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  • Modern societies are pretty  much in agreement on this score:  

  • having children is one of the most meaningful and  delightful moves anyone can make. Couples who do  

  • notfor whatever reasonhave children tend  to be automatically almost universally pitied and  

  • are assumed to have been denied the chance to have  offspring by biology. That one might freely choose  

  • not to have children, and yet be reasonably  content with one's choice, remains one of the  

  • most disturbing and unfathomed of all modern positions.

  • The basic dynamics of whether or not to have  children follow the very same pattern that we see  

  • across a range of other so-called great choices  in emotional life: whether or not to get married,  

  • whether or not to stay faithful, whether to follow  the path of reason or the calls of the heartWe  

  • observe a very strong desire to try to identify  the 'right' choice accompanied by a frighteningly  

  • utopian belief that, once this choice has been  located, we will be able to flourish and find  

  • peace.But the reality is very different, much more  sombre and more interesting: the large dilemmas of  

  • emotional life generally have no 'answer' in the  sense of a response that doesn't – somewhere along  

  • the lineentail a great loss and an element of  extraordinary sacrifice. Whatever we choose will,  

  • in this sense, be wrong, and leave us regretting  some features of the choices we did not make.  

  • There is no such thing as a cost-free choice,  a line of argument which continues (oddly) to  

  • create surprise in contemporary life. Making a good  choice simply involves focusing on what variety of  

  • suffering we are best suited torather than  aiming with utopian zeal to try to avoid grief  

  • and regret altogether. Consider, for examplethe varieties of suffering that are on offer  

  • on both sides of the faithful/unfaithful ledgerboth options will at moments be very miserable,  

  • sowhen weighing up how to lead our liveswe  should work on knowing as much as possible about  

  • our specific taste in misery.

  • Let's look at a table; Monogamythe Misery, a Sense of Confinement, a Correct  

  • impression that 'life is elsewhere', IrritabilityNarrow horizons, Sexual abandonment

  • What about on the other side: Mulitple partners. What will be the misery there?

  • There will be chaos, angry ex's, loneliness long term, Damaged children, Guilt. The very same  

  • kind of trade-offs exist over the question of  children. No honest experience of parenting  

  • is complete without an intermittent very strong  impression that in some ways children are both the  

  • meaning of one's life and the cause of the ruin  of one's life. Children: the Misery Disappointment  

  • with oneself as a parent, Disappointment with how  they turn out, Guilt, exhaustion, lost opportunity  

  • Sense of perpetuating human suffering, House sticky everywhere. What about no Children:  

  • What's the Misery there? Society's constant message that one has 'missed out' Loneliness/boredom Lack of constant  

  • distraction/calls on one's timeSentimental  longing for comfort of children by the time one reaches the nursing home.  

  • The insight that all choices are, in a sensehellish, was best expressed by the early 19th  

  • century Danish Existential philosopher Soren  Kierkegaard, who summed up our options in a  

  • playful, but bleakly realistic and exasperated  outburst in his masterpiece, "Either/Or":  

  • Marry, and you will regret it; don't marry, you  will also regret it; marry or don't marry, you  

  • will regret it either way. Laugh at the world's  foolishness, you will regret it; weep over it,  

  • you will regret that too; laugh at the world's  foolishness or weep over it, you will regret both.  

  • Believe a woman, you will regret it; believe  her not, you will also regret itHang yourself,  

  • you will regret it; do not hang yourself, and you  will regret that too; hang yourself or don't hang  

  • yourself, you'll regret it either way; whether  you hang yourself or do not hang yourself,  

  • you will regret both. This, gentlemenis the essence of all philosophy.”  

  • We deserve pityas does everyone  else. We will make disastrous decisions,  

  • we will form mistaken relationships, we will  embark on misguided careers, we will invest  

  • our savings foolishly, we will spend years  on friendships with unreliable idiotsand  

  • we will get it mostly wrong around childrenBut we can we be consoled by a bitter truth:  

  • there are no painless options, for the  conditions of existence are intrinsically  

  • rather than accidentally frustrating. We can't  get through the tunnel of life without a mauling.  

  • For those of us contemplating whether or not to  have children, the message is dark but consoling  

  • in its bleakness: you will be at points very  unhappy whatever you choose. With either option,  

  • you will feel that you have ruined your lifeand  you will be correct. We do not need to add to our  

  • misery by insisting that there would have been  another, better way. There is, curiously, relief  

  • to be found in the knowledge of the inevitability  of suffering. It is, in the end, never darkness  

  • that dooms us, but the wrong sort of hope in  that most cruel of fantasies: 'the right choice'.

Modern societies are pretty  much in agreement on this score:  

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B1 regret misery hang choice marry life

To Have or Not to Have Children

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    林宜悉 posted on 2021/03/10
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