No Kidding: Why is It “Selfish” to Be Childfree?

Brittany Shoot
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In my opinion, the strangest persistent belief about childfree women is that we're selfish. From the jump, this is problematic as this logic negates the experience of infertile women, women ambivalent about motherhood and parenting, and women who would—for any number of reasons and because of any combination of circumstances—perhaps like to be mothers but have opted out nonetheless. It's also a pretty big slap in the face to queer women, who may not face the same social pressures to procreate but may still be held to the same weirdo standard when they don't have children.

But why are women's choices always labeled negatively? Why can't we just, you know, do stuff? Just be who we are? Not to be all "labels are for jars," but in all seriousness, why are individual choices the subject of such ridicule? Not having kids doesn't make me a selfish narcissistic cat lady any more than having children makes a currently preggers pal of mine a conformist breeder drone. I'm Brittany. She's Kate. Believe me, we're both far more interesting than what is or is not happening in our respective uteri. In fact, her husband just took her last name. How's that for feminist conversation fodder? Sure beats explaining away her expanding womb or apologizing for my empty one.

It should be said that by and large, men aren't criticized for not opting into fatherhood in the same ways that women are. Now, I'm not suggesting that men don't face social pressure to have children. But I'd argue that while men are typically criticized for being "deadbeat dads" if they aren't around or skip out on child support, women tend to be shamed no matter what choices they make.


Here are a couple of my favorite myths related to selfishness and childless women:

You won't self-actualize without having a baby. As if this isn't repeated by commentators and media personalities enough, many women also act as if not being a mother will leave you an empty shell of a person, filled with unrealized potential. I'd argue that concern is hinged on the idea of giving to others, which is really about everyone else's selfish demands, not one's own.

Take recent comments by actress Mena Suvari (perhaps best known for playing the sexpot teenager in American Beauty). "Everybody wants a child," she told People. "I want at least two children... Who knows, I might end up having five and being this woman with all these children. I think that [having children] would be the ultimate experience for me. I think that's where you really find yourself. That's what's important about life."

It's not that I think Suvari is completely wrong. Relationships with others can greatly inform us about who we are and even why we matter. But it's pretty unfair to say that you can only find yourself—as if authenticity is an unchanging concept one must discover, rather than an abstraction you can grow to understand—by having a child, and it's straight up untrue that everybody wants a child. The numbers of childfree men and women are steadily increasing. We not only exist; despite not procreating, there are more and more of us all the time!

Choosing your career over children is selfish. You could lose your job, but family is forever. There are a number of problems with this argument. For one, I've personally never said that I chose having a career instead of having children—though if I did, what of it? Though I personally see the choice between babies and breadwinning as fraught with complications for many women, there's certainly a majority of people out there who don't see the two as mutually exclusive, choosing to make it work or even relishing the complication that comes with trying to balance it all. But to assume that women are ditching maternal impulses to go pound on the glass ceiling is kind of silly. It implies that we're all biologically hardwired to want the same things, or that feminism has only given us two options: labor and, well, labor. And though it may be hard to remember with all the messages about how those two choices are the ultimate goals for women, it's myopic and reductionist to think that gender equity is only about making money and making babies.

Also, family isn't forever. Biology might be, but let's not kid ourselves (ha, pun!): families fracture all the time. More importantly, everyone has their own definition of family, and for many of us, our family structure is always changing. Mine, for example, includes mostly people and animals who are in my life voluntarily. I won't tell you how to construct your family if you don't tell me how to construct mine. We can also agree not to assume that one is superior to the other. Deal?

Why do you think the selfish myth persists? Why is opting out a supposedly selfish choice for women, and why aren't men held to the same standard?

Photo by wonderferret via Flickr

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86 Comments Have Been Posted

I have two children of my

I have two children of my own, and I tend to find the opposite is actually true. I think that having children is selfish and at times incredibly vain. Now I don't want to make any blanket statements because I think those are dangerous no matter what the subject, but the idea that many people have children in an attempt to "figure out who they are" is selfish. Why expect a child to facilitate your adulthood growth? Isn't that a journey that should be taken alone? Shouldn't children be brought into this world with parents who already have a sense of who they are? I mean, if we're going to talk about the reasons why people have children. Not everybody wants parenthood, and it isn't the only source for growth, in fact, I would venture to say that it isn't something that should be viewed as a rite of passage. That definition, in my opinion, cheapens the life of the child. Let he or she be their own person, instead of your own personal mini me.

"Let he or she be their own

"Let he or she be their own person, instead of your own personal mini me."
Well put. Great post!

Very well put. Having a child

Very well put. Having a child is by no means a right of passage. Having a child does not magically transform anyone into a responsible adult. Rather, being a responsible adult should be a pre-requisite for making this choice. Also, it IS a choice, and a very personal one at that.

Very well put. I find that

Very well put. I find that some people who have children do it to fill a void they have or to gain some sort of sense of completion. I feel like ever milestone in a woman's life is completely fantasized : your first kiss, sex, maternity. It is popular media, in part, that sells us these beliefs. Perhaps that is why people believe having a child is suppose to miraculously transform someone's life.

At times I wonder why my mother had my brother and me. I think it was selfish of her. In order to fulfill that desire, we grew up in a poverty stricken home, not to mention dysfunctional. Regardless, I still love her.

I so agree!

I so agree with that statement, that all of our milestones are sold to us by the media. My first kiss, my first time having sex, everything... it was all hyped up to be this pressure-filled magic moment and it just wasn't. After I lost my virginity at the age of 21, I actually had a fit of giggles while he was in the bathroom. I talked to my best friend the next day and said, "I can't believe that was it. It was NOTHING like I've been told it would be. It was so not a big deal at all."

And I too am baffled by the "it's selfish not to have kids" statement. I told my soontobe-mother-in-law that I want to adopt kids but not until way later in life, after grad school. She asked if it was about the pain, because the pain really isn't a big deal. I said the biggest reason is because I can't justify bringing kids into a world that already has so many kids who need parents. (I don't see this as "rescuing," as mentioned on another thread. I just see it as... why would I make a biological kid when there are other kids in the world already). She said, "Oh, well at least your reason isn't selfish! Nobody can accuse you of being selfish!" She was just being nice and I totally appreciate that, but I had to bite my tongue not to ask why on earth it would be selfish NOT to have a child. It makes no sense to me.

I don't hate on people who have bio kids. If you have an urge to have a biological child or find it the best way to go, that's totally cool. I just wish I could be given the same consideration, and not have my actions speculated on and branded "selfish" because I want to adopt or because I want no kids until AFTER my career is settled. (The horror! Yet it's perfectly OK for my fiance to pursue his career). I dunno.


I swear you and I are quite alike.

Everything that you stated above is what I've been through/believe in. I want to adopt after grad school with a steady career in Public Health; I lost my virginity at 21 also; and I've had friends and family ask why I don't want children of my own.

My dad swears that I don't want babies of my own because of the pain; although that's a part of it, it isn't all.
I want to adopt because too many kids are out there alone in crappy households.

At least there's someone who thinks like me :)

why on earth it would be selfish NOT to have a child. It makes n

Well, the reason "they" say it is selfish NOT to have a child is because from the minute you have a child, life is pretty much all about your child, instead of you, anymore. It is almost impossible to have a child and rear a child (successfully anyway) if you are selfish. Why? Because having a child means caring for it, losing sleep for it, worrying for it, (for a lifetime), keeping an orderly house, providing food and paying a myriad of expenses for it, considering it in EVERY decision you make for the rest of your time on earth, from when do I have to get out of bed, to what has to be put in the Will, taking on responsibility for an innocent life that is in your hands, ensuring it is educated properly and will be able to manage without you. These are all self-sacrificing things. These are things that will COST you. So because you feel inclined not to put your hand up for all these things, (and who could blame us!) the obvious reason to others is just that "Oh, she's just too selfish. She'd have to put herself second to the welfare of her child." That's why they say it! I am 46 years old, and childless. I cruised right through by twenties and thirties happily preferring to put the decision off all the time, because I didn't like the sound of the burden that came with it. The only reason you will have a child or children, is if you feel that the rewards that a child brings are GREATER than the burdens that a child brings. I explored this avenue, seeking to find "what are the rewards", so that I could measure them against the problems and see which was more. After all was said and (not)done, I reached the conclusion that it's about 50-50! The rewards might only "just" outweigh the problems! So therefore the only true, right reason to have a child, is if you really want one. It could be because you feel it will meet an emotional need (and I believe it would), because you feel it would give structure and purpose to your day to day life (and it would, and this is something I wish I had more of), or just because you want to be loved unconditionally. And a child will do that, if you rear it properly and with love, (it will never love what it does not respect, however). But part of that is also this: will you love your child unconditionally also? Or will you expect or want it to be perfect and troublefree and 'out of your face'. You're in control of some of this, but certainly not all. It will bring the bad along with the good. Everything does. Being childless does, too. It's great to have free time and make my own decisions, with husband, only needing to consider US and the immediate day to hand. No hassles. But then there are the niggling doubts, the lack of motivation and purpose at times. The desire to be compelled by a reason. Sometimes I think if I was busy (with a child) with fitting everything in each day, that I would actually do MORE with my day, than I do now (since I have all day to do things, nothing much gets done at times!) In short, I suffer from a lack of motivation some times. I also don't feel terribly comfortable around my family and friends who DO have children (with a few exceptions), but perhaps this could still be the case if I DID have children? Then there are OTHER things to feel uncomfortable or judged about. Things to do WITH your child and how you do things or whatever. Really it just seems 50 50 to me. There are as many good reasons to have a child as there are not to have a child. Everything can be a reason, and everything can be an excuse. It is all relative to what your dream is. The person who likes the idea of a little bundle of joy (and they do bring joy)will see all these things as reasons to have a child. The person who doesn't like the idea etc, will see all these things as an excuse not to, or a reason not to. But I must tell you that now I am 46, I still have that tug which fills me with doubt about my decision or lack of decision in not having a baby, and then a few hours later, I feel exactly the opposite! On again, off again. That's what I'd like an answer to! Is my sub-conscious telling me yes I do want a baby, or is it telling me no, I don't? That's what I wish I knew! Any suggestions? God bless you.

you veered off...

But then there are the niggling doubts, the lack of motivation and purpose at times.

My wife and I have no kids, I am 46 and she 37. Your lack of motivation Deb is because you are lacking something else. Not "things to do." To ocupy your mind is NOT the answer.

The desire to be compelled by a reason.

Compelled to do what? Be busy? Is that your stave of boredom? And you think kids will do that? Boire dowm is something else entirely. As a counselor I would need to sit you down to deal with that. Honestly, you would benefit from professional help on this. You are on good ground, but you misunderstand what boredom truly is.

Sometimes I think if I was busy (with a child) with fitting everything in each day, that I would actually do MORE with my day, than I do now (since I have all day to do things, nothing much gets done at times!)

So the goal is to do "more" with your day? You do realize we are all doing NOTHING here right? No one is going to care about any one of us when all the actors in the guilded cage are gone. You will not care about how much you have "done" on your death bed.

In short, I suffer from a lack of motivation some times.

This is problem I am certain you would understand if you would seek help. I say that with no condscention...I mean it.

I also don't feel terribly comfortable around my family and friends who DO have children (with a few exceptions), but perhaps this could still be the case if I DID have children?

Of course it would. What you are experiencing has NOTHING to do with kids. You are buying into propoganda.

Then there are OTHER things to feel uncomfortable or judged about. Things to do WITH your child and how you do things or whatever.

Why do you care about being "judged" so much? What others think of you? Herein lies the core of your issue.

Really it just seems 50 50 to me. There are as many good reasons to have a child as there are not to have a child.

Not. Having children is absolutely an occupying issue that has so many dysfunctions to it it is indeed incredible. The unsustainable world we live in leaves only one conclusion. People who have kids are automotons that are not looking at any picture but their own. I have no kids...I am saing the ass of everyone who does...people like me. Because if all of us who have no, or very few kid were like Michelle duggar or having 5 or so...the world would be so overpopulated by now we would kill each other. Overpopulated is a fact...more than resources. Ever see those houses out in the woods and all those dotted all over the outy. Why do you suppose they are way out there? BEACUASE they want to be away from other more peoiple the more nerves are wearing thin. We kill for land and space. Sitting in traffic will beome more of hassle and each person in traffic is someones desire for "more" another kid someone decided to have.

Everything can be a reason, and everything can be an excuse. It is all relative to what your dream is. The person who likes the idea of a little bundle of joy (and they do bring joy)will see all these things as reasons to have a child.

Yes, but when people are being honest it is NOT a bundle of joy. It is a burden and life as you know it ends. If you find it gives your life purpose you needed to go inward to find love. Give me 2 hours with you in my office and you will see all of this differently.

The person who doesn't like the idea etc, will see all these things as an excuse not to, or a reason not to. But I must tell you that now I am 46, I still have that tug which fills me with doubt about my decision or lack of decision in not having a baby, and then a few hours later, I feel exactly the opposite!

That tug is a lack within you. You don't really want the is something else you seek.

On again, off again. That's what I'd like an answer to! Is my sub-conscious telling me yes I do want a baby, or is it telling me no, I don't? That's what I wish I knew! Any suggestions? God bless you.

Yes... there is muh you need to know. But there is also a whole new education you need as well. You are on the right path...please go within and see where you are sent for help.

Same Issue

I know this post is about a year old, however, I feel the exact same way you do. In fact, I have friends, family, co-workers, associates try to make me feel a certain way because I do not have kids. Than boast how lucky I am when THEY have kid problems. It bothers the heck out of me. I've had two miscarriages in my life (which most people don't know) so I feel maybe its not in GODS plans for me. Either way, I don't want to feel like bringing a child into this world defines me and makes me complete. Thats stupid! My idea on family and success is different from everyone's perspective. Family, (blood and distant) love, career, being able to provide for myself, help others in need and a stress free life is what I want to achieve. Is this wrong? Yes, I feel strange sometimes being surrounded by mothers & kids but at the same time, I'm very content with my life and proud of who I am as a women. Damn media and folks get to me at times........I love your post by the way. It actually made me feel better about how I feel as no on understands.

Wow, get off your soapbox and

Wow, get off your soapbox and don't make this about you!

Hear hear!


You really hit the nail on the head with your comment.

Far too many people have children for all the wrong reasons. They'll have kids because they want something cute and cuddly that loves them unconditionally (and then come to hate their own offspring when it's no longer cute and starts talking back to them,) or they'll have kids so that they can vicariously pursue their own failed dreams through their children, or because they think that parenthood will make them a better person, or (in cases of extreme foolishness), they'll have a baby in an attempt to save a failing marriage.

Do you know what having a kid says about you? It says that you have a working set of gonads and that you're sexually active. And while that may certainly be cause for congratulation, it doesn't automatically make you a better person -- in fact, I've seen some people who actually *stop* growing because they became too caught up in parenthood to pursue personal growth.

you dont have kids, this is a

you dont have kids, this is a typical childfree post

Oh, god, you're awesome. You

Oh, god, you're awesome. You stole the words right out of my mouth. Sure, me choosing to not have children is selfish admittedly. But about 90% of those who opt to parent are just as selfish as me.

And what's wrong with being selfish anyway?

If there's one thing that I don't mind being selfish about, it's my decision to not have kids. It's not like the world is suffering because of this completely personal decision of mine.


One is certainly entitled to be selfish when it comes to major life choices! The problem lies in the notion that women are always supposed to be selfless.

I think the idea is not so

I think the idea is not so much that it makes you selfish as it is demonstrating that you already are selfish. Having children comes with a lot of baggage about sacrifice and sharing and whatnot and the idea is that if you choose not to have children it must be because you don't want to sacrifice anything for your children and ergo you are selfish.

Which has its own set of problems. One, that isn't necessarily why someone would choose not to have children (maybe they want to use fewer resources or don't want to pass on problematic genetic traits etc) but Two, even if that IS why someone doesn't want to have children, who the hell cares? Men are constantly catered to in the popular narrative around children--if they need a "man room" to get away from family, etc, that's totally cool. If they don't want to spend time with kids because their career is too important, we're supposed to admire them. When women don't want to sacrifice their autonomy for a child the narrative paints them as villains. If they want time away from their kids, well, it's okay as long as it's rare and it doesn't infringe on the husband's freedom. The double standard seems particularly stark to me here. It's quite horrifying.


Well, I think that the notion that parents are selfless and non-parents are selfish comes from the notion that children force you to think of another person's well-being. Which is fine. I'm sure it does. Having worked with children, I have seen some devoted and selfless parents. I've also seen some really selfish ones. What's interesting to me is that it's parents SHOULDN'T be selfish. Having a child is biologically about promoting and perpetuating the self. You are creating a newer version of yourself. That's neither good or bad. It just is.

In terms of non-parents (childless?), the idea that they are selfish might come from the notion that they are choosing to live their lives their way with no one else to interfere. Children put the breaks on a lot of things because, in this culture, they take major priority. But when I try to defend not having children to my mother-in-law, they phrases I find myself saying are about what I want to do for myself. "I want to get a doctorate" or "I want to be just a married couple for a while" or "I'm not ready to sacrifice my body to that commitment yet". It all seems to focus on my needs or wants. And that's selfish. But I know I'm being selfish. I'm too self-oriented to have a child, hence why I'm not having a child. Selfish isn't always bad. It's self-awareness, self-motivation, self-promotion, self... ness. I spent my entire childhood and college years hating myself and loathing my body. I'm just getting to a place where I am finally engaging with my body and life on a deeper level. A child would... skew that.

Maybe being "selfish" means being aware enough to know that parenting isn't the right choice for you.

Women called selfish for choosing to remain childless.

Actually, I think those reasons that you've enumerated make you 'selfLESS' for not having children. I always knew I didn't want to have children and maintain the position it would in fact be selfish of me to have them. If other things (career eg) are more important to a woman, bringing a child into the word means you will not be devoting as much time to a child as is required for good child-rearing. Personally, I am so happy to finally be past the age where I'm expected to have children because I'm not asked every 5 minutes 'why don't you want to have children?" or told condescendingly "oh dear, you'll change your mind when you get older" (the assumption of course being that ALL women MUST want children). That said, many years ago, I just stopped defending my choice. I believe the question 'why DO you want to have children' is the more important question because if you're having children simply to have someone to love you unconditionally or just because it's what you think you're supposed to do, you really should reconsider putting that burden on a child...doing that is selfish. I believe people should put thought into why they are doing something that will affect another life, whereas my choice to not have children affects nobody but me. I did finally get to the point where whenever that question was asked of me I responded with "why ARE you having children' and found that very few women had an answer to that beyond 'well, it's time' or something similar, and many were dumfounded by the question even being asked. If you can't answer that question in a way that shows you've put thought into doing something that will affect the child/ren you bring into this world....that is selfish.

The Last Taboo

Asking someone to justify why they had children seems to be the last taboo.

Speaking from a biological

Speaking from a biological point of view, tending to your young is by no means altruistic. "Sacrificing" for their well-being is not altruistic either. We are genetically programmed to reproduce and care for our young. Largely, the hormones we secrete dictates that behavior. So, terming a woman who chooses to reproduce as sacrificing or selfless is without merit.

Selfish = refusing to sacrifice

I think the charges of selfishness come from the idea that women are expected to sacrifice, and motherhood is one of the main ways they have historically done so. Motherhood can mean that women sacrifice their bodies (and often their lives); it can mean they sacrifice their jobs, careers, and ambitions; it can mean they sacrifice their relationships with people who were previously the most important in their lives; and it can mean they sacrifice their wants, their dreams, and sometimes their identities. We've always expected this of women, and the ones who choose childlessness are viewed to have bucked that imperative.

Which is silly, because even women who choose not to have children may well be making plenty of sacrifices for myriad other reasons. So yeah, I've never understood that particular label as it's applied to childfree folks.


Too true. Women are supposed to sacrifice so when they don't/choose not too/can't, it's because they're selfish and stuck-up. We're defined by our ability to be sexually alluring and give birth.

There are so many reasons

There are so many reasons women choose not to have children; it's preposterous to assume they are all selfish. For me, my decision not to have children was actually mostly selfless. Among other reasons, the main reason I chose not to have children is that I don't ever want to make anybody feel as bad as my mother made me feel. I'm not saying I would be a bad mother, but why take that chance? As a 41 year-old childfree woman, I'm hoping that I'll be at an age soon where people will stop telling me that I'll change my mind!

I'm not changing my mind!

Same for me - I will be 40 in a couple months and some people still tell me I might change my mind, because "you never know who you will meet". Um, no I won't. I have never wanted kids, I don't paticularly like being around kids, and seeing my friends and family members with kids (and having to hear about them constantly) only reinforces my feelings of not wanting them.

No Kidding: Why is It "Selfish" to Be Childfree?

Realize that you are being brainwashed by the American government when they tell you its bad to have kids. Women in Africa have the most amount of kids out of any other continent on the earth and they praise it, doing just fine, with the proverb, "It takes a village to raise a child". The whole "Damn, we have to feed another kid?" is a European thing and it comes from males, not females, who want WORKERS, not pregnant women, who will have to take off days to rest. Remember, the Industrial Revolution did a lot of things to women and men. It forced men to not be able to be at home with their families without wanting to drink themselves sober after a long days work. Africa wasn't influenced by the Industrial Revolution, so they still live naturally and understand what being a woman is about. Sure, Africa needs help financially, but if they were to get that help, they would not give up their beautiful role as women in the family. Remember, America was founded by selfish, rich people, not good rich people, who only wanted something for themselves. So, everybody you see feeding off of it have no choice but to be slaves to the system. It's not a system or a culture, it's an unnatural way of living that people tired of living created to dwell in their happiness as kings and queens, while watching others suffer. Again, only selfish, rich people created it, not good rich people.

Wait, wait, wait. WHAT?
The industrial revolution forced men to become alcoholics? Because no one was an alcoholic before the Victorian era. Everything back then was just fine. Its not like women and people of color had no rights or anything.
I could actually spend a lot of time pointing out the errors in your thinking, but I have math homework to do. So I’ll just say this: No, you are incorrect.

Zoe Danger Awesome

1. The American government

1. The American government has never told me it's bad to have kids.

2. Africa is a big place with hundreds, if not thousands of different cultures. They do not all have the same family structures, ways of life, or attitudes toward children. To lump them all together is an insult.

3. You seem to be constructing an idea of a "noble savage" that is untouched by the evils of Western civilization. Reality is much more complicated than this. Believe it or not, Africa has been affected by the Industrial Revolution, not everyone lives "naturally" (whatever that means).

There is more to being a

There is more to being a woman than having a baby. That's like saying that men are only good for creating sperm.

America was founded by a

America was founded by a bunch of starving people who fell out of ships and were put to work looking for gold, failed to find any, and proceeded to starve until supplies came in. You're thinking of the people who came after the foundation of bodies had been laid.
And speaking of that, how do you know who in the past was a good or bad person?
And how do you know what would happen if Africa experienced an industrial revolution?

I think you should return that DeLorean- it's not yours.

Say what, now???

Say what, now???

I'm Canadian....

and I don't want to bear children. Shit, did the American government get me, too??
I find the phrase "what being a woman is about" extremely problematic. You're saying bearing and raising children is what being a woman is about? I gotta call shenanigans on that one! I am not defying any divine destiny by making the choice to be childless. I don't, by any means, think that it's "bad to have kids" - I think it's a complicated, PERSONAL issue and a decision to be made by each woman for herself.
Regarding "the whole, 'Damn, we have to feed another kid?'" thing: there is a very real crisis happening in our world where we are producing more humans than we can feed/not producing enough food to feed all the humans we're producing. (This itself is a complicated issue and certainly population control is only part of it.) So, for me, it's more "Damn, how are we going to feed another kid?"

So wrong

There are so many things completely wrong with your statement. The reason people "back in the day" had many children was to provide a workforce for their farms.

Africans are having children at a rate higher than anywhere else in the world. At the same time African countries lack food and water to feed those children. Africa is one of the most war torn areas of the world. Many African cultures are extremely male dominant and women are raped regularly, forced to work, and have no choice but to bear their man's children.

Do your research and you will see that it is in fact the societies that are more male dominant where women end up having fewer children, uneducated, and literally barefoot pregnant and in the kitchen. To blame the idea that women should not have children on men is outrageous.

If the American government didn't want you to have children then why in the world would they be trying to get rid of insurance coverage for contraception, band emergency contraception, and give tax breaks to people with children?

Stop to think. Who is actually being brainwashed? The person who chooses not to have a child based on logical though despite pressure at every level of society (parents, peers, religious leaders, etc.) to have some, or the person who does what is expected of them by society, because everyone else does it, or because it is the "natural" way of living?

If you are indeed a woman, your statement do a great disservice to your gender and show your brainwashing.


As far as I remember I think it was the females who wanted, fought for, and have often chose to work... we wanted to be treated like men and being workers who work a lot is how how men were and are treated. Of course the Industrial Revolution and WWII changed things. So I definitely appreciate the point your are making. But sometimes our feminist fights have shot ourselves in the foot.

True feminism originated with fighting for women's rights to have a family and be valued as women... today women's rights don't include being able to choose family... apparently we have decided that the value of a woman in our society is defined by our right to choose to NOT have a family... Women don't be fooled by political issues. Make your own choices to have a home, to work, to start a business, to waitress, to clean for others or clean in your own home, to have children or not have children... do what's right for you, when it's right for you, knowing there are times you'll make choices because it's best for you and time you'll make them because you're ready to love unselfishly.


So we should stay out of politics right? Not our place?!

Feminism is about gender equality in general, "real" feminism doesn't have to be about how best to cater to a family, the right to not have one is damn important!

Knowing what you want/ don't want in your life is not selfish!

As long as your decision to have or not to have children doesn't negatively affect anyone else, then why worry about what other people think? (The only kind of woman I would call selfish is the one that just carelessly falls into parenthood, then spends their money getting their hair/nails done while their children are walking around in dirty old clothes. ) But of course, I do know about the pressure that society places on women. My husband and I waited until I was 30 to have our son (practically an old maid by my family's standards) and we have decided not to have any more. Now we are bombarded by the, "When are you gonna have another one? You can't have just one!" -Um, yes you can. We are not talking about Lay's potato chips, we're talking about kids. No matter what decision you make, own it and brush off any comments made by others. You know what is right for you.

Sure, it's selfish...

...But what the hell is wrong with being selfish?

Unlike most people, I consider selfishness to be a virtue.

In fact, I would point out that it's utterly impossible to be truly generous unless you are first selfish.

When you're on an airplane and they give the safety lecture and they get to the part about oxygen masks, they always say, "Be sure to put on your own mask *before* attempting to assist your child with his." There's a reason for this: You can't be very much help to your kid if you're passed out from hypoxia.

It is like that in life as well. If you truly want to help others, you must make sure that your own needs are met. You cannot feed the poor if you've already starved yourself to death. You cannot meet your children's emotional needs if you're emotionally bankrupt yourself. You cannot support your family if you give *all* of your money to the poor.

There is a difference between being selfish and being inconsiderate. There is something wrong with being inconsiderate, but there's not a goddamned thing wrong with being selfish.

I once witnessed the amusing

I once witnessed the amusing scene of a man announcing to a room of people he didn't know were childfree that non-parents are self-involved and only interested in sports and celebrities. After questioning, it was revealed that until HE had kids, HE was only interested in professional sports.

Draw your own conclusions. :)

I agree with Lucretia. My

I agree with Lucretia. My husband and I are currently working on getting pregnant and if you were to apply human standards to it (this sounds weird but bear with me here...) then yes, it could be called utterly selfish and vain. I was one of those people who was going to be childfree forever and then this biological thing kicked in. Seriously, I know people say that glibly, but over the space of a year I went from never wanting children to really trying hard to get one, I literally went INSANE. My periods got worse, my hormones went wild, and at ovulation I turn into a rabid sex beast... and all the while I know I'm actually a rational person. My point in saying all this isn't to say it will happen to everyone... I really hope it happens to none of you; it's horrifying to watch yourself change and not be able to stop it. But I got used to it, and I do want children now - or at least my body does. I feel a bit like my body blackmailed me into it! lol, but I'm okay with it.

Anyway my point is this, that we look at everything about us through the very rational perspective of choice, and rightly so, because this is how we look at absolutely everything in the world. But strip away the society and culture and what are we? Just animals with above-average brains. We sort of believe that with a few thousand years of high technological progression under our belts, we have conquered instincts ingrained into every fibre of our being over billions of years of evolution - mate, reproduce. mate; reproduce. mate; reproduce. I don't believe we've even made a dent. BUT we have that above-average brain, and those choices, and that technological progression- and combined just right those women who want to self-actualize through their career or a bout of personal exploration are perfectly free to do so, it doesn't make them selfish any more than choosing coke over pepsi makes you selfish. You're simply choosing the path that will maximize your happiness. For many other women, that path includes BUT is certainly not limited to a family. I think any selfishness in that is simply a moot point.

Let's all just get along!

My boyfriend's sister-in-law

My boyfriend's sister-in-law figured he was gay because he was over 40, childless and not married. She spread the rumor to the whole family and whoever else would listen. So while the comment "men aren't criticized for not opting into fatherhood in the same ways that women are" might be true on technicality, the ways in which they are criticized still often times hold the same nasty, vile, venom that is directed toward those of us women who have chosen to be childfree.

Personally, I chalk the whole

Personally, I chalk the whole thing up to "white women's problems" because as a Black woman I don't tend to notice society asking when *I* going to have children. Though I do notice society working real hard to put up as many barriers as it can. What I find "selfish" is all the hand wringing privileged women do about this going so far as to cultivating an identity based on what they lack. WTF? When people ask me why I don't have kids, if I even feel like answering I say, "Cause I don't have any!" End of story.

The whole "childfree" thing has long annoyed me because not having kids doesn't make a person some kind of saint any more than having kids does. They're just choices. I get that privilege women get catch a lot of breeze about making babies, but to somehow believe it's a universal phenom is rather problematic.

I'm glad you brought this up.

I'm glad you brought this up. It's probably another discussion entirely, but you do bring up the question of who, in our society, is viewed as the type of person who "should" be reproducing, and when it is and is not a problem for society at large to see a woman choose against childbearing. Thanks for bringing another angle to the discussion.

I'd add that race isn't the

I'd add that race isn't the only factor. I'm disabled and hang out in a lot of disability communities/support groups, and while I personally am childfree, I'm constantly horrified by the number of disabled women who are shamed and berated for their choices to have children. I hear similar things from queer women who want kids, too, and I'm sure various other minority groups get it as well.

Unless you happen to be gay

I am experiencing this right now. I am 29 and have always wanted children. My parents don't have any grandchildren. I am engaged to a woman and we plan to marry next year and try to have a child in a few years after I have completed grad school. Suddenly all the joy and excitement my family displayed when anticipating my hypothetical future family many years ago when I had a boyfriend has diminished. Yes, society, including those close to you might pressure you to have children if you are a woman, but only if you are going to have them in a 'normal' way. Any deviance from the majority seriously skews things in the other direction. Will my family truly accept my motherhood if it's in the company of another mother? I guess it's nice to be relieved of the pressure many women are describing here, especially since I'm about to hit 30, but it still stings.

I know this is an old post,

I know this is an old post, but I just had to respond. I am Black, and I am often asked why I don't have children. I am asked this questions by other Black women, so I honestly never viewed it as a "privileged white woman" problem. I have been called selfish, and I have been told more times than I can count that I will change my mind eventually or that I could always adopt (as if I'm not already aware of the various options and alternatives for becoming a parent). I've known women who could barely make ends meet, working low wage jobs, who had the nerve to call me selfish for not having kids. But if I called them selfish for having children when they already knew they were broke as hell and living hand to mouth, then I would be called elitist and stuck up, or they would claim that I think I'm better than them. The double standards are ridiculous.

I am not white, and I certainly don't consider myself to be privileged, but I can readily identify with many of the situations that have been discussed here, so I think the issue may be more universal than you realize. Count yourself fortunate that you haven't had to deal with this ignorance. I also rather like that some women have taken to positively identifying as "child free." I simply view it as a way of taking something that many people view as a negative and turning it into a positive. I am happily child free by choice, and I like knowing that there are other like-minded women out there. It's not about being a saint, it's about taking ownership and pride in one's personal life choice, even though it goes against what most of society thinks a woman should do. I have known since I was a young girl that I had no desire to be anybody's wife or mother. But I was constantly told that I would eventually change my mind. I always found it funny that when I was growing up nobody ever told a girl (no matter how young) that she would change her mind if her goal was to grow up to be a wife and mother. Even now that I'm in my 40s I still have people telling me that I will change my mind. I'm a grown ass woman, looking forward to menopause at this stage, and people are still telling me that I just might decide to put my uterus to use after all. It's crazy! For some of us, being child free is just as important as being a mother is for those who choose to have children. If they can proudly identify as being a mom, then I don't see why it should be considered "hand wringing" when we get sick of being asked about not having children and decide to proudly identify as being child free.

You do not need to have a

You do not need to have a child to "find yourself". That's expecting someone else to fulfill you. I wanted (and have) one child and even though she's 30, I STILL get a lot of flack for only having one child. As if having another one that I didn't want and couldn't afford would make everything right in the world.

This might sound super-corny,

This might sound super-corny, but I had an art teacher in college who said something very simple that really resonated with me. She said, "I'm an artist first, even before I'm a mother, because I was an artist before I was ever a mother. That's not to say I don't love my child, but it means that I haven't always been a mother. I've always been an artist." It was good for me, who'd had so many issues with societal views of womanhood and motherhood, to hear because it validated the idea that a woman's parental status is not the whole of her identity, but rather a facet of it. The idea that all other, and therefore extraneous, aspects of a woman's identity fall away once she bears a child is ludicrous, as is the idea that opting out of motherhood will somehow stagnate her in perpetual childhood.

beautiful sentiment

Thanks for sharing your teacher's thoughts, Owl - they exactly encapsulate the deep ambivalence I have about self-identifying as a "Mother." (I use scare quotes to mark a bit of a difference between being a woman who has reproduced and the cultural trope of the all-sacrificing saintly figure of infinite patience we're somehow supposed to morph into immediately after the birth.)

I love my daughter deeply, but I was me before I had her, and I remain the same person, only with extra responsibilities.

Loved this comment and just

Loved this comment and just had to add that last year I saw a very famous artist give a presentation. She is well out of her child bearing years now but somehow the issue of having kids came up in a Q&A. And she actually apologized to her audience for never having them!! It wasn't enough that she has reinvented part of my industry with her very very recognizable work and her name is still top of mind amongst all my colleagues. I seriously doubt I'd ever see a man in her position either have that question raised during a speech celebrating his work. Or find himself apologizing for not having children to an entire 500 person audience.

In that same vein, I have had several bosses make comments about motherhood to me constantly. It makes me extremely uncomfortable, mostly bc my freelance lifestyle doesn't afford me the same stability. And I've never wanted to raise kids when I'm worried about my next paycheck.

not a main point but what?

The main topic is being deftly addressed in other comments, so I just wanted to ask about this bit of the post that made me feel a little weird:

<i>Take recent comments by actress Mena Suvari (perhaps best known for playing the sexpot teenager in American Beauty).</i>

Is there a rhetorical intent to saying "sexpot teenager"" in so many words? Am I just being too sensitive to possible judgemental teen sex stuff? I hope so! Just had a bit of a shiver when I read it so I wanted to check.


Childfree people are considered selfish because they are living as adults, but without the burden of childhood. Many people equate having lots of responsibilities with being an official, real Adult with a capital "a". In a nutshell, if you're not a parent, then you're only living the "fun" parts of adulthood while dodging the stressful parts; you're basically a child in their eyes.
However, plenty of things in adulthood already burden people with responsibilities; career, aging/sick parents or other relatives, community issues, etc. You could be the busiest, most stressed out, childfree person on Earth, but still considered immature or strange for not having kids.

Woops, I meant to say

Woops, I meant to say "without the burden of child rearing" not childhood.

'burden' of child-rearing

I think there's a whole lot of childfree rhetoric that takes that 'burden' and runs with it. Y'know, the 'she's just jealous because she's stuck at home with kids and not living my awesome life' thing. And I've had more than one friend say that they don't want kids because they are too 'selfish to breed and look after kids'. So I think there's been a fair bit of internalising the selfishness trope and perpetuating it.

But like any patriarchal pedestal, being on it isn't safe either.

The comments after this blog

The comments after this blog post are excellent. The very first posted comment took the words right outta my mouth. I intended to be child-free for many reasons, and I never felt selfish, rather I thought that knowing myself better than anyone else I was making a responsible choice. I do have children now, though as I unexpectedly became pregnant and was surprised to discover that I was more open to the idea of being a mom than I ever thought. Giving up being child free was difficult actually for someone who never felt that maternal pang some women seem born with, but I don't regret it as would be evidenced by the fact that I chose to have more than one child. I have to say, I do think having a child is selfish. It's a WANT not a NEED. And anytime I get the urge to expand the family again I remind myself of that distinction. Once you choose to expand past the first child I think it becomes more about wanting to recapture the experiences your growing child is leaving behind. All women deserve respect despite their choices. A child free woman is not defined by her career and neither is a mother defined by the children she chooses to raise.

Why read so much into it?

Hi I'm a guy. I'm married to a great woman who is very adamant that she does not want children. I tend to agree, since I can never imagine being responsible for a child considering I can barely keep MY life together. We both have watched over the past five years while nearly every married couple we know has had kids, and decided it is incredibly selfish to have children. It is vanity, it is "keeping up with the Jonses", it is an attempt to save failing marriages. Before anyone gets angry, I'm of course not saying every family that has children is this way, but we certainly have seen it: couples who can barely support themselves have children, even though they financially can't support them. I've seen couples get pregnant months after their friends, in order to keep up with their friends. And I've seen at least one couple on the brink of divorce decide to have another child.
My point is it is often these selfish people that accuse others of being selfish out of what? Regret? Anger over childless couples' abundant time and money?
We're big travelers, we take 4 or 5 trips a year, domestic and internationally. I actually had one mother say "It's not fair" to me when I told her how we were going out of the country yet again. I was not bragging; she had asked what we were up to. Yet this was her honest, kneejerk reaction. I didn't know how to react, so I just said "Oh uh, sorry." She apologized and said she was just tired and frustrated.
While I'm on this topic, I also hate that smug, superior knowing that a parent has when telling us "You'll change your minds, just see... " (even by people younger than me!!) I don't tell you how you are making big mistakes with your life or career, don't tell me I am regarding children.
I'll conclude by saying that we have friends who have never uttered a word about this sort of thing, and are very respectful regarding our decisions.

I agree with everything you

I agree with everything you said since I've seen or experienced just about everything you mentioned. At one point I even had a boyfriend who was one of the people who kept telling me I'd change my mind about being child-free. I've seen the "keeping up" scenario, I've seen the jealousy too. I decided a long time ago, if the only thing a friend has to share with me is advice on how to live my life...well then that's the sort of companionship I don't need. A rule of thumb that I also try to hold to when I get together with others. The only lifestyle I have to figure out how to live is my own :) To each his own / Live and let live.

Not wanting a child is not the issue, it's overparenting

I'm not sure if it's so much about not wanting a child, it's just that parenting has turned into this hardcore thing. Like you need to be careful of what you say infront of a child, of who they spend time with, of what school they go to, that they need good grades, and so on. And then when they turn 18 they're supposed to be adults, but then they're also supposed to go off to college, which is the leading cause of postponing adulthood, in my opinion.

So you're putting all this time and energy into raising this child that's supposed to survive in our society, like they need to be smart and own a business, pretty much. Then next thing you know you're in your 40s, maybe 50s, and you realize your child is STILL not an adult. They might have graduated but they don't have a job yet, so they rely on you for rent money, food money, all sort of money. And when this child notices all the trouble your going through to raise them, they're like, "screw that! I'm NEVER having kids!" ~ and I think this is the position that a lot of people in our generation are in.

So I don't think there's anything wrong with being selfish on this matter, raising kids is just not the same as it used to be. I remember reading something about a specific native american tribe, how they gave their children freedom, they didn't really supervise them. And that was their way to making the child find its own path on its own, and become independent at an earlier age. So from their perspective, I'm sure it wasn't a burden to have kids, but rather a pleasure. But they also were more spiritually advanced, and were having kids for the right reasons, and that is to bring life on this earth. Not to get unconditional love, or somebody to inherit your business.

But in the end I personally do think children are an important part of our lives, it just sucks that it's really difficult to have one. I have a friend who's mom was part of the feminist movement in the 60s, and she was the only one that got married and had a kid. Her friends didn't demand that, and they wanted to focus on themselves, and their publications. Now they're in their 50s, and whenever they all get together, and her mom complains about something, they're all like "but you got a daughter... we don't. We would love to have at least 1 child now that we're older".

I agree

This is a great post. I'm a 35 year old man with no children and intend to keep it that way. It's true that I have it easier than my female counterparts, but there is still that element of "selfishness" floating around. There has been some new developments being spoken about recently about how having children is not just about choice but now is seen as a degree of success, meaning "you are successful if you can have children because these days a lot of people cannot afford to have children." So not only are you selfish for not having children, but now you're a loser.

26 years old, married only a year, already feeling pressured

I really don't love the pressure to have children. I would like the have an offspring or two, eventually, but right now is really not the right time for me. When I first told my co-workers at my last job that I'd gotten married (my husband and I eloped, and only told our close family beforehand), the first thing one of the ladies asked me is, "Well, when are you guys going to have kids?" I froze up for a second, unable to compute that the first thing people think is "Married = needs to have kids."

Now, I've been married just over a year. When I went to the doctor to get a pap smear so I could get a refill of birth control, one of the questions the nurse practitioner asked was "When are you planning on having children?" She had the assumption that because I'm married, I must be planning on having children (I mean, I know birth control is euphamistically referred to as "family planning," but sometimes that means you aren't planning on having a family beyond yourself and your mate).

Thankfully, my husband isn't in a hurry to have kids right now; he and I both feel that we should wait until we've been able to enjoy being married and spend a few years together before bringing another person into our lives (and since he's in the Navy, his deployments mean that in the year we've been married, we've only spent about 4 months together).


I would like to congratulate this community on a sane, sane, sensible conversation. I always cringe when I see "41 comments" on a post (on any site), fearing a flame war and/or pissing match. Considering the screaming controversy around some other recent posts (about things one would think less important than bringing a human being into the world or not) I am so pleased with this sanity.

I am a 31 year old artist who has *never* even conceived of wanting children (pun intended?). Over the years I have come to the point where I could think about saying yes to children (among many other life options), look at that option in a calm way, and I have found that my answer is still actually no. Some of my friends near my own age are parents or soon-to-be parents, of those not *yet* parents most say that they would want a child "one day." But the lovely thing is that so many of my "mid-career" friends (art-world speak for middle-aged or older) have never had children, never want to have children, had children a long time ago who are now adults and not the center of their lives or some other permutation. Spending time with professional artists my parents' age with no children (or adult children) who are living their careers on a path so similar to mine is very mind opening. I have decided in a much clearer way these days that my art is my child, my children. All of the time and money and life-change and commitment that would go towards a lifetime of caring for a child (that I would never actually want) is what I have always and will always put toward my art and my life partner and my friendships and my family. And my self. w00t to selfishness!

Hooray for lovely parents (like so many I know) that have raised awesome children to make a more awesome world (in the original meaning of the word). I have been and intend to continue making art to do the same.

It's very obvious to me that

It's very obvious to me that no matter what the choice to have children or not should ALWAYS be a selfish one. I have a really bad taste in my mouth for childfree communities for dehumanizing and insulting parents ("breeders"?! Calling THEM selfish?!). In reality the best way to make the child-rearing decision is to decide what YOU want. If you don't want kids, don't have them! If you adore children and want some of your own, follow that path. We're extraordinarily lucky to be freely allowed to make that choice, and I don't think anyone should be shamed for making an informed and properly selfish decision.

No kidding...

Hmmm. This is pretty much a question of fate. Not a department that I can answer in, seeing to the fact that I'm not Fate as Fate wants things to be, so I'm sorry, I can't answer this question, as most of us can actually not; you know, things like: She used birth control pills, a condom each time, and an overnight pill to give herself an abortion when she found out, but Jillian's doing just fine now at Berkley in getting her Medical degree. Getting straight A's, I hear.

This is a terrific

This is a terrific discussion! I am a 45 year old woman and have never ever wanted to have children. I'm just not into the compromise that comes with that and I'd rather be honest with myself and not bring a child into the world just because of societal pressures. I'm also very lucky to have two amazing nephews and a soon to be arriving niece - I love them to pieces. It's almost as if I have the best of both worlds!


I sometimes feel selfish for not having children, because I know that my parents will never have grandchildren. They have stopped trying to change my mind, but I can tell that it saddens them. The thing is, I have to do what is right for me. Maybe some day I will change my mind, but the truth is, time is running out, and I still feel like it is too much of a responsibility. If I do change my mind someday, and am not able to conceive, hopefully I can adopt. I agree that family is not about blood, but about love.

Stand firm in your own feet.

Whatever you choose to do for your life is just that - a decision for your life. It amazes me that people think it's negative to be selfish. You have to start by being selfish - into ones self - in order to know how to love your self. Which would teach any children you might choose to have and rear to know and love their self.

There are some great comments to this post. The theme that is most impressive to me is that most of us are saying the same thing - live and let live. Having or not having children is a TOTALLY PERSONAL decision.

In my twenties, I had no desire for children. I was engulfed in living my life, my way. Now, in my thirties my mind is changing, I want children. However, I refuse to have them unless I find a partner to parent with me. My issue is if we create a child together, we raise that child together.

I come from a ginormous family on all sides and there is no worry of the lineage being cut short anywhere. If I don't have my own biological children there will be children around as there have been always. I generally let my suitors know they need to be able to be happy with 0-4 as a possibility. We will see how life progresses with time.

Someone spoke on fate which I believe plays a part - beyond our control - in our destiny. And someone else spoke on being a responsible parent if you choose to become a parent - if you are going to do it give it your full 100%. And if not, don't be pressured by other people's expectations. What you choose has to be for YOU.

***uh, and Africa was absolutely affected by the Industrial Revolution, it only coincided with the height of the Trans - Atlantic slave trade - circa 18th century - where do you think they got all that free labor? Africa was on the verge of their own revolution at this time in history - that revolution has still yet to occur, I would say that's an affect.***

Protecting the UNBORN from

Protecting the UNBORN from one's own selfishness is about as unselfish as one can get.

I don't want to have kids

I don't want to have kids until after I get my doctorate, and I only want to adopt. Why? Because I don't want to interrupt school with a baby, and I don't want to interrupt work with a pregnancy. (There are other reasons I want to adopt too, of course; I mentioned them above). (My mom had extremely difficult pregnancies and a couple of miscarriages, and couldn't even carry my sister full term; she was 9.5 weeks early. I don't want to risk anything like that). For some reason, this makes me a selfish un-woman in some people's eyes.... yet my fiance's stance that he wants to get settled in his career first, doesn't want to interrupt his normal hunting/fishing schedules, and doesn't want to have the expense of a kid is somehow perfectly acceptable to those same people.

on being the "adult"

Many great comments here, thanks for the article and for everyone sharing their thoughts. As a married woman I can identify with the constant barrage of questions RE: having children. My husband and I are on the same page about this and do not have any interest in having children. I've never wanted children as the oldest of a large family, I experienced quite a bit of child-rearing/child-care first-hand and have never wanted children of my own.

Mid-30's, we're entering a phase of our lives where many of our friends and family are having babies and we are engaged in the process, not dismissed of their life choices, up for baby-sitting, etc. but I find myself in a place where I feel I almost have to over compensate to prove I am not a "baby-hater" or some sort of bitter "broken" woman because of my own lack of interest in children of my own. My husband and I joke between just ourselves about "baby-havers" but are very careful not to fall into the dismissive open/public negative comment territory (commenting loudly "Reason #134 not to have kids" when a baby cries in a restaurant sort of thing) because I don't think I have the right to judge other people's choices. The frustrating thing is, as many of you have already commented, society seems fine with openly judging us as a child-free couple. As we age out of the "so when is it your turn" comments, the attitude is turning more sour and confrontational and I find it astonishing! It's hard not to take it personally. So, this topic has been on my mind in the past year. Four things I wanted to mention:

• The older I get, I'm 35 now, the more urgent the peanut gallery commentary is. I actually started to doubt myself a little this past year, while waiting for the first baby of my family/siblings to be born. I was really wondering if once I saw and held my niece I really suddenly feel the urge? Would I suddenly get this female "feeling" that I seem to lack that will make me want to have babies? So strong is the social expectation, i started to really believe I just wasn't paying enough attention to myself and what my body wants/needs and that's why I don't have this urge. But as soon as I held my niece, saw her with her mother and my brother, I was filled with love but NO URGE to have babies and it was so liberating! Yes, I do know myself and NO i don't need a baby to be a real woman.

• There is an advertising side to this that I think is a bigger part of the social expectation than we really admit. After attending so many baby showers and watching expectant mothers obsess over which products to buy to insure good parenting, it struck me.... wow.... what better way to get us Americans to BUY MORE STUFF than to convince us to MAKE MORE PEOPLE who will ... NEED MORE STUFF! And what better way to guilt someone into purchasing things they don't really need or successfully "up-sell" than to create a "parent" and a list of things parents are suppose to do/buy. The round of new Apple Iphone ads with video chat were a great example of that. Almost every convo featured in the ads were between parents or between parents and children. I kept thinking... well, I guess they can sell 3 or 4 phones to parents and only one to me, so why not sell to parents? Meantime, they enforce the feeling that a child-free person is not as important (in this case as an consumer). And what's more important than a consumer in America?

• Travel/life experience comment made by others here is SO true. My husband and I travel often, it is important to us and we also feel strongly that the experiences and fresh eyes you gain from over-seas travel are a huge part of who we are and how we see and understand the world. We use to evangelize to that effect but have stopped talking to friends and family publicly about our trips because we get such negative, defensive reactions. It was shocking at first and it makes me really sad that I can't share these memories or recommend trips to many people in my circle of friends.

• This past year, my husband and I made the decision after years together and after much discussion and debate, that he would get a vasectomy. We both agreed that I had been on the pill too long and we both feel confidant in our choice to be childfree. The reaction even from my personal doctor shocked me. She seemed surprised and amazed that I might want my husband to do that and that he would agree! I couldn't believe the amount of pressure and judgement I felt from the few friends I discussed it with before we went forward and from my own doctor. After years of being the one who made the majority of the birth control decisions and ingesting chemicals, many people still seem to think it was just asking too much for my husband to get this simple procedure. And the fact that we were permanently closing the door on the option of children was SHOCKING! to so many of my friends, I was appalled. It was as if they'd never listened (or believed) a word I'd said on the subject before. My husband and I agreed to go forward with the surgery and he is very happy with the results, we both are. We haven't doubted our choice for one minute. But, we made the choice not to talk about this with any of our friends and family, so very few people know our childfree state is, basically, guaranteed. Now, when people ask us about children and tell us "Oh, you'll see, you'll change your mind." I just smile and change the subject. It's been a big lesson in boundaries, for sure.

In short, I feel we have to edit ourselves and our lives to accommodate and not challenge those who have made the choice to have children, while at the same time, they make no effort to edit themselves and feel free to judge and debate our "lifestyle" choices. We have to make the mature decision to ignore these comments and not bite back. Sometimes being the "adult" in a situation like that is pretty ironic, isn't it?

The creation of more

The creation of more consumers aspect to your comment was really eye-opening. Thanks for sharing.

The criticism never stops

The critical attitude toward women who don't have children never subsides. When I was a young woman, I got the "you'll change your mind" routine regularly, along with "oh, you don't mean that!" and "that's so sad." Now that I am past my childbearing years, it goes like this:
"You didn't want any children? None at all?"
"No. I really didn't ever want children."
"Well, but ... you must have wanted at least one."
"No. None."
"But it was a very difficult decision."
"No. It wasn't. I always knew I didn't want to have kids."
"And yet ... sometimes ... surely ..."
"No. No time."
"But I suppose now you wish you had."
"No. I don't."
"But you feel a strange emptiness in life."
and on and on and on. It really is rediculous. Even women whose family life is unhappy and whose children have been little nightmares to raise, will go on and on at me. I think one reason for this attitude is this: if it is possible for even one woman not to want children, it is possible that my mother didn't want me. I really think that is hiding in background of some of this persistent baby machine requirement.

what is selfish?

Ever since I was young I believed that if I were ever going to become a parent it would only be through adoption, because I always felt that it was actually quite selfish to bring new children into a world where there are already so many children lacking homes and loving parents.

To Each Their Own

Great article, and I agree. Being childlfree is the best thing that's happened to me. I look at mothers I have grown up with and their lives are miserable. I'm childless by choice, some of them got knocked up and had no choice. But life goes on. There's nothing selfish about being childfree. I think a lot of society crucify women for it because anytime we are happy, making our own choices and being independent, men in power feel threatened. It's about thinking about what we want for our own individual lives. I prefer to spend my time volunteering, immersing myself in the lives of others and being surrounded by adults. I never liked kids much, and even if I see a really cute one the whole "Oh, he's adorable" passes awfully quickly. Life isn't cheap. Getting up every day and working to pay the bills is reality. Happy suburban families on TV is NOT reality. Your life doesn't necessarily turn out like that, and for many of us who weren't born rich--life is a struggle and why would we want to bring kids into it? So they can struggle with us and live hard lives just so we can be comforted? THAT is selfish. Yes, tons and tons of women procreate....sometimes without a thought to it, but for those women who think and decide NO, I don't want to spend my life looking after a bunch of time and money-sucking kids, we shouldn't be crucified. We should be celebrated.
Please check out my child free by choice blog as I try to explore issues surrounding the Childfree by Choice debate.

a childless adopted only child's POV

If it’s not selfish to have children, why do people always insist on having their own? Why not adopt?

I’m a middle-aged adopted only child who chooses not to have children; if I ever do, I will adopt as well. It always seemed to me that NOT ALL but most people become more hateful when they become parents. They'll do anything for their children at your expense. They're miserable, overworked and overstressed. And they rub it in your face when you don’t have any; they want you to be miserable, too (maybe you're miserable for other reasons, such as you and you alone being a caregiver to elderly parents). You always get asked if you have kids as if that is all that matters in life. Whether you’re standing in line at the post office or sitting in a theater, you’ll hear someone behind you say, “I didn’t become a human being until I had children.”

The library at which I volunteer employs a loudmouth much like my late father who seems to want to ‘get at me’ for some reason, asking me if I am single, showing me pictures of his grandchildren as if to rub my childlessness in my face. He's a nice man, but he shouts his politics all day for patrons to hear, as if his opinion is all that matters.

Well, let me tell you something, if I did have kids, I wouldn’t have time to do volunteer work at my local library and animal shelter, for starters!

"Selfish": the subtext is "only if you are having sex"

I have never heard anyone describe Mother Teresa -- who was childless -- as selfish for not having children. Oh, wait, silly me. One is only selfish if they are having sex and dodging the bullet.

The old "selfish" chestnut is yet another jibe that takes a swipe at women -- let's face it, it is usually women who cop this palaver -- who dare to behave sexually independantly.

My two cents.

I think that no matter what side of the fence you're on with this topic, someone will call you selfish. I'm on my early 20's and don't have children, nor do I want children. I've never wanted children. I remember when a member of my family heard that, they gasp like I had just declared that I was a Satanist and immediately told my Mother. It was almost like they thought they were tattling on me. 
I know I like to look at the world in an idealistic manor, but I think that all people and different and beautiful and if we were supposed to be exactly the same we would be. There isn't anything wrong with knowing what you want in life and going for it. I certainly DON'T look down on my friends who are Mommy's and Daddy's, I don't think I'm better off than them. I think we just want different things out of life. I'm not a child/baby hater either, I don't understand why people assume that because I don't plan on having any of my own, I must loath anyone under 18 years old. 
I think that there are right reasons to reproduce and wrong reasons. I don't think it's fair to the child to bring them into the world because you want to complete something within yourself. I'm not saying that your children can't complete you like people say, but I think that you should be comfortable with yourself and who you are. That's something you have to do for yourself and it's unfair to expect anyone, let alone a child, to do. I Also think it's wrong to have a child as a ploy to keep a lover from leaving. I really think you should have children because you WANT children and you're ready to enter that chapter of your life, no some other ulterior motive. When you have a child, I think you're making a promise that, no matter what, this new life you've brought into the world's needs and well being comes before everything else, including your own. You have to be willing to give up your life as you know it because caring for another being like that completely changes your life. I'm not saying that parents should be slaves in their own homes and locked away from the general public because they're not allowed to have anything of their own anymore, but I am saying that you cannot expect to have the exact same life you had before, and you need to be ready for that. 
It really bothers me who taboo it is to be a woman and not want to have kids. Honestly, when most people discover that I don't want children, it's met with a negative response. Normally people will tell me that I'll change my mind, "I thought the same way when I was your age!" or I haven't met the right guy yet, that'll I'll grow out of it. Some people will ask me if I hate children, assuming that I do. Some people will ask me to explain myself and try to talk me into. It surprises me the amount of people who will call me selfish or say they "feel sorry for me, that'll I'll always have a void in my life." They'll ask if I had a bad childhood or if it's because I don't want to share the attention with a child. I can count on one hand the people who just say ok and go on with the conversation. 
If you want children, that's great, go for it. If not, that's equally as great. I don't think that either side is being selfish. I do think that we should all stop judging each other and just go on about our lives. 

Women without children who wanted children

Not much is said about women who have lost a child and are now without children. As a totally unjudgmental person on whether or not women have children, the debate doesn't do people like me much good. It is a great loss for me but social norms take me to conversations either about children or justifications on not having them. A google search will tell you a child lost and then a person without children is perhaps in some sort of limbo in this whole debate.

Sleeping in

I've discussed the issue of children with my lifetime boyfriend "sleep" and we have agreed that if kids came into the picture, we couldn't carry on our torrid affair


I am trying to cite this article in an academic paper- could you tell me which issue this was published in? and what pages #'s?


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They call you selfish because they hate themselves and their li

I think it's as simple as this: most people are bad parents, and most kids are crappy kids. These people are too impulsive to control their passions and too devoid of other interests to do anything but have unprotected sex. When they find out what a crappy life parenting really is, and what terrible parents they make, they seek to rationalize and glorify what really is a vice as a virtue. They get defensive when people don't want to deal with their screaming, smelly piglets. Their self-righteousness and smugness is just a projection of their desire to live another life, where they aren't broke, lacking in personality, and suffering indentured servitude to a tyrant with an IQ of 30.

Breeding is what's selfish

To riff on what some posters here have said, the last taboo is to ask people why they choose to procreate.

Here are some typical answers. Now you tell me which is the more selfish act.

They want children because:

1) The child will carry on the family name
2) The child will bear the physical resemblance of the parent (be a "mini me")
3) The child will carry out the unfulfilled dreams of the parent
4) The child will reflect well on the parent (if they achieve, etc)
5) Especially in developing countries - the child will help run the household or farm
6) The parent wants someone who will look up to them
7) The child will be expected to unquestioningly obey/imitate the parent (power trip)
8) The child will take care of the parents in old age
9) The parent wants to lavish love upon his/her own flesh and blood in a way that s/he does not do with others
10) The parent wants social admiration for having produced children


There aren't many parents talking here, but i feel called to reply to this because it is rude and silly. I have a 5 year old and a 30 week old fetus kicking in my belly. Parenting is by far the hardest thing I have ever done, and I hold several degrees--I have reached most of the (non parenting) goals I have set for myself. Parenting is far far harder, more grueling, more exhausting than even my wildest imagination would have led me to believe. Going to the grocery store alone is one of my most exciting things, so freeing. I am not complaining! I chose this life and I am ok with it. I am grateful!

But I am absolutely the most unselfish b**** you have ever EVER come in contact with. I do actually take care of other people 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and I get very little help. I don't have to wonder which person is unselfish. I know for sure. I give it all away. And it's hard.

As a mom I can tell you that I wanted to have a child, because I wanted to cultivate a warm, creative, loving family environment and to learn and grow alongside my family. I just always saw my life like that. I knew with my heart, and didn't need some reason from a numbered list. And If I didn't want kids I would certainly not have even married. I would have continued traveling and going to school and traveling some more. That life was also pretty awesome.

Please don't repeat this Breeders are Selfish rhetoric. It is cruel and unseeing nonsense, demonstrating an unwillingness to acknowledge the true and heartfelt efforts that so many of your sisters (and your own mother!) have chosen to undertake as some of their life's most important work. Someone brought you into the world. It happens to be a skill unique to women, so please have the good sense to respect that choice. They are working hard and facing the monster of their own turbulent inner voice, every day as they do it right and then do it wrong. This is the truth--that is why parenting is hard.

If you don't feel like doing that work, just don't. It's nobody's business but yours if you procreate, and tell that to your mothers in law. You are obviously innately allowed to be any damn thing you want. If you do anything less you will be offending the Great Ones.

But in the meantime please have the maturity to be respectful of people who make different choices than you. Obviously.

Not Being Extinct is Awful. Just Awful.

This doesn't contain any quotes that truly fit what it claims is constantly being said about childfree women. If anything, I've always read that "breeders" are selfish. Granted, I've seen this re-defined as bad parents rather than simply parents in general. But since most of those criticisms come from people who do not have kids and don't seem to understand they aren't trained like parrots, guess who gets labeled as bad parents? Parents in general. Do a search for "breeders are selfish," and I kid you not, one of the first results contains a guy complaining that a baby farted in front of him.

To be fair though, the author of that one backs up his own parenting experiences...with his two cats. Oh, and then there's all those fun articles where it lists all of the amazing people who never had children, and casually forgets to mention that most (and I'm going out on a limb and saying "all") of them had parents.

Childless Women are Unhealthy, Unfulfilled "Wretches"

Just had a falling out with a friend of over 20 years when he applied the "childless" wretch stereotype to me. It started after I wrote an email to let him know about some health problems I was having. I had to cancel a visit.

In his reply he laments my childless, "lonely" state. I never mentioned anything about being lonely or childless in my email to him -- but to him this is the cause of my health issues. His conclusion is that I'm having health problems because I need a child as well as a husband (or at least a boyfriend). It gets better. After this, he generously offers his time and sperm to "help me out" (as he says) with this problem. He wants to surrogate-father a child for me. He already talked it over with his current wife. I have never had a relationship with this man. I've never even mentioned the subject to him. Nor would I. It existed solely in his imagination. His charming email concludes with the assurance that he has only love and concern" for me.

I didn't know whether to laugh or puke and the combination of these two urges was very unpleasant.

Choosing career over having a

Choosing career over having a child IS NOT selfish, what selfish is if you've already got one and you choose career over your kid. I personally think having a kid can be a burden for those who dont want to have one. It's better be childless than being a terrible parent.
I actually think women can give so much to this world but instead of letting them to do that, society wants them breed their own child each of their own, that kind of thinking is so conservative I honestly surprised its not died out in 1800s

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