It’s quite remarkable just how much your life can change within the space of a year, but equally as remarkable how much your viewpoints can change. There’s one perspective of mine that’s done a complete 180 this year, one which I never could have anticipated.
A few years ago, there was nothing more that I wanted than to have my own family and children, it was essentially one of the primary reasons I went into early childhood teaching (which I left quite recently). However, my teaching experience ended up being far more eye opening than I ever could have imagined, particularly in regards to parenthood.
It was my experience in Hong Kong that initially triggered my views on a child-free lifestyle. Prior to that I had been living in New Zealand where there is generally quite a mainstream way of life; you get engaged, married, have kids and settle down within your 20s and 30s. In Hong Kong however, this was not the case. I met many women who bluntly proclaimed their desire to live a child-free life for a number of valid reasons. This was the first time I realised, I had been blinded by a social norm and ideal that I hadn’t truly reflected upon in depth. Nor had I ever thought to consider any alternative lifestyles. In fact, not only do we have social ideals influencing our mentalities, we also have biological influences subconsciously affecting our thought processes. Humans have a biological predisposition to reproduce in order to ensure the survival of the human race. However in the present day, this predisposition could in fact hinder our chances of survival. There is already widespread concern regarding over population of the earth. Having more children at our current rate, not only contributes to this concern, but it also means more resources are being consumed and more carbon footprints are being produced. My teaching experience only accentuated this changing viewpoint further.
Through teaching, I began to see children and parenthood in a rather unromanticized way. I got see what a profound investment children are; emotionally, financially (on average $250,000 USD up until the age of 18, yes that’s a quarter of a million dollars, excluding University costs), and in terms of time and freedom. I met many parents with additional stressors; divorced parents raising a child on their own, parents struggling financially to support their family and parents raising a child with special needs. I experienced firsthand just how physically and mentally exhausting looking after children can be. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure looking after twenty children in a classroom setting is completely different from looking after two or three of your own. But nevertheless, raising children requires an extensive expenditure of time and energy.
Of course there are an enormity of pros to having children. That unconditional love a parent feels for their child is irreplaceable, not to mention the adoring memories you will create. However, humans are hard wired into wanting to reproduce, which I believe can be slyly blinding.
Raising a child in today’s world can be really, really tough, especially when both parents are having to work full time (which is nowadays the norm). I can imagine there are undoubtedly, a large proportion of people that don’t stop to consider – “how will having children change my life?” and “is this something I really want?”.
I’ve met a few teachers who are parents and have openly articulated their struggles. One teacher described to me, her daily routine; waking up, making breakfast, getting the children out of bed and ready for school, dropping the children off at school, driving to work, having a full day of work taking care of other people’s children, returning home to make dinner and complete other household errands, helping the children with homework, putting the children to bed, preparing the children’s lunch for the next day, working on planning/marking/making resources for work. Then bed… and repeat. And another woman I met at a school, raising her children as a single parent. She would constantly complain about how difficult her life was, declaring that the only way she gets through every day is because she’s in survival mode. She very candidly admitted that she craved the days her ex took the kids and she could have her freedom. I’m dumbfounded as to how some people do it… you have to really respect people that have a tremendous amount on their plate yet manage to trooper through. But it also goes to show that having a romanticized view of children, family life and parenthood… doesn’t always play out accordingly.
There are more people today than ever before choosing not to have children and live a child-free life. And it’s only very recently that this topic is starting to break out of its taboo realm. You can read one thread here (https://www.reddit.com/r/AskReddit/comments/4wfl4k/serious_parents_who_regret_having_kids_why/). Having children is possibly the most life changing decision anyone could ever make, so why wouldn’t it be discussed more openly? I read quite an influential quote from a parent on one of these forums who said…”it’s better to regret not having children, than to have children and regret them”.
I’m only twenty five and know my views on this could do a complete 180 again, however I’m glad teaching has exposed me to the difficulties of parenthood, otherwise it’s something I would never have taken into consideration. Having one child means dedicated somewhere between 18-25 years of your life, living for someone else. Do I want that? Not right now. Imagine what you could do and see during that time, all the places you could explore. At this point in time, I’m very content being on my own and would much rather spend my time, money and freedom focusing on my career, travelling the world and keeping my stress levels at a minimum.