If it’s one thing I’m absolutely rigid on and that I have never wavered on it’s my lack of desire to have children. Actually, it goes farther than that – the idea of being a father just absolutely repulses me, so much I actually ended my last relationship over that very issue. I was put at a crossroads where I had to decide which was worse – being single or having children I don’t really want. Obviously I decided that the latter was a much worse fate. As such, I did the only thing I could do and ended the relationship.
I have a multitude of reasons for not wanting children, but they can broadly be put into two categories: practical and philosophical. We shall take a look at those here.
Concerning my practical reasons for not wanting children, the very first thing to consider is the expense of having children. Kids are not cheap! Doctors visits, increased grocery bills, daycare, school supplies, glasses, braces, sporting equipment, cars/drivers’ education, college, the list goes on! That all adds up.
The second has to due with my internal wiring. I’m one of those autistic people who is incredibly short-tempered. Is that conducive to having children? Absolutely not. I’d likely do them psychological damage with my tendency to meltdown and get frustrated over the slightest thing out-of-whack. That’s not to say all autistic people are incompetent parents. On the contrary, there are many who are quite capable of it. I’m just not.
I also pretty much got the short end of the stick when it comes to genetics, not only with the autism thing but I also have a heart defect (Wolff-Parkinson-White) that has a genetic component and I do not wish to pass that on. I also know I’m a carrier of the gene for Graves’ Disease, an autoimmune disorder of the thyroid. Though I’ve not shown symptoms myself, I do know my biological father does and had to have his thyroid basically killed. I do not want to risk passing that on either.
Lastly is just I’m too much of a free spirit to be held down. Not having children I can pretty much travel unhindered, do what I want as far as nightlife and the like. I’m not held down by family commitments, which would no doubt make me miserable.
Before I discuss my philosophical reasons for not having children, I feel I must say that none of what I discuss here is intended to pass any judgment on anyone regardless of what reproductive decisions they might have made. That is not my intention. The views presented here are not original views, but rather views of academics that make the most raw logical sense to me. Again, this is not meant to be a personal attack on anyone so please do not take it that way.
The first, and strongest argument, is the Benatarian Asymmetry, named after South African philosopher David Benatar. Benatar first proposed this asymmetry in a paper titled “Why It Is Better Never to Come into Existence” and was further expanded upon in a full-blown book titled Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming into Existence which was published in 2006. The argument is much too long and detailed to list in a blog post, but the meat and potatoes of it is this: whereas pleasure is good and pain is bad, the absence of pain is good even if there exists nobody to benefit from that good, but the absence of pleasure is not bad unless there already exists someone for which such an absence would be a deprivation. In other words, regardless of the pleasure-to-pain ratio in one’s life, although the pleasures of life make our lives go better than they otherwise would, had we never existed we’d have forgone any and all pain (good), but because we would not “miss out” on anything by never existing (as deprivation requires existence), it is always better not to come into existence.
For more clarity of the asymmetry, consider two people: sick and healthy. Let’s say sick gets sick but has a strong immune system and is able to recover quickly from that sickness, while healthy has a weak immune system but never gets sick. Who is better off? Obviously healthy is better off, even though (s)he has a weak immune system. Everyone would agree that it is better never to get sick, regardless of the strength of one’s immune system. There you have it.
The second argument, which is weaker and not an entirely new argument, is the Pollyanna Principle. The Pollyanna Principle is basically an irrational optimism bias. In other words, we grossly over-estimate the quality of our lives. More or less, none of us realize just how much pain and suffering we endure on a daily basis. For a prime example of this, let’s just step back and think about a few things. What do we spend a vast majority of our waking hours doing? Working, of course. It is a very rare and fortunate person who does not completely loathe his or her job. OK, that alone puts our lives more into the pain category. Combine that with the day-to-day pains and irritants we experience and don’t give much thought to: hunger, thirst, heat, cold, financial woes, the need to urinate and/or defecate, the need to sneeze, sniffle, cough, clear the throat, etc. That’s not even considering the bouts of illness and disease we will all face. Our sleeping hours have their own irritants; namely dreams which more often than not result in painful stimuli – fear, sadness, anger, etc.
Given the above, and combined with the fact that nobody consents to being brought into existence (rather, we were all just kind of forced into it), I feel that it is very difficult to justify bringing new individuals into existence.
Given that, the question I’m sure many of you are wondering is, “Do you wish you had never been born?” The answer to that question is, without any hesitation whatsoever, a resounding yes. I would have preferred never to have been brought into existence. However, that statement shall not be construed as “I want to die.” Once already in existence, most of us have an interest in continuing to exist and it can be very easily argued that death is actually one of the many harms we will face in this life (a position Dr. Benatar also defends at great length). That said, I absolutely do support the right to die so that if one decides his or her life is not worth continuing, that choice must be respected and the government does not have the right to stop anyone from taking his/her own life.
The above are the major reasons I have chosen not to have children. Again, these reasons are personal to me and shall not be intended as a personal attack on anyone. If you disagree with them, I’d like to know why. Please feel free to discuss your own views and engage in a healthy and respectful debate. I promise you I will not shut you down. I feel we can all learn something from the other side, whether you are a pronatalist or an antinatalist, a parent or childless/childfree.