Grey

A rational reason for children

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A recent discussion raised this question - what is a rational reason to have children? I can bring up wants or emotional reasons. Even a curiosity as to what your genetics would do, or the chance to try your hand at parenting. However from a strictly objective perspective, children are a guaranteed cost emotionally, physically, and financially. They are a potential benefit emotionally. By that math, there would seem to be no rational reason to have children.

I have to say I somehow feel life would be incomplete without having a family, yet that appears to be a purely emotional statement. I cannot state in clear terms a convincing reason to invest the time and effort into children - children who are liabilities and take a minimum of 18 years to turn into some unknown creature of unknown priorities.

I'd really like to hear form objectivist parents like Betsy. How did you decide to have children and have you found it worth the effort, time, and finances?

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A value is that which one acts to gain and or keep, so every chosen value cost the valuer in one form or another.

"Happiness is the successful state of life, pain is an agent of death. Happiness is that state of consciousness which proceeds from the achievement of one’s values. A morality that dares to tell you to find happiness in the renunciation of your happiness—to value the failure of your values—is an insolent negation of morality. A doctrine that gives you, as an ideal, the role of a sacrificial animal seeking slaughter on the altars of others, is giving you death as your standard. By the grace of reality and the nature of life, man—every man—is an end in himself, he exists for his own sake, and the achievement of his own happiness is his highest moral purpose." [Ayn Rand, Galt’s Speech, For the New Intellectual, 123.]

"My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute." Ayn Rand

Can you convince yourself to invest in the value of a house or a car? Can you convince yourself to invest in the value of a vacation to someplace you have dreamed of visiting for years? Can you convince yourself to invest the time in the value of a romantic relationship that would bring you great happiness? Can you convince yourself in the value of friendship and take actions to surround yourself with people that are fundamentally very similar to you such as on the people on this forum? Now imagine being surrounded by those people when you are in your house or car. Imagine yourself taking vacations with the type of people you value. Imagine yourself raising (or at least attempting to do so) children that will have the moral character you value that can help you create the world/society you value. Sure, if you do not have children then they obviously cannot make you cry. But if you do not have children then they cannot make you laugh and achieve a certain happiness either. Is it worth the risk and effort? That is something for you to choose in accordance to your values.

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A man who values himself so much that he wishes to replicate himself (and improve it with a worthy partner's genetic material), making sure his achievements act only as a stepping stone allowing his next generation to go even further (see d'Anconia) can only be selfish, in my view.

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A man who values himself so much that he wishes to replicate himself (and improve it with a worthy partner's genetic material), making sure his achievements act only as a stepping stone allowing his next generation to go even further (see d'Anconia) can only be selfish, in my view.

It is even more than that -- for some, but not all, rational people.

Speaking as an adoptive parent -- my son is now 27 -- I can't imagine loving a child more. My son was an active, alert, living, beautiful baby and it was love at first sight. But then, I VALUE children and their potential for good, their capacity to learn, and the joys and challenges of being a parent. Yet those are optional values and someone who doesn't desire the joys and challenges of parenting as much as I do would find it a continuing sacrifice and should not do it.

For more views on this subject search for the keyword "parenting".

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A recent discussion raised this question - what is a rational reason to have children? I can bring up wants or emotional reasons. Even a curiosity as to what your genetics would do, or the chance to try your hand at parenting. However from a strictly objective perspective, children are a guaranteed cost emotionally, physically, and financially. They are a potential benefit emotionally. By that math, there would seem to be no rational reason to have children.

I have to say I somehow feel life would be incomplete without having a family, yet that appears to be a purely emotional statement. I cannot state in clear terms a convincing reason to invest the time and effort into children - children who are liabilities and take a minimum of 18 years to turn into some unknown creature of unknown priorities.

I'd really like to hear form objectivist parents like Betsy. How did you decide to have children and have you found it worth the effort, time, and finances?

And what is wrong with making an emotional choice in such a case as having a child? It may not be the only factor, of course, but it is a significant one. One has to take into account one's other values, such as having the time, the finances, etc. But, as RayK points out, what values don't involve such considerations? What values don't involve guaranteed costs? Being "strictly objective" does not mean being emotionless.

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And what is wrong with making an emotional choice in such a case as having a child? It may not be the only factor, of course, but it is a significant one. One has to take into account one's other values, such as having the time, the finances, etc. But, as RayK points out, what values don't involve such considerations? What values don't involve guaranteed costs? Being "strictly objective" does not mean being emotionless.

Emotions are an important factor when choosing optional values like art, romantic partners, and one's career -- and raising children is a serious, part-time, long-term career.

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And what is wrong with making an emotional choice in such a case as having a child? It may not be the only factor, of course, but it is a significant one. One has to take into account one's other values, such as having the time, the finances, etc. But, as RayK points out, what values don't involve such considerations? What values don't involve guaranteed costs? Being "strictly objective" does not mean being emotionless.

Emotions are an important factor when choosing optional values like art, romantic partners, and one's career -- and raising children is a serious, part-time, long-term career.

Agreed, but they're also a factor in important values. If I didn't love my work or love raising my child, it would be quite excruciating doing those activities just because I thought it was rational to do it.

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Some very thoughtful responses - thank you. And I'll take a read through the previous parenting threads. Not having children, I see the equation as a guaranteed amount of pain and an uncertain amount of pleasure. Not knowing what the potential rewards are, I don't want to over-estimate it to make the equation payoff. It's one thing to hear just anyone gush about their experience as a parent, but another to hear from those who have the same values. Thank you.

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Some very thoughtful responses - thank you. And I'll take a read through the previous parenting threads. Not having children, I see the equation as a guaranteed amount of pain and an uncertain amount of pleasure.

As a parent, I can say you are absolutely wrong about that.

Not knowing what the potential rewards are, I don't want to over-estimate it to make the equation payoff. It's one thing to hear just anyone gush about their experience as a parent, but another to hear from those who have the same values. Thank you.

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I disagree that children are an obvious emotional pain - in fact, for most happy parents they are an obvious emotional benefit.

With this said, I think many parents would be happier not having children (or having them later). People generally don't think through the changes that a child bring. There are very real prices to be paid, it's not for everyone.

There are studies that ask people to rate their happiness from 1 to 10 at various times through their lives. The research shows that on average parents are never happier than when their children leave the home...

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I disagree that children are an obvious emotional pain - in fact, for most happy parents they are an obvious emotional benefit.

With this said, I think many parents would be happier not having children (or having them later). People generally don't think through the changes that a child bring. There are very real prices to be paid, it's not for everyone.

There are studies that ask people to rate their happiness from 1 to 10 at various times through their lives. The research shows that on average parents are never happier than when their children leave the home...

Is that because they are glad to get rid of the child or because they are happy to have raised a productive human being able to support himself?

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I disagree that children are an obvious emotional pain - in fact, for most happy parents they are an obvious emotional benefit.

With this said, I think many parents would be happier not having children (or having them later). People generally don't think through the changes that a child bring. There are very real prices to be paid, it's not for everyone.

There are studies that ask people to rate their happiness from 1 to 10 at various times through their lives. The research shows that on average parents are never happier than when their children leave the home...

Is that because they are glad to get rid of the child or because they are happy to have raised a productive human being able to support himself?

Joss, it seems to me that a lot of people do not think through what children will demand of them as a parent, so I agree with you. But I would also offer that people that want to be parents should not and do not have to think through everything as there are problems that can only be dealt with as they happen. For example, taking your child to the doctor and watching them get a wound taken care of. One can think they are ready for this type of situation until it happens. My wife is a very tough women, but when our middle child fell and hit his head which caused a laceration that required 7 staples, she was almost useless. I had to hold him down while the doctor stapled his wound close, she was in the corner of the room crying. Our son was only 2 years old at the time so he was crying and asking why I had to hold his head and body so tight and keep him from moving, this can be an emotionally demanding thing, but it is also part of being a parent. In other words, there will be emotionally painful items as a parent, they are inconsequential as it is the good that I expect.

I also offer, like Paul seems to be doing, that one cannot know why the parents are happy without a better explanation of the question that received such a response.

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What happens on those surveys is that there is a marked increase in perceived happiness the year the kid leaves home, to the "no kid" average. So maybe people have an average happiness of 7 for the 10 last years of their kids being home, versus a higher happiness for people without kids. Parents' happiness then goes up to the kidless average and stays up after the kid leaves. Pretty compelling to me.

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What happens on those surveys is that there is a marked increase in perceived happiness the year the kid leaves home, to the "no kid" average. So maybe people have an average happiness of 7 for the 10 last years of their kids being home, versus a higher happiness for people without kids. Parents' happiness then goes up to the kidless average and stays up after the kid leaves. Pretty compelling to me.

Having children is a demanding activity that can cause some sadness. But I do not find the average parent's reply on a happiness survey as compelling as I do not know their philosophy or thoughts on why they had children in the first place. For examle, most religions almost demand that their followers have children which of course is not a "rational reason for children" and hence why they see the activity as a duty and find no happiness or little happiness in the activity. I would also add to the above that most of the people one might meet on the street cannot even define happiness properly which is another reason why I do not consider such surveys compelling.

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What happens on those surveys is that there is a marked increase in perceived happiness the year the kid leaves home, to the "no kid" average. So maybe people have an average happiness of 7 for the 10 last years of their kids being home, versus a higher happiness for people without kids. Parents' happiness then goes up to the kidless average and stays up after the kid leaves. Pretty compelling to me.

Most people are happier after they retire also. I guess they shouldn't have pursued a lifetime of difficult work either.

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I disagree that children are an obvious emotional pain - in fact, for most happy parents they are an obvious emotional benefit.

With this said, I think many parents would be happier not having children (or having them later). People generally don't think through the changes that a child bring. There are very real prices to be paid, it's not for everyone.

There are studies that ask people to rate their happiness from 1 to 10 at various times through their lives. The research shows that on average parents are never happier than when their children leave the home...

Did they first conduct the same study with parents who did not have kids, thus establishing a baseline for comparison? Most mentally healthy adults become happier and more at peace with themselves as they get older.

If the workers conducting this study want their "1-10" index to have even a qualitative meaning this would have to be done for a group of parents without children, a group of parents with children, and a group containing an even mixture. Otherwise there's no guarantee what they are purportedly measuring, or whether the trend in happiness with respect to children can even be discerned from the random statistical noise.

Another thing to be wary of in these kinds of studies is when an abstract conceptual appraisal from facts is presented as fact when displaying some trend. For example, a group of economists could study facts about the economy over the period of one year, and by some guideline obtain an "index of economic health" for that year. Of course, if the "guideline" of obtaining the index is flawed, one could obtain indices that indicate literally the opposite of the truth, hence resulting in a news article summarizing it as "Top economists have disproved Capitalist theory by showing that generally the overall vitality of the economy deteriorates as taxes are lowered".

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Some very thoughtful responses - thank you. And I'll take a read through the previous parenting threads. Not having children, I see the equation as a guaranteed amount of pain and an uncertain amount of pleasure.

As a parent, I can say you are absolutely wrong about that.

I don't want to nitpick on this one point, but I'm not certain how I could be wrong here. Having a child means there is a financial cost, guaranteed. You must feed it and maintain it at the very least. There is a guaranteed financial cost.

There is a guaranteed emotional cost, heartbreak, no matter what. They will make a wrong decision, large or small, at some point in their life. Even good parents, great parents, can have children that turn out to be much less than their potential. That alone would be a bitter outcome. Good parenting does not necessarily turn out good children. At the very brute level, perhaps the child is injured in some way, or even killed. I cannot imagine a greater heartbreak.

It is for this that I claim there is a guaranteed cost and an uncertain pleasure. You may be right that as a parent you know how much more pleasure you receive, a multiplier, and know that the costs are eclipsed.

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Grey,

There is usually "cost" to anything worthy in life and there is almost always a possibility of loss when you allow yourself to value something greatly.

Very similar arguments (the possibility of something going wrong) can be used against anything which requires considerable investment and against any human relationship. Life is not exactly made up of guaranteed outcomes - all we can do is to work towards improving our odds through rational approach to reality.

My parenting experience has been nothing but joy in my life. The kind of deeply reaching value that I have a hard time expressing it. Whatever words I can find - they don't seem giving the experience justice. But I will make an attempt - here it goes: My son reinforces, daily, my positive outlook on life and humanity because he is the kind of person I would like all human beings to be. He makes this world a better place.

If I lost my son tomorrow - it already has been worth the cost including the heartbreak that would follow - and he is only 9. It is better to love and lost than never to have loved at all.

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Some very thoughtful responses - thank you. And I'll take a read through the previous parenting threads. Not having children, I see the equation as a guaranteed amount of pain and an uncertain amount of pleasure.

As a parent, I can say you are absolutely wrong about that.

I don't want to nitpick on this one point, but I'm not certain how I could be wrong here. Having a child means there is a financial cost, guaranteed. You must feed it and maintain it at the very least. There is a guaranteed financial cost.

There is a guaranteed emotional cost, heartbreak, no matter what. They will make a wrong decision, large or small, at some point in their life. Even good parents, great parents, can have children that turn out to be much less than their potential. That alone would be a bitter outcome. Good parenting does not necessarily turn out good children. At the very brute level, perhaps the child is injured in some way, or even killed. I cannot imagine a greater heartbreak.

It is for this that I claim there is a guaranteed cost and an uncertain pleasure. You may be right that as a parent you know how much more pleasure you receive, a multiplier, and know that the costs are eclipsed.

With such a viewpoint, I doubt you enjoyed We the Living very much. What exactly do you see life as consisting of? Eating food (education, buying a home, getting married, looking for work, etc.) is a financial cost, guaranteed. You must feed yourself and maintain it at the very best. There is a guaranteed financial cost. You might choke and die. All values have costs, if not financial than a minimum is the time in your life. "Take what you want, and pay for it" as the saying goes. Why are such costs viewed negatively by you? If you walk out of the house, you might get hit by a car, break a leg falling down. Why get married or fall in love? Same questions. There are financial costs; your loved one may be injured or killed; can you imagine a greater heartbreak.

Life exists. I would rather have 1 second of it than to never have existed at all.

None of this denies the possibility of pain from children (or any of one's values). One has to deal with the consequences of one's choices, and sometimes it takes years of difficulty and struggle. But to prejudge the possibility of bad consequences as the criterion for acting for a value is missing out on life.

I'm reading a book about a businessman who owned a trucking business; his net work was $25 million after years of building it up from owning nothing. He was involved in a business deal to sell his entire business and enter the maritime shipping business. He risked ALL of it to make the transaction work. "Asked later whether he had considered ways to shelter some of his wealth from risks of entering the maritime business, his answer was an unequivocal 'No.' [He] explained, 'You've got to be totally committed.' " Such are the costs that enable one to enjoy life and achieve important values, no matter what difficulties or tragedies arise.

If one truly does not want children, then the decision should be made within the context of the values that you want to achieve and whether the time it takes to raise children would not allow you to achieve those values. You'd need a hierarchy of values. But no value should be discarded because it might bring pain.

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...But no value should be discarded because it might bring pain.

Nor because value obtainment requires certain efforts. One can either put themselves out on a limb and experience the best in life, or not. It is not the avoidance of pain that motivates me, it is the obtainment of the value which makes something worthy of taking the risk and life is full of risk.

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I'm reading a book about a businessman who owned a trucking business; his net work was $25 million after years of building it up from owning nothing. He was involved in a business deal to sell his entire business and enter the maritime shipping business. He risked ALL of it to make the transaction work. "Asked later whether he had considered ways to shelter some of his wealth from risks of entering the maritime business, his answer was an unequivocal 'No.' [He] explained, 'You've got to be totally committed.' " Such are the costs that enable one to enjoy life and achieve important values, no matter what difficulties or tragedies arise.
Okay, I'm intrigued. What's it called, and is it worth reading? Thanks!

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I'm reading a book about a businessman who owned a trucking business; his net work was $25 million after years of building it up from owning nothing. He was involved in a business deal to sell his entire business and enter the maritime shipping business. He risked ALL of it to make the transaction work. "Asked later whether he had considered ways to shelter some of his wealth from risks of entering the maritime business, his answer was an unequivocal 'No.' [He] explained, 'You've got to be totally committed.' " Such are the costs that enable one to enjoy life and achieve important values, no matter what difficulties or tragedies arise.
Okay, I'm intrigued. What's it called, and is it worth reading? Thanks!

Click here.

Aboslutely worth reading.

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I don't want to nitpick on this one point, but I'm not certain how I could be wrong here. Having a child means there is a financial cost, guaranteed. You must feed it and maintain it at the very least. There is a guaranteed financial cost.

There is a guaranteed emotional cost, heartbreak, no matter what. They will make a wrong decision, large or small, at some point in their life. Even good parents, great parents, can have children that turn out to be much less than their potential. That alone would be a bitter outcome. Good parenting does not necessarily turn out good children. At the very brute level, perhaps the child is injured in some way, or even killed. I cannot imagine a greater heartbreak.

It is for this that I claim there is a guaranteed cost and an uncertain pleasure. You may be right that as a parent you know how much more pleasure you receive, a multiplier, and know that the costs are eclipsed.

You should see what it's like watching your own child collapse into autism. To see a happy, healthy toddler go nuts is about as bad as anything I can imagine. What did my wife and I do? - worked like crazy to heal my son and then had another child. Go figure. FWIW, I am more motivated now to work hard, make money and generally kick ass. Having kids has made me more driven. I'm a better producer now. I am sharper and more focused.

In the case of my son, it was heartbreaking. I had waited a long time to have children and was very eager and ready to teach a young man some of the things I had learned through hard knocks. I was primed to create the next Rearden (don't think I was qualified to create a Galt). Then, we were stymied by a serious developmental disorder. To see all of these parents who do meth and feed their kids twinkies for dinner be given the gift of a healthy child yet squander it...you could say I was a little angry. And, in the case of my son, the family name lives or dies with him. It could have died with me, chasing women on a tropical beach somewhere like my grandfather, or it could die in an institution with my son. As it sits now, it looks like he may go on to live a pretty normal life.

To me, children are amazing. Many times I have observed that the most slothful, slobbiest, uneducated dolts have children who, at the age of 3, are sharp-witted, kind, and honest. I remember hearing in the church when I was kid that we are born sinners. Man, what a load of malarky.

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