Is being childless selfish?

Let’s just jump right in, shall we? According to Joe O’Connor, couples who choose not to have children are selfish (barring any biological impossibilities, of course). As someone who’s decided not to have kids, I find the broad generalization that people like me are selfish or “just haven’t found the right man, yet” (another populate opinion, which I won’t get into today) to be frustrating and ignorant. This article, in particular, left me full of rage. It was clearly written to be one sided and to support his belief, which makes him pretty selfish: he could have researched the trend and reasons for not having kids and written a well balance article, but he decided to focus on his personal perspective.

Yes, he did talk to someone who decided to remain childless and she cited financial reasons for not having kids (i.e., wanting more money for herself). I doubt that’s the only reason she doesn’t want kids, but even if it is, it’s still her choice to make and it’s no more selfish then a parent choosing to go for a couple beers, buy a fancy golf club, or get their hair done at a fancy salon when they could have saved that money and spent it on their kids. People need to find the right balance for themselves and if an adult wants to treat themselves on occasion, regardless of whether they have kids or not, that’s OK.

Here’s my take on the selfish argument: I call bullshit. I’m not being selfish, I’m just not very interested in kids. Sort of like how some people aren’t interested in dogs. They aren’t selfish for not wanting to rescue dogs from a shelter, they just don’t want dogs. I’m happy to share time with my niece, I donate to causes/charities, I support my friends with kids, etc. I also know that I could be a decent mom, can (sort of) afford kids, etc., but I’m not interested in any of my own. That’s not selfish, that’s just a choice.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the definition of selfish is: concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself ; seeking or concentrating on one’s own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others. So, basically everyone is being selfish: childless adults are selfish because they boldly decided to be childless despite societies obsession with families and adults with kids are selfish because they expect the rest of us to respect their need for family sick days, taxes to support schools, etc. (Side note: I approve of those and other child friendly things. If nothing else, I’m ok with helping to pay for schools so that our country has people with at least a basic education. I simply used them as an example of special advantages that parents get which childless adults still have to pay for, either through taxes or covering off on someone else’s work.)

Yes, there are people out there who have reasons that may seem selfish (not wanting to spend the money, wanting to come home to a clean quiet house, wanting to save ones’ figure, etc.), but I don’t see how it’s anymore selfish than wanting kids because you want to be a mom/dad, or because you want to pass on the family name. I also don’t see how it’s any more selfish than pushing your personal values based on your life circumstances, belief system, etc. on other people. Being childless isn’t hurting anyone, so why do people even care?

All that said, let me explain my personal point of view. I choose to be childless … sort of. Here’s the thing, this isn’t a black and white issue for me. True, I don’t plan on ever having kids of my own, but guess what: I agreed to and intent on following through with taking care of my niece if anything ever happens to her parents. If that were to happen, I would be sad, there would be a rough transition, but I would gladly do whatever I could do to be the best parent substitute I could be, because she’s family and I love her. I wouldn’t do this for most people, probably not even for my best friends, because it has to be very special circumstances before I’m willing to take on kids. But, when I am willing, I’ll be happy and comfortable with my decision.

I didn’t always want to be childless. I was the constant babysitter when I was younger. I even worked as a Nanny one summer and a subsidized daycare another summer. I loved  kids and had every intention of having my own, maybe even adopting special needs kids (I figured with all the experience I had with special needs in my legal and extended family, I would be pretty good at it). But, sometime in my early to mid-20’s I realized that I didn’t want kids. This is a bit hard for me to admit, but what I really wanted was attention and the unconditional love I foolishly thought I would get as a parent. When I realized this I knew that I had to re-evaluate things, because that’s a really selfish reason to have kids. Eventually, I realized that I didn’t want kids at all. I like be child-free. I also like being single, but that’s a whole other story.

Not having kids doesn’t mean that I don’t contribute to society. Childless people still donate (time and money) to charities, they still contribute to their own families (being brothers, sisters, aunt, uncles, etc.), they still get involved in politics, and a lot of us still support schools and initiatives to help kids. Do you know why? Because being childfree doesn’t mean being disengaged from society and heartless, it just means being childfree.

My point is, we all have our reasons for being child-free or for having children. At the base of those reasons is a selfish desire to do what we want to do, and that’s OK. Instead of pointing fingers and name calling, we  should just accept people’s right to make their own decision about whether or not to have kids. And, come on, do you really want people who don’t want kids to be forced into having them? I don’t think that would be fair to the kids.

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