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Children Are a Waste

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"Children are people too. Worthless, incomplete people."
Lindsey Naegle, The Simpsons

In Real Life and in fiction, the Straw Feminist and the Straw Bachelor are generally at each other's throats. However, it seems that there is one thing that both parties agree on: children are a waste. For the straw feminist, a child serves only to chain the woman at home when she could be aspiring to bigger and better things. To the straw bachelor, a child means being tied down to one woman, and having to pay hundreds of thousands or even millions for maintenance and education, when that time and money could be invested into better use.

Other reasons people might believe this is thinking that children are stupid, parasites, spoiled brats, cruel, or just useless — surely all they do is run around playing, eating, and not contributing to society.

In works of Anti-Intellectualism, intellectuals and rich industrialists will usually be portrayed in this manner, as Social Darwinists who consider children as inherently worthless "animals" who can be aborted, except when they're invested in an expensive education to make them rich, professional, intelligent and therefore honourable "humans". This may be due to the low fertility rate (and legal abortions for rape, teen pregnancy, and such unplanned forms of parenthood) in industrialized science-oriented countries, and how many said intellectuals know about the ideas of Thomas Malthus.

To rectify this, some morally dubious characters may decide to build something Powered by a Forsaken Child. Compare the more irrational sister trope Child Hater.

Contrast Babies Make Everything Better and Not Wanting Kids Is Weird.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Black Butler has a prostitute going to a doctor to get an abortion with this as her excuse. That doctor had lost her ability to have children thanks to an accident that killed her husband and nearly her as well. This was the last straw before she snapped and became Jack the Ripper.
  • Baby 5 from One Piece came from a poor family who openly bemoaned her birth as an unneeded strain on their resources. Her own mother abandoned her in the mountains when she was a small child, cruelly calling her useless as she did. This left Baby 5 with a traumatized need to prove her worth by acting incredibly servile and obedient to anyone she meets.

    Films — Animation 
  • In a deleted scene of The Incredibles, Helen/Elastigirl has to deal with a condescending woman at a neighborhood barbecue. Helen then lays down a verbal smackdown, prompting the other woman to gape in amazement and ask what Helen did before she had her child.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Something like this seems to be the prevailing mindset in the movie version of Logan's Run. Most people live carefree lives and don't bother with child-rearing. Their "Utopia" has no family units, children are put in state homes by their "seed mother" and raised en masse. Francis notes that most men don't bother to hang out at the nursery to meet their children, and Logan (who is doing just that) declares that he's not so deviant that he's interested in meeting the mother. Is it any wonder a bunch of wild children went all Mad Max and took over an apartment tower? People recognize that kids are important to society as a whole, they just don't see any need to be personally involved in rearing them. In the book the movie was based on, people are killed upon reaching the age of 21, so the kid was going to be orphaned young anyway; the factory method makes a lot of sense. The movie raised it to 30, probably to avoid Dawson Casting or having wild orgies filled with kids 13 or younger.
  • The 1972 sci-fi movie Z.P.G. (Zero Population Growth) has the human population striving to reach zero population growth. So, having a baby causes the parents and child to be put to death. Many people still want children, so vaguely lifelike dolls are sold to fill this need (they don't). Naturally, the protagonist does have a baby and must run from the authorities. Usually, it's mandatory for them to abort if they get pregnant (oddly, birth control was not mentioned). The state recognizes the psychological need most people have though and provides them with life-like dolls instead. As you'd expect, this really doesn't cut it for everyone.
  • The movie Soylent Green plays with this trope, as the human population is very high and, in a classic plot twist, uses surplus people as Human Resources to make their newest food product.
  • In the Popeye movie, Popeye and Poopdeck Pappy's bickering eventually leads to Pappy ranting on kids' brattiness, fickleness, and the general ingratitude of human nature;
    Poopdeck Pappy: Children, children, kids! Ah, phooey! You give them everything they want, and what do you get in return? Nothin', nothin' nothin'! Nothin' but heartache, sadness, and misery! Had a bad time once in a while and try to give them a bath, and they want it. And another bad time you want to do somethin' that you really wanna do, but all they wanna do is not what you wanna do! Bless their little hearts, if they was really made out of gold, I'd like to sell 'em on the open marketplace. I could make me a fortune. Kids! Eh, they don't know what they're doing. Kids, dadblast 'em! They're gonna lead you to ruin. That's what they're gonna do, lead you to ruin. They cry at you when they're young, they yell at you when they're older, they borrows from you when they's middle-aged and they leave you alone to die. Without even paying you back! Children, phooey. You give them everything they want, and what do you get back in return? You get nothing! Why they're just smaller versions of us you know, but I'm not so crazy about me in the first place, so why would I want one of them? I'm asking ya. Children. Ah, children. Little children. You'll pour your heart to them, you give them everything they want. Give them candy and a lot of toys, and what do you get in return? You get a lot of noise: "Nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah, my poppa's a mean old man!" I'm through with children, I'm through with kids. They ain't nothing I'm never gonna do about it!

  • Council Wars mentions this as a reason for the human population dwindling; with god-like technology available to everyone, most people have better things to do than look after kids. Note, this is not the only reason mentioned; that Society is still not over the overpopulation of the planet that occurred sometime in the past is also mentioned, thus making large families frowned upon.
  • In Philip K. Dick's The Man in the High Castle, a character points out the implication of strict utilitarianism: Newborns appear useless.
  • In A Brother's Price, one male baby is born for every nine girls; they tend to spontaneously miscarry, abort, or die as small children. Boys, therefore, are economically valuable. A family — several sisters married to one man — usually tries to have one male child to swap for a boy who will marry their daughters, and others to sell for "brother's price". With those ratios, it's rare for a family to have multiple sons, but some keep trying, often becoming rather careless with their newborn daughters. Society views this as tremendously indulgent, and a family constantly producing children is seen as wasting its time and energy.
  • In Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast, the Countess of Groan side-steps the whole business neatly. Being formally presented with her infant heir (when they first met she would not have been in a position to fully appreciate him), she waves the proud nurse away with the imperious command
    Countess of Groan: I have seen it. Take it away and bring it back to me when it is older.
  • In Fate/Apocrypha, this is the origin story of Assassin of Black, Jack the Ripper. They represent the spirits and grudges of 80,000 abandoned, unwanted, and aborted children left by their mothers to die in Victorian-era England. This is why Jack is so obsessed with finding and eviscerating her mother, so she could return to the warmth of the womb one more time.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Robin from How I Met Your Mother is deeply opposed to getting married and having children. This eventually causes her and Ted, who wants to settle down and start a family, to break up — they realize they can't ever sustain a long-term relationship if they want such different things in life. When Robin finds out she's infertile, she's still devastated because she now has to live with the knowledge that even if she decided she did want to be a mother, she no longer has any choice and the door she never wanted to open is now closed forever. To cope, she tries to convince herself that her infertility is a good thing, but when she gets home that night, she finds out that Ted has made a Christmas light show to make her feel better, and she finally breaks down.
  • Married... with Children is based entirely on this trope; as Al Bundy's motto says, "A man's home is his coffin." Al was a high-school football legend being recruited by colleges, until his loser girlfriend, Peg, got pregnant... and he had to take a job selling shoes. There's one episode where a high school football player is smitten with Kelly. Al tries to warn him that Kelly has been ruining men's lives for years... she started nine months before she was born.
  • CSI: Miami had a guy who, while not opposed to monogamy, really disliked sharing his wife with another creature to the point of hiring three people to give his wife a Convenient Miscarriage via carjacking (one for surveillance, one to hit her rigged car and one to steal it); unfortunately he didn't count on one of them to beat her half to death and the baby survived anyway. This makes his apparently stable relationship with his son all the more perplexing until you realize that the boy might have set him up for the assault since he hated his stepmother and worked at a chop shop.
  • Once Upon a Time has Peter Pan, who absolutely refuses to be a parent because that would mean sacrificing his carefree life as an immortal child. He was allowed to stay in Neverland in the first place because he abandoned his son, Rumpelstiltskin.

  • The Bible: In the gospel of Luke, as Jesus is going to the cross and He meets a group of women weeping for Him, He tells them, "Do not weep for Me, but rather weep for yourselves, for a time will come when they will say, 'Blessed are the barren, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed,'" implying that there will come a time when the people of Jerusalem will meet such death that bringing a child into the world during that time would only imperil them to the same suffering as everybody else.

    Video Games 
  • In one of BioShock's loading screens, a scientist, Dr. Suchong, is quoted saying that children are a waste because they mature slowly and consume resources while contributing nothing. He then remarks that "There must be something to be done to speed the process." Ultimately, he succeeded in discovering a way to rapidly mature a child to adulthood. His success? You.
  • Meta example: much of the Dwarf Fortress fandom absolutely detests dwarf children for this. And while it's easy to modify the settings to prevent a baby boom, most of them prefer other treatments. Zig-Zagged In-Universe: since Dwarves will go to battle armed with the first thing they lay hands on, the Dwarven Baby Flail is a common fate of battle-born Dwarf children, but there are stories of the mothers who do this starving to death trying to find them back. The Steam release corrected this somewhat by letting do menial labors like hauling and constructing buildings, which really frees up the adults, though there are perils related to this as dedicated haulers get both very strong (moving boulders and logs around) and very irritable (moving mutilated corpses to the refuse stockpiles).
  • Episode 4 of The Walking Dead brings a very dark example. The community of Crawford in Savannah, Georgia is a group of Social Darwinists who feel anyone within the community must be able to "earn their keep." This means that no children are allowed as they waste resources, and a pregnant woman is seen given the ultimatum of abortion or exile.

    Visual Novels 
  • Umineko: When They Cry:
    • Rosa shows some shades of this mostly because her boyfriend left her when she was pregnant and left her with a huge loan she co-signed with him. She sometimes hits her daughter and has been commenting on having trouble getting married because of Maria. She also feels conflicted in that while she loves Maria, she is having problems liking her due to her interest in magic and her Verbal Tic.
    • Another, very dark example can be found with Kyrie, who in Episode 7 is shown not to care one bit about her daughter Ange and only considers children to be something to tie a man down with. She is also willing to take the gold and leave her daughter behind while she flees out of the country. And while she is a piece controlled by Bernkastel it was established long before that a piece can only do what the real person would be able to do.

    Web Animation 

    Web Comics 
  • This is what many characters in Questionable Content seem to agree on implicitly. In several cases justified since they came from families where something went wrong, and most of them are in their 20s and nowhere near ready to consider having families. But apparently not even Marten Reed seems to think that the world needs another Marten Reed. The author has expressed the same opinion in the footnotes that accompanied one comic where this was expressed, so it's apparently an opinion he shares. Subverted with Faye, who later says she might consider having kids later in her life, indicating her views on the subject may have evolved.

    Web Videos 
  • In a video commentary, Bishop Barron takes issue with this view while discussing the TIME story, "The Childless Life". Essentially, he sees the couples are valuing their personal freedom over their family and community and believes that having a child teaches the true value of life since your life afterwards is no longer about you.

    Western Animation 
  • On The Simpsons episode "Marge vs. Singles, Seniors, Childless Couples and Teens, and Gays", there is a group of single people who were tired of dealing with other people's children and led a campaign for more restrictions on kids ("The children are our future: today belongs to me!"). They succeeded, and Marge led a counter-campaign to get everything back to normal.
  • In one episode of Phineas and Ferb we see a Bad Future where Doofenshmirtz is in charge. It turns out to be the Moral Guardians who really pushed the world into dystopia, though; they decided that all imagination was dangerous and irresponsible, and since children naturally were imaginative, so were they. For everyone's protection, they locked them away in cryogenic sleep until they grew up. The real implication is that it was entirely Linda's doing since it was a reaction to one of the boys' projects and we've seen that she's pretty much the only adult in town that doesn't know about them. In contrast, the alternate-dimension Doof from the movie just instituted a curfew.