Opting Out of Parenthood with Finances in Mind
an article in The New York Times by Nadia Taha
(our site's article review)
Nadia Taha is one very thoughtful lady. And once you finish reading her article, you will probably find yourself echoing the comments of the mothers she talked to, who commented "Good for you" when Nadia told them she was considering not having children.
She looked at it from a lot of angles, such as:
- There are too many people in the world
- I do not want to produce a kid if I am not totally sure I can fill its needs adequately
- They cost too much—she figures $1.7 million bucks
- The kid may need help financially from birth to 40 (many people cannot find jobs that pay enough to support a house or even rent)
- The availability of contraception has made it a lifestyle choice
- Twice as many women today decide not to have kids, compared to 1976
- A lady who helps new parents says they are absolutely shocked when they learn how much it costs to have kids
- Mothers lose income due to the lost work hours when they leave work for anywhere from a month to several years to do the pregnancy-birth-caregiving thing
- Nadia does not have a profound emotional desire to have kids
- She has a good job and so does her spouse and she's happy already
- She plans to be around kids at times
- Kids are not an insurance policy for eldercare—it often does not work out that way
- Too many sacrifices
- Other mothers were supportive of her decision
- She says that "my husband and I will be able to give an extra boost to the young people in our lives we already know and love, and the others that we will grow to love"
This latter idea caught our attention big-time. The reason, if you have read about the MCs, should be obvious. There is no need to have kids in order to have the joy of loving them and caregiving them.
Let's look at some facts: There is way too much inadequate parenting in this world, which includes all parenting that is authoritarian (the majority), permissive, neglectful, or abusive. There is way too much abuse. Fully filling kids' needs is very rare in this world. Parents mostly parent how they were parented or try to do the opposite of what happened to them, since they are not happy about what they experienced when they got parented. Parents mostly want careers and they take care of kids only in non-working hours, leaving the caregiving (even when the kids are infants) to babysitters, relatives, home care places, nannies, or daycare operations. And the overall care quality from these sources is mostly not very good, the research shows. It also shows that the care from stay-at-home moms is also not that great—way too many people use TVs as babysitters. And when mom is in a bad mood or sick or really tired, she still does caregiving for the kid—just not very good caregiving. But no one blinks an eye. "It's always been this way. What else can she do?" What indeed!
Way too many people use TVs as babysitters; that's not caregiving—that's abdication, renunciation and opt out
Parents seem to believe that it is inevitable that kids just have to take what they get, and if they don't like it much, that's just too bad. Parents do their best. What more can be expected? Too often parents don't arrange caregiving according to what the kid needs, but according to what's convenient—or available. If a parent took a long, hard look at what the child truly needs and then contrasts that to what the child actually gets, said parent would cringe. Parents have always been pragmatists, because they have to be. But what exactly does pragmatism dictate when there are inadequate social resources? The answer: inadequate caregiving. Most of what kids get at most babysitters, relatives, home care places, nannies, or daycare operations falls far short of what they need and what is best for them.
From the 1970s to the 1990s good/excellent quality care went from 26% to 13% in centers; MCs' caregiving costs (free) and gas for transportation (minimal) represent minimized economic expenditures which will be particularly appreciated as childcare costs rise and yet childcare center quality decreases
Childcare centers should house friends, relatives, elders and kids—not strangers and high-turnover workers of questionable competence
But what if there were adequate social resources? And what if the child got to choose between two or more of these resources so s/he felt at cause in his/her universe rather than at effect? And what if there were lots of caregivers that actually deeply cared about the child—never less than two available? And what if there were a childproofed space
set aside solely for caregiving and the child could play with other kids there or get attention from his assigned caregiver—his choice? All this is what the child needs most. And this solves the problem of the sick, very tired, or in-a-bad-mood mom who was naive enough to try to caregive in such a condition. She would take herself out of the caregiving schedule and find a replacement by just contacting the secondary assigned caregiver, who would come to where the child is right away. See MCs. Why should kids go without or get bad caregiving simply because of adult convenience? It's true that as the child grows older he will have to learn to tolerate frustration or put up with unpleasant kids or teachers at pre-school or school. But infancy, babyhood, and toddlerhood have a lot of built-in frustrations even with perfect caregiving—kids surely do not need lousy parenting/caregiving in addition to all those built-in frustrations!
Check out Authoritative and Democratic Parenting Programs for a list of wonderful books that will help your parenting efforts tremendously. See Helping Young Children Flourish and Unconditional Parenting to understand just how much time, patience, knowledge, and loving kindness kids need in order to be truly nurtured well. The task is virtually impossible if you are a mother with no supportive resources to help. But here's the good news: MCs are the very definition of the adequate social resources it takes in order for kids to be truly nurtured well.
With the above as a context, ask yourself the questions Nadia asked herself when thinking about whether to have kids. The moral of the story here is not that no one should have kids. The moral is that no one who is unready for kids should have kids, and from our perspective, foisting inadequate caregiving on kids just because it is convenient and "everyone else is doing it" means that said person is unready. If you cannot do it right, don't do it at all.