Thanks to everyone who responded to my enquiry about kids–why they plan to have them, why they had them or why they chose not to. It was enlightening to read such articulate responses and such a breadth of opinion.
I was amused to read that, whether people chose to have children or not, they often regarded the decision as selfish. People who had kids were selfish because they were eager to pass on their genes, to carry on family traditions and have a care-giver when they’re old. People who chose not to have kids were selfish because they were self-involved and unwilling to spend the time, energy and cash it took to raise kids.
Meg’s response, about wanting to adopt, falls somewhere in the middle. Depending on their reasons, adoptive parents can be more altruistic than breeding parents, or just as selfish. I suppose that foster parents are the most magnanimous–they get all of the burden but few or none of the benefits.
The tricky part of evaluating parenthood is being on the outside looking in. Every parent I know (and those who responded reinforce this idea) speak with certainty about what a transformative experience parenthood is, and how they couldn’t really conceive of the thing before they entered into it. To me, and I don’t mean this critically, they sound like religious converts. In discussions of their ‘faith’, I suffer the same frustration with both groups. Because I’m on the outside, I can’t can’t really know their experience.