Should you have children? Did you have a choice?
A reader writes raising the issue as to whether having children or not affected my retirement decision. Of course it did. One reason I can retire early is that I didn't have kids. Of course, if I had, they would all be grown right now and presumably not living in my basement. But of course, over the years, I managed to squander at least a half-million dollars on cars, boats, RVs, a swimming pool, a vacation home, etc. (poor me!) which I guess would have paid for the cost of raising a kid or two (the number I hear bandied about is about a quarter-million per child).
As I noted before, another reader writes asking for advice (I'm not giving it!) whether to retire early, when they have a child still in high school. This is a different scenario, of course. I would think the big issue is health insurance - or the uncertainty thereof - as well as the cost of higher education down the road. Maybe better to wait a bit - but that is their decision to make.
And occasionally, I get the angry message from someone who has made poor life choices (in every sense of the word) that I don't understand how hard it is to raise kids. Well, that's true. But again, I am not an advice column. I am just writing for myself, to get my own life in order. Getting your life in order is your job, not mine. Good luck with that!
But it raises the issue, should you have kids? And it is an interesting question. I mean, I could have had children, and for all I know, there may be a little Bobby running around out there wondering where his Daddy is (yes, in high school and college, I had a number of girlfriends). And of course, being a male, I am still capable of procreating right up until my last breath, unless of course I have testicular cancer or something.
And of course there is adoption. A lot of people tell us, "you should adopt a baby!" and we both say, "Uh, no, don't think so!" And the reason is multifold. We have many friends who were adopted and they seem to be doing well in life, although some are doing better than others. But in every case, there are always issues with being adopted - indeed, everyone seems to have family issues regardless. One friend of mine from my partying days would get all weepy after a few beers and say, "Did I ever tell you I was adopted?" and we would always reply, "Yea, every time you get drunk, you Irish bastard!" Because the Irish do tend to get emotional and weepy (or violent) when drunk. If you doubt this, come to my family reunion sometime - one reason I stopped going!
So there are issues for any kid who is adopted - issues that can be overcome, provided you are not an emotional thinker and spend all day wondering why your Mother "abandoned" you. But to be adopted by two gay guys - that seems like an additional complication. And maybe we are old-fashioned, but the entire concept makes us a little uncomfortable. It seems that today, people are pushing the cultural envelope a little too far. We thought it was great progress that gay men weren't being beaten to death. Cross-gender restrooms and "transitioning" in the third grade seem like taking a good thing a little too far.
I think also, we both realize that we didn't have the maturity to handle something like that - taking care of ourselves was hard enough to do. Oddly enough, at age 59, I might have be able to handle it. But at age 30? I'd be the abusive rageaholic my Father was. And there's no need to raise another generation on that!
But it strikes me that there are two kinds of people who have children - those who feel they have to (due to a biological urge to raise children) and those who do so accidentally. And the latter makes up the majority of folks who have kids.
Many of our friends reached a certain age where they decided they wanted to have kids - in fact it became a biological imperative. Some, for example, went through extreme medical procedures due to infertility issues. Others adopted when those techniques didn't work out. Others had no issues, but carefully planned their family - how many kids to have, and when. There is a biological urge to have children, which of course is a good thing, or we wouldn't be here.
Others - far too many - only have a biological urge to get laid. Having children is sort of the after-effect of that. A young man of 17 chirps (literally, on Twitter) that "I'm going to be a Father!" which I thought was a little over-stated. You got laid. You knocked up some chick, and now some young life is coming into the world, without a full set of parents, and without a means of supporting him into the future. Great work, keep it up!
And yes, these are the sorts of people who then take on the mantle of "parent" as if it were a sacred duty - such as the white-trash girl I mentioned before who made a big deal about being a "Mom" when in fact, she just got fucked in the back seat of a Camaro. Being a good parent is not easy - and the best parents don't brag about their parenting.
But of course, there is no shame in getting knocked-up. It happens. You go out for a night of partying, and have a few beers, and before you know it, that boy who you kind of like is having busy hands and maybe you should have said no or gotten that condom out of the glovebox. And the next day, you have a real hangover - with lifetime consequences. And it is all-too-easy to say, "Well, get an abortion" when you can feel life kicking inside you. So you have a kid. It happens. No shame in being human, so just get over that.
Having children is, of course expensive. How expensive does depend on how you raise them. Every day, it seems, we read another horror story about parents who literally starve their kids to death. I suppose that is one way to raise kids on a budget, but you'll end up in jail.
Other parents, having spend a lot of money and time on children, consider them to be life-long possessions, or slaves - bound to do their bidding. And this does not usually end well for everyone involved.
Still others feel that it is their obligation to continue their DNA legacy and indeed, this is a hot-button issue today - and in the past. Elon Musk claims it is a societal duty to have kids - and none of his will even talk to him (even the ones too young to talk). There has always been this worry that the dumber and lesser of us will reproduce exponentially and thus snuff-out the better part of humanity. Sadly, such arguments are often a cover for racism. Eugenics, for example, was a popular movement in the early part of the last Century, but was quickly discarded after the horrors of the holocaust. We breed every sort of animal from horses, to cows, to dogs, and beyond, to favor certain genetic characteristics. Couldn't the same be done with humans?
The problem with that argument is that some folks want to speed up the process by culling the herd, which leads to genocide. The other problem is, the folks who want to do selective breeding are often the worst examples of humanity and often not even a representative of the Übermensch they strive for. Hitler talked of the superior Aryan race, but he was, in fact, short and black-haired and had no children of his own.
Maybe that is a pattern - that those who are highly flawed desire the most to see humanity "perfect" and thus advance these Eugenic ideas the hardest.
What history has taught us, though, is that you can't tell in advance which combination of DNA will produce the person who cures cancer or solves the problem of world peace. Selective breeding might not save humanity, but be the very end of it. A world of "super-men" may turn out to be a world of weaklings.
All that being said, that is another reason why I am not motivated to progenate. The world is already too damn full of people. I am not sure that adding more is helping at all.
But all that being said, sometimes I wonder what it would be like, to drive the minivan to Disney, with screaming children in the back seat, calling me "Dad" and whatnot. I suppose that would be very rewarding, if done right.
On the other hand, I've seen firsthand how parenting can turn into a nightmare, particularly for the children.
And I suspect, my life would be far more circumscribed as well. I would have been less likely to start my own practice, but instead stay at a "steady job" and work long hours to "bring home the bacon" like so many Dads - to a family I never get to see. I would still be working today, just to fund my retirement.
And yea, you can say that is "selfish" I guess. But on the other hand, maybe it isn't. Maybe some people shouldn't have children and that's OK, too.
Just a thought.