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I booked a vasectomy for this morning, February 7, 2023 at 10 AM.
It took some eight months to decide if I really wanted to have this procedure. I actually wanted to get it back in November, but I wanted to wait for my schedule to quiet down before going through with it. I’ve already worked through a lot of these topics on my own, and I wanted to share the thought process for those in the family planning stage. I’m not trying to gain sympathy or complain about how hard I have it. Like any good math student, I’m showing the steps taken to arrive at my answer.
In short, why am I getting a vasectomy and deciding to never bear my own children? I don’t want to.
So many follow-up questions.
Why have children at all?
To the question of making babies, the default position is yes, you should bear your own offspring, stemming from various areas like the patriarchy, capitalism, the Christian family unit, Asian culture. There is a lot of pressure to have kids in today’s world. I understand the upside well enough, along with the recognition that seeing it and experiencing it are completely distinct realms. I've heard many new parents trying to describe the indescribable joy after seeing their newborn, a feeling that they never thought was possible. I'm certain I could feel the same. Maybe that's enough to propel a caregiver through the dark valleys of the coming years as their child gradually develops into an independent individual, in combination with all the mountain peaks of first milestones like steps, words, teeth, friendships, days at schools, performances, sleepovers, bike rides, crushes. Children *can* be an amazing addition to a family. They can provide parents with fulfillment and meaning to care for a dependent. Putting your DNA forth into future generations builds the dynasty of the greater extended family.
A lot of the time, the back and forth around what you should do as a parent centres around the inevitability of having children in the first place. There are ways out of it, through various stages of the reproductive and child-raising cycles such as contraceptives, education on sexual health, access to healthcare services like abortion, adoption, amnesty sites. The broader topic of giving the people what they need to live a fulfilling life doesn't get the same airtime.
Parenthood is something I genuinely wanted for myself and still do. However, my circumstances have eliminated the opportunity for me, and I’ve reached a state of acceptance. It feels a little tragic, but the more I think about it, I’m not even close to wanting to follow through with actually raising a child or several all the way to adulthood. I'm too tired.
What are the costs of parenthood?
Given the current economic climate, a good number of parents have told me that, for a married couple in their working years, a huge amount of support is still required in order to effectively raise kids. For couples that have lucrative salaries and unlimited, free babysitting, it seems like there's still a lot lacking in terms of having what you need to raise a little human. I've only lived in Alberta, and it seems to me that small-ish cities like Edmonton and Calgary are built in a way to maximize individuality and isolation. As far as Canadian provinces go, this one is the best suited for raising a family, yet it presents sizable challenges with regards to real estate and transportation. I would want to raise healthy children that could walk or cycle to school or the playground or to hang out with friends. Understanding my privileged position, I'm actually fairly well set up for that, having secured housing and property ownership within the inner city, rife with separated walking/cycling trails, and I can even use my ebike to go to my office on the edge of town. I have enough household income to support renting a large condo or house, so the argument of insufficient housing and transport for my pod doesn't actually stick. The problem then becomes about living too far from the people in my support system. It's like when my cats wander into a room and meow because they feel lonely. Dude, you put yourself there, and we're not even that far away.
I also want to buy a house, but I just can’t afford it for the foreseeable future. The argument for having kids is like trying to convince me to stretch myself to work multiple jobs, cut costs, and sell everything when I’m perfectly happy renting a condo or single family house. Even if the vasectomy is mostly irreversible, I could still adopt, but I don’t want to do that either.
On the other hand, there’s the perspective that perfection is the enemy of good. Some say kids don’t actually need a lot. I can concede that argument to an extent as well. However, I can say after having grown up in a house that lived that mantra on the daily, it's not a good time. There are people whose families have multiple consecutive generations of unwilling or regretful parents, coerced into raising children and simultaneously doing their best and doing a terrible job at it. There is an Anti-Natalism community for just such folks.
Childcare reaches a lot of separate areas like minimum wage, cost of living, worker protection laws, unionization, real estate, flexible working arranges like remote or hybrid models, vacation time, greed-/stag-flation. Parenting isn’t considered a real job, but anyone saying so seems to be pretty quick to judge a mother doing a bad job of it. If you posted jobs on LinkedIn for all the roles a parent assumes, such as a cook, cleaner, nurse, babysitter, tutor, therapist, mentor, life coach, chauffeur, etc., you’d find the salary requirements add up quickly. Unfortunately, in a typical heterosexual couple, childcare is the woman’s responsibility while the man goes off to make “real” money. While he could earn the majority of the income in terms of usable currency, she would be cutting far more costs than he would make, along with taking on the majority of the blame and little of the credit.
Canada has one of the longer periods allotted for paid parental leave at 40 weeks, but it's not all roses. You go on Employment Insurance and get either 55% of your regular income, up to a maximum of $638 per week for 35 weeks or $383 for 61. That feels insufficient for how costly it is to live, even prior to the current period of greed-flation.
Transportation becomes surprisingly important in a place like Calgary. Since the fundamental underpinnings of the way this city was built favours car ownership, neighbourhoods become much less livable for everyone. When kids are old enough to go outside, Calgary’s population density and urban sprawl mean that they probably live a decent drive away from things like schools and recreational facilities. It’s not always practical for a child to walk, cycle, scoot, or transit to see their friends. There are protected bike lanes downtown, but elsewhere we just have painted lines, which are somehow supposed to stop the average truck drivers in Ford F-150s which get larger, taller, and heavier every year. The average electric vehicle’s batteries effectively double the weight of new cars and trucks, increasing the amount of kinetic energy brought into collisions [remember E = (1/2)mv^2?], making collisions more deadly. I barely want to drive myself around most days.
I could move to a more livable city, but I’d leave behind my support network, which I’ve spent years crafting and investing time and energy into. Not only would I no longer have them in my life, I would also lose a community that I meaningfully contributed to as well.
There’s also the emotional toll of parenthood. If you don't already have a strong sense of self (🙋🏻♂️ guilty), babies only make that harder. It's easy to take on the role of caregiver, but it takes a lot of courage and philosophizing, sitting silently with the question hanging in the air without rushing towards an answer. With kids, there is no silence or time to think, or at least it becomes much harder for a tired person.
At least I’ll save money on condoms.
There's the unfortunate undercurrent of jealousy from some parents of newborns when they see a childless married couple. It's not even that well-disguised because people have said "you guys should have kids so we can be in the same position and you can know how hard it is." ...wut
Who are the people asking/forcing/pressuring me to have kids? Everyone and no one. People ask, and understandably so because I’ve said for some time that it’s what I wanted and was planning to start trying in 2022.
What about freezing your genetic material? You want me to donate these amazing genes and great smile to a sperm bank? Nah, I’m good.
What If I've Already Been a Parent?
I’ve had to parent and re-parent myself, along with a few close friends and family members. It’s like some classes where teachers/professors don’t do an amazing job of explaining the course material, and after begging and pleading for them to do better, you realize that you have to pick up the slack and take the initiative to teach the material to yourself and your fellow classmates. I’ve already passed the final exams for the required courses and gotten my Parenting degree, so why are you talking like my education wasn’t valid and that I have to redo the entire program? If you want me to bear new children to raise, now we’re talking about me going on to graduate studies, which I don’t have any interest in or energy for.
Slave owners forced their slaves to have children because it meant more free labour, as well as another lever to pull when they wanted to manipulate them into a weaker position. It benefits employers to know that you’re a parent because that gives them more leverage. It’s harder to leave a job for better working conditions when you have another mouth to feed and your risk tolerance is lower, so parents have to accept worse treatment and less pay to an extent.
Solidarity with Women And Access to Abortion
Getting a vasectomy is an act of solidarity with women, who are generally expected to carry the burdens of birth control. Women get IUDs, take hormone pills, buy condoms, consult with their doctors, get tested for sexual transmitted infections, while men complain that a condom doesn't feel as good. If women do get pregnant and decide to abort the fetus, they face protests by conservative groups who want to subject them to a modern form of slavery. There are many examples of pro-lifers who spend their free time protesting at abortion clinics, shouting abuse and horrible obscenities at vulnerable women, while using the abortion services themselves when they "need" it. Good for me but not for thee.
If people really want to reduce the number of abortions, they could do so through many simple and low-cost methods. Sex education on how to use contraception correctly. What it means to be sexually healthy and mature in a physical relationship by understanding and communicating your needs and boundaries. Basic understanding of gender identity and sexual orientation besides the current model of "ew, that's weird." Handing out free condoms.
In the US, 85% of abortions happen before 9 weeks, and they look nothing like what you might have seen on an anti-abortion protester's picket sign.
A clump of cells is not a child, and abortion isn't murder. Otherwise you could claim tax credits with the government for a dependant for at least a couple months, even if you have a miscarriage. By getting a vasectomy, the issue becomes moot.
The prospect of having children was one of my motivations to get my mental health in order. I could see that I was on a bad path, and I wanted to get my shit together before subjecting my hypothetical kids to the burden of having a father who was mentally and emotionally unhealthy. A person should want to care for themselves for their own sake. Sometimes parents try to use kids to fix things like their failing marriages, and even when there’s conscious decision made by consenting adults use kids as a relationship Band-Aid, it suddenly becomes too sensitive a topic to confront after the deed is done, and it’s quickly and implicitly excused/forgiven/accepted.
There are amazing families that inspire hope for humanity. If you want to have kids and you have all of the means to do it well, then please feel encouraged to do so. Even given what I’ve spent so much many words explaining above, if I still had what it took to procreate, I would do it. Everyone has their own opinions about what a family is, what it means to be a parent, how to pass knowledge and wisdom to a child facing hardship. We can all do whatever we want, at the philosophical and practical levels, so go for it. This is how I feel on this topic, and this is how I’m living out my values.
A few people have grilled me about whether I’m really sure if I want to have a vasectomy. If only that same energy were applied to those that want to want children.
Once upon a time I really wanted to make my own babies. Now that I’ve counted the cost, I realized I don’t want to to anymore, and I’m going to have a medical procedure to ensure it. There is a lot of pressure to make babies, and it’s a costly venture in many respects, from money, sleep, real estate, transportation, mental health, identity. There are parents who are jealous of the childless and want them to enter into the same suffering. I’ve already had to parent myself and close friends/family, and I’m tired. A vasectomy is an act of solidarity with women who have to carry the burden of contraception, and it negates the need for an abortion later on.