Clearing the Heart to See the Truth

A Kid Calculus for Couples

I was at the grocery store last night and saw that the current issue of TIME Magazine has the cover story, “When Having It All Means Not Having Kids.” I opened it up to the story itself and saw that the attached artwork was an image of a childless couple on the beach, indolent and beautiful and happy. Next to them on the beach was a harried father lugging a mass of inflatable beach crap, and an exhausted mother urging two sullen children across the sand. The message of the story (subtitled “The Cons of Procreation”) was pretty clear, and the image really drove it home: if you want the fullness of what life has to offer, don’t have kids.

Now this is a very interesting concept, and one I’ve heard quite often. It’s the concept of tradeoffs as applied to children. If you want X, then you can’t have Y, and vice versa. So you have to weigh X and Y and see which is ultimately worth more. You have to weigh the value of KIDS against the value of COMPETING GOODS and see which one tips the scales in your own personal balance. And folks at TIME Magazine are suggesting that COMPETING GOODS is probably a better bet.

I think the first thing to notice about this system of measurement is that nobody applies it once kids are actually in the picture. No one would say to a mother, “Suppose I offered you some great opportunities in exchange for little Timmy?” Somebody who went around making those kinds of offers would be reported to the authorities. Why? Probably because we know Timmy’s not the sort of thing that can be exchanged for goods, services, luxuries or career choices. Timmy’s not like other resources or consumer options, and it’s sick and wrong to pretend otherwise. But if suggesting we trade a KID for COMPETING GOODS is sick and wrong after the kid is born, why is it not sick and wrong before the kid is born?

Of course, the folks at TIME aren’t actually making that offer. They’re simply reporting that couples without kids seem to have a richer experience of life than couples with kids. Apparently (“And we’re just neutral observers,” they say) kids are cost-inefficient when it comes to happiness.

Well, I think we need a little more rigor in our analysis. I think we need some sort of scientific, absolutely reliable system of measurement that can accurately predict whether or not a kid will be an overall contribution or diminution of your own personal happiness as a couple (assuming, of course, that you’re capable of bearing and caring for a kid). And the good news is that I have invented such a calculus, and am hereby sharing it with the world. It will infallibly determine whether kids will make you happier or less happy. It consists in the following question:

Are You Planning on Loving your Child?

If you aren’t, then by all means don’t have one. That kid will simply be a drain on your time, energy and resources, all of which could be devoted to more pleasant pursuits. A kid you don’t love will simply cramp your world, make it smaller and greyer and less restful. You will have less money, less dignity, and less freedom to do what you love. And odds are your personal appearance will suffer too.

But if you are planning on loving your child, then that child will not simply be One More Good Thing in your world. He or she will not just enrich your world. He or she will give you another world in addition to your own. If you can love your kid – and if you can’t love your own kid, there’s a good chance you’re utterly incapable of love – then you’ll feel your son or daughter’s joys or pains as if they’re your own; you’ll draw in your breath whenever they’re surprised, you’ll laugh like a maniac because they’re laughing like a maniac at some banal event. You’ll see the whole world differently, anew, and see yourself like you’ve never seen yourself before.

We always hear that love makes the beloved “another self.” But to have another self means to have another world. And the more kids you have, the more worlds you have. And once you live in many worlds all at the same time, you can only smile with pity when some lonely twit suggests that your experience would be richer if you didn’t have kids.

Oh, and one more thing. You know that image of the happy barren couple on the beach, and the overwrought family of four right next to them? I’d like to offer an alternative image for your consideration. It’s an image I heard from a woman who’s now in her late forties. She said, “You know, I never wanted kids, and I still don’t want kids, and now at this age I know I’ll never have kids. But I’m realizing that I’m going to die alone in a nursing home. And no one will visit me. And no one will care.”

So here’s a final image to leave you with: Two hospital beds right next to each other. One person alone, the other surrounded by a lot of people, a lot of his kids and grandkids. When the first dies, his corpse lies in the bed until the nurse comes by to do her routine vitals check. When the second dies people are holding his hands, and people are crying.

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23 Responses to “A Kid Calculus for Couples”

  1. Woah this particular blog page is excellent i like reading your content regularly. Keep inside the great work! You know, many individuals want rounded due to this info, you can aid these enormously.

  2. TheInformer says:

    So true! Of course children and family are a blessing not only for the practical reasons mentioned at the end but also the joy in life. Assuming of course that your marriage works out and your kids are good. Generally I agree but this column, like the Time mag article, has MANY assumptions

  3. They may have more stuff not having kids but when they do psychological tests of happiness having more stuff doesn’t equal happiness. Such test usually find that beyond maintaining yourself and a few niceties (a dinner at a nice restaurant, Hawaii instead of home for vacation, etc.) happiness slowly declines after you get more stuff. This is just an average since you can live happily with tons or nothing.

  4. Craig says:

    We stopped (most of the world) having children once married; now, we do not even marry. We have gone beyond lowering the expectations for couples and humanity. Pray for the Consecration of Russia by the bishops and Pope.

  5. Suzana says:

    Whenever I consider what “living in the world and being of the world” implies in the United States today, I immediately remember BRAVE NEW WORLD by Aldous Huxley. Life in the 21st century is getting more and more like life in that mythical world. In the story the people in the important, busy world never have children. it is not even a consideration, because for years humans had been cloned in factories like manufacturing machines. Children were raised in monitored institutions, according to a very socialistic, Nazi-like system. Sex is totally recreational and at times communal. In the story the main character went out west to the land where “savages” live, people who have their children naturally and live in families, in very “primitive” settings.
    Does it seem too far fetched that we are headed toward that Brave New World?

  6. Don says:

    You use the word “barren” to describe the couple that is childless by choice. Traditionally, and particularly in biblical language, the word “barren” refers to those unable to have children even due to some medical/health issue. An otherwise excellent article that ended up accidentally (I hope) grouping those unable to have children with those who willfully decide to not have children.

    • I was simply using “barren” synonymously with “childless.” This piece certainly doesn’t apply to infertile couples, single people, or celibates. Hopefully that came through when I wrote that this is a calculus for couples, and specifically, married couples capable of bearing and caring for a child.

  7. Kaye says:

    Of course the worst bummer here would be to have children you love dearly, but you are ignored in the nursing anyway because “Mom wouldn’t want me to see her that way.” Just saying…

  8. Art H says:

    Years ago there was a lady on TV telling her story. She had been a flight attendant and had married a handsome Captain. Their goal was to not have children retire early and be able to travel the world together. Then right after they retired the handsome captain died suddenly and she was left alone in the world. I couldn’t help but think of how a selfish decision can come back to haunt us all our lives. Try as I might I couldn’t make myself feel sorry for this very lonely lady.

  9. DoomSayer says:

    “…I’m realizing that I’m going to die alone in a nursing home. And no one will visit me. And no one will care.” Let’s be more accurate. She will be terminated (euthanized) by the US Dept. of Health long before she will need a nursing home because she will be of no use to the Empire. And she will be liquidated far sooner than she thought. As for no one visiting or caring, that much is true.

  10. Matt says:

    I was just mentioning to my wife that it seems like God brings children into our lives just when enui threatens. I don’t need all the trips and stuff that bored, childless couples need just to keep life interesting. Not when I’m rediscovering ducks and flowers, dogs and scrambled eggs with my daughter!

    • Donna says:

      And then there are grandkids, a most unexpected, inexpressible joy. Suddenly you are able to see parenting from a new perspective. Our daughter laughs and says that grandchildren are the gift you receive for not having killed your children :^D It is an amazing thing to watch these little souls grow before you, and all you have to do is love them!

  11. Rob B. says:

    I looked at the same article in the chiropractor’s office and was so sad. This is what the Culture of Death has brought us to, a level of narcissism so complete that we consider children to be a obstacle to our own pleasure. I wonder how many of the parents who “chose to be childless” had abortions in order to maintain their lifestyle. Sickening…

  12. Christine Dale says:

    You’re missing the point of what is happening in our culture. I don’t agree with this but people are no longer considered more then labor in the work force. On top of that the cheaper the better…so in the future (again I don’t agree I’m just pointnig out) Timmy will only be considered and object to accomplish a means for someone else. Look at the history of human beings – other then the Church cheap labor is all human have been considered. Sheep …

  13. BHG says:

    I totally agree except for this: there are many parents who DO exchange their kids for other goods, without ever actually getting rid of the kids…..great article, right on target.

  14. Tammy says:

    We didnt have a huge family but we started young. I clearly remember one evening when I was painfully outnumbered by 2 toddler boys (mac & cheese was flinging through the air) and the phone rung twice – one call was my husband (traveling in the military) calling to tell me that Oslo was lovely. Then my childless-by-choice brother called to tell me he was on the Eiffel tower. A trip I always wanted to take and it was only a dream for me.

    We had one more baby and it was 19 more years before I even got a passport. I waited over 30 years to see the Eiffel tower myself and it was a joy. A bigger joy though was buying my beautiful daughter pointe shoes in a dance shop near Place L’Opera. Nothing has been as good as discovering the world with my daughter.

    I had no idea that my husband would die so young…I was a 47 year old widow. He and I dreamed of going to Rome and we never made it…my daughter and I will take that trip this spring.

    • Thomas says:

      God Bless you, dear woman!

    • Mary Cay Andrikidis says:

      Tammy-
      Enjoy your trip to Rome with your daughter and say Hello to Pope Francis for me! Your beloved husband will be watching both of you as you fulfill your future dreams.
      God bless you both!
      Mary Cay

  15. Tichonius says:

    Well said.

    I would add that the model of parenthood illustrated by the beach-drudge drawing also begs the question. One can easily imagine the childless analogue: a solitary couple at the restaurant, shuffling their peas around their plates with nothing to say to one another. Dads don’t have a monopoly on potentially miserable outings.

  16. PATRICK WELLS says:

    There are lots of people who chose pleasure over children after having them. Think of wealthy and upper middle class people who send their kids off to boarding schools for instance. Or dirt bags who would rather smoke dope then keep track of their kids on a daily basis. Or the idiots who literally tell their kids that they were “mistakes and wish they had never been born.” Abusive parents are quite nearly the norm in our selfish and fallen culture. Its good many do not procreate. They would otherwise have been better off with mill stones around their necks like the gospel mentions….

    • H says:

      These people you mentioned are people I work with and I often ponder on the thought as to whether they should be allowed to have children. I look at the child and see something wonderful and realise each of those children have a right to be on this earth and we all have the responsibility to give them the opportunities they need to become something better, not just their mediocre parents. Of course the practicalities are different, and if these people had a different approach to life, things would be different…but its not and we have to live with others’ free choices.

  17. Alex says:

    Absolutely beautiful. Thank you. They don’t know what they are misssing

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