Recent conversation with someone prompted this question. Let me explain. I have had a number of discussions very recently about separation and divorce, as more and more people around us seem to experience this. One of the conversations was related to why we have children in current western society. Previously, the imperative to have children was clear. You did so to provide a measure of security when you became physically incapable of working any longer, as well as providing either additional labour or meagre income by the little ones, to the benefit of the greater good of the family unit. In other words, reproducing = security.
I don’t think that in 2010, there would be many western parents who could honestly position this as the driving reason to have children. So why do we have them? This very subject prompted the observation by my friend here in Amsterdam (himself a father) that having children is something akin to hobby farming. With a hobby farm, it doesn’t serve any strictly useful purpose or a need to generate income, security, or delivering product to the greater good of the society. Hobby farming is about indulging a whim, or perhaps the satisfaction of ‘pastoral care’. I have to admit I see the parallels to having children instantly.
If you want to have a really interesting conversation at your next dinner party, try this theme and (politely) push people to really get to the bottom of why they have had children. As a father, I am not entirely sure I could actually explain it myself.