Just say no: society’s subliminal pressure to reproduce

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With the population of the world reaching over 7 billion last October, my desire to not have children was cemented. The decision is very personal, and based around a variety of factors, yet whenever I mention my choice to friends it is always met with outright shock; at times even anger.

I feel that the shocked reaction of friends and family outlines the real issue, a complete ignorance of the growing global populace. Not only is there a selfish insistence on our right to have children, but more importantly there is also a huge pressure on women to do this. In spite of a lack of resources, lack of money and various other reasons, we are still told that having children is the right (and best) thing we can do with our lives. While a variety of ‘green issues’ will be covered over the upcoming ‘go green’ week, I doubt anyone will raise the true problem; our unstoppable global population.

Civilisation is currently at a cross-roads in relation to this particular dilemma, because while we are aware that something has to be done, given our love of individual liberty, it’s uncertain whether we can actually do anything to stop it. To implement a global one child policy like China’s is not only logistically impractical but creates more issues than it solves; namely how would it be enforced and would anyone agree with it? An other apparent option would be to enforce a restriction on the growth would be some form of enforce or promoted sterilisation; yet this posits the exact same dilemma.

I would argue that the solution does not rest in actions, but in a total attitude adjustment. I am not alone in my decision to not re-produce, but there is a great deal of social stigma in admitting this; particularly if the speaker is female. We are told from the outset that having children is the only purpose for our lives, that to not do so would be a failure and that it is also the most magical thing you can do. I do not dispute the possibility of the latter, but is it really the best thing that we can do? To speak out and say ‘you don’t need a child to be happy’ is highly controversial and has the tendency to label the spokesperson a career-hungry monster, but this shouldn’t be the case.

Something clearly needs to be done as estimates for the population in 2020 are as high as 15.8 billion, yet the plotlines of most soaps or novels rest on pregnancy or children. Our government is deep in debt and yet continues to tell us subliminally that having children is good, tempting us with benefits during and immediately after pregnancy then every other week until the child is over 16. There is clearly a problem with modern society, yet very few seem to recognise that we are our own worst enemies. We are the problem.

It is true that the number of births has decreased since the cost of raising a child has grown, with some figures saying that as many as 60% of people in the UK cannot afford a second child, but is this enough? It still fails to really address the issue of societal pressure that surrounds children. There needs to be a dynamic shift in attitude. I’m not saying that people should not have or raise children, just that we should become less selfish and realise that there are other alternatives. To not have a child does not remove the possibility of adoption. With recent estimates suggesting there are as many as 17 million double-orphans, perhaps instead of society pushing us towards having our own child, the positives of adoption should be promoted. More importantly the process itself should be made easier for those involved.

I want to enforce that I am not attacking those who have children, nor those who really want to have children. What I am trying to address is that which pushes people to blindly conform to what has been before us. Now is the time to change our mind-set, now is the era to address why we have children, and really question if it is something that we want, rather than something to just ‘do’. In the time that it has taken you to read this article, 200 more children have been born, take the state of the world into account and question your motives behind wanting children.

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