Why the Not Having Kids Parody Makes Sense

February 11, 2014  |  

The “Not Having Kids” parody  has turned quite a few heads as a faux cheesy medical commercial about a “brand new alternative to having children.” It’s funny, it’s cute, it’s well-shot and topical, especially for the month of February, with its pinks and its reds and its seemingly never-ending feed of new Facebook engagements. As with many of our “traditional” values, our society has only just begun to really, comfortably open up the conversation about why we have children, or, as this video somewhat prompts you to consider, why we don’t.

What I admired most about the video, and additionally what confused its status as parody in my mind, was that it somehow, despite its tone, managed to represent the struggle of choosing to have children or choosing to remain childless. I was on board for a comedic romp through the beginning, all the talk about how trying Not Having Children could positively affect your life—but when that soothing voiceover laid out the side effects, I was taken aback for a moment. Rarely do comedic things nail both sides of the debate in one fell swoop, but I felt like this one did.

I love children. I’ve been a babysitter, a long-term nanny, an older sister, an older cousin. I’m that person who makes faces at kids on the subway. If you bring me to a function that has children, there’s a 99-percent chance that, by the end of the night, all the kids will be hanging on me and begging either not to go or to come back as soon as possible. Children like me because I can be interested in what they’re interested in without talking down to them, which I think is an enormous part of communicating with a child. I can give you references, if you’d like: I’m great with kids, and furthermore, I like them.

Up to a certain point, I had always assumed I’d have kids, because it was still what was normal when I was a kid and learning how to navigate the world as a woman. I grew up in suburban Virginia, so when puberty hit, family life suddenly became a big part of my culture. We played M*A*S*H and girls talked about what boys they wanted to marry and how many kids they wanted to have. Around that time, I remember really thinking about it for the first time. I wanted kids; I loved kids!

I remember the exact moment I decided I didn’t want kids. You might be picturing a tantrum in the supermarket that I witnessed, or seeing close friends of mine have their first kid and lose every quality I once liked about them, etc. The moment was: I was on my home commute on the train, sitting diagonally across from a mother and her son; they were joking with each other, laughing, having a great time. He put his head on his shoulder and they both looked so happy, and I thought Oh my god, I don’t want kids. It wasn’t a negative realization about parenthood, either. I think I’d finally, actually realized what went into being a parent, that this woman was entirely responsible for that small child, that she decided, at least at first, how to raise him, what to feed him, etc., and that that beginning, whether her son agreed with it or not, would stay with him forever, in one way or another. I didn’t think I’d ever be comfortable proclaiming that I was a person who was ready to make and raise another person. That was five years ago, and my decision—despite being more involved with children, despite approaching and reaching that age where many women and men are talking about having children—has only gotten more resolute since then.

It’s bizarre to be a woman who openly admits she doesn’t want children. The overwhelming response is: “Oh, you’ll change your mind/meet the right person/realize it’s the important thing to do.” People tell me I’d make a great parent all the time—that makes little difference to me. I’ve been told that I should feel it my duty as a human (thankfully this person didn’t say it was my duty as a woman) to rear a child and pass down my knowledge. I’ve been told the fact that it’s scary and risky makes it the right thing to do. And there’s no other defining factor than the response—I’ve gotten it from artists, the elderly, single people, queer people, anyone you can imagine.

It’s not my job, on a site like this, to try to convince you why you shouldn’t have kids. It’s not my job to convince anyone why she shouldn’t have kids, because she should decide for herself if she wants kids. That’s my big plea here, my agenda. Isn’t it time, haven’t we come far enough, to let people decide? To really let them decide, not begrudgingly end the conversation because we don’t agree with them, not condescend to them because our own path does not match up with theirs, not badger them with our own reasons for continuing the human race, but to really let them decide? Children—as everyone on this site, women and men, mothers and others, should know—are kind of a big deal. If I say I don’t want kids, shouldn’t that be the number one reason for me not to have them?

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