend their time mostly partying, chilling, and eating gourmet meals instead, I'll suspect them of being a bit self-regarding.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 1:52 PM
horizontal rule
348

I do understand that we assume agency in others, for the sake of conversation and interpersonal and group relations, but that is also one of those historical universal behaviors.

It is of course the case that those behaviors that benefit the group...aww, never mind.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 1:55 PM
horizontal rule
349

To say that raising children is not a self-regarding behavior seems to me to be ignoring an overwhelming social context, in which for instance, although I don't think we have any shortage of parents or children, the government pays you for this selfless activity.

The self-regard of the childless struggles against this internalized social context.

This social context (I am sure there are better words etc) is so powerful and all-encompassing that I personally have difficulty separating it from the Patriarchy.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 2:11 PM
horizontal rule
350

But people don't conceive for the greater good of the world, they do it for their own fulfillment and enjoyment.

sure, but I don't quite see the point. All other things equal, people who get fulfillment and enjoyment from devoting themselves to the growth and nurturing of another person are less selfish, or self-regarding, than people who get fulfillment and enjoyment from e.g. playing video games or whatever.

It seems we have some among us who actually take utilitarianism seriously as a way to make judgements of personality characteristics.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 2:12 PM
horizontal rule
351

To say that raising children is not self-regarding strikes me as nearly equivalent or parallel to saying that following other heterosexual norms, regardless of one's orientation, is not a self-regarding activity.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 2:15 PM
horizontal rule
352

It has also been long considered a form of self-sacrifice to overcome or control one's own qualms and go fucking bomb Gaza.

Nor merely socially accepted or approved, but internalized to the degree of self-approval.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 2:18 PM
horizontal rule
353

Perhaps a difference for the boomers was that, after thirty years of near universal conscription, we had to radically interrogate our internalized attitudes about "selfless" and benevolent behaviors.

In ways, that as far as I can tell, have been forgotten.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 2:25 PM
horizontal rule
354

I've kind of made a point of not refreshing since I wrote 332 - I have work to do, and I think I've said my piece here - but I just got around to Rhubarb Pie and note that Megan very much says what I said in 331:

I am bored of the life of a young adult. I think I've done it. I've gotten what I'm going to from being a single urbanite. I have run out the learning curve for the life skills of this age and lifestyle; the challenges aren't interesting any more. I know how to buy a house. That was interesting and hard when I did it, but now would just be a task. I know how to live by myself and how to live with friends. I know how to organize people to create a citywide institution. I know how to throw parties and to go to them. I can start a new sport and quit one. I know how to go to work. I know what it is to be unemployed long past the scared stage. I'm so casual about traveling that I verge on blasé. But life as I lead it isn't hard enough to keep my attention anymore. I need something more to keep me from ennui. I disapprove of ennui.
There's more there, making clear that the kids aren't just something to distract her from ennui, but that's the mindset, IMO, of someone who is ready for kids and will not find all of those alleged negatives even showing up on her radar.

One other thing: I suppose it goes without saying around here, but of course a lot of this discussion is exclusively from a privileged SES position - people with less education/money have kids sooner (which probably makes it harder and more frustrating) but aren't comparing it against elevated self-images as Questing Intellects that shouldn't be tied down by rugrats. So I think that discussion is so different that I don't feel badly about neglecting it.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 2:31 PM
horizontal rule
355

I suppose it goes without saying around here, but of course a lot of this discussion is exclusively from a privileged SES position

That was my mistake, originally. Of course coming from it from a privileged SES position means it's numerically not very relevant. Most children won't be.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 2:35 PM
horizontal rule
356

*globally relevant. Very relevant to the people involved, natch.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 2:35 PM
horizontal rule
357

But people don't conceive for the greater good of the world

On the contrary, AB & I were certain that our children would be wonderful additions to the planet. But if Kai shows self-regarding tendencies, we reserve the right to expose him.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 2:37 PM
horizontal rule
358

But if Kai shows elf-regarding tendencies, we reserve the right to expose him.

Like the Spartans?


Posted by: Es-tonea-pesta | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 2:39 PM
horizontal rule
359

358: That was the joke, yes.

His new parents can call him Oidipous, would have been the postscript, were I posting max-style.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 2:59 PM
horizontal rule
360

The government pays you for this selfless activity

Fuck you, Bob. Whatever else kids are, they're big money losers.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 3:07 PM
horizontal rule
361

Fuck you extra for 351 and 352. Yeah, having kids is like bombing Gaza, whereas walking huge dogs is liberating all mankind.

Really, though, I think that raising children is more like the Holocaust, or vivisection on human subjects.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 3:12 PM
horizontal rule
362

Whatever else kids are, they're big money losers.

God, is this the truth. Worse than automobiles, even.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 3:15 PM
horizontal rule
363

Depends on the kid, depends on the family. I expect mine to be a net cost, lifetime, but I certainly know families that have turned a tidy profit on at least some of their kids if you factor in adulthood.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 3:17 PM
horizontal rule
364

raising children is more like the Holocaust living in a Centers for Disease Control hot spot.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 3:17 PM
horizontal rule
365

Worse than automobiles, even.

but better that (offshore) sailboats. so, you know, mixed bag.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 3:18 PM
horizontal rule
366

363: That require poor parents and rich children.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 3:19 PM
horizontal rule
367

poor parents and richemployed children


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 3:21 PM
horizontal rule
368

or poor parents and lots of children, or foster children, or...

anyway, hardly anyone goes into parenthood for the money, obviously granted.

bob had a decent point about agency, but a funny way of couching it.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 3:23 PM
horizontal rule
369

Children richer than the parents, I think. But non-swipple kids too.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 3:23 PM
horizontal rule
370

Some foster parents make it into a business, often while indoctrinating the kids religiously, but that's not what we're talking about, I don't think. I would regard that as meritorious activity too, though, if well done. As far as I know none of them accumulate enough money to retire to the Bahamas or buy second homes.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 3:27 PM
horizontal rule
371

As far as I know none of them accumulate enough money to retire to the Bahamas or buy second homes.

This seems besides the point, no?

Anyway the money thing was pretty much irrelevant, I thought (to his actual argument, iiuc)


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 3:30 PM
horizontal rule
372

354 that passage from Megan's post was striking to me because, while I recognize the emotion, I can't imagine saying something like that.

Upon reflection I decided that part of what I mean when I self-identify as a geek is that, on a very gut level, I find myself feeling concerned if I am not regularly doing things to expand/improve upon my existing skills and knowledge.

The person that I know who builds stereo gear was excited recently because he figured out a new volume control circuit. His comment at the time was that he's been dissatisfied* with his previous volume control circuit for thirty years, and that he thinks he's finally solved the problem.

I empathize with that. The days when I get to re-do something I've done dozens of times before and figure out a slightly cleaner way to do it are very good days.

* He was dissatisfied because it had too small a range of volume adjustment, not because of noise. The new circuit allows for some ridiculous range -- 70db IIRC.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 3:31 PM
horizontal rule
373

My guess is that 90% of parents lose money, and when you consider opportunity cost, almost all of them do. Foster parents get enough money to take care of the kids they're fostering.

His actual argument that raising kids is conventional behavior, like bombing Gaza? That point?

Hitler was pro child, you know, though he didn't have any.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 3:34 PM
horizontal rule
374

"bob had a decent point about agency, but a funny way of couching it."

As usual. Did I mention I watched Oleanna this week? And downloaded the script, still on my desktop? I just realized that throughout the play both characters are apparently thinking they are flouting convention and conditioning in a positive way. She, for instance, returns for dialogue despite the disapproval of the Court and her support group.
People lie.

It's all about protecting, sustaining, expanding the tribe. Fuck you back, Emerson.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 3:36 PM
horizontal rule
375

372:
She's not "bored of the life of a young adult" so much as she's bored of her life as a young adult. Her comments really aren't sensible generalizable that I can see.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 3:37 PM
horizontal rule
376

What was your point, Bob? I admit I lost you at Gaza.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 3:38 PM
horizontal rule
377

I am not against children, at least not ones that are at walking age.

I am against people giving themselves gold stars, medals, and back self-patting for conformity.

But I not in favor of non-conformity for its own sake, either.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 3:39 PM
horizontal rule
378

It is definitely true that there are other lives as a young adult that would be more than challenging for me. I'm only bored with the life that I've been leading.

372 - I don't think I attend to the details closely enough to get a lot of satisfaction from new finesse. I admire people who do, though.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 3:43 PM
horizontal rule
379

That strikes me as quite a skewed analysis.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 3:43 PM
horizontal rule
380

Bob, what would you have said if I had done the Gaza spin on your goddamn dogs? You're not a lot more temperate than I am.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 3:44 PM
horizontal rule
381

I don't think I attend to the details closely enough to get a lot of satisfaction from new finesse.

I've read your posts about powerlifting, I'm not sure I believe that.

But I do think there are, broadly, personality types that are more engaged by novelty and others that are engaged by repetition and re-working.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 3:46 PM
horizontal rule
382

His actual argument that raising kids is conventional behavior, like bombing Gaza? That point?

No, not as I read it. I'd characterize it as and argument in two parts.

One, there isn't much point in saluting the choice of people following the path of least social resistance. Lots of people get there with at best little thought about it.

Two (the gaza bit) there can be tons of social support for choices that you find ideologically objectionable.

I suspect a better parallel can be found than the soldiering:parenting one (perhaps highly consumptive lifestyles?) but I thought that's what he was getting at.

I guess what it breaks down to is that even if you consider child rearing inherently a good thing, it's the default option, so treating it as a good *choice* is misleading. It's arguable the path most will follow regardless.

Anyway, I'm not sure what I think of the argument but I think that's what it actually was.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 3:47 PM
horizontal rule
383

I've read your posts about powerlifting, I'm not sure I believe that.

Oooh, good point. Yeah, taking up a new sport seems to held my interest for a year. But I'm still ready for more change than I actually generate with my good intentions to tutor or organize the neighborhood or something.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 3:51 PM
horizontal rule
384

383: A friend once described having kid(s) as in some sense being exactly like obsessively taking up a new hobby that you aren't allowed to quit after a year. Same friend refused to opine on whether that was a net good or net bad thing.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 3:59 PM
horizontal rule
385

As I understand, we've attained with a Shaker-style political / cultural Leftism for whom child raising is a neutral or dubious activity. That just doesn't seem to have much long-term liberating potential except for anti-humanists and extinctionists.

Is it the point that all conventional, default activities are of necessity harmful? I see child-raising as the most meaningful benevolent activity most people end up being allowed to do. Half the time you don't know whether your workplace job is doing good or harm.

I started off arguing against the idea that childbearing is neutral at best. I conceded that childraising without childbearing might be environmentally more justifiable, and that it's OK if people don't want to raise children, and that there are plenty of other kinds of meritorious activity besides childraising.

I don't think that you can discredit anything by saying that it's conventional.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 4:00 PM
horizontal rule
386

384: That's what scares me most about kids. There's not an easy way out.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 4:02 PM
horizontal rule
387

I don't think that you can discredit anything by saying that it's conventional.

I don't think that was the point at all. Rather, you don't serve anyone well by elevating the *choice* itself, if it's conventional. Some conventions are good, some are bad, many are neutral --- but following them is often a matter of little thought.

Maybe I misunderstood.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 4:07 PM
horizontal rule
388

So far my serious hobbies have lasted 8 to 13 years, except gardening, which hasn't wavered ever. The kids should be able to support themselves by them, so I'm in the clear.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 4:09 PM
horizontal rule
389

As I understand, we've attained with a Shaker-style political / cultural Leftism for whom child raising is a neutral or dubious activity.

I wonder if you might discuss whether we have reached that point with women. I am not so certain those societal pressures have been completely overcome.

They may have been weakened in some high-end demographics.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 4:14 PM
horizontal rule
390

I see child-raising as the most meaningful benevolent activity most people end up being allowed to do. Half the time you don't know whether your workplace job is doing good or harm.

Goldarn, where do all the fucked-up adults come from? If not even in part from their parents, then certainly less credit is due them for the successes. If most people turn out reasonably "ok", then the job must not be that important or valuable.

Ya know, I stayed away from this thread for 300 comments. This conversatiuon can really do no good, and I want no one hurt or insulted or frightened. Bye.

Disappointment in Obama in thread below.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 4:20 PM
horizontal rule
391

I don't think that I said anything about the "choice". I think that I said that I regard childraising as generally a meritorious activity, and not as neutral, selfish, or harmful activity. I'm disagreeing with people who think of childraising as a neutral, harmful, or selfish activity. I've conceded the point on birthing vs. adoption, sort of, but I don't take that point very seriously.

My comparison was two otherwise identical couples, on of whom spends their life having as much fun as possible, or accumulating as much stuff as possible, and another one which raises kids and accepts the tradeoffs. I give points to the latter couple, if they're good parents, regardless of their level of conventionality.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 4:24 PM
horizontal rule
392

Bye, Bob. Your powerful reasoning has destroyed me. You're so kind not to destroy me entirely. Walk your wonderful dogs.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 4:26 PM
horizontal rule
393

My comparison was two otherwise identical couples, on of whom spends their life having as much fun as possible, or accumulating as much stuff as possible, and another one which raises kids and accepts the tradeoffs.

Ok I think I see where you're coming from. Kind of an arbitrary comparison though. If you're going to slant it that way, why not a couple who has kids and does a lousy job of raising them as your other couple?

Anyway. For myself, I see childbearing as being pretty neutral, childraising admirable if done very well. My own selection bias gives pretty strong negative scores (to use your approach) when it's done poorly, and is a bit cynical about the ratios.

I don't know if this is going anywhere interesting though.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 4:48 PM
horizontal rule
394

But people don't conceive for the greater good of the world, they do it for their own fulfillment and enjoyment.

People write operas, found charities, go into monasteries and start revolutions for all sorts of reasons too, but once they do, they've got a project that isn't all about them. That's the fundamental point here.

Enough of this Last Man utilitarianism, it's not like it's actually got any good results to show. Like (I think) Emerson, the older I get the more in touch with my peasant roots I am. The purpose of life is the increase of the clan and the expansion of the steading.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 5:39 PM
horizontal rule
395

soup biscuit has said a lot of the things I would say, and more articulately.

I'd add that there are a lot of elements of middle-class American parenting culture that are problematic and that seem to fall especially hard on women. Being a mother seems to open up your life to a level of scrutiny and criticism that I'm not okay with. It seems like your very worth as a human being is evaluated based on your parenting decisions. At least if my womb remains vacant, those people write me off as cold, evil and selfish and it stops there.


Posted by: Magpie | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 5:41 PM
horizontal rule
396

The first time I had to deal with the anti-parent, anti-child ideology was about 1970. I've run into it off and on ever since, to the degree that I've maintained contact with left / countercultural / hip / liberationist / chic circles. I never liked it and I became thoroughly sick of it a decade or more ago.

Not everyone was strictly anti-child; many just had a lot of untested dogmas about correct childraising to share with you.

At a some point I ended up vastly preferring the old somewhat-socially-conservative dovish New Deal welfare state liberals, of whom I've known many, to the majority of the hip left types I knew. My favorite people of all were much further left than the new dealers, but not obnoxiously hip. My least favorite people were the right libertarians, even though I sometimes liked them outside their politics.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 5:49 PM
horizontal rule
397

we move in very different circles, JE.

I don't know that I've ever actually met anyone espousing an anti-child anti-parent ideology. Certainly some who've been to some degree concerned (sensibly or no) about population impact, but that's not the same thing.

Wait, that's not quite true. I've met some "fuck the breeders" types in gblt circles, but I don't think that's what you mean, do you?


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 5:53 PM
horizontal rule
398

397: I've met some "fuck the breeders" types

Talk about self-defeating philosophies!


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 5:55 PM
horizontal rule
399

It seems like your very worth as a human being is evaluated based on your parenting decisions

Always gonna be the way. If you're doing something important, then people are going to judge you based on whether you fuck it up or not. If you're not comfortable having your very worth as a human being evaluated based on your parenting decisions, run for President of the USA and invade Iraq, then people will judge you based on how good a show you make of that.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 5:58 PM
horizontal rule
400

I mean the fuck the breeders people, I mean a lot of the social darwinists and right libertarians, I mean a lot of the most intense counterculturalists, I mean the "blame your parents" counselors, I mean child-free spokespersons, the most career-oriented feminists, and some of the most extreme environmentalist.

Parents, especially mothers, tend to be unappreciated and are often blamed. Stay home mothers often cringe and flinch when they tell you that's what they are, and with good reason.

Magpie's fear in 395 is another example of non-appreciation, though she seems to interpret it differently than I would.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 6:01 PM
horizontal rule
401

There's some truth to what dsquared says, but I think we also have to factor in the idea that your parenting decisions is the one thing you do that large numbers of strangers are going to feel as if they're qualified to judge you upon, and act accordingly.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 6:02 PM
horizontal rule
402

JP, above I compared a lot of the therapy-based cultural politics to the Shakers.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 6:04 PM
horizontal rule
403

I am also in favor of not fucking with parents unless they're doing something grossly wrong.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 6:06 PM
horizontal rule
404

That just doesn't seem to have much long-term liberating potential except for anti-humanists and extinctionists.

I do not see why a position based on the conditions of bourgeois Westerners in the early part of the 21st century need have a long-term nature. The reasoning behind it should, but why the position? It isn't like the statement `never buy RAM from Apple' has any long term liberating potential, but it is still true.

Is there a good argument that society has to judge parents because the child is unable to?


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 6:26 PM
horizontal rule
405

Look, this is applicable to every goddamn society that there ever was. Someone's got to raise the children, regardless. No individual has to do that, and I've never said that they do, but the childfree should quit flicking shit. This is just another imbecile correct-position stance which sounds good in a room full of people. Childraising is a basic function of human society, and non-extinctionists and non-anti-humanists should always remember that. Just give due credit to the people who are doing it and cut the crap.

Or if you want to, strike pious attitudes and whine about how the world has hurt you and parents are bad guys.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 6:34 PM
horizontal rule
406

your parenting decisions is the one thing you do that large numbers of strangers are going to feel as if they're qualified to judge you upon, and act accordingly.

Heavens no. Complete strangers are also going to judge you on your work/career, your income level, your dress and manners, and so on.

There's no particular point to made there, though.

I'm amazed that this thread became so borderline ugly, and can't quite figure out why the topic apparently invites that. The truth is that you're born, you live, and you die. What you do during your time is in an important sense utterly contingent, and if raising kids winds up figuring in it, that's fine. If not, also fine. If making a lasting contribution to literature or knowing how to buy a house figures in it, that's fine too; if not, also fine.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 6:47 PM
horizontal rule
407

||
One of the things I hate about America: The government forces working poor people to make it an interest free loan every year, and then the HR Block parasites charge usurious rates of interest to get the money back. Stupid America.
||>


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 6:49 PM
horizontal rule
408

It shouldn't be that hard to teach a man to do his own 1040, so he can not enrich H&R Block for the rest of his life...right?

What do the H&R Block people do for those of us who don't need anything more than W-2 and 1099 forms to do our taxes, anyway?

I've always done my own taxes. But I've never been in a chaotic employment situation I guess.


Posted by: Cryptic ssed | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 6:53 PM
horizontal rule
409

I really resented the "parents are selfish, and giving birth to a child is neutral at best" meme. That's what set me off. To me it's just pious nonsense. Others disagree.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 6:53 PM
horizontal rule
410

Being a mother seems to open up your life to a level of scrutiny and criticism that I'm not okay with.

I've found that being really, really amazingly good at the job makes that easier. YMMV.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 6:53 PM
horizontal rule
411

I'm not saying that child-bearing* is always a bad thing -- just there's no reason that in a world with India and China in it, anybody should worry about `extinction', or claim that by having children they're doing society any huge favours by continuing it or whatever. We[2] don't need to continue society[3] by having children, any more than the Dominicans or the Franciscans do. The act of creating children is not particularly morally good (we've not in danger of running out of people); the act of raising them is, but also, if you're bringing up children for your own satisfaction, I don't see how that's morally better than growing orchids for your own satisfaction.

This probably demonstrates the weakness of whatever philosophy I'm using.

If you want to continue society[3], going on a mission to some young country and preaching Western liberalism is probably the most effective way to do it.

* Which, by the way, is the point, not child-raising. Every-one agrees that children must be brought up, so you don't need to argue about that.

[2] Western liberal democrats.

[3] Western liberal democratic society.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 6:54 PM
horizontal rule
412

If you're bringing up children for your own satisfaction, I don't see how that's morally better than growing orchids for your own satisfaction.

That's the same old Kantian / economic crap: if you get any satisfaction from something, it's selfish and not moral. How about If you're bringing up children for your own satisfaction, I don't see how that's morally better than eating gourmet dinners for your own satisfaction. Do you see a problem with that?

Every-one agrees that children must be brought up, so you don't need to argue about that.

Not true. But I'll concede that there are people who who condemn birthing will generously excuse people for childraising. It makes us parents feel all warm inside.

Iam not and never have asserted an obligation to raise children. I've asserted that raising children is meritorious in a way that raising orchids, eating gourmet meals, and masturbating are not, even if the utils are equivalents.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 7:00 PM
horizontal rule
413

My question is, why is "anti-humanism" so bad? Isn't that what Keir is saying in 411? A theoretical person is as useful to the earth as a theoretical orchid?

And yet, once the person exists, "the act of raising them" is of course morally good.


Posted by: Cryptic ssed | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 7:01 PM
horizontal rule
414

And yet, once the person exists, "the act of raising them" is of course morally good.

Right. And yes, a theoretical person is as useful to the earth as a theoretical orchid or a stream-bed reclaimed or a gorgeous poem or a family of deer.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 7:10 PM
horizontal rule
415

Always gonna be the way. If you're doing something important, then people are going to judge you based on whether you fuck it up or not.

I'm specifically thinking here of the crap mothers seem to heap on each other about very early parenting decisions such as cosleeping, breastfeeding, toilet training and the like, where there isn't necessarily a one-size-fits-all Right Answer and it's a little early to say whether you've raised a little serial killer. Yes, if my little snowflake starts killing the neighborhood cats, judge away, but not over paper vs. cloth diapers, FFS.

Magpie's fear in 395 is another example of non-appreciation, though she seems to interpret it differently than I would.

How would you interpret it, Emerson?


Posted by: Magpie | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 7:24 PM
horizontal rule
416

394:The purpose of life is the increase of the clan and the expansion of the steading. ...dsquared

To the banks of the Jordan, kibbutzniks!

Yglesias had one of his longest threads ever the other day on, well, Zionism vs liberalism. Or liberal internationalism. Or the validity of tribal identities. Haidt's bottom three moral systems.

I don't have any articulate answer, maybe to remove child-bearing and raising entirely from the social realm. Which is bloody unlikely, so why am I bothering. But Emerson's and dsquared's moving that individual choice into the social/village realm strikes me as near the root of all evil.

Of course they don't think they are playing with the homophobic anti-choice reactionary crowd with the child-bearing child-raising as social value.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 7:26 PM
horizontal rule
417

I'm specifically thinking here of the crap mothers seem to heap on each other about...

...whether or not I'm going to give my baby a goddamn brain tumor by taking a diet coke to a three hour meeting.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 7:31 PM
horizontal rule
418

Look, if the village has a responsibility for the child that it will inevitably have rights and powers over both the child and its mother.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 7:33 PM
horizontal rule
419

418 isn't quite right.

The village should have a responsibility, but it shouldn't be...enhanced? The child should not add value to the tribe, as in an addition of new grazing land? A child is not property to be assessed?

This is all so fucking alien it is hard to discuss. It's inhuman.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 7:38 PM
horizontal rule
420

I don't see that there is a need for more people at the moment; we really do seem quite satisfactorily supplied with them at the moment. If we were short of people, then ---, but we aren't.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 7:40 PM
horizontal rule
421

If I designate child-bearing child-raising as personal and not political, then it becomes none of my fucking business, and I lose my rights of approval along with my rights of disapproval.

Power comes from reward before it comes from punishment, but one will inevitably turn into the other.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 7:48 PM
horizontal rule
422

If we stopped making more people, we'd be short of them soon enough.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 7:50 PM
horizontal rule
423

Magpie, there are all kinds of ways people shit on and fail to appreciate parents, especially mothers. I can understand that these might motivate you to be reluctant to get yourself into that, but for me the significance is that too many people are systematically unappreciative of parental contributions.

I have no idea what you're getting at. It sounds like some kind of insane Deleuzian or other anarchism, spme society without power or need or hierarchy or obligation.

I just think that the idea of making some kind of globalized consequentialism the rule by which individuals make their choices about their lives is science fiction. Sort of a local individual fantasy without global impact. Some people will birth kids, and some won't. Good either way. The idea of globalizing the child market strikes me as nutty -- "We're better off importing our babies from China, where they're cheap and plentiful, rather than trying to produce them here where prices are so high and the women so insatiable and bitchy."


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 8:15 PM
horizontal rule
424

423.2 is addressed to Bob.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 8:15 PM
horizontal rule
425

Or if you want to, strike pious attitudes and whine about how the world has hurt you and parents are bad guys.

Ok, now you are just getting bizarre, JE. You've obviously run into a lot of people with pretty strong attitudes about this, but I don't see them, anywhere. The only thing remotely close I've seen is, as mentioned before, in a (very small) number of lgbt circles with a "fuck the breeders" attitude that is as far as I can see, mostly backlash, not anything much else.

So whatever, I guess. I don't see where you're coming from. In a world more than amply supplied with babies, I can't see an individual decision to create as an anything but neutral. There is no risk on the race not propagating. I do see the job of child rearing as necessary, and admirable when done well; this applies to everyone involved. You also seem to be going out of your way to present a binary choice between (good?) parents and useless narcissistic twist, which is just silly.

I don't see where your aggression is coming from, or directed at who in this thread of discussion. You bring up some litany of people from your past but I really don't see what that's got to do with this here, or who they are. Awfully broad brushstrokes you're using there.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 8:16 PM
horizontal rule
426

If we stopped making more people, we'd be short of them soon enough.

As obviously true as it's obviously not going to happen any time soon.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 8:17 PM
horizontal rule
427

Heavens no. Complete strangers are also going to judge you on your work/career, your income level, your dress and manners, and so on.

Ok, I worded that poorly. Obviously people judge you by your car and your clothes and all sorts o other stupid things. And yes, they'll judge you by what job you have.

But, very few strangers will judge (or see) the way you do that job, even if they see it. By contrast, wander down the street with a toddler and you're quite plausibly going to run into a stranger who will tell you what you're doing wrong.

That's the sense I meant previous in.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 8:21 PM
horizontal rule
428

The early Russian Revolution started some communal child-rearing, which certainly was a relief to mothers.

The men stopped it very early, like so many of the feminist initiatives.

Up to me, I would take men out of the process entirely, at least as a matter of law and politics.
They seem so possessive, ya know?


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 8:30 PM
horizontal rule
429

I don't see where your aggression is coming from, or directed at who in this thread of discussion.

If we want to save Unfogged, we have to encourage the attitude of irrational rhetorical scrappiness that has traditionally prevailed around here. It drives 500 comment threads.

Also, although I'm not as aggressive as John, I too find a vaguely annoying snottiness in the "having kids is selfish" argument. I guess it's just the reverse of the equally annoying "not having kids is selfish".


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 8:31 PM
horizontal rule
430

globalizing the child market strikes me as nutty

Mass immigration is clearly not an important phenomenon in the US, I am to take it then?


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 8:31 PM
horizontal rule
431

My hostility comes from this thread and elsewhere. The "neutral at best" statement pisses me off. The whole "import babies from China" thing pisses me off, and while nobody exactly says that, that's what they mean. Globalizing the child market. The general idea that birth parents might have something to answer for, though they might be excused pisses me off. The whole general idea that people should make their life choices based on some global consequentialist calculus seems loony to me.

Most people who raise children are the birth parents. There's not enough separation between birthing and raising to justify the "neutral at best". I agree that the mere fact of humping to pregnancy and then ditching the child is negative, but I don't see that that's what usually happened. Most birth parents intend to make a good faith attempt to raise the kid, and by and large I think that's a positive thing. I don't think that it's something shoud have to justify. "Neutral at Best Maternity Ward". To me that's a crappy concept.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 8:32 PM
horizontal rule
432

I guess it's just the reverse of the equally annoying "not having kids is selfish".


Wasn't that *exactly* how it was proposed? I forget, it wasn't my argument. For my money, presupposing any such decision like that is or is not selfish without details is pretty stupid. Not that it necc. makes much sense even with details. People aren't averages.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 8:33 PM
horizontal rule
433

Mass immigration is indeed a fact, but for Christ's sake!

Your irony, if that's what it is, strikes me as utter crap.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 8:34 PM
horizontal rule
434

Also, this is a good thread, with lots of fine posturing and speechmaking. Thumbs up all round. Indulge your misdirected aggression!


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 8:34 PM
horizontal rule
435

Wasn't that *exactly* how it was proposed? I forget, it wasn't my argument.

I guess I said things above that might have been construed that way. What I meant was that just as a personality characteristic, having major other-regarding projects in your life made, well, less self-regarding and more other-regarding. All other things equal and stuff. I wouldn't discriminate between the various possible types of other-regarding projects.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 8:38 PM
horizontal rule
436

I don't think people mean `import babies from china'; I think they mean that western liberal democratic society doesn't need to rely on any two generations being directly related to carry on existing, and so claiming that having babies is a a way of carrying on our society is nonsense.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 8:46 PM
horizontal rule
437

The "neutral at best" statement pisses me off.

I honestly don't understand why. Perhaps you're talking about aggregates, and I'm talking about individual couples. We are sitting in a society in which at childbearing ages most of our contemporaries will have them, there will be plenty of them, and there at least globally will be plenty of resources for them. Against this backdrop I can't see any individuals decision as anything but neutral. We collectively don't need that kid, we don't not need it either. Speaking globally (scope has not been obvious in this discussion) gets you the "at best" (ok, I understand this is problematic because while their are terribly overpopulated areas the economics local to these places is complicated.. let's not go there also)

If the aggregate effects where basically guaranteed to continue the next generation just fine, we'd be in a different position. But, as I said, there are no shortage of babies.

What's surprising me about your vehemence is statements like:
I don't think that it's [having children] something should have to justify

Because in my experience nobody really ever asks that. It's the thing most people do. It's expected, for the most part. There are things that are asked, but in my (limited to be sure) experience they're more likely to be feminist issues rather than parenthood issues (not "why did you have this kid" but "why do you think you can have a kid and career"). Maybe this doesn't match your experience at all but that's mine.


Nothing is *wrong* with neutral. I'm not going to hand anyone a gold star for the act of having a kid. Not handing one out for declining to either. Do a decent job raising them and we'll talk (this applies more broadly than parents). If that pisses you off, well, so be it.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 8:47 PM
horizontal rule
438

I'm commenting on this thread right now just to maximize global utility. I wish more people would follow in my lead, but what can you do? Some people are just selfish.


Posted by: Barbar | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 8:50 PM
horizontal rule
439

Keir, doesn't that amount to importing babies? Importing babies is a medium-sized business already.

Or do you mean that for the good of the world, existing Americans should stop having kids, and allow immigration of adults as needed? In any case, the consequentialist argument against childbirth is universal, so everyone in the world should stop having babies until the desired number is reached. Not just Americans.

To me this kind of global thinking is ludicrous, and wrong every which way.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 8:52 PM
horizontal rule
440

I should probably add, JE, that since we're talking about personal experience at some level here my own involves the fallout of a large number of really, really lousy parents. Luckily for me, not my own. It's a selection bias that I try to account for but perhaps don't succeed.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 8:52 PM
horizontal rule
441

No, it could amount to importing adults, or exporting ideas.

I don't think that Americans should stop having babies; I don't think it matters one way or the other, really.

I dunno if Indians should stop having babies. Not competent to answer. (See Indira Gandhi, I think.) But it doesn't make much odds, cause there's very little we can do about it.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 8:58 PM
horizontal rule
442

OK, take "neutral at best."

When you find that someone you know is pregnant do you say "In the best case, there's nothing wrong with that"?

Is that the reasonable thing for someone to think, say, or feel? Is there anything wrong with thinking that way? If you say "no, there's nothing wrong with thinking that", that's what I'm disagreeing with. If you say "yes, that isn't right", what's not right?


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 8:58 PM
horizontal rule
443

Well, the "it doesn't really matter very much and there isn't much we can do" is part of my resistance to global consequentialism. But the "neutral at best" is what pisses me off.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 9:02 PM
horizontal rule
444

Hell, when someone gets a new car I say, "Hey, that's great!" I don't necessarily think it's selfless of them.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 9:02 PM
horizontal rule
445

Is that the reasonable thing for someone to think, say, or feel?

Particularly if you read my most recent expansion on that, you'll see that my statement and your characterization of it have very little to do with each other.

To answer your question though: how could this be anything but situational?


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 9:04 PM
horizontal rule
446

Can't it be selfish to conceive a child, but then selfless and responsible to raise an existing baby, whether or not you generated it?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 9:04 PM
horizontal rule
447

When you find that someone you know is pregnant do you say "In the best case, there's nothing wrong with that"?

Pretty much. Same with marriage. I think I am more thrilled with someone getting a promotion.

What exactly entitles you to a share in that joy?


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 9:05 PM
horizontal rule
448

446: absolutely.

It can also be a wonderful or terrible idea to have a child, full stop (not saying these are equivalently likely)


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 9:06 PM
horizontal rule
449

I haven't raised this an MC isn't here, but in practice parenthood is mostly motherhood, and anti-parental or parent-neutral ideology strikes harder at women than at men. And in general. all across the economy, culture, society, etc., parenting is devalued. The families, neighborhoods, and churches which honor parenting are all on the defensive.

On another site I had a runin with a guy who explained that carrying a baby to term and squeezing it out is no big deal and soon will be done by high-tech devices. He didn't see anything wrong with that, though it plugs in neatly to millennia of misogynist, anti-body polemic.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 9:08 PM
horizontal rule
450

What exactly entitles you to a share in that joy?

Membership in the same species.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 9:10 PM
horizontal rule
451

Let me try a different way, JE. Dropping the rest of the world and the "at best", my a priori judgement of is this a good or bad thing is neutral. A posteriori would by nature depend on what I knew about the people involved.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 9:10 PM
horizontal rule
452

451 for a particular couple. For the population as a whole? Good thing, but don't overdo it. Spend some more energy on the pathetic disparity (for so resource rich a country) of resources for the ones we've got.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 9:12 PM
horizontal rule
453

...aww, never mind.
that's the attitude i think i have regarding anything, almost all things, boring
so self-diagnose severe depression or enlightenment depending on my mood



Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 9:12 PM
horizontal rule
454

so much space


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 9:13 PM
horizontal rule
455

445: What I'm arguing against is the phrase "neutral at best", which you defended. If birthing is "neutral at best", the phrase in 442 is the most reasonable thing to say. "In your case, I'm sure there's nothing wrong with this" would be as enthusiastic as you'd situationally be allowed to be.

For those who are wondering, I'm anti-relationship but pro-parenthood. Fairly diametrical to a lot of the hip liberated common culture. The accusations of conventionality have been annoying.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 9:15 PM
horizontal rule
456

but then selfless and responsible to raise an existing baby, whether or not you generated it?

It should be a personal pleasure, not a public duty.
There's that old saying about "Duty becoming joy", and I think much of the thread involved parents wanting some kind of recognition as "dutiful" and professing that the perceived duty had turned into joy. I certainly recognize and appreciate that process, and perhaps even envy it a little.

I am resistant to the idea that child-bearing child raising should be understood as any kind of individual public duty rather than individual choice.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 9:17 PM
horizontal rule
457

The families, neighborhoods, and churches which honor parenting are all on the defensive.

It's like we live on a different planet sometimes. The social default is pretty uniformly supportive of parenting, but unevenly; women absolutely bear the brunt of the labor and are not valued fairly for it. But if there is any social censure, it is for the childless, not the parents.

The idea that this culture doesn't value parenthood is absolutely bizarre. Tell me it doesn't value it above all else? Sure, I'm with you. But not value it? Crazy talk. It's the accepted default for most people. It's strongly socially supported (even pushed, depending on your family etc.) if not nearly as strongly financially supported.

anti-parental? I don't see it anywhere. parent-neutral? we seem to be completely unable to agree on what that means, which makes it pretty useless terminology.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 9:17 PM
horizontal rule
458

Interesting to read this thread as my wife and I are contemplating adoption. I'm in general agreement with Emerson, but I'd say "neutral at best" is offensive mostly because the phrasing implies "usually not neutral"--if "neutral at best" were replaced with "generally neutral" it wouldn't bother me. But the truth is, raising a child (well) is a big positive, and there are plenty of children already around who need it. Although of course there's nothing wrong with wanting to birth your own (as I said, it's generally neutral).

I do wonder how many of the people who don't want to have children *not out of self-indulgence but purely for global environmental or other noble reasons* are considering adopting children instead? (Or have some other all-consuming not-self-indulgent life project?) Because there are of course some, but IME (YMMV) they are few and far between--most intentionally childless people are fairly self-indulgent. (As, in fact, are most people, I'd say--I'm not sure becoming a parent cures one of general self-indulgence quite as automatically as seems to be suggested in this thread. Maybe that's being buried in all the references to "doing a good job" as a parent, but I'm not totally sure that gets you there.)


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 9:19 PM
horizontal rule
459

If birthing is "neutral at best", the phrase in 442 is the most reasonable thing to say.

No. Also, as I already specified that the "at best" was a global (i.e. whole earth) modifier and best dropped in this already too wide. See 451 to hopefully avoid going round again.

As far as what you would say to an expectant mother of your acquaintance, well that's pretty socially constrained regardless of your feelings, isn't it.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 9:21 PM
horizontal rule
460

"At best" is pretty much what's at issue. "Neutral in the absence of context" is a much different statement. "A wonderful thing in the absence of problems" is what I would say.

When people escape from the repressive world of their families and neighborhoods and churches into the wonderful world of liberation, they don't necessarily escape into something better. And by and large, the world they escape to is an elite partial society which doesn't value parenting.

Whether you import babies or allow adults to immigrat, the whole idea of maintaining the population mostly by immigration reminds me a lot of outsourcing everything difficult, risky, painful, messy, or low-paid. America will become a globally dominant, monkish, elite nation.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 9:24 PM
horizontal rule
461

"generally neutral" it wouldn't bother me.

Yeah, I like that. I tried to clear up the "at best" so far to no avail.

458.last mostly matches my experience, although I know rather more childless (choice/not I'm not sure) who have fairly non self-indulgent lives. So I don't know how this generalizes. People are mostly pretty self-indulgent, and I haven't seen that having or not having children makes much difference, but I'm fully aware the samples don't mean much.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 9:24 PM
horizontal rule
462

Childraising is not a duty, but it's meritorious and publicly necessary.

As far as being a private pleasure, that's masturbation you're thinking of. No one would raise kids for pleasure. They're not a hobby like terrariums or macrame.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 9:28 PM
horizontal rule
463

Well, ffs John, I don't know how I could be much clearer then. I already specified that for me the "at best" was specifically (if not initially clear) targeting at the very real regional problems of overpopulation. And if you're talking about random parent globally, you're mostly talking about parents there. But I backpedaled from that because it's a complicated as hell issue and we didn't seem to be discussing it anyway. "neutral at best" was my shorthand for neutral, if you're in a situation where you've the resources (personal and local) to raise a child as best we (globally) can, otherwise maybe not even that. It's problematic I realize (and stated later) because in a lot of cases where overpopulation relative to resources to raise kids is a real problem, it's also locally (to the family) an economic necessity.

So yeah, as stated more clearly ages ago, if we're talking about say random US births, it's a neutral decision. But you're harping on the "at best" still as if it meant something totally different.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 9:31 PM
horizontal rule
464

When people escape from the repressive world of their families and neighborhoods and churches into the wonderful world of liberation, they don't necessarily escape into something better. And by and large, the world they escape to is an elite partial society which doesn't value parenting.

This also seems bizarre to me.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 9:33 PM
horizontal rule
465

Society is likely better off if those who do not obtain any pleasure, satisfaction, or compensation from raising their already born children try to find someone who will in their stead.

You are pretty fucked to say there are no pleasures in raising a child, Emerson. Or are you saying that there are only community pleasures, as if the parent were acting only as an agent of the community?


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 9:35 PM
horizontal rule
466

And in general. all across the economy, culture, society, etc., parenting is devalued. The families, neighborhoods, and churches which honor parenting are all on the defensive.

I agree with this statement in many ways, and sort of disagree with Soup in 457. I think I understand where Soup is coming from, but I think what he's pointing to is a fairly thin veneer of propaganda over a bunch of cultural and societal realities that are not genuinely supportive of parenting. The messages of consumer culture are deeply anti-family.

Also, regarding self vs. other regarding above -- I actually don't put a ton of moral valence on the distinction. Some people are other-regarding in part because they're busybodies or bossy, some people are self-regarding but very inoffensive and never cruel to others. I guess what some people mean by selfish vs. unselfish is the capacity to genuinely put the needs of others before your own. I suppose I might be speaking in a private language here, but I separate the two. The people who do the most good are the ones who are both driven to engage in their community and society (other-regarding) and capable of being genuinely unselfish in the sense of putting other's needs before their own. Like Emerson, though, I still wouldn't define unselfishness in terms of global utilitarianism.

A classic developing in the OSU/Texas game right now.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 9:35 PM
horizontal rule
467

are considering adopting children instead?

Fwiw, Brock, I know several who've done this, and many more cosnsider(ed/ing) it.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 9:35 PM
horizontal rule
468

Soup, I'm arguing against "neutral at best", which wasn't originally said by you, but which you defended. If you dropped it, then you agree with me, I guess.

Seriously, where do you live, soup? Who do you know? How old are you? I just spent 40 years in hip liberated ideological educated professional coastal enclaves. But there's pop culture too. What I'm saying isn't relevant to small towns, ethnic urban neighborhoods, or the flyover states. But most of us don't live there.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 9:36 PM
horizontal rule
469

462:No one would raise kids for pleasure. ...John Emeron

Sir, I think you are mistaken, and I think there is adequate testimony on this very thread to refute you.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 9:37 PM
horizontal rule
470

Parents don't raise children as a pleasure. There's a mix of pleasure, cost, obligation, tedium, sacrifice, and risk, mostly premised on childraising being a meritorious activity.

I'm surprised that you of all people want to think of children as a private consumption item, like chocolate or something.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 9:39 PM
horizontal rule
471

A lot of ideologically "Family Values" people aren't especially pro-family in their actual lives, or supportive of families. But many are, which is one of the strengths of the right wing. Parents often become a bit more conservative because their hip liberal friends can't be bothered and dump them.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 9:41 PM
horizontal rule
472

The messages of consumer culture are deeply anti-family.

I would put this differently, I guess. This culture, at this particular time, highly values consumer culture, true. It also puts a lot of cultural value on parenting (and other things). However, some of these values conflict and as a culture we haven't sorted out how to resolve (or order) the conflicts. Women bear the brunt of the fallout of this, not because of the particular values, but because of a pre-existing structure to shunt the brunt of problems like this onto women.

Which is not the same thing as not valuing parenthood and specifically motherhood. There is a difference between social expectations and resource allocation, too.

Perhaps this is mostly a problem of jargon. I'm saying that the culture emphasizes and socially reinforces parenthood but does not facilitate it in all ways that it could. You may be saying that this lack of facilitation amounts to not valuing it.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 9:42 PM
horizontal rule
473

Night all. This is late for me. No personal hard feelings. This isn't mostly about people here, just about some general things I've been dealing with for a long time.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 9:46 PM
horizontal rule
474

Motherfucker. Texas wins at the last second. This is just another pernicious anti-family message from the wider culture.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 9:47 PM
horizontal rule
475

474: Stupidest defensive call with 22 seconds left in the history of college football. Tressel has lost his mind and his nerve in bowl games recently after a promising start.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 9:58 PM
horizontal rule
476

Yeah, unbelievable. How can you not have a prevent-type defense in that situation? A field goal won't do anything. Defend the damn end zone.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 10:00 PM
horizontal rule
477

I'm surprised that you of all people want to think of children as a private consumption item, like chocolate or something.

As I have repeatedly said or implied, I am mostly trying to think of children as not being public goods.
I may be way off base, but I believe that attitude detrimental to women in a patriarchal world.

In a world without parents, children certainly could be a public good, a shared joy. In the world we live in, they are ...overdetermined.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 10:01 PM
horizontal rule
478

If you dropped it, then you agree with me, I guess.

Well, no, because I think you've mischaracterized it anyway.

Seriously, where do you live, soup? Who do you know? How old are you? I just spent 40 years in hip liberated ideological educated professional coastal enclaves.

Well, sounds like for me it's different, it's a pretty broad spectrum. I haven't spent all that much time in any one place, geographical or socioeconomic.

I'm a typical age for this blog I think, i.e. thirties, which makes me a bit younger than you. Let's ignore other continents, I've spent most of my time here. At the moment, I live one of the largest US cities (in the top five), but I've lived in places as small as a few thousand. Lived in medium sized cities too, and mostly grew up in one. I've been an immigrant, I've been middle class, I've lived in poverty, lived without a home for a while. I've been dead broke without a friend in the world, and I've ben very comfortably off, middle/upper middle class or whatever you want to call it. I've worked a crazy range of jobs (and other ways of making my way). From piece work on farms to trades work to `creative' to `professional'. These days I'm an academic.
Who do I know? Jeez, where to start?. Lunatics and regular people. Murderers and accountants (though never both, to my knowledge). Mechanics and hustlers and artists and activists and lawyers and prostitutes and academics and rednecks and police and musicians and loggers and hustlers and circus freaks and doukhobors and farmers and drag queens and preachers and scared kids and scared adults and also excellent happy human beings. I've had friends under bridges and in embassies. People who live in big ass houses and poeple who live in single wide trailers and people who live in beat up old boats and people who live in cardboard. Shit. Who do I know? Everyone along the way, John. But it's been a weird path and I know it skews my idea of who "people" are.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 10:05 PM
horizontal rule
479

shiiit. I typed all that for John and he went to bed already.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 10:06 PM
horizontal rule
480

soup is hella getting on Oprah.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 10:09 PM
horizontal rule
481

479: I bet you anything he'll read it tomorrow.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 10:10 PM
horizontal rule
482

481 yeah, probably.

Besides, looks like I typed "hustlers" twice, and they don't deserve double booking. Also "in embassies" is a bit off, shouldn't be plural (but I was lately related to an (ex, now dead) ambassador I only met a couple times, and had another friend who lived in an embassy residence for a while)


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 10:19 PM
horizontal rule
483

Stephen Walt looks like Sparky Pulastri from Bring It On.


Posted by: BBG | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 10:21 PM
horizontal rule
484

Also, John, re: pop culture. I haven't had a television since the 80's, not out of anti-TV so much as lack of time or belongings or travelling, or a combination. Other pop media channels much the same, they come and go. I try to get not too out of touch, but maybe I'm more out of touch than I think.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 10:23 PM
horizontal rule
485

anyway, 'night for me too. And less unfogged soon, i'm behind at work.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 10:24 PM
horizontal rule
486

Oh. Last night's movie was Godsend. Really.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01- 5-09 10:52 PM
horizontal rule
487

467: I do too. (Well, one, not several, but I wasn't doubting their existence.) My point was that such people obviously aren't being self-delusional about their reasons for not wanting children. (Or I should say rather, I guess, they obviously do want children, just not the moral problems associated with birthing a child in an overpopulated world.) Everyone else, though, is slacking off. That is to say, might have less noble motivations than are expressed. (Or possibly not--none of this is universal.)

This was meant to be a clarifying comment, but I'm a little worried it's as muddy as my last. I blame the infant who's been squirming on my lap the whole time I wrote both of them.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 01- 6-09 5:28 AM
horizontal rule
488

moral problems associated with birthing a child in an overpopulated world

How do such people tolerate their own continued existence?


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 01- 6-09 6:20 AM
horizontal rule
489

488: It's only temporary. Those hyper-moralisitc genes won't be passed on.


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 01- 6-09 6:36 AM
horizontal rule
490

I have a friend who spent about a month in college deciding whether he should kill himself for environmental reasons. He didn't, but faults himself for his lack of commitment. He occasionally still takes off into the Sierras for a month or two with, like, a small bag of peanuts to fall back on. He's a pretty amazing guy, built an incredible treehouse in the Berkeley Hills. I'll be surprised if he has kids.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01- 6-09 9:38 AM
horizontal rule
491

whether he should kill himself for environmental reasons

If my eyes rolled any harder, they'd bleed.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01- 6-09 9:45 AM
horizontal rule
492

huh. threads dead but I'll note if it's not obvious 478 and prior was becks style. sounds more interesting there that it is, unsurprisingly. how dramatic of me.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 6-09 9:48 AM
horizontal rule
493

491: agreed. Then again, people have killed themselves for worse reasons.

maybe the thread isn't dead after all.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01- 6-09 9:50 AM
horizontal rule
494

I have a friend who spent about a month in college deciding whether he should kill himself for environmental reasons. He didn't, but faults himself for his lack of commitment.

Like the thread title says: if it's going to make you miserable, don't do it.


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 01- 6-09 10:08 AM
horizontal rule
495

And yet, in our house full of devout hippies, we carefully reasoned with him, admitting that he is technically right on the merits but we nevertheless loved him and wanted him around. I think we may have finally convinced him that it was possible to be a good enough advocate that he would do more good than harm.

That said, it was probably our other friend, the one who designed the first public transit trip planner, who will end up having been the most useful of all of us.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 01- 6-09 10:21 AM
horizontal rule
496

admitting that he is technically right on the merits

Huh? Really? How did this argument go?


Posted by: Barbar | Link to this comment | 01- 6-09 4:07 PM
horizontal rule