[Written in 2004. This essay, perhaps the most controversial on this site, appeared on the original version of iraresoul.com in 2004. I’ve gotten more emails, some of them quite angry or even hateful and threatening, regarding this essay than any other thing I’ve written. Many times I’ve considered changing this essay or taking it down, mostly because it was almost too stressful for me to stand behind, but then I’d reread it, and decide…that I still agreed with it. And so it’s stayed. Meanwhile, I’ve added a 12th situation…at the end.]
1) You are not fully enlightened.
If you are not fully enlightened it means you still repress some degree of unresolved trauma. We all have a compulsion to act out our repressed traumas on our intimates, and all the more so on our vulnerable, needy children – because they cannot refuse it or escape. Therefore, where you are not enlightened you will abuse your children to at least some degree. This is inappropriate.
2) You feel your life is incomplete.
It is a myth that children make parents’ lives complete. If your life feels incomplete without children then your job is to find a way to make it complete BEFORE you have children. Lives are made complete by internally resolving one’s traumas, not by adding new and perfect young lives to adult ones that are already traumatized. Children should not be brought into the world to meet any of YOUR needs. It is your job to meet their needs, and to devote yourself to this end. Not the other way around.
3) You are lonely and want love.
No child deserves a lonely, needy parent. Your child will not love you. That is a myth. Your child needs you – and needs you desperately – and if you think your child loves you then you, along with most of our culture, have mixed up love and need. Now granted, if you need your child to love you, your child will quickly pick this up on his emotional antennae and will adjust his behavior toward actually loving you…but this will be devastating and perverse for his emotional development. Learn to love yourself fully before you have kids.
4) You feel left out of the normal, conventional loop of parenting.
Yes, and the loop is SICK! If you are left out of the loop you have a FAR better chance to become healthy. And the healthier you become, the more you naturally contribute to this world, and contribute in a real and deep and honest and spontaneous way. And our world needs your contribution.
5) You are single.
A single parent alone cannot effectively raise an emotionally healthy child. It’s hard enough for two parents. It’s hard enough for four! If you think you can handle it on your own then you have no idea of the extent of a child’s truest and deepest emotional needs. And this is because you have not faced the full depths of the painful limits and abandonments of your own childhood. And this is not your child’s fault.
6) You are close with your own parents.
If you are close with your own parents, it is highly unlikely that you have evolved out of the family system to any degree – that is, that you have become an individual in your own right. If you have not evolved out of the family system, you will never be able to know the full limits of your own buried traumas, much less be able to resolve them. Thus you will act them out on your child. And your parents will love you for this, because this will let them off the hook for what they did to you.
7) You know you will have to hire help to assist you in caring for your child.
No child deserves to be raised by hired help. If you do not have the time and comfort and energy and motivation to devote to raising your child yourself, then you will be bringing your child into a deprived world. You will be at least partially abandoning your child – and your duty to your child – before he is even born. Radically unfair.
8) You got pregnant by mistake.
This is a terrible psychic burden for a child to face. It is a clear sign that your child was not conceived in an environment of love, caring, and planning. It is a sign that you undervalue your child from the beginning of his journey – and will continue to do so all the way through his journey. You will leave him with a terrible legacy. And deep down he will know it.
9) You drink alcohol, use drugs, smoke cigarettes, or take antidepressants.
Ingesting these substances is a sign that you have a desperate need to abandon parts of yourself – and thus are not a whole person. And even after a person stops ingesting these substances, it takes years of incredibly hard internal work for him to become whole. No child deserves parents who are not whole, because by extension they will also similarly abandon him. And people wonder why substance abusing parents beget substance abusing children! (Forget genetics.)
10) Your relationship with your partner is not fully enlightened.
Where your relationship with your partner is not fully enlightened your family environment will be toxic – toxified by projections, fantasy, and unconscious compromises of truth. Your child deserves the best, and a partially toxic environment is anything but. Your child needs to be nurtured in an environment in which his parents live in complete emotional synchrony with life’s sacred purpose – and by extension with each other. Where you do not live in synchrony with your partner, your child will suffer. And the fault will be yours, because you brought him into the world. After all, your child never asked to be born.
11) You and your partner are both not ONE HUNDRED PERCENT convinced you want a child to the deepest levels of your soul.
If you have any doubts about having children, don’t have them! There are a million other ways for you to contribute to this troubled, overpopulated, resource-exploited world without procreating. And often these other ways are far more valuable. But the primary way is to devote yourself to parenting yourself. This is the hardest way to go. This is the spiritual path.
12) Our world remains as ecologically sick, chemically toxic, and numerically overpopulated with people. [added in 2013]
In a nutshell: Our sick, rampantly overcrowded world is no place to bring perfect children. I can only support bringing new children into the world when I am strongly convinced that humanity has profoundly changed its course in a healthy direction. And so far I see no evidence for that. In fact, I am strongly convinced that humanity is building momentum to destroy our planet as we know it and make this world an even less appropriate place for the arrival of new children.
I am a mother of a 3-year-old. I agree with much of what you have said. It breaks my heart to think of the impact on her of myself and my partner and the wider world. I’ve read your article with advice for parents, but it hardly mitigates the effects you describe above. I honestly think it would be better if she had not been born. Where do we go from here?
Too bad the majority of people won’t see this post or otherwise they’ll deny it judging by their negative reaction to it (I assume most of those people who sent you hateful emails regarding this post are parents that suit one of those categories).
Personally, I’m not sure of I fully agree with the 12th situation but I understand your point of view so I’m not that disagreed with it either.
Excellent points Daniel! To be honest, reading these also make me think of the therapy profession/s…because if we were to replace the word “children” with the word “clients, the above points also in my opinion double up as the very reasons not to become a therapist too.
I guess I like to think that my children love me unconditionally. I don’t mean that I think it’s their job to love me, but more that they have no choice in the matter because they are ‘hardwired’ to love me for their very survival; I guess I hoped the ‘need’ would develop into ‘love’. Of course that’s why it’s so easy to abuse them. I guess the reason that I think children love their parents unconditionally is that even though I am estranged from my own ‘abusive’ mother – I feel that I will always love her – I would have saved her if I could – I tried. So, is that ‘need’ or ‘love’? It’s confusing. I certainly don’t like my mother, and don’t want her in my life, but I do wish that she could be happy – is that love, or need?
Daniel i love your work! I’m a psychtherapist and i found you on YouTube. Thank you so much for what you do. I see so much of what you are taking about in my personal life and in my work. I’ve been teaching the 4 stages to healing/enlightenment to my clients. Is that your original work or is there a reference for it?
hi amanda — greetings and thank you. the 4 stages i speak and write about is actually an interpretation of the four stages of greek tragedy — the hero’s journey, in a sense. my friend fred timm told me about this idea and spun it in a psychological context, and we developed it a bit together from there. fred originally got the basic idea from a book called “the eternal drama: the inner meaning of greek mythology,” by edward edinger, page 124, published in 1994. all the best, daniel
But what, if people have become their children so far? What can help then? Cause they HAVE a very important part of the responsibility for the next generation – is it clever to leave parents alone, telling them, they are loosers anyhow, because they made a child? So what is helpful for young parents? Perhaps, if they need not go back to their own parents for surviving, cause states helps them (social help/money, kindly leaded kindergarden, schooling about non-abusive parenting and so on). Also it would help, if state has forbidden physical punishment totally, as in Sweden. Genital mutilation of children should be totally forbidden too. If physical abuse is no option, some parents will look out for reallly good ways, how the needs of their children as well as their own needs can be fulfilled.
hi erna—- greetings. i did write an essay on this subject….you might like it….i don’t know. http://wildtruth.net/better-late-than-never-twelve-suggestions-for-parents-seeking-enlightenment/
all the best, daniel
I agree with this, and would add some things. Be self sufficient. Vegan diet. Isolated from “normal” society. In nature.