Rise of the DINKs

There is in our culture today a growing number of married couples who have made a decision to not have children. These families of two are known as DINKs: Double Income, No Kids. These are not newlyweds who are simply waiting to have children while they get established. Nor are they physically, financially, or otherwise prevented from reproducing. DINKs have made a permanent decision not to have children, now or ever, because they like being childless.

The existence of such a class is a new phenomenon. For most of history it was simply not possible since children are the inevitable result of marital union. This was God's intent in creating us: be fruitful and multiply. Disobedience of that command became practical only with the widespread availability of artificial contraception and abortion, beginning in the 1960s. (Update: there have been some civilizations, like ancient Rome, that simply wiped out their offspring. These civilizations disappeared. More here.)

The reasons someone would choose this status vary, of course. No doubt some DINKs grew up amid divorce and broken families, and fear the same will happen to them if they have children. Others just feel unqualified to be parents. I would bet for most, however, the reasons are less altruistic. They enjoy living the good life without the burden of midnight feedings and teen angst.

Indeed, life without children can be very enjoyable. Consider the two married professionals who each earn $75,000 or more a year. No need to feed or clothe little ones. They don't have to save for college. No expensive family health insurance. DINKs get to spend their double income on themselves, often inhabiting fine homes and driving luxury vehicles. Their copious free time allows DINKs to take frequent vacations and otherwise enjoy themselves in ways that those with children seldom do.

This is all fine, I guess. If you don't want children we are probably all better off if you don't have any. Or are we? Consider this story from a blogger family traveling on a holiday vacation:

The Darwin family is something of a sight when enjoying the free hot breakfast at our motel of a morning. At least one major spill may be expected. The older two scuffle occasionally, stealing food from one another, and the baby slowly shreds food into her lap and shrieks when she runs out of food that's not yet on the floor or in her tummy.

Darwin was over at the waffle maker waiting on his waffle and sipping coffee when the middle-aged, preppy-looking couple (last seen the night before wrestling a german shepard in from their SUV in a 6ft x 6ft cage) came in set themselves down at a table behind him with an air of disapproval and (before settling down to provide loud, socially conscious commentary on the morning news on TV) observed, "I shouldn't have felt bad bringing a dog into the hotel."

Let me know, folks, when that dog starts paying your social security... It may be a little crazy around here, but our offspring are of the same species, and someone's got to do the work of rearing the next generation. MORE

Like it or not, each generation needs the next. If we don't create another generation to follow us we will end up paying a terrible price. At the macro level, Social Security is going bankrupt because there are not enough younger workers paying into the system. Even if you are wealthy enough not to need a pension, you still need an economy where the rest of us are reasonably prosperous.

At the individual level, those who grow old without children will not be able to replace, for any amount of money, the love that adult children should show toward their aging parents. We all reach a point where we need someone we trust to take care of us and make important decisions for us. If you have no children, who will it be?

So if you are a DINK I wish you well and I certainly don't want to force you into having children. I strongly suggest you re-consider your decision. Parenting is more rewarding than you think, and there are many long-term benefits. Think about it.

5 comments:

Pat said...

Patrick, good post. I linked to you at www.generationsandwich.blogspot.com.

Sawnya said...

"At the individual level, those who grow old without children will not be able to replace, for any amount of money, the love that adult children should show toward their aging parents. We all reach a point where we need someone we trust to take care of us and make important decisions for us. If you have no children, who will it be?"

Very good points, but having children is no guarantee that they will actually take care of you when you're too old to care for yourself. Your children, despite your best efforts, could end up abandoning you, be born severely handicapped, or even die before you.

And isn't it a bit selfish to bear children in the hopes of giving you or others future caretakers? If you truly don't want children, you could always save extra money for your retirement, grow closer to nieces and nephews...you'll just have to plan differently.

And if some childfree people refuse to have children for "selfish" reasons, why would you want them to have children anyway? Why inflict unwilling parents on innocent children, whose only crime would be being born to parents who felt pressured or forced to have them?

If you're worried about there not being enough of a young generation to care for the old, well, there are still plenty of families in the US who willingly have more than four or more kids, so we don't have to worry about going extinct anytime soon.

One last note, financially: DINKS and SINKS do get taxed more, so they pay more into the system and take less out for themselves, therefore leaving more for everyone else's kids.

Patrick said...

Sawnya,

Thanks for your comments. Here are some thoughts in return.

...having children is no guarantee that they will actually take care of you when you're too old to care for yourself.

Correct, but having NO children IS a guarantee they will not take care of you. Some chance is better than no chance.

Also, I didn't say anyone should be forced to have children. All I did was suggest they re-consider that decision.

Saving money for your old age is fine. We should all do it, children or not. My point is that no amount of money can buy the kind of love and care that you would get from having children. Obviously some children will neglect their parents, but that is the exception.

Your demographic point is not quite right. The baby boom generation is not being replaced and the number of workers per retiree is falling fast. That's why social security is going bankrupt. Many of the workers you are counting on will have to be imported and paid very well.

Anonymous said...

Interesting article, and thank you for being so respectful.

Though my wife and I are committed "DINKs" and have no plans to change that, it's not always an easy decision not to have children.

angry_white_male said...

I've generally found DINK's to be cold and more self-centered and not as 'giving' than those who have kids. Not judging, but it's just an observation. But when you do have kids - life becomes about them and you're lucky if you have the time or money to do much else. Since having kids my DINK friends and I have drifted apart.

I do feel bad for those who do want kids and can't (infertility, etc...), but those who make that choice, I hope when they're old there's someone to look after them.

I know there's no guarantee that my kids will look out for me when I'm old, but if you raise them right they'll likely return the favor.