Thursday, 12 August 2010

The Need To Breed

What drives our need to breed? Is it an instinct as old as time itself? Science would have us believe this was so, but why then does this reproductive urge not consume us all? In an age where babies are to some a must-have commodity and a basic human right I question this “natural” theory. Not all of us wish to create a “mini-me” or are born to parent in that way. Therein is where the confusion lies. The opportunity to parent someone or something can present itself in many forms. For example, new ideas could be described by the very same parenting terms. These too are conceived, nourished, given birth to and nurtured through different developmental stages. I feel the same way about my writing as a parent might do about a child. Writing is my baby. Books and published articles are my children. Scoff at my notion if you must, but I think we've misinterpreted the significance. The act of parenting does not have to be primarily associated with the raising of children. If society echoed this alternative parenting model, I wonder how many of us would choose differently?

I fail to understand this obsessional longing to reproduce. The need to create a little person from your own flesh and blood. I sympathise with those struggling to conceive, but infertility treatment makes little sense to me. Procedures often involve donated tissues from a third party you never get to meet and essentially produce a child that is only half genetically yours, if yours at all. Why is this helping hand from science more appealing than say fostering or adoption? Can it be down to that purely biological itch? Is having children now considered a rite of passage? The latter certainly holds some truth, especially in our increasing number of teen pregnancies. Undoubtedly some of these are a cry for love, but others could almost be considered territorial – a mark of where you've been and with whom.

As a woman, I feel the pressure to conform to society's ideals – to become a wife and mother. Despite this, my choice to remain childless stands firm. I may be in a minority frowned upon by others, but this decision is in my best interests and that of any child. The typical response from others is usually, “you just haven't met the right person yet.” Why do others presume to know me better than I know myself? I know my own mind and I don't have that maternal impulse for children of my own. Does that make me unnatural and less of a woman? I guess to some it does, but it's wrong to assume that I don't like children. Like many, I believe children are a gift, but motherhood in the conventional sense is not for me. There's nothing improper in openly admitting to this. Why is my view considered selfish? I've carefully weighed up the “what ifs” and decided that bringing up baby would be for me an ill-conceived fate.

Parenting in any form is an admirable feat. An act comprising the three Cs: care, commitment and courage - the very areas that we as humans, adults and parents seem to falter. In the world today the similarities between the rearing of children and cattle are striking. We pump cattle full of growth hormones and our children likewise with fats, sugars, and medications. In the midst of all this and its subsequent effects, is it too much to ask potential mothers and fathers to reassess their urge to merge with one another? Perhaps if they did, humankind could improve upon the predicament we're in today. Like disclaimers used in advertising, we could stamp the children of the future with the claim: No children were harmed in the making of this world.