News of the collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet dotted my Facebook feed, interspersed with cat memes and the “What Is Your Goddess Name” quiz. It was kind of like going to the Hallmark store and finding an apocalyptic pamphlet tucked in with the birthday cards.
It’s your birthday. Fart all you want. The end of the world is near.
I thought, thank goodness I don’t have children.
I care about the earth. As a child, I would not play with human dolls, only with the likenesses of wolves and caterpillars. I put live snakes in my doll house. It would break my heart to think of a world without the polar bear. But that is not the same thing as worrying about the fate of my child in a world that may have a stretch of ocean where once we had Los Angeles.
There is another reason not to have children also. Unless I invent the next clean energy source, the single most significant thing I can do to protect the environment is to resist the urge to breed.
I adore my parents, so I understand the beauty of parenting. But instead of recreating my happy childhood for another person, I have chosen to go on living it as long as possible myself. Plus, I am novelist; if I want to create something, I have an array of possibilities, none of which involve pushing a cantaloupe-sized human being through my vagina.
And, when I accidentally dump the recycling bag in the trash can, I don’t have to feel too guilty because at least I don’t have children. Think about the bottles my progeny will not discard, the cars they will not drive.
Also on Facebook recently were photos of an acquaintance who had just given birth. When I met her, she was twenty-two and had two small children. In the time it took me and my wife to design the perfect front yard rockscape, she had divorced her husband and had another baby.
I wanted to comment, “I’m sorry. Has someone explained to you how this happened, so it won’t happen again?”
I wanted to write, “Did you read about the fucking the ice sheets!?!”
Of course, I didn’t.
My mother taught me that once the baby was on its way, one has to celebrate its arrival. She is right. The world is not served by anyone – even a distant Facebook acquaintance – begrudging the arrival of a little scrap of life who did not ask to be born and has only tears to defend itself.
“I don’t know if I can post my blog,” I told a friend at work. “I want to argue that the most environmentally friendly thing a person can do is to not have children, but I’ll sound like a child-hater.”
“What do you hope to accomplish with this blog?” he asked, always the master of the Socratic method.
I gave his question some thought.
Almost every weekend, there is a moment of absolute peace, when my wife and I are sitting in the garden watching the trails left by airplanes overhead or sipping wine and listening to an audiobook or lying in bed after making love, and one of us will say, “Thank God we don’t have children!”
I just want to be able to say that outside the privacy of my own home. But that sentence is taboo.
We are bombarded with messages in favor of childbearing. One is expected to post Facebook pictures of the new baby, the one-year old’s birthday party, the child post-surgery smiling bravely.
But it would be crass for me to write,
“Many of my friends’ children are suffering serious health problems right now, and I am so glad I don’t have kids of my own.”
“I just signed the contract for my third novel. I could never have done that if I had children”
“I am grieving for the environmental destruction of this beautiful earth, and my only comfort is that I did not bring a child into the world to watch the ruin I cannot forestall.”
Birth control, overpopulation, and over-consumption are bigger issues than I can tackle in a blog. I just wonder if my acquaintance would have had all three children if she lived in a world that presented childlessness as an option.
What if Cosmopolitan featured articles on how much better (and more frequent) sex is when you don’t have small children? What if the Credit Union gave out pamphlets on the cost of child rearing? What if a friendly aunt had pulled her aside and said, “You know that almost unconscious fear you have that if you don’t have children you’ll die alone and be eaten by your own Rottweilers? Just buy smaller dogs.”
While Karelia is not bearing children, she is writing. Find her thriller, The Admirer, at Amazon.com. Her upcoming novels are The Purveyor (July 2014) and Forgive Me If I’ve Told You This Before (October 2014).
Photo of Antarctica used under Creative Commons liscence 2.0 Generic. Photo taken by John Lester and available here.