How does one decide whether or not to have kids? On the one hand, kids are hard. They change everything. On the other, what else do you do with your life?
Oof. I feel this question so hard. I have the same debate every. damn. day.
My first instinct is to say that if you’re ambivalent about having children, you should probs not have children. The truth is, most people probs shouldn’t have children. Unless you’re Barack and Michelle, and your genes are just too damn perfect not to pass on, you’re likely not so special that the world desperately needs two of you running around consuming food products, farting into the atmosphere, and burning up valuable resources.
Sorry if that sounds harsh, but a recent study found that the most effective way to combat global climate change is to have fewer children. So if you are truly on the fence, maybe it’s best to shut down your baby-maker so the babies who already exist don’t drown on the banks of the water-ball formerly known as Earth. Also, polar bears. Save the damn polar bears.
So that’s one perspective. But…it’s more complicated than that now isn’t it? Because we’re human beings with beastial instincts that scream at us daily to replicate our genetic material, and social cues that tell us that our lives without children are empty and meaningless. I am a woman in my 30s, and my damn uterus wakes me up at night wailing for whatever Tinder bro has found his way into my bed to plug me up with a human life. So, I get it.
Which leads me to the “what else do you do with your life?” part of your question, which is also the part where I tell you that squirting a screaming shit monster from your cooch (which, for the record, is something I personally know I want to do) is not the only way to find purpose in your existence. Sure, having a kid tests and challenges you in incredible ways. It cracks you open and teaches you about love, strength, and vulnerability. It requires you to live in the present moment, while necessitating an intimate relationship with your own past, and an ability to envision the future. It forces you to cultivate patience and to care about something with a focus more intense than the Death Star superlaser. These are all meaningful byproducts of reproduction, but reproduction is not the only way to these ends.
The world is already bursting with beauty, joy, love, and need. You don’t need to fill a uterus to have a full life. You asked me “what else do you do with your life?”, and my advice here is simple:
Find something to love that is bigger than yourself, and then give yourself to it completely.
Give yourself until you are humbled, empty, and grateful. Give yourself beyond what you ever thought possible. This could be a cause, a person, or a creative pursuit. It could be a baby (your own or someone else’s) or it could be your own mother as she ages. It could be the damn polar bears.
So go forth, be brave, and endeavor to give a shit about literally anything. The meaning, my dear Existential Elly, will follow.
My dad is a liberal but he makes racist jokes. Anytime I try to call him out on it, he says I’m “no fun” and that my “political correctness is why everyone hates liberals.” I feel like he hides behind his liberal politics as a way of justifying inappropriate behavior. How do I make him see that his jokes aren’t funny, and that, just because he votes down the left, he doesn’t get a pass on being racist?
Dear Dad Jokes,
Assholes come in all shapes, sizes, and political persuasions, and it sounds to me like your pops is kinda an asshole. He is using his politics, or perhaps more accurately, his voting record, as a pass for behavior that is super gross, super shitty, and also steeped in privilege.
His jokes aren’t funny, and just because he presumably voted for Hillz (and Barry-O, and Billy-Clinty-poo, and even that sweet little ketchup packet Johnny “I’m so rich and useless” Kerry), doesn’t mean he gets to say whatever he wants. Politics are a daily practice. Like brushing your teeth, politics are a thing you have to do every day or they’ll decay. Brushing your political teeth isn’t always the most fun, but with the world the way it is, we all gotta be “no fun” for a minute.
I had the pleasure and privilege to hear Gloria Steinem speak recently (omg THE QUEEN), and she said something super poignant that I will mis-quote for you here:
She said that we all have to care about all the injustices. We have to care about women being raped in India, trans people trying to pee at Applebee’s, black men being mowed down by police bullets, gay couples trying to buy wedding cakes, and dads making shitty jokes. All those things matter, and they all matter all the time.
Sidebar: That’s not exactly what she said, so Gloria, if you’re reading this (OMG WHAT IF SHE IS READING THIS I WOULD DIE FOREVER!!!!!!!), sorry for misquoting you.
The thing about shitty racist jokes is that, sure they are “just jokes”, but also they aren’t, because there is no such goddamn thing as “just a joke.” Bad jokes about any group of marginalized people serve to further marginalize their existence and invalidate their right to a voice.
So your dad didn’t vote for a monster – congratu-fuckin-lations old man. As we used to say in middle school, “you want a cookie?” Sorry, Pappy, but you didn’t earn a cookie. Sure, some people think that “PC culture” is why everyone hates liberals, but those people just don’t know how to construct a damn joke without making someone else the butt of it.
And you my love, you call your pops out. Tell him he’s being a douche. The proudest moments of my life have been the moments when a man was calling me a buzzkill. Go forth and kill that buzz. Show your pops he raised a strong, powerful, liberal child who brushes their politics every damn day. It’ll take him a minute, but if he really is a man of political conviction, he’ll be proud of you for it.
Buzzkill in Chief, Ada.
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