If staying childless is selfish, so is procreating

“You can have quite a fabulous life without kids, and you’d be so much wealthier.”

That (more or less) was something I heard from a mother-of-two recently.

As someone who didn’t start feeling any maternal urges until a couple of years ago (although I guess I’m still young in the grand scale of things) this really struck home.

My current state of thinking is that I do want kids … eventually. Two. Ideally a boy and girl, just like me and my brother. But not for some years yet. Kids don’t trump my other life dreams. And if for whatever reason kids don’t come easily to us, I don’t want to spend oodles (or go into debt) trying to conceive. If for whatever reason it wasn’t on the cards, I think I would be quite content. There are children enough on T’s side of the family for us to play cool aunt and uncle to, and they could definitely use any money we directed to them in lieu of having our own.

I’m not Christina from Grey’s Anatomy, but I’m definitely not the kind who squeeeeeeees at pregnancy announcements and clamours to hold infants. In fact, please never ask me to hold your baby, thus forcing me to find an awkward way to refuse. Every twitch and every movement scares this noob. Watching me cradle a baby has provided fodder for others’ amusement on multiple occasions (although thankfully the sight of my face has yet to send one into a crying fit – my biggest fear).

Sure, procreators are still the majority among us, but it seems that being childless by choice is increasingly socially acceptable (or is it just the blogs that I read?). You skip the baby brain, the physical strain, the demands on time and wallet by offspring. Living an entirely adult may be a “selfish” choice to some, but choosing to further strain the world’s resources is selfish in another sense. That also depends, I guess, on where you live and whether your population is ageing overall.

I didn’t always want children, but then again, I didn’t used to think that I could ever get married – I couldn’t imagine kissing somebody in public, in front of my family. T wants kids and I imagine those fledgling instincts of mine will pick up steam over the years.

Where do you stand on the question of kids?

25 thoughts on “If staying childless is selfish, so is procreating

  • Reply Sweet Mama M October 30, 2012 at 23:12

    Haha snap. I literally just did a post on my baby fever. We have had the discussion, however, that we would not go into major debt to have a child… We’d consider taking advantage of publicly funded IVF but if that didn’t work we’d seriously have to consider our next step.

  • Reply Kerry October 30, 2012 at 23:41

    One of my favourite thoughts on this subject was expressed by advice columnist Carolyn Hax. She said:

    “I’m not sure what the answer is, except asking yourself what brings out your best. Because I think that’s really the nut of it – would raising children make the best use of what you bring to the world, or would *not* having kids do that?”

    I don’t want kids (neither does my husband) and I sometimes feel a little guilty about that. I know there’s no reason to feel guilty but it’s hard to escape the feeling of social pressures, especially when a lot of our friends are having kids at the moment. It really helps to think “actually, I can contribute more to the world as I am now than as a parent”.

  • Reply makingsenseofcents October 31, 2012 at 01:33

    I’m on both sides of the fence. For the LONGEST time, I knew that I didn’t want kids, or I didn’t want them for a long time. But now I feel like there are babies everywhere around me and I’m wanting one.

  • Reply Kara E October 31, 2012 at 04:38

    Although I have a child, I can understand where you’re coming from. I was never one to be in a rush to hold someone’s baby – and I’m still not. (Not that I don’t love every ounce of my daughter – I could hold her forever!)
    I was never one of those woman who just yearned to have a child at the first chance she got. My husband and I worked on building out relationship and our lives before we decided we should bring a kid into the world. We never did discuss what we would do if we weren’t able to conceive easily. I guess we just assumed we’d be able to.

    • Reply eemusings October 31, 2012 at 12:56

      Your kid is adorable! I showed T the last couple of photos you posted of Isla (the one among the pumpkins was awesome) – I’m super curious as to what our kids might looks like (I’m full blood Chinese, he’s full white on the very pale side, though apparently people were doubtful about my heritage when I was born as I had such light hair and relatively big eyes). A very friendly taxi driver last week, who in the space of one ride now knows more about me than most of my coworkers, was all “your kids will be gorgeous, mixed race kids always are!”

  • Reply Linda October 31, 2012 at 04:43

    Oh, this one’s easy to answer. http://awindycitygal.wordpress.com/2012/05/02/on-being-child-free/

    I’m OK with holding babies, but I rarely get the chance, nor do I seek it out. I’m quite happy to just have pets. 🙂

  • Reply For Her By Her October 31, 2012 at 04:51

    You probably could have a life without kids and be wealthier and I know a few couples who’ve chosen that route. In the last few years, I’ve had some serious baby fever… like I’m burning up at this point 🙂

    My BF and I aren’t ready yet, but we have a few friends who are dealing with infertility (something I naively never thought of) and we’ve decided we’re willing to go as far as we have to, from a financial perspective, in order to have a child in the next 2 years.

    I think that once I hit a certain age and if I still don’t have kids, my baby fever would eventually subside.

  • Reply oilandgarlic October 31, 2012 at 05:57

    I’ve scheduled a post about the decision to have kids, or not, and now I’m tempted to just hit ‘publish’. haha. I have kids but NEVER understood why people think it’s selfish to be child-free. I know many selfish / self-centered parents. They just redirect their me, me, me attitude to include their precious progeny.

    I was never big on other people’s kids but I really love my own — there must be something biological/hormonal that kicks in!

  • Reply Budget & the Beach October 31, 2012 at 07:05

    I never had the urge to have a kid. I occasionally wonder what my life would have been like if I had ever decided to, but fate has a way of playing its part, and at 42 I’ve never met anyone who wanted to be with me “forever.” I think I miss that more quite honestly. One thing that does happen though, is that at 42 I feel like I no longer really have much of a choice. I think I always liked being in control of that destiny, but now biologically it would be challenging. Maybe I’ll turn into one of those rich old ladies who adopts. ha ha! But thankfully I still don’t feel baby urges. I sometimes see cute kids, but more often than not I see an ill-tempered child and think “thank god that’s not my life.”

  • Reply Mo' Money Mo' Houses (@momoneymohouses) October 31, 2012 at 10:17

    I’ve got the same thinking. I want kids but not for a while yet, and if we find out we can have kids, then I’m not gonna spend a bunch of money trying to make it happen and maybe never have kids.

  • Reply plantingourpennies October 31, 2012 at 11:01

    I’m mostly of the opinion that the most selfish thing possible would be having kids when you’re not 100% sure you want them or can care for them… Not having them or having them and caring for them responsibly – neither of those strike me as selfish!

  • Reply Crystal October 31, 2012 at 16:34

    I don’t think kids are for everyone. Like you, I wasn’t the type to squee over baby things and all that, but I eventually felt like I was ready to start a family this year. Key word: Felt. I love my baby now, but wasn’t prepared for how much of my life I was going to have to give up to raise her and be with her 24/7.

    I just found this article and I think there’s a lot of truth to it:

  • Reply makinthebacon$ November 2, 2012 at 13:41

    I’m with you on the not cooing and ooooh and ahhhing over babies. I think they’re cute but also pretty gross at the same time. I honestly feel I’m not one of those people with that nurturing, maternal instinct. I enjoy my life right now and having the freedom to do what I want. Plus, I enjoy getting what little sleep I can get.

  • Reply The Asian Pear November 4, 2012 at 05:22

    I’ve already decided that in all probability, me with kids, is probably a bad idea. I went through years of saying no kids, yes kids, maybe kids, probably no kids and now I’m comfortable in the no kids category again.

    I personally think if it happens for a couple, good for them. What I feel is more selfish is when people who want kids and can’t, disregard the possibility of adoption. There’s lots of kids out there in need.

  • Reply Vanessa November 5, 2012 at 18:01

    I don’t want kids right now but I don’t know what life is going to throw at me so I can’t say that I will *never* have kids

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  • Reply AlexM November 6, 2012 at 09:06

    ooooohhhh! I can’t stand people who say the childless are selfish. The truth is, we don’t infringe on anyone. We take up less space, we’re quieter. We don’t bring along an entity that can break, stain or otherwise disrupt things. We pay school taxes but don’t use the educational system. In many cases we pay extra insurance for “family” coverage although there’s just two of us. This presidential election cycle really has gotten my goat. Adults that are not part of a family unit but do have a solid marriage are non-entities, in the margins and get no respect. The act of being childless should be a non-issue. The same as race, religion, etc. We should all be free to choose and free from condemnation for our choice. Sorry for the rant, but I’m 50/Married (24 years) and heard that one for waaaaay to long.

    Whatever choice you make (or whatever your health dictates) consider that someone will always free free to comment or critique!

  • Reply afistfulodollars November 6, 2012 at 18:02

    The argument that childfree people are “selfish” says more about the person who’s saying it than the person on the receiving end. Like having kids is some selfless act, parents are martyrs, etc. Why can’t we all just respect each other’s choices? Mr. Dollars and I do not want kids, and although we haven’t heard much from family and friends (although we haven’t talked much about it either), I’ve heard “you’ll change your mind” more than once and it makes me all sorts of stabby. I’m an only child and I think that I’ll be getting some pressure for grandchildren, and I feel bad about the fact that my parents won’t be grandparents. But that’s not a good enough reason to change my mind.

  • Reply Katie C. November 6, 2012 at 18:05

    I agree with many of the comments here, that the more selfish choice is having children when you’re not 100% sure that you want them. I’ve never understood how being childless could be considered selfish. We’re not doing our part to progress the human race, I guess? We don’t want children, and I’m not going to give up 18+ years of my life to something I don’t want just to fulfill my obligation to the world. Eff that.

  • Reply Allison November 10, 2012 at 18:13

    I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately (a lot of friends having kids!). I actually DO squee over babies, and I like to hold them and play with them and all that… but I’ve never felt that I NEED to have kids to have a complete life or anything like that. I’m on the fence these days. I’ll read about our diminishing resources and think “I couldn’t add another person to this problem”, but then I’ll read on my cousin’s blog about some adorable “growing up” thing one of her kids did, and I’m all “awww I want one!”, or I’ll read about a kid (my cousins’, friend’s, or other) doing some awesome/responsible/good thing and think “we’d raise kids to be like that too”.

    So basically… I’m on the fence. I’m not sure that having kids would greatly affect my career. It would certainly make me more tired for a while! but I know a lot of people who do it just fine. My boss holds the belief that people do better when they have something or someone to go home to, whether it is a hobby, a family, or pets. I have a husband and pets, though, so I guess I already have that covered 🙂

  • Reply CF December 25, 2012 at 19:58

    I don’t have a strong urge to procreate. I like my career, like travelling, and like being independent. And also, I don’t really like babies. LOL. So sure, it is selfish partly – but hey, it’s my life.

  • Reply crystal December 30, 2012 at 16:17

    I don’t think the decision to not have kids is a selfish one. If you don’t want them, don’t have them. Its really for noone to judge why some people have them and why some don’t. there are plenty that have them that shouldn’t really. But I will say that NOT having kids, makes you selfish. To never know what its like to sacrifice everything for someone else, to never have to put anyone else’s needs above your own, to have to put aside your own agenda for someone else, those types of things that parents deal with changes you as a person. Its the childless people who have little patience, when they are sick with the tiniest cold life must stop for everyone around them or having little understanding for plans changing at the last minute because of something uncontrollable or foreseeable. Not everyone who doesn’t have kids ends up selfish, but like i said there is something to be said for being able to put someones needs and wants before your own.

    • Reply DR14 January 23, 2013 at 10:39

      I think your assumption that those of us who choose NOT to have children are selfish because we supposedly will ‘NEVER know what it is like to sacrifice everything for someone else, to NEVER have to put anyone else’s needs above your own, to have to put aside your own agenda for someone else, those types of things that PARENTS deal with changes you as a person’, is more than a little unfair & frankly misinformed. I might have chosen to be childfree (for various reasons) but that doesn’t mean I’ve never willingly made sacrifices for family & friends I do have (and actually, for strangers as well) out of love & compassion. For almost 12 years I sacrificed ALL of my free time to help care for my seriously ill & disabled grandmother who needed help with EVERY aspect of her daily routine – dressing, washing, eating, going to the toilet, etc. I spent my weekends pushing her through the shops in a heavy, cumbersome wheelchair so that she wasn’t cooped up in her home 24/7 & to allow my mother an hour of free time to herself when she wasn’t working, or caring for my grandmother. I sat up with her for hours at night when she was scared, crying & couldn’t sleep, singing to her, soothing her & trying to comfort her. Yes, I was exhausted – I wanted my bed, I needed sleep badly, I was struggling to stay awake during school, I had no social life, I worked my life around my grandmother’s daily routine, I gave up opportunities to go away on trips abroad or to do special study programmes during school holidays – and I never once regretted it or felt like I was any less selfless than any other person on this planet. All I did by putting my grandmothers needs before my own, was to do the right thing – I didn’t have to do it, but in my heart I felt it was the right thing & I wanted to make those sacrifices out of the unconditional love I have always had for my grandmother. My grandmother couldn’t talk – so communicating with her, trying to understand what she wanted & needed was a daily test of patience – but it proved to me that I am an extremely patient person (even without being a parent!). When she did pass away a few months ago, I cried lots of tears & felt heartbroken to lose her. But I also was one of the people at her bedside in her final days telling her over & over ‘I’ll miss you so much & I’ll be sad for me granny, but you don’t have to suffer anymore, you deserve to have peace – don’t worry about us, we just want you to be happy and peaceful – we know you’ve been through enough & you want to go, so it’s ok, we’re happy for you.’ I still feel that very strongly even when my grief is at its worst – because I love her more than anything & even knowing all of the pain & sacrifice involved in caring for her, I would do it all over again in a heartbeat! I agree that there is something to be said for putting the needs & wants of others before your own – but that isn’t something that only parents are capable of doing, or experiencing – a lot of childfree people put the needs & wants of others before their own every day without a second thought , so please don’t assume that we don’t!

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  • Reply Robyn April 7, 2013 at 01:26

    I completely agree that being child-free is not selfish. In fact in a world with a too rapidly growing population, struggling environment and oil reserves dwindling (and let’s remember its oil that powers the tractors that plant the food that feeds the people) I think people who choose not to add to that stress should be applauded for their thoughtful and reasonable decision. Personally family is the most important thing in my world and I would love to have a large family and even though I would be able to afford it (my husband and I are both well paid professionals) I plan on limiting myself to two children and even feel guilty about having that many. I wish other people would put more thought into procreating as well.

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