Deciding not to have children far from selfish

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Calling childless couples 'selfish' puts moral judgment in doubt

Houston: A good friend is currently struggling with the decision whether to have children. She has heard from many, many people that not having children is "selfish" — do you have any idea what they mean? Selfish by not repopulating the species? Selfish by not sharing her love with a child? I personally see HAVING a child as a potentially selfish thing (that's selfless at the same time, if you do it right) in that YOUR desire to have a child is what puts them on this earth. Not trying to rile anyone up, just honestly curious.

Carolyn: Not this again.

Deciding not to have children because — let's give the worst case — you're too selfish to make the necessary sacrifices for them is, in fact, a selfless act. SelfLESS, in case anyone missed that. It's an act of decency to your children-not-to-be.

I feel strongly enough about this that I would question the judgment and values of the person who spewed that "selfish" rot, not just on this issue but on anything of any moral weight.

CFBC: As someone who is child-free by choice, I can tell you that people who make that choice will probably have to put up with very intrusive and rude questions and comments. We got married under the assumption we would want children eventually. As we got older, we realized having children just wasn't our thing. No particular reason. People still speculate about our marriage and the "real" reason we don't have children. Snarky and rude responses seemed to shut people up temporarily. The fact that we had to tell relatives he got a vasectomy (a private matter, in my opinion) in order to get them to leave us alone is sad.

Carolyn: I'm printing this as a public service announcement, so that the people who do apply this kind of pressure will have a chance to see the error of their ways. For those who do like to weigh in on someone's fertility choices, a suggestion: Next time you feel the urge to comment, bite down on something instead. A mini-quiche works nicely, or a stick.

Anonymous: I overheard my partner's mother explaining to someone, "My son's wife doesn't want to have kids so they're not having any."

Is it just me, or does this sound like blame-laying? (And no, we're not married, but after six years of cohabitation, she started calling me his wife.)

Carolyn: That is blame-laying to my eyes, yes. However, going out of your way to react to it would complete the transaction between two people spoiling for a fight.

Be the bigger person. I'm not suggesting you do that by ignoring the implications of her words. I just think you need to be aware of her distress, as well as her inability to deal with it in a forthright way, and use that as incentive to be as forthright as possible with your "husband" on the issues of his mother and of your not having kids. The better you and he deal with these two things, the less able his mother will be to sow the seeds of discord into your relationship

Deciding not to have children far from selfish 10/29/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 30, 2008 2:54pm]

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