We recently received a forwarded email containing an essay that blogger Buzz Bishop, of Calgary, Alberta, wrote for Babble.com.
Buzz is all abuzz about his friends, and others, who don’t have kids but who want equal access to suburban housing. Allow us to demonstrate how folks like Bishop feel toward those of us who opt not to clone ourselves. “My best friend is married, no kids,” he writes. “He moved in to his childhood neighborhood, across from his old school which is now closed. It sits empty because too many empty nesters sucked the demand dry. Meanwhile, the edges of our city have kids being bused as schools are bursting at the seams.” Sucked? Those of us who choose not to cause urban sprawl, are apparently guilty of a new brand of evil that we inflict upon the rest of humanity.
The Buzzer demands that those who don’t want to have kids should leave neighborhoods with schools and not occupy big homes more aptly suited to those with kids. It’s scary to think that greater Calgary actually has neighborhoods without schools (excepting for gated senior communities). He advises the childfree to “move downtown or to a chic restaurant district where you need half the space and your ‘no curfew’ lifestyle won’t be cramped by strollers on the streets.”
Oh, save us from those with kids who breathe a smug and superior atmosphere. Ellis and his brother were raised in a one-bedroom, one-bath apartment in the Bronx. It was typical of the domiciles of the kids who attended James Monroe High School, one of the finest in the city at the time. The point being that home size and schools are not necessarily joined at the hip.
It seems that Bishop lives in a world of stereotypes; one populated by wealthy kid-free folks and put-upon parents whom the party-hardy childfree inflict with their selfish indulgences. It does not seem to enter his mind that some low-income folks are smart enough to know that they cannot adequately provide for a passel of sprogs, or that there may be poor folks who simply don’t want kids.
But this is what really sticks in our collective craw (the rarest of all known craws): Bishop describes those would-be parents who wait until well into their thirties to procreate and then skip the option altogether. “We’re finding ourselves with a Me generation of adults, not adolescents.” A traditional Canadian word comes to mind: CHUTZPAH. As we point out in our book, Enough of Us, the single most selfish decision that otherwise ethical people make is the decision to have kids. In no other way do we humans more indulge our “I want” urges to experiment, than by creating offspring. It’s the only one by which we create the life of another in order to try our skills and test our genetic heritage by raising someone who didn’t exist mere months earlier.
In fact, each generation since humans began premeditated propagation of offspring has been the result of a preceding “Me” generation that decided it would make kids and later worry about whether those experiments would succeed. Going back less than two centuries, making a baby was a high-risk operation that frequently resulted in the deaths of infants and mothers from failed birthing. Diseases and accidents killed many children.
Bishop’s stereotyping goes one step further. We couldn’t describe it any better than he does. “Perhaps parenting is a case of ‘delayed happiness.’ It may be stressful and hectic now, but when I’m old I will have children and grandchildren to keep me company and I will be showered in family. I wonder how happy a childless couple will be when they’re at the end of the line.”
We have lost count of the number of friends whose children have broken their hearts. Here is the latest example. A couple in their seventies, Lara and J.B., have a son in his forties who has two kids of his own. His wife has a rare disease that renders her constantly fatigued. She is no longer able to work. They are unable to make ends meet. So Laura and J.B., both retired, are supplementing their son’s income. This circumstance is not unique. Oh yeah, their son’s family lives 2,000 miles away. And their other child lives just as far away. So much for being showered in family.
We who have chosen the childfree life have for the most part decided not to create new beings in order to reap the benefits of a new generation that will care for us “at the end of the line.” That doesn’t sound like a Me generation to us.