Remaining Childless Does Not Mean A Person is “Selfish”

With adults of a certain age range, a cold war is going on, and there are two definite camps:

Those that have kids and can’t imagine why others wouldn’t want them, and people that don’t want children and don’t understand why other people do.

Now, the vast majority of people are not at either of those extremes. Like a lot of lifestyle issues, they just don’t care what other people choose to do. Most parents I’ve known don’t care if their friends have kids or not, and the same thing applies the other way around.

The are lots of things that both of the extremes say and do that are pretty shitty. I’m not going to call someone a breeder for having or wanting a kid, but I really don’t understand parents that think the childless are somehow morally deficient or “selfish.” Sure, there ARE some people without kids that claim they are too selfish to have them, but that’s not something that can be applied across the board.

To those reading this that have kids, I ask that you understand that I’m not bashing people with children. I like kids myself, although I’ve never had any great desire to have one of my own.

I’m merely countering the oft-cited criticism which tells us that childless people must be more selfish than those with kids.

First of all, what would be the basis of this perception, besides the occasional individual that claims selfishness as their main reason for not wanting kids.?I don’t recall electing those folks as spokespeople for the rest of us.

It seems to be a sad condition of human nature that humans tend to bond closely with those most like themselves, and often lack the open mindedness and empathy needed to at least get along with people that don’t share the same lifestyle choices.

It’s relatively common to find parents, especially new parents, who suddenly expect that the world should change to be safer for their kids. This is understandable, as the world can be a scary and dangerous place, but it’s off-putting when people that you know, who were going clubbing and partying a few years earlier, suddenly look at their old friends as being irresponsible for doing the same stuff they once did.

So what happened? They had children, and that’s scary. They started to see their former lifestyle as potentially dangerous to the well being of their offspring, and the primal drive to protect their kids has made enemies out of former friends.

And of course, a lot of the time those former friends resent losing their party buddies to parenthood. After a point those friendships might even be abandoned, as all parties gravitate to other individuals living lives more similar to theirs.

In any case, not having children and not wanting to have them is not some inferior moral choice. Nor is it automatically selfish, anymore than the desire to have children is automatically selfless and beneficial to society.

I would argue that having children can be seen as a more selfish act for a variety of reasons, but primarily because the people that benefit the most from having kids seem to be the parents that have them. I guess most parents hope that their kids will grow up to be super geniuses that will in some way better the world, but that’s no more likely an outcome than their offspring damaging the world.

I’m using extremes to make a point, but every murderer in history started out as someone’s kid, and while most people’s children won’t grow up to be monsters, there’s always that possibility. It’s probably as likely as them growing up to be the next Albert Einstein.

So who is likely to REALLY benefit from someone’s choice to have children? It seems that in most cases it’s the parents themselves that eventually benefit the most. Having kids offers them the possibility of a survival network should that kid and his parents live long enough for the aging parents to need care.

I’ve even had parents argue to me that I need to have kids for that very reason. So who really benefits from another person’s choice to have children?

In any case, I’m not arguing that there is something wrong with wanting to have children. It’s a hard wired human need for most people, I just object to the idea that by choosing NOT to have kids, I have revealed myself to be selfish in some way.

Can people see the level of my generosity based on whether or not I produce offspring?

What about the huge numbers of bad parents out there? The ones that treat their kids negligently or abuse them? I’ve heard a lot of people try to claim moral superiority over the years by claiming that they’re good parents, but to paraphrase an old Chris Rock joke, “you’re supposed to.” People shouldn’t get credit for doing what they’re supposed to do. The only thing that proves is that they’re better than the bad parents out there.

You don’t get brownie points for doing the right thing when you’ve initiated the conditions that make doing that thing necessary. If I take in a stray cat, nurse it back to health, and then beat it viciously, does that make me a good person? It would’ve been better for me not to adopt that cat at all, would it not? When you decide to create a little human, you better be up for the job. Maybe once he or she grows up, then you can sit back and get some form of credit, but until then, the parent is expected to do the right thing.

The is undoubtedly a lot of pressure put on people with kids that childless people don’t deal with. That doesn’t make parents eligible for sainthood, nor does it mean that by rejecting the choice to have children that childless adults are somehow morally inferior, selfish, or homogeneous in their reasons for making the choice they did.

In the end, I’m happy for my friends with kids, and in most cases I like their children. When a friend is excited about impending parenthood, I’m really happy for them too. In almost every case I can think of, the people I know who have had kids have felt that their lives were greatly enriched by becoming parents, and I’m happy for them.

I just get sick of being told that people like myself must be more selfish, or that we don’t know what we’re missing, or any number of other lame things that a few parents have told me over the years. I’m a fairly intelligent human being. I think I can at least get an idea of what it must be like to have a kid, to be a parent. My life is far from empty, and I don’t regret my choice a single day. We’re not all wired the same way. That doesn’t necessarily make one choice superior to the other.


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