I’m a bit offended. TIME didn’t call me for a rebuttal. I have 16 children — and I’m a debate coach to boot — and would have loved the opportunity to rebut Lauren Sandler’s article “The Childfree Life.”
TIME magazine made a splash in today’s issue that claims the childfree life is something to be quite happy with. My wife, Wendy, and I have written extensively about the joys of more than one, most notably in our book Love in the House, available on Kindle for $2.99. Our second book, Love Another Child, gets a bit deeper in the analysis of the childfree lifestyle, and more particularly over the consequences in the world as such a worldview unfolds.
The “childfree life” is different than a childless life in this respect: the would-be parent is consciously choosing not to have children. Nowadays, if you want children, you can have them, even if you are physically unable to bear your own. The childfree folks are enthusiastic about no children. Lauren Sandler, the TIME author, goes through great pangs (pardon the pun) to emphasize the positive decision to avoid children. Despite the obvious demographic horrors of a declining population (yes, “horror” is an accurate term for it), Sandler seems quite giddy over the “childfree by choice” choice.
Sandler Is Right, to a Point
In fairness, Sandler has one child. She has some credibility. This gave the editors of TIME (I would put money down that many of them are childless-by-choice) the crack in the door to put Sandler’s article on the cover in their attempt to show their life is really not all that bad.
Also in fairness, Sandler does a fine job explaining what a big deal parenting is. There are too many unwanted children in the world, and though the Jeubs and the Sandlers differ in how to solve this problem, I suppose we can both agree that unwanted children is a bad thing. The subtitle of our books hint at where we differ:
- The Jeubs: Children. They’re blessings. Always.
- The Sandlers: The freedom of having an only child, and the joy of being one.
It’s no doubt that the decision to bring children into the world and raise them is a big one. Mentally, financially, and spiritually, the couple that makes the plunge will never be the same again. My response: good. The world can use more mentally, financially and spiritually mature people. Sandler responds with rationale like, “I’ve watched most of my friends tread into the tunnel of second children, few of them to emerge as how I remember their former engaged selves.”
Former Engaged Selves
Good grief, seriously? Out of a billion parents in the world, TIME really had to work hard to find one that thought her “former engaged self” was worth retaining.
Sandler’s naiveté — and every woman she interviews in the article — is so blindingly obvious that it’s embarrassing. The article’s subtitle, “When having it all means not having children,” kind of says it all, doesn’t it? Only those with no children would think it profound. Parents read it and think, “Are you that naive?”
Seriously, every parent in the entire world — save, perhaps, for Sandler herself, because she has one child — is looking at her with judgment. Not necessarily disdain, but judgment nonetheless. Sandler isn’t just living-and-letting-live, she’s writing books and trying to persuade the childless to “have it all” without children. Her entire writing career is spent justifying her self-centered, immature, and unsophisticated choice. Parents can’t help but respond, what a waste.
(Not only parents. I read a rebuttal yesterday from a childless woman who raked Sandler up one side and down the other. It is spot-on, a very good read.)
Yes, I know, it’s judgmental of parents to think the childless life as a waste. But the judgment is not naive; it is a rational comparison between a previous, self-absorbed existence to a latter, oh-my-life-is-more-than-just-me existence. The parent writing a TIME article about the “joy” in childlessness is, well, stu- … naive.
I almost said “stupid.” That would be judgmental, sorry. I shouldn’t judge another’s “choice” to be childless. My mind’s eye is looking into the eyes of Lauren Sandler, and I cannot help it. She is trying so incredibly hard to persuade others that her choice — and anyone else who chooses to have one or none — is the moral or righteous choice. I don’t suspect there is much persuading her.
Is Sandler’s Worldview Persuasive?
Nevermind Sandler. What about the millions who are going to read her article today? This concerns me, and it should concern you, too.
See, a world of Lauren Sandlers running around is not a healthy world. When they are old, my family of entrepreneurs will be supporting them for their childless days. I’m not feeling the love when TIME publishes a cover story about how great it is to live it up in your 30s with one child (and, of course, how awesome it would be to have none; I bet only children feel the love, too).
I meet people all the time who regret their childless decisions. Seriously, all the time. Meanwhile, our home is full of life and joy. There you have it. You have Sandler idolizing the one-child — and now childless — worldview, and the Jeubs idolizing the life with 16 children. In today’s day you get to choose.
If you choose childlessness, you will, as Sandler argues, continue your self-engaged life. Good for you. Party up.
If you choose children, you will, as Wendy and I argue, enter into an exciting growth in your life that will surprise you. You’re in for a rebirth of sorts, a maturity leap, and that’s something to be giddy over.
Or you could end up somewhere in the middle. Seven or eight kids, maybe.