Choosing to Have Children is Selfish -- But That's Okay

baby toesHow much did you think about not having children before you became a parent? A philosophy professor asks that question today in the New York Times. Christine Overall wonders why having children is the default option -- but if a couple decides not to have children they have to explain themselves.

In fact, people are still expected to provide reasons not to have children, but no reasons are required to have them. It's assumed that if individuals do not have children it is because they are infertile, too selfish or have just not gotten around to it.

Maybe, if anything, choosing to have children is the selfish option -- especially if you're not considering the impact your children will have on the rest of the world. I think Overall has a point.



Parenthood is known as an unselfish practice. Once you become a parent you are forced to sacrifice your time, energy, and money. No doubt about it. But why do we have children in the first place?

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I think a lot of us have kids just because... well... we want to. It's something we want to experience. We're enchanted by babies. We want to see what kind of kids we'll make as a couple. We think it sounds fun, like an adventure. And like it or not, these are selfish reasons.

When I was thinking about having a child I actually did sit with the idea of not being a parent. What would that be like? Would I be happy? Does the world really need another kid around? Especially one with my genes? IT DOESN'T -- And I'm not saying that to be self-effacing. There just aren't very many of us so marvelous that the world demands a duplicate or two or three. Most of us are just okay human beings.

I'm serious about that. Every time I hear someone say they're hoping to make the world a better place by "raising a child the right way" I want to throw my head back and howl. Oh the arrogance!

I think we have kids for selfish reasons -- but I think that's okay. A selfish gesture leads to a lifetime of unselfishness. We learn a lot of tough lessons the hard way. We try to leave the world a better place in spite of our "breeding." But before starting a family I still think it's a good idea to stop and think about what you're about to unleash upon the rest of humanity. Because when we have kids we really do change the world -- and in a way that's not entirely under our control.

Those of you who are parents, did you contemplate the idea of not having kids before you finally decided to have them?


Image via sabianmaggy/Flickr


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