So if I Don’t Want Kids, Now I’m Selfish?

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Congrats to Wiz and Amber, but parenthood ain’t for everybody

A recent op-ed in the Canadian paper, the National Post, literally  made me LOL and say ‘Ooh, somebody’s salty’ aloud to no one in particular in my office. You can read it for yourself, but to summarize, writer Joe O’Connor asserts that couples who choose not to have children are “just plain selfish” because they’d rather spend their lives taking vacations, buying white furniture and plugging things in without first having to remove a safety cap from the socket or whatever. O’Connor pines for the good ol’ days when, he writes:

Having children used to be the point of being a pair. It was the great aspiration — along with finding love everlasting — a biological impulse to go forth and multiply and, later, once your babies reached a certain age, to cajole them about the merits and benefits of doing their bit to join the ranks of parenthood while giving Mom and Dad some grandkids.

Judging from all the pregnancy bump photos on Facebook and adorable pics of baby feet on Instagram, many people in my network still feel that way. For the majority of Americans, growing up means getting married and starting a family. I certainly don’t begrudge anyone that path — I’m excited for the couples I know with buns in, or freshly out, of the oven — but O’Connor doesn’t seem as judicious when looking upon those who forego parenthood by choice. After listing some of the things these childless couples do with all of their time not spent organizing play dates or attending parent-teacher conferences, O’Connor considers what might make someone opt-out of child-rearing:

Career demands. Timing. Not having a partner, or not having the right partner. Flaky fears about overburdening our already overburdened planet, personal choice and a bunch of other hooey that serve to hide the fact that happy couples that choose not to have kids are, at root, well, let’s see: selfish.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have ourselves a hater. While I’m sure O’Connor loves his family and has zero regrets about choosing to parent, it’s painfully obvious that he envies the lives of couples who are free from the tedium and burdens that inevitably go along with the joys of raising kids. In the very beginning of his piece he frames the childless life as one available only in a parent’s dream. The lives he tries to slander, in my opinion, sound absolutely wonderful. One of the worst barbs he can throw at non-parents is that they look rested and youthful. I had to ask myself, ‘Is this Canada’s version of The Onion?’

Having children or not is a personal choice every couple has the right to make. The reasons not to have children so easily dismissed by O’Connor are indeed real, for example the cost to raise just one child is estimated at $300,000 (US), not including costs for their college education. Concerns about the environment may seem “flaky” to some but the earth’s population is one R. Kelly song away from 7.1 Billion human beings. It’s no longer necessary that we procreate to ensure the survival of our species so who cares if some people would rather spend their old age cruising the Mediterranean than bouncing cherubic grandchildren on their knees?

I’ll see O’Connor’s accusation of selfishness and raise him one; I say that choosing to have children is the selfish act! When your kids are born, you will likely spend the rest of your life giving all of yourself over to their health and happiness but before sperm and egg meet to form a zygote, you’re mostly in it for yourself. If probed, most people’s desire to have children will center on what they want for themselves and their own lives. Who says they’re having a kid for the sake of this yet-to-exist person being happy and healthy? What’s that matter? People have kids because they want to experience a family or the “joy of parenting,” continue their legacy, name and blood-line, see their own image in another, have someone to take care of them later in life, have someone who loves them unconditionally, help make the world a better place (granted, pretty selfless) by adding a person made good and wonderful through their nurturing and lessons (the selfish part). You see where I’m going.

Have kids. Go forth and procreate! I love seeing their little diapered butts waddle across the room. But don’t kid yourself; a lot of why some couples choose to have children is for their selfish reasons. Ultimately, it’s a good kind of selfish which is reflected in a proud parent’s eyes or the laughter of a child. The same goes for those who choose not to become parents. Call them selfish but recognize that it’s a different but just as good kind of way to put one’s own desires and happiness first.

  • Jenn

    Great post. I’ve never understood the “selfish” appelation. I’ve known far too many people who decided to have a baby simply because they were supposed to, were bored, or wanted someone to love them. Whereas I just don’t think I’d make a good parent. I think I read a post on http://www.babyoffboard.com about this as well–it’s a good childfree site if anyone is interested.

  • SRocque

    Yeah, the kids vs no kids thing is interesting. I see tons of people who have kids trying to pretend that they’re so deliriously happy but then when they see my childless lifestyle they say things like, “You’re lucky you get to [insert whatever here], you don’t have kids.” It’s not that having kids is the most awful thing that could happen to someone but people with kids who all childless people selfish are definitely jealous. I wrote about my hubby and I not wanting kids at the moment for Ebony (online) and got called selfish by some people, which really just makes me laugh. Not saying I don’t want them ever but I’m good for now. And if I never have them, I’ve made peace with that too. It’s not that deep, especially when the kids, or lack thereof, in question have nothing to do with my uterus.

  • NewEnglandNoir

    My man and I aren’t having kids right now because we believe we’ve earned the RIGHT to be “selfish” for a bit before having a family (if we ever choose to do so). I know that to be a mom right now would be a bad choice, because I’d resent not finishing my pre-baby bucket list. Think of it this way: you live your childhood to make your parents happy, and many adults live to make their kids happy. I’m living to make ME happy for awhile. That’s not selfish, that’s self-preservation.

  • Gehennah

    I don’t see it as selfish at all. My wife and I have been married for 10 years, and we don’t want children. We never have and I don’t think we ever will. It isn’t that we like taking our vacations and having all of this nice stuff (although we do), its also that she gets extremely stressed easily, I got very frustrated easily over things that attempt to annoy me. And children both cause huge amounts of stress, and can very often be annoying.

    We both feel that bringing a child into our marriage would end up harming our marriage more than anything, and I’d rather spend the rest of my life happy with her than fighting back and forth or even worse, getting a divorce.

    I understand children can bring great happiness to a family, but they certainly aren’t for everyone.