With over 7 billion people in the world, there is not a need for more people. And with UK youth unemployment knocking around 20%, no-one is begging for young labourers. This means that having children does not constitute a favour to anyone else or fulfillment of duty to country, religion or species.
So perhaps it’s important to think more carefully about why to have children these days. “Because I want them”, the consumer’s attitude, is not enough any more; consumers’ way of living, and their sheer volume, has become too harmful.
Consumption does the following, among other things:
– Satisfies a desire
– Provides a pleasant distraction
– Fits neatly into and around my life
– Boosts my status
– (Gives me something to do with the money I worked so hard to earn)
How often have I been guilty of consuming my kids? Having answered my urge for offspring, to what extent have I wanted them to behave only in the way I want them to behave (for my entertainment), to be there or be absent when it suits me (for my convenience), and to fulfil my expectations of what I think kids should be like (for my appearances)?
An uncomfortable thought, because I have inevitably acted that way at times, and it’s a long way away from unconditional love, a value that I say I aspire to. I’m not convinced that it’s simple selfishness that lies at the root here. A big factor might be an unhealthy relationship with money and work, and the behaviour this encourages.
There is a massive and obvious flaw in spending the majority of my time and energy doggedly earning money to “provide” for my family, and in doing so ceasing to provide them with what is most important: my energy and my time.
Most people seem to be aware of this, but for some reason it is easily shrugged off. Our sense of responsibility has been warped by a consumer approach to parenthood. Beyond the true essentials, in prioritising further consumption over actually being there, and being there wholeheartedly, I deprive my kids of an essential factor for their development, and I sow the seeds of emotional instability. The mindset of consuming sees things instrumentally, which makes it difficult to develop deep and healthy attachments. Instead of learning to exercise patience and empathy with children, parents may numbly consume by cleaning them up and making them attractive and convenient as quickly as possible.
Just as the world doesn’t need more humans, the last thing it needs is more emotionally unstable humans. But I think that’s what we are producing.
We are riddled with problems we can’t earn our way out of. In our overpopulated and materialistic culture, there is a now a great responsibility to transcend the pervading dogma of consumption and behave more consciously and wholeheartedly…more human-ly. And although it remains anyone’s unquestionable right to have children, it is important now for unhappy consumers to question whether creating more unhappy consumers is a responsible thing to do.
Nice post Mr Packe – it reminded me about this excellent report on behalf of UNICEF looking at consumerism, parents, children, and the particular problems in the UK. It seems that UK parents are more likely to have a ‘consumerism mindset’ to child raising than their European counterparts. To the extent that they are working longer hours to buy more expensive (and unnecessary) products for their kids instead of spending time with them. I don’t know about you, but when I was a kid I always enjoyed playing with the box the toy came in as much as the actual thing.
One step behind UNICEF, that’s not a bad place to be.
I made an entire alien robot out of cardboard boxes once. Played with it in the garden rain or shine, until it melted. But not before I invaded Earth and brought the pet guinea pigs under my thrall.