As I waited for my plane in the Edmonton airport, I browsed through a few newsstands. I kept noticing an issue of Maclean’s Magazine with the headline: The Case Against Having Kids. I tried to ignore it, but the headline kept taunting me. I eventually succumbed to the allure and bought the issue.
The cover story, “No Kids, No Grief,” discussed why a growing number of married couples are intentionally deciding not to have children. They argue that parenting is bad for your career, your marriage, your bank book, and your love life. The research seems to prove their point.
In his book, Stumbling on Happiness, author Daniel Gilbert reports that childless marriages are far happier. He also reports researchers have found that people derive more satisfaction from eating, exercising, shopping, napping, or watching television than taking care of children. It seems as if American Idol ranks higher than changing diapers (well, that’s obvious, but you get my point).
In 2006, 18.3 percent of men aged 30 to 34 said they were not planning to have children (Source: Statistics Canada). A group of Canadian men even published an anthology, Nobody’s Father, which discusses the reasons why they are childless. Some of the specific reasons why men choose not to have children are career motivations, fear of failure as a father, not liking kids, and the desire to remain in their current lifestyle.
I can understand how they feel. My wife, KayEm and I were married for four years before we had children. Our life was relatively carefree. We could sleep until noon on weekends, go out whenever we wanted to, and travel without any hassles. Having children has drastically changed our lifestyle. For the most part, the change has been for the better, but there are some days that I long for our fancy-free life.
Even if KayEm and I chose to be childless, we would have been bombarded by people’s asking “When are you having children?” The pressure to have children is incredible. KayEm and I were barely married an hour before my stepfather asked her about a grandchild. Hello, can we even consummate the marriage first?
In 1975, advice columnist, Ann Landers asked readers: “If you had it to do over again, would you have children? Seventy percent of readers said “no.” Once again, I can understand why parents would feel this way. Children can feel like a burden and raising them is very expensive (nearly $250,000 to raise one child to age 18). Beyond that, it’s easy to lose yourself in your children’s lives. I know parents who have no identify outside their children and many of them are miserable. They would never openly admit that their children are the source of their misery, but it is obvious.
Although raising children is stressful, I wouldn’t trade being a father for anything. Of course, my children aren’t teenagers yet. I guess I’ll have to revisit this post in five years. I hope their adolescent mood swings don’t drive me into the 70% camp.
What are your thoughts on this subject? Read the entire MacLean’s article and feel free to respond honestly.