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& today's intellectual debate ....... (WWW, I am trying!!!!)

(37 Posts)
Bugsy2 Wed 08-Jun-05 10:18:36

In one of the more hotly debated threads the other day, a couple of posters argued "what was the point of having children if you were going to....."
I had never thought about that before and it got me thinking. Is there a point to having children - or do we have children simply to perpetuate our species?

WideWebWitch Wed 08-Jun-05 10:40:03

You are indeed trying bugsy, as is suzywong who asked an interesting question re Africa too today, to which I gave a very shallow and uninformed reply (I almost wish I hadn't whinged publically now, it means I have to respond reasonably intelligently or I'll be slagged off! Or maybe I'll be slagged off anyway, oh well, if I can't take it I shouldn't have dished it out I suppose)

This is an interesting question. That phrase usually ends 'dump them with someone else/never see them' doesn't it? I'm NOT agreeing with it btw, just my observation - that kind of pejorative language is usually used too. I don't think most people say 'what's the point of having children if you're going to be a stay at home mum' do they? So I guess most people who use the former phrase think the point of having them is to bring them up well (in order that they contrbute to society? Look after them in their old age? Who knows?) BUT they feel that this can only be achieved by being a SAHP. I disagree of course.

What is the point of having children? Hmmm, I don't think there are many logical good reasons for having children: if you list pros and cons on a piece of paper before you have them (as I did when accidentally pregnant with ds) there aren't many pros. But you can't understand the pros before you have a child anyway imo and e. So having children isn't a logical thing if one tries to rationalise whereas many other things we do in life are logical, explicable and justifiable.

I do think children enrich people's lives (despite moaning about mine and occasionally longing for child free time I wouldn't go back and change it and be childless) and I do sort of think, sometimes, that having children is what it's all about. It teaches selflessness like nothing else; they remind us what's really important (fun! Laughing! Playing! Love! Hugs! Sleep!); they have taught me what unconditional love is in a way I'd never experienced before. They mean I'll leave something amazing behind when I die. (Although I did cry to dp the other day that 'I'm never going to paint an amazing picture of write an incredible novel or compose an awesome piece of music' but that's another fulfillment thread I think!) And my dd's about to wake up so I'll come back to this, interested to see what other people say.

Blackduck Wed 08-Jun-05 10:46:05

Friend of mine - his parents seem to thing the point of having them is so that they can keep you in your old age.......(I kid you not...)
Agree with WWW - don't think its logical, if you look at the pros and cons you wouldn't do it....its a bit like being able to afford them - as my mother says you have them, then you afford them...

puddle Wed 08-Jun-05 11:24:54

I loved the last paragraph of www's post which sums up beautifully many of the things I feel about my life with my children. My children let me be a child again with them, see things anew through their uncynical eyes.

So I've thought about this and maybe one of the points for having children is to strengthen the bonds within families and within communities?

It has certainly brought me closer to my DPs family - our children are the bridge built between our two families with something of each in them. My sister and I have a new closeness - I see our childhood replayed now by her children and mine, our children adore each other. My dd is quite like my sister and I see her every day and remember my sister as a child. I understand my mother now in a way I didn't do before children -I am a better daughter - more forgiving, less judgemental.

I also think that it's made me a more involved and active person in my community. Having children has made me more aware of what goes on around me and want to work to improve things - for instance I am involved in the school, in some local environmental campaigns. I feel much more rooted to my community than I did BC- I am at home more, I know my neighbours, I use local shops and other facilities. Although having children is obviously not the only factor which makes people get involved in this way it is something I have noticed in the people I know.

sorrel Wed 08-Jun-05 11:52:59

'what is the point of having children' is a tough question to answer until , like me, you are told that it is impossible to have any.Then suddenly you know exactly why you want children, and the list is very long.Anyone on the fertility threads will probably agree that it fairly focuses the mind on the whys and wherefores.

Ellbell Wed 08-Jun-05 11:53:44

There is no practical point to having children, outside of the basic one of perpetuating the species, and our own genes. But since the human species is in no danger of extinction - just the opposite - there must be other reasons why people go on reproducing. I do believe that we are biologically inclined (not determined, but inclined) to reproduce. However, we also have the intellectual ability to override that biological imperative if we choose to do so. For me, having children was a way of concretizing the love that existed already between myself and my dh. (My dh often tells our dds that the reason they are so beautiful is because they are 'made of love' !). I suppose that, even before having children, I had an inkling that they would bring 'something' to my life that wasn't there already and which I couldn't get from my job, my dh, my other interests. However, until they were actually born I had no idea how much they'd bring. So, if one were to be pedantic, I don't know if it would be possible to argue that the point of me having my children was to bring me love, joy, laughter, etc., since these things were more in the line of wonderful side-effects than the reason why I did it in the first place.

Moreover - and I guess this is the nub of the issue - I'd argue that there doesn't have to be a point. Most of the most wonderful and important things in the world don't have a point in a practical sense. What is the point of a poem? Or a statue? What is the point of the view from the top of a mountain? Or the feeling of waves lapping at your toes? All these things are beautiful, wondrous and important - and utterly pointless. And my children and more beautiful, wondrous and important than any of them!

(Great question, Bugsy2)

Ellbell Wed 08-Jun-05 11:55:40

Aaargh! Must preview! ... my children ARE more etc...

motherinferior Wed 08-Jun-05 11:58:37

The point IMO is the biological imperative, compounded with social ones (wanting to live in a family unit - well, some people do, personally I find this one v difficult and probably worthy of a separate thread), company, Someone To Bother About Their Aged Parents etc. And lots of people have a second child 'for' their first one.

Personally, I don't really see the point but do enjoy it a lot. Usually.

WideWebWitch Wed 08-Jun-05 11:59:44

elbell, a book I have argues that the point of almost all art (so your poem example) is to differentiate one man from another, i.e. as part of courtship and that since man has evolved so have arts flourished as a means of display (like a peacock's), no time to expansd as dd wants me!

WigWamBam Wed 08-Jun-05 12:04:55

There's not much point to a butterfly; the caterpillar destroys cabbages, the butterfly lasts for just a few days, but it's still a beautiful creature (and I say that as someone who detests butterflies, so has even more reason than most to think there's not much point to them).

There's not much point to a statue or a painting; the artist creates it for himself and no-one else, so therefore it's nothing more than a selfish manifestation of his or her own ego, but it can still be a thing of beauty to other people.

There's not much point to the gerbera that my dd has been growing in her window sill for the past year, but it has brought pleasure to her, and a sense of amazement to me and dh that a 67p pot plant could be so glorious and tenacious.

There's not much point to my dd either, but she is still a beautiful soul and the centre of my world. If we took away all of the things in life which have "no point", life would be so much less rich and so much less enjoyable.

hunkermunker Wed 08-Jun-05 12:06:17

WWB, agree - if you look hard enough, you can find a point to everything (and nothing).

Except mosquitoes.

Ellbell Wed 08-Jun-05 12:07:05

Yeah, WWW, and obviously some poetry has a point to its author. It's not always written 'just' with the aim of being beautiful. The example I'm thinking of, because it's the one I know best, would be a Christian poem, written with the aim of making its readers think about God (and hopefully mend their ways etc.). But the purpose of the author doesn't necessarily determine the way in which the poem is read - particularly not (again, using the eg with which I am most familiar) if it's being read some 700 years later. But the poem can still be beautiful, meaningful, etc. That takes us away from Bugsy's original question, though. My point was really that a 'point' isn't necessarily in order for something to be intrinsically good.

WigWamBam Wed 08-Jun-05 12:07:29

Yep, I'm with you on mosquitos. And ants. But you get my drift.

Ellbell Wed 08-Jun-05 12:09:05

and rats (... they brought the Black Death, as well as being generally scary!)

But totally agree with you WWB!

Blackduck Wed 08-Jun-05 12:09:31

Don't buy the biological imperative personally (but that's just me - I never felt the clock ticking...) Do have friends who have cited such reasons as 'there will always be someone there for you' (hummmm - can point to families where thats not true), or someone to mourn for you (don't buy that one either personally).

dillydally Wed 08-Jun-05 12:09:57

Doesnt this link into whether you plan children or not? If you do plan to have children, then you must consider why you do but for those of us who did not actively plan children, they just happened and we love them regardless.

beansmum Wed 08-Jun-05 12:10:51

There is no 'point' to having children, other than to perpetuate the species. I could give you my personal reasons for having a child, and explain the joy he brings to my life, but my reasons wouldn't be the same as those of any other individual.

Blackduck Wed 08-Jun-05 12:11:40

DD even if you plan to have them do you really have to consider why? For so many people I know its just a given....those who don't want them have to consider why I'd argue (or at least be prepared to justify it to everyone else...)

dillydally Wed 08-Jun-05 12:15:12

I guess I think that if you are planning to have a child then you are more likely to consider why you are having them and justify to yourself and partner the logic behind it even if the logic is simply the biological urge.
have never ttc'd so am no expert in this though.

DickWhittingtonsCat Wed 08-Jun-05 13:06:14

This sounds very primitive, I'm sorry. For some of us, there is a huge drive to have children, which overrides the point of all other things! Surely, it must be hormonally driven? Ds was planned. I am a very responsible person and make careful provision for ds both during my life and in case I should drop dead, however, right after he was born I had a very powerful sense that I could die now, ie the point of me was to produce ds. I don't rationally believe that everyone should have children, or that all the things I achieve at work, socially, and artistically, musically, culinary, etc etc are pointless, but on some level I do feel that the point of me is to have ds and for him to be strong and healthy and intelligent enough to survive with the fittest and have his own children one day.

eldestgirl Wed 08-Jun-05 13:59:41

I think it's more specific than perpetuating the species. The human drive is to pass on your genes, with the best genetic match you can find. Once we have has the children, we then try to make sure that they survive in order to pass along our genes to the next generation.
The point of a caterpillar/butterfly/mossie is that it is part of a delicate balance which forms the food chain. Without them for example, flowers would not be pollinated and the songbird population would probably dwindle alarmingly. There also would be environmental impacts.
Sorry this sounds so dry!!

Heathcliffscathy Wed 08-Jun-05 14:09:56

slightly tangentially (as usual), the sahm vs working mum thing is an incredibly recent construct and whilst that might be stating the obvious it's worth remembering. historically and in most cultures in the world still (i think) there is no divide between motherhood and work, childcare and providing for the family. most mothers work and care for their children at the same time. starts me thinking about marx and the division of people from the fruits of their labour and how alienating and destructive that is. a woman will gather sticks for a fire, make food, harvest produce, weave etc etc all with children around her. note i don't say her children, the nuclear family is a totally alien concept in most times and places too. we are not built (imo) to look after our children for the most part by ourselves in our little (or big) houses. nor are children meants to be parented in the main by their mothers rather than fathers. if you look back in time or across to other cultures communal living/the extended family means that all children are looked after by all members of the community young and old....and they learn from all of those people. we place value on the individual rather than the community and therefore www and everyone else is right, having kids doesn't make any sense at all in that context. but if you are placing the importance of shared experience and the community above all else (with all of the problems that accompany this, it ain't perfect by any means) suddenly you need new community members to help share the load.

i feel sad that in the fight for equality and the rights of the individual to 'self actualise' or however you want to put it, we've gained loads, but lost so much more i think.

phew. sorry about that, could go on all day.

Heathcliffscathy Wed 08-Jun-05 14:09:56

slightly tangentially (as usual), the sahm vs working mum thing is an incredibly recent construct and whilst that might be stating the obvious it's worth remembering. historically and in most cultures in the world still (i think) there is no divide between motherhood and work, childcare and providing for the family. most mothers work and care for their children at the same time. starts me thinking about marx and the division of people from the fruits of their labour and how alienating and destructive that is. a woman will gather sticks for a fire, make food, harvest produce, weave etc etc all with children around her. note i don't say her children, the nuclear family is a totally alien concept in most times and places too. we are not built (imo) to look after our children for the most part by ourselves in our little (or big) houses. nor are children meants to be parented in the main by their mothers rather than fathers. if you look back in time or across to other cultures communal living/the extended family means that all children are looked after by all members of the community young and old....and they learn from all of those people. we place value on the individual rather than the community and therefore www and everyone else is right, having kids doesn't make any sense at all in that context. but if you are placing the importance of shared experience and the community above all else (with all of the problems that accompany this, it ain't perfect by any means) suddenly you need new community members to help share the load.

i feel sad that in the fight for equality and the rights of the individual to 'self actualise' or however you want to put it, we've gained loads, but lost so much more i think.

phew. sorry about that, could go on all day.

WideWebWitch Wed 08-Jun-05 14:10:50

ellbell, agree that a point isn't always necessary

Heathcliffscathy Wed 08-Jun-05 14:11:18

sorry for doubling up, don't know what happened there!

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