Julie Bindel writes: “I know exactly what I’m missing and I want none of it.” and a commenter goes on about money going this way and that between generations and that “The childless would seem to be having their cake and eating it.”
But no one mentions the word love. Love can be found in many ways but surely for most people their relationship with their children is their most intense experience of it. So, not an irrelevant aspect to any discussion about having children.
“… the most intense experience of it.” Yes, exactly. Our relationships with our children are intense in a way that no other relationship will ever be. My grownup children are constantly on my mind. Their successes and disappointments affect me far more profoundly than any form of activism ever could.
We tell ourselves what we need to
Love seems to be a bit of a blind spot for the SJW that is Julie – and helps put her views on various articles in these pages into a helpful perspective. Her hatred of men knows no bounds however.
It’s a nonsensical statement. She could only know exactly what she was missing if she actually had children. As for love, my brother told me when I was pregnant that I would not know how much love I was capable of until I had a child. He was absolutely right. It is a tragedy when the mother, or father, does not have the experience of overwhelming love.
Like most social justice warriors, Julie is too angry to have any room for love. She has no idea what she’s missing, and to be frank, I hope she never realizes it, because I’d just as soon angry woke people didn’t reproduce.
she’s definitely angry, but she ain’t woke.
“I am proud that my legacy will be making the world a slightly better place. Meanwhile, I have witnessed friends give up on trying to change the world in favour of having children, their focus shifting onto their own, ever-shrinking world.”
Perhaps a moments reflection would have helped but are you seriously suggesting that, probably the most important job of all, raising bright, honest, engaged and loving children, is not helping make the world a better place. More than that, without a future generation there is no future – at least as far as humanity is concerned.
Arrogance and selfishness masquerading as virtue – quite the piece of work. One of the benefits of family is that it forces a confrontation with the truth, forces a confrontation with your own BS – friends not so much. Perhaps that’s the problem here.
Raising bright honest engaged and loving children is an important role which many parents don’t seem to bother about. Having a child doesn’t make you a committed parent. Neither does it make you more likely to be open to change (although it does force some age diversity into your interactions).
Some people want to contribute and many don’t. Some are parents and some aren’t.
Thank you Laura, you are, of course, right but if you genuinely want to make the world a better place, good parenting is a very good place to start.
Better, I suspect, than some of the things people get caught up in that have marginal, if not downright counter, utility.
My mother used to say that pride comes before a fall….is Julie’s legacy making the world a better place? Has she considered the impact her man hating and separation of womanhood from motherhood is having on society? Her greatest battle to date is one of her own making. Arguably her children are trans!
Unfair. She’s been the victim of trans activism. I think her article was meanspirited, but come on!
If that’s a Julie Bindel impersonator doing a parody of a Julie Bindel piece, she f****** nailed it.
Ha ha. You gave me the best laugh of the day.
Yes, I think the author is being deliberately provocative but she raises an interesting question. Throughout the developed world we see young people having fewer children, especially in Asia. This trend is in part due to women having more choices in life but I think economics is the main cause. It’s now so expensive to live in most cities let alone raise kids.
Anecdotally, it seems many young people, especially women, are happy being childless and I suspect the stigma of childlessness is fading, although perhaps not in the trendier parts of London where professional couples can afford a family and even a nanny to help raise the little uns.
I still agree, though, with the commenter who reminded us that love is a major factor in having kids. For most people, the bond with their kids will be the strongest they’ll experience and it’s probably wise to think twice before giving up that possibility.
J, you’ve definitely got a point there. It does make me wonder, though, which is the chicken and which is the egg. Humans are more concentrated in cities now than 50 years ago, and not as families but as individuals. So, instead of a boy and a girl meeting, marrying, procreating and looking for housing together as a family, they are looking for housing separately, performing the procreation ritual with birth control, and competing with each other in the job market. Everything about that sounds more expensive.
Well of COURSE ‘young people’ are going to be “happy being childless”. But we don’t remain young for long. The priorities we set in our 20s are rarely so important to us after 50.
“Having children costs a fortune: money that I think can be better spent supporting women (and their kids) to leave violent men.”
How is this woman still allowed a platform. how is she any different from her sworn enemies, the trans activists
She is Dr Frankenstein, and they are her monster.
Though no parent would think of it in this manner, from a utilitarian point of view, having children the days before the welfare state was an investment, your best insurance against the economic perils of old age. You bore the costs of raising children but you hopefully also reaped the rewards for having done so through care they would provide in your old age. Children were not a choice but a necessity. A society of the elderly would not be able to provide the labour to support or the force to defend itself, in our more turbulent past. As humans we require support both at the beginning and end of our lives.
The welfare state, in particular, the state pension changed this, effectively socialising the benefits of having children but with the cost still being born by the parents. Unfortunately, it constantly needs repeating that the state pension and a lot of public and private defined benefit pensions, are not funded by savings and investments but by labour of the current generation of workers. You didn’t pay into a fund all your life, you funded your parents and grandparents and now your children and grandchildren are funding you.
During a period when larger families were more common, and both the population and the economy growing, this socialisation was accepted. The cost of bigger families was offset by the larger future economy you would benefit from. However, as economic and population growth has slowed, Western lifestyles, which had begun to offer more and more in the way of leisure and luxuries, accompanied of course by an increasing amount of our money spent on these pursuits, meant that children have become a financial choice which no longer makes sense. Most can still afford the absolute cost of having children but only at the price of being significantly worse off than their peers, without even the better future the look forward to, to compensate.
What we increasingly seem to have, is a tragedy of the commons, where we all know a stable population is preferable but since the costs of achieving this will be born disproportionately by the family, with the benefits socialised, many simply decide having more than one child, or any children at all, will be a detriment to their quality of life. Your pension will be paid if you have a child or not but you will not receive a proportional amount of financial aid when raising your children. What we are seeing as a result, is that many leave having children to someone else (or we effectively outsource having children to poorer families in developing nations and import them through immigration) but then expect that someone else’s children will pay for their pension. There may be a rude surprise in the future if, as is expected, the demographics of the country continue to get worse and we enter a democratic death spiral, in which each successive generation is smaller than the last.
Does this mean we should tax single people more? That seems to be the wrong approach but certainly giving parents an equivalent amount of financial aid when raising children, as they will benefit as pensioners from those children labour, would seem fair. (Before someone tells you they’re paying for your child’s education, we all received an education, we should all receive a pension but since increasingly few of us will have two or more children, then it seems fair that only the parents of these children should receive this extra support.) Nor do I accept the argument that singles often end up earning more and therefore are better for the economy. They do in general pay more tax but also enjoy the benefits of spending the extra money on themselves and have greater amounts of free time in which to enjoy it. The childless would seem to be having their cake and eating it.
I don’t want to see some sort of Handmaidens Tail scenario, I don’t want to shame women or for that matter, men, into having children or bring about the abolition of pensions but I do want to see the hard work and dedication of the families who raise children, acknowledged as an integral part of society, both culturally and financially, and not dismissed as a life style choice, as if children were an expensive hobby that some chose to pursue. A society in which children have become a cost to be avoided, is no longer a functioning or a fair society.
one simple solution would be to dismantle much of the welfare state
Well defined. The welfare state model depends on continued growth that we now find not sustainable. Limits are arriving that require new models that will hurt many in the transition. This article hardly touches on that aspect. The article is more self-serving justification of her higher purpose. Neither your comment nor mine relate to that perceived higher purpose.
My joy among my great-grandchildren is much greater than my joy in my working accomplishments. I can recall the struggles at times with guiding my children but the efforts now are clear. We all should be so blessed.
How about I pay lots of tax for schools, child support payments, maternity/paternity leave and NHS provision I hardy use in order to support families? How about changing the pension system into the thing most people mistakenly think it is, whereby your money paid in is invested and paid out later rather than it is spent without your say-so and then has to be found later somehow?
I do find Julie Bindel tedious. I used to confuse her with Julie Birchill but Julie Birchill, regardless of whether I agree with her, is a joy to read, always interesting and often laugh out loud hilarious. Julie Bindel is a whiner who has found another cross to ‘die’ on probably funded by J K Rowling: the cross of rescuing natal women from obliteration by trans women – a cause I fully support. Her self belief, her conviction she has personally made the world a better place, reeks of hubris. No doubt she was one of the lesbians in the seventies and eighties who believed, and propagated the idea, only lesbians were real feminists.
Much worse – Bindel not only fails to acknowledge that there is always a selfless dimension to procreation – she actively makes the future worse by failing to solve domestic violence problems and just encourages the view that violence is unilateral- despite over 30 years of research
proving it is symmetrical. Victimology instead of family-oriented solutions.
I know she is a walking talking contradiction. Women are equal to men, no real difference, but when it comes to domestic violence, women’s violence, if it exists at all, is reactive. Men are always considered the instigators. All relationships are incredibly complex, abusive ones even more so. The female victim, male abuser dichotomy is simplistic and devoid of any explanatory power. The key is in the word relationship. The dynamics of the relationship are created by the participants in the relationship. Which is not to say that within a relationship, one partner is never more culpable than the other. Victim narratives by their very nature are unreliable. Those with victim mentality see themselves as the victim within any situation and are extremely unlikely to take any responsibility.
You are saying what abusers always say: “She asked for it.” Sure, he never would have hit her if the had his dinner ready on time.
Not at all. I know exactly what I am talking about. You clearly have victim mindset and cannot be objective, you are trivialising my comment which is akin to name calling. It is equivalent to the trans lobby calling anyone who does not completely accept their ideaology transphobic. I did state Which is not to say that within a relationship, one partner is never more culpable than the other.
your reaction suggests you are a bigot.
Spoken like a true abuser.
My wife always wanted to have children but I was sceptical of the benefits having seen the financial burden it placed on parents and the fact that often children were not automatically grateful to their parents – particularly where those parents were too keen to perpetuate their world view in their offspring.
However, seeing the care and comfort given by my wife to her father and mother during their declining years and the protection we provided to them against the indifference and neglect of the health and welfare system towards them compared to the elderly without children to try to keep social welfare and the hospital system up to the mark I am thankful we have children.
It is I think unrealistic to believe that the pension, welfare and hospital system make the need of children redundant. The love of children for their parents properly fostered is still the best support system in old age compared to the uncertain and indifferent kindness of strangers.
In any case to bring up children well requires a level of altruistic love and sacrifice of selfish desires that I have found to be self enhancing in a way that pursuing good works for the benefit of strangers can never be. Julie Bindel’s desire to make the world a better place according to her lights can never reproduce that since the impulse she exhibits is the more selfish one of bending the world to her will so far as she can achieve it. In any case it is possible to pursue both aims – it is not an either or choice.
That said, of course, we have many women friends who are childless and we would never chide them for the choices they have made. The world of mankind will continue whether they breed or not.
I do understand all the points you make in this post, Jeremy. But I’m going to add a few thoughts from my happily child-free side of the fence.
I do think that it may be true that the emotional connection you have with your kids is very special. But I do not think that a life without that particular kind of love is at all lacking. I have a very strong, close and harmonious relationship with my (male) partner and feel very lucky and fulfilled. I definitely do not feel that there is anything lacking in the love department.
Also, some people have a very deep love for their pets and seem to be very happy with that.
I also think that some parents are very selfish indeed when it comes to their children. They are so taken with their offspring that everything it does and says is worthy of wonder, praise or – worst of all – a post on social media so we can ALL know about it, whether it interests us or not. Forcing this upon other people is very selfish.
The truth of the matter is – you may love your children dearly (and I hope it is so – for their sake) but the likelihood is that your rugrat is not Einstein but an average Joe/Joanna who no one outside your family is especially interested in.
I do think this refers to a minority of parents – but the advent of social media allows them to be particularly loud, present…and incredibly annoying.
Katharine, I always enjoy your comments here and certainly don’t think a childless state to be a love deprived environment. We have plenty of friends who don’t have children and that is a matter whether voluntary or involuntary that is entirely their affair. The extent to which they enjoy love is independent of whether they have children or not..
As you say some parents are not very good parents. Often those who have a strong desire to mould their children who have a different character to them to conform to their desires rather than the child’s desires. A child may inherit a chunk of your DNA but is inevitable going to be different to you. You may advise and warn but it is for them to chose their path and it is pointless to pretend they are outstanding if they are not. Parental love should not be conditional on your children meeting some ideal.
I don’t have Facebook or Twitter but if parents want to advertise their children’s achievements on these to those who might be interested there seems little harm. You don’t have to read the posts if you aren’t interested. A little pride in a child’s modest achievements seems better than those parents who fail to accept their children’s defects.
The state of someone being childless has no impact on me so requires no opinion on my part. The fact that Julie Bindel wants to boast of her virtue in being a political activist rather than engaging in the “selfish” act of procreation while rather absurd is hardly something for me to complain of given that I voluntarily read her article knowing her general cast of thought.
We had our daughter mainly because my wife felt the urge and I knew it would be fun helping her both before conception and after
Jonathan, your turn of phrase raises a question: do you see the task of raising your daughter to be a shared and equal endeavour, or is it primarily your wife’s job, assisted by you?
That’s a barbed question.
No, in fact, during her 21 years, I’ve not lifted a finger in this endeavour.
Let’s face it, it’s woman’s work.
I am being sarcastic, honest.
Better add the ‘sarc’ tag or you will get bombarded.
It wasn’t intended to be barbed; it was a perfectly natural question to ask in view of what you wrote. And thank you for your answer. I don’t agree that it is “woman’s work” at all but if that is the way you and your wife have chosen to organise your family life then that is your business.
Sorry Katherine, I thought it a rude question. The reason I said that this was my wife’s choice first is that it was she who would endure the pregnancy, hard work.
Of course, I don’t regard it as women’s work, the idea is ridiculous. I doubt there are many fathers, whether their wives stay at home with the child or work, who do not regard basic childcare as a duty and as a measure of pride.
Your question and answer suggest to me that you have some prejudices about men.
I see Andrew has answered – but my answer would be that that depends surely on the circumstances of the parents. My wife probably had greater input in the early years while I worked and she did not whereas it was more even when I retired.
To say a parent is focused only on their own little world, rather than society, when raising a child is a profoundly unintelligent thing to say. It smacks of someone who is stuck in the college-aged “change the world” activist mindset, which is quite juvenile. Very odd that Julie purported to respond to people attacking her for not having children by then attacking parents. But fair enough, if we can dispose of the emotive responses let’s look at the arguments.
So, to Julie’s argument that parents forego “changing the world” to have children. Any one person can make the most significant impact on those closest to them, with diminishing returns to more remote “circles” of people. For instance, I have little impact on the federal government (I’m an American) but I can make my wife’s day by stopping by the store to pick up her favorite ice cream. In that sense, parents have the most important socializing role in society.
Children need specialized attention to learn life skills and need consistent relationship with a caretaker to be socialized. Julie Bindel states she will impact society through her feminist work, that activist campaigning is worth more to society than the simple drudgery of parenthood. But who does she imagine will be the future generations to be shaped by her feminism? At best, her efforts will form a secondary effect on their lives (most likely far further down the line). The primary effect will be their parents. If their parents are crappy, they will have a lifetime of ills for which the best activist work will form but a small salve (if the activist efforts aren’t misguided). If their parents are great, they will have a stable background to grow from.
Whether you like it or not, unchosen, primal bonds are more important than chosen friend groups. Say your affinity groups are more important all you want, but there’s a reason we talk about “mommy issues” and “daddy issues” not “friend issues.” And in that sense, parents are more important to forming society than are activists. And yes, it’s selfless work, whatever Julie thinks, and pursuing your passions in activism for a feeling of self-fulfillment is more selfish.
If you are world-changing historic figure, sure, your work may impact society more. But someone I doubt the vast majority of activists have even a modicum of impact on society when compared to a parent.
Julie also cites a woman who regrets having children, and the blame is placed on a nebulous social force which sees her as a breeder. Of course there is no consideration there might be some biological aspect to our sexual roles, or that women might, on average, have a preference towards motherhood. Were it otherwise, our prolongation as a species would have been in jeapordy long ago. You might call it “biological determinism” to say so, but then I would turn around and ask whether you similarly support radical transgender claims. I know Julie does not. But this argument that activism can fundamentally change biological nature is the same as is shared by transgender activists.
Does that make it wrong to forego children? No, it doesn’t, and if you don’t want children that is fine. But parenthood is the bedrock of society and therefore should be the norm. So attacking it as an institution, as Julie admits to having done, is going to get pushback. And if you write drivel like this, don’t be surprised and be prepared to back it up with more forceful arguments.
Well I like my kids.
Julie doesn’t. And she’s angry at you. You could be off making the world a better place by forcing her political views down the throats of an unwilling population, instead of selfishly raising a loving family.
Not even sure how you can live with yourself. Please– think of Julie, won’t you?
I was much older than most when we had our child. I never wanted to, but married a younger woman who did. I acquiesced. I remember trying to love our son right after he was born, but the love wasn’t there. I didn’t carry him to term as my wife did. I had no connection. Then one day I went into his room to “look at the baby” as parents often weirdly do, and suddenly a love so profound and all encompassing washed over me that I was almost breathless. And immediately it occurred to me that this is how my parents loved me, and had I known that, I would have treated them differently. And that thought gave way to another: oh, this is how God loves me. Only infinitely. And, for a long time standing there next to my son’s crib, I cried tears of joy and wonder. And I have never been the same.
Don, that’s really profound and moving.
I just saw this comment because it seems Julie’s article ran again. Thanks, Laney.
I felt the same when my baby was born. (I’m a mother.) Julie says in this article that many parents regret having children and are unfairly labelled as sociopathic monsters. Unfortunately, yes, they are. To feel regret at having your child is deeply unnatural and wrong. Once your child is born, you can no longer imagine a world without them in it.
Financially penalising people who don’t have children – are you kidding? Who stays in the workplace earning money and paying taxes that then funds things like child benefit etc.? Men…and women who don’t have/want children.
I have never regretted not having children – ever. And I am lucky to have friends and family who understand and accept my choice. Just as I accept their choice to reproduce (but please, PLEASE stop spamming me every five minutes with baby photos – thanks).
It’s not often I agree with Julie. There are plenty of unhappy children in the world, we don’t need more. Julie’s reasons for not having children are perfectly reasonable. As are Rick Gervais’s reasons for being childless. In my opinion, the true tragedy is the couples that want to have more children but can’t afford it. Your womb is your business, Julie.
Julie Bindel writes: “I know exactly what I’m missing and I want none of it.”
No you don’t, until you have children you don’t know what it’s like, the intensity of the relationship, is unknowable until you’ve experienced it.
I will worry about them until my dying day.
I want a better world for others, my children. Ms Bindel wants it for herself, so she can say “look what I’ve done “.
But don’t you look at your kids and feel that same sense of achievement and a life well lived? Isn’t that what this is all about? How different people find purpose and fulfilment?
I wonder how I’ve managed to guide them into being such balanced, moral, loving individuals, when I worried that my parenting left a lot to be desired.
But don’t most parents?
I didn’t do it for fulfilment, but I can’t say why either.
Bindel seems unhappy with her choice, othewise why write this type of diatribe?
Whatever a person chooses – kids or no – that is for them to decide, and live with the consequences, good and bad.
Bindel certainly does not know what she is missing any more than I know what I am missing – exotic vacations, nicer car, bigger house, more clothing, nice meals – but I made my choice and am happy with my 3 kids.
BTW, I learn from my kids, and they challenge me, making me a better man. No friend, associate, or colleague can do that in quite the same way. Your kids are forever, all those others will fade away in time.
And who is to say Bindel is “making the world a slightly better place”?
My son is a better man than me. People who say they understand, don’t.
Not every heterosexual woman has the maternal instinct for having children, you know.
I know I don’t! I’m absolutely not mummy material and have known that since the age of 12. However, let it be known that I am a pretty top class auntie.
Same here, Katharine. I knew at an early age that I didn’t want to have children. Chalk that up to a very low maternal urge (I don’t coo at infants) along with the recognition that I am selfish with my time. The only regret I have is that parents never became grandparents, they would have been terrific.
Looking back, it was evident much earlier than 12…my other female friends were playing with baby dolls, feeding them and pushing them around in pushchairs, copying their mums (in the 80s, mums were very definitely, very obivously the primary caregivers in most families where we lived). Baby dolls (and Barbie, urgh) left me absolutely cold. In fact, I found them downright creepy, I didn’t want to touch them. Teddies were OK – but more as a source of comfort rather than something to take care of. Were you the same?
I never played with dolls. I climbed trees, chopped wood, played with Lego and loved sports. I didn’t think I wanted children but I met my husband who adores children. I had a son because I knew if I was incompetent as a mother, my husband would more than cover for my failings. My son brought more love into my life than I ever imagined experiencing. I cannot begin to list the ways in which motherhood enriched my life though I did not fundamentally change.
I agree with the comment that for most people their relationship with their children is the most intense relationship of their life – but that is not a completely positive thing.
First I want to say that I think I am quite lucky in that I like and love my three biological children very much.
That being said there are several other statements that must be made.
Intensity of a relationship does not always mean goodness, happiness or love. I have met many people whose feelings for their children range from love down through like all the way to a cordial or even intense dislike, yet there is still the overweening feelings of attachment and responsibility.
The amount of effort and often soul-rending angst that comes with raising children to adulthood is unfathomable to those who’ve not yet experienced it.
My own children are now intelligent, pleasant, successful adults yet each of them has caused me minutes, hours, days of various kinds of emotional trauma.
I can honestly say that, if I were swept back in a time loop to my twenties, yet carrying along my memories, and I could not be certain of having my own children again, I would never have children again.
The amount of effort, angst, pain and expense with the very good chance of eventual regret is just too great.
I think those parents that regret it are way more numerous than one on twelve. As a child free adult, albeit a male one, I also get the same reactions at times, and accusations of being selfish. Every time I hear it what I really hear is envy. If it is repeated loudly enough I hear envy and regret.
Of course it’s also sad, just another personal life decision that seems sufficient for some others to feel entitled to make global judgments about my whole person. Something about which they invariably know very little. Our culture is so judgemental and harsh. Some of that precious love they devote to their children can surely be spared for the rest of humanity – that would truly make a difference.
Life is complex, humanity diverse. We are not all destined to breed and that’s got to be ok or else what are saying? The heteronormativity of these people is essentially cult like. In a cult it is perfectly acceptable to slander and abuse dissenting members – that’s what keeps everyone in line. This is exactly the same power flex that is going on here. The heteronormative majority flexing their perceived power. And I know women who get this same abuse. The very circumscribed nature of the ‘sisterhood’ never fails to amaze me. What humanity needs is not so much more kids but more love, respect and humility. Don’t be so quick to judgement. We are all navigating life as best we can.
This is all wrong – there is no “heteronormative majority flexing their perceived power” and trying to pressurise you or anyone else to have children. and “judging” ppl who don’t. Or very, very few such ppl at any rate.
“Every time I hear it what I really hear is envy. If it is repeated loudly enough I hear envy and regret.” Maybe it’s pity but you just don’t realise it?
When society was sane, having children was easy, relatively cheap, and supported in myriad webs of relationships and communities. There were people who either didn’t want to procreate or subsumed their biological desire into caring for a universal family; we called them monks and nuns. Now that society has placed countless barriers in front of parents, from the atomization of family units, destruction of local faith communities, countless well-intentioned but ill-thought-out regulations that put a pretty hard cap on family size (e.g. at no more than two children under 70 lbs unless you can afford a much larger car to fit the car seats), and expectation of two-income homes if you miraculously have a two-parent home, Julie (incorrectly) sees parenting as selfish instead of societally unsupported. Her instincts and desires would, in a more civilized age, be properly channeled from her nunnery as she made the world a better place for her universal family with no strife between her and the fully-supported families living peaceable, community-impacting lives while having as many children as they wanted just outside the abbey walls. But on this side of the failed experiments of hyper-individualism, rule by managerialists, and so-called rationalism over faith, she is unhappily in conflict with those who should be her loving neighbors. I hope she can break out of the insane post-modern assumptions all around us and find harmony and happiness in something resembling a community-based nunnery.
Brilliant response. I logged back on here only to find my own several-paragraph response deleted, but am happy to see one that more succinctly describes what I was trying to say.
Humility–another trait that raising children has taught me, day after day after day.
My experience of being a parent for the first time was dominated by the discovery that I had a huge capacity for love that I had been oblivious to, prior to having children. It was something that I spoke about with my friends and when they too became parents, they fully agreed with me. Parental love is a profound experience that I have only found in being a parent.
That said, clearly not every parent experiences it otherwise child abuse wouldn’t exist. Children don’t choose to be born and those that are born should be loved and wanted even if they weren’t expected. To grow up knowing that you weren’t wanted or loved must be a terrible burden and I for one am glad that Julie (and those like her) choose not to add to it.
I have a friend in work who once said that parents were selfish because his tax money paid for their children’s schooling. So I asked him, would he like to work in an organization that never replaced retiring staff, leaving more and more work for those left in the organization? He said no. Then, I asked him, given you need to hire new staff every now and then, should you spend nothing on their training, leaving them clueless on the job and hence, leaving more and more work for the more established employees? He said no. I asked him, should new staff be mentored and guided by experienced employees? He said yes, he had benefited from this himself. Then I pointed out that a country is nothing but a very large organization. He said no more.
I didn’t have kids until I was in my 40s, probably for many of the same reasons as Julie. In my 20s I played in bands and travelled a lot, seeing the inside of bars more than I did my own home (anyone who thinks this lifestyle is glamorous should listen to ‘Ten Minutes’ by Otis Gibbs), so children weren’t really an option, and I’d tell myself that I didn’t want kids anyway. I was having too much fun and I didn’t need that responsibility.
By the time I got into my 30s I’d matured, was less self-centred, and the desire to have children slowly crept up on me. Unfortunately, my partner at the time didn’t share that view, so that idea was put on the back burner. We eventually split and after a year or two I met my wife. We now have two kids who are my everything.
There are two responses to Julie’s article that spring to mind; the first is, if you can’t think of a single unselfish reason for having children, I only hope you don’t live to a ripe old age, bedridden, dribbling on yourself while some poor youngster cleans up the mess after you’ve soiled yourself (again). Secondly, until you actually have your own children you can never ever know that reciprocated unconditional love as you watch your children develop and grow. And no, cats don’t even come close.
I’m happy for you that you’ve found the family life you really wanted, that’s great!
I have to say that the vision of being old and helpless and having to depend on strangers has crossed my mind regularly…of course every decision has its cost and that is the cost of staying childless.
On the other hand, there is no guarantee your kids will be there for you. They might end up disliking you or not being willing, or, if they are like me – go to live in a foreign country.
My partner prefers to say child free rather than childless. It’s a little thing but perhaps has some significance. Implicit in childless is a sense of lacking – it’s a negative. For those for whom it is a choice child free seems more a term that reflects the choice rather than the judgement of the heteronormative culture.
I have never found that ‘heretonormative culture’ cares one way or another whether other people have or do not have children. It simply never comes to mind. There is in fact no ‘judgement’. However ‘heteronormative culture’ might note some behavioural traits and associated opinions of the childless if the latter try and convert their ‘choice’ into a recommendation or even a requirement to be followed by others.
I didn’t mean my own kids. I meant our collective children are the ones who will be looking after Julie and the rest of us in the twilight of our lives. If there are no children being born, who carries out that task? That alone means reproduction isn’t selfish.
Great article. Would like to add that the stigma affects all childless women, not just those who chose childlessness.
The biggest lie feminists tell women is that motherhood is a curse. One of our most powerful, innate and biological traits has been propagandized for decades as something weak and selfish, a burden to avoid. Instead, feminists have promoted traditional male traits of working like dogs for “the man”, and delaying having children, which men can do, but women simply can’t. After years of living a selfish life in pursuit of this feminist “dream”, I adopted a little boy who has been the single greatest thing that has happened to us. To all the young women out there, ignore the propaganda against motherhood and think critically about what selfishness truly is.
That’s what some feminists have said. Their goal, beginning with Betty Friedan’s movement (but also with the advent of reliable contraception, abortion on demand and no-fault divorce), was to get women into “careers” and “leveling the playing field” so that women could be leaders in the boardroom and, if necessary, have children as well. Men were to blame, of course, for any women who didn’t become CEOs.
But other feminists, beginning only a few years later, made the opposite argument. These essentialists made a huge fuss over their “biological clocks” (the innate and supposedly unique urge of women to have children of their own) but also the lack of enough rich men to marry them and support their children. Men were to blame, of course, for not immediately and enthusiastically reorganizing workplaces to suit mothers (and single women), let alone for not making “new reproductive technologies” available quickly and cheaply enough.
And then came the feminists who opposed those very technologies (mainly surrogacy but also in vitro and a few other technologies). Men were to blame for turning women into breeding machines, dehumanizing women, renting the wombs of poor women, experimenting on the bodies of women and so forth.
Meanwhile, some feminists found it–and still find it–politically expedient to argue that fathers are essentially assistant mothers at best–motherhood and fatherhood being, presumably, interchangeable–and either walking wallets or potential molesters at worst. On this (dubious) basis, they could argue that the children of two mothers (sometimes two fathers), or even of single mothers (sometimes single fathers) were at no disadvantage at all when compared with children who have both mothers and fathers.
My point is that, on the whole, rival branches of feminism have driven the rhetoric over motherhood, and not only over the past half century. In my opinion, women should acknowledge their own responsibility for sending double messages not only about motherhood and womanhood but also about fatherhood, manhood and childhood.
Not a lie at all. I am a feminist and I completely agree with Julie. I loathed dolls and would have abandoned a child, either by leaving or by suicide because I felt that my life was over.
I remember when I was newly (and very briefly and mistakenly) married about forty years ago. I was sitting in a cafe when a car went past with a man driving and a woman on the back seat holding a newborn baby – that was allowed then. Most people would have thought ‘Aah’. I physically shuddered. I thought, ‘That woman will be sitting in the back seat of her own life for evermore. I like to be the driver of mine’.
I left my husband soon after and I have remained in the driving seat of my own life thereafter.
The comments here are absolutely brilliant at portraying the kind of horrid behaviour Julie describes throughout her article. People just cannot get over the fact that other people don’t want kids, understand what they are and aren’t missing & still don’t want kids.
Most of them have pointed out that they don’t care, are not “judging” or criticizing Julie or others for not having kids. It’s Julie’s smug superiority that not having kids is the “unselfish” choice that grates, mainly.
I decided at the age of 15 that I never wanted children – I am now 52 and have never regretted that decision. I married the love of my life aged 19 and we had 33 happy years together until his sudden death at Christmas. We lived in various parts of the UK, went on working holidays to The Netherlands three times, and generally had fun doing exactly what we wanted without having to consider the baggage that comes with children. I too have been called selfish on several occasions for not wanting children – given how overpopulated the UK is, I would argue that those who have several children are actually the selfish ones. People do not have children for unselfish reasons – if they were truly unselfish then they would adoopt one of the many children without parents who desperately need a home. I do not criticise those who have chosen to have children to their face – I wish they would offer me the same courtesy
The YouGov polling that Bindel cites as proof of the existence of parental regret actually pretty much contradicts the point she is trying to make, as it suggests that the phenomenon is almost unmeasurably uncommon. It’s a feature of polling that a proportion of responses will always be nonsensical, because of the human propensity for trolling. When answering a multiple choice question, a few of those polled will always select the most absurd possible response simply out of mischief. This effect is sometimes known as the “lizardman constant”, after the approximately four percent of respondents that, when polled, state that they believe that lizardmen rule the earth. Pollsters therefore tend to conclude that for sufficiently rare responses, all responders are lying, and the data should be discounted. The one in twelve regretful parents identified by YouGov almost certainly falls in this category. Conversely, the regret experienced by those who don’t procreate is actually a thing, and is sadly very common.
Ultimately, if Bindel wants to remain without issue, and thus go through life without really ever knowing what it was all about, that’s her call, but if she thinks that there are legions of people out there that are sore because they didn’t make that mistake, then she is deluded.
Women who speak their truth about why they didn’t want children will always be dumped on by parents. What maddens Bindel, or women like me who wanted children but couldn’t have them, is the way in which society assumes that parents are automatically better people than non-parents because they are raising the next generation. Parents sometimes treat having children like it is a societal obligation, like paying taxes or obeying laws. Becoming a parent doesn’t make you a better person than a non-parent, it just makes you a parent. If you are a GOOD parent, as well as a good overall citizen, then that’s what matters. There are plenty of non-parents who are good people because they are good children, good friends, and good citizens who make valuable contributions to helping their family and their society and future generations. Just think about the recent report on the problem of 6-year-olds entering school in the UK who are not potty trained and are incapable of eating with a spoon or drinking from a cup or even talking. Childless teachers who have to deal with these children and help prepare them for school are doing the work that their parents should have done, and on a massive scale. As one teacher said, if a parent thinks its a pain to have to potty train one 6-year-old, try potty training a classroom of 30. Bindel is quite right to argue that her work for women in the past and future should be valued just as highly as the work of one woman raising one child, especially since she has been a champion for childcare for poor women, a benefit that she will never need, so DON’T call her selfish. I totally relate to how Bindel grits her teeth when the “Do you have children?” question pops up, because when you say “No” parents feel completely entitled to judge or advise or frankly just act bitchy and vent about “how lucky we are we don’t have children” without thinking for one moment that it is none of their business whether or why we don’t have children. As as for being lucky we don’t have children, parents don’t notice how lucky they are that they get to have something good and yet complain endlessly about it. We don’t put up with rich people complaining about what a pain it is to have a lot of money, but I can’t tell you haw many times I’ve felt compelled to listen to a mother of a couple of healthy kids, with a decent husband, nice house, childcare, and an interesting job complain to me about what a misery their life is. Hopefully, one of these days I’ll get the nerve to tell a woman like this to complain to someone with the same problems and not to me.
“What maddens Bindel, or women like me who wanted children but couldn’t have them, is the way in which society assumes that parents are automatically better people than non-parents”
She’s making this up, society doesn’t assume this.
I do agree with a few of your statements. Childless couples, and this goes back to as far as I can remember in the ’60’s, have always been viewed with a mixture of pity and bewilderment. People who then lecture you about it one way or the other or make tactless comments are just….rude. They are bereft of manners and empathy. Sorry you have to hear that. But this article is a little rude, too. You also have good points about women who don’t have kids. I have an aunt who has always been FABULOUS and never had kids. She nursed me and my brothers through broken hearts and actual illnesses and also helped me care for my newborn. I have another who never had kids and never really understood children and was extremely judgmental about how I raised mine. Neither ever wanted children. But two very different people.
I don’t know if one should be sent to a psychiatrist if they regret becoming a mother. I will say that voicing such thoughts would be damaging to the children who already exist. Life is not fair and one needs to play the cards you’re dealt the best that you can.
I don’t think that “playing the cards you’re dealt” is the correct phrase here – as in most cases, becoming pregnant is an active choice, even if it’s one you felt pressured into by someone/society. If you regret your choice to have children then that is a great shame but it’s not about playing the cards dealt the best you can – it’s about taking responsbility for the fact that you made the wrong decision and trying to now accept that and rearrange your life as best you can.
I think it’s important that mums who regret having kids are able to talk about that regret…but perhaps anonymously or among female friends. I don’t get these mothers who go public with their regrets and use their real names, it must be awful for their kids.
It’s SO EASY, Ms. Bindel: You should not be judged “selfish” to live a child-free life and those of us who chose to have children should not be judged “selfish” for our choice to become parents. Yet you judge intentional parents, across the board, as having been “selfish” to have children.
Pretty much every action any human takes—including devoting oneself to activism—can be fairly characterized as “selfish.” We do what we want to do because we want to do it. You are not a saint and neither am I.
“I know exactly what I’m missing and I want none of it.”
Sorry but you’re just … wrong.
I never wanted kids for a long time for pretty superficial reasons; it looked hard, messy, expensive and it made people boring.
But then I had kids and I realised I’d known nothing about what having kids is actually about. It changes a parent in a deep way that’s simply not knowable until you’ve done it. So you can have your opinion and defend it, but at the end of the day you don’t really know what you’re talking about.
Yes. I agree with the sentiments in your last paragraph.
I remember friends before they had children always saying how very busy they were. And I thought, “you have no idea”. lol…
Is fatherhood selfish too? Why is she attacking mothers? And why leap to a generalization that motherhood is selfish. Obviously, it can be. So can being childless. We get it, you are sick of being questioned and judged. So your response is to get judgy right back? It sounds like you just need to hang around less judgmental people. Or, get thicker skin. We live in a nosy world where everyone is casting judgments about every choice we make.
There are some excellent things to ponder. Are we better off reducing the population? If so, how do we do so when we can’t even understand our own economy? How do we reduce populations without creating mass suffering? Another question to wonder about is why people choose to have children. There are the things they say out loud and then there are the unconscious drivers. Is it cultural influence or some kind of genetic instinct? We know animals are driven to mate and have children largely devoid of cultural influence. Humans are animals. We also know people are genetically diverse and instincts can be activated, deactivated, and influenced in countless ways. To say mothers are doing it for selfish reasons or for any reason sounds like hubris without a well-thought-out argument. That argument is not presented here.
This is a great article. I spent my 30s feeling ambivalent about having children and, like Julie, lived in a part of London that was full of mothers acting selfishly but thinking they were the opposite. At age 40, I had a baby on my own. I have no regrets and am happier than I was in my 30s, but I’m very aware that having this child was a selfish choice. I used to be quite politically engaged and ran a social enterprise. Both have been neglected since having this child and despite my hope that my son will contribute to society when he’s older, I don’t think this makes up for my withdrawl.
I now live in Surrey, in a much more conventional and conservative area than the London village I lived in before. Ironically, though, I haven’t encountered any of the sanctimoniousness that I used to see in mums in London. It might be that I don’t see it as I’m now a mum, or it might be because people in this area are less bothered about contributing to society, so they’re not defensive about their lifestyle choices. Either way, I think the attitidue Julie described might be limited to London suburbs like Crouch End.
“These parents, led by the “child-centred approach”, have little or no time for anything that benefits wider society”
So, motherhood “curtails freedom”, risks depression (“1 in 12”) and carries a heavy financial cost, to the point of being “near impossible”. And yet motherhood is the “selfish” endeavor? I see.
I’m a man (Yeugh, I know). I married into and supported a disabled family (mother and child) and thoroughly enjoyed doing so, knowing I’d have no kids of my own. And now I have the joy of grandkids. I think I’ve made much more of a difference when I abandoned my sanctimonious middle class political activism to partake in more traditional society. You ought to consider it too.
I was waiting for someone to mention grandkids. If I had to give one reason for having children despite all the downsides that can be attributed to child bearing and rearing, that would be it. It’s been absolutely glorious. Whenever I come across young parents who are in a rough patch…no sleep, struggling to balance work and family…I can’t help telling them that some day they might be grandparents and then that now seemingly irrational decision to have children will feel like the best decision they ever made.
The World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity in 1992, urgently renewed in 2017 and 2019 called for stabilizing population because overpopulation is a principal threat to our survival. The earth cannot support endless increase of humans competing for ever–diminishing resources. In light of that reality it strikes me that the decision not to have children merits social and moral commendation, not a barrage of thin, piercing wails of resentment, hostility and malice.
That made a lot of sense in 1992. It still would have made sense in 2000 or even 2005. It makes less sense in 2017 and 2019, to the point I wonder why they felt the need to re-release the warning at a time when the actual data was trending the other direction. At present, the birth rate is below replacement level in most of the world, nearly every country outside Sub-Saharan Africa in fact. Granted, that still leaves a lot of people, but global population growth is a fraction of what it was in 92 and highly localized. It’s projected to begin shrinking by 2050, and in some places even earlier. Japan’s population is already shrinking. Many places are not far behind. If population shrinks too quickly, that creates other problems, so depending on where one lives, it’s fair to question whether choosing to have or not have children is more ‘selfish’, not that it should matter. Having children is an intensely personal decision, and nobody should be dragged through the mud one way or the other. I personally don’t, and won’t, because I’m fairly sure I’d be an awful parent, but as I’m a male, nobody gives a rip anyway.
A timely warning from Lionel Shriver in “we need to talk about Kevin.” Your child may grow up to be a school shooter.
Hi parents: this isn’t about you. We need to “fight back against the stigma directed at those women who choose not to procreate.” Because we can choose but at every turn we’re told its selfish to choose not to, railroaded by society into decisions we may regret. I think society is still just scared of childfree women. We are the witches. We are stigmatised, ostracised and now people are suggesting we should be fined for not procreating.
Women like Julie and me are frowned upon. You know the saying: you find out your real friends when you have kids?
Well you also find out your real friends when they have kids too.
The fact that there are so many up in arms about this shows how small your world really is, that any one saying there is another way is a threat to you. Read the article again now you’re calm; it’s not about you. You know what you’re doing with this vitriol? Proving her point.
It’s nice to get the stupidest thing I’ll read for the day checked off my list so early. Thank you from Texas Julie.
Ha! Thanks for the laugh, couldn’t agree more
Is this author capable of writing anything that doesn’t complain of her being stigmatized in some way? Those Crouch End parents of “Barnaby” and “Clementine” she’s derisively describing probably aren’t thinking about her at all. Perhaps that’s why she’s so miffed.
To accuse child-free people of having less stake in the future is absurd.
I admit this feels fair to me. I am nearing the end of my child-bearing years, and one of the most compelling reasons for my husband and I to remain childless is that Western civilization appears to be in decline. I already spend enough time worrying about the direction of society, but extending this concern by creating a new person might be too much. Remaining child-free is, in fact, a way to reduce my stake in a bleak future.
Not everyone wants to take on the fight for freedom I suppose.
We are hopefully creating new people who will help make the future less bleak.
The notion an activist cares more about society than a parent is laughable. It reflects a simple “change the world” mindset reflective of a college student but shockingly juvenile to see expressed by a grown woman.
Any one person has the most impact on their immediate circle, with diminishing impact on circles farther afield. I have little impact on the federal government (I’m an American) but can make my wife’s day by picking up her favorite ice cream. And people are in turn impacted most by their immediate surroundings (does a shooting down the street or the war in Ukraine have more impact on your psyche?). This goes doubly so with children, who are impressionable and learning something new each day. They will look to their immediate caretaker and imitate what they see. There is a bevy of research supporting the claim that personality traits are formed most strongly in the early years.
Add all this together and you can see that society is formed by the boring, mundane work of parenting. Julie thinks her activism will shape future generations, but they will encounter her work (if at all) as a tertiary cause in their development. A mother or father will be shaping the child from before birth (by presence or by neglect).
Like it or not, unchosen, primal bonds are more impactful than chosen bonds. You can leave friends when they annoy you, but family is (or is meant to be) the stable background you grow from. Why does Julie suppose we say “mommy issues” or “daddy issues” but not “friend issues?”
Society, therefore, is composed of people who have been shaped by parents, and perhaps influenced at a later date by activists. Yet Julie somehow believes activists are the ones shaping society. And, contra Julie’s silly claim, it is more selfless to shape society through mundane, repetitive work than to seek to do so through grandiose campaigning, which just might serve to help your brand as well.
Finally, Julie says she knows exactly what she is missing and knows it’s not worth it. By definition she does not. Using her logic I know exactly what it is like to be a lesbian activist and can tell her what it is like.
If you don’t want kids, that is fine. But parenthood is the bedrock of a stable society, and if you are going to attack it, better have real arguments, not this trite nonsense.
I didn’t read an attack on parenthood but a Defense of the choice not to be a parent. Two very different things.
To paraphrase (again) the great Titania McGrath, it is great that so many activists these days are striving to promote childlessness. Future generations will thank them.
Thanks for writing this article, Julie. There are so many reasons why not bringing more humans onto this planet is the most unselfish of acts.
To Parent is both a sacrifice and a joy. As is life. And as in life, the the greater the sacrifice, the greater the joy.
Beautifully put. Wish I could be that succinct. 🙂
Parents are the most easily triggered of all demographics. Their defensive replies are to be expected.
While not familiar with the author, I’m on board with everything she’s written here, even if a few sentences could have been kinder or omitted.
Where any of you are coming off calling her a man hater, based on the words in this piece, tells me you are just threatened by any criticism of the violence of men and that perhaps you should talk to a therapist about that. She does not denounce men here. She denounces male violence and advocates for women’s and children’s safety. Full stop.
The fear that we need children is unfounded. We are working towards eight billion people. There is no shortage. What we need is less nationalism and more humanity.
The claim that we child-free will die alone ignores that fact that we are aunties, uncles, and friends. As she says, she has a family. I’m 43, cis male, child-free, snipped, and think of myself as a family man. Family is something you create and procreation often has nothing to do with that.
The claim that we don’t know what we are missing is true. I also am missing out on what it feels like to be a woman. To be rich. To be desperately poor. To be from another nation. To be the youth of today. And so much more. None of that makes me incomplete. And, yes, I know what it takes to raise a child, short of having one. I’ve helped raise many. And, yes, that played a role in my not having any. Every life is a series of tradeoffs.
The offense some took at her claim to have more time to try and make the world a better place is not merited, even if you are actively doing that in the short term day to day or the long term with raising your kids. Truthfully, parents have less time. You can’t deny this. I get that these statements make you feel blamed. Still, it’s true. You traded off some things to have the kids. And thank goodness some of us have more time and energy than you exhausted parents do or you might never have a babysitter. Collectively, we balance the scales.
From what I gathered, the whole point of this article is for parents and society to back off with the pressure. Your model isn’t the only model. And that is exactly what most of you have not done in the comments. Sure, she didn’t offer you any pats on the back but that’s why you have kids. In forty years they’ll either be telling you thanks and sorry for being such a pain in the ass, or cursing you for bringing them into crumbling empires and eco-systems. And when you need a shoulder to cry on (in celebration or despair), some of us child-free folk will be there for you, you know, because we have the time and energy to do that. (Wink)
Ps. I’m from the USA but I lived in India for a long time. The number one, most common question is, “are you married and do you hand kids?” When I replied no, the answer was almost always the same, coming from a woman or a man, “oh, you’re freeeee!” Take that for what you will. Not all parents think it is the purpose of their lives. Many think they had to.
Argue all you want about Julie, but “ “Barnaby, would you like a soya milk babyccino?” had me in stitches. Very well written, whether you agree or not. As for the core of the argument – it’s not hard to figure out: if you have kids, love them and educate them well with values you hold dear. If you choose not to have children, use the extra time to do good in this world. I don’t see what’s contentious about this article.
“HAMM: Scoundrel! Why did you engender me? NAGG: I didn’t know.HAMM: What? What didn’t you know? NAGG: That it’d be you.” (Samuel Beckett, Endgame)
“Seeing friends raise children over the years has taught me about the massive curtailment of freedom that comes with it, not just to socialise, but to work, do political activism and sleep.” That is called taking responsibility, growing up and loving unconditionally. Not everybody’s cup of tea, but mine for sure. If there were no next generation, what would social activism be good for?
I am not sure of your position. Are you saying that people who do not choose to raise children are refusing to take responsibility, do not grow up (I presume you mean mature) and do not love unconditionally?
Once you decide to have children you have to make choices taking account of their needs. They depend on adults. Their healthy development is influenced by the behaviour of their mother before birth. ( consuming no alcohol, taking folic acid, evading endocrine disruptors) After birth their environment gets larger and a lot more of other factors and persons influence their development. Social interactions and work needs are often in contradiction with those of your children. For instance breastfeeding. Will a mother breastfeed her child having close body contact or will she pump her milk and let others feed her baby without this special mother and child interaction, or what ever else. How will this decision be influenced by work conditions or social acceptance? Work environments expect that parents and their children dont interfere and risk reducing productivity and flexibility. So here are the choices. The future of a human being is at stake. I f you are responsible and love your child you will organise your time accordingly. Making these choices will make you mature and consider what is essential.
Those who do decide not to have children dont have such choices to make. People who do not raise children can certainly take responsibility, do mature and can love unconditionally, but not their own children.
You gotta love Bindel.
“As a childless woman I feel unfairly judged by people who make personal accusations based on whether a person has children or not. Also, people with kids are selfish.”
Whatever. I don’t care if JB — or anyone else — wants children or not. I’s none of my business. That being said, I expected better than “I know you are but what am I” from JB. Just because she’s been called “selfish” for not having children doesn’t give her the right to turn around and call parenthood a selfish endeavour. She knows not of what she speaks.
” … no one actually breeds because they are worried about who will care for elderly people in the future.” Er …. yes they do. In countries without a welfare state raising a child that will support his or her parents in their old age is the principal motivation. It is also often the reason why parents prefer sons where daughters become part of another family on marrying.
I used to live near Croosh-aund.
Anyway, her point appears to be that a lifetime of unselfish service is
negated by consanguinity (or by adoption). The trite assumption that
the parent is only acting in an unselfish manner in the
expectation that the child will return the favour in the parent’s old
age. In reality, parents know well that most children move far away
from home, or emigrate, and in any event, live their own lives. Some
kids do look out for elderly parents; many more do not, and do not
even visit. No parent does parenting primarily, or at all, for the
slim chance of payback 40 or 50 years later, ffs.
There is a joy in any life of unselfish service. People who do
community service – looking after elderly neighbours etc – derive a
happiness benefit comparable to that which parents get. Simply,
unselfishness makes us feel good. If you want to get all shrinky
about it, it’s just a subtler form of pleasure. We derive great
satisfaction from voluntary work, community work, feeding the cat,
looking after our kids, helping out with the local amateur sports
team, visiting elderly neighbours etc etc.
You could make a logical argument that, since all unselfish acts make
us feel good, they really are “selfish”.
It nonetheless is a demented argument. The reality is that the
rewards of unselfish service are deferred, and weigh lightly in the
balance against, in the case of dedicated parenting, a lifetime spent
putting yourself second. As a new parent, especially if your child is
breastfed, and you have say 3 kids, you essentially are sleep deprived
for several years. A breast fed child can require feeding every 90
minutes, or more, round the clock. You may wish to move to a
different country or for a different job. But you won’t once your
kids start school, as you want to give them location stability –
important for their developing friendships and education. You will
stick with a boring well paid job you hate because it keeps them
clothed, fed and housed; whereas, as a single person, you’d probably
have taken a year out or done something more personally fulfilling.
You may have your eye on the last biscuit in biscuit tin, but you’ll
instead give it your child. You stop focussing on your own prowess at
e.g. drama, music, sports etc, and you instead mentor the kids. You
derive more satisfaction from their progress than from your own, which
latter doesn’t really matter any more. After work every day, you
spend 2 hours assisting them with their homework. If they’re ill, you
raise hell at the local medical centre to get them sorted, and you
ignore your own numerous aches and pains. You cook for them every day
(they’re fed first, you often just eat their leftovers), and yep, they
have a menu : ) You’re also of course their taxi driver, to endless
friends’ parties and sports and music classes. Essentially,
parenthood is a lifetime of putting yourself second. Between work and
parenting, you can in some ways almost cease to exist. You may choose
to engage in sophistry to construe a lifetime of parenting service as
“selfish”, and I can of course see the undergraduate appeal of your
I do wonder at your motivations though. I have met resentful people,
childless by choice, who resent the “selfish” tag that can accompany
deliberate childlessness and who engage in a spot of compensatory
mental gymnastics to dim the halo of those morally smug parents.
The other point, which you miss entirely, is that a functioning
society depends on a supply of well-adjusted people. Any Chief of
Police knows that the first 2 years of a child’s life are essential –
a damaged child, who has not had sufficient attention from
emotionally-absent, self-absorbed parents, will end up being a problem
adult. Moreover, once parenting kick-starts you into a path of less
selfishness, you’re more likely to become more socially engaged also.
We for instance assist at local sports clubs whereby parents volunteer
to train all the local kids, weekly. It’s an unpaid and thankless
task and you could be putting your feet up on a Friday evening. But
you do it because the act of caring for your own kids simply gives you
greater empathy with both other parents and with the fragility and
preciousness of their own kids. Similarly, I noted how, when caring
for terminally ill relatives up to their deaths, it was always the
relatives with kids who would be there for the long haul of night
shifts and cleaning bed pans; whereas the single relatives, with more
free time, would breeze in with some grapes and some platitudes and
then head off to the pub as they needed to attend to the urgent
promptings of their own genitals. Of course as a married person,
you’re often too knackered to shag anyway lol.
I think the key thing to remember if you’re a parent is that you have to be willing to put yourself second. And not just once in a while or some of the time either. It doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be a great parent, or even a good one, but it does make it far less likely that you’ll be a lousy one.
But it all starts with putting oneself second, and this is something that people like the author aren’t really willing to do.
Great article. Great analysis.
Ms Bindel has the opportunity to be unselfish because her parents were selfish in having a child.
Interestingly, I was a teenager in the ’70s, and was inculcated with a feminism that decried anything to do with domesticity as a trap and a prison, and that seemed uninterested in motherhood. I was surprised to find motherhood my greatest joy. And I certainly don’t buy into the “child-centred” lark, whether at home or at school.
Thank you Julie. Honest and inspiring, as usual.
I can think of three women in my extended family who have not had children. This is quite fine.
I had four children, including twin girls, and never spent a penny on them other than food, shelter etc.. They all turned out to be self supporting individuals and make a positive contribution to society. Perhaps I was “brought up” in a different era when things were harder, but our children never wanted for anything essential. The most important word you can teach your children from the age of 6 months is the word NO, whether for safety or for economic necessity. Don’t know what else to say, but it needn’t be that hard to raise the next generation.
PS We lost one of our twin daughters to a drunk driver in 2020. She was an exemplary member, in every aspect, of society and we struggle still with her loss.
Having children is a wonderful thing.
If having children is selfish, who is it that Julie is campaigning to create a better world for?
The selfish? Or those she believes shouldn’t have been born?
A central goal of feminism is for women to have the choice to lead their lives they way they want to. The author has chosen not to have children. That is all.
Well…if you have never parented, I’m afraid you can’t say you “know exactly” what you’re missing. You observe and talk to parents. You have watched their interaction with their children. However, saying you know what it feels like to be a parent is a bit like my saying I know what it feels like to be an astronaut. I have no desire to be one. I don’t like science and am claustrophobic so going out in space wouldn’t be “my thing”. But that also means I don’t understand the passion or enjoyment that I’m sure comes from being an….astronaut. It must be exhilarating and challenging and fulfilling in a way I don’t understand. And neither do you. You have no idea.
Just because you can breed, doesn’t mean you should.
Many of my thoughtful younger friends are looking at the state of this world & the impact of a growing population and are choosing not to have children. For some of them it runs directly against the grain of a very deep and hard wired instinct to reproduce and has been a very hard decision. Sadly (for the world) they would raise emotionally intelligent, conscious of their impact human beings.
Then there are the friends who desperately want children and for whatever reason can’t and it’s an awful heartache/ shame for them every time they are asked “do you have children” How to answer that?!
My 3 small boys I hope will grow up to be good enough, capable, thoughtful & emotionally intelligent men, but when I hear parents say “I wouldn’t change it for the world” I think “yeah right” because there’s totally days I’d much rather be on a tropical island drinking a cocktail!
…& then I look at them when they are asleep & the love is almost painful.
My condolences to Julie. We only get one life and we don’t get to choose much of what shapes our existence. So she ends up angry, alienated, and living in one of the most psychologically and physically unhealthy environments in the world. I hope that she can find some solace by chanting her ideological mantras in an attempt to drown out the inner turmoil.
Well, if you view literally everything and everybody only as political actors or pawns–as Ms Bindel obviously does–yes, by all means don’t have children. They will, indeed, just be in your way, and anyway, the last thing the world needs is for you to raise more people like that.
What a dreary & joyless view of the world: children are simply a ‘cost’ in time & money.
She says she knows what she’s missing, but she very clearly doesn’t. Not surprising – until I became a parent I didn’t know either. But just don’t go telling us all you do know, please.
And apparently having children gets in the way of “making the world a better place”. Just what a hardcore political activist would say. But for most people, raising well-behaved, kind, responsible children is probably doing more to help the world than anything else.
It’s so weird. I’m a big supporter of Julie Bindel in these comments sections–every single essay, except this one. I very carefully, extensively disagreed w/ her about this article and explained why I was disappointed that she could make such presumptions, particularly ones that implicitly project all parenting responsibilities onto women–in essence, I expected more self-reflection and intellectual and cross-cultural humility from her.
First time I’ve ever had a comment of mine deleted. I hope it was just a software glitch, or my browser just isn’t showing it, and was not intentional.
Is it just me or do these constant nosy interactions from parents toward ‘child -free’ people seem exaggerated? I sincerely am not shocked when people don’t have kids and I don’t press the subject, nor do I get grilled in return.
Also, sorry to be rude, but ‘giving up activism to have kids’ sounds like the bitter feminist version of the bro who’s mad that ‘nights with the boys’ don’t happen after all his friends get married.
If you’re so happy and fulfilled you could’ve fooled me.
I think you made the correct decision and, irrelevant though it may be, I thoroughly approve.
I never thought much about having kids, sort of assumed I would, but carefully took the pill as I couldn’t afford them. Then my sister and friends started having kids and none of them seemed happy. They also seemed quite nasty to their kids as they were so stressed. I realised I wouldn’t ever be able to afford to be a stay at home or even part time working mum and doubted my ability to work full time and be a good parent. I love kids, but also I didn’t NEED them in a way my friends seemed to. So I haven’t had them. I think I have missed out on certain experiences but I have a lot of love in my life and at least I haven’t been a shit parent like a lot of people.
Crouch End used to be called Hornsey before the Julie-Bindels-of-the-world moved in
A mean-spirited article. end of.
I can honestly say that I am not concerned about “falling birth rates” being a “threat to the future of humanity”. Nor am I worried about “who will care for elderly people in the future.”
What does concern me is just how bitter you are, spreading your misery around at every opportunity and pretending you’re doing it to help women and children.
I pity anyone who takes your message to heart because of how screwed up they would be. For balance I suggest they listen to a few of Dr Jordan Peterson’s lectures.
‘ .. the expectation that ‘having a family’ is something we all want to do is rooted in sexism‘.
Live and let live is my motto in life and ok Julie, you have your own view of life, that’s fine, you do you. But:
1. You don’t have to push that view so agresively on people. Those who feel the need to justify themselves generally are not that ok with their live.
2. Having a family or creatig one is so crucial and beneficial that I don’t have time and enough words to develop it enough. To say it’s rooted in sexism has to be the most idiotic thing I’ve ever read. Men and women are different creatures and women are biologically disposed towards nurturing.
As a woman who has her own fears of motherhood I have to say .. lesbian or not, wanting a kid or not, your justification is just crazy.
“I know exactly what I’m missing and I want none of it.” said the blind.
Those visits to the eye doctor. Paying for glasses. Eye drops. Seeing bad things. Ugh – why would I want that?
The fundamental issue is that lesbians and women who don’t want children don’t need men. Men are terrified by this. They don’t actually like children much themselves but they know that they are the price they have to pay for domestic services and sex. Women who don’t want children are laughing in their faces.
My answer to why I’ve never had children is that I’ve never met a man that I would want to have one by. Even if you manage to escape from the man, you would be reminded of all the things you loathed about him in his child.
I have read similar opinions to this in a great many instances – this kind of “transactional” view of relationships between men & women is held by many. To be honest I find it a little cynical and a bit too harsh on men in general. Some men might be like that…just as there are women who see men as mere sperm donors to achieve their goal of having a child.
However, I know several men who really love kids and only really seemed content once they became daddies. I have one dear friend who, for years, was really quite a difficult customer and although I loved him dearly, I had to take a step back from him every now and again – just because he was so prickly all the darned time. His daughter came along 2 years ago and he is a changed man. Really calm and content with none of the abrupt demeanour of earlier times. Although not one to talk about his feelings openly (and I never pressed the issue), I do believe he was unhappy/frustrated at not having settled down into the “husband/father” role he so wanted.
I know of many men who were and are loving fathers – me being one.
But how many of them are people that women would want to have sex with?
I’m not sure why this was voted down? You’re simply being honest, and there’s an element of truth in what you’ve written that some (not all) men might recognise. It would appear your honesty has touched a nerve with some people!
I’m not one of those men who married “for domestic services and sex” (i’m now happily divorced with a partner, we live apart by mutual choice) but can fully understand why some women come to hate their husbands who did, in fact, marry for the reasons you cite.
IMO, not for the honesty but for the bitter resentment it espouses?
Men are terrified by this. They don’t actually like children much themselves but they know that they are the price they have to pay for domestic services and sex. Women who don’t want children are laughing in their faces.
But clearly not all men are terrified by this. Clearly not all men hold the attitudes you outline. Implicating all men in these kinds of negative attitudes based on their immutable characteristic of being male, is prejudice. To then observe that some women are laughing at this group – laughing in their faces – is grossly disrespectful, bitter and cruel.
We’re not terrified by the likes of Caroline. It’s more like we breathe a collective sigh of relief when we realise that we’ve dodged the proverbial bullet of her and her type.
Wooooooaah! That’s a heavy statement. And not one I can relate to in the slightest. But one that makes me think about how incredibly lucky I have been to have had really amazing men in my life, grandfathers, father, brothers, 3 gorgeous sons and a beautiful husband I enjoy growing older with.
I guess each and every persons life experience leaves us with such different beliefs and opinions.
Every word of the above is garbage, including the “is” and “the.” But it’s very revealing as to the hateful mind of the author.
Spare us this nonsense.
I hope you didn’t pay this nasty, stupid woman for that tedious pile of self-righteous gibberish.
Wow, what a load of rubbish! This is not the 1950s, nobody is pressurising women to have children. In fact, an increasing number are not, or are delaying it long into their 30s, when they have to have IVF, etc. And that’s their choice, which is fine.
I don’t believe any significant number of people today are disapproving of anyone who decides not to have kids, it’s pure BS to claim that women who decide not to are widely regarded as “selfish”, etc, or required to justify themselves in any way – “I never wanted to” would not be queried any further by anyone.
But JB can’t let it go at that, what she wants really is to prove that women who don’t have kids, like her, are not just not inferior, which no one thinks anyway, but are morally *superior*. Women who have kids are selfishly gratifying *themselves*, while Julie is unselfishly dedicating herself to the greater good of humanity! She is superior to all those women (especially the heterosexual ones) who have children. This woman represents a tiny, minority of women, not to mind people, I am increasingly wondering why anyone should consider her worth listening to on these issues.
Bindel represents perfectly the revolting hypocritical depravity that now defines the so-called West. S(he)’It’ is simply a hate machine.
Hard to imagine anything biological that’s more vile!
Julie Bindel making a pronouncement on motherhood without ever having been one is like a celibate Catholic priest making a pronouncement on sex.
Here are some words from a dudebro that are nonetheless, apt.
Only love can bring the rainThat makes you yearn to the skyOnly love can bring the rainThat falls like tears from on highLove, reign o’er meRain on me, rain on meLove, reign o’er meRain on me, rain on me
Only love can bring the rain
That makes you yearn to the sky
That falls like tears from on high
Love, reign o’er me
Rain on me, rain on me
For all species it’s a burden to bring up young. Up till recently women, as men, had no choice about babies. You had sex you probably had a baby. Indeed birth control came about because women could have 10 or more children and have little to feed them. Hence they’ve involved men in getting food etc. for them and most men have done this. In some cases shotgun weddings are applied to men.
Of course, some say the planet is over-populated. Personally I think when some are obese, including me, and others are starving it might be a food distribution problem.
“They feign concern about “falling birth rates” being a “threat to the future of humanity”. Like many feminists she has this “women’s way of knowing” that people who are concerned must be faking it.
“A campaigner against all forms of violence against women and girls”. In other words, a person who’s in denial of women perpetrators and men victims and doesn’t even care about women on women violence as well as obviously hating men.
“challenged the family courts when children were removed from lesbian mothers”. Clearly not challenging them about fathers being removed from their children. Cue the “men are abuser” hateful lie about all men. It doesn’t help young boy Logan Mwanga. Father excluded from him and has no right to know his child is considered at risk. I’m they’re be a nice well presented report about how they did their best but somehow mother, new boyfriend and his son torturing and killing the 5 year old slipped through the cracks. Or perhaps it doesn’t matter encase he was a boy?
I didn’t realise at first, that the article was byJulie Bindel. The woman who wanted to get Myra Hindley out of jail. About the only thing I agree with Julie Bindel is about trans-women not being in women’s spaces.
To summarise, this is a very disingenuous writer. “Knows” opponents are lying about their position. In denial anyone but men are doing anything wrong on the planet. Wants rights for lesbians and not worried about anyone else’s rights. Sure now that men made the pill women can have sex and not have babies. Not my decision. Of course, women want to keep the decision to themselves. In some cases by lying to men. This is not uncommon. The latest example I found, by accident, was a video about Marc Bolan, singer who died in the 70s. Turns out his wife had been pregnant numerous times, had an abortion and not told him claiming, after his death, that he was not mature enough for parenting.
Finally, the notion that the future is OK if you don’t have children but get your pension sorted and you’ll be OK may be a problem. You might find the country changing around you. They’ll be different views about protecting pensions funds, providing housing, social and elderly health care and how to run the economy. Thinking you can take all you want and it will be replenished might turn out to be faulty. With no youngsters supporting your lifestyle you may have to cut back. Youngsters who aren’t your relatives and don’t share your views may have less concern about maintaining your status quo especially when they have problems of their own.
I can’t imagine any child wanting this woman as its mother.
I’m afraid that the writer inadvertently gave a clearer view of herself than her topic. As for motherhood’s being a selfish endeavor, in the history of man, if one generation fails to reproduce – just one – then all the world’s accomplishments, all the good, all the knowledge and philosophy, and I might add, all the feminist soreheads like herself, have been for nought.
The photograph tells all. No further explanation needed.
It’s like Julie Bindel lives in ‘opposite world’.
Having children is an incredible unselfish sacrifice in almost every way, (many of which she describes.)
The goal of these sacrifices is taking part in the miracle of the creation of new people and the most intimate of loving relationships, after only your spouse.
When you do it right, you are part of a life cycle where you sacrifice for your children and then they sacrifice for you when you need them. A mini network community.
In general, people change a great deal once they have children. They become much less selfish.
People who cannot have children find other ways to love – through adoption, mentoring, or caring in other ways.
Many people who choose not have children can be rather narcissistic – or become bitter and angry.
Having children is massively selfish. Taking them into spaces like pubs where adults are trying to relax and enjoy conversation is selfish in itself. Then there is all the resources taken up by the middle class parents who decide that their children have ‘special needs’ but don’t want to pay for anything. So many children have ‘special needs’ now that we’ll be keeping them for evermore.
I can only say it’s a shame Ms Bindel’s mother wasn’t of the same opinion.