Why Would I Ever Want to Bring a Child Into This Fucked Up World?


Yesterday, four little Palestinian boys from the same family playing on a Gaza beach were killed by an Israeli missile. Today, a plane full of people was shot down while flying over the Ukraine.

There’s an ebola outbreak in Africa right now, not to mention an ongoing human rights crisis in Syria. Women in Egypt regularly face sexual harassment and assault, and no one seems to give a shit what happens to teenage girls stateside. Why would anyone reproduce into this mess?

When I was in my twenties, I was never sure about having children. Oh, you’ll get there, women would tell me knowingly, spilling details about the day they woke up when they were 26 to discover that they’d come down with a case of “baby fever.” But I’ve found the opposite to be true. The older I get and the more I know about the world and my precarious, incredibly lucky place of safety and security within it, the less inclined I feel to subject a child to it.

It’s not that I don’t like kids. At family gatherings, I’m usually among the adults that secretly hopes to be placed at the kids’ table. I make goofy faces at toddlers on the subway. I think most children are cute and funny, even the ones who are acting like dicks. Have you ever seen a kid try with all their might to hit an adult by twisting their body away and relying on the centrifugal force generated on their hand by their torso’s torque to exert maximum hitting force on the side of a grown person’s knee? They’re trying so hard but they’re too little to do any damage! Goddamn hilarious.

And I certainly don’t think kids who are born should suffer or live in poverty or experience danger and fear and want. People make choices, sure, but no five-year-old kid should be forced to suffer because they’ve been failed by the adults who are supposed to be taking care of them. No 10-year-old. Hell, no 80-year-old.

Throughout my adult life, whenever the topic of baby having comes up in conversations between women my age and in my professional peer group, there’s been an undercurrent of similar trepidation. I love kids, but… Blame it on the nonstop flow and parsing of information: when you’re a person who pays attention — or when you’re a person whose job it is to pay attention — it’s hard to avoid coming to the conclusion that the world is entirely too irretrievably fucked to subject a child to its inevitable downward trajectory. I wish I didn’t feel that way. I wish I could, with a clear conscience, start my own family.

But I don’t want to bring a child into a world where little boys playing soccer with their cousins on a beach get blown up by the Israeli army. I don’t want to bring a child into a world where a Ukrainian rebel (or Russian fighter, or who-the-fuckever) with poor eyesight and even worse judgment shoots a Malaysian Airlines passenger flight from the sky with a Soviet-era war relic, killing 295 people who have absolutely fucking nothing to do with a lingering conflict over territory. I don’t want to bring a daughter into a world where college administrators turn a blind eye to sexual assault, or a son into a world where he’d likely bear witness to sexual assault as a bystander, victim, or perpetrator. I don’t want to bring a child into a world where a girl’s rape can go viral. I don’t want to give birth to a child in a coastal city that will be under water in 100 years, to one where boys who grow up wanting to serve their country end up dying to protect Dick Cheney’s stock portfolio. To a world where a religious institution that has, for 1500 years, harbored pedophiles and blood money, still holds political sway over a large portion of the country that controls the largest military in the world. I won’t bear a child into a world of constant surveillance. I can’t do it.

I can’t help reaching my grim conclusion despite the fact that, statistically, there’s never been a better time to be a human, or a woman in a developed nation. There’s never been less poverty and pestilence and disease (proportionally to the entire global population) than there is now. There has never been fewer catastrophic wars, a lower murder rate. People in developed countries don’t have to worry about dying from cholera, or malaria, or tetanus, or the measles (unless the country is so developed that parents believe they no longer have to vaccinate their children). We’re living longer, we’re living better. Hell, until fairly recently, marital rape wasn’t a thing. Sexual harassment was just the way men acted. Women died in childbirth in America all the time.

The world has never been a good place full of hugs and sunshine and getting along. It’s just that within the last fifteen years or so, we’ve been more aware of the bad than ever before. For every passenger plane shot down or lost, thousands land without incident, but that’s not a story. A little boy who goes to play soccer outdoors and doesn’t wind up a victim of a cruel conflict is not a story. Tragedy is. And statistics on the relative rarity of tragedy is hardly comforting when most of what we’re fed, day in and day out, are images of suffering.

There are days when life feels like the best gift I could possibly give to another person. And then there are days like today, when it seems like it might be best for humanity to pack it up and call the game. That’s enough, folks. We’ve had a pretty shitty run.

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