(In “the high cost of carefree living pt 1” I started looking at the cultural trend of choosing a life without children and my opinion that the reasons people would choose to live childfree are actually undermined by that decision.)
Another of the leading reasons Laura Scott uncovered in her research about why people want to remain childfree was that they value their freedom. Much of the problem with this reasoning, for me, boils down to what I believe is a fundamental misunderstanding of the idea of freedom. I know that freedom is a very desirable quality in life; in fact, of all the desirable qualities in life freedom is one of the most sought after. To know that the restrictions placed upon one’s existence are minimal does nothing less than inject the potential for adventure into each and every day. However, in my observation, it seems that what people refer to as freedom is not freedom at all. In some, if not much, of the prevailing American mindset there is an assumption that we have the right to choose whatever we want. We feel entitled to engage whatever pursuits happen to catch our attention, and we simultaneously expect these choices to come with no sustained consequences. Conversely, true freedom says that we have the opportunity to choose our course, our direction, and our next action, but it also demands that we reap the results as well. The modern idea of freedom, which is merely rebranded autonomy, is not satisfied with choosing something, it must choose everything because only everything will give everything, and nothing short of everything is enough. But if life teaches us anything it is that everything is not available to us. Once my daughter had marauded my once peaceful life like a pirate swashbuckling a poor merchant’s ship, the consequence of my decision was fully realized. I could no more go back to being something other than a father than I could, like Benjamin Button, be returned to my own adolescence. My independence had become a memory, a previous state of being. But, something else happened that I could not have prepared myself for. It was true that like a relief pitcher with a shoulder injury I had lost some of the range of motion I had grown accustomed to, but I had not merely lost something in this tectonic shift, there was something that I had also gained. Before my daughter was born, I was free to be many things but I was not free to be all things, and it was only in the giving up of some liberties that I was given the new freedom to become a father. In the articles about, conversations with, and research into this childfree trend, there are both explicit and implicit arguments that having children is like putting on a social straight jacket. But in the spirit of balanced thinking, is it not true that choosing a childfree life is like putting on another kind of restraint? I may not be free to go watch a movie on a Thursday night, but someone without a child is not free to understand what it means to love something as complex as a life that you had a hand in creating. I cannot fathom a time when I will have enough extra funds to purchase the toys and distractions that a childfree life would afford, but I nightly have the unique opportunity to stand over my children’s beds and plead with God for their health, their joy, and their souls. Freedom for me no longer looks like unscheduled time or even a positive checking account balance at the end of every month; freedom now looks like a blonde haired, green eyed, runny nosed little girl who has found a way to evulse much of my money, most of my sleep, and all of my affection with only the effort it takes to extend her two tiny hands up into her sky toward my shoulders. Every time I take up her feather-light body into my arms I am reminded that, because of her, I am free to be a father.