Parenting for Freedom article series: This is the sixth in a series of articles that analyzes how freedom-loving people can align their parenting with their political philosophy, and how doing so will allow ideas about personal liberty to carry on to the next generation.
The best reason to have kids
This is my final article in a series about how parents can apply principles of freedom to raising their children. And I think it’s a great chance to clarify my attitude toward parenting and children.
After reading my first article, which called parents’ care of their children a “sentence,” one commenter questioned my agenda. He asked whether what I really objected to was the continuation of the human race, since I talked about the creation of children as a “crime.” But nothing could be farther from the truth.
As the mother of six children, I would never want to limit how many children someone else chose to have. I would never try to prevent people from having children at all.
For one thing, it would be awfully hypocritical of me. For another, trying to ban or limit a person’s children is a grave violation of their rights. It is the stuff of coercive governments, like China’s — and our own.
All adults should have the freedom to pursue parenting if they choose, either by trying to conceive a child or through adoption. (Still, no one is entitled to children).
But when it comes to why you want kids, some reasons are better than others. If you embrace the best reasons to have children, you’ll have better parenting as a result. Your philosophy will guide your actions.
If you’re a person who values freedom, your top reason for having kids should be to allow them to share in the joy of existence.
Why is this the best reason? Because it correctly orders the good of the child ahead of the parents or society. As I argued in my first article, children deserve positive rights from their parents. This is because the parents helped to create the children and because so much of kids’ early life is out of their control. If the parents believed in this philosophy, all their actions would reflect this.
The parents would view long-term involvement as necessary for the children’s survival. They would try to give their kids autonomy in the home and in their education as much as their ages allow. This would make up for how little children get to control other aspects of their lives.
Parents would try their best to give their children ever more freedom. In doing so, the kids’ lives would transform into a life they chose for themselves — and thus, an existence that is joyful.
This doesn’t mean every day needs to feel like a Disney World vacation. Parents need only provide a child with real choice and as much autonomy as possible. When children can exercise control over their lives, they will be happy to exist. They are building that existence piece by piece each day.
Other good reasons to have kids
There are plenty of other good reasons to have children that do not interfere with a child’s rights. Here are some of them:
To provide a tangible expression of a couple’s love for one another. Humans, like all animals, have an innate drive to propagate their species. This drive has continued over thousands of years of Natural Selection. Thus, it cannot be discounted as a motivating factor in having children. But unlike animals, humans can bring their intellect and will to the sexual encounter. Sex in humans, therefore, is both procreative and unitive. So we can consider children to be a natural result of a couple’s love for one another.
To experience the joy of being a parent. There is nothing wrong with enjoying one’s children as you bring them up. And while I believe framing parenthood as a “sentence” was necessary as a philosophical exercise, that is not how I (usually) view my role as a mother.
On the contrary, I see all six of my kids as my life’s greatest blessings. Their existence adds meaning to my own. Their presence in my life has prompted me to be more generous — with my time, my money, my plans, even my own body. And I see all that as a good thing. I’m sure most parents feel the same way, because it is so natural to love your children and give so much of yourself to them.
What NOT to consider when deciding to have kids
Some reasons people give for having kids — or not — should not factor into the decision, such as the following:
To have someone to take care of you. It’s possible your child will be both willing and able to assist you during times of sickness or old age. But there are no guarantees. Your child is an autonomous person who will make that decision for himself. This isn’t indentured servitude.
To carry on the family name or bloodline. These expectations promote the idea that parents should control their adult children. Sure, your son or daughter might love to give you grandchildren and name them after you. But to expect or demand it belies a wrong belief about who owes whom in the parent-child relationship.
In this belief system, parents see each thing they did for their child as a favor. They would see the years of care as a debt that the child must pay to the parents. The debt ought to be paid through obedience and the bending of their will to that of the caregivers. Property rights would be conditional because the child never owned anything in the first place. Even once the child is an adult, gifts from the parents could come with strings attached. For example, a parent helping with a down payment on a house would expect to have a say on what house the child buys.
Children whose parents believe the child owes them will not have as much autonomy. They will also be mentally tethered by the idea that they are living for the benefit of someone else. Their lives are not their own. This is the mindset behind government too: because of all the benefits we receive as citizens, we should happily accept the restrictions of our freedom as the price we pay for being so well cared for. That’s an easier idea to accept when the notion was first tied to the parental relationship.
The environment. One reason people often cite for not having children is that the world has too many people already. Rather than arguing back and forth over whether that is the case, it’s better to realize that it doesn’t matter. The interests of individuals supercede those of the collective.
To benefit society. Same argument as above. It would be great if Junior found a cure for cancer, invented calorie-free ice cream, or carried on your political ideas to the next generation. But none of that matters as much as whether he individually benefits from his existence.
It’s not too late to change
Maybe you already have a kid or six and never thought much about why you chose to have them. Maybe you had kids for the wrong reasons. Maybe you want children but decided not to because of the critically endangered Yangtze Finless Porpoise.
It’s not too late to start reframing your parenting mindset. Starting today, choose to parent with joy in mind — your own joy, yes, but also the joy your children can feel from their own existence. Giving them the freedom to find this joy is the best gift you can give them — and the best reason to be a parent.