[Written January, 2007.]
To get a driver’s license you must be able to see well, pay money, pass a written road test, and perform skilled driving under pressure – and the world agrees that this is appropriate. To get a therapist’s license you have to go through years of dedicated, stressful, and often annoying education, training, and supervised work – and the world agrees that this too is appropriate. Yet to become a parent, the most intense and holy of duties known to humankind, you only have to know how to do one thing: have sex. And you don’t even have to know how do it well.
Something is clearly wrong with our world. For that reason, I present a (very idealized) model for correction: a license to procreate. Although obtaining this license would not guarantee that a person would be a great parent, just as the world is full of terrible drivers with spotless records and quack therapists with flawless credentials, it sure won’t make things worse for children! (And just for the record, I myself would fail to qualify for licensure.)
I break down the categories for licensure as follows:
1) Applicants must demonstrate involvement in a committed, stable, two-parent relationship. Children deserve two parents who love each other and are committed to each other. To prove their readiness for licensure, applicants must:
- Be married for a minimum of three years.
- Engage in successful weekly couple’s therapy for a minimum of two years, in which they demonstrate love and support for each other.
- Demonstrate understanding and respect for each other’s differences and patterns.
- Demonstrate effective problem-solving skills.
- Demonstrate no domestic violence.
- For at least one year before marriage live together harmoniously in a community where their relationship can be observed by more mature others.
- Practice extended periods of celibacy to strengthen their non-sexual relationship.
- Have no extramarital affairs.
2) Applicants must demonstrate emotional health. No child deserves to be raised by a dysfunctional, troubled, or disturbed parent. To prove their readiness for licensure, applicants must:
- Have, as adults, been in twice-weekly individual psychotherapy for a minimum of three years. [This assumes the therapy is excellent, which, of course, is contrary to the facts of reality!]
- Be able to function successfully without taking any psychotropic medications.
- Be able to sleep successfully without taking any sleeping medications.
- Demonstrate complete abstinence from drugs and alcohol for three years prior to licensure. My slogan here: “No parenting under the influence.”
- Demonstrate an ability to maintain stable and mature relationships with friends.
- Demonstrate a lack of severe emotional pathology.
- Demonstrate an ability to successfully parent oneself – that is, to engage in healthy self-care.
- Demonstrate a healthy understanding of and respect for one’s own and others’ boundaries.
- Demonstrate an ability to work through one’s personal problems in a productive and growth-oriented way.
- Write an emotional autobiography of one’s own childhood and family history.
- Show a joy for living.
3) Applicants must demonstrate good physical health. People in good health are far more ready to make the long-term commitment to being there for their child. Sick, dying, or dead parents do the opposite, setting in the child’s psyche an early and powerful template for abandonment. To prove their readiness for licensure, applicants must:
- Show a clean bill of health from a medical doctor.
- Demonstrate a lack of obesity.
- Demonstrate a lack of genetic diseases that could be passed on to offspring.
- Not smoke cigarettes.
- Practice good dental health and hygiene.
- Demonstrate healthy eating patterns and nutritional awareness.
- Pass a test demonstrating sufficient understanding of health, medicine, and disease prevention.
4) Applicants must be over the age of twenty-five and under the age of forty. It is highly unlikely that anyone under twenty-five, even in the best of circumstances, has sufficient maturity and life experience to be a good parent. After all, many car rental companies won’t even rent to someone under twenty-five. I chose an upper age of forty because of the increased likelihood of genetic disorders (both from mothers because of their older eggs and father because of mutated sperm) and because of the decreased ability of older parents to be actively involved in children’s lives.
5) Applicants must successfully complete a two-year, ninety-hour-a-week child-rearing internship with others’ children. This simulation of parenthood may be the most important category of all. I am shocked by the number of people who had little or no interest in children – much less ability to relate to them – before becoming parents themselves. Such people have no right to take on the sacred role of parenting, and part of the purpose of this internship is to either bring them quickly up to speed or weed them out. To prove their readiness for licensure, applicants must:
- Demonstrate passion, joy, and competence working with and relating to others’ babies, toddlers, pre-school age children, elementary school-age children, and teenagers.
- Live in the home of various families with children and demonstrate proficiency and leadership in all aspects of child-rearing.
- Be able to change diapers, put children to bed, feed babies and youngsters, help in problem-solving, assist in homework, assuage emotional pain, dry tears, engage in games, and play make-believe.
- Demonstrate flexibility, stability, and creativity in their work and play with children.
- Receive and grow from the feedback they receive from the children for whom they work.
- Receive excellent ratings from the children, parents, and external observers.
- Cry when the internship is over because they loved it so much!
6) Applicants must demonstrate an ability to earn a living. Adults know how to hold down a job, and children need to be raised by adults. People who live off the system or off their spouses or off their own parents show that they have not yet learned how to parent themselves effectively. Although it is wonderful if parents with young children do not work, and get to spend optimal amounts of time with their offspring, people who want to raise children need prior experience participating in society. To prove their readiness for licensure, applicants must:
- Show they have worked a full-time job for at least two years.
- Show an ability to interact successfully with authority figures and coworkers.
7) Applicants must demonstrate financial stability. Birds pick partners who preen themselves well, collect food successfully, can defend a territory, and can build a nice nest that won’t fall apart in the first windstorm. Why not the same for members of our species, who have brains on the order of a thousand times bigger? To prove their readiness for licensure, applicants must:
- Show a lack of debting for five years straight.
- Pay their bills on time.
- Show a successful maintenance of a well-managed bank account.
- Show an ability to manage a budget appropriately.
- Demonstrate an ability to live below one’s means.
8) Applicants must complete a college degree. Educated parents open the doors of opportunity for their children. No one wants an uneducated therapist tinkering with his mind, an uneducated doctor probing around his body, an uneducated architect building his home, or an uneducated teacher guiding his learning, so if all other things were equal, what child in his right mind would choose an uneducated parent? To level the playing field, however, I propose diverting each country’s military budget into free, top-notch education for all, pre-school through graduate school.
1. Couples have to be married in order to raise a child. That should be a choice. Not everyone is religious or believes in marriage. They have that right not to.
2. A couple should be able to have sex as much as they want before they have a child. Forget celibacy that’s a choice.
3. You don’t need a degree to get a good paying job.
4. Nobody needs psychotherapy in order to have and raise a child. You should not be punished for something you cant help. Ive heard of many parents that has mental health issues raise their child better than some that dont.
There’s a few things i know for a fact that would not fly with the majority.
I don’t think some of the requirements are agreeable, like relationship therapy for 3 years is a little over doing it and so is having to be married for 3 years, or married at all. Also having to have a college degree is a bad idea, at least that’s what I think. Nobody is a perfect human being, but as long as they aren’t a bad person, don’t do drugs and know how to take care of a child then they would be a good parent.
Daniel, I thought I knew your stance on this, but I can’t seem to find it anywhere. Would the license to parent include the fact they couple should be one man and one woman, as opposed to same sex parents? Thanks.
while i love your earnestness i would fail the test (item number one i already failed at, for i was single) but i know for a fact and all who know me (md’s and psychotherapists included) i would have been a most amazing parent.not forwarding abuse behaviors but rather Undoing them… instead my children were taken from the time of their births into the state system so they could receive their typical fare… and my heart breaks for all that they have lost and I also have been denied for these relationships are evolutionary, changing the parents whilst allowing the child to grow, and they are mutual, when done right…. My heart breaks for the standards of care that exist within this world and may even be required because of the need everyone has to earn money to pay their bills, but i was unique and there was a bond between me and my children which was very strong despite that they were taken from me on their birthdays from the hospital… i breast fed them even only seeing them one time a week, our government needs less right to interfere and control not more, the statistics support children remaining with their real families, as imperfect as they can be sometimes, they have better outcomes then when the state breaks them up and gets involved… thanks for letting me share. Hi Danny. : )
Some (but not all) nice ideas, but it will never fly because it will have a disparate impact on minorities and the elderly and such discrimination against those protected groups is illegal in the U.S.. Attorney General Holder will bring suit against any state that tried it.
Also, dump the college degree requirement there are, too many good people without degrees and too many dopes with them.
philip please read my story at http://www.loveneverlost.com, under the “about me” page… and i agree with you except that the State DOES discriminate, routinely and regularly against protected groups like mine, and even proudly boast in the process “it’s not a bar to ‘termination'” they think they have the right!!! and in practical actuality and given the facts of what they are doing to us all everyday with no cause at all but their own internal prejudice they are right!
I think this is a great idea! It would have certainly screened out my parents. Personally, I think my parents had no business having children.
It was hell going through childhood. There were weekly visits from the police due to the domestic disputes and domestic violence. And, thanks to the psychological effects, I have suffered with major depressive disorder since age 8, I am 26 now!
My mother was an alcoholic and committed suicide when I was 18.