I’m Selfish – You Should Be Too
Last week, I received a bit of a nasty-gram for the blog, calling me childish, selfish, narcissistic, and a cringe-worthy writer. Yes – ouch, buuuurn, and all that. I thought the issue of Childfree people (or those considering a Childfree life) being called selfish had been covered ad nauseum, but it appears I’ve been proven wrong. So let’s dig in.
Is it selfish to not want kids?
Why yes! It probably is. It means that you value your current lifestyle. That you have some level of desire to hang on to or increase your free time/Me time, your expendable income, your devotion to a meaningful career, your ability to pursue hobbies that make you a well-rounded person, your time spent as a loving spouse/child/sibling/aunt or uncle/friend. But these are still, on a very basic level, things that you want. And by definition, a little selfish. Okaaaaay…
But isn’t it also selfish to want kids?
Well, let’s take a look at why most people decide to have children:
- I want someone to nurture and love
- I want the experience of having a family – children with whom I can share values, traditions, etc.
- I want someone who will always love me and take care of me
- I want to continue my family lineage and see what a little half-me would be like
- I want to experience life through the eyes of a child or re-live my childhood (because going to Disneyland by yourself as an adult is unspeakably creepy)
Hmm…these all start with “I want,” don’t they? Now don’t get me wrong – I think that if someone is prepared to be a committed parent, these reasons for having a baby are just fine by me. But are they unselfish? Not really – you’re still getting what you want.
So is there any truly unselfish reason to have a kid?
I’m trying to think of one. And I’m failing. Maybe breeding a team of tiny volunteers to devote their lives to community service? Or having a baby to create a potential bone marrow donor for your current child who’s exhausted all other potential matches? [Yes, this happened on my soap, thank you for asking.]
While these may seem unselfish in an ends-justifies-the-means sort of way, they’re not. You want that cancer-ridden family member to live. You want the world to be a better place and you want to feel that you’ve contributed to it. You know, that whole “there’s no such thing as true altruism” thing.
On a less dramatic scale, some will say that wanting to give a child a wonderful and loving life is unselfish. But you’re arguing a benefit to a person who isn’t in need of it – because they don’t yet exist! And won’t, unless you choose to bring them into existence. Adopting a child that’s already in existence is probably as close as it gets to being truly unselfish, but you’re still exercising some of the “I wants” from above.
Which is fine, and completely awesome in my book. People should do they want (within reason), and what’s in their best interests, because it’s rational to do so and will net out the greatest levels of happiness. This isn’t just Maybe Lady babble, this is one of the main tenets of philosophies like Ethical Egoism, Rational Egoism and Utilitarianism. [Philosophies that I’m not smart enough to talk about here, but you should read about them.]
So was OK Go right when they said Do What You Want?
I’m not advocating a complete lassez-faire, no internal editing attitude for everything. You can’t call your boss a douche bag, tell your friend she’s high if she still thinks she’s a size 4, or eat a trifecta dinner of Popeye’s chicken and biscuits, Rally’s fries, and a Wendy’s Frosty every day. Because in the end, you won’t end up with what you want. You’ll be fired, friendless and fat. [Please note, I save the trifecta dinner for a once-a-year birthday treat only.]
And if the point is to live a happy and fulfilling life, you’ll have to do some things you don’t want to do to get there. For some of us, that means dealing with diapers and college funds because we know we need a child in our life to feel truly happy. For others, we know that dealing with all these things will bring us down and not allow us to live the fulfilling life we know we’re capable of living sans children.
Country Music is Sometimes Wise
I think George Strait said it best when he said,
I’m not here for a long time; I’m here for a good time.
If your good time is a trip to Fiji at the drop of a hat, spending an entire rainy Sunday with a fabulous book, or quiet dinners with your spouse discussing Rational Egoism – then don’t have kids. If your good time is a Griswold sing-along in the station wagon, getting kicked out of your child’s soccer game for heckling opponents, or sweating in a Santa suit each December to see that twinkle in their eye – then have kids. The point is, it’s your life, it’s your good time. Make the most of it in the way that only you can decide is best for you.
And if someone calls you selfish in the process, go ahead and thank them for the compliment.