Happy Valentine’s Day! Here’s a very un-valentine-sy topic. Last week, a headline caught my eye: Indian man to sue parents for giving birth to him.
You might think it’s an Onion article, but it’s actually for real, reported by the BBC. And I knew it was real the moment I read the headline because I’ve definitely had similar thoughts. Not that I’ve ever thought of suing my parents, just that I’ve thought many times that it’s pretty dang unfair that we bring kids to Earth and they have no say in the matter — no say in where they are raised, how they are raised, who they are raised by. I mean life can be miserable, and I think there are a whole lot of people who probably wouldn’t have opted in if they’d had the choice.
I enjoyed the article and hope you read it. You may be surprised to hear that the man suing his parents actually has a great relationship with them. Here are a couple of excerpts:
Mumbai businessman Raphael Samuel told the BBC that it’s wrong to bring children into the world because they then have to put up with lifelong suffering.
Mr Samuel, of course, understands that our consent can’t be sought before we are born, but insists that “it was not our decision to be born”.
So as we didn’t ask to be born, we should be paid for the rest of our lives to live, he argues.
You might laugh, but I agree with his line of thinking. What I mean is, it’s always bothered me when I hear parents say things like: You should be so grateful I was willing to give birth to you! Or: What about all those nights I stayed up feeding you? You owe me big on Mother’s Day. (Am I the only one?)
From my point of view, kids don’t owe their parents anything. The parents chose to have the child — and ultimately, I would argue they had the child for selfish reasons. The parents wanted a child, wanted to raise a child, or wanted their genes to get passed on. Maybe they wanted to experience pregnancy and childbirth, wanted to pick out clothes for their child, or teach their child, or show-off their child. Maybe they felt having kids was a commandment from God, and they wanted to be obedient people. But that’s still a selfish reason. No doubt the parents felt biology pressuring them, and society pressuring them, but ultimately, I believe we parents choose to have kids (by adoption or by birth) because we want them. It’s something we do for ourselves. And the child has no say in whether or not they wanted to be here.
So my take is that parents owe their kids, and never the other way around. I forced my kids to come here, so I sure as heck better be willing to do whatever it takes to help them be as happy as possible. It might mean working more or working harder to provide material goods for your kid, or it might mean working less, and spending more time with your kid, depending on what their particular needs are.
Should we look at our parents (or should our kids look at us) and think: Wow, they sacrificed so much for me. How could I ever repay them? Or should we think: Wow, they sacrificed so much — they must have really wanted kids. My existence is a gift to them; I sure hope they enjoyed parenting me.
At the end of the article Mr Samuel says:
“I wish I was not born. But it’s not that I’m unhappy in my life. My life is good, but I’d rather not be here. You know it’s like there’s a nice room, but I don’t want to be in that room,” he explains.
As controversial or confusing as that may sound, I totally get it. I have felt the same way many times since my early 30’s. Like okay, I’ve given this life thing a good solid try. I’ve experienced lots of things. I’ve embraced those experiences fully. And now I’m done. Time to get off the ride. And then, when I realize I’m still here, it’s like what? Wait a minute. You’re telling me I’ve got another 50 years of this ahead of me? But why? I’m all good. I’m totally fine to be done now.
I’ve been wondering about why I think like this when others don’t, and I’ve considered that it may be related to my depression, but really, I think it’s a separate thing. I don’t feel sadness or despair about it. It’s more matter of fact. And I end up mostly resigned, like okay, if I can’t get off the ride, then I suppose I’ll do my best to enjoy it. By the way, I’m not trying to be dark here; I don’t see this as a dark thing at all.
What are your thoughts? Can you relate to Mr. Samuel’s line of thinking? Or does it seem bizarre to you? Do you feel like you “owe” your parents for the life they gave you? Do you feel like your kids “owe” you? What should our obligations to our parents be? And what should our obligations to our children be?
P.S. — There are a lot of sub-topics in this post and maybe we need to have a whole separate discussion on the topic of euthanasia, and when and why someone might want to opt out of life with minimal drama and pain.
P.P.S. — I suppose we could argue that kids who are adopted at older ages do have some say in the matter of who is raising them. But even then, they got no say in whether or not they would be born.