October 28, 2016

"People sometimes commend me on how 'brave' it was for us to not have children. I laugh..."

"... because to my mind, I arrived at it in just about the most cowardly way: I lucked into childlessness (if having a defective uterus can be considered luck). Deep down I didn’t want to have children, but I kept limping toward motherhood anyway, because I thought I should want them until, in the end, my anatomy dictated my destiny."

From a NYT op-ed by Sari Botton with a title that is so wrong in tone and substance that I don't want to skew your thinking by putting it here.

64 comments:

Jeff said...

Evolution in action.

Achilles said...

Not having children is one of the top 3 most selfish life decisions you can make.

But young women, who vote for Hillary in large majorities, are very selfish people as a rule and they feel guilty about it. This article is just comforting them with empty consolation. They realize schools are screwing men and society in general is tilted in their favor. They love rationalizations that hide their feelings of guilt.

Bill Peschel said...

Hmmmm, Drudge has a flasher up saying the FBI is reopening their investigation into you-know-who's emails.

http://www.cnbc.com/2016/10/28/fbi-probing-new-clinton-emails.html

As for the article, I could have inspired the inverse of that paragraph:

"... because to my mind, I arrived at [having a child] in just about the most cowardly way: I lucked into [getting children] (if having a [my wife demand it] can be considered luck). Deep down I didn’t want to have children, but I kept limping toward [father]hood anyway, because I thought I should want them until, in the end, my [wife's] anatomy dictated my destiny."

The punchline: I'm glad she did. I have a son and a daughter, and while they can be heartbreaking at times, I'm thrilled they're here. Selfish, I know.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

After reading the article, I'd say that the human race lucked into them being childless.

Bill Peschel said...

A few years back, The New York Times published an essay about a pregnant woman who was told she was going to have triplets. She decided she didn't want three, just one thankyouverymuch, so she ordered two abortions.

Her rationalization was that she didn't want to be that kind of mother who was constantly going to the store for Pampers. Not health fears (she expressedly dismissed that). It would be inconvenient.

I don't know what horrified me more: Her rationalization for taking two lives, intimately bound to her, or her surviving child if and when they read that article. How would I feel for the rest of my life knowing that I could have had two siblings as part of triplets?

coupe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
J. Farmer said...

"I wish it hadn’t taken a serious medical condition for me to feel permitted to embrace not wanting children. I hope that in future generations, more women will feel free to be childless without feeling they need a doctor’s note."

Oh please. If you don't want to have kids, don't have them. It's so easy.

Welcome to the new America. You're not somebody unless you're being oppressed or victimized in some way.

Owen said...

This column reads like a slow suicide note.

"The future belongs to those who show up." (Hat tip, Prof. Reynolds).

Henry said...

Not having children is one of the top 3 most selfish life decisions you can make.

Having children is the other. Not sure what the third is.

I appreciate Bill Peschel's inverse paragraph. I was always ready to have kids -- some day in the future -- until my wife called my bluff. I have three now. I had no idea I would love being a father so much.

mockturtle said...

I once had a cat that rejected her kittens. Luckily, 'grandma' cat was still lactating and fed the kitties. So lack of maternal instinct is possible even in animals. Last night I watched 'Georgie Girl' on TCM. The character, 'Meredith', played by Charlotte Rampling, rejected her baby and Georgie [Lynn Redgrave] raised it.

Personally, I cannot imagine feeling this way, as motherhood creates a very strong maternal feeling in most women--it certainly did in me!--and I enjoyed the hell out of my kids---still do! But for those [thankfully few] who are unable or unwilling to sacrifice a part of their lives to bring new life into the world, it's best not to.

Nigel Tufnel said...

Bill Pescel:

I remember that one too. It was presented in such a casual and cold manner. Maybe not representative of most, but they ran with it. The missing siblings would be 12 years old now. Wonder if the lucky one ever gets lonely at home.

The NYT oped is titled "When One Is Enough." This note is now appended to the original:

Editors' Note: July 28, 2004, Wednesday The Lives column in The Times Magazine on July 18 gave a first-person account of the experience of Amy Richards, who had been pregnant with triplets and decided to abort two of the fetuses. Ms. Richards, who told her story to a freelance Times Magazine contributor, Amy Barrett, discussed her anxiety about having triplets, the procedure to terminate two of the pregnancies and the healthy baby she eventually delivered; she expressed no regret about her decision. The column identified Ms. Richards as a freelancer at the time of her pregnancy but should have also disclosed that she is an abortion rights advocate who has worked with Planned Parenthood, as well as a co-founder of a feminist organization, the Third Wave Foundation, which has financed abortions. That background, which would have shed light on her mind-set, was incorporated in an early draft, but it was omitted when an editor condensed the article.

Titus said...

It is funny when Althouse exposes you to NY Times articles and peeps.

traditionalguy said...

Trigger Warning: Women are enslaved by the having of Babies, and once they are live birthed in a law observing pro-life community, then it is too late to murder them in self defense.

Women sure are oppressed.

Hagar said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Comanche Voter said...

This is more properly called "Cleansing the Gene Pool". This lady's biological clock should have been set at 11:59 pm and 30 seconds from the get go. We'd all be better off.

But not having children is a choice that one can make easily these days; the ethical way to do it is to use contaception methods that, Sandra Fluke's bushwah notwithstanding, are readily available to anyone ready to get up off their dead dumb backsides and get them. There at least two unethical ways--the Russki's favor repeated abortions; the Chinese simply drown the unwanted baby in a bucket once he or she is born.

mezzrow said...

The column identified Ms. Richards as a freelancer at the time of her pregnancy but should have also disclosed that she is an abortion rights advocate who has worked with Planned Parenthood, as well as a co-founder of a feminist organization, the Third Wave Foundation, which has financed abortions. That background, which would have shed light on her mind-set, was incorporated in an early draft, but it was omitted when an editor condensed the article.

"Condensed" news. I picture a can of Pet milk with a NYT label.

Nutritious as fresh? Skeptical, here... You might be able to use the part that gets left out.

Lyssa said...

"I wish it hadn’t taken a serious medical condition for me to feel permitted to embrace not wanting children.

I don't understand this feeling at all. I ultimately did want kids, but it took me a while to get there (my husband and I were married for 11 years when our first was born). While I certainly heard questions about it, and my parents longed for grandchildren, I never felt that I did not have "permission" to not have them if I did not choose to. What is it that leads so many women, women raised after the sexual revolution, and presumably raised in liberal, feminist families, to feel so constrained by societal expectations?

madAsHell said...

I wonder how she pronounces Sari ??

vicari valdez said...

Achilles said...
Not having children is one of the top 3 most selfish life decisions you can make.
10/28/16, 12:13 PM


this makes no sense. how is not having kids selfish?

what are the other 2 decisions?

mockturtle said...

What is it that leads so many women, women raised after the sexual revolution, and presumably raised in liberal, feminist families, to feel so constrained by societal expectations?

Victimhood. Many women want the freedom but not the accountability.

Ann Althouse said...

"Not having children is one of the top 3 most selfish life decisions you can make.."

Why shouldn't you make a selfish decision about how you want to spend your time in life and how you want to use the limited resource that is your body? You'd better make a selfish decision about whether to have children.

Yancey Ward said...

Wow, it must be so oppressing to make decisions most other people don't make. Almost like being in Nazi Germany.

Having written that, though, the entire essay also sounds like the Posner quotes from yesterday- sour grapes through and through. I don't doubt that she didn't want children when she was 26, but it really does sound like to me she regrets trying to delay it until she was 40, and is now trying to convince herself and others she didn't want them at all.

And I write this as someone who is quite sympathetic to her plight, I just don't have sympathy for the apparent rationalizations.

Henry said...

One sentence jumped out to me:

“Do we need to change him again?” his mother said with a whine.

That's pretty cold.

* * *

Do not ask for whom the biological clock ticks. It ticks for thee.

buwaya said...

"Why shouldn't you make a selfish decision about how you want to spend your time in life"

Because we are social animals.
Our trivial problems amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.
We are nothing but our obligations.
Death is lighter than a feather, duty is heavier than a mountain.

ALP said...

Lyssa said @ 12:57:

"What is it that leads so many women, women raised after the sexual revolution, and presumably raised in liberal, feminist families, to feel so constrained by societal expectations?"

I'd love to know this as well - it makes the steel plate in my head hurt to ponder it. Could it be a manipulative move on the part of journalists? I don't think I've ever come across ANY article about any "woman's issues" absent the obligatory language describing the horrible oppression and judgement leveled at the women being written about. Even the most confident professional women seem to have a crisis of confidence at every damn cocktail party they go to regarding some life choice or another.

buwaya said...

"how is not having kids selfish?"

Because it is your first duty, to your ancestors, to the race, to posterity.
Thats what you are here for, beyond anything else.
If you can't, it is tragic.
If you decide not to, it is betrayal.
If you sacrifice this, it is acceptable only if it is for the sake of service to something even greater, such as a religious vocation.

vicari valdez said...

buwaya said...
"how is not having kids selfish?"

Because it is your first duty, to your ancestors, to the race, to posterity.
Thats what you are here for, beyond anything else.
If you can't, it is tragic.
If you decide not to, it is betrayal.
If you sacrifice this, it is acceptable only if it is for the sake of service to something even greater, such as a religious vocation.
10/28/16, 1:40 PM


i'm very glad that you can't make do anything i don't want to. i'll also add that some would classify the rhetoric in this post and your last in this thread as being similar to that of communism.

henry herschel said...

I do not why some liberal woman hate themselves so much.

Karen of Texas said...

We better hurry up and automate ourselves out of the crisis of not having enough worker bees to pay the taxes that support those retired and do the jobs that currently require human bodies.

Who will take care of you in your old age? Ah. I forgot. The government and I, Robot...

buwaya said...

" i'll also add that some would classify the rhetoric in this post and your last in this thread as being similar to that of communism."

Whatever it is, its much older than communism. This is ancient. This is European, Asian, Chinese, it is Aristotle, Jesus, Confucius, and the lighter than a feather bit is Bushido.

It is the modern cult of the individual, of vain will and the worship of ones own emotions that is new.

Deirdre Mundy said...

Althouse says, "
Why shouldn't you make a selfish decision about how you want to spend your time in life and how you want to use the limited resource that is your body? You'd better make a selfish decision about whether to have children."


It's a classic free-rider/tragedy of the commons issue, isn't it? Children are resource intensive to gestate/bear/raise into productive adults. The intentionally childless can spend the childbearing years vacationing, saving for retirement, etc. Then, at the point they consume the products of the labor of childrearing (Through taxes on the young to pay for their healthcare/Social Security, through expecting the young to take jobs serving them, through voting themselves benefits), they want to reap the benefits of raising children without having done any work.


Actually, the child-free are a great reason to means-test social security and to remove SS caps. Why are we doing all this work and spending 4/5 of our income on the next generation (not to mention lost income due to child-rearing time/volunteering for things like scouts etc.) so that you can enjoy the fruits of our long, expensive labors?

I mean, yeah, we love our kids, we have them knowing they are expensive, etc.... But it seems the intentionally child-free are trying to make our work harder now (thorugh mockery, demanding child-free spaces, tax and regulatory regimes that make raising families harder) AND then want a free pass to use the results down the road.

So yes, selfish. Unless you're actively involved in helping us raise them (teachers, scout leaders, etc.) why do you expect to benefit from the products of well-raised citizens down the road?

Darcy said...

After reading the article, I'd say that the human race lucked into them being childless.

Yes. Bravo, luck!

I don't hate her for her feelings or words. I do feel a little pity.

cubanbob said...

Ann Althouse said...
"Not having children is one of the top 3 most selfish life decisions you can make.."

Why shouldn't you make a selfish decision about how you want to spend your time in life and how you want to use the limited resource that is your body? You'd better make a selfish decision about whether to have children."

Society doesn't get to make the selfish decision to cut those people off Social Security and Medicare.

vicari valdez said...

'those people' don't contribute to ss medicare with their taxes?

vicari valdez said...

is anyone here in favor of forcing people to have kids? sounds like it.

Henry said...

Unless you're actively involved in helping us raise them (teachers, scout leaders, etc.) why do you expect to benefit from the products of well-raised citizens down the road?

Because you paid your social security taxes.

Because you paid your school taxes.

Because you worked/created/innovated and helped enrich the world that everyone's kids inherit.

Because you invested your wages of sin in the stock market and it has helped businesses innovate and expand, increasing economic productivity.

Because the kids you didn't have didn't compete for education and jobs against the kids that other people did have.

buwaya said...

We are the outcome of a tremendous number of people (and pre-human beings) that went to a heck of a lot of trouble to put us here. We are the outcome of an enormous investment in work and suffering, all so we can be here and now.

Each little baby is born with mountain of duty on his shoulders.

There is an implied deal with all those ancestors. They put us here, at enormous cost, so that we can continue the line. If we don't even try, we betray them. A voluntarily childless person is like a dissolute heir to virtuous and provident ancestors. The wastrel throws away the substance with which he has been gifted.

Deirdre Mundy said...

Vicari- SS/medicare is a ponzi scheme, so they're paying off their parents, not themselves.

buwaya said...

"is anyone here in favor of forcing people to have kids? sounds like it."

The villages of our ancestors would have done this through social pressure, certainly. That's how people were meant to live, not in modern individual anonymity.

Henry said...

Why are we doing all this work and spending 4/5 of our income on the next generation (not to mention lost income due to child-rearing time/volunteering for things like scouts etc.) so that you can enjoy the fruits of our long, expensive labors?

That's an easy one, comrade. The clause after the word "so" muddies the real question. None of us are raising kids because of our starry-eyed commitment to the noble cause of social security.

We are doing all this work and spending 4/5 of our income on the next generation because we are mad fools.

buwaya said...

From Plutarch, "The Parallel Lives", on Cato the Elder -

On the nature of the Roman office of Censor -

"This office towered, as it were, above every other civic honour, and was, in a way, the culmination of a political career. The variety of its powers was great, including that of examining into the lives and manners of the citizens. Its creators thought that no one should be left to his own devices and desires, without inspection and review, either in his marriage, or in the begetting of his children, or in the ordering of his daily life, or in the entertainment of his friends. Nay, rather, thinking that these things revealed a man's real character more than did his public and political career, they set men in office to watch, admonish, and chastise, that no one should turn aside to wantonness and forsake his native and customary mode of life."

This is the Roman constitutional implementation of the ancient village mores. It broke down in the Roman version of urban modernity, but its instructive that the ancients held this function to be essential. Men had to marry (and women, by implication) and produce heirs, and it was part of the Censors job to make sure they did.

mockturtle said...

I think the point about Social Security isn't that childless people don't pay into it but that they have no offspring to pay for the older generation after retirement. One problem Europe is facing is a steadily declining birth rate among natives and there is an insufficient working generation to support their social welfare programs. This is one reason immigration was so encouraged. Unfortunately, so many immigrants are on the receiving, rather than the producing, end of the spectrum.

Henry said...

@mockturtle. True enough, but that is a problem with the structure of the program. It is not some kind of Benthamite proof of the utility of children.

mockturtle said...

Henry, children have always had utility. If nothing else, they are tax deductible.

Henry said...

Like Trump I pay no taxes.

Henry said...

That is a slight exaggeration.

buwaya said...

From I, Claudius - paraphrased from Robert Graves, paraphrased from all sorts of ancient Romans -
Augustus, addressing Roman bachelors -

I've called you here because I'm sick and tired
of the constant complaints that I've
bean getting from you and others
about the severity of the laws
I've made against bachelors.

To that I say, stop complaining and get married!
Because your complaints don't impress me that much.
And who in Hades do you think you are, Vestal Virgins?
You make me sick, the lot of you!
Look at that.
Do you know what that is?
That is a child.
A Roman child.
How in Hades do you think he got there?
By a Roman man and a Roman woman coming together in the same bed.
That is the fine product of a proper Roman union!
- Can't you stop that twitching?
- I ca-ca
Oh, never mind.
Oh, I hear some titters.
You can do better, can you?
You murderers of your own posterity!
Well.
damn well go and do it now!
Quick as boiled asparagus!
Or, by thunder, I'll bring in some laws you won't like!
And that's all I've got to say to you!
Don't try to get round it by getting engaged to nine-year-old girls.
I know that dodge.
A radish may know no Greek, but I do. "

The Gold Digger said...

People sometimes commend me on how brave it was for us not to have children.

Who? Who has been commending? I don't have children and never wanted them. It's not something that ever comes up in conversation, other than "Do you have kids?" "No." "How 'bout them Cubs?"

Nobody except my dad has ever asked me when I was going to have kids. Do I just live around more polite people than the author?

Rusty said...

" I was always ready to have kids -- some day in the future -- until my wife called my bluff. I have three now. I had no idea I would love being a father so much."

Some of the best times in my life are with my children. Even today, they're all grown up, I look forward to their company.

Jessica said...

"He...had been party to two accidental pregnancies before I met him."
Quite the turn of phrase. So he had kids, although sounds like abortions, unfortunately.

buwaya said...

"Some of the best times in my life are with my children."

ALL of mine.

buwaya said...

"Do I just live around more polite people than the author?"

They may be polite, but they aren't being kind.

ALP said...

Re: the childless and selfishness...

I don't have kids. I've done a ton of volunteer work for various organizations in my time. There are two kinds of volunteers: 1) those who have full time jobs + kids and can only offer a few hours a month; 2) those w/out kids who end up doing the bulk of coordinating/management of various volunteer efforts (without which the entire thing would fall apart), making it effectively a second job - putting in up to 20+ a week for major events.

The bulk of category #2 = people without children. I wonder what the impact would be on the goals of thousands of non-profit organizations if all volunteers w/out kids just up and quit volunteering. As a member of group #2 - I don't see how any parent with a full time job, a long commute, and kidw to raise can take on coordinating/managing even a small program.

n.n said...

Chaos.

This is the difference between normalization and tolerance. Whether by choice or force, there should be no effort to promote, even celebrate, dysfunctional orientations and behaviors. The Church's normalization of abortion rites, "planned parenthood", rape culture, and the full spectrum of dysfunctional orientations and behaviors by choice are first-order causes of catastrophic anthropogenic climate change.

Howard said...

people who have to justify their decisions made the wrong one.

Howard said...

ALP: The annual school carnival doesn't run itself. Kids don't coach themselves. There are two types of volunteers... those who get shit done and those who talk about getting shit done.

MadisonMan said...

The following people will care if you have kids:

(1) Your parents, siblings, Aunts, Uncles, grandparents, i.e., family.

(2) Nosy busy-bodies.

The rest of the world? Not so much. So I have to wonder for whom the column is written.

buwaya said...

"The following people will care if you have kids:"

Your kids.

buwaya said...


Mencius said, 'There are three things which are unfilial, and to have no posterity is the greatest of them.'

HoodlumDoodlum said...

People should be free to decide they don't want kids. Personally I want some but do not have any.
I still don't get why I am supposed to pay, via taxation, for people who do have kids, though.
Free to choose should also mean responsibility for those choices, no?

Howard said...

hoodlumdoodlum: It's called a social contract. Imagine how complex taxation would be if was all pay for play for every single variation possible. It's tough to have kids. First, you need to smell nice, have a job and a car. Then you have to be not creepy enough so a woman will have unprotected sex with you, but that woman then needs to be willing to carry your spawn for nine months. It's kinda like getting a job. If you want a job you get a job... no excuses.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Wait, what? We're explaining why I have to be taxed to subsidize other people's choices. Saying it is hard to have kids does not address that, at all (whether or not it actually is hard to have kids).
It is hard to do lots of things. It is hard to do lots of good, beneficial things. Should I be taxed for all of those? Some dude needs to practice all day to be the best bass guitar player in the world, yeah? Should he get some of my tax $? What does difficulty have to do with claims to my money/work??

chorister said...

Her husband, she says "had been party to two accidental pregnancies" before she met him.

Judging from the language, a Civil Rule 21 misjoinder of parties issue.

Paula Welter said...

You can have all the money in the world saved for retirement or received from SS benefits, but it's all for nothing without people. It takes hands to move bedpans.