There was an interesting interview on Here and Now this morning. Robin Young interviewed a young woman named Nadia Taha, a married 20-something writer who lives in Manhattan, who has decided that having kids isn’t for her because she’s determined, through much research and analysis, that it costs too much. She even wrote an article about it for the New York Times called Opting Out of Parenthood. Ok, on the surface, I can get on board with that. I’ve got a nine year old, and I know firsthand that raising her has been, and will continue to be, pricey. Between day care, health insurance, keeping her fed, clothed, and housed, scraping up the extra cash for lessons and activities… not to mention the fact that everything we do for fun is made one third more expensive: three Disneyland tickets, three plane tickets, three movie tickets, three “like it” scoops of ice cream from Cold Stone Creamery. And then there are the costs I haven’t dealt with yet, although arguably I should be planning for them, like college and (hopefully) graduate school. Yeah, kids are expensive.
But there is something super disturbing in the way Nadia has approached her cost-benefit analysis of parenthood. Like a kid a simply an expense that one is expected to take on, but really is just optional. I suppose one can look at it that way.
I prefer to think of having a kid as an investment, and not just a financial investment. Parents invest emotionally, and physically, too; and all of us invest in our kids socially and culturally. And when we do it right, kids repay our investment in spades. Every snuggle, every smile, every giddy carefree kid laugh repays a sleepless night a thousand times over. Every straight A report card, every 1st place win, every high school diploma, every PhD, in fact every accomplishment a kid makes comes as a direct result of investment of the time, energy, and money of a parent. And you know what else? Every CEO, every Nobel Peace Prize winner, every cancer drug researcher, every President, and every 20 something writer in Manhattan, have also come as a direct result of the investment of parents. Where would we be without kids? They’re like umbrellas. Sure, you don’t have to invest in one, but life sure gets better when you do. Especially if you invest decently in one so it doesn’t go to pieces when the weather gets rough.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that everyone should be forced into having a kid, or an umbrella. I totally get that there are people who just don’t want to be parents, just like there are people who would rather wear hoodies. Maybe they need their hands free to two-fist martinis at happy hour every night and an umbrella, or a kid, is too cumbersome to deal with. (I jest). But really, if someone doesn’t want a kid because parenthood doesn’t jive with their lifestyle, I can totally support that. The last people we need having kids are those that won’t make a good investment in them.
What bothers me about Nadia’s article in the New York Times is that reads like an elaborate excuse. If she’s so moved by the spirit to explain to the world why she’s not having kids, she could just say that being a parent isn’t for her. And in fact she does say that she doesn’t have a “profound emotional desire” to have a child. So to me it sounds like THAT is her reason; but I guess she doesn’t feel it’s good enough so she’s decided to bolster her decision with half-assed excuses. She even throws in some extra guilt on the rest of us, like by not having kids she and her husband are doing a favor for the rest of the world:
“And if we decide against doing so, it will partly be out of concern for the welfare of others. My husband in particular worries that creating more human lives strains an already overtaxed planet.”
Good grief Nadia, maybe you are doing us a favor by not having kids.
Yes, we have an overtaxed planet. Yes, we have a huge population growth issue, not to mention many other issues with how we’re impacting our planet (but that’s for another blog). Again, this goes back to the investment argument. If parents, and society as a whole, invest well in our future (our kids!), we have an opportunity to turn things around, to make the world better. Sure, good choices need to be made. If you’re going to have kids, have less of them (maybe one or two, not eight or ten) so you can invest more fully in them emotionally and financially and they can, in turn, invest in being good stewards of this planet.
I hope Nadia’s parents feel like they’re getting a good return on their investment. She sure is lucky they decided she was an investment worth making. I know I’m feeling pretty good about my investment, and I have high hopes that I’ll continue to see immeasurable returns.