– No individual makes their decisions in a vacuum. Sison’s decision is the result, not only of her… soul… (whatever you’d call the part of her that would stay the same no matter her circumstances) but of the force vectors that aligned to propel her towards that decision. (To indefinitely postpone parenthood.)
– S. is a handy case study for these reasons: she wrote the thing explicitly stating her case; is representative example of the subset of Filipinos who consider themselves intellectuals; an influential figure; my personal bias, because I’m also a lesbian
– Expose the force vectors; once we know what the resultant force is, and given some of the force vectors, we can reasonably postulate for the unknowns
“I wanted tiny versions of me to tell stories to and to talk about the ways of the world. I had this noble idea that creating a good person could change the world somehow. I also thought that reliving my childhood would be fun, and that I would learn the most about myself from being a parent.”
The original force vectors that could have pushed S. (and that do push most people) towards parenthood are already weak to begin with. These are sentimental wishes, not convictions.
She is also no longer under the influence of the force vector of social expectations (These are merely annoyances to her, there are no actual social sanctions that were imposed on her for making this decision, as opposed to many women in Philippine society who would face severe disapproval, possibly being shunned, from peers and family if they made the same decision)
Given the lack of these opposing forces, it only remained for these last force vectors to nudge her towards her final decision.
“My wife and I have decided that given our lives, location, and financial status, we simply are not built for parenthood right now.”
Nevertheless, it appears that these are the only relevant force vectors.
The force vector I want to focus on (the unknown, the one hardly ever spoken of) is the cultural devaluation of parenthood.
“I realized that there was still so much for me to discover as a person…”
“We are not in a state of life and mind to be able to fairly say that we can give a child the love, attention, and financial benefits he or she deserves… I say it with genuine sadness and a lot of hesitation as it never feels right to choose yourself over your children. But if the children are not yet born, inevitably this choice protects them.”
Since I assume that S., and most other Filipino intellectuals, would be able to afford decent clothing / shelter / education for a child if they absolutely had to, physical benefits aren’t really the issue.
“Choose yourself” is too vague to be useful for a point of argument, so let’s make reasonable assumptions about what that means.
1. To experience pleasure in life
2. To achieve personal goals of contributing to society
Thus, we can reframe the whole argument as
other things (both selfish (-) and unselfish (+)) > the value of parenthood
It is most important and realistic to frame decisions in terms of what one loses in choosing one option over the other, not just in terms of the gains.*
That’s what S. did – thought of her losses – I will lose time to do the things I want, I will lose the opportunities I wouldn’t be able to take with the added responsibility of a child.
But the assessment is no longer weighted fairly, because culture has devalued parenthood and made the gains look pitifully small in her eyes.
– the 18-43 childless age bracket being the tastemakers of society
– negative portrayal of parents in pop culture
– most parents on social media are ridiculous
– most of this generation’s own parents did not parent them well
– America being apparently a society of proud orphans and the Ph striving to emulate them despite being really a society of orphans desperate for loving parents
– the underestimation of the role of parents in shaping a person’s life
on the pleasure component of the equation (-) (the “selfish”)
1. To experience pleasure in life
Our generation has been duped into thinking that parenthood is necessarily the end of one’s social relevancy.
That you’re no longer cool
That there is no intrinsic fun in taking care of a child
2. To achieve personal goals of contributing to society (unselfish)
It is the responsibility of the older generation to take the bullet so that the younger generation has a chance. “I don’t know who the hell spilled all these banana peels and ball bearings,” says Mr. Middle-Aged Guy, “but I got to clean it up so the kids don’t trip over it.”
This is why CEOs step down and generals resign, it isn’t simply that “they are ultimately responsible” but that it is their job is to throw themselves on the grenade so that the area is cleared for everyone else, and if your CEO or general or father isn’t willing to do that, then you don’t actually have a CEO or general or father, you have a politician.
Our generation is also being duped into thinking that the problems of our society could possibly be solved by our generation.
This has 2 narcissistic implications
1. That we are capable of doing that
2. That we don’t need to sacrifice our lives for the next generation
– they rely on their children to give them self-worth
– they look at their children as extensions of their own identity
– smother them
– use horrifying methods of discipline
– spoil them
A culture of narcissism caused the devaluation of parenthood:
“My identity, which I have so carefully crafted, will change if I have a child.”
“I won’t be able to do a lot of the things I want to do.” (Taking pleasure in another person’s happiness is impossible for them, or it pales in comparison to the pleasure they can get in doing things on their own)
“The work I’m doing now will do more good for society than raising the next generation to continue my work.” (Said also the generation that raised us, and passed on a fucked-up country)
No external assistance can match the guidance that can be provided by a loving, devoted parent
Parenthood is not about you, it’s about the next generation. That generation grows up whether we personally choose to become parents or not. Becoming a parent is the only way to give a member of that generation a solid footing in that future world (and even then, it’s not a guarantee).
So parenthood isn’t “some noble idea” but rather a basic responsibility of every generation. One that was largely abandoned by the generation prior. The results speak for themselves.
You don’t have to love it wholeheartedly. Children can be annoying as fuck. But there’s a difference between not loving parenthood and hating it. A person who’s apprehensive about parenthood probably has a better idea of what it entails than somebody who leaps into it headlong. Being a good parent is really, really, really hard.
Since more and more intellectuals choose not to become parents, the task of raising the next generation falls to people who are… less qualified
It’s true that having a child when you aren’t ready is selfish, but also:
having a child when unready < choosing not to have children < making personal sacrifices for children
The force vector that pushes a lot of people towards parenthood (which S. mentions) is that it’s the default.
Like, it’s just the thing you do. Get married, have kids.
But behind that force there is nothing. Also, it’s an external force. It comes from other people.
It’s wrong, not because it’s the default per se, but because it’s external.
Parenthood should be the default, but driven by an internal conviction.
Like, it’s the thing you do, not because it’s expected of you, but just because it’s right.
It’s like a person in a household who takes the responsibility of shoveling snow out of the driveway.** The person who’ll keep doing it, and doing it well, is the one who does it just because. If there is any other reason – like allowance, or a nagging wife or whatever – when that reason is removed, the person will stop doing it, because people are not virtuous and noble by default.
The end result of shoveling the driveway, of course, is that the whole household gets to use the driveway safely. But using that reason to power a person, to get him or her out of bed at 5am when it’s cold and they’re barely awake, is something that would be draining and eventually (possibly) create resentment (“If it weren’t for you I could stay snug in bed til whenever I want.”) The most consistently powerful force is just because. The person gets out and does the job because it’s their responsibility as a person. They don’t waste time mulling the complexities of the decision (“I’m better at making breakfast than shoveling snow, should I do that instead?” “Why can’t Dad do this? Why me?” “My parka doesn’t provide enough warmth.” “If I fall while shoveling, the medical bills will bankrupt the family.” etc)
In the same way, parenthood should remain the default, but for a different reason (just because) than what it used to be (social expectation).
There are never any guarantees. S., and most other people who don’t want children, probably want complete certainty that their children will turn out well before they choose parenthood. That will never happen, there are too many factors. You most certainly could fall while shoveling, and your medical bills could very well bankrupt the family. Your child could become a drug addict, or a young Republican, or just simply a selfish brat. But you do it anyway, as best as you can. You shovel the driveway. You raise your child.
And you make the sacrifices, not only because of your child but because it’s who you are. The force is internal. Your child will never have to hear, “If it weren’t for you…” or feel the thought unconsciously coming from you, from your actions and the way you treat them, because you didn’t make the sacrifices for them against another, opposing part of yourself. You made them because that’s the kind of person you are.
*Ex., If I decide to get in shape, I will have less time to relax in bed masturbating because I have to exercise.) If this step is skipped, the unexpected loss can derail the plan (not having mentally prepared myself for being deprived of masturbation, I could overestimate my ability to spend long periods exercising.
**This is an especially useful analogy because snow falling is inevitable and out of anyone’s control, like the rise of the next generation; also, it’s somewhat a difficult task.