When I was a teenager, I told my mother I didn’t think I wanted to have kids. I’m not sure what the context was, but the response was something along the lines of my reasoning being “selfish.” Flash forward over a decade later and I’m having a conversation with a coworker and within a fifteen minute interval she went from asking me whether or not I wanted to have children, to declaring I couldn’t have them anyway because I was selfish. This declaration as a result of me saying that I was going to go home and go to sleep following an eight hour overnight shift.
I’ve heard people say this for decades and it always sort of rolled off my brain. I realize now that I came to understand it as an accepted truth, because so, so, many people have made similar utterances. Perhaps it’s because I’m older now, or because I’m more tuned into the deeper meaning behind “harmless” words, or perhaps this phrase just happened upon my sleep addled brain at just the right frequency for me to finally take notice of it.
Did I miss a meeting somewhere that says I am obligated to give life just because I can? I could call any number of individuals, my coworker included, selfish for not selling their worldly possessions and donating the proceeds to the homeless because they can and it’s selfless. Or for not permanently moving to an impoverished nation and integrating with the community to improve living conditions because they can and it’s selfless.
Wouldn’t it be more selfish to raise children knowing that in my heart there will always be a piece of me that didn’t want them? Or to have them knowing full well my financial situation is not adequate to fully provide for their needs? Don’t get me wrong, I love kids. I am planning on temporarily kidnapping a few of my friends’ babies and basking in their adorable splendor for a few hours as I type this. But they can rest easy knowing they most definitely will be receiving them back.
I work for a non-profit organization; I’ve given money to friends and family in need; taken care of sick relatives; and volunteered for various charity organizations. So what if I spend hours watching Netflix in my comfy bed. So what if I go out unexpectedly because of a last minute invite. These actions are within the parameters of my life choices. They are facts of my existence not demonstrative of ambiguous phantom parenting abilities or lack thereof. I’m not perfect, but I am no more selfish than any other human being on the planet.
Children provide a lot of things: joy, love, heart break, wonder, humor, excitement. The one thing they don’t do is martyr you to the purposefully childless. Just because you have children doesn’t make you more or less giving, or better than the childless. I guarantee if kids came with a sleep all through the night option, every parent on the planet would enable it, but they don’t. So parents have to sacrifice and work and selflessly love their children because those are the facts of their life, that is the nature of their existence as it stands. Doesn’t mean I’m unsympathetic to your lack of sleep, financial struggles, or behavior problems. We both made choices, we both conduct our lives accordingly.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna stay up all night in my underwear, eating Pop-Tarts and wake up at 2pm. Maybe 4pm if the mood feels right.