“Just don’t have kids” is not the answer.

This morning I read the news that further cuts to Early Childhood Education haven’t been ruled out yet. While many people are horrified by the idea of even more possible slashing, an unnervingly common response has been to say that if people can’t afford to have children, they shouldn’t have them. That’s right; stop bitching about the price of a service, just blame the people complaining for getting themselves into the situation where they need it. And people who aren’t already in that situation; if you can’t afford to raise a kid, you should probably never have kids. Never mind that the price is problematic; don’t resolve that issue, just don’t ever get to a place where it’s an issue for you personally. Never mind the fact that it will still be a problem for other people. And never mind the fact that if we really only limited parenting to people who could “afford” the ever-rising price of it we would probably end up heading down a road where half the country couldn’t afford kids and suddenly there would be a mass panic about population levels.

People who say “if you can afford it, don’t have kids” make me incredibly angry, because they have obviously never, ever, ever, for even one single second, thought about even one single issue relating to privilege or discrimination. Let’s think for a second: we’re working from the “no cash, no kids” viewpoint. So a couple decide no kids for them: too pricey, whatever. So they take some sort of contraceptive precaution; BUT! As anyone who has ever thought for one second about this issue could tell you, contraception can fail. People who never think about these issues hear about “undesirable” women (young, or single, or <cough>financially unstable <cough>)getting preggo and they think “what an irresponsible slapper, not even trying to stop herself getting pregnant”. Guess what? Contraception is not foolproof. The assumption that every accidental pregnancy is a result of some sort of sexual Russian Roulette is incorrect.

But, I hear you say, getting pregnant doesn’t mean having kids. And you are correct. However, if you said to the ignorant thickos that a possible way to deal with an accidental pregnancy you can’t afford is to have an abortion, I imagine plenty would say that abortion is not ok, and only for slutty ho bags who weren’t careful enough. Sorry, did I say abortion? I meant shooting a spear gun through your fully-grown in-utero baby who screams “Mama, why are you killing me??”. Abortion is not a palatable option for a lot of people who believe they get to tell women how to make their reproductive choices.

But! Say these people, how about adoption? That way even if all your baby-thwarting attempts were in vain but you know you can’t afford a kid, you won’t actually have to be the one raising it and paying for it. Perfect solution! Except: the situation isn’t like a piece of paper with conception written on one end and birth one the other where you can just concertina it in the middle and have this unaffordable kid appear immediately and then find someone to adpot it. Stuff happens in between. Stuff that some people have never even thought to consider. While you’re growing this future Prime Minister of New Zealand inside you you’ve got to keep yourself in good condition. Doctor visits, ultrasounds, healthy eating, all of that Elevit you need to make sure you aren’t one of those disgusting mothers who harms her unborn child through her own neglectful actions. As well as that, being pregnant can affect the earning potential of that woman: maybe she has to work less, or can’t work at all. Maybe she’s lucky enough to continue with her pre-pregnant life, but maybe her life has to adapt a little because her needs and limits are different – and rightly so, because pregnancy is an awesome but complex thing. But all this adds up to one thing: being pregnant isn’t free. So adoption as an “affordable” option for someone who can’t afford kids is not exactly the magic bullet that some people might think. And this woman shouldn’t be allowed to have this child because she can’t afford to raise it! Can’t afford ridiculous, exorbitant costs, and can’t afford to cope with any possible price rises that could happen at any time in the future life of that child while they’re financially responsible (18 years or so). Fix the broken system? Apparently that’s not an option. Just don’t have kids. And tell your friends too, because having kids is only for the rich, and are they really rich enough?

I get so mad at the “so just don’t have kids” attitude. People who say that have never thought about one single of the issues I’ve mentioned, or any of the other issues that are tangled up in this topic: access to contraception, knowledge of how to properly use contraception, the stigma of abortion, access to abortion, price of abortion services, the social and financial costs of being pregnant, workplace policies and attitudes that affect pregnant women, the effect of pregnancy on the body, and societal attitudes to women who choose to not have children.

These people who have never had to think about these things are so deep in their privilege it makes me angry. They’ve never had to think about these things, they don’t want to know about them, and they’ve never imagined a life where their own privilege was gone and they HAD to think about these issues. They don’t believe that these issues are even real issues, because that isn’t their own experience.

I don’t know how to convey these ideas to people who’s privilege prevents them from wanting to know about this stuff or from grasping the fact that all of these issues and more are very real and they have a huge effect on many people.

Seriously, if your response to increasing Early Childhood Costs is “just don’t have kids”, and not “what is wrong with our system and where our priorities lie?”, I don’t know how to change your mind.


  1. Ladybroseph says:

    This is EXACTLY the same problem I have with privileged people ‘solving’ the Over-population Issue with the argument “women should just have less children, especially in third world countries”. And I hate that it’s usually ‘women’ that are targeted, as if men have nothing to do with it, because they don’t get pregnant. Over-population is not simply about ‘having too many people in the world’ – resource allocation is another huge issue (something like 10% of the population consumes 90% of the world’s resources – and at least 50% of that is wasted or thrown away). But apparently preventing these women from having kids will solve all of that…

    • steph says:

      I agree, the “have fewer kids” argument is such a superficial analysis of the situation, and it really irritates me. It’s like, come on people, think a bit harder. That’s it, keep thinking of all the wildest possibilities that could be relevant. I feel like a teacher helping guide a class of kids towards the answer to a problem that they haven’t even come close to considering, haha.

  2. Amanda says:

    Must. Not. Read. Comments. NNnngggghhhhh!

    I feel like some raging socialist when something as simple as “Have a little emapthy for your fellow persons, please” gets punted into “omg commy nazi steal all my pension dole bludger” territory.

    • steph says:

      Yeah, me too. I resent being made to feel like some sort of radical extremist when my views are actually as simple as “treat people like people”. It’s ridiculous!

  3. Tamara Liebman says:

    What a fantastic rant!! So on the money.

    • steph says:

      Thanks 🙂 I find it very hard to explain, but sometimes I get so mad when people talk about an issue so superfically and it’s clear that they’ve never considered that there is a lot more going on under the surface and that it is much more complex than they think. I guess it is often tied up in privilege.

  4. wildwahine says:

    Perhaps, it’s not about having NO children, an accidental pregnancy could be accounted for and dealt with once, but more than that you’d have to be thinking something a little careless or messed up is happenin for the woman. So OK, you have your one, deal with that. Aim for a good life for that one, but to go on if your general personal life hasn’t improved, ie” you haven’t been able to secure a happy, functional relationship with a significant other; or you haven’t been able to significantly improve your financial progress … then WHY??? have more?? is my question? One I could understand. But if things aren’t getting better, just stick with that one – aim to make that one’s and your own life a better, and be more proactive & careful with the contraception next time!!
    However, I do hear the wider arguments particularly relating to women in extremely poor and disadvantaged areas (areas of Africa/Asia for example), where contraceptive access and education is low and dominance of masculine rule ideals is high. I feel so, so, so sorry for these women, who truly have such limited life choices, and will often be reproducing because there is no other choice for them. Very sad.
    I understand that people can be found to be living in apparent ‘poverty’ here in NZ, but is nothing compared to these places, and I believe is still no excuse. From my limited experience, I believe our country provides many and numerous opportunities for women of all walks of life to be provided general health care and information – right from education initiatives and programmes in schools, to subsidised healthcare providers ie: Family Planning Clinics and many other whanau-related doctor centres where visits are sometimes free or very, well subsidised.
    Anyways, there’s my rant for your question, support or scorn 🙂

    • steph says:

      I think my general point overall is that right now, with the state of wages and jobs and support for parents and funding for education, it seems like we’re trying to actively create a situation where having kids is not really affordable- basically, if we all waited until we were “ready” (i.e. in the perfect position, which apparently we are supposed to do), most people wouldn’t be ready until they were much older than the ideal age for having children (and would then be judged for leaving it too late).

      People can try and try to improve their financial situation, but it still remains that we have a problem with jobs and with supporting people to work their way up, and even if those things were fixed you would still have to account for the fact that some people don’t have the privilege of others and may not ever be able to be the Prime Minister or a millionaire or even own their own home.

      And the thing about contraception is that you can be as careful as you possible can, but that doesn’t negate the failure rate of whatever method you use. And even being careful there are things that can cause your contraception to fail (e.g. interference from other medications). The fact that it failed once doesn’t mean you will never have another contraceptive failure again (using the same or a different kind).