HEARING what Peter Costello had to say about the importance of family in his departure speech from federal politics the other day had me questioning my social worth as a childfree citizen.
Going by what he and most politicians have often said about the value of family, it seems that I am in possession of things that are worthless in the eyes of those who place family and their children first.
I remember hearing the ex-Federal Treasurer and father of four characterising the budget that he delivered a few years ago as one that placed “family first, family square, family centre”, and asking myself whether I was doing the right thing by my country.
Hearing parents talk about the self-sacrifice that comes with children often makes me wonder if I’ve thrown the baby out with the bath water in my quest to live a life free of the obligations and responsibilities that comes with kids.
The thought of having children can be frightening. If I had children of my own, I’d dread every passing moment, hoping that no harm would come to them. I’d feel their disappointments and fear the inevitable setbacks that life brings.
Their sadness would be my sadness. Their pain would be my pain. I’d lament their tiniest loss and grieve for a lifetime their loss of faith in me. I can’t imagine living my life like this – not now anyway.
Letting go of parenthood is however as difficult as letting go of childhood memories – which is impossible given that we were all children once.
Parents do not only look to their children to revive happy childhood experiences, many rely on them to resurrect dead dreams.
We see these parents at sporting events, dance competitions and school awards nights pushing their kids to the point of despair in the hope of experiencing the opportunities that escaped them in childhood.
Thankfully most parents aren’t like this. Most are happy knowing that their children are happy.
My mum and dad are for instance happy knowing that their daughter is happy raising a family in a respectable suburb.
It’s a life my parents could only have dreamt of when growing up in a war-torn Europe.
Their dream is, however, my nightmare on account of my decision to turn my back on the things that give meaning to their lives – children.
Boys like me turned their backs on the institution our fathers held so dear out of belief that freedom and fatherhood could never go hand in hand.
I chose to move away from my father’s world out of fear his shadow would kill my growth.
And although this decision allowed me to live a life that was very different to his, I can’t help wondering at times if I’ve denied myself the opportunity to be civilised by the grace of my own children.
My decision not to have kids often makes me feel like an ogre in a society that associates decency with family.
Seeing how children have transformed selfish individuals into sensitive and caring souls has me wondering whether this it true.
The freedom that comes with the decision not place kids at the centre of my life can be too much at times.
It’s like standing on the edge of precipice looking out at an infinite expanse.
Thankfully I have my wife, friends, students, and my community to help me from hitting rock bottom.No doubt kids give people reason to live.
But as I’ve discovered, life can be just as meaningful without them. Whether life revolves around family, children, friends, lovers, long-term partners, neighbours, mates or new acquaintances is irrelevant.
It’s how these relationships shape our values that determines our social worth.
A society that values and treats each individual equally, regardless of whether they are married, committed to family values, prepared to fulfil the government’s quota on kids, is a truly egalitarian society.
No doubt the traditional family institution is an important component to this society, but it is by no means