We’ve been having a lively discussion of some quotes from The Crucible of Doubt, and on the same day that that came up in my reader, some other ‘Naccler managed to link to something even worse. Take a gander at this article.
The author lists off a bunch of positive learning and growth experiences that come from parenting, but instead of framing them in a positive sense, she flips them around and states them in terms of how horrible non-parents must therefore be. Normally I would save this sort of thing for a quick mention in Sunday in Outer Blogness, but there are just too many choice quotes to highlight, and I don’t want to clutter up SiOB with them. Like this one:
Pope Francis warned married couples not to forego children in favor of having “a dog, two cats,” and offered a cautionary description of childless old age “in solitude, with the bitterness of loneliness.”
Is it me, or is that weird coming from a childless old guy? Is he saying his life is bitter and lonely, or does he think he’s the exception?
What would a society of adults skewed toward childlessness, like the perpetually barren Time magazine beach couple, look and act like without having acquired the altruism, personal growth, and wisdom that bringing up children generally bequeaths on those who undergo parenthood?
This is what the whole article is like. You can learn some great life lessons from parenting, therefore childless people must be inferior.
And with every area of interest that children pursue, parents discover, they bring along mentors and friends who alter our lives and perceptions and create alliances unlikely to form otherwise.
Yeah, but you don’t know what experiences you’d be having if you weren’t busy having kids. You also don’t know what kinds of experiences childless adults are having, and the author apparently has no interest in finding out.
Comedian Jim Gaffigan, who describes his early career as marked by a “lazy, gluttonous, selfish point of view,” now raises five kids with his wife in Manhattan and admits that “having five kids dramatically changed me,” replacing narcissism with the gift of never having the luxury of forgetting about parental responsibilities, and also giving him “an incredible skill set.”
This is the closest the author comes to proving that childless people are selfish, narcissistic, etc. The problem is that the personal life journey of one random lazy, gluttonous, selfish, narcissistic guy doesn’t prove anything about anyone else.
“I didn’t understand,” she explains, “that having a child would make all my other experiences seem hollow, frantic, and a little silly. I didn’t know that my child would become my whole experience, the standard against which I measured all other feelings and found them wanting.”
Again, you can’t prove general principles from a handful of personal anecdotes. This one in particular may well be an outlier.
Comparing to my own personal experience, I found that parenting did not make all my other experiences seem hollow, frantic, and a little silly. However, if all of a person’s non-parenting experiences are “hollow, frantic, and a little silly”, I guess it stands to reason that that person’s child would become the person’s whole experience.
Interestingly, the emotional intensity of paradigms shifting and egocentric worldviews giving way are not contingent on the birth of a perfect child.
I’m not convinced that the author’s egocentric worldview has given way.
That empathy then reaches outward to others — hopefully creating an adult world less narcissistic and undoubtedly more humble
Seriously? Repeatedly implying that childless people are “narcissistic” demonstrates some impressive levels of empathy and humility.
Wisdom and self-actualization, empathy and humility are not limited to parents.
Indeed. OK, she just broke my irony meter with that one.
I think the article sheds some interesting light on Mormon culture. The idea that childless=selfish is so ingrained that someone can write an article like that one, and many Mormons perceive it as simply a positive statement about parenting.