Are you a proponent of a childfree life? You have a fan in me.
Growing up is hard business. You do what you’re told. You follow the adults in your life. And you’re promised life will be all good. And it’s true. Life is mostly good – sometimes. Following what the elders do or tell you is the most efficient survival strategy ever invented within all species on earth. But then you grow up.
It’s expected that now you can make your own choices. Since you’re an adult, your decisions are your own. But are they? Did you choose that career or your parents did the trick? Do you really want to get that Masters in Sales on your own accord or it’s still society covert persuasion? It’s hard to know. And what about kids?
Why most people have kids
Ever since I reached the age of reason, like most autodidacts, I’ve unlearnt quite a number of things. But one of the most profound being the difference between genetic influences and cultural influences. The moment you learn how to separate those two, the world kind of stops.
Its incredible how many behaviors, rituals and traits we consider “natural” yet they’re not. Culture – when looked at from close – is one of the most influential natural phenomena.
From why people are jealousy of their partners sleeping around, to why we have kids, to why women seem less interested in sex than men. All these things are considered natural – genetic but they’re not. They are all creations of culture – masquerading as “the natural.”
Like most people, this is how I viewed the world until I read Sex at Dawn by Christopher Ryan and even more so Sapiens and Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari. I was like holy shit this can’t be.
According to Yuval, this rule of thumb never fails to clear things up a bit – “Biology/nature enables while culture forbids.”
In other words, in nature nothing is forbidden. If it’s unnatural it won’t come to our attention in the first place. For example, you don’t hear people debating on why humans don’t photosynthesize the way plants do. Or why humans don’t fly the way birds do. Cultures don’t debate on or abolish photosynthesis and flying because no one does them. If it’s unnatural you won’t see it anywhere. Everything else is natural.
But the natural faces a lot of censoring from culture. See, cultures thrive on stability. And anything that destabilizes the society is viewed as unnatural. Hence the extreme censorship.
This brings us to kids. Is it natural or unnatural to have kids? With the help of Noah’s rule of thumb, it’s obvious both outcomes are natural. Whether you decide on having kids or not, there’s nothing unnatural about it. But the stigma against a childfree life is understandable. C’mon we wouldn’t be around if our ancestors voted in favor of to hell with kids. The guys who said that didn’t pass on their genes to future generations.
Now that we know how we label certain things natural and unnatural. And since it’s clear any culture to survive long enough would have to adopt the “have as many kids as possible mantra”. Cultures were always going to brand having kids as natural and the opposite as unnatural. And so the reason most people have kids, is because other people also tend to have kids. As the culture requires. Very few of them ever stop to really-really think about it.
Even those who think they’re thinking about it in most cases are busy rehearsing what has been planted into their heads all their lives. And honestly you can’t blame them. To see past certain myths and gibberish needs a lot of knowledge and courage. Yet very few people possess them.
I don’t have anything against having kids. My problem is most people don’t have all the facts beforehand. Most people stride along this cultural wave blindly. Even when it causes them a lot of suffering and agony, they don’t see any other way around it. “This is life. I have to deal with it” they say.
It’s obvious having kids is necessary for the survival of the species. But not for your own good. For the society. (Come to think about it. It’s possible this love for survival of the species is not genetic too, just a cultural thing.)
When you’re dead, you won’t give an iota of a fuck if you had kids or not. And a few generations after your death, your descendants won’t give a damn whether you ever lived or not. This is life.
Which brings us to these two guys….
Meet Happiness and meaning
In Stumbling on Happiness, Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert made a compelling case that human beings don’t have a clue on what makes others happy – and mostly – on what makes them happy. From choosing careers to pursue, to long-term partners, engaging in marriage and having kids. The results were the same. People’s expectations of how happy they would be turned out to be utterly unreliable.
And there two culprits here. The genius but faulty human imagination. And as always – cultural influence.
Because having kids is necessary for the survival and stability of the society, our cultures had to come up with a way of making having kids appealing. Now time for a catch 22. In our societies whenever something is unappealing, but strongly needed by the general society, meaning comes into the picture.
Naturally as human beings we crave importance and love. We struggle to survive if we don’t feel important, needed and honored. And having kids became a way of getting meaning out of life. It became the sure fire way for most people to feel needed and important. To feel like they’re contributing something valuable to society in general. So no matter how unhappy most people’s lives turned out to be after getting kids, the feeling of meaning made up for it.
And the rest is history.
The case for a childfree life
I really hate being a pawn for some imaginary entities. The likes of nation states, countries, companies and culture. All this is inter-subjective realities. Not at all objective. They only exist in our minds. And I find it appalling that most people live uncomfortable and terrible lives just to make these imaginary entities happy. You shouldn’t be most people.
If at all the society wants you to do what’s best for it, it’s fair for it to be in sync with what’s best for you as an individual. Because honestly, if everyone sacrifices his or her happiness for the case of let’s say a nation – then who benefits at the end of the day. Either some people will benefit at the expense of others or no one will benefit at all. Both outcomes are not good for you as an individual.
If having kids is going to make you miserable, why have them in the first place. To feel important? To feel useful to your country? Or to blend in with the rest of the public?
Countless surveys have been made and the results are the same. Parents are happy about having kids only when they feel supported by their respective communities. And because in the capitalistic world of ours, very few communities are able to do just that, most people report as unhappy. And in most cases those who report as happy, are only so because they replace happiness with meaning.
And if you look into other aspects of life, the same is true. Most people are unhappy in their jobs. But they continue toiling because their jobs give them meaning. And this meaning is disguised selfish cultural influences.
The culture/traditions manipulate you into dropping your life-long dreams just because you need to have a family. Our friends and family are always pressuring us to have kids, yet when we do, we suffer alone during their upbringing.
But would you have been in this world if your parents didn’t give birth to you? You might ask. And to that I say; it was their choice. And I didn’t have any say in it. True am happy I came into this world, but again most people are not. Most wish they hadn’t been born in the first place.
And I think you’re more to blame for bringing a miserable soul into this world than not bringing anyone in the first place.
So, don’t have kids just because the society tells you to do so. Don’t have kids just because “that’s what normal people do.” Have kids because you want to. And because you’re fully aware that in most cases you won’t end up as really happy. Happiness and contentment are rarely found in relationships in which giving is only done by one party. Yet that’s what a child-parent relationship is all about.
Are you qualified for such a life?
You’re qualified if;
- You treasure your individual happiness and dreams. If you’re not a sucker for imaginary entities. If you don’t believe in suffering for the good of an imaginary so and so, then this life is for you. Human beings suffer. Cultures, traditions and companies don’t.
- If you don’t normally allow other people to dictate how you live your life. Friends, family and acquaintances might have your best interests. But their views are normally shaped by culture and society. In short their suckers for imaginary entities. If you have the guts to ignore them at times, then a childfree life might work out for you.
- If you have contrarian views on life and the world in general. Sit down in a silent place, and ask yourself. On what issues does my knowledge and understanding differ with the wider populace? From education, to politics, to economics, to culture, to religion. If that’s the case on most issues, a childfree life might be a good fit for you.
- And most importantly, if you’re open minded. If you’re comfortable with the fact that you will be wrong in most cases. And that you can change your mind in the presence of new compelling evidence. Then do this. Because at the end of the day, no one is born with a script on how to really live life. Not your local priest and certainly not the President of United States.
It’s natural to have kids and start families. But it’s also natural to not have kids and never to start families. No one should tell you otherwise. What matters are the consequences. As long as the consequences to your actions are not dire, do your thing. Things that are unnatural can’t be done in the first place. If that was the case we would be visiting the Andromeda galaxy once every week (Btw this is also just a matter of time. See, most things are actually natural). Go live your damn life any way you want.
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