Even these days, as hard to believe as it may be, couples who choose not to have children are still regarded with suspicion, as if they were betraying society and the human species. The criticism is very much directed at women, based on the need to satisfy their maternal instinct. “Only a heartless woman doesn’t listen to her natural instincts,” say the people who follow the rules set by our ancestors, without once questioning if this is how everyone should live their lives.
However, when it comes to other mammals, the maternal instinct only appears once a baby a born. A dog is not maternal until she has puppies. Then, and only then, will she become a fierce guardian of her litter. It is the same with humans: a woman’s maternal instinct will only be felt once she is pregnant, and manifests itself in the care she provides to her child – not in her desire to have children.
When considering the past of our species, two important facts become clear. First, reproduction was, as a rule, a secondary consequence of the powerful sexual instincts of humans; sexual desire is not maternal desire! This potent lust and precarious birth control methods meant that many couples would get pregnant as soon as they got married. Besides, back then, pregnancy was much more important socially then it is now, as people who didn’t have children were seen as troubled and mentally disturbed.
In second place, children had a much larger role in their families. The birth of a child used to be celebrated as an important event; large families could work the land better and bring in more money. Aside from financial benefits, parents could also count on having someone to care for them in their old age. This was how it worked, and it went unquestioned.
But these days, life is different. Why have children at all in such a complex and difficult world? The reasons to reproduce that remained valid for centuries don’t apply anymore. Children won’t care for their parents in their old age, and very few will bring financial benefits, with a few exceptions, of course. The fact is that children these days remain dependent for a much longer time, cost a lot of money and it’s unlikely that they’ll be able to – or even believe they should – give back to their parents.
We must learn how to reflect on who we are and the times we live in. There’s no reason to get pregnant just because “everyone else is doing it.” We have to respect couples who don’t want to be parents: their plans just might not include perpetuation of their family line, they might not want to take care of children, nor believe they’ll enjoy watching them grow or benefit from the energy and joy they bring to a home.
Each couple has to discuss if they want to have children or not, since it’s a decision that will have a huge impact on their lifestyle, but it must always be understood that neither path is better than the other. Being a parent is a choice.
Tradução: Amanda Morris