I have done my part. My wife and I have reproduced twice, bestowing upon this nation two darling future taxpayers (or so we hope). So let it not be said, as columnist Ross Douthat did this week about the childless (see Talking points), that Karla and I have succumbed to selfishness and “decadence.” Our contribution to the species’s survival admittedly falls slightly below the official “replacement rate” of 2.1 children, but hey, doing one’s reproductive duty takes work, so we rounded down, rather than up. Consider the sacrifices involved: The years of sleep deprivation, and the marital stresses of juggling careers and child care. The shock of a sick 2-year-old vomiting copiously in your hair at 2 a.m., leaving chunks that are hard to shampoo out. The excruciating anxiety that comes with sending your unsuspecting offspring into a nasty, uncaring world. The frustration of having your 15-year-old roll her eyes at everything you say, while she makes it clear that you’re the most annoying, embarrassing, and hopelessly outdated dork on the planet.
But let’s look at the upside. (I address myself here to those of you who still are debating whether to pop out some kids.) You get this, too: A sweaty baby asleep on your chest, filling you with such awe and tenderness that you cannot sleep yourself. The incomparable fragrance of their downy heads. The little girl’s hand in yours, and her quavery voice saying, “Daddy.” The primal bond that compels you to care more about another human being than yourself, that instructs over and over in the great truth: It’s not about you. So, you fertile fence-sitters, dim the lights and get busy. Someone has to pay for my Social Security.