7. London Review of Books: Is it OK to have a child?
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced me to shift my thinking about almost everything. I’ve known for a while now that having children isn’t a priority for me. My friends and I often have conversations about the ethics of having children, and the older I get I seem to have more conversations with people who have chosen not to have kids for various reasons.
The idea of having children (or not) as a choice is relatively new but rapidly evolving. This article has a decidedly anti-capitalist lens, and takes its title from an Instagram livestream of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez saying that “Our planet is going to hit disaster if we don’t turn this ship around… There’s a scientific consensus that the lives of children are going to be very difficult… And it does lead, I think, young people to have a legitimate question… Is it OK to still have children?”
I couldn’t read this without thinking of Agnes Callard’s article in The Point that I listed last week, The End is Coming, in which Callard explores “the ethical and moral situation of the last (as in final) generation,” as I wrote.
Perhaps the most important aspect of writing is framing, and throughout this piece, the question of framing kept creeping to the back of my mind. While I largely agree with what this article implores people who are having or thinking of having children to consider, I wonder if “is” is the right verb to start the question. Meehan Crist even writes in this essay that
“Having a child is at once the most intimate, irrational thing a person can do, prompted by desires so deep we hardly know where to look for their wellsprings, and an unavoidably political act that increasingly requires one to confront not only the complex biopolitics of pregnancy and birth, but also the intersecting legacies of colonialism, racism and patriarchy, all while trying to wrap one’s head around the relationship between the impossible extremes of the personal and the global.”
So I wonder if the question should be how would one have a child in today’s social, political, and environmental climate? Or what does it mean to have a child today? Perhaps this is a both/and scenario. Perhaps it is necessary to ask is it OK to have a child and how would one have and raise a child and what would it mean to have a child today?