Happiness = Having Kids or Not Having Kids?

My long-time girlfriend and I recently visited some old family friends of mine.  We ended up having a great time, but on the way home, we sort of had a sudden realization.  The extremely comfortable lifestyle we had just witnessed could be all ours if we made one simple decision – not having kids.  Obviously the decision to have children or not shouldn’t solely revolve around money (on the other hand, maybe more people should consider financial ramifications before having huge families in this day and age).  Mrs. TM (at this point we have been together longer than most marriages) and I will be both be teachers in a couple years when she finishes her schooling.  The couple we visited were also both teachers.  There are a lot of similarities between the life they live, and what we would imagine as our “ideal lifestyle.”  We had been tossing around the idea of having kids for a little while now, and the very alluring depiction of a childless life didn’t exactly squash the idea.  Growing up, we had always believed we would have kids just because that is what you’re “supposed” to do, but after working in a high school for a couple of years, both of us know that we definitely don’t want children right now, and there is a distinct possibility we might not ever procreate.  One thing I know for sure, my old family friends sure didn’t appear lonely or unfulfilled like most of society claims that they should.

 All Potential Parents Should Be Teacher-For-A-Day Before Having Kids

It might sound to crass to some, but I would recommend to all potential parents that they spend a week with teenagers before committing the sacrifice of becoming a parent.  I phrase it that way, because to me, that’s what it is – a sacrifice.  Many people are willing to sacrifice a lot in order to realize the joys of being a parent.  I just want people to realize exactly what that sacrifice entails and allow them to make an informed decision!  When I have talked to other people about this they usually respond with, “Oh, but that is other people’s children, you can raise yours differently.”  This sounds logical, but I’ve seen a ton of parents who I think are great people have two or more children.  Some of their children turn out as you might expect – good, upstanding citizens, while others are the exact opposite and become the bane of teachers (and probably their eventual bosses) everywhere.  One would assume the parents used similar techniques and were equally loving, caring, and adherent to the discipline of all their children?  This seemingly random roll of the dice scares the hell of out me, I’m not going to lie.  I spend 6-8 hours a day with other people’s kids, and I’m not sure I want to come home and do another 8-10.  Does this make me a bad person?  It seems many people think so, but then again, when I look at demographic charts there seem to be a lot of us “bad people” out there these days.

 If I Say It Enough Times Then It Must True

Sometimes I justify our current decision not to have children to myself by saying, “I’m not sure that world really needs anymore kids, and really, I already spend more time with about 100 kids a day than most their parents likely do (they are forced to sit and listen to me muhaha).”  Maybe this is just assuaging my guilt, but I think they are something to take into consideration.  I’ve even heard the oddly convincing argument that not having kids is the best thing a person can do for the environment… think about it before you react immediately.  This line of thinking naturally leads me to question why many people decide to have children.  I don’t know if I have come to many conclusions, but I know that a lot of people are strongly influenced by our cultural norms of having children.  I don’t think this is a good reason at all.  If I choose to take responsibility for the life of a child I want it to be because I am ready for it and want that responsibility, not because I believe society might look down on me if I don’t!

Some Might Argue That Sanity Is The Biggest Cost

Then there is obviously the purely selfish pull of the lifestyle that one can afford if they choose not have children.  It’s not a popular opinion to express, and I’m sure some of you will comment that I’m a terrible person (it’s ok, I’ve been called worse, one senior citizen used 400 words detailing how brutal I was on one of the biggest personal finance blogs in Canada last week), but it is there nonetheless.  If you consider the compounded returns of money that can be saved instead of spent raising a child it is a definitely life-changing difference.  My buddy Tom Drake over at the Canadian Personal Finance Blog (I hear they recently hired a very articulate staff writer over there) wrote a great article about the cost of raising a child and came up with a figure of around 200K if you add in a little college savings.  This doesn’t take into account the decreased earning power if one parent takes decreased work hours, or parental leave on behalf of parenting responsibilities.  With compounding, this could easily result in a $1 million dollar difference over the course of a lifetime, and possibly a lot more.  To some, that means a lot of ski trips, to others it means early retirement.  These things sound mighty fine to a young graduate.

Help Me!

Please don’t think I’m overly shallow (although, if the shoe fits…).  I know that many people believe having children is the greatest gift life has to offer.  Is it possible that some people are just better off not having children?  With finances being squeezed tighter than ever before for a lot of couples, I can see why the need to bring new life into this world is not all-encompassing.  Is anyone else out there struggling with the decision on having kids, or brave enough to admit that they made the wrong one and now regret it one way or another?  I’d be genuinely interested in hearing others’ thoughts on this.

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Choosing to bring children/ a child into your life is one of the most personal decisions there is. I do not believe there is a right or wrong answer, just a right or wrong answer for each person/couple. C and I are in our mid-30s. The majority of our friends do not have children and do not want them. On some level, it would be really easy for us to continue our lives without kids and still be happy. But I DO want to be a mom. I love kids. (I LOVE teenagers- yes, I’m a little crazy.) But just… Read more »

9 years ago

I think it’s perfectly fine to not have a kid. If you like your lifestyle and don’t want a kid, then you shouldn’t have a kid. Some people like being parents and some don’t.
I love having the little guy around. He brings a lot of joy into our lives.
You probably should look at money too much when making this decision. Money can’t buy children. :)

I think it’s perfectly acceptable not to have kids. Don’t let peer pressure push you to do something you don’t want to. I also think that you should look at the finances. People think looking at finances is wrong or taboo, but I think it’s smart. Why not weigh all the factors and make the best decision?

9 years ago

Having children is one of the most personal decisions there is. Make the decision based upon your feelings and your situation. Do not let peer pressure or societies expectations dictate your choice.

9 years ago

Having children is a huge responsibility. You should never enter into it lightly. There is so much more than just the cost. Raising children right takes time and effort. You should have your values and life together first. No use raising irresponsible children too. After all, I probably will have them in my classes and I will call you on it.

9 years ago

Probably the biggest issue is whether you and your significant other agrees on the issue of having/not having children. All my friends have kids (I don’t.. yet.. still considering like you) but I can see how this could break up a relationship. I think you should be certain before having kids. I’ve heard someone say that they love their kids but if they could go back in time they’d wait. Being in that situation would probably put stress on your marriage. So I’d say wait and be sure.

9 years ago

No one can help you with this decision, my friend; you will have to feel your way around it yourself. And note, that I said ‘feel’ not ‘think’. All I can do is to tell you about my experience with it. One of the sentences you used was almost identical to the one I dished out: there are too many people on this planet already anyway. I was never very keen and I certainly never went all funny at the site of a baby (I still don’t). But then I had IVF and had my son – because I had… Read more »

Reply to  Teacher Man

I should clarify, the kids decision has broken up my friends before weddings (or even engagements). Yes, these were happy committed relationships, but in general, the splits were amicable because they realized that they cared enough about the other person not to force them into a situation they didn’t want. In all the cases I can think of, each member of the failed relationship is now in another happy, long term relationship (some are married), with a person who shares their life goals. There is nothing wrong with wanting kids or not wanting kids, you just have to make sure… Read more »

9 years ago

Kids definitely cost you money, time and energy, but for me it has been the best thing I have ever done. other people’s kids might be cute and fun, but having your own adds a whole new dimension you never knew existed. Ultimately you have to choose for yourself, but I don’t think you should ever really make it about the money.

9 years ago

“This seemingly random roll of the dice scares the hell of out me, I’m not going to lie.” That is what scares me as well. I would still like to have children someday, as it would give me a chance to relive childhood myself, the good and the bad. I also want to have the experience of being a father. The downsides that you mention are all very true, but life isn’t just about accumulating a big nest egg, and if you do a good job raising your child and you didn’t get hit with an unlucky roll of the… Read more »

9 years ago

I think it’s perfectly acceptable not to have kids. My wife and I are not planning on it. There is something that “doesn’t feel right” for us, and we are trusting our instincts. Our parents would really like us to have children, (I think they think we’re nuts….) but this is a personal decision between two people, my wife and I, not some act that we should feel we should do to appease others. Regarding the financial front, while having children, finances factor in, it is by far not the sole reason to do it or not. I don’t regret… Read more »

9 years ago
Reply to  Teacher Man

Agreed. We had a long-term idea (not quite a plan) to do both. :)

9 years ago

I wish more people were like you and thought out things rationally.

9 years ago

I may be late to the party here, but I guess the way I see it when I doubt whether or not I want kids, is that nobody regrets HAVING kids, but most people that don’t have kids regret it, even just a little. Nobody has a kid and thinks “I should have decided to go childless”. You know? But I do think that it’s an individual’s right to chose, and it’s not like it was in 1950 where if you don’t have a kid you’re looked down upon. You’re thinking very logically, and I like that. But I also… Read more »

9 years ago
Reply to  Teacher Man

I’m a new reader (but how did I not know about this awesome blog earlier?!). This is a topic that my fiance and I have talked about and we are both thinking on. I am very happy with just the two of us and with knowing that we are only responsible for ourselves. What I am afraid of the most is having a kid with disabilities that would render him/her incapable of taking care of themselves. Even with good medical insurance, savings, and jobs, that kind of catastrophe can wipe out a family. It’s very frightening. Having a child is… Read more »

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