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Is it selfish for a person to choose not to have children? Many believe so. I’ve also heard that it’s wise and mature to make such a decision. The debate ensued this morning on the radio and discussion even leaned toward the topic over lunch with girlfriends this afternoon. There’s never a shortage of opinions on this topic. They all basically represent two types of people: 1) those who have/want to have children tend to think having kids is something everyone (with caveats) should experience and 2) those who enjoy personal freedom and value sleep often question why one would ever want to be a parent.

The real question in my mind is not whether it’s selfish to remain child-free, really. The underlying sentiment usually has something to do with the value our society and culture place on parenthood. Arguments for bearing children usually boil down to something like this: “Why wouldn’t you want to have children? I simply don’t understand why you’d want to be alone.”

To see yourself in another human is to see yourself live into the future beyond your own years, a sort of immortality one could argue. To have another person around to take care of you when you’re older is definitely not selfish, right? One of my favorites: Kids just make you so happy. I find it ironic that the best reasons for having kids tend to be all about the parent.

My guess is that many parents don’t see how they portray parenthood to non-parents. Here are some of the common themes I’ve learned about parenthood from those who have kids:

  • Once you have kids, you’ll never get any sleep. Parents are always tired.
  • Traveling — even across town — takes on a whole new level of complicated.
  • Nights and weekends often revolve around kid games, projects, and schedules.
  • A woman’s body will never be the same after giving birth. Details spared.
  • Daycare is outrageously expensive. The average wage for a live-in babysitter is $100,000 a year.
  • You’ll use approximately 8000 diapers over the course of a lifetime, says one website. That’s a lot of poop handling and landfill filling.
  • “Kids take over your life.”

Given all that, I propose there’s a more important reason to have kids, albeit not one that most people consider: It’s a matter of national security. That’s right. There are over three times as many babies born in China and India than in the US each year. The Indian middle class of 300 million is the fastest growing middle class in the world. In the coming decades, most economic development will happen in developing countries. There are more honor students in China than there are kids in the US. Even Latin American countries are surpassing the US in population growth and most will reach 99% literacy by 2025. Meanwhile back at the US ranch, our education system is failing miserably leaving our kids trailing far behind the youth of many other countries in terms of basic skills. Our kids remain, for the most part, monolingual and entitled. They fail to understand the value of hard work, the dollar bill, or even their own word. With the overall declining population growth in the US and growing apathy for US patriotism, our country’s future is not as bright as many like to believe. Having kids just might be the biggest contribution that some people make to support the sustainability of our great nation.

My view is this: If a couple wants to have children, they should. In fact, they should have several. Maybe 4-5 per willing family would help our economy. However, an honest assessment of parenthood might include the admission that to want kids is a very selfish endeavor. If it weren’t, adoption might be a far more popular route to parenthood given that the greatest love is that which is not implied to be required, but that which is chosen. Raising a strong generation of young people means also caring for the ones whose biological parents can’t. My hope is that people who have children also commit to doing parenthood well. After all, even cockroaches reproduce. It doesn’t mean they make the world a better place because of it.

Personally, I like sleep. Napping whenever I want is a fabulous option I exercise at a moment’s whim. I enjoy quiet time and purchasing a single plane ticket when I want to go visit friends. I have a few stretch marks that serve as reminders of a less happy time in my life where failing health took a toll on my waistline. I don’t wish to add to my collection. I like vacations. Walking away from the chaos and rush of my daily life is like standing in the sea breeze. If I had to worry about kids, I might still find a few moments to take in a sea breeze every so often…with lingering sea gulls circling overhead.

I respect ticking clocks, but prefer to hear the one that hangs over my kitchen table. It’s during that quiet time that I work on projects to better educate our country’s young people and strengthen the future of our nation. It’s not just parents who see themselves into the future. It’s also the people who have the time, energy, and resources to make sure kids have the opportunities, strength, and skills needed to see our country into the next era.

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