Well, full disclosure: I don’t have kids. This could cause some ignorance on my part. But I’ll take a stab at it anyway. You can be the judge of whether the opinion in this article is ignorant or not.
I picked up from the recent episode of the Tim Ferriss Show: “It is a selfish desire to have children, because it’s us who wants to have children.” That makes me think.
I gave this some thought. It is true that the decision to have kids is purely self-serving. We create tiny humans because we want to have tiny humans to take care of, and raise them to be our desired big humans. The child does not, at all, have a say in this decision. That is, the child cannot decide whether he or she shall be born.
And since no one asked to be born, we owe nothing to our parents. Life is equally arguable as a gift or as a misery, like the good old wise Buddha claimed, or at least, many people claimed that’s what Buddha claimed. Parents may take care of their children out of love, or because of other obligations, or they might not take care of their children at all. But it is not horrible of a child to not love parents back for whatever reason, precisely because they did not ask to be born, thus need to be taken care of. If the parents ever assume that the children would love them back because they pour all their heart and soul into this relationship, that’s expecting something in return, and thus, not pure love they are giving.
Relationships are hard by themselves. The relationship of parents and children has another level of complication: giving birth and taking care of someone for a long time, or from the other side, being born and receiving care from someone for a long time. Lots of emotions get invested. It’s easy to lose track of the line between pure love and expecting something in return by the other party.
That said, for me personally, I still have an on going relationship with my parents. It’s not amazing straight out of a fairy tale, but it’s not in a burning hell either. We are trying to figure stuff out together like adults.
My parents had some plans for me as I was growing up. And as I grow up, I slowly migrate away from that plan. I’m working toward a career in music and storytelling. My parents, like most parents, want me to follow a safer path. Of course they mean well! But in the heat of our discussion, they probably associate me changing course with me no longer value their opinions. I did not do a great job of communicating otherwise, either. Emotions came crashing down, bustling left and right… After many conversations, we are now working toward recognizing each others as individuals having different values and goals. It’s slowly working out.
But then again, the fact that there is a problem to resolve in the first place is precisely the point. A tiny human, aka a child, have so many years of developing mental capacity. During this period, we are likely to be dependent on the parents, following the parents values and goals without much thought. Until we have the ability to give it more thoughts.
Some of the times, the children end up adopting the parents values as a way of life. Some other time, the parents are open to letting their children adopting different values. But some other times, it is emotionally hard for the parents to see their child having different values from them. There! Right there, difficult conversations take place, or conversation cease to exist at all. And that’s sad.
The line between good and bad is non-existent in philosophy. So as a avid philosophy contemplater, I should be careful in making any point related to this. Now, that aside, the children could go up to be a “bad” person in compare to the social standard, either because of heavy influence from the parents, or not enough influence from the parents. And these “bad” children creates a problem for the society.
I’m afraid of taking the responsibility for the entire life trajectory of another human being. I feel Tim Ferriss when he said he’s afraid to fuck it all up for his child when/if he has one.
So we have identified that it’s hard to raise a child, and having a child is a selfish desire. Let’s dive a bit into the reason that we might have that precise selfish desire.
We want to search for meaning in life. Again, the fact that I don’t have children will affect my ability to speak about this. Many people swear with their life that bearing child is the most meaningful things they have done in their life, my parents included. But is it because they cannot find meaning in other areas of life? Is it because they are not satisfied with their ways of contributing to humanity through their work? Is it because they don’t have other meaningful relationships? Is it because they don’t find happiness in searching for the Beauty or Knowledge that the world has to offer? Of course, I can gather all the opinions in the world, but I can’t get a sufficient answer until I bear a child myself. But isn’t that defeating the whole purpose of thinking critically about whether to bear a child or not?
We want to pass down our legacy to other human beings. This can be done by teaching people who has their own ability to think for themselves, aka able adults. What we had discovered, we can pass down to generations after by sharing knowledge, be a teacher. This way, we can pass down whatever we beauty or knowledge we discovered in life without the risk of messing up the life trajectory of another human being from the early age.
I hate to end on an ambiguous note, but I don’t have a conclusion to this. In fact, I don’t have conclusions to many things in life. No one does. But we journey on despite all the uncertainty. After all, asking the right questions is the correct first step in approaching the right answers, right?