An open letter to Jordan Peterson

Dear Jordan,

I hope all is well with you.

I recently started reading your book 12 Rules for Life and I am thoroughly enjoying myself. It is a great book, thank you.

I am writing this letter today because this morning I stumbled on a video of you on YouTube, discussing having children. Then I watched a few more interviews and talks in which you advise young individuals to consider their middle-aged selves and have children. These talks shook me, I am afraid I don’t 100% agree with you.

I won’t get into the details of your discussions since I probably won’t paraphrase judiciously. I am writing this in hopes that you will also see my side, and perhaps understand a different aspect of this subject.

I am a 26-year-old woman and have never wanted to bear children. I understand your side of the argument and the reasons that you present for having children, but here is my thinking. You are more than welcome to disagree, however, this letter might bring some more light into this, at the least.

I have many reasons to not have kids. But most important of all, I don’t have one single reason to have children. I find the reasons that you mention quite selfish (for me- I am not saying you are selfish). I think it is selfish to bring children to the world to make one happy, fulfilled, busy, purposeful, not alone, supported, taking care of, or to have someone inherit your wealth, etc.

To be clear, I am not in pursuit of a high-end career (I have a job and it pays), I am not seeking happiness in life as a sole purpose, I am not delusional with the idea of living for work. I understand that support systems are essential, having friends, a partner, being surrounded by people who care about you.

I do not want to have children for a myriad of reasons:

 

I wouldn’t be a fit parent.

 

I didn’t have the best parents or a great childhood. My grandparents weren’t amazing, and from what I’ve heard their parents have been not so great either. So I have a biological disadvantage. I concluded this recently after looking back at my family history, it’s not a placebo, I am not trying to convince myself merely by looking at the past.

But the facts are facts. My mother once told me:”Never have kids”. Why? I don’t know, maybe she felt like we stopped her from becoming who she wants to be before she could even figure out who she wanted to be (she had me at 21).

My aunts and uncles are not the best parents either. In fact, most of my cousins ended up in a same miserable situation as their parents, despite my aunts and uncles claiming to work hard to provide them with a better life. Now I see my relatives burdened with great sadness as their children suffer greatly. I don’t want to guarantee misery for an unborn soul.

 

I don’t have any control over the future.

 

I might die at any moment. My uncle passed when he was 28, leaving a 3-year-old behind. Needless to say, her very challenging and sad life has haunted me and the rest of my family ever since. I have seen my friends with deceased parents struggle day after day. I have also witnessed my friends with divorced parents, abandoned to live with their grandparents. It’s not that their parents were horrible, life happened, things changed, and the impact hit the children with a force greater than anyone can control.

I can’t bring a life to this world knowing that everything is precarious. My parents stayed together just because of us, and I wished that they didn’t. Because their unhappiness made me and my brother greatly unhappy.

 

I have GAD, OCD, kidney stones and many other imperfections that will infect my potential offspring.

 

I am not cut out for the responsibility.

 

Maybe I am being too selfish, but taking on the responsibility of guiding a human being through growth is tremendous. There are so many aspects, layers, and levels. And missing the most inconspicuous detail will result in a source of suffering for your child. As a person with anxiety, even imagining this overwhelms me with panic. Because I don’t want anyone to experience emotional or physical pain because of me.

 

Our planet is a crazy place.

 

Not understanding the universe, life, and even our planet discourages me from contemplating bringing another member to it. I know our biological calling requires us to procreate, survive, and not go extinct. But I am highly resistant to bring uncertainty on yet another human.

My list goes on, but it might bore you. Bottom line is that I don’t know what will make my life fulfilling. I may never live a fulfilling life (with or without children). And by the way, children always keep you company, they don’t always take care of you when you are old. We did not choose to be born (I know that I wish I wasn’t), but I can not bring myself to make the same choice for an unborn person.

I am excited about getting older, every day I learn more about myself and the world. The yesterday me always looks silly to the today me. I don’t think there’s a cap on learning. Learning makes me feel fulfilled, and I am constantly changing because of it. I just recently discovered that art gives me great joy and peace, I can communicate through it to other humans and understand them better. I would say that my creativity is my drive in life. So there is so much to learn about this one human being that is me, and there’s so much more to learn about everything else, and I have so little time.

You might never read this or might think I am a hot-headed young woman who doesn’t know what she wants until she hits 35 and realizes she must have babies. But I am speaking the truth as I know it. Of course, I did say I am constantly changing, so who knows, maybe (only maybe) I would consider adopting an unfortunate child and strive to give them a happy home. This still requires the same troubles and concerns, but a better alternative than biological offsprings. My parents sacrificed themselves for me to have a better life. I owe it to them (quite literally) to finish their project rather than interrupt it with having my own children.

For me, living a life with depth and slightly less happiness (of having kids) is more appealing than living a superfluous life and then live vicariously through my kin.

I mean no offense to people who have kids, you are great and I admire your bravery. This is just my point of view and might only work for me.

Edit: I really did think about what Jordan Peterson said. I tried to put aside my prejudices and genuinly mull it over. Will I want to have children in the future? Do I feel a moral obligation? Do I care about teaching a human being? Etc. No, I still found myself answering no. To me, having children is an escape and distraction from existential crisis. I will strive to devote my energy to persons already in need and be of help as much as I can, for as long as I can. But again, that’s only my opinion, feel free to disagree.

I originally posted this on Jordan Peterson’s reddit.

22 Responses

  1. Excellent post, Em. No one should have to apologize for their decision not to have children. Some days, given this crazy, messed up world we’re living in, I feel bad for bringing two kids into it. But I’ll never regret it!

    1. Thank you Denny. This means so much coming from a great parent like you. And I don’t think you should ever regret having children, because you are an amazing dad and I’m sure your children will be great assets to this world.

  2. I’m also reading Peterson’s 12. Good for you for knowing who you are!!!! Good for you for speaking up! I agree with a lot that Peterson teaches. I disagree with some too. We are all human from different places, times, etc. Thank you for you post. I really enjoyed reading.

    1. Thank you for reading and commenting. I really appreciate it. I do agree with a lot of his ideas as well, but his speeches about family and children suddenly felt like, from his point of view, someone like me has no worth because I have no children.

      1. Well then EM we will have to tell him otherwise!!!!! You have absolute worth! I’m about 1/2 way through the book, I’ll have to be more aware. I think any strong personality such as his will say things that will be offensive. I’ve read a lot of them, take the good stuff, throw away the rest. Keep being you Em—- your awesome just the way you are

        1. Thank you xx I did critically think about what he said, as unbiased as I could be, and then concluded that it simply doesn’t apply to me. You are absolutely right: “take the good stuff, throw away the rest”!

  3. I don’t think it’s right for someone to tell others to have children, it’s a matter of preference after all. What somebody wants may not be what someone else wants.
    I’m really sorry to hear about your parents and shocked about your grandparents, some parents love you but I always thought a grandparent would at least be there for you. It’s really sad to hear that a young child and person may not have had that connection or love from an older family member, I can’t imagine how it must have felt. I hope you have someone who you can talk to and you’re always welcome to talk to us if need be. 🙂
    Also, fully supporting adoption if you do opt to have children one day. They need it more. Way more.

    1. Thanks Sophia, I appreciate you.

      I only had one grandmother who was a lovely compassionate woman, and she watched her youngest leave this world. She was a great person and really tried to be a good parent, but sometimes that’s not enough. I also love my parent, of course, but we didn’t have the best upbringing, I guess mostly because they were not really educated on patenting. Regardless, I don’t associate family with happiness. Some families are happy, but for me happiness lies in rather different bonds. Thanks again for commenting x

  4. I wasn’t quite done. Anyway, I never planned for children either.
    Lots of the reasons you brought up, I had too. Thing is. I am so thankful for my daughter’s. My best memories include them. It’s like my life is all about them. And I don’t mind.
    On the other hand, my nephew is right up there too. The kids are so fun to take to amusement parks, school, there’s never a dull day.
    The worst part is when they’re grown adults and you’ve spent 1/3 of your life raising them, they no longer need you. I’m not saying it’s for you, it’s just my rendition of parenting. The best parents are married, have a good home, where there’s healthy relationships. Otherwise, the kids won’t enjoy their life.

    1. Thanks so much for sharing with me. I am taking away valuable things from your comment. I am happy for you and your daughters, you must be very proud of them.

      Providing a happy life for children is no easy task, as you mentioned, they need both parents, happy home, and also there’s the finances…

  5. Great points well made. Agree with many of the comments too. Having children may entail a few sacrifices, but it’s not an overwhelming my selfless act. And I speak as a parent.

  6. Are you always brilliant? 🙂 Great post. How silly to foist parenthood upon all living creatures as a cultural mandate…or a standard of value. Is a woman who wants to bear children more valuable than a woman who doesn’t? I have worked with abused and emotionally-disturbed children and have witnessed the heinous acts/results of flippant parenting. If you are truly curious about a parent’s POV on your blog… I am a parent, and I think you’re view is totally healthy. Thoughtful. Appropriate. Loving. I wish more people would take social/personal issues to heart in the same manner that you do. (remember, you gave me permission to wander in your blogosphere.

    1. My thoughts exactly. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me, I especially appreciate the POV of a parent. Please feel free to roam every corner of this blog, it’s my pleasure.

  7. You share articulate and well thought out reasons … I didn’t have children for similar reasons but found men keen to procreate as most leave it to the mother to rear their offspring. Some fathers stay involved, some offer financial support … as you say there are no guarantees! I have never regretted my decision although my parents and society exerted immeasurable pressure I stayed true to myself.

    Smart lady, live and learn and grow. Never feel pressured to reproduce just because others do!

    1. Thank you so much for sharing this, I can’t express how much I appreciate it. I absolutely adore your decision for saying true to yourself. Very inspiring, thank you.

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