So, a couple of days ago I engaged in a conversation on Facebook about the idea that choosing to not have a baby is selfish. I’m sure it’s a sentiment you’ve come across before? I know I’ve heard it. Many times.
I’d like to immediately point out that this doesn’t seem to be a conversation that happens around men deciding that they’re not going to have children. But somehow – still – in 2019 – there appears to still be people who cannot cope with the idea that a woman can simply decide not to become a mother.
Even though I’m a woman who always wanted to be a mother, it offends me deeply that people STILL think that women’s primary purpose in life is to bear children.
But I’ll set that aside for now to unpack the idea that it’s selfish to not want to become a mother.
Choosing to have – or not have – is a selfish decision
Deciding to have a baby is a selfish decision. Or at least, I think it should be. I decided to become a parent because being a mother is what I wanted for my life. I wanted children. And wanted them because they’re what I wanted. That’s really it. That’s all there is to it. There is really no altruistic reason there.
I’m sure there were some deeply biological urges at work. The desire to reproduce is a really an indescribable urge. But if I were to try to explain the reasons why I wanted to have children so intensely is I believe that having children makes me happy, and they give my life purpose and meaning.
All of which is about me.
And I don’t see how making a decision about why I believe is best for my life is any more or less selfish than someone making a decision about what is best for their life – even if they make a completely different choice.
Obviously my partner had to feel the same way. Becoming parents was what we both wanted. And parenthood, as exhausting and expensive as it is, has been entirely worthwhile – for us.
And everything after deciding to have children hasn’t been selfish. I feel like every other decision we make in our lives since having them has been through the lense of what we think is best for our children.
Because that’s how parenthood works. You chose to have them, so while they’re dependant on you, everything you do has to take them into consideration.
Which is why I can’t get my head around why any parent who understands the magnitude of the responsibility of bringing whole human beings into the world would ever try to encourage someone to do it unwillingly.
Not having children doesn’t make you a selfish person
Just because I think the decision itself has to be selfish doesn’t mean anyone is selfish for what they decide.
If having children doesn’t suit someone’s lifestyle, goals, and plans – if having children doesn’t fit into how they see themselves living their best life – then they probably shouldn’t have them, right?
Or they shouldn’t have children until that changes. (Though please stop telling people that they will change their mind and regret not having children, because they also might not.)
But just because someone doesn’t see children in their life, doesn’t mean they are selfish people! I don’t even know how to fully expand on that point, because it’s so obvious to me.
But simply – it doesn’t mean that that person is inflexible, because they like their life the way it is without a child. Or it doesn’t mean they’re incapable of caring for someone else because they don’t want to be a parent. And just because someone doesn’t want to be a parent doesn’t mean they don’t like children.
It just seems to me like the right thing for those hypothetical children is to be born to parents who genuinely want them. It’s not enough to just care for a child. Children need to be wanted.
Don’t Be That Person
I have to admit I have been that person. After a few drinks, and not thinking it through, I have enthusiastically told friends that they would be amazing parents and that they should have a baby. But I was mortified at myself in the morning and I really shouldn’t have said anything.
Just because someone would be a great parent doesn’t mean they have to be. Or have to be right now. So I do understand the impulse to attempt to encourage someone to have a baby – but I really really needed to just shut my mouth.
However, I would never – and nobody else should ever – call anyone selfish because they don’t want kids.
Whether Someone Else Has Children Has Nothing To Do With You
Firstly, if you’re pressuring someone to have children, because you don’t believe that people can have a full and meaningful life without children, or that by not having children they are failing to contribute to society – no. Just no.
People can absolutely have a full life – even a life full of children – without becoming a parent.
Having your own biological children is not necessary. Not everyone needs to have children. And we definitely don’t need more children being born into households where they’re not truly wanted. Children deserve to be wanted by their parents.
And secondly, if the reason you’re pressuring them is because they’re a close friend or family member and YOU want THEM to have a baby so YOU can experience that with them, then that is entirely you being selfish. And not the good kind of selfish. That’s the plain selfish kind of selfish.
So if you catch yourself doing this – or you believe that it is selfish not to have children – sit back and think about why you believe everyone is obligated to have children or that you think that life has no meaning without experiencing parenthood.
Because having children is a decision that you make, not something you just do by default. And it’s a decision that everyone needs to make for themselves.