Our first child was the result of an accidental pregnancy 6 months into knowing each other, so the deliberation phase went: ‘OHHHHHHHmygodthisisallgoingfasterthanithoughitwouldbutweloveeachothersoyesletsdothis’. She arrived 3 weeks early and it felt like she wanted to be born, that she had to be part of our lives. She’s a hilarious weirdo with a penchant for stripping and singing out of tune and we both love her so much.
In the past two and a half years of her life we’ve done all the things that you’re supposed to do when you have kids: gotten married, moved to a house in the suburbs, bought all the modern day parenting paraphernalia (breast pumps, tiny vibrating deck chairs, corner softeners, special baby food blenders..), gone on holiday in a Centreparks… but taking the next obvious step in our domestic lives and trying to have another baby is causing me an existential crisis.
We’ve delayed even thinking about having another child until this point partly because we’ve been busy moving house and organising a wedding, but mainly because my arm muscles have been weakened from a work related repetitive strain injury and I didn’t think I would be able to cope with lifting and carrying two very young children. Now that we no longer have floral arrangements and seating plan conundrums to deal with, and our first child is able to do more for herself, we can begin deciding whether or not we want to try for another.
My husband and I don’t want to leave making the decision for too long because of how we feel about our respective ages and general health; I’m 33, and he is 41 and we both think that we only have another couple of years to have another child.
I realise in this modern age of lack of sleep, contaminated food, stress, noise pollution, air pollution, hormones and chemicals leaching into drinking water, financial need to have children later etc., we are incredibly lucky to be fairly sure that after getting pregnant easily the first time we have the option of having another child in the next couple of years with minimal medical help. I know many couples struggle with fertility issues and I feel awful for their situation. However, just because we probably can reproduce doesn’t mean that we should and I feel that I should be able to discuss this decision openly.
These are the thoughts that chase round my head when I think about having a second child (in no particular order):
- ‘Once you have two kids you’ll feel like a proper family!’
I feel under societal pressure to have a second child. Having only one child seems to be viewed as being something to be pitied or as selfish, whereas having two children seems to be regarded as the perfect ‘normal’ amount of children for a proper family to have.
- If we have a second child I don’t have to think about it anymore
Deciding to have another child is obviously a huge decision, but it almost seems easier to make the decision than not to, as that way you are taking action and doing something (and it’s something you can never change your mind about), whereas deciding to have only one child is a non-active decision that we continually need to keep on reconfirming. Just to stop having to think about it, or answer any more questions about when we are next going to procreate it is tempting to have another one.
- Nature vs nurture
I think I and my husband have good genes. We’re intelligent (if a good measure of that is how well one does in school), healthy-ish (we’re both so-far serious disease free, but I have severe RSI in both arms and my husband suffers from it in his right arm on and off, so if there is any genetic predisposition for this kind of injury given the proliferation of screens in modern life this is probably not an attribute we want to pass down to future generations), attractive-ish (we’re slim and our faces are mostly symmetrical) and we are… what other attributes are a consideration when it comes to genes one is passing down? Is there an empathetic gene? Will that even be useful in the age of robots and emoticons?
Studies have shown that we share 99.9% of our genetic material with a random stranger and 85% with a mouse so are our genes specifically worth passing on to another child?
Is it nature or nurture that is more important, or genes only expressing themselves if they are given the right conditions to thrive? I think it is the latter. I don’t think we are born individuals with a personality and level of intelligence that is immutable and unchangeable. I think we are incredibly social creatures who will adapt and develop dependent on whatever environment and social structure we find ourselves in, so how, where and when we bring up our children is much more important than what particular combination of genes they have.
In essence I don’t think it’s necessary for us to reproduce to pass on our specific genes, as that’s not the whole story of what makes us ‘us’ and those things of us that are ‘us’ our thoughts, feelings, ideas, creative works can be passed on in means unrelated to blood ties.
If we do choose to reproduce however it’s very important for us to consider the type of childcare we can provide, and how our children are likely to be influenced by the where and when they grow up in; the environment, society and technology that they will be immersed in. (‘Kids these days’ by Malcolm Harris is an interesting book on how the millennial generation has grown up).
- The environmental question
In terms of our immediate environment, luckily for us we have enough money (at the moment at least) to be able ensure that our children will have a warm, safe home and sufficient food and water. We can also afford and have the time to make sure that their food is varied and healthy: very little processed food, home cooked meals with no added sugar, and lots of fruit and vegetables, about a third of which are organic.
We don’t have enough money (does anybody?) to protect them from the diesel polluted air we live in or from the noise pollution created by the aeroplanes overhead. We can’t control or protect them from all the hormones and chemicals they will be exposed to from the consumer goods/paints/plastics/medicines that they will come into contact with or drink in the water supply, and the likely detrimental effects on their health these will have. We can only hope that we will continue to be part of a national health system or will be can afford private health care in future if these systems are dismantled.
In terms of our wider environment we can’t protect them from the fact that the animals in their books will probably be extinct outside of zoos by the time they grow up due to habitat loss. That the oceans are acidifying and filling with tiny plastics that get into the food chain. That already more extreme weather events are happening, that soil degradation and drought/flooding mean arable and heavily populated land is being destroyed and mass migration is occurring as a result.
We can give them a British passport so maybe they will be on the safer side of whatever border controls are put up to keep out the other people rushing to escape the damage (who are for the most part not the people who caused it in the first place), but what kind of solution is this? Not a brilliant long term one either ethically or practically given Britain relies massively on imported food and a large part of its costal area is probably going to end up under water.
Are these things inevitably just going to get worse and worse or can they still be reversed in our children’s lifetime?
With regards to the issue of climate change, every so often there is a media report about the actions you as an individual/family can take to tackle it and having fewer children comes out top:
Then there is the backlash that says it’s not up to us as individuals/families, rather it is up to rich individuals/families https://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2017/7/14/15963544/climate-change-individual-choices or up to big corporations who cause most of the damage:
These conflicting points of view make it difficult to know if not having more children is a step one should seriously consider if you want to make a difference. However, I’d like to point out the link between the arguments and say that individuals/families as part of reducing their own carbon footprint and destroying corporations that cause most of climate change could choose not to work for/run any of these corporations (I wonder how many of these corporations still are family owned/used to be family owned and now who’s largest shareholders are dynastic families like the Koch brothers?).
The top thing you could do as an individual to reduce climate change right now should surely be: CHOOSE A NON-ENVIRONMENTALLY DESTRUCTIVE JOB (can we have rankings of environmentally destructive jobs and enter those into carbon footprint calculations for individuals?) instead of not having a child, which affects future carbon releases.
I know this is obviously easier said than done given at the lower end of the pay scale people often have no choice about what job they take, and at the higher end these are often interesting jobs that are one of the few options to give the financial security necessary to raise a family in the first place.
However, to ensure the survival of everyone’s families and children we need for this generation of engineering students to collectively refuse to go into these industries, and for transition plans to be put in place and carried out to put these corporations out of business.
This is probably going to have to involve a universal basic income/jobs guarantee to ensure the people who work for these firms can continue to support their families, and that current and future engineering students have alternative career paths available.
We also have to accept that if these companies are wound down all of our lifestyles as individuals/families are going to have to change anyway. The switch to renewable energy sources will mean living more in sync with the localised weather and land area that we live in. It will mean less energy intensive lives, no war, living in only one property, greatly reduced air and car travel, less meat and animal product consumption, localised food production, fewer clothes that we wash less often, less personalised electronic equipment, quite possibly fewer medical interventions (although these should be less necessary if we have less pollution, stop eating processed food and walk and cycle more) and spending much more time working together to decide upon the use and division of resources. No more valorising competition, instead focus on cooperation, which may well mean the death of capitalism. (Andrew Malms book Fossil Capital is very interesting on this issue; how historically steam power did not take over water power because there was a shortage of water power, but because water power required cooperation between competing mills and was therefore an anathema to capitalism).
Why not try to get used to this situation sooner rather than later and take measures to cut our individual carbon footprints and show that it can be done without hardship, and in many cases with joy?
As a person in a family who is comparatively ‘rich’ compared to most human beings on the planet but who is nowhere near the top 1% I’ve been trying to cut our families carbon footprint. Neither I nor my husband work for any of the firms most responsible for climate change. We live in a small, energy efficient house and our children will have to share a room as they grow up. As a family we limit ourselves to two return flights a year or less each, and I’m trying to cut down on meat consumption and add more vegetarian recipes to our weekly meals. I can’t drive, so whilst on the weekend we often go on family car trips, during the week we walk/cycle/ take public transport. We were given most of the clothes, toys, books and other baby things as hand me downs for our first child and we could reuse them again on the second one. They collect food waste in our neighbourhood so the food a baby flings around can at least be composted.
Even with taking these measures an additional child for us is going to be in no way carbon neutral. The nappies going to landfill. We’ll probably need a larger car. Extra stuff will inevitably be purchased. However, it won’t enlarge our smallish family carbon footprint by that much more and we will be bringing up our children to not waste things, to appreciate nature and to try to change the way things are for the better, so perhaps I don’t need to feel too guilty?
Surely though I would be able to help work towards a different future more fully if I am not mired in nappy changes and suffering from sleep deprivation after having a second child? Or is it ridiculous to think that I as a partially disabled housewife can do anything at all? Should I just stop worrying about it and leave the solution up to Elon Musk?
But not even he can do anything that will change the levels of noise, air, hormone, micro-plastic and chemical pollution that another child would face in the immediate future and that I have to take into account when considering whether or not to have another child.
It is heart-breaking but when thinking about the effects of another child on the environment, and the effects of the current environment on another child I lean towards the conclusion that not having another child would be best.
- Modern society and the messages it promotes are not the ones I want my children to listen to
The competitive, individualistic outlook fostered by our neoliberal economy which is based on the principle of human selfishness generating maximum profits somehow being best for all of us. Our consumer culture that pushes us to buy more and more. The loneliness, anxiety and depression that these things generate. (What About Me? by Paul Verhaege is interesting on this subject.)
The only way I can think to protect my children from this is to bring them up in a way that is antithetical to this ethos. To do this my husband and I are trying to follow the principles laid out in Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn.
I’d highly recommend reading the book, but in brief they are: no punishment, no praise and no bribes, and instead talking through situations and problem solving with your child to foster intrinsically motivated rather than extrinsically motivated behaviour and not just blind obedience, creating an environment where the child knows they are loved unconditionally, promoting cooperation and sharing rather than competition and attachment to material possessions, leading by example (rules around screen time and eating vegetables apply equally to you and the child), and giving the child genuine choices rather than situations where you ask them to make a choice but you clearly will allow them to do only one thing.
All of these principles are very time consuming and require high amounts of empathetic energy to apply, especially when your child is very young and will scream blue murder over the impunity of you trying to put on their jacket before they go outside.
Given that most schools are very exam focused and geared to foster competition for grades and sports and behaviour (collect more gold stars if you are good!), rather than promoting a love of learning that goes beyond memorising and regurgitating facts for exams, this methodology also require you to get more involved in their wider education as they get older to help them find what they are really interested in and develop their critical thinking skills.
Beyond the principles in the book, I also don’t want my children to be fixated on image and consumerism, and instead have an appreciation of the natural world and use their own imagination. This means no shopping trips together or social media for as long as possible, highly regulated TV watching (none at all until they are three) and supervised internet use, taking them outdoors at every opportunity, clothing them in hand me downs, teaching them to fix things and make up their own toys, games and stories.
I never want them to worry about their weight. This means eating whole non-processed foods cooked from scratch with no added sugar as much as possible, so they can trust their bodies to tell them when they are full, and will have energy to do whatever they want. (Watch ‘Sugar the bitter truth’ on Youtube by Dr Robert Lustig). No juice, no soft drinks, no sweets and cakes handed out as ‘treats’ (why do we equate sugar with love?), and instead cooking and eating together as a family so they gain an appreciation for how important food is, how connected it is to your health and how utterly pointless calorie counting and a fixation on being ‘thin’ is.
I don’t think any of these ideas are outlandish ways to bring up children, or should be dismissed as ‘hippy’. I think they will help my children to be happy, healthy, creative, intelligent, engaged citizens.
Unfortunately, given the heavy academic pressure on students from a very young age to achieve high grades at the detriment of actually learning, the abundance of heavily marketed cheap processed food and drink that wreak havoc on our bodies ability to tell when we are full combined with the bombardment of advertising images that tell us what a ‘perfect’ body looks like, our culture of fast fashion and the ubiquity of screens and social media glamourizing being rich and famous, the heavy emphasis on sporting achievement which embeds competitive norms, it is going to be an uphill and incredibly time consuming job as a parent to live by them.
I’m already struggling with trying to parent like this for one child and fear that with two I may lose patience altogether and then…what is it that I’m worried about exactly?
That I’ll have a couple of depressed teenagers with eating disorders addicted to their phones shuffling about my house, constantly having nervous breakdowns about exams and hassling me for money to buy new clothes and computer games, who (if they are able to find employment at all) will go on to get jobs in something socially destructive/useless like advertising.
This is not me having low expectations of the ‘youth’ of today. This is me having such a low opinion of modern society that I don’t want to bring another child up in it because it takes a bloody village to bring up a child and it is exhausting trying to carve out and create that village from the mess that our global connected village is.
- My ideal childcare arrangement:
For me, an ideal childcare situation would be both parents having to take 12-18 months off with full pay to look after their child (which they could take at any time during the first 3 years), so that for the first 2-3 years the child would be at home with one or both parents. As a general rule I’d like all jobs to operate on a 4 day week with 6 hour days, so after the first 2-3 years the child could be put into day care for 3 days a week, and parents alternate the other days of childcare. As all parents would be doing this, there would be plenty of opportunities to share childcare with friends and neighbours and in return have more time for leisure/eldercare/participation in politics and the local community. Eldercare and childcare facilities would be combined as much as possible so that the older generation can be more active in the local community and hopefully divides in generational thinking and competition between generations for resources can be lessened.
Reproductive labour, the labour of caring, would be made more central to everybody’s lives and distributed more evenly, so that nobody would be in the situation where they are caring for other people’s children/elderly without making enough money or having enough time to look after their own family and having help to do so.
Obviously this would require a radical change in the way we organise work and our society, and is not currently an option, which is a bummer.
- Actual childcare options
As I have problems with my arms I can’t go back to full-time work, and my husband has a well-paid job, by default he is the one who needs to stay in work.
Both of our families live overseas, and so although we visit them 3 or 4 times a year, we cannot ask them for regular help. We could afford a crèche (in Belgium they take them in crèches from the age of 3 months, for a minimum of 2 and half days a week) or to hire a nanny for 15 hours a week or so, and have a cleaner one morning a week, without me working, or for longer if I did go back to part-time work.
In the absence of being able to share the childcare with my husband and our extended family, because I am the person who will love them the most, who is the most likely to be in their life for the longest period of time, who will follow the parenting principles we want to apply, and who is the most highly educated and creative person that we can afford to have look after them, I think it is best if I stay at home with them for the first few years to be their primary carer.
In practice our first child was mainly at home with me until she was 2 years old (my husband went part time for 3 months when she was 8 months old and had Fridays with her), and then she started at a local volunteer run French speaking playgroup for a couple of mornings a week. At 2 and half she now goes to playgroup 3 mornings a week, has a babysitter one morning a week and I take it in turns with a neighbour one afternoon a week to watch both of our children. She will start a local French language school just before she turns 3, and she’ll go for half days until we think she is ready for full days. As school is not compulsory till she is 6, she can mainly do 4 day weeks until then. My husband works hard to ensure that he is home in time in the evenings to do the bedtime routine, and luckily he does not have to travel much for work or work on the weekends.
I think what we have done so far has been the best mix of childcare for our daughter, with also the least amount of exploitation of anybody else’s labour that I could manage.
My definition of none labour exploitation is if someone has job security, if they are paid enough that they can afford a good standard of living, have leisure time and time to care for their own family and are respected for the job they do. Obviously this is something which very few people have at the moment in this age of precarious work contracts, stagnating pay, and high levels of inequality, and is certainly not the norm for those who work in childcare or who are domestic labourers.
Our cleaner who comes once a week for 4 hours we hire through Titres Service, which is subsidised by the government so that she has holiday and sick pay, and there is a strict maximum number of hours she can work. Our babysitter is a student who we pay cash in hand 10 euros an hour during the day, and 15 at night. This is above the minimum hourly wage but only includes the 3 – 6 hours a week she works for us, and we don’t pay her if she or our daughter is ill. If she were to continue this kind of work even by maximising the number of hours she worked it is unlikely to be enough to live on or start a family with, and so I do feel guilty about this situation. She is so good with our daughter, so patient and funny and kind and the hours to myself to read or write or draw so invaluable to me that I know I should be paying her far, far more. And the helpers who run the playgroup my daughter goes to are volunteers! We pay 10 euros a morning for administration costs, and for everything else I assume they get some kind of subsidy from the Belgian government.
With this amount of help, I’m not sure I can repeat the process again for another child. Things would be slightly different second time around; we’ll know more, our daughter could help with entertaining the baby, and we won’t be moving house and getting married again which will make things easier. However I can easily imagine that after a sleepless night up with a baby the only way I’m going to be able to deal with my first child after she comes home from school is going to be shoving her in front of the TV.
Should I just accept that I will need more help and make my decision based upon putting our second child into crèche/hiring a nanny for a good part of the week? Accept that the way our current society organises work and reproductive labour is not as I would like it to be and structure our family life accordingly?
Does accepting the system mean entrenching it further? Another rich person’s child being looked after by mainly low-paid female immigrants because the nuclear family and our current distribution of work doesn’t work. Another link in the chain of outsourcing care in which there always has to be someone at the bottom like the 60 million left behind children in rural China and the elderly accused of bed blocking hospitals when there is nowhere else for them to go.
- Having a sibling for our daughter
Our daughter loves looking after her toys. She breastfeeds them, she tucks them in, she pats them on the back when they are sad, she pushes them around in their prams all the time. She once said to me: ‘I have a baby in my tummy. A baby girl. When she comes out she’s going to play with me’. I think for the most part she would love to have a sibling and would be very helpful when it comes to looking after them.
Both my husband and I count our siblings among our best friends, so we know how important siblings can be. However, both my husband and I moved countries and continents several times whilst we were growing up, and so our siblings were the only people we had who stayed constant and had similar life experiences and cultural references to us.
My husband and I are not planning on moving around very much (due to Brexit we will probably have to move back to the UK earlier than expected, but that will hopefully be our only move), and so I’m hoping neighbours, school friends and the wider community will be much more of a constant presence in her life, and that we will be able to be in close contact with her cousins and extended family.
On one hand it seems insane to worry that an only child will be lonely when there are billions of other human beings on the planet a large proportion of whom are connected by the internet, but given we want to raise her in a slightly alternative way which may make her a bit different to her peers, having a sibling who is raised in a similar way would mean that at least she would have someone physically present who understands her to talk to.
There is also the issue of what happens when we get older and need taking care of. Our daughter having a sibling would mean that she could share the responsibility for our care and have someone to commiserate with when we die. (However, there is also a large part of me that doesn’t think many people are going to survive post 2050 due to climate change and environmental destruction triggering a global war and civilisation collapse so our care in old age is not something we need to factor too highly into our decision.)
- Nuclear family obsession
These ideas that she needs a sibling to have a friend and support to look after us when we are old come down to our cultures obsession with the nuclear family (for a brilliant book on this read Melinda Coopers ‘Family Values’). As we have reduced state welfare systems and destroyed communities with our constant moving around and individual focus (that always gets blurred with individual families as children cannot be expected to survive independently) we have increased our reliance on the nuclear family structure to provide care for free. Marriage and family is a safety net. To be single and childless (whether you are gay or straight or trans or bi or however you express your sexuality) is to worry that you will die alone in poverty and ill health.
Despite the fact that the nuclear family is not enough to look after a child (I refer to my tirade on the current childcare situation) if a child in my community is not mine they are nothing to do with me. I am not expected to care for them or look after any of them financially (beyond the very minimum I can get away with in paying in tax), and similarly they are not expected to care for me when I am old/ in ill-health.
Most of us have only weak ties with our community and even our friends. Our status and security in old age depends on our nuclear family, and to that end having another child would probably be the right balance of being able to provide enough for them both financially and attentionally, but would also increase our possible status and influence, hedge against the risk of one of them having a serious accident, and leave at least one of them able to provide our care in old age free of charge.
Or does it help that our first child is a girl and so more likely to provide our care in old age? More likely to do well in school and have the empathy and communication skills needed/less able to be reproduced by robots for the future world of work? Less likely to commit suicide or be in a serious accident as a teenager/young adult? Do we need to hedge our bets and have another one and so spread our financial and attentional assets over two ‘investments’ rather than focus on one and bring her (emphasis on HER) to her full potential? (The Netflix documentary ‘The masks we wear’ shows the problems caused for boys by our culture of toxic masculinity).
All these horrible future calculations reducing children to financial ideas of investment and risk that judge outcomes based on the current system and so help to entrench it further. I shouldn’t have to worry that she when she is young or us when we are old will not have any people who love and care for us unless they are directly related to us. The future should be open. We could experiment with new ways to live untethered to the nuclear family, with more community based care provision. ‘Male’ and ‘female’ roles could change and blur further, so that no predictions based on a person’s sex at birth could be made. Real freedoms in the way we live (not just an Amazon style shopping freedom to buy whatever you want as long as you can afford it) should be possible. (Raoul Martinez ‘Creating Freedom is very good on this subject).
- Individualised culture making it harder to be a ‘mother’
Margaret Thatcher famously said ‘They are casting their problems at society. And, you know, there’s no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families.’
This dichotomy between the focus on individuality in our culture and the blurring into families is born mostly mothers (who tend to be thought of as the default primary carers) who have to deal with the conflicting needs to ‘invest’ in themselves and care for another human being at the same time.
I feel under pressure to invest in myself lest I become obsolete. I need to continually add to my C.V.; gain skills and keep up to date with industry changes and regulations, learn at least a second language, gain/maintain a perfect body, travel widely, curate my wardrobe and live in an instagramable house .. none of which can be done to the same extent once you have children, especially if you stay at home to look after them.
Time spent looking after children doesn’t count towards investing in yourself. I can’t put ‘mother’ on my C.V. and expect that to justify 3 years being out of the work, or demonstrate skills in caring and time management. Everything I give to her our current culture is telling me I’m taking away valuable marketable job skills and experience from myself. Changing a nappy is not a transferable skill. It’s something that can be done by someone who has a lower level of education than I do.
When of course it’s not really like this. Work is rarely a place where you can fulfil your potential, self-actualize, develop as a human being, flourish or what have you. Usually it’s a place of management bullshit, low level bullying, meaningless power struggles, endless bureaucracy and pointless meetings interspersed with the rare moments of productivity, interest and empowerment which are used to generate profit for those at the top of the chain and the shareholders. (I say this as someone who has worked for AECOM, ARUP, KPMG, Unilever, Accenture, and CBRE.) And being at home is not to be disparaged and seen as a low skill activity. Caring and reproductive labour has always been an incredibly important and difficult task. And now bringing up a child who is going to be able to cope with the 21st century and compete against robots? When education budgets are being slashed and there is a whole internet world of mindless cartoons and videos to distract them, alongside constant advertising for food products that are detrimental to their health, gambling, pornography and an unachievable, computer enhanced narrow version of human beauty to supposedly strive for? When walking to the playground is a health hazard because of the diesel fumes and 4 by 4s driving too fast and not stopping at pedestrian crossings because everyone is on their smartphone in a mad rush to do something? It’s bloody impossible!
This is not to say that caring for her is not fun, because a lot of the time it is, she’s hilarious. And holding and hugging her is like being plugged into a battery. I hate that internalized boss in my head who is negatively judging my C.V. and achievements over the past 3 years who wants to take away the joy that comes from looking after her and I try to ignore them as much as possible, but it does dampen my desire to stay at home and look after another child the way I have done with her.
- What will I do if I don’t have another child?
I suppose part of my problem with coming to a decision comes down to the fact that I don’t want to go back to normal work (I think a job would be difficult to find in Belgium given the problems with my arms and my inability to speak French or Dutch fluently, but not impossible), but I do want to have time to do other things than childcare in the next 3 years, and I’m not entirely sure how to justify this situation.
If I don’t need to get another job for financial reasons and I choose not to, how do I also choose not to look after our second child if I technically have the time and ability to do so?
What is it that I’m going to be doing if I’m not working or looking after another child? Now that she’s 2 and a half it’s already getting to the point that saying I don’t have a job and I’m staying at home to look after my child is not a good enough validation of my existence without another a bun in the oven (to whom exactly am I worried that my time-sheet for the week is not sufficiently full?).
Should I pop out another sprog as I know I’m fairly good at it and put off existential questions about what I’m doing with my life for another few years, or start facing those questions when she starts school in January?
Will I (as many people seem to think) start longing for another child once she’s at school and I have more time? Will this be because I really want one, or because I can’t create another existence outside of work, reproductive or salaried?
I want to draw cartoons and paint and write. I want to get more involved politically. I want to set up a voluntary language learning exchange with the old persons home nearby (as a foreigner in Brussels I need someone to practice my diabolical French with, and elderly people in retirement homes often want someone to chat to so I think it could be a mutually beneficial situation). I want to grow vegetables and take the time to buy food in the local market and learn more vegetarian/vegan recipes to cook at home. I want to have the time to teach my daughter things that are outside of the school curriculum.
But what does this matter if these things are delayed by 3 more years to look after another child? The world will still be here, right?(???)
Where does all of this leave me?
I feel pressure to have another child, and at the same time I know that I would love to have another child and would do so in a heartbeat if the world outside my door was different. If I knew they would be wanted, not just by our family or as another consumer to sell to or a cog in a big data machine to drive the accumulation of wealth to an incredibly small amount of people, but as a human being. If childcare could be shared more equally between myself and my husband, our extended family and our community instead of me and an exploited group of low-paid mainly female and immigrant labourers. If ecologically we weren’t destroying ourselves and that the quality of our air, water and food were not being continually degraded and if another rich child would not just add to that destruction.
If I thought they would have a future worth having.
Basically I feel like screaming/printing a passive aggressive tote bag with the slogan: ‘MY WOMB IS ON STRIKE UNTIL MY CHILD WILL HAVE A FUTURE WORTH HAVING.
I demand we phase out fossil fuels, invest in renewable energy and public transport systems, stop mindless obsession with GDP growth and instead switch to de-growth doughnut style steady state economics that is not reliant on debt (and in the process completely change the parasitical financial industry), have a four day week, equal distribution of care work, implement basic income/jobs guarantee, have global tax justice…. Until this happens I will not reproduce!!!!