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?

Self-serving, maybe?

serving one’s own interests often in disregard of the truth or the interests of others

Nope.

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.

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Join the conversation! 9 Comments

  1. Selfish? Nah! It’s considerate – especially toward the children you don’t want. Thank you. I wish more people would be that “selfish.” Maybe we should look at sensible. Or smart. Or conscientious.

    You were made for other things! Have no guilt!

    Reply
    • Just saw your tv appearance. Forgive me if I’m just ” hungering for a grandmother status.” I am biased, I admit it, and I am not ashamed. Haha. Seriously, I understand and appreciate your thoughtful perspective. I also work at a nursing home. I am a recreation therapist. Often times, I have had heart wrenching conversations with childless residents who do indeed regret not choosing parenthood, for a myriad of reasons that flow through a lifetime. It is sad to see an obligated, harried and disingenuous niece help her aging aunt, because no one else is there for her.
      My observation over the years, in terms of my peers who have had children and those that have not?…….a different perspective on becoming ” humanized ” . Raising children just has a way of debunking the world in ” black & white”. My children have taught me complex variations in shades of grey!

      Reply
      • Thank you for your comment, Genie. I respect your experience, but I don’t think it would be responsible or kind to have children simply to create someone whose future responsibility will be to put me in, and then visit me in, a home.

        I also respect and appreciate that your children taught you to have a more nuanced perspective of the world, but I don’t think everyone needs children in their lives to develop such a perspective. For many, all it takes is personal growth and experience, which can happen with or without children.

      • Good one! People don’t want to think about how all those unwanted kids will pay their parents back when they’re wearing diapers!

  2. A breeder here, and one who would not change having had my two beautiful, happy, healthy daughters for anything: You are not selfish for having chosen to remain child free any more than I am selfish for having chosen to bring two people into the world.

    Because the operative word is “chosen.” We are fortunate women who live in a place and time in which we have choices. I support yours and believe you are thoughtful and smart for having made the right ones for you.

    Reply
  3. If you ask, “Why did you have children?” youre bound to get one of three responses:

    1) “Blah blah blah, accident.”

    2) “Blah blah blah, surprise.”

    3) “I/we wanted …”

    Anyway you look at it, all parents are either selfish or “surprised.”

    Reply
  4. I have posted this quote before on other childfree websites when the selfishness issue comes up for discussion.

    “Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, but asking others to live as one wishes to live.” – attributed to Oscar Wilde

    Reply
  5. Check out my new book, Women Without Children, on Amazon.com. An ebook copy is only 2.99! Below is an idea of the book’s premise.

    Liz, Diana, and Katie are three women living very different lives in three different parts of the country. Yet, unbeknownst to them, they share one very common thread; the same decision to live a life without children. Though each has made the same decision, each has come to her own conclusion for very unique, personal reasons of her own…consciously or subconsciously.

    The societal pressures to conform to what has been deemed the “norm” during their child-bearing years sometimes weighs heavily on their hearts, minds and souls causing them to question their common choice and perhaps even crater under the heft of the spoken and unspoken expectations of the world around them.

    Reply

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About Kris Tsetsi

Kristen J. Tsetsi is the author of the novels "Pretty Much True..." and "The Year of Dan Palace" and the short fiction collection "20 Short Stories," all published under the name Chris Jane. Website: http://kristenjtsetsi.com

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Childfree conversation

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