Thursday, May 28, 2009

Having Children: Selfish or Selfless?

Posted by Mandy at 11:57 AM

While doing research for an article I'm contemplating writing, I accidentally stumbled upon a blog written by and for child-free people. Not infertile people, mind you, but people that actively choose not to have kids. I did not spend too much time there,but left with my head spinning!

Much of what I read indicated that they believed all reasons for having children are purely selfish, and that women are constantly nagging and bothering men to have more babies to fill voids in themselves. They claim that MOST women would lie about using birth control or even cheat on their husbands in order to have more children. (yikes!)

In the thread that I happened upon, there was a lot of women bashing other women for wanting children - or wanting more children.

"It's so selfish! They don't even care if the men don't want more!"

"What if the man wanted more and the woman didn't? It would be considered outrageous for him to pressure her to have more so why isn't the reverse true?"

I am not sure how to feel about all of what I read.

I assume it is no surprise that I'm "one of those women" that would probably keep having kids until I physically couldn't. (having 3 csections already, my physical ability to have more kids is already in jeopardy - my husband is so happy about that!) However, does this make me a crazy, selfish person? According to this blog, YES!
I will say that I do think having kids is selfish. Sure, you typically give up a lot in order to have children, especially infants, but in the long run, I like having kids. I'm having them for how they make me feel, the experience in life I want, and to have the controlled chaos I need to thrive. I didn't have kids for what I wanted to give to them.. if I did, I'd have been happy to stop at one. I could give Madison 100% of me if she was the only child. Nope.. I like having babies, I like raising kids, I like the noise, the fun, and never being able to go through the "20 items or less" checkout line at Wal Mart. Print me out a "SELFISH" label and I'll stick it to my forehead.
My next question is, "So what?" So what if I want 10 kids? So what if I only want 3? Is one number more selfish than the next? Where does the REALLY selfish line become officially crossed?
Right now, with our 3, I feel like life is pretty darn easy most of the time. We're financially comfortable, emotionally secure, and our kids get a heck of a lot of face time with Mom and Dad. I can totally see things being very much the same if we added another kid to this bunch... so does that make me selfish? Does wanting more children when things are so good make you a crazy, selfish woman?
Does wanting more kids when things are already at peak insanity make you selfish? This was always my personal opinion.. having more kids when you cannot handle the ones you already have. (financially, emotionally, quality time, etc) Not that it's still anyone's business - unless it's a really abusive or neglectful situation of course.
The final question - "What's wrong with women?" Seriously... why does any woman care what another woman chooses to do? I have friends with no kids, with lots of kids, with adopted kids, with foster kids... lots of variety in my bunch and I LOVE IT. I have childless friends that are that way by choice - I let them do my partying for me. My friends with more kids than me - I call them for advice! Can't we all just get along? Do we really need blogs started just so we can bash women who want children? Do we need to bash those who remain childless by choice? Is there anything else on earth that brings up as much emotion as the topic of having kids?
Madison pictured with friend Gracie as they were waiting for their turn to practise during dance dress rehearsal - the one who started my addiction to having children.


Shelley on Thursday, 28 May, 2009 said...

Stuff like that infuriates me. As does hearing or reading anything that says "I wish I could be a stay at home mom" but we can't afford it. Ugh. Get rid of some bills and make it happen then! I know some can't, but LOTS could if they cut back.
I think people should have as many as they have TIME and money for....

Anonymous said...

My best friend is childless,and plans to remain that way.But she doesnt bash those who have chosen to have babies either,which,would be me with my 4.I love babies,I love kids and yes,that makes it selfish for me to have them.But it is just as equally selfish for someone to be so worried about one's self,in my humble opinion.I have heard many women exclaim they wouldnt have children because they didnt want to give up their freedoms,or their careers or any number of things.Isnt that as equally selfish at the very least.

Ill admit,I never knew there were sites to bash me,even if it is non specifically me.I dont understand it,for real whats it to them how many children I have or even that I have them?I dont get it.

Jennifer on Saturday, 30 May, 2009 said...

That blog does sound crazy to me! But, I am a baby loving mama!! I love having 4 kids to love on!(most of the It is very hard, but so rewarding too!

Sun-Kissed Savages on Wednesday, 10 June, 2009 said...

Wow, unbelievable. I suppose I am naive. Really, it never would have even crossed my mind that people would/could feel that way and then to BLOG about it.
Having kids is so unbelievably fantastic. And, while it may be selfish on one level, it develops a completely self-less character. What mother would not give the clothes on her back for her children? What mother would not give up her own comfort, "extras" so that her child could achieve something great? What mother would not give her own life for her children? This is something that the child-bashing group won't and can't possibly understand.
And you're absolutely right: "why can't we all just get along?"

bloggeram said...

Having children is a selfish act in most cases. I hear and read a lot of arguments about how it takes so much self-sacrifice, work, nurturing, etc. to raise a child (of COURSE it does) and that this therefore makes it a selfless act. However, the decision to bring another life into this world (not a "baby," a "child," or a "kid," but a mostly adult "life") is the crux of the issue for me. I think most if not all people, for genetic, emotional, or psychological reasons, would LOVE to have all the experiences that a child brings to their parents. But unless my own experience has proven that life can be enjoyed, well-being can be achieved, and that suffering is not the dominant state of life, the decision to have a child is purely selfish. It would not be for their benefit that they are brought into this world, but for mine. With the state of the country, the world at large, and the future as it currently seems destined, it seems to me (at this point in time) that suffering will be nearly inevitable for our offspring. Unfortunately, hoping for the best does not cut it for me -- my offspring will likely have to live on long after I'm gone, and if they have to live in a world dominated by fear, greed, insecurity, and insanity, I can only wonder if they'd feel wondrously grateful for or defeatedly punished by the life I CHOSE to give them.

I love children (I don't know many who DON'T). That is why I cannot in good conscience, at this point in time, choose to have my own. I do see adoption as a powerful alternative, as this can drastically improve the quality life of a child that was already delivered to this world. In my mind, this is the true unselfish realization of parenthood.

Thank you for the forum to discuss this. This is a hurdle that I have been contemplating for a long time. I'm 35 years old, have a great marriage, own a home, am gainfully employed, and am looking towards the next stage of life. I am not judging others so much as trying to find my own truth.

Anonymous said...

I really want to have a child, but my husband doesn't
He has 2 girls from a previous marriage
I am heartsick about this. I feel like my life is going to be a regret if I don't experience having kids. I am in my early 40's and wonder if my time has really passed me by. I sometimes think I should just go out on life and live and have a child by myself. I am constantly thinking about this.

Claudia said...

I echo what bloggeram said. Wow, what a great post.

I think many people (including my own parents) have children to give meaning to their lives.
Growing up, I always heard how much my parents "sacrificed" for us, so we better make something great of ourselves (control). I thought they SHOULD do those things because the decision to have us was their's. Many parents also use their kids as an excuse for staying in their crappy job, or marriage.
Or to have someone take care of them in their old age.

Giving life is also giving death.

Sure, they may have the potential to be happy, but it's not promised at all. They will also experience illness, fear, pain, struggle, loss, questioning and fear about our very existence and what comes after death, as well as all the other negative emotions and experiences.

I will not make that decision for someone else, and refuse to have children to give meaning to my life. Even if I am perfect and do not mess them up, the world on the other hand..

Also, the definition of happiness in modern times is shaky at best. It seems like we all need a lot of stuff to feel secure for a moment and then it's about struggling to keep it and stay afloat.

I recommend reading "The Power of Now" by Eckhart Tolle to get a better idea of how to make sense of the duality of life, especially the negative experiences.

Finally, I do not judge people who want to have children because I can see the temptation, but I can't stand those who say having children is a completely selfless act. Because even when one is "sacrificing" for their children, it's still beneficial to them if their children achieve. Almost like making an investment.

Anonymous said...

Hi everyone!

I really don't want to sound too negative and I agree with a lot of peoples views on here but I can especially empaphise with bloggerans post.
As a 29 year old woman the thought of having children is never far away and in fact I do feel like something is missing which makes me very sad and perhaps unfulfilled but I also do not want to have children just to make me happy.

I feel very sad about the state of the World. God intended us to have children. But we are also here to look after the planet and unfortunately not many of us can say we are making much of a contribution, in fact a lot of us just exist. Many live in the moment and are very selfish.
I have nothing against people having children but when it gets to six or more (for example) who is paying the price for them?

I would love to say I will adopt but I suspect I will be selfish and want my own one baby one day.

Anonymous said...

Saying that having kids is selfish is just as wrong as saying not having kids is selfish. I can see these women viewpoint though having kids is natural it's what we've been doing since the dawn of our species inhabited this planet. Yet I do agree it's selfish to have kids just for money, fill voids in their life,etc. ect. though I don't think it is when a couple, or single person in a more than enough financial situation and has the devotion and love to have a child shouldn't be shamed against.

Anonymous said...

Its 100% selfish to have children no matter which angle you want to see it from. At this stage in the game, overpopulation has to be stopped or we are all doomed. Who is going to take responsibility for this huge problem which is bringing us to our own demise? If you know how 99.9 precent of the children and people out there think, you would not be assuming that your child is going to become some Nobel-Prize-winning genius who is going to make independent discoveries and find the the ultimate solution to global warming, or find a cure for cancer, or save the world. Honestly, some argue by saying that "CHILDREN ARE OUR FUTURE" but lets be real. Do you really think your child is going to change the world? Or become a world-renowned philanthropist like Mother Theresa? In the large scheme of things, people are generally followers in our society. Most of us don't know any different. We do what we see our parents do, we compare ourselves to our peers, friends and neighbours! Most of us go to school, get a job, buy a house and car, to do what all the rest of the Jones' are doing. Most of our children will do what we did, work towards getting what THEY want in life (not what's best for the world), continue to use and exhaust the world's resources, and then have children so they can feel fulfilled.....And the cycle continues....the world dies slowly.....and humans remain absorbed in their own little selfish world with virtually no willingness to make sacrifices for the sake of the world because they are too busy making sacrifices for their own children instead.

Anonymous said...

Having children is selfish and inconsiderate. Climate change will drastically increase in the next few decades, scientists don't believe that we will survive the next 100 years if we continue to rely on fossil fuels (coal, gas and oil), cause massive deforestation and domesticate ruminants for food and clothing (the methane that these non-human animals produce is responsible for around 18% of all green house gas emissions, not to mention the amount of arable land and water needed to grow crops just to fatten them up). We would need 3 more Earths to sustain us if we did, it would be even worse if everyone in the world lived like people in developed countries do. This is an issue that I've read alot about and I cannot do it justice in only a few paragraphs, the next few decades will be like something out of a science fiction novel, floods, drought, increased disease etc. We have 10 years to make a serious difference and even if we were wiped off the face of the planet today, the gge's that we're already responsible for will negatively impact the eco-system for another 1000 years. Considering that the average American child has a carbon footprint of 9441 tonnes, yes, it's extremely selfish to bring more children into an already overpopulated world..

Therefore, without us, while the planet may eventually be a cleaner place, it will lack meaning

The Earth will always have 'meaning' for other sentient animals. Everything that distinguishes us from other animals (music, art, symbolic communication etc.) is only relevant or impressive to us. All sentient beings value their lives, we all want to avoid suffering and to experience pleasure or happiness and we are all basically the same in this respect. I'm not necessarily for full-blown human extinction but we should definitely avoid reproducing for the next 30-35 years. After that, it should be 'one or none', until we can lower our population to less than one billion. We're morally obligated to improve the quality of life for existing humans, not to create more humans. Why create more children considering how many already existing orphans need good homes?

Another thing I'd like to refute is the idea that we are programmed to reproduce or that doing so is morally acceptable just because it's "natural". As material beings, everything we do is "natural", including rape, homicide, war etc., the 'appeal to nature' argument is a fallacy and overly selective, considering that everyone who's posted in this forum most likely lives in an artificially heated or air conditioned home, owns a computer, buys their food instead of hunting-gathering it etc. Secondly, we are 'programmed' to want sex, not to want to procreate, procreation is just a consequence of sex. We learn that we are 'supposed' to have children who will pass on our genes, carry on the family name etc. We have an innate desire to be altruitic and nurturing but we tend to reserve it for ingroup members, we learn that biological offspring are 'in-group' in a way that non-genetic offspring cannot be but you wouldn't instinctually know who was genetically related to you if you didn't acquire that information at some point in your life. I don't expect most people to take my argument seriously but it's a shame because we could tackle both climate change and poverty if people could put their selfish, culturally conditioned desire to reproduce aside and look at the big picture.

Jessica Meyer on Friday, 25 February, 2011 said...

Having children in this chapter of human civilization is dangerous and selfish. At this point in history there is absolutely no reason to have children for any other reason than to fulfill a personal need. By having children you are endangering every other living humans chances of existing. It is just too difficult for some people to see beyond their own selfish hating existence. Maybe controlling population should become mandatory if they can't control themselves.

Anonymous said...

Wow!Im just elated to read the comments by the smart people who see breeding the way I see it and the way it SHOULD be seen-SELFISH.The majority of people in our societies are no better than parrots when they slap the "selfish" accusation on every one who doesn't want to have children when it should be the other way around. But the problem with the human race in general is that it never thinks.Rather,the vast majority of people just blindly follow and imitate what they see others around do and say.Those who breed arent willing to stop even for a nano second to see the truth- that if any one is to be called "selfish" it IS THEM NOT us. EVERYTHING about procreation is SELFISH. All the reasons would be parents give for having children is about their own desires and WANTS. The life of the poor soul they're bringing into this cruel savage world just never concerns them the least. It's all about me and what I want..AND WHAT EVERY BODY OR WHAT SOCIETY SEES NORMAL AND ACCEPTABLE. Thats what it's all about.Don't even dare to tell me the millions of welfare moms,drug addicts and alcoholics,people with mental illnesses,abusive people.. give a damn about the life they're creating.A mother who sees her child as a mere government check isnt even a human being.Yes,not all those who have children are like that but still most "normal" people who have children just arent fit to be parents and also should take into consideration the state of the world in general before bringing another soul into it or their act(breeding) should be seen just AS RECKLESS.
Of course the other accusation that breeders throw at us is "pessimistic".Yup,we're seen as pessimistic people who see nothing positive about this sick world we live in.Well,we're not pessimistic,rather we're realistic.We see things as they are instead of just lying to ourselves or burying our heads in the sand and pretending all is well like they do.Any body that doesnt see all the evil and suffering in this world is one blind fool that cannot be helped.7 billion people on this planet -and still increasing- and more than half living below poverty line.100's of millions of poor children sleeping hungry on the streets and close to 30000 children die EVERY SINGLE DAY because of PREVENTABLE diseases and hunger and we're the pessimistic ones! Millions of people have died and still die every year in needless wars that are started either because of greed or racist/ethnic beliefs.Of course,there are many other reasons why breeding is just WRONG. Overpopulation,pollution, draining resources, congestion,diseases,UNEMPLOYMENT, underemployment,extreme poverty,child labor..pfff is there even an end to the list ?
Ah..I could write a million page book on this and not finish.But here are some of my favorite quotes on breeding :
*Gustave Flaubert:"The idea of bringing someone into this world fills me with horror..May my flesh perish utterly!May I never transmit to anyone the boredom and ignominies of existence".
*Arthur Schopenhauer:"If the act of procreation were neither the outcome of a desire not accompanied by feelings of pleasure,but a matter to be decided on the basis of purely rational considerations,is it likely the human race would still exist?Would each of us not rather have felt so much pity for the coming generation as to prefer to spare it the burden of existence, or at least not wish to take it upon himself to impose that burden upon it in cold blood ?
*David Benatar argues from the hedonistic premise that the infliction of harm is generally morally wrong and therefore to be avoided, and the intuition that the birth of a new person always entails nontrivial harm to the person, that there exists a moral imperative not to procreate.

Anonymous said...

One of the reasons why these blogs exist is the kind of things that the childfree have to put up with all kind of rude assumptions from parents who judge them according to their own narrow imaginations: one of the assumptions being, the oh-so-patronising, 'Oh, I did all that partying in my twenties', as though the chance to part and indulge oneself is the only reason not to have a baby: parents show how lacking they are in imagination when they say this. The childfree people I know are less hedonistic than the parents. Just because parents couldn't think of anything else to do with themselves pre-baby than 'party' doesn't mean it's that way for everyone else: in fact, if that's all you could think of doing before you had kids, it's no wonder you ended up having them. And you wonder why 'we can't get along' ....

Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness, I never realized there were so many people that felt having children was so selfish. If we were all to stop having children, who are we preserving this earth for? My husband and I are about to start trying for number 4. We love our children, and our family loves life. Will we/they suffer hard times, pain, see negative things? Will they make mistakes, bad choices? Yes, absolutely, we live in a FALLEN WORLD! But the amount of joy, love, the amount of good that can be done in the world by just 1 person far outweighs that! A person does not have to become a nobel prize winning person to make a difference in this world, or become a rich and famous athlete or actor to have meaning or "success" in their life. There are small ways we can all make a difference in this world and in people's lives every single day. This is something my husband and I are working very hard to try and teach our children. Will they be perfect, absolutly not. We aren't and they will never be. If God has created a child, though, I believe He has a plan for that child. I just pray that my children will listen for God's instruction for their life and learn love others in a world that many times seems to have forgotten love. The thing is, this life on the timeline of eternity is just a pinpoint. No matter how much pain and hardship we might suffer here on Earth, we always have the hope of eternity in Heaven to give us peace in this life. Thank you Jesus for that.

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