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Michał Koralewski

Me-ternity leave is not selfish

Sop shaming the childless already!

Yeah, I get it. Having kids is tough, and you have to get up at 3:30 to comfort a colicky baby or something and this leads to you being seriously grumpy. And that’s cool, all the young moms out there? Be your grumpy self. I am pro grumpy mom, and pro anything that will help mom’s be less grumpy (daycare? paid maternity leave? paternity leave — whatever you want.)

But, stop venting by shaming those of us that don’t want kids! Having kids was totally your choice, and is apparently one of the most profound and magical things a person can experience, and yada yada yada. Some of us aren’t going to experience the full profoundness of having a kid, and as recompense we don’t have to experience all of the difficult bullshit that comes with it as well.

Simply stated, not having kids is one of the most generous gifts a person can give this planet. We’re 7 billion strong, and either above the carrying capacity of the earth, or going to get there soon and we need more people to start making the decision to not reproduce. We need to support more people in their life decision to not have kids, and part of supporting this decision, is helping the childless find deeply meaningful things to do with their lives. Denying us leave so we can be slaves to the rat race because you think we’re less worthy of personal time is not helping us find meaning.

You know what I’d do with my “me-ternity” leave (aka the time I took off for myself rather than time I took off for a kid)? I’d probably spend a few months in a Buddhist monastery. It would involve getting less than 6 hours of sleep every night, meditating for hours a day, and regular extended periods of silence. I wouldn’t be partying, I wouldn’t be drinking. I‘ve heard from people that have done it that pretty difficult, but ultimately deeply worthwhile.

Difficult but deeply worthwhile? Now, what does that remind me of?

Having kids sounds like a wonderful and important life experience for a lot of people. Yeah, it’s hard. The best things usually are. I expect my time at a monastery would be hard. I expect the hospice volunteer work I’m about to embark on is going to be hard. But, I want to do these hard things because I want to touch some deep part of my own humanity. I want to access the ancient still point that connects me to all living beings. I want to know, on a fundamental level, who the fuck I am and who the fuck you are.

And, when people have kids, I think they get that! I think they become connected to the rest of humanity through a universal experience. And yes, the cost of this experience is sometimes digging cheerios out of ear canals. Those of us who don’t have kids might not have to deal milk-vomit, but we also have to find meaning elsewhere. This requires time, this requires energy, and this requires creativity. And, this is also a deeply important search! There are enough people willing to have kids to keep the population alive, do we have enough people willing to not have kids to keep the planet alive?

I’m sorry if you feel unappreciated. I’m sorry that our culture places an unfair burden on working mothers. The work mothers do is important, and very much taken for granted. I’m sorry if mothers are never given enough time for themselves (and it’s not like taking a maternity leave doesn’t mean a woman can’t also take a me-ternity leave later on.) However, the work the childless do is important as well. Parents connect us to our ancient past, but we need the childless to shepherd in our future.

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