I’ve always felt out of step with just about everyone I’ve ever met in the way I’ve yet to be overtaken with a desire to have children, as most everyone else has by their thirties, and even more true when you are Mexican, or when from any non-European Spanish-speaking country, in origin, at least. As an outsider on the matter, I’ve not been able to abstain from pondering what is the root of wanting to have children. Perhaps what I often see will never be politically correct to say, but many of the reasons I’ve deciphered have at least partially egotistical foundations to them. Reproduction is certainly a deeply-seated drive within us, hardwired in our DNA, but aside from that, what motivations or explanations do we arrive at in our minds that propel us to seek becoming parents?
One major factor which influences many people, from my view, is that becoming a parent is simply something you do, and like other traditions, whether it’s caps and gowns at graduation, kissing under the mistletoe, or brides taking on the groom’s surname, it is a practice that is carried out a great majority of the time, though not always. The way many traditions are simply accepted, without much questioning, is ample evidence that we often seek security with snowballing taboos, which gain momentum with the passing of time. We begin to look down on or alienate those who may choose to even consider the possibility of not following a certain norm or practice. Having children is surely one such example. I’ve encountered countless people who assume my disinterest in fatherhood signifies I am the possessor of some affliction—be it physical, mental, interpersonal, or some other form they may conjure. The idea that someone may not want something they not only want, but feel is simply invaluable and essential to happiness may in fact pull the rug out from under them, perhaps rendering them rather vulnerable, and this may trigger animosity towards that person who opts not to have children. Anxiety surfaces in the mind of a person who’s never considered the possibility of an alternative choice, in marriage, being a parent, buying a home, or any of a variety of firmly established rituals that are considered essential by most, or which stand as symbols of ‘making it’, or as steps to happiness. The anxiety may trigger skepticism, not believing the person’s for real in not wanting children, or feeling the person may be confused on the issue. Feelings of jealousy can surface as well, especially if the anxiety-driven individual has already had children, and even more so if those children were had at a young age. They may see the possibilities and freedom they in fact surrendered when becoming a parent, embodied in that other person. I don’t point it out to criticize the practice of having children, but I imagine having a child is a life-changing event, like it or not, and that includes a drastic decrease in freedom in various aspects, a more pronounced financial responsibility and feeling of duty to hold down a job, and the virtual death of selfish or egotistical tendencies one may harbor.
Another inspiration behind parenthood that’s come to my attention is the need for a continuation in our lineage, of extending one’s family into the future, of having a way of leaving a sort of mark on this world. It may sound a bit harsh, but many people do think of this as a motivator to procreate. A child is seen as a palpable confirmation of one’s visit to this planet, and the thought of that child procreating too seems to grant the parent a sort of relief, a feeling of being able to depart this life having made some peace, having left a legacy of sorts, and in a way living in on through their children and grandchildren.
A more archaic motivation is that of wanting children so that they may help one with the homestead or of assisting or tending to the parents in their old age. This was a more prevalent reason in older times, when life had not been as influenced and permeated by the Industrial Revolution, when more families did everything themselves, when strenuous chores at home were the norm. Modern times have pulled most away from the farms, meaning less difficult tasks, at least of a physical nature, and parents are more often on their own, and at times put in homes. This is less the case in Latino countries and even amongst first or possibly second generation Chicanos, or descendants of Latinos not from México.
Yet another set of reasons which propels some people to have children, which I feel a true disdain for, is of having children out of boredom, out of spite, seeking some form of financial security by way of child support, or out of the ignorant belief that bringing a child into the world is the way their unresponsive partner will start loving them or will become responsible. Couples often become couples, whether just in a relationship or in marriage, because of trouble of some sort in one or both of their homes. The courage to take a stand and move out of their home/s is often lacking and the only way they feel able to wage that move is to get pregnant, which basically makes it an issue of high urgency and which one or both of the people in the relationship allude to as a ‘kick in the pants’ or as ‘growing up’. This fallacy in thought leads to countless divorces, bickering amongst parents, neglect or animosity diverted towards the children, and the unfair dumping of children on grandparents, who had already raised their children, but because of poor planning or terrible decision-making are practically extorted into caring for them. The grandparents usually feel guilty in saying ‘no’, though some will, but it’s nonetheless an unfair practice to expect one’s parents to care for one’s children. Grandparents who opt to do that, who offer themselves, that’s a different story. This day in age there are still mothers who intentionally get pregnant, knowing the father is not interested in any form of fatherhood. These women feel they may have a chance of ‘reeling in’ the man in question, by some defect in their thinking pattern. I am well aware it takes two to conceive a child, but a woman has ultimate control over the situation, and if she is seeking a relationship with a man who is not showing interest in being committed, taking such a step as a last desperate attempt at hooking him is truly irresponsible. They may see it as a ‘win-win’ situation, thinking that should he still not fall, at least he’ll have to pay for it by way of child support, which very often fails, and the one who suffers most is that child, who did not ask to be brought into the world as a form of bait or as some type of revenge.
We must awaken, and become aware of the motivations behind what we do. Tradition for the sake of tradition, unchecked, unquestioned, done only to fulfill some expectation or to avoid animosity or alienation is ignorance. I defend the right of people to have children, but if the motivations are truly benevolent, not reliant on egotistical whims, if the parents are really able to accommodate the financial requirement, and are willing and able to invest the time, effort, and patience necessary to raise a child correctly. Too often we are creatures of habit, of unnecessary taboos on communicating on certain subjects, and of believing certain things are correct simply because all others do them, and too rarely do we question tradition, seek our motivations, and make decisions based on feelings and preferences that are genuinely our own. A child is not a means of acquiring some selfish whim or of escaping some undesired setting or situation. This is taken too lightly and too many times people don’t realize this until it is too late.
J. González Solorio