Thursday, June 21, 2007

Childfree by Choice?

Note: 6/22/07 - Same trouble with Technorati. I can not update. Please drop by the site to see new content. Technorati technical support is not responsive.

I updated content at 8.30 am.


One of the comments on yesterday's post got me thinking about something.

Is not having children selfish?

It might be, if it is presupposed that those who choose to not have children are doing so only because they don't want to be bothered or distracted from full-fledged hedonism. In the general view, that is the only logical reason to not have children. The choice is made by people who are more concerned with their own comfort, their "stuff", want their own money and don't want to sacrifice anything.

That is just as valid a reason as any other to not have them.

And the question always remains for any culture; do women have an obligation to have children?
I chose to not have children for a variety of reasons. I chose for both personal and larger reasons. It was definitely a choice and not happenstance.

There comes a point in all of our lives when we have to look at ourselves very honestly, admitting both shortcomings and strengths, all the while understanding that those things are interchangeable depending on the circumstances. We make choices and decisions based on that knowledge.

My focus has always been more global than individual. I rarely see the trees for the forest. It would be literally impossible for me to raise a child in this culture, knowing that the ultimate objective is to train her to be a good little producer and consumer for corporate America. I could not in good conscience teach a child to be a me-first individualist whose goal would be to fit into the marketplace and conquer it. Regardless of ideals, when it comes to kids we have to deal with reality. Teaching them to be eccentric is not in their best interest because it guarantees they will have a harder life.

My understanding from child psychology classes was that children need to be taught be independent islands who need no one and the highest objective in life is to be able to walk out into the marketplace on their own without a supportive community to surround them. Lifelong dependence on family is viewed as pathology. Even community is commodified as we teach children to compete for friendships and community. I would have to teach them more self-sufficiency than is necessary. It's not how I believe and is not part of my moral system. Since I would be responsible for that child's moral upbringing, she or he would be at a disadvantage for this culture and this era.

When I was at child-bearing age, I did not have a chosen culture to pass along or to guide me as I do now. The possibility of relocating somewhere else to raise my children was never an option. At least I didn't see it at the time.

The final reason for my decision is that I've never been able to trust another person so thoroughly that I could have children with him and know he'd stick around to raise them with me. I was raised with a womanizer. I did not want the life of a single mother. It's too hard. Period.

So... are those selfish reasons?

Ultimately. Yes. Of course they're selfish.

If I was completely self-sacrificing, I would have had them anyway and raised them the way Piaget and the child-rearing authorities say they are to be raised. I would have trained good little independent consumers and called it good. I would have been praised by my family, friends and culture. I would have lived up to my destiny as a female.

I could have chosen to have children to make other people happy, regardless of the consequences to my own life. I could have had the appointed 2.5 of my generation and raised them. When all is said and done, I do step up to the plate when it counts. The children would have been raised.

And which decision would have been more selfish in the long run?

(I should make it clear that I am not challenging anyone's choice to have or not have children. I am only relating my own experience. It does seem that the best reason to have children always remains the same ~ no matter what ~ and that's because you want them.)





heartsinsanfrancisco said...

Everything you say is correct, in my view. I had them because I wanted them. Since I am not a Catholic and birth control was available to me, I would not have had them for any other reason.

And as it turned out, I did raise them myself, and it was very hard. But I still feel that I made the right decision because I would have
felt that my life was lacking if I had not had them.

A couple I know who are in their 40's have a book in their shelves called "Family of Two." They have no children. I think that says it all.

And I have three now-grown children who have not reproduced. While I would like to have a grandchild, I support their choices. They are doing what is right for them. Everyone should.

June 21, 2007 3:54 PM

slouching mom said...

don't find it selfish to choose not to have children.

On the contrary, I see far too many people having children without considering whether they really want them.

And there's nothing worse, to my mind, than a child growing up knowing that he or she was not wanted.

June 21, 2007 4:11 PM

KC said...

You could say having children is the selfish thing- the ultimate selfishness, really. The evolutionary drive to pass on our genes. I'm just saying.

MsLittlePea said...

Childfree by choice is not selfish at all!! It's selfish to have children before one is able to provide a stable life for them in my opinion. At the same time it's selfLESS to do all you can to raise a child whatever the financial circumstances may be because it take so much sacrifice and hard work. I'm the only one out of my friends and family who hasn't had any or at least planning on it. In my twenties it was by choice and now at 30 it's not possible for health reasons. There's a huge possibility that I might not ever have children even when I am healthy enough to do so simply because I want to do other things with my life and I don't see that possibility if there are children. I would want to be the best mother I could be and not resent or be able to give the best of myself to my children. I resent the 'look' I get from people(mostly other women) when asked about children/future children. I don't think it's selfish to choose to be childfree at all. We all have to make the best choices for ourselves and our future kids(be they hypothetical or actual). Recognizing that one may not be a good parent/there's not enough money/no stability or whatever reason is not selfish, it's just common sense. And anyway-there are already 5 grandsons in my family so there's no pressure on me in that department :o)

ellie bee said...

being mature enough to decide intelligently and thoughtfully if you want to have children is not selfish--it is an act of love to the universe. too many people who HAVE children do so for selfish reasons: they feel they "deserve" a child, or they want someone to love them completely (or to make them complete), or they want a toy or a doll or a trophy or a marriage balm or acceptance or...even worse, they had a selfish moment of pleasure without any thought of the consequences. I applaude adults everywhere who make consciencious choices about having children.

meno said...

Bollocks! I hate that argument. Having a child is the most selfish thing i've ever done.

I freely admit it.

I completely support the right of every woman to have or to not have children as she pleases.

Christine said...

I am with sm on this. So many people have children for so many weird reasons (save a marriage, because they "should", because they are lonely, etc.)that can be considered selfish. the people I know who chose not to have kids have thought very hard about it, and I don't find them selfish at all.

flutter said...

I don't think it is selfish to choose not to have children. I think its selfish to put a child through hell rather than to know that child rearing is not for know?


I appreciate you.

thailandchani said...

All, it is so good to finally see you guys! With the technorati trouble, it was like hollering into a tin can, only to find the string was broken.

Wow.. I don't like being cut off that way! :)


Susan, I agree that everyone should make that choice based on their own sensibilities. The judgment really needs to stop. You know? What was feminism for if women are still viewed as somehow defective because they choose to not have children???


SM, I suspect a lot of women bend to the pressure. Somehow, they think it is their duty. Most are not raised with the idea that they get to choose.. and, imo, after conception is a bit late to be making those choices.

Honestly? I told my mother when I was only 6 years old that I didn't want to get married and I didn't want to have children. I got married... didn't have children.. and did end up divorced. Apparently I made the right decision.

The idea of me raising children would scare Satan himself!


KC, I can see that point of view.. but I don't see it as biological imperative so much because we do get to choose.


MsPea, it's good there's no pressure on you.. and if you do decide you want children, there are hundreds and thousands out there who need to be adopted.


Ellie, I feel that way fundamentally, too... but let's face it: this site has enlightened commenters. There are so many women who go through a world of pressure (especially the "selfish" accusation) if they do not choose to have children.


Meno, did you feel like it was selfish to choose it, even though you have to be basically selfless when you raised your daughter? The raising process certainly doesn't seem very selfish at all!


Christine, you know what really torks me off? When I hear some woman say "I had children because I wanted someone to love me unconditionally". EEEEEKKK!!!! Get a f-----ing dog! Babies are not dolls!

People do have them for the wrong reasons.. and also so many for the right reasons. On these blogs here, I've read so many outstanding, loving and concerned mothers.. you know.. it's kind of renewed my faith in the whole thing.


Flutter, yes, I agree. I am a reasonably decent person and all..but I'm pretty damned weird, truth told. I had no business having children. I can love in a different way which is what I try to do.

I appreciate you, too. Probably more than you might realize. Thank you for saying so.




jen said...

i agree w/ KC - having them is selfish - given the times we live in, overpopulation, the number of kids who need homes already...

not having them, IMO, is knowing yourself deeply. to know what you want...

QT said...

I guess I would say both ways are selfish, Chani. We are executing what we want as human beings. Selfish because I don't want to sacrifice my resources of time or money on a child? Or selfish because I just HAD to pass my genes on into the gene pool for any one of the reasons listed above?

It cuts both ways, if you ask me.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

One more thing.. I am always appalled at people who think it acceptable to ask a woman when she is going to have a child.

I would also hope that the Women's Movement had at least accomplished more respect for women and their right to decide whether or not they want to be mothers.

And let us not forget that the world is perilously overcrowded already, in many cases with children whom nobody wants or can care for.

Do we really still need to be carrying on such stupidity?

Susanne said...

You know, having a child wasn't exactly a choice for me at that time. I knew that I wanted one (well, two, to be exact), but my husband wasn't sure, and then I wanted to get a little rest and then decide.

Well, birth control isn't a hundred percent safe...

I'm very happy with this "accident". I'd rather lay down my life than to undo it.

I'm writing this to say that I think the question of whether it's selfish not to have children or not is a little beside the point. (Though I'm well aware that women (and almost never men) who choose not to have children are accused of being selfish.) There are many selfish reasons for either choice.

Here in Germany there is a lot of talk about people having less children, and there is fear of Germans to get extinct. On the other hand the earth is overcrowded just as it is.

Another tidbit that I recently read was that there really aren't that much fewer women having children here nowadays. They only have less children than before.

And I totally agree with heartsinsanfrancisco.

Anonymous said...

Well, I say good thing YOUR mother didn't "think globally". Trisha

Snoskred said...

It's a fairly controversial topic, so good on you for posting about it. ;)

I think I pretty much expelled everything I needed to say on it yesterday, except to mention I do have two nephews who I adore greatly and spent a lot of time with when they were kids, and one day my sister asked me to babysit the second one. He was maybe 2. Two hours with that kid was all it took to convince me I could never do that 24/7. It's a *huge* task that mothers undertake, and I greatly respect them for it.

But I find them slightly scary, at the same time. Like an awe thing. ;)

Pam said...

Having children is good for some, not good for others. Best the ones who don't feel inclined don't have them, there are too many kids suffering at the hands of bad and too busy parents.

Women who don't want them should never feel like less because of that decision. With birth control we have choices, and children should be desired for their own sake and received with much love and commitment. And there should be no guilt for those who don't wish to be parents.

Julie Pippert said...

No, I don't think it is selfish to choose to not have children.

I think some of the cruelest people I've met have been childfree people; they can be vicious about my children's right to exist in ways that boggle my mind. But that's not selfish, that's self-centered.

Anyway, the choice itself, to not reproduce is not selfish. One should not be obligated to have children. If a person thinks children are not a match in his or her life, then I think it is wise to know that and not become a parent.

(Setting aside conversation about it happening anyway sometimes, choices, etc. and just staying focused on topic here.)

Now here is my hot point: a woman who is not a mother (by choice or circumstance) is not less in any capacity. Bearign chldren is not our sole contribution to the earth. Any suggestion in that direction will get me very hot under the collar.

Susanne is right...selfish isn't really the issue.

I don't like the pressure some people feel to have children. I don't like that people put that pressure out there. I don't like that some people have children because they think they ought to.

Gwen said...

Selfish or not? I've never really considered it that way.

What intrigues me the most about your opinion is the way you've internalized a certain aspect of capitalism and see raising children as raising human capital. In a way, it's true-ish, I suppose, but not for one minute have I considered the choices I make in regards to my children's upbringing in terms of how they will navigate a workplace, how they will be a cog in a consumer culture. I think instead of how I can raise whole human beings who make at least their teeny tiny part of the universe a somewhat better place through their own peace and contentment. Not that I had them to save the world or anything like that. I just hope among all the other joys they experience, they also learn the rewards of being part of a whole in a meaningful way.

And although I pay little mind to the rude people who don't like my kids (maybe because my kids are so very perfect, heh! and therefore never annoy anyone), I do agree that kind of behavior is just as irritating, narcissistic and small minded as the people who believe everyone has a moral imperative to breed.

kaliroz said...

Every choice we make is a little selfish, no? We're making it for ourselves, yes?

But, really, to have children or to not have children is not a selfish thing. Not the way we're talking about here.

It is a vitally personal choice and whatever reasons you use to come to your decision are yours and yours alone. I seriously had never wanted to be a mother because I was certain I would be a hideous parent. I was terrified. So, I suppose, that choice was selfish because I didn't want to fail.

And I saw myself as more than a womb. :) People asking me when I was going to settle down. I can be just as free as any man.

I do have a daughter. And I'm happy to have her. But I don't define myself as only a mother, even now. I am me. And she is she. She's much more than only my daughter.

My husband and I are pretty sure she'll be our only. Partly because I want to be selfish and pursue my dreams and partly because I can't bring another child into this world.

Like I said, every decision we make is selfish. But, if we make them mindfully, there's nothing wrong with them.

And you're no less a woman than anyone who's ever had a child.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't really think of an answer to yesterday's post. I'm pretty selfish, so I didn't really feel up to a big analysis of it.

To answer today's question, I don't think it's selfish not to have kids. I wish fewer people did. There are enough people in the world! If you want a child, I'm all for adoption.

Of course, I have two kids, so obviously I didn't take my own advice. For a long time, we didn't plan to have any children, for some reasons you mentioned: we wanted to have a relatively carefree life and knew that having children takes that away from you. After ten years of marriage, we wondered what it was that we thought we'd be doing. We weren't doing "it," whatever it was, and the idea that children would give some deeper meaning to our marriage and our lives seemed to make sense, so we had children.

It is a huge responsibility that I don't think anyone fully realizes no matter how old their children are. Parenthood just keeps on and on, your whole life. If a person is aware that they don't want to or cannot for any reason make that kind of commitment, I call that smart, not selfish.

Tabba said...

I completely understand where you are coming from....

I often thought to myself growing up, taking 2nd or 3rd place in the shuffle of my mom's "stuff" after divorce, that I didn't ask for this......
Granted, I'm glad I'm here.....but it is completely selfish to bring a child in the world and not take the proper care.

That being said, having children is a selfish act as well - as KC has already pointed that out.

Great thinking post.....

meno said...

Chani, i felt that it was selfish to have a child because i think the world basically sucks and that being alive involves a lot of pain. By having a child i was subjecting another person to that. I did it because the joy she brings to me makes my life better.

Anonymous said...

Selfish to have a child? No way. It's how we keep the human species's part of The Plan. Selfishness shows up when people have the babies and then find out they are a whole lot more work than anticipated, and they become selfish and don't do a good job of parenting. Now THAT is what makes me mad~ Cece

Z said...

I hope that I raised my children neither to be eccentric nor to be good little producers and consumers for Britain, but to think for themselves, while trying to be a good rĂ´le model for them. In some respects, they follow my ways of thought, in others they have struck out for themselves.

I don't think it is selfish to have or not to have children. It's how you live your life overall that matters. And we can only judge ourselves (not others) by our own self-chosen standards.

I don't think you really mean that you would, if you had found yourself pregnant, raised your child in a way you disapproved of? That would not have been unselfish but hypocritical, surely, and I could never see you in that light.

britgirl said...

My husband and I are childfree and it's our choice. Every day I am thankful that I didn't bend to popular pressure to reproduce. I love my life and I love the fact that I get to decide how my life is, not a child.

My blog looks at many of the myths women are sold in order to get us to have children - and many women simply don't think, they just have kids because society says they should. I disagreed with what society said and I chose differently.

As for being selfish - I always thought that selfishness involved hurting another. How is not having kids hurting another? Exactly who is being hurt? No-one has yet been able to answer this question, yet they are only to ready to say that "it's selfish not to have children, and childfree people are selfish." If you think about it, that doesn't make one whit of sense unless one believes (like the Rep. Right does) that the sole purpose of women is to be baby-making machines.

Childfree people tend to think of the implications of having a child rather than simply following the crowd. There are many implications for man, the woman the couple and not least the child. Children are not things to patch up a marriage or have because you've always wanted to,or because your friends are and you feel left out, or to look after you in your old age...Children owe us nothing, and the only reason to have children that is not unselfish - is to give another person a chance at life and to be willing to commit a significant part of your life to seeing that their needs are always met - no matter what.

How many parents think about that before they have kids? I don't know one who does.