Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Practical Reasons to Have Kids

Children are a financial, time, and emotional drain. So why have them? That's a conversation I've been having with my brother-in-law and new daddy, Stephen Jones. I understand having a baby is not a one person decision and sometimes it's not even something two people can easily do. However, I think the non-emotional benefits of having children are underestimated. So here's a list inspired by the discussion:

1) Because of gains from trade, more people is always better.

2) It's a useful tool for retirement.

3) Underpopulation will a bigger problem than overpopulation.

4) Dedication to a child can increase dedication to others.

5) I'm glad I'm born, so I assume my children will feel the same.

6) Parenting doesn't have to be overly exhausting.

7) You get to pass on your genes.

8) It's a regular reminder that the world doesn't revolve around me.

9) Can increase your social connects, which is essential.

10) You get to pass on your last name.

11) Someone you can raise to think like you.

12) You can teach them to love the things you love (and hate).

13) Children will give you the most honest self-reflection you can get.

14) It will speed your own personal growth.

15) It will create a type of friendship that can't exist otherwise.

16) You get to relive your childhood (books, sports, etc).

17) More people regret not having children than having children.

18) It transforms a couple into a family.

19) An perfect excuse for any unwanted social commitment.

20) You can take personal days even if you personally are not sick.

21) You will stay current with culture.

22) Make you more involved with your community.

23) God says you should.

24) Here's one straight from the mouth a new father: "He smiled at me the other day and it felt like everything was right with the world."

25) Sometimes a story is better than facts. So here's a thousand word story:

my new nephew


  1. It does speed your own personal growth! My niece has meant the world for me (and my sister).

  2. Love it. So in your estimation the benefits outweigh the costs by what ratio?

  3. Amanda Scherle12:46 AM

    Love this! There are many things I would not have not done or even tried to do if I had chosen not to have children. I grow more every day because of them.

  4. Thanks for the comments guys. Great question Justin. I would say for me the benefits are diminishing. Let's say:

    4:1 (benefits:cost) for the first child, 3:1 for the second, 2:1 for the third, 1:1 for the fourth. My wife and I are currently trying to figure out whether to have 3 or 4 so I just worked backward.

    From what I've heard from people who actually have kids and know what their talking about, the chances of having another kid greatly depend on the ease of the previous kid. So child #4 better hope for low maintenance sibling #3.

  5. I think these are reasons to be around kids, too. For a moment, let's consider those who are unable to have children due to fertility issues. As of late, my heart has been breaking for them.

    While I think kids are great, I think people who would like to be parents need to be prepared. And a lot of new parents aren't (financially, emotionally, physically).

    Also, I was a bit offended. I believe that a couple can be a family without children. And at least this Austrialian website agrees:

  6. Oh, two more (silly) things:
    The more efficient means of retirement would be a retirement fund. Imagine how great that fund would be if you had no children.

    Also, the teaching your children to think, love and hate like you sounds a lot like the world is still revolving around you...that is, if you can get your kids to actually think, love and hate like you.

  7. Great point Alyssa. Though I'm not a father, I am an uncle, which gives me a portion of the benefits with almost none of the costs.

    Like you I'm also saddened by how hard it is for many great couples to have a baby. Meanwhile there are plenty of people having babies they don't want or probably shouldn't be raising.

    I didn't mean to imply that a marriage isn't a family. It certainly is. But there is definitely a difference when children are added.

    Good point about retirement, I'm sure that was much more relevant before we had such a stable financial system (that's right, our financial system is more stable than it was a century ago).

    As for hating/loving similar things, that's just a practical benefit, whether you can do it or not (or whether it's actually good or not) is another issue.

  8. Anonymous1:44 PM

    Thanks for your list, Harrison! As a happy parent of a lovely child, I would like to comment on some of your points... Not to be contrary, just a reality check. Many current parents will be willing to curb some of the romanticism of having a child. I would add that having and rearing a child is very very expensive. That's not necessarily a negative thing; it's just the reality.

    1. >"more people is always better."
    This is an unsustainable model. We live in a closed ecosystem with limited resources. Also, it is rarely wise to say something is "always" the case.

    2. Alyssa already addressed the retirement issue above. I would add only that one can certainly not depend on their children to take care of them in retirement. So many other factors come into play with so many other possible outcomes.

    3. See point #1. Overpopulation is unsustainable. IMO, it is also undesirable for many reasons.

    4. Yes! Good point.

    5. I wouldn't count on this. People come in all varieties (nearly 7 billion of them). Another way to look at this is that children do not ask to be born. When we bring them to life, we are responsible for them. They may or may not be happy about it.

    ...9. Yes! Absolutely!

    10. Meaningless, in my opinion.

    11/12. This is setting yourself up for a huge disappointment. See #5. While certainly we have influence over our children's understanding of the world and their thinking skills, they are ultimately their own person and will grow to be who they are going to be. Think of how many people you know who do not think the same way their parents think, and who do not love the same things. This is inevitable and value-neutral.

    13. This is a very wise observation.

    14. Hopefully, yes.

    ...16. Please see 11/12 above. Kids will often have completely different interests than parents. In fact, I am confident in saying kids will always have different interests than their parents.

    ...19. Yes and, conversely for the first few years, many types of desired social commitments will be restricted.

    20. You *must* take personal days even if you personally are not sick. I know you were being humorous, but staying home with a sick child is taxing. Be prepared for projectile vomit directly into your face. No, I am not kidding.

    22. Yes!

    23. whew boy... um... well...

    I have learned -- practically speaking -- that parenting is (and must be, IMO) a completely selfless act. Folks who have children for selfish reasons are bound to be disappointed and bound to screw up their kids emotionally. Parenting is not all glitter and roses. Some of it is; a lot of it is not.

    That said, I am happy I made the decision I did.

  9. Thanks for your comments, let me take them one at a time.

    1. Sure resources are limited, but so is our innovation. For example US population has increased in the last 30 years, but by most standards pollution has decreased. Also, I don't think we'll ever get to a level where population out paces technology.

    2. Agreed. Savings are much more reliable and less burdensome.

    3. I don't think the data would agree.

    4. Thanks.

    5. But don't you think most people are glad to be born? More births means more people being glad (even though there are plenty of sad things in the world).

    9. I'm looking forward to this.

    10. Your probably right.

    11/12. I'll lean on your experience. I just don't know yet.

    13/14. I'm kind of scared of it.

    16. True. And I bet the first 10 years are all things you don't find interesting.

    19. Double edged sword.

    20. Yikes.

    22. I'm really excited about this one.

    23. I know most people wouldn't interpret it that way, but I'm curious how they justify it.

    I'm glad you made the decision too. It seems most people are. That is the biggest encouragement to have kids (even though it's scary).


You are the reason why I do not write privately. I would love to hear your thoughts, whether you agree or not.