I woke up this morning to find a beautifully-written post by my friend Nodakademic that talks about her decision to wait to have kids.
What I found particularly interesting was that she, along with others who choose to wait until they are at a more stable place in their lives — and in the meantime, enjoy life without entirely devoting yourself to a helpless being — consider themselves selfish for doing so. What’s more, society sees them as being selfish for putting their careers, lifestyles, etc before reproduction.
The more I thought about it, the more I began to question this sentiment. Because aren’t people who choose to have kids selfish too?
We live in an overpopulated world that is quickly losing its natural resources. The frequency of natural disasters seem to be on the rise, and news channels are filled with stories of people who are struggling just to survive.
Yet we — with our high levels of education, good careers, and cushy lives — want to procreate. Bring more people into the world when the time, money, and resources used on our progeny can easily be used to help others instead.
At its very core, having children is passing down your genes. So can’t it also be construed as, “Hey! I think my partner and I are aiiite. We would make some kickass humans if we combined our DNA. Let’s go for it and fill the world with more of our awesome genes!”
And I’m ashamed to admit that J and I have had these thoughts. People have been telling us from the moment we got together that we would make beautiful children. “If you guys get married, your kids would be so smart and talented,” our friends and relatives would also say.
Of course, there’s still the chance that our children would turn out butt-ugly and barely hover above the “certifiable idiot” mark on standard intelligence tests. But that’s beside the point. Because we chose to get married based on each other’s characteristics, and we chose to have kids based on the fact that we want to create humans that are solely us.
Once again, I am reminded of my favorite relationship advice: “Do not marry a man unless you would be proud if your son turned out just like him.”
During our premarital counseling sessions, our pastor told us that while our denomination does not see the primary purpose of marriage to be reproduction, we are still encouraged to have kids. Because by having kids and raising them in the Christian tradition, we are creating more servants of God.
And while the thought of raising our children in the church and teaching them God’s love excites me (it really does — I’ll write more about it later), I have to admit that it’s not my sole reason for wanting to have kids.
To be perfectly honest, I’m still not sure why I want to have children (said the lady who is currently 6 months pregnant).
All I know is that I never really wanted kids before. I never played with dolls as a little girl. I never coo over babies. In fact, I still find most babies annoying. And yes, I’m a bitch in this regard.
What I do know that 10 months ago, when I found out I was pregnant, I was overjoyed. I felt — in the most cliché manner possible — complete. And losing that baby was one of the most devastating moments of my life. It was then I knew that I was already a mother. And that I wanted living children to hold and love.
It is for these reasons that I consider my decision to have children selfish. I want to create little people who are part me and part my husband (and yes, I would be proud if my children turned out exactly like him). I want to hold children whom I can call my own. I want to be called “mommy.”
My view on parenthood is not all rainbows and unicorns. I know that it’ll be tough, and I know that there will be moments when I want to question why I ever wanted to have kids in the first place. But I also know that it’ll be worth it — including this guilt I have for choosing this selfish route.
not selfish at all! i think your reasoning is well articulated. to want to create little people that are a part of you and your partner <- that’s the essence of being human. it’s just a simple, basic human desire. i think for most people that’s what it really comes down to, it’s just hard to pin point it, because how can you define so exactly what makes you WANT to have kids?
you’re going to be a great mother!
The whole overpopulation thing has always seemed like a strange argument to me. The argument seems to imply that if you shout at people with megaphones: "Your kids are eating all of my natural resources!", people will politely stop having children. Do you really have to choose children vs. the enviornment?
I think there is a reason God tells us to "be fruitful and multiply." Perhaps it has to do with confronting our selfish selves?
The decision to have children is selfish, but not necessarily in a bad way. It depends on the situation and the people.
Why do we have children? Why did I have children? To be honest, I’m not sure I can give a specific reason. I just knew that I wanted to be a mother and it upset me both times the choice was potentially taken from me (but as my Super Ovary has it, the choice, evidently, was never mine). Ultimately, if I wanted to stop and think about it (which I don’t right now because the girls are sleeping so I need to get a whole bunch of stuff done during this time), my reasons are a lot selfish, as is the case with many parents, I’m sure. Children are our answer to immortality. They are the opportunity to do the things we couldn’t as children.
They are much more than that, of course, and I do not for a moment, even when mine are being horrid and/or annoying little brats, regret their existence.
I do respect those who choose not to have children (or delay) and feel sorry for the frustration they have to go through in having to explain that to anyone. I have a number of friends who have chosen not to and it’s incredible the level of rudeness they have to deal with from people who expect everyone to procreate without ever bothering to stop and consider what their invasive questioning might mean (ie there could be medical reasons for someone not having children). I experienced this to an extent when I had only one child and was considering keeping it that way. I was told that it was unfair of me not to give my daughter a sibling. Unfair to whom?
From your initial point, it seems to be you are comparing people who choose to have a child later verses people who choose to have kids now. I would think that really doesn’t have much effect on how much resources they take. However, I do have one concern where people who wait too long are in fact selfish. Some women(couples) are having children way too late in life at the cost of having healthy kids. And many of these women are middle class or better.
It’s interesting to hear that many women who wait to have children later in life are considered "selfish" both in their own minds and by many others in society, because I have never once thought of my decision to wait to be remotely selfish.
I could have a child this year, but my husband would be living in a different state, and I’d be spending the overwhelming majority of my time in the lab finishing my Ph.D. (I’m usually in lab 80+ hours/week). I spend all my time working on the development of a non-chemotherapeutic small molecule targeted to a specific pediatric cancer, so I don’t even comprehend the argument that by working, I am being selfish instead of just raising children; after all, what I work on may someday save your (the general societal your, not yours in particular!) child, in which case you would be very thankful I’m in the lab. I could be raising a child on my own, with my husband visiting once a month, and the child spending the majority of his time in daycare… or…. I can wait several more years until my husband and I are living in the same location, he is done with his residency and I am done with my post-doc so we have more time at home, and can build a better home environment for our family.
Personally given our situation, I think it would be far more selfish to have a child now just for the sake of wanting children, and then not actually have the time to dedicate to having a child!
My husband I are decided about a year ago that we would try to get pregnant this June. Now, not so much.
In January of this year, we decided that we’d be ready by January. There’s no way we’ll be stable enough financially by January; we have no idea which state we’ll be living in come January. So I don’t know how long we’ll wait now.
I do know I want children, and so does my husband. I also know that I’m not ready to be ‘unselfish’ when it comes to my body (which I am already not satisfied with), my time, and my husband. So. I dunno.
I also know that both of our families are ready for us to have kids. There’s a good chance my brother and his wife may never have kids… so it may be just us on my side of the family. In some ways I actually feel bad making my parents wait to be grandparents… but I know they want us to wait until we’re ready.
Whenever that will be.
Great post. I honestly hadn’t given a lot of thought to the other side of things (having children being selfish by taking up resources we could otherwise use to help others).
@John Single – I partially agree with you, too. There is a lot of research that suggests that the children of older women/couples have more likelyhood of being born with disabilities (such as autism or Downs) or otherwise unhealthy issues. Other research dispels that. I can see the logic in both sides of the argument. And from the perspective of the mother’s health, it is common sense to me that younger women’s bodies are more resilient to handle being pregnant too – thus they have a better chance of an easier, healthier pregnancy. (Younger bodies are more resilient for every physically taxing purpose aren’t they!!) It’s a catch 22 really; my friend (who has a child) brought up your same point. What happens if a couple has devoted their younger lives to building a solid financial, educational and professional foundation that will allow their children to prosper in every way, and then when they finally decide to have a family they either can’t, or the children are developmentally disabled or otherwise unable to prosper in a life they see as ‘successful’? So many factors. Again, the reason I began my own post with a statement about how people who just jump headfirst into having babies without too much thought are probably the luckier ones in that sense!!