Snipped...10 Years Later Part 2

In part 1, I talked about some of the questions that I've gotten over the years since getting a vasectomy at 27.  In this part, I talk more about the deeper philosophical reasons behind my decision.  Beyond the absence of a drive-factor, there are other reasons that resonate strongly with me not reproducing.  There are philosophical questions that stir in me when I think about having my own child and they are questions that I have sat with in various forms for well over a decade. These are the questions I ask myself, but not other people.  People have many reasons and incentives to reproduce and that's great for them, but here are some of the reasons why I don't.

Word cloud of this blog post in shape of a word ballon
How does one avoid the cult-of-parenting that pervades our culture which demands perfection from parents, raises questions and fears around every action (or inaction), and increasingly puts kids into the rat-race of life sooner, while also trying to maintain a parent's sanity, self-health, and ability to have their own life? 

Boy, did I just pack a lot of criticism into parenting into that question, eh?  I imagine that parents reading this might feel perturbed at the assumptions of this question (or maybe feel it resonates with them).  Like I said, I'm trying to understand this for me and what I feel or experience.  I'm not disregarding or devaluing other experiences but only speaking from how I have made sense of things based on experiencing and studying American culture for many years.  

Essentially, can I maintain a healthy balance of necessary self-care, respectful attention to a committed relationship, continually developing a professional identity, and mindful child-care?  Our culture fixates on productivity and consumerism, constantly asking us to do more, be more, spend more, etc.  I have significant concerned about maintaining a healthy balance with the first three of those and then throw in the responsibility for what is initially an entirely helpless and depending being and I grow concerned.

But more importantly, that cultural fixation on productivity and consumerism dominates the child-rearing world.  In so many ways, "good parents" (a loaded term for sure) are nudged, cajoled, and manipulated to go all out in caring for their child and sacrificing their entire being into child-rearing.  It reminds me of one of my favorite novels, Kate Chopin's The Awakening.  In the story, the protagonist, Edna is trying to explain to another woman (articulated as a "mother-woman") that there was something about her world that demanded so much more of a mother.  She says, "'I would give up the unessential; I would give my money, I would give my life for my children; but I wouldn’t give myself. I can’t make it more clear; it’s only something which I am beginning to comprehend, which is revealing itself to me.'"  To me, over 115 years after the novel was published, it seems like mothers still experience this and for a father to be a full-present father, are also likely to succumb to it.  Culture tells us we have to be all-in and all-star to our children.  We feel the judgments weigh upon us of the thousands of daily decisions we must make in order to steer and guide a child to successful adulthood.  Even though so much of the child's success has nothing to do with parenting, they are so often held accountable.  

I also have enough trouble with the societal demand that we constantly act as appropriate consumers in order to be respected professionals in this world. And yes, in order be a professional, you need to communicate your ability to be a sufficient consumer.  Don't think so?  Consider the expectations of wardrobe as one moves from frontline to middle to leading organizations. We articulate to "dress for success" and embedded in that is an argument to consume clothing that looks "appropriate", an arbitrary discernment wrapped in consumerism.  That I would have to fight to raise a child in this environment of buying equals access equals success, is troubling and beyond uncomfortable with me.  All the things we "need to buy" for a proper upbringing (whatever that means) and being a "responsible parent" (another term ladened with all sorts of connotations in a culture such as ours imbued with strong class judgments and white supremacy).    

How does adding a child to a society that drastically wastes resources, not contribute to the problem of environmental (and thus life) degradation?  

As a person living in the United States, I contribute to climate change in numerous and disproportionate ways and while I can cut down on those, the research shows the two biggest contributors to climate change are more people and cars.  I'm continually looking to lessen my dependence on the later, and by not introducing the former, seems like a smart idea.  After all, should I have the urge to become a parent, there are literally millions of children in need of parents.  For me, it seems more important to give an opportunity to one who is here and needs help than to bring in that which will have inevitably luxuries of a middle-class upbringing to the detriment of that child who is already here but without a family.  

I get that if everyone tried to do this, it would mean the end of humankind.  But that's why this is about me and my choice.  Furthermore, the need to reproduce my genes doesn't drive me in many ways because as humans we have culture and live in a time where our legacies are possible to exist and extend beyond just reproducing our genes.  In that vein, if my choice to not have a child helps others in the human race continue to exist and I can use that reclaimed energy to produce other things that will live on beyond me (writings, research, learning objects, etc), then we're all the better for it.  

How does having a white child in a white-supremacist society such as the US not contribute or perpetuate the problems of white supremacy?  

There's a lot to unpack here (such as assuming I would have a white-child; though two women I have married, were both white).  We live in a culture that privileges white people directly and indirectly and has done so literally since the birth of the nation (and for over 200 years prior to that).  I understand how white supremacy pervades so much of our culture because it's something I've studied in different capacities for nearly two decades.  There are few decisions and major life opportunities that are not in some way connected to privilege and therefore, undermined by a long history (extending from the 1600s to the present) of white supremacy.  I know this and I know that there are many times and ways in which my whiteness have granted me opportunities or prevented me from harm that would have happened differently for many non-white-male-cisgender-middle-class people.  

For me, to bring in a white child, no matter how much I would work to educate the child, is still reproducing an ingrained inequality; that child will enjoy and be the beneficiary of unfair treatment throughout its life.  There's no real way around that and that bothers me that I would be de facto be participating and benefitting from such a system (which is not to say currently, as white cisgender middle-class male that I don't benefit from the system; I do amply; I'd just prefer not to add to those benefits).  It is a more valuable use of my time and attention to work to engage with those currently here and help them understand the complexity of inequality that pervades our culture and our world than it is to bring in someone who is likely to largely benefit from it.  

How do I tell a child that I knowingly brought it into a fundamentally unjust world? 
This question is similar to the one above but this one focuses more on economic inequality and social inequalities beyond race that plague our world. One percent of the world owns over half of the world's wealth.  Given the rightward tilt of the last 50 years, that disparity is only going to increase, faster more so in the age of Trump.  We maintain this world daily through action and inaction and I have no way of morally justifying to a child why if that is the case, how I thought bringing them into it was a good idea for anyone involved.  It's utterly beyond my ability to answer with anything besides heart-felt but hollow platitudes about trying to undermine the system from within.  

Final Thoughts

I get that to different people what I some (or all) of what I just said may sound grossly arrogant, condescending, elitist, ad infinitum innumerable adjectives that indicate its problematic essence.  I get that and can probably unpack some of it myself as to who and why, but I also welcome constructive feedback if somehow what I've written illustrates blindspots or doubles-down on my privilege.  I can guarantee I will apply such feedback in the future but I will listen.  

As I said elsewhere in this 2-part piece, this is how I'm making sense of it.  I'm not advocating for others to do the same but articulating my stance.  I don't do it so much as to put my choices up for debate but to rather communicate and connect with others who are considering or had various thoughts about what it means to be a parent in the 21st century. 

Are you not planning on having children?  Why?  What encouraged you to make that decision (assuming it was a choice)?   What deep questions and concerns have occupied your mind in making that decision?

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