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Being Childless equal in worth to being a parent

By Nina Steele 

The assumption that everyone should aspire to become a parent has distorted the view of many people on what the meaning of life truly is. Those who are parents are often seen as having a life that has more meaning than those who are childless. The evidence speaks for itself. For example, there are many policies aimed at helping parents while there are barely any for the childless. The same applies to the workplace, where parents can often take time off at the last minute citing childcare issues, while the same flexibility is not always available to a childless person with caring responsibilities as well, for example to an older relative. There are many such examples and the message seems to be unequivocally that parents come first, thus reinforcing the assumption that a person’s true worth is measured by whether or not they have children.

This assumption is not only naive but also dangerous. The danger here stems from the fact that by sending out the message that having children is what makes you worthy as a person, even those who are not fit to be parents end up having children, with catastrophic consequences. According to the NSPCC, there were over 92,000 children in the care system in the UK in 2013. Poor parenting affects the whole of society, not just the parents of those children. Society pays financially for those children to be looked after in care and more seriously, some of those children end up living a life of crime, which anyone in society can become a victim of. And there lies the true tragedy of this long held belief that everyone should have children.

The funny thing is that a lot of the people who are childless by choice have realised the enormity of raising a child and have decided that it is not something that they are willing to take on. Raising children is the biggest job anyone will ever have and realising the seriousness of it and deciding to take another path, i.e. to remain childless is not only brave but commendable. What is reprehensible is anyone who has children just because they can, without even giving it much thought. Children aren’t toys, they are precious and it is about time they were treated as such.

The impact of poor parenting is not just about the many children in care and those who have ended up living a life of crime. There are many adults who are still paying the price of poor parenting, the walking wounded as it were. Many of those adults are scarred for life from all the emotional and physical pain they suffered as children. Those who have the inner strength to grow out of that pain manage to do so, while many others never succeed. This is the real price that we pay as a society for encouraging everyone to have children and it is not a price worth paying.

There was a time when the idea that everyone should have children made sense. For example when survival was at stake, when a short life expectancy was the norm and after the various wars throughout history, when birth rates needed to be kept high in order to make up for the many loss of life. Fortunately, the reality of the time we now live in is different and although the world cannot be said to be a peaceful place, population growth is no longer about a shortage of people but the opposite. There is therefore no need to carry on with this outdated belief that everyone should have children. Being childless is equal in worth to being a parent and it is about time that this was reflected in society.

Comments

  1. Children are being born to people without a clue and that is the real tragedy. The decision to bring another human being into this world is such a major one that you would think people will give it more consideration, but most don’t. And yes we all pay a price for poor parenting.

  2. I keep thinking of children born to parents who have never done a day’s job in their life. What prospects have children like that got? The odds are stuck against them even before they are born. And that to me is the real selfishness. The focus should be firmly on these people who obviously are not fit to be parents, because of the high price we all end up paying as a society. To put the focus on people who are childless is missing the point.

    • Yes I do find it baffling that some sections of the media particularly see childlessness as a problem. How can the decision not to bring a child into this world be a problem? The real issue is poor parenting. The consequences of poor parenting are there for all to see. It is not like the UK population is shrinking and we need to make up for it, on the contrary. So this obsession with children does not make much sense

      • On the subject of obsession in some sections of the media with children, take the case of Hollywood actress Jennifer Aniston. Apparently we are meant to feel sorry for her because she is childless. I mean honestly! How can we feel sorry for a stunning, multi-millionaire with seemingly good health! That she must be perfectly happy without children seems to not matter to some. The assumption is that every woman particularly should be obsessed with wanting children and those who behave otherwise, i.e. seems to contradict that assumption have to be denigrated.

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