Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

The Childfree and Selfish Discussion July 17, 2010

This article, Is Being Childfree By Choice Selfish? first appeared in REDBOOK and was reposted on MSN. Obviously, we’re not going to have the “selfish” discussion here. We all have our reasons for not having children, and most of have at least one good comeback in our arsenal in case someone actually plays the “selfish” card with us. But there were some interesting points in this article.

One woman who has never wanted kids said this:

“When someone asks me if I have kids, I often feel almost apologetic when I say no, like I have to provide a ‘good enough’ reason or they’ll take pity on me and assume I can’t have children,” said Rebecca. “But I just don’t have the gene for wanting a child, and I don’t think having a child would improve our relationship. I usually tell people that we’ve chosen to go the dog-and-cat route and leave it at that.”

Apologetic? She’s clearly a woman who has thought through this and made an intelligent decision, but now she feels she must apologize for that? Haven’t we all done that to some degree?

The article goes on to quote Laura Carroll, author Families of Two: Interviews with Happily Married Couples without Children by Choice, who says:

 “I have been watching the childfree for over 10 years now, and I can say that they are not a homogeneous group. They come from all socioeconomical backgrounds and life experiences. They are no more selfish than parents who have kids for their own reasons. They so often contribute to the lives of kids (e.g., have occupations that revolve around children), to their communities, and our world. We need to realize and fully accept as a society that having children is an option, not a given. We also need to realize and accept that not everyone has the call to have parenthood be the central focus of their lives. There are many ways to lead fulfilling lives that make a difference, and raising children is one way, not the way, as many, many people out there will attest!”

Yes!! Finally!  I was happily thinking that the conversation about being childfree  is being brought into the mainstream. But this is how the article ends:

What do you think of the decision not to have children? Is it selfish? Or are couples who choose to be kid-free just self-aware enough to know that, for whatever reason, they’re not parent material? Are you childfree by choice?

So, in the end this article–originally printed in REDBOOK, the magazine for everywoman– isn’t addressing everywoman after all; it’s asking people with children for their opinions on the childless. Until a mainstream magazine publishes an article called, “Are parents selfish?” we aren’t really having a dialogue about this subject.

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6 Responses to “The Childfree and Selfish Discussion”

  1. Kathryn Says:

    Our own reasons are long & complicated.

    My hubby gets very indignant over discussions like this. One article i read had several comments from families who had come about thru adoption & these women were defending against (the unstated assumption which they had assumed) that families who adopt are “second class” families. These women had assumed this because some of the childless folks had chosen not to adopt – & they got reamed for it.

    My hubby very angrily said that the “second class” families are those who have children without giving it thought. Those who treat their kids like burdens & abuse them. Folks who never had to deal with the issue of “will we/can we” have kids? Folks who took it & their kids for granted.

    Parents are very often selfish. Frankly, young girls who have babies & keep them (because they will then have “someone who loves me”) are often selfish. Parenthood doesn’t automatically confer the virtue of selflessness. For some people it does, but that is not a given.

  2. Some of the most selfish people I know…I’ll even be more specific than that…the most selfish person I know…is/are parents.

    I totally dismiss the “selfish theory”. There are definitely folks who are not parent material or have no desire to be parents. That’s not selfishness. It’s just who they are. Many folks choose not to have children and give their lives to be missionaries or work for humanitarian relief organizations in places that having a child would be dangerous.

    My view is if you don’t think you want/can handle children then don’t have them. Raising children is a challenge even for folks who really desire them. I did desire them (although was unable to have them), but then there is a side of me that feels kind of feels relieved that I didn’t. My culture would have me feel guilty for having those thoughts, but I’m trying to learn not to listen or take those assertions to heart. I feel God chose this path for me (even though I don’t totally understand why), and I’m every bit as valuable as anyone who has kids.

  3. I agree with you–not until we see a major mag do a piece on how parents are selfish will we be able to get to the reality that being selfish does not depend on whether you have kids or not! There are many ways to be selfish–Too many people understand the world through a child-centric lense and this makes them quick to judge those who not follow the pronatalistic program–don’t get me started…;) ~L
    http://lauracarroll.com

  4. happynenes Says:

    I’m starting to think that there may be commercial pressure in our culture to have children.

    Like the wedding industry capitalizes upon the romantic dreams of women, baby-stuff is clearly big bucks. I have to admit that part of the concept of having children for me included all the cute baby stuff. Boppy pillows, Baby Gap, Janie and Jack, tiny Nikes, Pottery Barn nursery sets, baby spa tubs, even soft, perfumed little diapers – if you’ve been to a baby shower lately, you’ve seen all the cool stuff. What could be more selfish than the desire to have stuff stuff and more stuff? I would be ashamed to sound so materialistic, but I am convinced I am not alone in feeling this commercial pressure to buy baby stuff. I am beginning to think my biological clock was at least partially stimulated by targeted advertising.

    Think about the Johnson & Johnson adds awhile back that simply stated – ‘motherhood changes everything’ – inferring, I think, that it changes everything for the better. Fascinating!

    I’m sure if I said this on a mothering site I would be verbally strung up by my toenails…

  5. Kel Says:

    The concept that choosing not to have a child is a selfish act really chaps my hide.

    Procreation is not a magical event and takes little more thought than rolling over in bed.

    While I know some who planned their families, I know equal numbers who did not, and the blessed event does not spontaneously instill good parenting skills nor improve the character of a person.

    Considering teen pregnancies, families financially bereft due to numerous children, overpopulation, child abuse and NEGLECT, etc etc. I find it appalling that anyone dare cast a selfish connotation on people that have chosen not to have a child.

    I had 2 unfortunate encounters recently and it disturbs me to see children in difficult environments, and the lack of consideration by the so called parents.

    Blech. And I’m the childless “selfish one”?!

  6. Kel Says:

    Happynenes – you made an interesting point, cultural pressures and expectations are ingrained in all of us to one degree or another. Our media is pervasive, its tentacles everywhere – and “we” are absorbing it. I taught a class awhile back and the audience debated some facts which I countered and after some questioning of the group I came to identify these “facts” were taken from a sitcom. I was teaching a science course.

    Yikes.


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