Two people in my life – both of them family members – have said, without any attempt at coyness or subtlety, that I’m selfish for not having children.
I immediately became defensive, felt slighted, insulted, unfairly judged. And why feel that way unless some small part of me was afraid that I was, in fact, selfish? Object object. Deny Deny.
I later decided/rationalized that “selfish” simply had too much unjustified negativity attached to it. I’d always defined it in my head as “concerned with the self.” (And what was wrong with being concerned with the self? Is not the self the primary concern in every other aspect of life? Food? Shelter? Employment? Relationships? One must keep oneself healthy and happy, no?) I aimed to write this blog today proclaiming, “Child-free women ARE selfish. What of it?”
It was one of those words I never bothered to look up — who would look up something so self-explanatory? — but today, because I simply had to know whether I should feel bad about being “selfish” (rather, because I wanted to prove to those who called us “selfish” that they were only stating the not-so-offensive obvious), I opened (rather, internet searched) the dictionary and found one key idea that does, in fact, make being selfish – for those who are selfish – unattractive:
concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself : seeking or concentrating on one’s own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others
arising from concern with one’s own welfare or advantage in disregard of others
Well, I immediately knew this wasn’t accurate. Not as a label to attach exclusively to the child-free, anyway. Whose needs are we disregarding by not having children?
Having already prepared myself to defend my selfishness, however, I thought, “Well, surely there must be something people can call child-free women for not making babies. Surely there’s something I can proudly admit to being. Self-centered, maybe?”
concerned solely with one’s own desires, needs, or interests
No – self-centered doesn’t work, either. “Solely”? I’m very concerned with the needs of others, and even if I weren’t, what would that have to do with being child-free?
serving one’s own interests often in disregard of the truth or the interests of others
What about an egoistic hedonist?
the ethical theory that achieving one’s own happiness is the proper goal of all conduct
Hm. Close, but no. While I’ll admit most people – parents and non-parents alike – strive to achieve happiness, it’s hardly fair to claim the child-free believe achieving that happiness “is the proper goal of all conduct,” because this implies that no matter what – no matter who is hurt or disadvantaged – the individual’s personal happiness is top priority.
Well, hell. There goes this entry.