The cult of self-fulfilment is in conflict with the urge to have children. They are our last link to communal values. Matthew and Laurie Taylor suggest we "fuck for the future."by Matthew Taylor / June 20, 2001 / Leave a comment
Laurie taylor was a 1960s father. He viewed his role as little more than standing back-often at a considerable distance-and waiting for the unique personality of his only son, Matthew, to emerge through play and experience. Matthew Taylor, in contrast, was determined to provide stability for his two sons. While Matthew’s childhood had involved shifting combinations of parents and step-parents and several different primary schools, he insisted that his own children would live in one place, go to one school and know one family. So when Matthew asked Laurie to explain why he had bothered having a child in the first place, it was no surprise that the answer was far from convincing. What neither had expected was how hard Matthew would find it to answer the same question.
This father-son dialogue prompted us to begin asking other people-mainly friends and colleagues-why they had become parents. The first response was often indignant. How could one even ask such a question? There were some things in life that could not be reduced to utilitarian calculation. Parenthood was intrinsically good. The value of having children of one’s own was surely something that was timeless, a value that transcended shifts in political and religious beliefs. Whatever our views, we are all capable, as Sylvia Ann Hewlett and Cornel West put it in their defence of parenthood, The War Against Parents, of being “caught up in the miracle of birth,” of being “inspired… by the power of a small child to evoke our most sublime and selfless feelings.”
But the miracle of birth and the power of the small child to evoke such transcendent feelings needs to be supplemented by other, more tangible reasons for having children. This was where the problems arose. The (middle-class) parents we spoke to could not cite economic security in old age as a reason for having children but they seemed equally unhappy to fall back on instinct or cultural norms. This left only one alternative. They must have had their children because they wanted to. They had exercised a rational choice. They were merely on the opposite side of the calculus from all those millions of other people who had taken advantage of the widespread availability of contraception and abortion to make the equally self-conscious decision not to breed.
The statistics are dramatic. Has there ever been a process of social change as rapid and profound as…