Here’s a compelling piece (sent to me by my partner) about being childless:
We are no longer citizens, sporting just one indivisible identity. We have become our genders, pigmentations, sexual leanings, lifestyle choices and credal enthusiasms, and our expanding notion of rights is always taking in new minorities: transgender people, the depressed, the merely offended. There is one exception to all this mutual reassurance. The tent of identity politics was never pitched wide enough to cover people who forswear parenthood.
The author, Janan Ganesh, points out quite well the tilted playing field, where every subsidy, cultural token, and social reward slide towards those who procreate. He writes, “The welfare state is disproportionately a resource for parents. Child benefit, subsidised childcare and the like constitute a prodigious transfer of money from non-parents to parents.”
While I agree that I, as a childless person, am paying for other people’s kids (and, in a way, helping to raise them, since I work in schools), I am not as miffed that public money supports people’s personal, private decisions. In America (Ganesh is writing mostly about Britain), we need more subsidies for childcare and education, not less. But the average person shouldn’t have to pay more; let’s just tax rich people.
The big gripe I have with child-bearers is their insistence that having kids has no environmental impact—or the somehow worse admission that it does, but any impact is overshadowed by continuing one’s personal family tree. Since we are all related to trees and snails and blue whales, shouldn’t they be on that tree somewhere?
But as I’ve written before, I’m not in favor of population control measures like China’s or even Iran’s (which is apparently highly effective). All studies show that the best way to curb unsustainable population growth is to emancipate, educate, and (potentially) arm women. In the US, where parents worship their kids as gods on earth, and where parents worship each other like members of a secret cult, we still have a declining birthrate, despite government policy practically begging people to have kids, in order to maintain GDP and keep the numbers on the computer screens from flat-lining. (Most parents also refuse to acknowledge the connection between their kid and the stock market.)
In short, Ganesh is correct, in that choosing to have a kid is roundly praised, while choosing to abstain is roundly jeered, even though those who don’t have kids are helping those who do, in many interconnected ways. But no matter, all childfree people need to do is continue to write about it, and lend assistance to places that provide education and contraception. We can circumvent an act of Congress. We already are.Advertisements