At this point, I usually avoid saying the words because I’m tired of hearing the response from my incredulous interlocutors, which is almost always exactly, “You don’t want kids?” No, I don’t even want kids or even a kid. Though I suppose it’s possible my attitude could change, it’s remained pretty static for more than a decade now. And while the tone of the “kids” question can often be accusatory to the point of annoyance, I always respond politely.
Unless of course, the person trots out the canard that not having kids is “selfish.” Then I get angry. Real angry.
Unfortunately for Pope Francis, he didn’t get the memo. Speaking before his general audience in the Vatican on Wednesday, Francis told attendees,
“A society with a greedy generation, that doesn’t want to surround itself with children, that considers them above all worrisome, a weight, a risk, is a depressed society,” the pope said. “The choice to not have children is selfish. Life rejuvenates and acquires energy when it multiplies: It is enriched, not impoverished.”
I don’t speak for “society,” but I do speak for myself when I say that I do in fact consider children “worrisome, a weight, a risk.” That’s my view and it informs my decision to not want them.
So I get a little psychotic irritated when people like Pope Frank tell me that not only should I have children, but that if I don’t, I’m being just plain selfish.
There are three points I’d like to make here and the first comes in the form of a question: Who the fuck is the pope to be shaming couples into having children? Like his more immediate predecessors, the pope has never had a kid, and has therefore never had to worry about providing for or raising them. Unless Francis is willing to change a few diapers, take his Popemobile to pick up the kids at soccer practice, and pitch in some tuition money, he needs to shut the fuck up.
The second point is that human beings are autonomous individuals. Despite what the Catholic Church says, we don’t exist to churn out more souls for it to judge for being gay, or for using birth control, or for having premarital sex, or for doing any of the number of things the Vatican informs us we shouldn’t be doing. Having kids is a decision that everyone needs to make for themselves, so maybe in this regard, everyone is selfish.
That brings me to my final point, which I state as an observation and not a judgment. The pope has it exactly backwards: It’s actually the decision to have kids that’s selfish, and not the decision to forgo them.
Think about it.
Conception happens for one of two reasons: Either a child is conceived out of a deliberate attempt to do so, which is grounded in a personal desire for a child (“I/we want to have a child”); or two, the child is conceived by accident, which means that conception was not under consideration at the time, and in fact took a backseat (maybe even in the backseat) to whatever temporary gratification was being enjoyed then. No child asks to be born, and so conceiving parents aren’t altruistically granting some wish of a disembodied soul looking to become a zygote. They are conceiving out of a purely selfish desire.
That’s completely fine, of course. I’d never think of judging others’ for wanting kids, just like others shouldn’t judge me for wanting the opposite.
As a guy in a funny hat once said, “Who am I to judge?“