No offspring, no legacy. Really?

Words very similar to these were spoken to a friend recently, as referenced as a post on her Facebook page. The gist: because she didn’t currently have children, it was sad that she would have no legacy to leave behind.

I read them, then re-read them, then chewed on them, then spit out a response of support/disgust/sympathy.

Now, don’t get me wrong–I’m clearly a support of moms (and all parents), through and through (I started this blog, didn’t I?) but I understand, support, and respect that not every individual in this world wants to rear children (insert gasp here).

The irony related to this comment, however, was that the recipient, my  friend, doesn’t happen to have children—yet—but may very much like to someday. The insinuation is that because she is a professional woman who is unmarried and hasn’t yet had a child, she will not leave a legacy in this world.

She’s not the only person facing this issue. In fact, many books have been written on the topic: One is Beyond Childlessness, for every woman who wanted to have a child, but didn’t, whether by choice or circumstance. White women are more likely to remain childless according to an article in May 10, 2011’s USA Today, citing one of the reasons as a “delayer boom” because educated women are investing more time in their careers and putting off starting a family more and more. When many of these women decide to have children, they face fertility challenges that are often costly and emotionally exhausting.

Some are opting out of parenthood altogether–including men. This article from TheGoodMenProject.com speaks to the “fatherless by choice” speaks to men who are choosing to use their reproductive rights to head off baby-making at the pass, even before they are married. A man who chose to have a vasectomy at age twenty-eight was called selfish and immature. But to whom? Must everyone have a child to be selfless and mature?

The article also states that according to the National Center of Health Statistics “U.S. birth rate is the lowest it’s been in a century: a mere 13.5 bloody, oozing births for every 1,000 people.” (Descriptions like that just beg for more babies, now don’t they?)

One couple actually wrote a guide to remaining childless–and speaks to when having children moves from being an assumption to a conscious decision. Their book, Two is  Enough, A Couple’s Guide to Living Childess by Choice, explores the decisions to not have children and provides an “accessible point of entry into the exploration of the childfree partnership.”

A sample interaction from the book: “So why did you get married if you didn’t want kids?” asked the new dad, the husband of one of my friends.

Huh? “Love . . . companionship,” I blurted. (Wow, so everyone doesn’t get hitched to have kids and be in the “club?” I never knew.)

Clearly folks get married for companionship, support, and love–not just reproducing legally–and I respect that. Personally, I couldn’t imagine my life without children, but it’s not for me to decide that having children is what everyone else should do. I mean, come on, we all have examples of parents who shouldn’t be parents.

But what about the loving people who would be great parents (like my friend), and just haven’t been able to have a child yet? What if they don’t have that baby they dream of. Will they still leave a legacy behind in this world long after they’re gone?

The answer is: of course they will. Harriet Tubman and Rosa Parks were both childless, and the Civil Rights movement would never have made such strides without their leadership. And my friend my never gain Rosa Parks status, but she has given her incredible gift of time in the Richmond community for a children’s non-profit, so she is building her legacy in the hearts of families she’ll never meet every single day. I pray that she is blessed with the child she wants. But I know that, if she’s not, her legacy will never be in question.

7 COMMENTS

  1. Well, I had a son, and he's 40 now and still not married and doesn't have any children, so my legacy will stop with him. Should I be sad? I don't think we're going to be any great blip in any future spaceman's family tree anyway. We didn't immigrate from another country. We weren't slaves. We didn't settle the West in covered wagons. We weren't an historical family like the Rockefellers or Kennedys. Who needs a legacy? We lived primarily in the second half of the 20th century with a massive amount of other people and worked, bought stuff, and died.

  2. Being the founder of a non-profit that surfaced because I lost my son when he was 4 1/2 months old, I see a few points of view: 1. Having children is not about leaving a legacy. i would think values dictated more important reasons. 2. There are more people than you might realize that have unfortunate circumstances, as Kate references, regarding why they do not have children. 3. It's depends on the individual and/or parents as to what is best for them, not what society thinks as best though ethics are always a consideration.

    Kyra Oliver
    Founder
    Hayes Foundation

  3. As a childless by choice person, I'd just like to say Hear hear! A child is the only legit legacy?? Give me a break. What about artists and authors? What about folks who don't leave anything physical behind but give love and support to the people around them? That's not enough??

    It really irks me when parents act like they've done the world this great thing and left behind this great legacy by having kids. What about the kids that grow up to be a lot of the self centered jerks I see walking around? Gee, thanks for that legacy!

    Thanks for the post and thanks for understanding that not everyone has to make the same choices in life!

    • Thanks, Jackie. The response has been overwhelming on your side. Some folks commented on Twitter and Facebook so I’ll share their thoughts here to keep a comprehensive list:

      1. Preach the F on, Kate. The husband and I don’t have kids and don’t plan on it (and TWO IS ENOUGH is a fabulous book, BTW), and I could fill a book with the asinine things people have said to us. Like, “Well then where will your relationship go as you age?” As if it’s impossible to enjoy a marriage beyond a certain point without children?

      2. This is good. I’m single and havent met the right guy yet and there is a chance I won’t have kids, since I might not be able by the time it happens. I just have to figure if it’s meant to happen it will. I don’t want to be a single mom and won’t get married just to have kids. Hopefully this article will continue to remind me that it’s okay if I never do.

      3. Great article! Coming from someone with no kids. :-)

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