Friday, March 4, 2011

Love is Delusion, Duh

My father has an old saying.  "Houses and spouses may come and go, but children will love you forever."  While this statement may be coming from a place of discreet cynicism on his part, its foundation - that the love between a parent and a child is limitless - attempts to explain the inexplicable. The bond between parent and child cannot be measured, scientifically or otherwise. There is no quantifiable value to love, so far as I know.

That foundation is something this article, purporting that having children is foolish and all parents are delusional, would do well to take into account.  I know it's edgy these days to look at only select pieces of an issue and dissect them one at a time, but it is misleading to then draw conclusions about the entire issue based on the selective research.

The author puts forward that parents overestimate the joys of parenthood to rationalize the waste of money children are.

First, children are only a waste of money on paper when you don't take into account their future as adults, but more importantly, since when can a stranger with charts and studies (a whopping 80-person study and 60-person study, I might add), assign value to someone else's treasure?  A supposedly worthless tin ring can can signify someone's entire life with another.  An old family heirloom could be worth pennies, but to the bequeathed? It's priceless.  It is not up to someone else to tell me how much my kids are worth to me.

John Cloud says, "researchers have known for some time that parents with minors who live at home report feeling calm significantly less often than than people who don't live with young children. Parents are also angrier and more depressed than nonparents — and each additional child makes them even angrier. Couples who choose not to have kids also have better, more satisfying marriages than couples who have kids.

None of this directly correlates to children as a monetary investment, the proponent on which his article is based, it is there to prove that parents are "are in the grip of a giant illusion," but it is incomplete and unconvincing.

It could be true that parents with minors at home often feel more stressed out than people without kids.  It could also be true (I'd have to see the research) that people are angrier and more depressed when they have kids.  Do couples without children have better marriages?  It's possible.  None of these things, however, prove that people should not have children or that they exagerrate the benefits of having them. Going through the supposed negatives does not disprove the positives.

Even if the arguments above are true, it is unfair to connect them to parenting in general, as if the child would be the only reason for them. The arguments simply fall short of proving that parents are clinging to an illusion.  No one can tell anyone else how much their possessions or creations mean to them personally.

Cloud goes onto to say, "Humans throw good money after bad all the time. When we have invested a lot in a choice that turns out to be bad, we're really inept at admitting that it didn't make rational sense."

That's an inflamatory statement if I've ever heard one.  It implies that children are not only worthless, but actually bad.  There is not much rational sense to having children, not because having children in the grand scheme of things doesn't make sense, but because the driving force behind birthing babies is above and beyond the human capacity to reason.  Just because you don't understand it doesn't make it worthless or bad.

"Does this mean you shouldn't have kids? Yes — but you won't," Cloud says. "Our national fantasy about the joys of parenting permeates the culture."
He then goes on to praise the economic value of a child back in the 18th and 19th centuries when they worked for their keep.  He referred to them as our staff.  Now, he says, they're our bosses.
We have a national fantasy about the joys of parenting because as a nation we've decided to cherish the future citizens we're bringing into the world?  No. Making a decision to protect any person, young or old, related or stranger, has nothing to do with the joys of parenting.  It has to do with caring for others and trying to make the world a better place.  I've yet to hear anyone say, "Oh, I need to become a parent right away. I hear it's a completely joyous activity that will better my life in all ways."

This is not to say that children don't better lives. My children are not my bosses, nor my employees, but they are my teachers, my muses and my life.  Try to put a monetary value to that. It's impossible.

The bottom line is, people don't have children to better their lives in a quantifiable way. If they did, then Cloud might have a point. No parent that I've seen is suggesting that their children have made their lives monetarily easier, or that they had kids to lessen the stress in their lives.

We're not heroes or suckers.  We're parents.  You cannot tell someone what their love is worth. It cannot be feasibly measured.

I will concede the author's main point though.  My kids can, indeed, drive me crazy.

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1 comment:

  1. I don't think Mr. Cloud had a very nice childhood.

    My husband and I often reflect on the madness of parenthood and then both agree that those who don't experience it are really missing the magic and completeness of life. However, that isn't to say that everyone 'should' be a parent.

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