Mama Don't Preach: Thoughts on Respecting Parenthood Decisions

Meant-to-Be Moms?

If you're living a child-free life, you probably know what I'm talking about: People who start out celebrating their own decision to have kids and end up casting aspersion on your choice not to -- or at least not to have them just yet. They'll carry on -- with great concern about your ticking biological clock, of course -- about how their lives before children were (and implicitly, your life without them is) empty, lonely, devoid of meaning, even downright selfish.

These procreation proponents stepped up a few years ago, revved up by Sylvia Ann Hewlett's Creating a Life: Professional Women and the Quest for Children, in which the author declares that women today are in a "crisis of childlessness." Wait too long, she warns the ladies, and you may suddenly wake up seized with regret and unable to conceive.

I'm past 30 and a brand-new parent. At this point in my life, though not before, having a baby feels completely, euphorically right for me. I'm deliriously happy with my decision to spawn. But who am I -- or who is anyone else -- to say that having a baby is the best thing for everyone?

They Say No -- and That's Okay

Not only do I not think that the only meaningful life is one that includes children, but I'd also go so far as to say that there are people in the world who should not have children.

I'm not talking about people who are, say, prone to abuse. Those people are givens. I'm talking about perfectly nice, everyday folk who don't really want children. People who are happy with their lives as they are and are uninterested in turning them upside down to meet the needs and whims of a growing child.

Like marriage only more so, having children is an irrational act, a total leap of faith for all who attempt it. If you worked up a cost-benefit analysis of childbearing and -rearing, the cost side would be filled with real sacrifices -- financial, physical, emotional -- and the benefit side would feature things like "When my baby smiles at me, I go all gooey inside."

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