The morals of having children
When speculation emerged in July that Kate Middleton might be pregnant with her third child, a letter from charity ‘Having Kids’ urging the couple of reconsider met with a considerable public backlash. The charity: for the good of the environment, we should be having fewer children, and those in the public eye have a duty to set an example for the rest of us. The public: who are you to tell them what they should and shouldn’t do?
To not have children is a decision I made long ago. At an early age I was conscious that there were too many people in the world, among them many unwanted children. Why would I contribute to that? My view was usually dismissed by others: “Oh, you’ll change your mind,” and, “Wait until your biological clock kicks in!” I would smile and say, perhaps. But as my teens turned into my twenties, I never developed that maternal instinct, neither did I feel an urge to be pregnant. Babies don’t make me weak in the knees; I don’t quite know what to do with them.
My decision to remain childless has caused tension in past relationships. One boyfriend would say, “I know you don’t want children, but why don’t you want my children?” He wouldn’t accept that this was a decision I could make alone. We argued endlessly about it until one morning he told me he needed to find a woman with whom he could have babies, and that was that. I was heartbroken, but wouldn’t change my mind just to keep him happy.
Most of my friends are now parents. All three of my sisters have children. But at the age of 34, I am still as adamant as ever that I won’t follow suit. Though my resolve is still the same, my motivation has changed. I’ve always been environmentally aware, but it wasn’t until recently that my decision struck me as being an environmental one. Our global population is on the increase, and in a world with finite resources, we cannot continue to grow exponentially. We can be diligent in terms of reducing food waste, using renewable energy, creating less pollution, protecting animals, but fundamentally, if there are too many people on this earth it doesn’t matter how much we protect our resources: there simply isn’t enough to go around. The obvious answer to our environmental woes is to have fewer children.
Yet it’s a controversial issue. When we speak of limiting a population, we think of China and a restrictive one-child policy that has resulted in forced abortions. We think of freedom of choice being taken away. In Western society, large families have been the norm for several generations, with the push after the World Wars to re-build our decimated population, or the historical need for women to have lots of children because only a handful would survive into adulthood. Most people see the choosing of family size as a fundamental human right, illustrated very clearly by the outrage sparked by the ‘Having Kids’ letter.
And so it should be, to a point. We should all be free to make those decisions. But we should also be informed to make those decisions responsibly, with regards to the impact they have on those around us. Everything we do in life affects the environment to a greater or a lesser extent. People consume resources. By bringing a child into the world, we are creating a person who will need food, water, clothes, stimulation, and all the other resources life demands. We are already consuming far more than this planet can provide, a worrying trend that will only continue to rise.
Today, the Cambridges confirmed that Kate is indeed pregnant. The news made me sad and slightly frustrated. While I am against forcibly restricting people in their fundamental freedoms, I wish we could be better educated to make better choices. I’m frustrated because Kate and William are in the public eye; it could be enormously influential if they had chosen to have no more than two children. When I tell people of my decision not to have a family, and explain the reasons why, they are interested, and admit to never having thought of it like that. It is difficult to present limited family size as a positive choice, but it’s an important argument to make, and one that would benefit society and the world for generations to come.