I came across this article linked from CNN today called “What’s so wrong with being selfish?”. It’s about childless people (and women, in particular) being judged by parents for choosing to not have kids. I’m sure I won’t be the only suburban SAHM to weigh in on this, but it riled me up enough that I figured I’d give it a go.
What strikes me most about this article is that the author is completely unabashed in reveling in the supposed selfishness people without kids might cite as their reasons to remain kidless. Really? People choose not to have kids because it might impede on their excessive shopping habits? Because they want to stay up all night for reasons not involving poop? Sure, I have no doubt that some people choose not to have kids because at the heart of it they just don’t feel it’s something they want to do, period. But to imply that mothers judge the motherless because they are selfish, and then to include a list of all the wonderful, selfish things they can do sans kids simply perpetuates the problem, doesn’t it?
I don’t really get why some mothers do tend to get so defensive in response to the notion that some people don’t want kids. Some, I’m sure, do miss the freedom life without kids brings. I definitely have moments when I miss all the excessive sitting around and watching movies with my husband, but for me, there were also a lot of moments of “is this it?” For us, having kids was a natural extension of our relationship. We always knew we’d love to have kids, even though we also knew full well it would be at least a temporary end to some of the things we enjoyed doing. It’s not forever, though, you know. If you loved doing XY&Z before kids, you’ll find a way to pick up XY&Z (or at least X and Z) after you have kids.
Another irony in the whole kids vs. no kids argument is that it’s one of those arguments where one side can’t clearly see the other side’s POV. I have no idea what it would be like to be my age right now without kids, or being married, or having done any number of the things I’ve done in life. Kidless people have no real idea what it’s like to have kids. I don’t know why we are so worried about it. I’m a very big “to each his own” kind of person and I’m not offended or threatened by people who don’t choose to have kids. It’s only natural that I also feel they are missing out on something amazing and irreplaceable, but that’s because I couldn’t imagine it any other way. I can’t imagine any feeling that could replace the feeling one gets from raising children, but that’s just another form of selfishness, is it not? We have kids not only because we feel we can give of ourselves to them, but also because it makes us feel good. Like any other altruistic endeavor, it’s not entirely altruistic.
Finally, the article, and the argument, so often leave out people who would love to have children but who are unable to conceive or sometimes, are unable to even adopt (gay people come to mind). I can’t imagine that pain, but we shouldn’t overlook it when we’re having this discussion.
I’m annoyed on behalf of my kidless friends who actually aren’t vapid examples of excess and who lead lives that include a mixture of selfless and selfish activies – just like parents. And I’m annoyed on behalf of mothers who are villified because the more vapid among the kidless set thinks we deem them worthless. I didn’t leave my ability to think beyond my vagina on the delivery table when I had my first kid.