Harriet Walker: Parenthood doesn't give you the right to inflict your kids on me

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The Independent Online

You can tell how civilised a society is, so they say, from the way it treats its weakest members.

Whoever made up this adage was, no doubt, also part of the child-centric conspiracy that has a stranglehold on contemporary ethics. I prefer to measure social progress on whether its members scream, shout and soil themselves in public instead.

I have endured the thunder of little feet running around swanky restaurants and wailing torrents of nonsense in otherwise serene art galleries. I have sat through a visit to the cinema to which somebody brought their newborn baby, and I have been used variously as a climbing frame and punchbag on public transport. The only safe place is at my desk.

It's a bold statement, but I am sick of my leisure time being spoiled by parents who don't restrain their children because they assume/ expect/demand that I find them as entertaining as they do. Empathy goes out the window when you have a child, because all other pursuits (such as reading, eating out, watching a film, chatting or simply minding your own business) are deemed hollow and selfish; we are just teenagers revelling in the trappings of modern misanthropy. And yet, full empathy is expected in return, by these people who made the choice to make their own lives harder, who demand more pay and less work. Child-bearing has taken on a moral rectitude, despite overcrowding and overheating; I am a secondary citizen in the snaking queue for salvation, behind all these saints and their bugaboos.

Don't get me wrong, I give my seat to pregnant women. I help parents manoeuvre their buggies down escalators. I have nieces and nephews for whom I care very much. But I don't count myself stunted because I haven't produced a little person, and it's frustrating to see the glinting light of smug superiority in the empty, sleep-deprived eyes that swivel so readily to you should you dare to grimace at their offspring's public performances. "Kids, eh?" they gesture. "Don't you just love them?" No, you love them because they are miniature versions of you. You love them because if you didn't, your life would be unbearable. In fact, your overwhelming love for your child means that you don't even think I have the right to be annoyed about it screaming two inches from my ear and playing my hair like a zither. I know plenty of normal parents – they're the ones you don't notice, because they keep their kids to themselves. But a vast segment of society, has the more generally-held preceptthat you're nobody unless you have an heir.

One might say that Kate Middleton has done pretty well for herself, scaled heights that most people only dream of. But reports this week warn that she's the oldest royal bride in history, so she'd better get sprogged up. It's an extreme case, of course, because it's sort of her job to have a baby now. But it won't make her a better person.

Perhaps if I had any assets to pass on, I'd be looking to spawn too. But the assumption that you're only half a person until you do so is maddening. Especially when I know I am only half a person because I'm 25, haven't seen the Aurora Borealis, regularly pretend to have read things I haven't, and I don't like seafood.

I don't know if I'll have children, but I'm sure I'd be fine without them. The fact is, I probably will, because I'll need someone to sponge my brow on my deathbed. The real reason for having children is ego: to feel better about ourselves and look down on others. Children can be delightful, full of bubbly innocence and physical comedy, but they aren't the equivalent of saying seven Hail Marys. So get off your high-horse and tell your kid to shut up.

h.walker@independent.co.uk

www.twitter.com/harrywalker1

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