Choice is an Essential Truth: A Thought Catalog Rebuttal

http://thoughtcatalog.com/sarah-larson/2014/01/i-think-people-without-kids-have-empty-lives-and-im-not-sorry-about-it/

The post above is a year old but I read it today.

The essential argument the author is making is not an argument that can be logically rebutted against.  In a real-world writing scenario people make arguments that have facts/evidence/science/theories/wider observations, etc to back them up or which at least provide a foundation upon which to form a counter-argument.  That's the basis of good debate.  This is based on nothing other than what the author feels.  It’s an opinion piece devoid of any fact and backed only by intensely personal experience.  As such, it’s difficult to mount an intellectual rebuttal against.  Difficult, but not impossible.

“I never thought of myself as the kind of person who judges other people’s choices. But after spending enough of my life with kids and without, I can’t deny what I really feel: It’s a perfectly fine choice to never become a parent, but there is absolutely no chance that your life will be as full or meaningful, or that you will learn as many essential truths about existence, as you would if you had kids.

Because when it comes down to it, there are certain truths about life that you literally cannot know until you’ve become a parent. The list of those truths could go on forever (no, it really could), but the core truth behind all of it is about what human life is about, how we relate to each other, how to care for each other, and the tiny moments that, in the end, are what we do all this other shit to support.”

This is, to put it plainly, a bald-faced lie.  Humanity has historically offered up countless examples of both parents who have learned nothing exemplary from the act of procreating and of child-free people who have given selflessly to better the world until their deaths.  There are plenty of parents whose child’s every moment doesn’t move them to tears, plenty of parents who don’t put their children first above all else, plenty of parents whose children don't inspire them to achieve more, and so on.  Likewise, plenty of childfree people are assholes who waste time and care about nothing just as plenty of childfree people really like others (children included) and are able to connect easily and enrich lives outside their own.

"Why do I feel sad for people without children? Because they’re missing out on this incredible thing that gives you an entire new scope of what it means to love, and to give of yourself, and to care for someone else more than yourself"

By that definition the author is claiming that arguably the world's greatest altruistic humans – including people like Helen Keller and Mother Teresa – really just didn't know what selflessness and love were because, hey, they didn't have children.  I would argue that Mother Teresa regarded every human in need as her child and under that umbrella reached out to as many as possible, not just some scant few genetically connected to her through birth.   It is akin to telling Helen Keller that because she could never hear music she could never truly feel emotion which is unequivocally false.  The statements being made are the author’s opinion and hers alone.  The only truth that can be stated is that everyone experiences life differently.  No two people walk this planet with the exact same set of impressions and feelings and reactions and beliefs.  As such, each human’s individual choice should be valued and held with import.  This is why we fight for equality, for human rights, for feminism, for education.  We fight for these things so people can choose what is best for them, so that freedom of choice is not just a slogan on a billboard but an actuality in recognition of how many different choices are necessary to the human experience as a whole.

The article as written is as offensive to parents who don't have the luxury of time and money to sit back and be in awe of their offspring as it is to those who are childfree by choice as it is to those who may desperately want children and find themselves unable to conceive.  It holds the singular distinction of offending everyone simultaneously by being so tone-deaf and so thoroughly entrenched in a single world view that nothing else registers.  You don’t have to have children to give life “tangible meaning” and to understand the “scope of what it means to love”.  It’s your choice.  And in making that choice, you have only to bear the responsibility of making the choice best for you personally, not for a hive mind of the narrow-sighted who subscribe to a single life narrative.  Have children, don’t have children, travel, don’t travel, love a wide swath of friends or love only a few… but whatever you do, devote yourself to it and endeavor to leave a legacy that is positive. 

 

- Corinne Simpson