Friday, August 27, 2010


(You can listen to the MGMT song while you read this post, if you're not totally tired of it by now. Dun dun dun dun dun da-dun dun dun...)

I've written before about my views on having children. But since raising kids is something that is so important to many people's lives, I think it's worth at least two posts. Anyway, the point of this post is to challenge familiar phrases yet again. We all know the question, "Do you want to have children?" Obviously, it's a question people really want to ask. So I'd like to keep its general spirit but raise its inclusiveness level with this alternative: "What sort of influence, if any, do you want to have on the next generation?" Sure, it sounds cornier and oddly formal (maybe one of you can help me out with that). But rather than a yes/no answer where biological children are the default, it opens up conversation about all kinds of other possibilities. Who knows! Maybe all sorts of people would find it interesting.

An oft-mentioned book here, The New Single Woman, claims that a connection to the next generation is an important element in the happy lives of older single women, whether or not they're parents. (Although the book is about women, I don't see why this idea wouldn't also apply to men.) As the question currently stands, people who don't want kids "the traditional way" are automatically put on the defensive. I remember being interrogated about my intentions when I responded to the current question with "I might adopt someday". I'd like to think my alternative question could put people on more equal footing in these kinds of conversations. Sure, it's a dream, but it could be worth trying out.


Isaac said...

I thought of teaching and mentoring. I think this gives more influence on the next generation than breeding.

heidi said...

Is it wrong to say I'd like to influence them not to have any kids? And just maybe to value the planet a wee bit more than the generations before them? Either way, I'd like to impress upon them that it's none of my business - nor their business - to judge over people's relationship preferences and honestly, there's no need for codependence!

Anonymous said...

Love this! I have a professor who often describes her decision to teach as the decision to parent -- a bit differently and in a diffrent context (or, as you put it here, to influence the next generation.) I also feel like I'm much more clear about my interest in influencing (and interacting with) the next generation than I am about my stance on parenthood... which makes your suggested alternative a much easier (and more exciting) conversation to have.

Ily said...

Isaac-- I'd like to be some kind of mentor as well.

Heidi-- No, I don't think that's wrong. And a wee bit? How about a truckload? We need it.

Mary--Yay! I'm with ya. I know I want to have some kind of positive impact on the next generation, but I have no idea if I want to be a parent.

Thanks for the comments!

Eli said...

I've always been more "I'll babysit yours" than "I can't wait to have my own." I feel like everybody who can and wants kids should adopt or foster--there are kids who need help and a home and you don't have to get stretch marks to help them (or have sex. Bonus!) I would take in a child if they needed me. But I despise the idea of having a kid just to have one before my eggs dry out. I was a tutor for awhile, and that is a better way to reach kids, I think.

Tomatl said...

god I hate that question! it is problematic in a billion different ways. I can't wait for your new question to become popular --just like cool people are starting to ask "what sort of things do you like to do" rather than "so, what do you do for a living?"

Tomatl said...

I hate when people are smug and imply things like "you will never know real love until you have a child" and "raising a child is the most important work anyone can ever do"

**But I also don't think it is fair to feel superior about our life choices either. ** There are people doing amazing things (mentoring, teaching, living sustainably) even though they have kids. Maybe having kids isn't the problem, but people's approach to it.

I can't wait for the day when people don't feel the need to justify their life choices by making other people feel bad. Having kids, not having kids: both equally valid choices.