I’ve always told my friends and family that I don’t want to have children. By which I always meant that I can see no reason why I right now or maybe ever would want to have children. Of course my opinions might change in 5 or 10, or 20 years (my mother had me and my brother in her 40’s so I know I have plenty of time), but I have no intentions of becoming a mother. Usually I’m told that I’ll change my mind when I get older and lonely, or when I meet the right person, or I’ll simply change my mind. As if they were all so sure that I’d one day have kids. Why wouldn’t I, they ask?
In today’s Opinionator blog of the NY Times, Christine Overall, a professor of philosophy at Queens University wrote a piece, “Think Before You Breed.” Overall writes:
“…people are still expected to provide reasons not to have children, but no reasons are required to have them. It’s assumed that if individuals do not have children it is because they are infertile, too selfish or have just not yet gotten around to it. In any case, they owe their interlocutor an explanation. On the other hand, no one says to the proud parents of a newborn, Why did you choose to have that child? What are your reasons? The choice to procreate is not regarded as needing any thought or justification.”
I’ve always felt a little wrong at people’s automatic assumption that I want to and will have kids. But I think Christine Overall makes a very interesting point that our thinking is backwards.
“The burden of proof — or at least the burden of justification — should therefore rest primarily on those who choose to have children, not on those who choose to be childless. The choice to have children calls for more careful justification and thought than the choice not to have children because procreation creates a dependent, needy, and vulnerable human being whose future may be at risk. The individual who chooses childlessness takes the ethically less risky path. After all, nonexistent people can’t suffer from not being created. They do not have an entitlement to come into existence, and we do not owe it to them to bring them into existence. But once children do exist, we incur serious responsibilities to them.”
Check out the article.