The Guardian nails it: Childless at 52: How sweet it would be to be called Dad

I’m not going to excerpt anything; I’ll just say it’s well worth reading.

Interesting if short article, I’m a male and I posted a thread years ago that I felt the tick of a biological clock. Now I’m married with children. Everything in life is a trade-off, in some ways I feel like people that don’t have children are emotionally incomplete, stunted and many of those people try to fill that gap with pets or something but its not really the same. I feel like having children has brought me greater empathy that I was not able to experience before, it opened me up to emotions that I previously could not have felt. But everything has a price, being able to feel all that joy and love, has also opened me up to the possibility of feeling immense pain, unbearable pain, I could outlive my child, watch them become drug addicts, see them hurt, or suffer, have them reject me, even hate me. I hope I’ll never have to experience those things, but now the possibility is there.

What a load of crap.

As a cautionary tale for others, at least. I absolutely take the author at his word that he feels incomplete for not having children. And I feel for him in that he has several large regrets about his life. But that’s him.

I’m roughly the same age, never married, no children and I have no such feelings. Rather, I count my lucky stars every day that I never got saddled with kids. I would likely have been a terrible father, and have learned that I love my freedom and solitude. Now, I wouldn’t tell anyone to live the way I do, and while I don’t object to the author sharing his feelings and perspective, some of what he says is just not true.

Of course he’s a real member of society. And of course a childless man can weigh in about schools and such - he pays taxes too, and we all benefit from an educated populace. Dunno what a “catchment area” is, but his feeling of being an outsider looking in is in his own mind. While some aspects of society are set up more for the benefit of families than single folk, there’s no reason to feel an outsider. At least, I’ve never felt this way.

Have kids or don’t, for your own reasons.

It’s the geographic area whose school-aged residents are assigned to attend a specific school. I believe the term is borrowed from hydrogeology.

That’s really a rude thing to say about people who have/chose a different lifestyle from yours.

I’m not sure why people say that parenthood gives them more empathy and feelings. Sure, it changes you and you will have experiences and feelings that you would never have had otherwise. But that doesn’t mean those experiences or feelings are necessarily better, it’s just that once you have kids you love them and can’t imagine your life any other way.

How does having a child make you more empathic? If you mean you have empathy toward your own child, sure. But how else does it make you more empathic? What does that do for anyone?

As a childless man, you don’t need kids of your own to have feelings like you would ‘take a bullet for’ a child. You can have nieces and nephews. You can even have children you mentor who you are not related to. You can feel that you are providing a positive role in a child’s life without being a father.

Whatever urges I feel to take care of a child I just try to fulfill via my sibling’s children. I do not want the responsibilities of children of my own for a host of reasons.

As a former abused child, I will say some of the most heartless, cruel, sociopathic people in the human race are parents. So no, having children does not make one emotionally complete (unless complete is being defined as complete sadist.).

Those of us never successful at having any of our conceived children born, do we not qualify for the empathy upgrade you’ve been blessed w/ as a *real *parent? What a horrible person you are, to brag of having greater empathy but actually showing far less than you could ever understand. Thank you for showing us your stunted, emotionally incomplete soul so very clearly. I hope your child sees your example and finds a better role model than your smug self.

What a truly offensive thing to say. I haven’t noticed that any of my friends changed in any material way at all after having children. Selfish people remain selfish. Histronic wrecks remained that way.
You want to have children? Go right ahead. Just don’t go around shaming and harassing people who have different needs and desires and make different choices.

Whenever I feel the urge to be called “dad”, I time-travel back to the '50s and go to hipster jazz bars.

Yeah, this is a pretty awful thing to say not only to people who choose not to have children, but also considering how many people desperately want to have children but cannot. The loss is painful enough without someone implying you’re emotionally broken because of it. I’ve never had a kid but I have more empathy than the average person I know, including parents, certainly more than my own parents.

I do kind of know what you mean by the other part of your statement - the capacity for pain. It wasn’t until my miscarriage that I realized even if I was able to carry a child to term, that would be no guarantee of the child’s safety, and the pain of that reality is incomprehensible. I’d never experienced that level of vulnerability before, and the loss was unlike anything I’d ever felt before.

But what parenting means or feels like depends largely on the person.

Just… stop it.

Whatever your upbringing, you’re a fluke. Being a parent and a son of awesome parents, myself (as well as observation of hundreds of people I know personally), your opinions from experience is not the norm.

I was raised by wonderful parents too. But I think the point is sound: being a parent doesn’t make you a better person or more empathetic.

Of course not. But it’s 1) good practice, and 2) a reflection of the person you always were. I may be naïve, but I believe, by and large, there are more good parents (or well intentioned) out there than bad.

I’m confused by this as a response to what I said.

Perhaps I should rephrase:

  1. Becoming a parent, whether or not you are a good one, is not likely to make you a better person, a more sympathetic person, nor a better member of society than someone who never became a parent.

  2. Being a good parent doesn’t make you more likely to be better to people in general than someone who never became a parent. There are tremendous genetic and societal incentives to being good to your own family. Most bad actors in the world are nice their own family.

  3. Becoming a parent doesn’t make you more empathetic to people outside your family than someone who never became a parent. The human history of tribal slaughter is proof of this.

  4. Being a parent may indeed make you more selfish in favor of your own children over society as a whole. That doesn’t make you a better member of society compared to someone who never became a parent.

I do think that it’s fair to say that becoming a parent is a transformative experience. It’s not the ONLY transformative experience, and it’s not always a positive transformation, but saying becoming a parent has no fundamental effect is as wrong headed as saying it’s the only way to become emotionally complete.

Like many transformative experiences–travel, college, falling in love-it’s hard not to make the leap from “essential component of who I am” to “essential component of who anyone is”. Because once you’ve transformed, you literally can’t imagine yourself not having done that.

There’s precisely no guarantees over any of your points. But as Manda JO points out it is a wholly transformative experience for the most of us who do decide to have kids. And, for plenty of them: for the better. Of course, there will be lots of exceptions and no one’s perfect.

I was mostly responding to ZPG’s hyperbole.

An event being personally transformative is very different from saying that someone who has not experienced that event is deficient.

All kinds of things go into shaping an individual. That doesn’t mean that any one of those things necessarily makes you a better person or member of society compared to someone who didn’t.

As I said, the transformation of becoming a parent might very well be to make you more self-interested in your immediate family. That might very well be good for you, but not for anyone else.

Whereas it’s been my experience that lots of emotionally incomplete men try to fill the aimless emptiness they feel by having children, and then convincing themselves that it’s worked because they’ve stopped thinking about their own problems.

ZPG Zealot made a good point and I have to agree. Some of the most fucked up people I’ve met are parents, and being a parent does not mean you are emotionally mature. if anything, some people choose not to be parents because they are emotionally mature enough to know they wouldn’t be good at it. It is the people who never question the beliefs of the society they were born in, never reflect, etc. who just have kids too young w/o thinking about it who usually end up as terrible parents. They end up abusing their kids the same way they were abused because they never reflected on their life or tried to break destructive patterns. In my experience a lot of people from broken homes end up creating new broken homes, but a lot refuse to have kids until they’ve done the work to make sure they’d be good parents. A lot of people from broken homes just accept that they will never feel ‘ready’ because the traumas run too deep and they do not feel they can overcome them.

Also whatever you grew up with feels ‘normal’. I was floored when I read that only about 15% of homes have physical violence towards the children. Based on my upbringing, I assumed it was closer to 80%. Lots of people have no frame of reference for ‘normal’ because what you grew up with feels normal. I remember Tokyo Bayer making a post about telling a friend about his abusive childhood and the friend started crying. Tokyo didn’t understand why, he just thought childhoods like his were normal.

That article in the OP implied having kids is some ticket to emotional maturity and emotional fulfillment. A lot of parents are far, far from that. There are a lot of fucked up parents out there.

This topic really brought out the claws in people based on some of the responses. Not yours in particular, but many are pretty defensive.