FIRST PERSON | The decision not to have children was a decision that I neither made consciously nor on my own. It was essentially a decision made "for me" by a tumor that grew abnormally out of whack. (Thank God it was benign.)
I did not, however, set out in life with the intention of not having children. I grew up in Utah surrounded by a plethora of female friends, neighbors, acquaintances and family members who all subscribed to the time-honored tradition that it's a woman's primary duty to bear as many children as possible. The reasoning was that you were born female and not by chance; ergo, your purpose in life was to have children, support your husband emotionally, and raise a family that will grow up to share wholesome values.
That particular path was never really wide open and available to me. I was always the "geek" who never had any real boyfriends and for whom there didn't seem to be any boys genuinely interested in me (much less interested in procreating with me).
Now that I am "all grown-up" in my 30s -- and I see my friends proudly posting pictures of their children on Facebook -- do I regret not having had an opportunity to bring forth into the world all of those wonderful children? Absolutely not.
Am I a greedy feminist-capitalist pig living high-on-the-hog in the New York City area who has sacrificed all of the joys and rewards of motherhood "just" for the sake of starting and operating my own business? Probably. But I don't believe that I'm missing out when I constantly see families struggling day-in and day-out just to make ends meet and to feed their kids canned pasta.
The cost of raising children has skyrocketed since the 1960s; we're not exactly living in that "Leave it to Beaver" society in which a middle-class family could rely upon the man to bring home enough of a salary to provide financial support (plus make payments on the mortgage, two cars, and the annual trips to Disneyland). There have been estimates regarding how much a family can expect to spend raising one child, and I agree with those more realistic amounts that add up to the seven-figure range. According to a 2007 article published in The Wall Street Journal, the expenses of raising a kid can cost more than a million dollars. (The government, for its part, says it costs about $235,000.)
I don't believe it's right to introduce an innocent child to a harsh world when the parents are not financially secure enough to give that kid a fair and decent shot at a healthy and rewarding life. I believe that there may be a certain degree of selfishness and hubris that compels one to get married and have children just for the sake of satisfying the sometimes coercive demands of family, friends, or religion.
A good business person must know where to cut the loss. In my profession (I provide advice on growing a business and profiting through real estate and other alternative investments), I have learned quite a few tricks on quitting while still ahead of the game. The philosophical awareness I have gained from not having children makes up for it all.
Discovering the True Meaning of Life entails much more than having the ability to procreate. My own experience has very clearly shown that the act and beauty of creation comes in various forms -- the start and growth of a business, art, music, the printed and spoken word, or simply giving unselfishly of one's time and expertise to help a fellow human being. I have learned that what gives purpose to one's life can be realized through so many diverse and equally fulfilling means that it's not necessary to have children "just because" of the archaic belief that it's a woman's lot in life to do so.
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