Selfish. It’s one of the words child-free women hear constantly when we share our decision to not have children. Yet, it is one that I cannot understand.
Let’s first consider the word ‘selfish’.
The definition of selfish is “of a person, action, or motive lacking consideration for other people; concerned chiefly with one’s own personal profit or pleasure”.
In essence, being selfish is having a focus on oneself. Given we only have one life, shouldn’t everyone live it according to oneself?
I would argue that, indeed, parents are doing exactly that. They wanted children to add fulfillment to their lives, and for their own personal pleasure. Child-free people don’t want children so they can also be fulfilled, just in different ways.
People are often uncomfortable with a woman’s choice to be child-free as it defies tradition and thousands of years of gender roles. History has said that a woman’s primary role is a caregiver, homemaker, and mother. To reject that social norm is like brandishing your middle finger high into the air and waving it about.
Child-free people have rejected the traditional model and chosen instead a life that is focused on themselves. This rejection is offensive to many, and perhaps the argument is really about other people being uncomfortable with the choice the child-free have made.
In a world that loosely bandies the words ‘diversity and inclusion’ to highlight a point, surely having diverse lifestyles should be acceptable in our modern world?
When we think of the word selfish and how it is applied, we need to understand that different rules apply.
A married child-free woman is considered selfish by society. She’s narcissistic, vain, and happily living her existence free from the duty shackles. She snubs her nose to the rules and makes her own.
However, child-free men don’t hear the same narrative for the same choice. Instead, they are revered for it and their bachelor lifestyle is celebrated. Their mates openly admit to being jealous of their carefree, commitment-free lifestyle. That is the picture that society, with the help of Hollywood and the media, has painted. There is no social condemnation for men.
When the word selfish is used, most forget that child-free people have had the maturity and self-knowledge to make a considered, educated, and informed decision. They have looked at both lifestyles and picked option B instead of option A – often because it aligns with their own values, desires, life goals and personal circumstances.
And I ask, what is wrong with that? After all, aren’t parents doing the exact same thing? Yes, women are raised in a culture of assumed motherhood but that doesn’t mean that rejecting that life choice is selfish.
So, why exactly are child-free people the selfish ones?
If you think about it from a different perspective, to better understand the viewpoint of child-free people, you’ll realise that in most cases arriving at their decision never came from a place of selfishness. Quite the opposite, in fact.
Isn’t a decision to avoid adding a human to an overpopulated earth considered? Isn’t a decision to not have children in the era of extreme climate change a responsible one? Isn’t foregoing having a mini-me and continuing a family bloodline the least egotistical decision you can make?
We have one life. Every person on the planet should live it how they see fit.
Why is it that those who choose to have children aren’t considered to be selfish but those who remain child-free are? There is no difference! Both options are centred on what a person wants for their life.
Seeking happiness and making the right choice for yourself is not a selfish act. It is a brave one, given the child-free knowingly open themselves up to criticism and judgement from the world.
It’s time we banished the word selfish from the child-free conversation.