Childfree women you are not alone! Mothers are called “selfish” too! And, will someone please explain to me why this is a problem?

by Ann on August 4, 2011

In a recent New York Post article, “We say no to babies and yes to NYC,” Sara Stewart explains how fewer women are having children and are content about it. But the article also told of how “Many childless women say they’re branded ‘selfish’ for choosing a life without kids.”
(See: http://www.nypost.com/p/entertainment/we_say_no_to_babies_and_yes_to_nyc_2i0q9vs7bKt4pcQfhbYNVO)

One of the interview subjects in the article, TV news anchor Taman Fadal, responded in a Huffington Post blog and explained that at 40-years-old, she is still making her decision about whether or not she wants to be a mom. She mentions that she read comments posted below Stewart’s article that called women “selfish” and “self-centered” if they didn’t have children, and wrote“ those were the nicer comments.” She also said that “At first I felt sad, then frustrated then scared” but then realized that this is her decision and she is the only one she has to answer to.
(See: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tamsen-fadal-and-matt-titus/childless-women_b_916357.html)

After spending several years interviewing almost 350 women, for my book, “The Baby Dilemma: How to confidently decide whether or not to have a child and feel good about it,” here is what I learned about the “selfish” issue.

First, almost all of the childfree/childless women I spoke to said that someone called them or referred to them as being selfish for not having children.

Second, almost all of the MOTHERS I interviewed shared that at some point they were called or referred to as being selfish for HAVING children. One mom told me that she was called selfish for having kids when she complained about the high cost of education and was told, “It’s really selfish of you to bring kids into this world, if you can’t afford them.” Many were told they were selfish because by having children they were utilizing and wasting the earth’s precious resources and contributing to the degradation of the planet. And some were told that they were selfish because they were staying at home with their children, rather than doing something productive in the world.

Both groups – childfree women and mothers – have been called selfish. It seems, women just can’t win. If you decide not to have a child, you are selfish. If you decide to have a child, you are selfish.

And, the more I thought about it, I realized that maybe there is some truth to the thought that both groups are being selfish in making their decision. But, I had a difficult time figuring out why being selfish about making a life-changing decision is seen as a negative?

If a woman decides she wants to pursue a career or have a relationship that is childfree, she contemplates her talents, interests, skills, abilities, desires and dreams, strengths and weaknesses and then decides what’s in her best interest. Her sense of fulfillment may come from studying financial markets, working for international aid program, creating art that expresses her internal vision, or working with children. Her work can touch and contribute to the world in different ways than having a child or her own. There is nothing wrong with this choice.

And, when a women contemplates having children she is also thinking about her talents, interests, skills, abilities, desires and dreams, strengths and weaknesses to make her decision. Her sense of fulfillment may come from nurturing and caring for another human being and helping them learn and develop into adulthood. She may feel complete and satisfied with this role. And, she may decide to work after having a child. There is nothing wrong with these choices, either.

Inquiries a woman, or man for that matter, makes into her (or his) personal preferences when making a decision seems to be inherently selfish. The decision to have a child requires a woman to consider her wants and needs. And, why is that a problem? I think when a woman takes the time to understand who she is and is honest with herself she will make the best decision for herself, and be happier about it.

So, the next time a mother or a childfree person is called selfish, maybe instead of being offended we should ask, “What’s wrong with that?”

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Beth August 8, 2011 at 10:47 AM

I’ve heard about people being called selfish for not wanting to have children but never experienced it myself in all the years before I became a late-in-life parent. I was asked why I didn’t have children but never told what they perceived was wrong with me for not having a child. I can’t imagine why people feel that they should try to convince someone to be a parent if they do not wish to be one. Being a parent is an enormous responsibility and a child deserves to feel tremendously loved and wanted. Whenever I hear about this kind of exchange I think it has more to do with the person making the accusation than the person on the receiving end. And I agree, what’s wrong with being selfish when it comes to decisions that impact you in such enormous and important ways. Always enjoy your blog Ann!

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katelyn August 9, 2011 at 12:39 PM

Can anyone name any segment of the population that is not selfish? This is human nature!

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DINKlife August 9, 2011 at 12:42 PM

Selfish or not, the trends don’t lie. The trends show more and more women deciding to put off children for career and self fulfillment, which means over time we will all culturally adapt to the trend, when that happens, articles like this won’t be needed because we will all be accepted!

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Heidi August 9, 2011 at 9:34 PM

Have to agree with Beth and Ann: what is wrong with being selfish if it means being clear and confident with the choices we make? It takes a lot to make the decision on whether or not to devote the rest of your life to becoming a parent. It is not a light decision and should not be made carelessly–and yet that is what too many think of as ‘normal.’ Bravo Ann for telling it like it is!

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Sam August 12, 2011 at 11:10 AM

You’re exactly right, whether you have kids or you don’t – either way someone thinks you’re wrong!

My husband and I have chosen not to have children and the reaction from people is surprising. Since after marriage the natural question for everyone to ask is “when are you having kids” I’ve spent a lot of time discussing this decision. It’s less hard for him; it seems many people expect guys to some how be coerced into parenthood. I get the brunt of the judgement. Many people smugly tell me “you’ll change your mind” (I’m 31 years old and have known since I was 13 that kids weren’t in the cards for me). More often my decision is met with abject shock and awe. “How can you not want kids? You’re so good with them!” Yes, I adore my nieces and nephew. But I also love going home to peace and quiet.

It’s really taking a heavy toll on me lately. We moved to a new town, 90 miles away from where we used to live. Now that we’re trying to meet new friends, and we are at that age where most people begin having children, many women shy away from me. I love my friend’s children and am happy to hear stories about them and see pictures of them, but for some women it seems true friendship must also include play-dates.

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