Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Children as insurance in old age

Today I had a brief conversation with an acquaintance about having at least one child so that you will have someone to take care of you when you're old.


He works in the local shipping office, and as I was waiting for the other fellow to finish wrapping up my boxes, the subject of dogs came up. Of course I had to whip out my iPhone and show pictures of my adorable chocolate lab. I resisted the urge to show more than two pictures because while I love my dog and find him interesting, these guys probably don't. This was fresh on my mind because just yesterday my old boss insisted on showing me pictures of his granddogs, and after the 7th picture I could not utter, "oh, how cute!" any longer.

Anyway, this train of thought made me think of how it must be like for others when people insist on showing them a dozen pictures of their children at every chance. So I laughed and said, "You're lucky I don't have kids or else I'd be boring you with their pictures, too!"

To which the guy said sympathetically, "You'll have them someday."
"Oh, I don't want them."
"What!! (incredulous look) Everyone needs at least one."
"No, they're not for me."
"Who's going to take care of you when you're old?!"
"Myself. With the money I've saved by not blowing it on kids, I will have so much more money to save and invest towards my retirement. I'll be able to pay for my own care when the time comes."
Again, he insisted. "But you don't want to do that!"
"Sure, I do. Besides, having kids as an insurance policy is a bad idea. They may not be around, or able, or willing to take care of me and if for some reason we have a bad relationship they're definitely not going to want to take care of me."

After that the conversation turned elsewhere, thankfully. It was all very lighthearted, though, which I appreciate. Another important point that I didn't mention to this gentleman is that it is grossly unfair to children to bring them into this world and expect them to care for you. I know that's what many people do, especially in the past when children were expected to be workers for the family, but I don't think that it is right. Or secure! Many children have wonderful relationships with their parents, but many don't. It's not exactly a reliable insurance plan.

I wasn't offended by this guy's reaction at all. In fact, I found it amusing...and saddening. It was like he had never before had the thought about voluntary childfreedom. Maybe today planted a seed that choosing not to have children is every much a real, legitimate and desirable option as choosing to have them.


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