Any life choice has its positives and negatives, and parenting versus not-parenting is no different. Let’s examine three advantages and three disadvantages of each option.
Three advantages of being a parent:
You fit in better with your peer group.
Almost everyone is a parent, and if you like to feel like you’re part of the mainstream, then parenting is for you. Not being a parent when in your 20s, 30s, and 40s can mean spending a lot of time alone, as your peers are getting together for play-dates with their children. Even when the little ones are not around, the conversation is likely to be about what the children are doing.
You have something to focus on other than yourself.
Self-focus is uncomfortable for many people, and frankly, having a child immediately puts the emphasis on this dependent being. Having a child means that you’ll have at least eighteen years of endless focus on the needs of another being.
You’re never bored.
For a person who has trouble filling his or her time, having a child might be the answer. You simply won’t have time to be bored, because once you spend eight hours on childrearing tasks you’ll be so tired that you’ll be ready for bed.
Three disadvantages of being a parent:
You have limited time and energy for your own pursuits. Many parents are spread way too thin, and they suffer by missing sleep, not having time for exercise, and having neglected marriages that end in divorce. And that’s not to mention the hobbies that one might wish to pursue such as art, travel, writing, or golf, and to not have to wait until the golden retirement years to do so.
You have to worry about a child who is dependent on you. I’m hearing more and more stories about adult children who are still living at home or have returned home after college. Many of these kids appear to be quite immature and not only financially, but also emotionally dependent on mommy and daddy. Parents these days seem to have trouble cutting the old apron strings.
You have to make life decisions based on what’s best for someone else, rather than what’s best for yourself.
When you become a parent, you ideally put your own selfish desires behind those of your child. This is all well and good, but what if it means passing up a job opportunity in another city, staying in a dead marriage, or neglecting old friendships?
Three advantages of being childfree
You have time for self-care and for other relationships.
I love spending time alone with my husband, and we have a lot of this due to not being busy raising a family. I also enjoy nurturing my terriers, and for me the time and energy this takes meets my personal caretaking needs. It’s also great to have the ability to carve out time to write letters, make phone calls, or meet with friends socially.
You can dedicate your time to your career or to other interests that will help the world as a whole.
Let’s face it, parenting takes a lot of time; time experts say that it takes eight hours a day to raise two children to the age of 18. I’m amazed at how people, especially women with children, can manage a fulltime job on top of parenting. They often appear to be exhausted and less than enthusiastic about being at work, and it’s apparent that they’re spread too thin.
The world will be less crowded and resources less depleted.
Think about a future with fewer mouths to feed and the possibility that we might restore diminishing natural resources such as life in the sea and fresh water. I am hearing more and more young people these day say that parenting is not a given, and I’m hopeful that only those who truly want to be parents will become moms and dads.
Three disadvantages of being childfree:
You will be a misfit among your peer group.
There have been many occasions when I looked around the room and realized that I was the only one who didn’t have kids. This can be a real problem when I’m with women friends, as they tends to always want to talk about their children; now that I’m entering my fifties, some friends are talking about grandchildren. One in five women who have reached the end of their childbearing years is not a mother—that means that four out of five are!
You will miss out of what many consider to be a crucial life role.
I’ve missed an entire chapter of life that is considered by many to be essential. Sometimes I feel out of step, especially when I’m ahead in many ways such as saving for the future and building a career. Many women are just, at my age, returning to work after years of part-time employment or none at all.
You won’t have anyone to take care of you in your old age.
I live far from my parents, but we talk at least weekly by phone and they know that they can count on me if need be. Not having kids, I’m aware of how critical it is for me to be making plans for my future, whether this is putting my wishes down in writing or saving up to be able to pay for the help I’ll need.
It’s great to realize that young people today truly have more choice, and that they’re stepping back and evaluating what’s best for them rather than simply following the common path.