This belief is really almost too foolish to be allowed, despite its widespread acceptance. But it still hurts, when we believe it, and far worse than that, it sometimes leads people who shouldn’t have kids to have them. As though it would make them a better person.
Wonky Logic Example #1
Not having children is selfish, so having children is unselfish.
The idea that parents are unselfish for having kids is about as false and nonsensical as it gets. Some parents are very, genuinely, selfless people, but popping out or adopting a baby doesn’t make them so.
If we look at this realistically, people sometimes have very selfish reasons for having children. Reasons like, “I want to be a mom,” or “I just love kids,” are fine and good, if you can—and do—take care of them. The selfishness of having kids for your own sake is cancelled out by the selflessness of actually providing for them. Then of course there are the more obviously selfish reasons, such as “It’ll help my marriage,” or, of course, “He’ll marry me/stop cheating on me if I get pregnant.” I don’t think I need to elaborate on these.
Wonky Logic Example #2
People who don’t want children are selfish by not having children.
Once, in my church-going days, I listened to a pastor’s sermon on birth control. I had, and still have, great respect for this pastor, but I also disagree with him more often than not. At the end of his sermon, which included many lines from the Bible on childbirth and child-rearing, and culminating in the summation that children are sometimes a blessing (Proverbs 17:6) and sometimes not (Luke 23:29), he said “It’s alright to use contraceptives, as long as you don’t do so for selfish reasons.”
A reasonable statement, but his idea of “selfish reasons” is not my own.
If a couple or an individual doesn’t want the “bother” of having a child, that’s exactly the sort of person who shouldn’t have a child. That’s not selfishness, that’s responsibility. That’s having enough foresight and insight to see that having a baby isn’t all about the attention, cute little baby clothes, and sweet-smelling baby. It’s acknowledging that being a parent is a vocation, a full-time, lifetime, till-death-do-us-part commitment, and saying, honestly, “I’m not up to that.”
The person who acknowledges that they don’t want children, and doesn’t then cave to social pressure and have one anyway, should be praised. Praise the conscious non-parent 1.5x as much as you condemn the non-parent who had kids anyway.
Wonky Logic Example #3
People who don’t want children are selfish for not spending time/money with kids they don’t have.
At the end of the day, I think this is simply a misapplication of lifestyles.
For a parent to regularly leave their child so they can go clubbing, globe-trotting, or vacationing, is probably selfish behavior. For a parent to buy new clothes and electronics, while never providing for the needs of their child, is selfish.
But childfree people do not have children. So remove the child from the equation.
For a single woman to go clubbing and globe-trotting or clubbing is not selfish. For a single woman to buy new clothes and electronics is not selfish. They are neglecting no one. “Well if they had a child” is not a valid argument, because, obviously, they don’t.
Lastly, and sadly, I suspect that people who hold others to their own lifestyle standards are, at heart, unhappy with their own choices. Have you ever heard a childfree globe-trotter say, “Well, I guess it must be nice to be able to stay home and play with your kid all day. I can’t afford to be that selfish. Those photos of Machu Picchu aren’t going to take themselves”? No. And if someone did say that, you’d probably say, “No one told you to go to Machu Picchu.”
And you would be exactly right.