Pro-Parenthood Propaganda!

A single day:

  • I just got to show my 14-year-old son 1964’s “Fistful of Dollars” for the first time, per his request, and he liked it—all the more after I pointed out ways it influenced some of his favorite shows (e.g. “Samurai Jack”) and movies (i.e. Indiana Jones flicks).
  • Earlier today he, his 2-year-old sister, and I played on our karaoke machine; my daughter had asked to “sing mic’phone.” All we messed with was KISS.
  • At dinner my daughter, who I’m absolutely crazy about, told me she loved me, without me saying it to her first, for the first time.
  • My six-week-old son has just started cracking smiles, begun letting out these cute sighs, and is getting tighter with me every hour. Tonight I sang Johnny Cash songs to him while we bounced on an exercise ball.
  • I wound up singing those songs to my daughter, too; I sing to her every night, and even though she has her standard requests (“Happy”—her name for Raffi—and “James” [Brown’s “Try Me”]), Dada is running low on songs he hasn’t sung her yet.

My wife and I marvel at it all together and tell the other anything we missed. It’s five of us in this house now, with a teen and two tykes (home birth #2 was as awesome as the first one, by the way) and it’s really quite good here.

There’s a selflessly selfish (and vice-versa) nature to parenthood that only makes sense to parents. One way to put it is I work very hard for them, and they give me something to work for. I’ll forego badly needed sleep to hang with them, and it’s better than coffee.

It is very, very difficult at times. That recent week after our son was born and my wife was on her prescribed bed rest, I was basically a single father of three. It was downright scary, but I made it.

Everyday there’s unexpected stuff to get through, but I’m unexpectedly ready for it—think of how long humans have raised kids, and here we’ve inherited all that, professionals before we’ve even tried. I’m writing about parenthood entirely positively now, when the kids are all asleep, even though in the thick of it I’ll wonder what on earth I was thinking.

I love it, though. Dig what I can write with all sincerity: I love my kids, I love being their dad, I love my wife, and I love that she loves being their mom.

It’s hard to believe! Even harder to wrap my head around is that I never wanted any of it. The feeling I get when I consider life without kids is like retroactive FOMO, where I get freaked that I could have missed out on this. There was no way I could have known how great it is without experiencing it first-hand. I’ve gone from not wanting any kids to wishing I’d started sooner.

I write this for anyone who hasn’t 100% declared they’re not having kids. If you’re at all open to it I hope this blog paints parenthood in a rare positive light—or, if it unintentionally makes a horrible case, I hope it leads you to a more purposeful decision to not have kids. I dread how many people will simply default to childlessness because it’s suddenly too late, or they’d never made it a priority. If adoption isn’t on the table, ladies who want to go through pregnancy should likely start before age 35.

If you already have kids, think you might, or have one on the way, I’m writing this as a boost or reminder why it’s worth the effort and limited party time (though I may still manage more of that than most non-parents).

If you don’t have kids, I don’t think you get enough evidence in favor of parenthood. People generally don’t like removing themselves from an enjoyable moment for the sake of sharing it with people who aren’t involved…unless I just completely misunderstood social media.

Anyway, having kids has been transformative for me, in great ways, and it’d be jerky of me to keep it secret and hog it for myself.

What’s Different

I like having my mind changed, and nothing’s floored me like parenthood, not even banana peels or wild oats. Growing up I didn’t particularly want kids or picture myself with them, even if I didn’t explicitly write off the possibility. Eventually, though, I established enough serious reasons to be against it:

1. I’d always held myself in low esteem, was depressive, and didn’t want to pass on that temperament to someone else.

2. Since 10th-grade biology—an influential class that converted me (for three years) to a vegetarian diet—I’d worried about overpopulation and its detrimental effect on the environment.

3. I was afraid to fall in love because I was afraid of being trapped in a relationship with one person forever, and I figured I’d have to do that before having kids would be an option.

I’ll address how I resolved those in reverse order.

3. I fell in love, with someone who already had a kid.

2. Resources are still limited and conservation is still essential to survival. To follow the logic of “Idiocracy”, though, wouldn’t people concerned about the environment be ideal to raise the next generation? Taken to its extreme, if everyone who cares about the planet stops having kids, in what kinds of hands does that leave it? And who’s to say your hypothetical kid, based on your pro-Mother Nature nurturing, wouldn’t invent a device or process that saves Earth?

1. On-going. I always thought only stupid people were happy. At some point I realized, thankfully, that happiness is actually very hard, but it’s possible and worth the work. I wouldn’t suggest to anyone to have kids just to make themselves happy, but my effort to be a good parent has made me happier than I ever thought I could feel.

Again, more than anything I’m putting this out there to communicate the incredible rewards of parenthood, and the ways it’s fulfilling that childless adults cannot comprehend. Parents will publicly complain a lot about the diapers and stresses, and if that’s all a non-parent sees, they’ll understandably want to pass. Like with a friend who only whines about a significant other, you don’t hear enough about the good times.

Some parents, however, try to show how great it is and only give it a bad rap.

Poor Arguments for Parenthood

We see plenty of cases made for having kids, in the form of pictures and family updates on social media, but before I had kids I’d scroll right past, didn’t care. Some of the posts are ostentatious—“Look how great my life is!”—and objectively annoying. Or, these parents are self-effacing in a way that rightly baffles people who don’t have kids, like literally replacing their own online profile picture with one of their kid(s). Kids should be parents’ primary concern, but part of being good parents is to be well rounded with lives and personalities of their own. Social media creates for some people a misguided sense of competition—a contest, in this case, of who can sacrifice more for their kids. It’s bad optics for parenthood.

Poor Arguments against Parenthood

This feeds into an increasing prevalence of anti-natalism—the stance against having kids. There are approximately one million think-pieces online promoting anti-natalism  for every pro-natalist one.

There’s an odd ethno-masochistic bent to these writings, though—they’re peculiarly directed at writers’ own Western countries that already have low/lowering birth rates. If procreation itself is problematic, why not target the most prolific “offenders?” Makes it tough to take the positions seriously. I’d imagine the argument for fewer babies specifically in the West has to do with our larger carbon footprint. But really? Is the only way to reduce our impact to reduce us? Why be so fatalistic about consumption?

There’s little good that comes from these pieces. If there’s to be any result it’s that thoughtful people will be convinced to not have kids, leaving a vacuum to be filled only by the less thoughtful, and boom—swear this is the last I’ll mention it— “Idiocracy”.

The philosophical argument for anti-natalism is, more or less, that life involves more suffering than pleasure, therefore it’s cruel to create life. But that’s like saying baseball shouldn’t be played because even the best batters miss more than they hit. To eradicate human suffering you’d have to exterminate humans—that’s somehow humane?

Pets Suck Compared to Kids

millenial

Not that pets suck. Earlier this year I wrote a 2500-word, sentimental tribute to my dog Batman. It’d be harder to find that much to say about our cat Foxy, but I’m a big fan of hers, too. I’ve always had pets and always will.

But I fear too many adults think they’re getting a kid substitute from having a pet. “Lady and the Tramp” illustrates the difference well—the dog feeling totally ignored for his owners’ new baby is pretty accurate. But it’s not because people love their pets less, so much as you love your kids infinitely more. Even as a lifelong pet owner, before fatherhood I had no clue of my real capacity for love and care.

People can call themselves whatever they want: a dog dad, cat mom, pet parent, chinchilla elder, whatever. Kiss your “dog-ter” good night, cool! Enjoy pet ownership, and may your pet enjoy being owned by you. Be great at it! It rules to have a four-legged friend.

But if you still think of a pet as your kid, I put forth the following:

  • If a pet is a kid, is a kid a pet? Are you, then, your parents’ pet?
  • Did your parents have a pet—and did they treat you any differently from their pet? Were their relationships with you and their pet equally meaningful?
  • You’re very fortunate if your dog lives 15 years, likewise if your cat lives 20.
  • Dogs have the average intelligence of a 2-year-old human.
  • Pets won’t take care of you when you’re old.
  • Pets cannot bear you grandchildren.
  • You and your pet cannot impart wisdom upon each other.
  • Or truly share a human experience together.

Caring for animals predicts good parenting—if you like owning a pet you’ll love having a kid. And if you like animals you’re in luck, because your kid probably will, too, and if you let them care for a pet it will help teach them compassion among other virtues.

Our society needs good people infinitely more than good dogs.

Selfishness, Ego, Etc.

Some people think it’s egotistical to want to have kids—“I’m so great that my genes deserve to live on.” Beyond Genghis Khan I really don’t think people have that conscious thought.

Still, I’d ask what’s more egotistical: choosing to have a baby, or choosing to singlehandedly stop the miraculous chain of reproductive success that every single one of your ancestors has maintained for thousands of years? That incredible, impossible lineage stops with you because…you want to travel (which, parents can if they want to), or don’t think you can afford a kid (ditto), or want to focus on your career (thritto), or for women, you don’t want to “wreck” your body (newsflash: time wrecks all our bodies regardless).

Further, do you want a better society? This blog isn’t just about having kids, but raising them, and parental input bears immensely on children’s IQ. We talk about the virtue of “paying it forward”—is there a greater way to do so than raising a good kid? Your parents did it for you, after all–or, if they were bad parents it’s likely because their own parents raised them poorly, and you’d be hard pressed to find a more virtuous undertaking than breaking a cycle of bad parenting. Parental effort could have even saved the lives destroyed by 26 of the 27 deadliest shooters in American history—mass murderers who were fatherless.

I believe parents themselves gain empathy for all people, not just their own kids. After nine vulnerable months of worry and wonder, to holding your baby’s helpless frame, you’ll develop a newfound awe that any of us have ever survived, let alone gone on to accomplish anything. Life’s cruelties will never seem crueler after witnessing the mystery and fragility of childbirth. Life is richer knowing we’ve all had a miraculous origin.

Bad Advice

I don’t have regret, nor shame, nor am I trying to normalize something deviant or degenerate by advocating parenthood. This is something that works for me, and it could for you, too.

Too many have internalized what I consider bad advice—that a corporate job is freedom, and parenthood is slavery.

Bad advice comes from people either trying to exploit you, or trying to help normalize their own questionable decision, or simply trying to drag you down to their own level of misery. I’m trying to offer something positive here, even if it’s just something to keep in mind—raising kids has helped lift me out of what was a very low place. I’ve got nothing to personally gain from elaborating on my opinion—if anything I’m afraid I’ll hurt feelings of people already committed to not having kids, or who don’t want to stress or face urgency about a big decision. Of course my goal isn’t to hurt anyone who’d take the time to read this, though it’s admittedly odd to find myself worried my pro-natalist position might be offensive.

But if you’ve read this and as a result are even firmer in your resolve to not have kids, I’m sincerely happy for that, too. My main worry is people don’t consciously decide to have kids or not, nor are we encouraged to—we’re so stimulated and distracted, if not infantilized ourselves, that before we decide the decision can be made for us, biologically. Ovaries don’t get the memo that “50 is the new 30,” or whatever some feel-good fad tells us.

Good Advice

“It’s all technicolor now.”

One of my mates texted me that the day our daughter was born, and he was too right. Other than falling in love, getting to raise a kid from birth has been the best thing I’ve ever gotten to do. I feel so fortunate to start again with my new son.

But even then, adoption is also wonderful (regardless of what some blogs claim). If raising my son since he was six hasn’t been right up there with raising my daughter since she was born, it’s because I missed his precious, early, formative years. In almost nine years together he and I have gotten tight as could be, but it does bum me out that I didn’t know him sooner, that I didn’t even know he existed when he was learning to walk or talk, or the first time he, I don’t know…blew bubbles or was moved by music. All those first moments are incredible.

Still, don’t have kids if you just want a human pet to love you, or, god, if you want to ensnare the other parent into a relationship or child support. Do have kids if you are in a stable relationship and can rely on earning money—and if you have those going but don’t want kids, ask yourself: what are you doing it for?

I will say that if you don’t want to have kids, at least do cool crap with your time. Really, really do it. Go out, take risks, travel, create, spend time with friends and family—do more than just sit home and watch shows you won’t remember. I’ve got older friends who don’t have kids, but also have a seriously commendable zest for life, though they are mighty rare.

If you don’t want kids, though, don’t date someone who might. If you’ve made your mind up it’d be cruel to not have that conversation and potentially waste someone else’s time and hopes.

It’s a very personal decision, and you should feel lucky if you even get to decide, so I’m hardly suggesting everyone have kids. But I am telling you having kids is awesome. It’s hard, but so is anything worth doing.

Humbly celebrating a house full of babies and love, and the best years of my life,

-Matty

P.S. I know next to nothing regarding in vitro fertilization, or any kind of egg or sperm freezing, but that’s certainly a possibility if you want to maintain the option.

P.P.S. I’d only just heard this, but there are some interesting correlations between pregnancy and reduced breast cancer risk.

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