Should We Have Kids?

We had our first mini-vacation in a long time, in a thermal resort in Leukerbad, in a part of Switzerland called Wallis (the picture below shows the view from our hotel). It was nice, we hiked every day and slept in our VW Bus last night.

On our first hike, me and my girlfriend started talking about kids and whether we want to remain childless. As one gets older and friends start having kids, it’s hard to not ask oneself: Should I have kids?

When confronted with this very question, I remember a recent interview where Jordan Peterson cried out “that’s a stupid question. What else are you gonna do?” He added that the deepest relationships you could have are with your kids, and that older childless couples are usually weird.

I disagree – it’s not a stupid question. Guilting people into following the tradcon narrative that your life is only worth living if you have kids is close-minded and anachronistic.
I know the “having kids” question is complicated, because there’s religion, there’s the socio-cultural aspect, there’s economics and so much more. We already have dramatically declining birth rates in most developed countries (even China and the U.S.).

Maybe I’m in a somewhat rare position because I’m in no “camp”, neither the pro children camp (even though I like kids and could see myself being a good full-time dad), nor the “no way” camp (I’ve been reading the childfree subreddit and articles about regretting motherhood and the like).

As usual with difficult decisions, I made a pros and cons list for having kids. What I noticed quickly is that many common pros are irrelevant to me:

  • Wanting my genes and my family name to live on (I don’t care, and I don’t think having kids makes me “immortal”)
  • Getting kids because my parents want grandkids (it’s none of their business)
  • Having someone take care of me when I’m older (what a strange and selfish reason to have kids)

But here are arguments that resonate with me: The possibility of becoming a better person – more compassionate, patient, working harder to provide for my family. I think it’s a good thing if our self-centeredness becomes more others-oriented once we have kids (Sebastian Junger talked about this too recently). Also (and maybe that’s a bit selfish) seeing pure joy and passion in kid’s eyes when they see the ocean for the first time or get to pet a dog could help reignite those emotions in me. I’m just curious how being a parent feels like and how it might change my outlook on life, because I don’t think words can do it justice. And, admittedly, I want to play Pokémon or Zelda with them one day.

It’s not all too difficult to find Cons too. Raising kids is hard. They’re super expensive and we’re not rich (it could easily be half a million $ per kid where I live until they’re on their own). Most kids are loud and need constant attention, and I need quiet and alone time.

What scares me most is the loss of freedom (and I love freedom). It’ll be much harder to move to another country for a while or work on creative projects that need time, focus and don’t make money. And with kids, it’s so much harder to leave if your relationship becomes loveless and toxic.
The vulnerability makes me anxious too: I can be great parent but ultimately I have little control over so many things that would break my heart, such as my kids getting into accidents, being bullied at school or getting depressed.

I don’t really agree with popular anti-child arguments that the world is overpopulated and that it’s bad for the climate (our birth rates plummet already and we’ll have greener technologies soon), or that the world is too f*ed up right now to get kids (last year sucked but overall it’s never been better to be alive).

Meanwhile, the antinatalist’s argument that kids never gave their consent to be born is worth pondering (especially if you think the suffering outweighs the possible positive experiences of life, which I wouldn’t try to contest if you add disabilities, mental health problems or being born into a poor, war-ridden country into the mix).

Here are two points that are a bit intimate, but I’ll share them anyway:
First, I don’t know if I want to pass on my genes. They’re not that great, especially my brain – it’s a confusing mix of openness, creativity, self-doubts, overthinking and cynicism. It’s not very functional and useful.
Second, what others might list as one of their key reasons for having kids doesn’t really ring true to me: That feeling of being a “family unit”, having each other’s back, that warm safe feeling while watching a movie, laughing together, going on vacation … I never really felt that in my family so I don’t have the desire to recreate it, if that makes sense.

What’s my verdict, then? Let’s start here: I think you shouldn’t have kids unless you really want to have kids.

As with everything in life: don’t do it just because everyone does it.
It’d be good if more people made an honest self-assessment instead of doing it because everyone has kids or because the parents want grandkids. In general, I think we should stop telling others whether they should have kids or not, and stop saying things like “you’ll regret it one day” or “you’ll change your mind when you’re older” which is weird and manipulative. People are different. We’re individuals and we don’t all want to live the same way.

I think most people underestimate how much having kids will change their lives, and how little they can control how their children will turn out. Most parents seem to forget what their one job is: Just love your kids and be there when they need you. And don’t try to make them into some “mini-me” who makes you proud and accomplishes things you didn’t accomplish.

P.S. You can hear me go more in-depth on this topic in the Bedtime Show I just uploaded on Youtube, and I have an extended version on my Patreon.

😴 What might help you find calm

leukerbad should we have kids

Intentional ASMR Picks:

  • Gibi’s house tour gave me nice unintentional ASRM vibes, and it’s interesting to see how people live in general (loved her Anime stuff and seeing her recording setup)
  • This sleep study roleplay by SemideCoco was excellent – recommended for sure!
  • I don’t really watch Mukbang channels but this crunchy two person session with a blue chocolate fountain by ASMR Lilibu appeared in my feed and the visuals and sounds are top notch, admittedly
  • DiamondASMR packing orders of beauty products was quite relaxing and sleep-inducing

Unintentional ASMR Picks:

  • You maybe know those “colored sand art in a glass bottle” pendants – here’s a video of someone making them (probably in Morocco or Egypt) and I found it both satisfying and relaxing to watch
  • Here’s some more sand: Physicist Brian Cox explaining why time travels in one direction. Love his voice and accent!
  • Adam Savage is a genius when it comes to DIY stuff, and I watch him for Unintentional ASMR too (like this Giant Nut and Bolt making-of)