Today’s guest post is from John Davis, a wilderness explorer and writer, former Wild Earth editor, and Fellow of The Rewilding Institute. John’s previous posts, “Why Five Cats?” (a lighthearted look at the merits of nulliparity and cat ownership) and Sire of All Crises (a “no holds barred” look at human overpopulation), primed the pump for this intimate-if-lighthearted look at the childfree holy grail: sex!
What is the sexiest reason to abstain from having children?
That would be sex, of course. All you young couples out there, wondering whether or no you should have children, ask some parents to honestly answer the question, did you have sex more or less often after you had a baby? (You might want to choose close older friends for your focus group research, as asking random strangers about their sex lives could quickly turn awkward!)
Although much church doctrine argues against the decoupling of sex and procreation, that decoupling has been largely accomplished materially; and for the sake of this crowded world, and our own busy lives, that is for the good. Birth control advances have allowed couples to decide whether and when they want kids. The fewer kids you have, the more free time you’ll have to enjoy wild pursuits, including that most fun and intimate of acts.
You young folks entering an active sex life will have the greatest amount of activity over the longest run, I’ll wager, if you always practice safe sex and opt not to have children. Or if you do really want children, have just one (read Bill McKibben’s excellent defense of the one-child family in Maybe One) or at most two (read Dave Foreman’s new book, Man Swarm, on how human over-population is smothering the natural world). This year, the human population will top 7 billion, meaning the number of people in the world has more than tripled during my parents’ lifetime. Why take on the difficult, time-consuming challenge of parenting when there are already more than enough kids in the world?
One of the most effective population planning programs I ever encountered was a surly and chubby child, thought of as Girtha, from the unlikeliest, nicest slimmest parents. How these kind and fit parents suffered their unruly and sour-faced child was beyond any neighbor’s comprehension. Most of us love most children we meet, but this round hellion was a reminder, at a time when otherwise I might have wondered about fathering a child, that not only do all children need much of their parents’ time, but some turn quite disagreeable. I did not quite dare suggest to these parents with the patience of Job that they go on tour with their child to college campuses with a presentation, This Could Happen to You!; but I think such a show could have significantly cut fertility rates in the US for years.
Girtha was a child before the metastasis of computer games and cell phones, so I must suppose that a difficult child could be even more of a hindrance to a happy romance these days. What a downer on a sex life it must be for couples who have children noisily playing computer games and chatting on their cell phones late into the evening – as well try to make love in a Best Buy store!
Good parenting and other forms of nurturing are among the noblest of human instincts and endeavors, undeniably. In this crowded world, however, people do well for themselves and others by forgoing the opportunity to procreate and using their nurturing skills to help raise nieces and nephews or foster children and to provide homes for needy cats and dogs. Be a good uncle or aunt, and you enjoy the pleasures of being with kids without the constant obligations of raising them. Small, close families are an ideal to which our society should aspire – lest we, as cultures and as individuals, be overwhelmed by problems stemming from overshooting our carrying capacity, from crime to pollution to hunger to roadkill to war.
Along with the huge amount of time that parents must invest in their children (time that otherwise might be spent in bed or on the beach) is the hefty cost of raising children. The average middle-class American couple invests hundreds of thousands of dollars raising a son or a daughter, and those costs are rising, with young people’s lofty expectations of material abundance. Such investments are rewarding for many parents, but people still wondering about procreation should surely factor them into their decisions. You’ll have more time and more money for romantic vacations and wild excursions if you opt to remain free of the obligations of parenting.
Peace activists in the 1960s righteously urged, Make love, not war! This is a good motto, but may need updating. Let us care lovingly and well for all children (and dependent cats & dogs, too!) the world over. Let us not, though, bring more new children (or cats or dogs) into this world, unless we simply must, and then only in small numbers. Make love and peace, by caring for those already here!
John Davis is a wilderness explorer and writer, former Wild Earth editor, and Fellow of The Rewilding Institute.