I am reading at the moment a book about Winston Churchill. The great war-time leader was overjoyed at the birth of his grandson in the midst of World War II and frequent bombings of London – one of the few moments he showed true joy during those hard years. However he is said to have remarked that he didn’t know what kind of world his little namesake ‘Winston’ was being born into.
Which leads me to ponder under what circumstances the world might justifiably be thought a bad place for new children – which, I might add, surely means a bad place for human beings full stop. Is imminent war a good reason, or simply the real, yet unlikely, possibility that our potential children might get run over by a car?
Cheryl and Ellis Levinson are one of a growing number of couples who believe that they have made a ‘grown up decision’ not to have kids. They have, apparently, assessed all the risks:
…everything from dangers to the children themselves to the risks to a planet already burgeoning with overpopulation, suffering exhaustion of its natural resources and tainted by climate change and pollution….And when you’re creating a new person, you’re rolling the dice for the child as well – there’s mental illness, abuse, drugs, incarceration, poverty – it’s not always this TV commercial happy family. It’s an incredible gamble.
In fact, they think having children is so risky that they have written a book entitled “Enough of Us: Why We Should Think Twice Before Making Children“. The book promotes being “childfree” amid what the authors view as a society that encourages procreation through various pressures from social, religious and government groups and various advantages granted to families.
“We need to rethink the reasons for having offspring,” Ellis says. “I can’t think of any reasons that are not selfish – a little immortality for yourself, trying to salvage a bad marriage, living your own unfulfilled dreams, maybe having someone to care for you when you’re old.”
This all seems very pessimistic. Could it not be that people are understandably enthusiastic about what is probably the most accessible miracle known to man – the creation of an entirely unique person with tiny fingers and toes and chubby little thighs. A little being that really can transform the most selfish self-absorbed person into someone who will willingly live in a state of sleep deprivation and would, without a moment’s hesitation, lay down their life for the little person in their care. It is love that creates the new person and the most intense love you’ve ever felt is the result.
It is true that society values the family and recognises that there is something special and valuable about a couple who have children and create a family, but so it should – not least because without children there won’t be any people or future. I’m no philosopher, but there does seem something wrong with the logic that because a person might die, we will not let it live at all. There is always value in life and the creation of new souls.
And, as for Churchill in the midst of his brave fight against the then evil in the world, the birth of a new baby always brings with it a sense of the miraculous and new hope. Infinitely valuable.