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If you are an Objectivist with children, what made you decide to have them? What value do you get from having kids? If your children aren't grown yet, what different kinds of values do you expect to get from them as they get older?

If you don't have kids and would like to, what are your reasons for having children?

I know that having children is a huge decision, and I would like to see what made other Objectivists decide to have kids of their own. Thanks!

asked Jan 29 '12 at 02:37

WorkingMan's gravatar image


We love those that share our values. 3 ways to surround ourselves with those that we love and love us for the same reason:

  1. Find them
  2. Convert them - Very difficult since this require the consent of the target
  3. Grow them

If we are successful at #3....just imagine how great it would be.

answered Feb 02 '12 at 02:29

Humbug's gravatar image


This question is likely to be very personal and private for most parents, including Objectivists. It can be especially painful to a parent for a teenager suddenly to ask, during times of acute tension and stress, "Why did you have me?" If the feelings going through a parent's mind upon hearing that question from one's own temporarily stressed out child could be put into words, it might be something like, "How can you ask such a question? You're here. We are here. We have been nurturing, supporting and guiding you for sixteen years (or so). We care about you. If anything we do for you sometimes makes you feel that we don't care, or that nothing you do will ever please us, we are sorry to hear that. But what we do is really for your own good, whether you realize it now or not."

I've also learned over the years, probably like most parents, that one usually can't tell a teenager what to do. Teenagers decide for themselves. But they still need and want parental input from time to time and will ask for it. Those can be precious "teaching moments" where the parent can share his own experience, knowledge and even advice, as long as the parent doesn't try to push the teenager or make it mandatory somehow for the teenager to follow the parents' advice.

There are really two aspects to the question of having children:

(a) Whether or not to have one or more children at all; and
(b) Whether or not a parent is able and willing to devote the huge investment of time and cost of raising a child after having one. (College alone probably will completely dwarf all other expenditures a child's parents might make for the child during the child's entire pre-adult life.)

I suspect the greatest impetus to have a child will usually come from the potential mother, although some fathers (usually non-Objectivist) may feel strongly about "perpetuating the family line" or being the paternal head of an extended family. Carrying a pregnancy to full term and then giving birth is a uniquely female experience, and the bonding that normally develops between a mother and her young child after it is born also tends to be far stronger in the mother than in the father, although fathers, too, can develop strong bonds with their children. Child raising is much like any other goal-directed activity in human life. What one gets out of it depends on what one puts into it. Reaching the end goal of seeing the child become an intelligent, productive, self-sufficient and self-assured adult can certainly be a substantial source of happiness for the parents, knowing how much they invested in it over a period of 20 some years (assuming they actually did), and receiving the child's appreciation of it. Innumerable lesser milestones along the way can be a source of great joy, too, in a similar way.

Parents can probably cite endless anecdotes of things they've seen their kids do that can be sources of interesting "learning" for the parents regarding child development. Even very young children often strive to mimic whatever they see their parents doing. Just the other day I (and another observer who happened to notice it) had the privilege to see someone else's young girl in a grocery store trying to carry an empty shopping basket for her mother (I assume the lady she was with was her mother). The basket was almost as big at the little girl. She almost bumped into a full-size shopping cart while trying very hard not to stumble over the hand-carried basket. My own child used to do that, too ("let baby do it!" is my expression for the child's mentality). Keys of all kinds held a special fascination for my own child, especially trying to use mom or dad's car keys to unlock the door of our parked car upon returning to it after a visit to a store. We nearly lost the keys entirely once when our child went for a walk around the neighborhood with mom and managed to return home without the keys. We looked all over and finally found the keys in a small plastic sand bucket inside our house. Little children can be so cute. I gave my child some real but old and unused keys to play with after that. (Happily, my child never tried to use the keys to scratch anything.)

When reading Ayn Rand's characterizations of an "ideal man" (or woman), one may come away with the impression that an "ideal man" is basically someone, man or woman, who lives rationally and has a challenging, productive career and a romantic partner, but no children and probably no time for children. Even in Ayn Rand's characterizations of villains, one overwhelmingly finds no children, probably because children complicate many issues that would otherwise be more clearly "black or white" and dilute the essence of the characterizations Ayn Rand is trying to project. One significant exception to the "no children" pattern is the bakery shop owner in Galt's Gulch in Atlas Shrugged, and there we see a brief indication of how children should be raised, how they are likely to respond if raised that way, and the sense of accomplishment and pride that a rational parent would feel for having beautiful, happy, capable chidren as a result of the parent's nurturing. The passage describing this young mother appears in Part III, Chapter II, in the subsection that begins, ""Richard Halley stopped playing, turned away from the piano and glanced at Dagny."

The recaptured sense of her [Dagny's] own childhood kept coming back to her whenever she met the two sons of the young woman who owned the bakery shop. She often saw them wandering down the trails of the valley—two fearless beings, aged seven and four. They seemed to face life as she had faced it. They did not have the look she had seen in the children of the outer world—a look of fear, half-secretive, half-sneering, the look of a child's defense against an adult, the look of a being in the process of discovering that he is hearing lies and of learning to feel hatred. The two boys had the open, joyous, friendly confidence of kittens who do not expect to get hurt, they had an innocently natural, non-boastful sense of their own value and as innocent a trust in any stranger's ability to recognize it, they had the eager curiosity that would venture anywhere with the certainty that life held nothing unworthy of or closed to discovery, and they looked as if, should they encounter malevolence, they would reject it contemptuously, not as dangerous, but as stupid, they would not accept it in bruised resignation as the law of existence.

"They represent my particular career, Miss Taggart," said the young mother in answer to her comment.... I came here, not merely for the sake of my husband's profession, but for the sake of my own. I came here in order to bring up my sons as human beings. I would not surrender them to the educational systems devised to stunt a child's brain, to convince him that reason is impotent, that existence is an irrational chaos with which he's unable to deal, and thus reduce him to a state of chronic terror. You marvel at the difference between my children and those outside, Miss Taggart? Yet the cause is so simple. The cause is that here, in Galt's Gulch, there's no person who would not consider it monstrous ever to confront a child with the slightest suggestion of the irrational."

Objectivism does not prescribe that one ought to have children, or ought not to. It's up to each individual would-be parent to decide for himself, although any prospective parent, Objectivist or not, needs to consider the cost and time burden involved in raising children, and plan for it wisely if one wants to have the potentially very satisfying experience of creating and guiding a family of one's own. Objectivism certainly would say to prospective parents: don't do it just because others say you should, or because of some idea of "serving humanity" by "propagating one's kind" (or "multiply and subdue the earth"). Do it, if you want to and can afford it, because you want the experience of it, including all the many ways in which children look up to their parents and learn from them and eventually grow (ideally) into rational, productive, self-sufficient adults. The experience can be very personally rewarding if one approaches it conscientiously and wisely, knowing that one's own role as a parent is essential and substantial for the developing little life and mind that is your child.

Many factors besides the parents' actions or inaction can influence success or failure in their child-raising goals (as is the case with any goal in life). But the parents certainly have by far the greatest opportunity to influence the child's growth and development under normal circumstances.

Update regarding a comment about the role of biology

There is a substantial paragraph in my answer that discusses "the greatest impetus to have a child...." In man, there is no compelling "biological urge to reproduce." Man has no biological "drives" or "urges" that compel a decision to try to have a child. It must be remembered that man's consciousness is volitional, including the choice to act on any "urges" he may have to acquire children or to have sex. The fact that some people may allow their impulses to translate into action with little thought does not alter in the least the fact that they do have a choice about it. I saw the question as asking why man chooses. I do not take "because he felt like it" as a sufficient explanation, even if he did feel it and refrained from choosing otherwise. Furthermore, for one who merely acts on his "urges" without a second thought, the issue is probably experienced more as a desire for sex without regard for potential pregnancy, which is not the same issue as choosing to have a child or not. (In fact, an anthropology course that I took in college described an extremely isolated and primitive group of humans somewhere in Africa who truly did not know that there is any connection between sex and pregnancy.)

Biologically, of course, I would agree that man's consciousness and physiology are so constituted as to create a high probability that at least some humans (more than enough to perpetuate the species) will perform actions having the potential to produce children. But such a probably for a population says nothing about why particular individuals consciously decide whether or not they want to have children.

answered Feb 02 '12 at 01:25

Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

Ideas for Life ♦

edited Feb 13 '12 at 21:12

This is really nicely written but I am surprised that you do not address the biological urge to reproduce. Is this something that Objectivists find "icky" or do they not acknowledge that biology does play some role in us wanting children? I would say that many people who have kids "thoughtlessly" are doing so because of a biological drive to reproduce the species. I agree with you that the best family is a well-planned and rationally governed one.

(Feb 13 '12 at 17:14) Danneskjold_repo Danneskjold_repo's gravatar image

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Asked: Jan 29 '12 at 02:37

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Last updated: Feb 13 '12 at 21:12