In Defense of Birthing Our Own Children

Several years ago after I had my first child, I was facilitation a discussion during a Yoga Teacher Training course.  One of the participants put forward the motion: “Yoga people should choose not to birth children; having children in an over-populated world is selfish”.  Lately there has been a lot of mention in the media of adoption from the Global South (aka the Third World).  Although I absolutely support educational and medical initiatives and grass-roots development project etc., I find the idea of adoption to reduce overpopulation a problematic one.

Firstly, only recently is the media actively covering the looming and very problematic phenomena of underpopulation in the Global North (aka Developed World).  Under population is such a critical issue in countries like Japan, Korea, Italy,  and Spain that in a few generations MOST people will have no brothers, no sisters, no aunts, no uncles, and no cousins.  So our concept of family as one of the cohesive threads of society will severely tested.  Of course, we are already seeing a move towards “chosen families”, and people who create family-like units and joint, creative families.  But under population will also severely cripple the social system that many of us so value – universal medical care, successful public education, a safety net etc.

The decreasing birthrate already shows that many of us are choosing not to parent children at all, birthed or adopted.  This makes it even less likely that mass adoption would equal out the population crisis.  So rather than depending on continued and vastly increased immigration and the challenges of displacement, and vastly increased Third World adoption, would not increasing education for women in the Third World (proven to decrease overpopulation), access to planned parenthood, and on our side of the globe, a more family-friendly society that would encourage new generations to take on the task of parenting again, be preferable, simpler and more viable long-term options?  How coy – this is not really a question.  If left un-addressed, over-population in Africa and India will not be solved by adoption or immigration.  If left un-addressed, under-population in Canada will not be solved by adoption or immigration alone.

Suffice it to say that I do not think it is selfish in our world to give birth to our own children in the West.  Rather, I believe that our society needs us to continue to re-invent what it means to us to be mothers (parents) in the modern world.  Many people having spent years in universities and/or in downtown corporations where there was little interactions with children and families, who did not grow up in a large family themselves,  are removed from the experience of life with children, breast feeding women, babies in slings.  It is simply a symptom of how removed we are from nature in general.  Can families again become more integrated into the fabric of our society?  Can we learn to better support families as they navigate childcare and work?  I do hope so.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Jodi
    Sep 10, 2011 @ 14:37:59

    Dear Chetana,
    Kudos! You effectively stated your case with rational logic, where as some parents could get emotionally charged (perhaps me :)) in a debate like this.

    I would appreciate the chance to address the collective voice that claims having children is selfish. It is their rigid attachment to their idealistic, alleged yogic identity is what I found fascinating:
    Over the years, I have come to know many amazing yogis in our community with balanced fulfilling lives.
    I have also met other yogis with good intentions, yet trying to be so PC, that inevitably they come from a place of NO on many issues, e.g. child bearing as narcissistic.
    A healthy dose of narcissism allows us to procreate, to achieve , to express our thoughts and to become leaders in our communities.

    As a yoga teacher and mom, I am happiest when I stop judging. This endeavour is ongoing. Thank goodness for maturity, what fruits it has given over the years. I am so grateful for my little universe at home, big family, dogs, birds, big love, big chaos, a sandstorm of personalities and so on…
    ** If we truly embrace vairyaga, then some yogis could tone down their over zealous posturing as vegans, proudly asserting never to have children, not flushing toilets for days, giving condescending glares to those driving SUVs etc,.. rolling their eyes at students new to yoga who do not understand the etiquette during class…while all this is understandable it is still essentially judgemental. The stance occasionally can look like this: “We are enlightened, tsk tsk to the others.”

    Yet, if quietly supporting the green initiative, without talking about birth control, etc, then yogis will cease to be thought of as puritanical, tree huggers, & separate. Perhaps the puritans are in search of their authentic identity, as they enjoy a nouveau political cache.
    To the puritans snacking on tempeh, waxing poetic on the cons of having a family, will they be adopting? Are they checking in on those who are melancholy, angry, hungry, lonely and bring them into their world, be it for a meal, a hug, or through fund raising initiatives?

    Conversely some of our biggest fundraising supporters in the community are big families, who indeed are un-yogic meat eating, leading a high octane lifestyle yet giving so much financial support back to the community. Generosity. This is my perspective as a fundraiser for Mt. Sinai, Schools Without Borders, Ride to Conquer Cancer ’11, and now Off the Mat, Into the World Global Seva 2012 Calcutta.
    So to those naysayers who are concerned about over population : not flushing your toilet / eating local produce /kirtan will not save the world or really reduce your carbon footprint in a way that is remarkable. I love kirtan. It certainly won’t reduce suffering and over-population.
    Instead of this passionate tirade, I could have just said, “Live& let Live”

    Peace all ways,


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