Time magazine last week did an article on the growing trend toward living the childless life, or what it prefers to call the childfree life. This week, while patting its back for bringing national attention to the issue, the magazine mentioned an op-ed column in the LA Times that was written in response to the Time magazine article. According to Time magazine, the LA Times piece by Meghan Daum said, “Parenting is a momentous job that should be undertaken only by those who really want it. And for whatever reason, I just never have…. The children we never had would thank us. And so should you.”
Daum’s first statement about doing something momentous only if you “really want it” was bad enough, but her second statement about her unborn children thanking her rendered me almost apoplectic. Knowing how the media sometimes takes things out of context, I decided to give Daum a chance to better explain herself by reading the entire column, which certainly places her in a more reasonable light.
In the column, Daum describes some of the common criticisms of her ilk:
- “… not having kids is a function of narcissism, materialism and, it goes without saying, selfishness. There’s frequent talk of wanting to sleep late, take exotic vacations at the spur of the moment, and dote on ‘fur babies’ (that would be pets) who don’t talk back. Pronouncements like ‘My reason for not having kids is that Porsche sitting in my driveway’ and ‘I can’t even take care of myself!’ are typical refrains. This kind of talk always makes me cringe (ditto for the overpopulation lectures).”
Ultimately, Daum’s argument comes down to – “I cringe because knowing yourself well enough to realize you’re not up for parenthood is the definition of taking care of yourself. Moreover, it’s the definition of being a moral, ethical human being.”
Call me cynical, but I think Daum is rationalizing. Someone with the discipline to become a great writer surely has what it takes to become a good parent. Yes, some people are naturally great parents, but the vast majority of people can be good parents. Unlike Daum, I think these unborn kids deserve the opportunity to experience what we have been given.
Furthermore, from a purely private perspective, Daum should consider that virtually all parents, regardless of whether they were natural-born parents or parents because of societal pressure, will declare with unabashed certainty that parenting was the most satisfying experience of their lives.