Weighing in on Time magazine's cover story on adults who choose to forgo producing offspring, The Times' childless-by-choice columnist Meghan Daum says the world needs "childfree" couples just as it needs procreators.
Full disclosure: I'm the father of twin toddlers, an experience that may color my opinion of the column. And it has: Daum is spot on.
Why? Because the discussion on the very personal decisions that couples and individuals make on becoming parents had started to resemble a debate, in which one side had to prove it was better than the other. No children? You're setting America on the path to the demographic decay eating away at Western society -- oh, and by the way, we need more people for Social Security to survive. Twins? Three kids? Four? The planet has enough people, thank you very much.
Daum's column, by contrast, refocuses the discussion (for those who insist on having it) where it belongs: on the personal. It doesn't attempt to show the other side why it's wrong, as so many exchanges today about parenting seem to do. In that sense, the column's introspection is a welcome break.
Several readers -- some of them childfree, some not -- have sent us their responses. Here is a selection of those letters.
Lida Daves-Schneider of Upland also speaks of parenthood as an exclusively personal decision:
"I do thank Daum for her decision and thoughtful article. My younger son and his wife are expecting in September; my older son and his wife have opted not to have children. I support both couples wholeheartedly.
"While I revel in my new role as grandmother, the decision to bring a child into the world is a private and momentous one, and should never be dictated by others. My older son and daughter-in-law have chosen their 'childfree' path for some of the reasons stated in the article -- out of altruism and self-knowledge.
"I am lucky to have been raised by a village of relatives (some childless), members of a church family and, not least of all, teachers. Although my older son and his wife will not be parents in this village of life, they volunteer to better the lives of others, young and old alike. And I thank them."
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Greg Gilbert praises the enlightened childless:
"Daum's moving personal revelations understandably left unmentioned some related contemporary issues.
"Consider how those who choose to remain childless across our overpopulated planet largely are bright, well educated and economically well off. Those who disproportionately reproduce tend to be less so.
"Thus, where so many political and religious leaders act to block the impoverished masses' access to effective means of birth control, continuously swelling the proportion of disadvantaged people."
Los Angeles resident John N. Heil says nonexistence is no gift at all:
"Daum's justification for choosing not to have children because she does other productive things for society, amplifies her opinion with one of the most bizarre, strained and nonsensical statements I ever heard: 'The children we never had would thank us.'
"Does it not occur to her that the gift of life is the greatest blessing any of us could have, including, by her logic, the children she never had?"
Russ Woody of Studio City doesn’t have time to make his case against Daum:
"That Daum would openly flaunt her (unnatural) impulse to marry and remain childless is an affront to God’s intention that we marry and produce offspring.
"Just a minute -- I'm back. One of the kids was trying to ram the neighbor kid's hamster in the toaster. Big fight, tears.
"Anyway, did Daum consider for a moment that impressionable young newlyweds might be reading her words and be influenced....
"Hold on. Sorry, one of the kids just relieved himself in a kitchen drawer. Where was I?
"Oh, I stand with the Catholic school that fired that teacher because he might influence -- no wait, that's not my point. Screaming in the pantry. I'll be back."