People have kids for many different reasons. Some of them are good reasons. But sometimes, having children is simply an excuse to forward the bill to the next generation.

We glorify the noble father who sets asides his dreams to work hard and raise his kids. We idolize the woman who first proves her worth by going to college and landing a high-paying job, then chooses to give it up to have kids. And if having kids is one’s true dream, sure. That’s fine. But giving up on your actual dreams to have kids instead is just passing the buck.

Here’s what I mean.

Why Live for Yourself When You Can Live Vicariously?

So often I see new mothers mapping out their children’s lives with the sole intention of giving their child the life they want. And I always want to say, “Why don’t you just give yourself that life? Why create a new human in an overpopulated world when you can love the you who already exists?” Putting your wishes and dreams onto someone else doesn’t help anyone, especially not the kids who never signed up for that. You might as well say, “Forgo your dreams and live mine because I opted not to live them myself. You can just pass your own dreams on to your children anyway.”

But then there’s the other way of passing the buck to future generations…

"Smart women, you could be a smart scientist or you could make six smart scientists. Which serves society better?"
“Smart women, you could be a smart scientist or you could make six smart scientists. Which serves society better?”

Where to begin? For right now, let’s set aside the idea that children are people rather than modeling clay. I want to instead look at the notion presented in this text that essentially says a “smart” woman can contribute more to society by creating more people than she can by fulfilling a socially vital role.

And okay, I can see where you could maybe make that argument if you believe that molding children with precision is possible (and healthy). But there are still a couple of glaring and inexcusable problems. These are:

  • The world has more than enough potential scientists.
  • Women are capable of contributing as they are.

Let’s look at that further, shall we?

When Parenthood Means Passing The Buck | The American Spinster

The Pro-Natal Mindset

The United States is a very pro-natal nation. That is, we are all about producing some babies. Clearly, before the agricultural and (especially) industrial revolutions, humans needed to reproduce often and successfully to sustain the species. But despite the fact that we’ve kind of got that covered, some nations fear that localized under-population will result in their demise. Even on a planet bursting with 7.6 billion people (there were only 1 billion in 1800), a slight decline in birth rates has some people worried.

The Reality of Pro-Natalism in the Modern World

Basically, we’re stuck in the evolutionary mindset that says, “Making babies is your most important job!” despite the fact that what humans should really be concerned about is killing ourselves off with overpopulation. But fears of ‘underpopulation’ are often stoked by groups concerned that failing to sustain this endless growth will lead to uncomfortable societal changes in our near future.

populationmatters.org

Nonetheless, “making six smart scientists” is not what the planet needs right now. We have seven and a half billion people – I’m pretty sure we can glean more than six smart scientists from that number. The idea that one’s own genes (or race, intellect, values, religion, etc) are somehow so valuable that no one else in 7.6 billion people could make an equally smart scientist is ego-centricism bordering on total narcissism.

As to the argument that educated people should be the ones reproducing (because they’ll raise educated children), the amazing thing about education is that it can be shared with anyone. Including people who already exist. As Alexandra Paul points out, we smart, first world women are exactly the type of people who should reproduce far less than we do.

Is Producing Children Really the Height of A Woman’s Usefulness?

The other major problem with the “make six scientists” idea is the notion that woman can best contribute to society by making babies. Let’s be honest. Women can contribute more as individuals than they can as incubators and mothers. (Please note that I didn’t say every childfree woman does contribute more, or that no mother can contribute as much as a childfree woman.) One smart scientist can train literally hundreds (if not thousands) of other smart scientists. And she can do so without creating six new consumers in an over-populated world.

One Last Thing

And, of course, there’s one last problem with the rhetorical question posed in the “six scientists” image. And that is that if each generation continues to follow this flawed line of thinking (“I can be more useful making future scientists than I can be as a scientist myself”), no one will ever become a scientist. Your future scientists will use the same excuse themselves, and pass it on to their children after them.

So how about we come together as a generation and simply say:

“The buck stops here.”


When Parenthood Means Passing The Buck | The American Spinster


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4 thoughts on “When Parenthood Means Passing The Buck”

  1. This post is amazing 🙌🏻 I’m really happy to see this subject tackled. It’s something that’s always bothered me. I remember seeing that tweet from Wife with a Purpose — it both angers me and confuses me! We, as women, are so much more than baby-making machines. I think it’s sad and frustrating when men think our “job” is to become mothers but when I see women supporting that ideology, ugh. It’s somehow stings more.

    I might just have to get a “the buck stops here” sign for my office now 🙃

  2. What a great post. I agree, one woman reaching her full potential will be able to give so much more to the world than many unfulfilled women can. This blog is so incredibly helpful to to me and validates my gut feeling that I do not want to bear children. There is so much to experience in life and so much need in this world. I am so comforted and inspired and feel lifted up by your message. Thanks.

    1. LM, I’m so truly glad to hear that you found this article helpful. I want to live in a world where every woman truly feels that she has a free choice to have or not have children. Thank you for sharing your comment.

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