Some thoughts on Mother’s day on how to create love, purpose and meaning without kids (and with them, too!)
Create life, not babies
There are wonderful reasons to have a baby, but there are also thousands of reasons not to have one.
You may be afraid to start a family against the backdrop of a global pandemic. There is no guarantee about the next few decades about who will live or die, much less who will thrive. But fear should not be the reason you don’t have a baby if you are contemplating the possibility.
Fear is a strong motivation, but all journeys require great courage, and it often takes as much courage to forego having children as it does do have them.
Fear, then, is not something to which we should give in, either way.
I think that many people believe that having a baby will win them love. However, a bit of investigation into the facts, science, and common sense of human psychology shows that this is also not the case.
Life is about biology, not about generating love. Love is great to have, but love for the world and love for all living beings is a life-long commitment that should not be held to one time period. You cannot be a young mother, or new dad, for long. Most years of human life are not at all fit for reproduction. Those years should be honored and celebrated for creating world love and for connecting to all creation. It is a disservice to only select a few short years and say: “Well this is the most important thing I will have ever done.” That is a self-limiting attitude about all of life.
Creating a meaningful life, and promoting life itself, is about creating love, not babies.
Evolution crafted love, after all, to regenerate the genes of a species. The meaning we attach to that process, which long proceeds us, is up to us. Therefore, attach meaning to ALL of life, not just the baby-making part of it.
Genes are called “selfish genes” because of their sole focus of wanting to reproduce themselves. But human beings are not genes. Only a very selfish human would want to have children for the purpose of “giving something of myself to the world,” or “Leaving a legacy of immortality.” If the reason you want a child is to be unselfish, then setting your life-long work upon nurturing the almost eight billion people on earth is much less selfish.
Common sense in our common era
That is the factual and scientific part, what about common sense? Common sense tells us that humans must begin to care for our common world to make way for any life to be of quality in the future. Things like climate crisis, floods, fires, extinctions, famines, global pandemics to come and their economic depressions which now occur with greater frequency are real.
Facing them brings out the best of our humanity. We cannot go on creating any more humans unless those humans in turn create less destruction and pollution. This will require a great overhaul of all new foundations.
This is, common sense tells us, not likely unless we really apply our love to the suffering, inequality and inequity of our fellow human beings that DO exist.
And there is nothing, common sense will also tell you, that is more rewarding than helping others with a true heart and a generous spirit.
New hope in the new testament
Our biology wired us to wish to make love and make babies, but it is a much more meaningful, and generous love, that allows us to love beyond our wiring.
The New Testament, in Luke 14:25, Jesus tells a crowd: “If you come but will not leave your family, you cannot be my follower. You must love me more than your father, mother, wife, children, brothers and sisters — even more than your own life!”
I don’t think Jesus meant that we should abandon family, but that we all have something even greater than family to live for.
If we are to understand love in a spiritual and giving sense, this only makes sense if we realize it is about valuing something even more precious to you than your own family. What is bigger than you and more precious than your own family? Only a full, joyous, and meaningful love of everything that created your own family, and everything that supports your own family. Only a full and long life time of service to that which is greater than your own tiny, family unit, or the short time within which just those people within your family are wholly dependent upon you. So, to follow a true meaningful life is to give not just your relations, love, and not just for a time, but for everyone — including biology and biosphere — and for every time, not just for a child-raising time.
In the twenty-first century, this could mean the community that our society desperately needs to reconnect to. That community is the whole web of life that creates and supports love, but also, life itself.
Sometimes, well intentioned articles suggest that having a baby is a life-saving experience, if not a duty, to procreate. There was a time in the distant past when to be fruitful and multiply was wise. But this century, by every measure, given our planetary boundaries, and our need for meaning, is definitely not that time.
When Jesus, in the same chapter of Luke, explains that we must take up our cross and follow him, he is talking about our time. He is talking about the unique and heavy burdens laid upon us to make real meaning, and unselfish giving, in a complex, and troubled world that needs our help.
Supersessionism is the word that means that the New Testament was meant to supersede the Old Testament. Most Christian faiths are based on this idea.
But modernity, and new knowledge, have revealed that there is but one human race, and one love meant to be open to all hearts and all minds. When Jesus speaks of “coming to bring not peace, but a sword, “ Matthew 10: 34, he again, is talking about the divisions (family and otherwise) in loyalty and priority that will be inevitable when someone does not present with a zealous faith.
He offers, through Christianity, a new way to struggle meaningfully for something greater than the family unit, and greater, in fact than anything else.
Don’t bring a sword to a life fight
Some people interpret his “bringing of a sword” to mean a literal sword, but clearly it is metaphorical as Jesus has no literal sword, just a spiritual one, also referenced in Micah and Revelation.
The four horsemen of the Apocalypse are riding the land, but we should not react with fear but armed with this spiritual sword and ready to fight against all war, bloodshed, famine, (climate crisis and pandemic food insecurity) pestilence (plagues, present and to come) and death. Some biblical scholars see the white horseman as Christ, himself, triumphant in battle against the odds presented to us in this modern age.
Death, the presence of which is now alerting us to be ready for monumental effort to save one another through reform of all corruption, and compassion for a living world, is represented by a pale horse.
In the modern age, whether Christian or not, people must be shown all the ways to belong. Belonging is the one central tenant of life on Earth. Life on Earth is dependent upon every thread of a vast network of beings, hydrology systems, geography, sunlight, and more.
Having children is one of the few things that is not required for belonging to continue.
It is cruel, too, to allow anyone to believe that they are “less” if they choose a childless life, or an adopted family of chosen strangers. It is even more cruel for those who desperately want to have children but cannot, or for women who are infertile, to be made to think they have lost their only chance of having meaning and purpose. Nor is a man less of a man if he doesn’t “plant his seed.”
Real meaning and purpose cannot be limited to our reproductive biology — our sexy parts — but our whole being, our whole hearts and minds, and our whole life on Earth.