[This is part 2. Click here to read part 1.]

Ah, yes.

The selfishness hook.

It works wonders, doesn’t it?

Especially on women.

I’ve coached hundreds of women, both at my retreats and in my on-line seminar.  The fear of being “selfish” comes up often when a woman is making a choice that goes against the traditional cultural model, or if her desire is different from what everyone expects.

Nowhere is this more true than in the “to have kids or not” question.  This is a major trigger point.

Women have heard this one very strange outmoded story for too long: that women who choose a life without their own children are clearly selfish because they are choosing their own “freedom” or “ambition” over the delight of raising and serving other human beings.

I call it The Selfishness Myth.

And I have exactly six things to say about it:

1 – Not having children makes you not have children.  That’s all.

2 – Having children is not the Automatic Selfishness Release Lever.

A simple stroll around the aisles of any Super Wal-Mart will show you that.

3 – People who label others as selfish are most often not “creators.”  They are “getters.” 

(See my post Creating vs. Getting for more about this.)

Let’s face it.  Most people are not clear. Most people live life from a place of reaction, not Creativity.  Most people try to get things in life, and don’t know how to create things in life.

When these people meet someone who makes clear choices, or sets boundaries, or treats herself with care, or only says yes if it’s an Absolute Yes – then it looks like selfishness.

That’s because when you live in the Getting place, then your very survival necessitates a world where other people are unclear and don’t make healthy choices and aren’t sure what they want.

That’s because “getting” involves strategies and manipulation. Manipulation requires that other people don’t have any boundaries or clarity about their time, money, and choices.

So, the word “selfish” is convenient.  It allows the labeler not to have to look at her own feelings of powerlessness. Instead she just feeds her ego and puffs-up her world-view.

4 – There is no point in getting vitriolic about people who play the “selfish” card.

They are not mean or bad or evil. They are merely unconscious.  And they’ve never taken the bold steps to discover their own huge power to create their lives.  They are scared.

5 – Redefining Selfishness is necessary.

When you step begin to “Live Creative,” and you get clear about what you want and how to create it from the inside out, then you’ll often have to stop waiting for others to validate your choices. Instead you will have to Redefine Selfishness.

6 – If you want to Redefine Selfishness, try this definition on for size:

It is not selfish to choose to live how you want to live. It is selfish to expect other people to live how you want to live.

Given that definition, we all know many parents who – no matter how many offspring they produce – will never become unselfish.

And when it comes to parenting, the simple act of asking whether or not you want children might be a wise and bold and unselfish first move.

57 COMMENTS ADD A COMMENT
  • J. S.

    Great article. Selfishness is a separate entity from parenthood.

    Being selfish in regards to being childfree is particularly asinine, because being selfish is only a bad thing when it negatively impacts others; if there are no children, whom is being hurt?

    The childfree have more time, money and energy to help their families, friends and others who need help. Parents are often too bogged down with their immediate responsibilities to do much beyond their own home. The childfree have the ability to contribute in a multitude of ways.

    If the logic that having children makes you unselfish were true, selfishness would have been long eradicated in this world full of 7 billion people. I’m ready for this “argument” to die out already.

  • Diana

    wow… I am so overwhelmed with this decision of having or not having kids! I’m deliberately looking for other people who have made choices not to have them and see how their lives have turned out at the end. It’s silly but wish there were chronicles like that!;) although it looks like the conscious decision of not procreating by healthy women – is a relatively new trend. In-spite of the obvious benefits of living the “SELFISH” fulfilled, creative, happy lives, full of free time where we can travel the world, do exciting things and occasionally help others or even nurse abandoned children whenever we have that urge to serve – always on our own free willing terms… we still struggle with the NEED to know whether IT’S OK not to have kids of our own even if we don’t really feel the strong maternity instincts.
    This is hard because our nature designed us to “herd”, just like animals, we do what most of us are doing and any deviation from following the majority gives us an anxiety. Same goes for us judging others who act too differently from us. We can’t help it. We need to know that big decisions in our lives will be socially accepted. I understand it and I don’t like it… and yet I’m looking for others to give me an advise (which most likely will have absolutely no impact on my decision anyways, because advises I will get will be something like – “Do what you want”:))
    So… I guess the real decision here is to find strength to separate myself from the crowd and TO NOT CARE whether someone tells me “I’m selfish” or “what’s wrong with you?”. Then perhaps I will see more clearly if I want to have that kid who would have my eyes:)

  • Laura S

    Having children now during a period of global overpopulation is selfish and dangerous. If you don’t think you can control yourself then go get an operation as many people do now. Please do not burden the rest of the worlds living population just because you feel that you are entitled. People need to be made aware that there is a global food and energy shortage right around the corner and having more children does not contribute to a solution.

  • C Scalia

    I never wanted to have children. I came home one day and my wife said: “I’m pregnant”. It was all downhill from there. We now have 2 boys, 4 and 7.
    OK, now remember I did NOT want to have children. Both were mistakes. But you know what? Having children has taught me and brought out strengths in me I never knew I had. Patience. Understanding. Teaching. Giving. Loving unconditionally… It has been an amazing experience to go through and has also brought me closer to my parents because now I “get it”. People that do not have kids do not get it at ALL. Never will. It is impossible to understand what a parent goes through, how it changes you. How it has the capability to make you a better person – more mature, spiritual…
    I work with a woman approaching 60. She is the only older woman here in my office that does not have kids. I laugh at how uptight she is! All the mothers have a part of their soul that has been nurtured and has turned them into more relaxed people. She has mentioned “I dont have the patience for kids”. You know what? I said the same thing. Thats the whole thing that people without kids do not get. Having a child teaches you all of those things and brings out those strengths is you… right from your soul. It is hard to explain but after have kids it teaches you the value of time, friendships and love that you could never learn by yourself. Never. And I dare anyone to go toe to toe with me on this. I never wanted children but man have I become a more responsible person as a result. Those little things in life that used to be so important really don’t matter anymore. It’s not all about “me”. Trust me, I still get plenty of “me” time. No worries there.
    I am almost 40 and it is interesting to see my peers, without kids, living the same lifestyle I lived almost 10 years ago. I am sure they are having fun and that’s great. I also know there is a part of their soul that has not been touched. No love is stronger than the love you share with your child. My child has made me a better person.

    • lala

      ah ….the projecting. My life is “this” because I have “that”…therefore you life would also be “that” if you had “this”. So your 60 year old co-worker is uptight because she doesn’t have children…you’re sure of that? Also I’m reading your comment, and I think you should really speak for yourself, not others. Having children taught YOU about time, friendships and love. So what, if I don’t have kids, I’ll never know about any of that? You can’t say the same for others. There are plenty of irresponsible parents out there. You also make a fairly speculative statement regarding how being a parent it has the capability to make you a better person – more mature, spiritual… I mean, that’s YOUR experience correct? They are many things in life that can make you a better person.
      Oh another broad-brush statement you made that struck me: “All the mothers have a part of their soul that has been nurtured and has turned them into more relaxed people”…see when you use words like “all” or “everyone”, you run into some issues.

      You had kids. I honor your choice. Wait. You didn’t choose your children right? They were unplanned? Oh, so I make a conscious choice about not having kids and I “don’t get it”, “a part of my soul is untouched”, “I’m uptight”…..

    • Brie

      @C Scalia
      Wow, your comment is perfect evidence that some people expect women to have children and also that they attribute some sort of greater value to women who do.

      It’s amazing the assumptions we realize we’ve made in our minds when we really stop to pay attention to our beliefs. There’s a difference between passively playing the victim while painting women (collectively) as the villains, but declaring that it has made you a better person – versus actually owning your decisions and realizing your personal power in them.

      I have a sneaking suspicion that the condition of your soul (as a man) would have remained perfectly unquestioned had you decided not to have children…

  • Bob

    How dare some of you folks. I ran across this website. To not have kids is selfish. Try working on some mindfulness. Your comments are narcissistic portraying true selfishness, but deeper, probably unhappiness within yourself. Of course having a child and caring for them are is humbling, and can make one think of something greater than themselves. However, to say, “not to have children is selfish.” Geez. I fear for your children being raised with attitudes such as that. Be here now, ….love thy neighbor, …accept others different from you, and practice mindfulness, which is found in all religions and in true spirituality.

    • Christine Kane

      Hey Bob – I’m thinking that maybe you’re not understanding the discussion here?

      I think that most people here are saying that the choice is huge – and most of these commenters are women who have chosen to NOT have children. It’s easy for the language to get confusing because of how I worded the post – but most of the commenters here are folks who have been told over and over again that they are selfish to not have children. If you read the post carefully – I think you’ll see that you have found yourself in a tribe that aligns with what you believe.

  • Farnoosh

    I think people who have children are selfish – and to me, selfish is a virtue not a sin – they are selfish because they want to experience that baby and at the expense of that, many things go, many commitments fall by the side, their friends and their family hardly see them, and they become ALL about their babies. They talk all about their babies. You no longer even see a photo of them without their babies. They give up their ways that they could give to society and just give to the baby. To me it is a very selfish choice. A good one if it fits and again, selfish is fine but there is nothing that says you are more selfish if you choose not to have them. Thank you for the emphasis….!!

  • Kindred Spirit

    First of all I have nothing against kids. I just did and do not want to have them and consider this path one of self sacrifice and ultimate caring. Additionally, I consider having more then two selfish as over population leads to: traffic jams, long waits in all sorts of lines ( grocery, DMV, airlines, etc.), increased competition, lack of jobs, stress, distress, increased violence, war …. yada yada, ya get the picture. From my perspective, having more then 1 is questionable and more then 2 selfish. I work with handicapped adults in a sheltered workshop and have plenty of opportunity to give and nourish. I’m happily married, most of the time, to a great guy, 7 years my junior, and enjoy giving as well as receiving attention.

    In a CNN health news entry I saw last year, couples without children surveyed more satisfied and happier then couples WITH children. Most of my friends with kids are divorced while those without are living happily ever after…. When it comes to the breast cancer issue, most commentaries I’ve read point to women not having children as having a higher risk of breast cancer. I wonder if a meta-analysis was done to look at the risk for those women who wanted children but could not have them, which may have been dependent on an underlying gynecologic problem potentially resulting in ongoing inflammation, as compared to those who just did not want to bear children but were healthy enough to do so if they were so inclined.

    There are so many real issues American’s need and should be dealing with i.e. the national debt, fed bail outs, foreign oil addiction, joblessness, homelessness, etc. I find it difficult to understand why we are not embracing solutions like producing more ethanol from non food crops i.e. cattails, creating jobs by converting cars to be able to use 100% ethanol (flex fuel cars), giving 100% tax credits in a five year period for home based solar energy equipment that back meters electricity, and creating a Federal University using military knowledge online content to develop courses, in marketable career tracks, that could enable students to go to school and graduate for tenths of pennies on the dollar compared to current tuition costs. Their learning management system could enable students to bank courses from any accredited university and apply it to their degree with no time for completion limitation. Current universities could ply their trade for those who wish and can afford to attend them.

    If we are distracted during the most energetic, highest capacity thinking time of our lives with raising kids, it’s no wonder we’re in the mess we’re in. From my perspective, having children for a few is necessary. But, if we really care and are really unselfish, providing an environmentally clean, safe, future for our children where they have opportunity to be the best they can be is the truly unselfish path….

  • Dulyla

    Wow! This is indeed a very deep subject. I am 26 and a mother of 2 and like every other parent I could not imagine life without my kids and honestly, I probably would have ended my life if they were never born. I had suffered from severe depression for a good year or two and knowing that my children needed me helped me to fight it.

    I am not against people who choose not to have kids because it is their life, but sometimes I wish “don’t knock it till you try it” could be applied, but you can’t just have a child and then toss it if you don’t like it. I guess I just wish I could give you a taste of how great parenthood could really be but it is impossible to do so.

    I feel so strongly about this because I use to be scared of kids and never wanted them because I always saw them as getting in my way. I became pregnant later and since I don’t believe in abortion unless it’s for unselfish reasons (like the baby won’t live very long after it’s born) I had my baby, and when I saw his big brown eyes look up at me so innocently this intense feeling that I can not explain over took me and I just broke down. I could not believe that something I saw as so insignificant could have such a huge impact on my life. After that I was never the same which actually was a great thing since I was just wasting my life away anyway. He gave meaning and purpose to my life.

    If you are absolutely positive without a doubt sure of your decision in non-child rearing then I say I am happy you are perfectly content in your life and find meaning and a sense of purpose else where. 🙂

    I do want to touch down on those who say “child rearing” or “the refusal of” is selfish. I can agree that the decisions to do either can definitely BE selfish, but that is just the way it is. We can not stop anyone from doing anything they don’t want to do.

    And please to those who stereo type parents as lifeless, miserable, unfulfilled, falling apart, etc.. please do not speak on something you have no experience with. Yes, kids can be exhausting and annoying at times but we deal with those things even without them in things such as our Jobs, Friends, Lovers, DEBT etc.. so eliminating them isn’t really solving any of that. Also, not all mother’s bodies get ruined. My body is just as it was before my pregnancies, it just depends on the woman. I am a PROUD PARENT and I love my life. My kids are well taken care of and NOT suffering and my son is a great kid who is kind hearted, loving and definitely not your average kid. He was raised with plenty of love and nurturing and he will be a great man one day. as for my daughter she is still just a baby so we shall see what the future has in store for me with her. 🙂

  • lola2

    I’m 48 years old. I have never had children. At a very early age I just knew children of my own would not be part of my life. I have never regretted that decision. Frankly I could never understand the overwhelming need to have children. I love my life. My only concern is when I get very old maybe there won’t be anyone to care for me, but I hope that wouldn’t be the sole reason for having them anyway. The thing I understand less than the need to have children, is the anger and resentment by people with children towards the people without. Have we taken something away from you? Have we hurt you in some way? Made you’re life harder? I must say I am quite baffled by this unusual behavior.

  • tricia

    First of all, thank you all, parents and not, for basically saying that I am not selfish for not wanting children. I do feel that way but it’s not only because I worry about being selfish it’s because so many people, people I don’t know tell me I am. So yes, in answer to the woman who didn’t think we needed to discuss this in a public forum, we do. Just yesterday, a crack addict patient of mine, who has children that he abandoned, told me I was selfish and that he couldn’t look at me because I hate children and just want to spend all my money on myself. He had no trouble saying this to me after I washed him up, brushed his four teeth, cleaned his bottom several times, washed his hair, fed him and got him multiple snacks. Also, I had taken care of a preacher who I did all of the same things for who told me it was unnatural for me to not want children. People really do say things like this to women who choose not to have children, and for some reason, it does hurt our feelings and make us wonder if we are selfish. So yes, this topic in a public forum seems quite fitting and necessary, thanks.

  • Sam

    More of my former classmates than not honestly did not know if their parents loved them. They were some of the most messed up, angry, bitter people I had ever met. They just went through the motions of life without actually feeling anything. I cannot imagine what that must be like, to hear, “I love you,” from a parent *maybe* once a year. People like their parents having kids is way more selfish than me not having them. Maybe being 100% certain that your parents love you makes you complacent? 😛

  • tara

    The dichotomy of selfishness
    “We’re not going to get a dog because we both work long hours and neither of us wants one enough to take on the responsibility, besides we don’t really like them anyway” = responsible
    “We’re not going to have kids because we both work long hours and neither of us wants them enough to take on the responsibility, besides we don’t really like them anyway” = selfish

    Also interesting are family who claim to ‘respect’ your decision not to have kids yourself because you’re not interested in kids but then expect you to have theirs every other weekend. I don’t like dogs, so it’s hardly likely I’m going to look after yours while you’re on holiday. Equally I don’t like kids, so I don’t see why I should have them for a day just because you happen to be related to me. Why would you want to put your child somewhere they are clearly not wanted or liked? That’s not selfish. Selfish would be refusing to have them in an emergency.

  • Chris G.

    I have a question to those that have based their decision to not have children based on the number of chilren that were born as result from “Selfish” or parents with the inability to care for them … or starving???? Do you sponsor any of these children through a charity????I agree that there are too many children that are not cared for…If that is truely one’s sole reason for the decision not to have children…that’s awsome. Some could argue that all people that don’t want have children are self absorbed or selfish….I don’t think that is always the case, and to think so is ignorant. For those that think that ALL people that chose to have children for their own selfish reasons?????? Well????

  • Chris G.

    I recently had a discussion with my bother and sister-in-law regarding their involvement with my kids 12 and 10. Basically there has been little involvement with them. My kids have been to their home 4 times total…and they live 5 minutes away. By the way…they chose not to have any children. During their 13 years of marraige I have heard diffrent reasons why they made the decision they have. During our recent discussion, my sister-in-law told me that she felt that having children was one of the most selfish things someone could do. I was blown away to say the least. I thought to my self, does she REALLY believe that or is this the latest justification for their decision. I guess that my initial reason for having children was for the experience and joy but not only for me but for the children we would bring into this world. So I guess that could be thought of as selfish…. But after they were born, I realized that it was probably the most selfless thing we could do.

  • Y

    Having a child is selfish because having a child comes from ones self. I totally agree with d’s comments. Yes, there are lot of people out there who choose to have children for their own selfish needs. They do not consider what type of environment they are bringing a innocent human being into. Also, I have indentified that the younger generations are too molly-collied & their negative behaviours are condoned too often than not. Whereas I was given a very strict upbringing & to think I was a child of the 70’s. Quite a laid back era really. More & more of these younger generations are going to end up with Narcissistic Personalilty Disorders due to the parenting they have received. They are made too special & too precious. Some people should not breed & I feel that some kind of aptitude test will one day need to be produced to prevent the undesirables the world from breeding. Because as we all know there is no ‘manual’ or instruction book in how to bring up children. And every child ends up as an adult unless something awful has happened & they do not make it to their adulthood. And I am on the same page as ‘d’ 100%, may there be more adults out there like us.

  • D.

    It’s extremely selfish to have children. Look at all the homeless children. Children starving, or without parents take care for them. Until there is enough food or care given to these children,
    I would never even consider bringing more into the world.

  • chrissie diangelus

    So true…those people who throw the first stone! I’ve had to tell myself the same thing — they are not creative, they are scared, they do not know themselves and frankly, I intimidate them because I own my feelings…even if I am mess.
    I have learned just in 5 months with a baby to carve out me time and hold other capable people accountable. If I cannot do some things for me and feed my creative energy then I’ll get lost and I think my son will appreciate a mom who strives for balance.

  • lizabeth

    Thanks christina c.- your words take away some of the urgency, the pressure of “getting it right.” And they reminded me of PJ Harvey’s song “We Float,” which I’m listening to right now. Thank you.

  • Christina C.

    Lizabeth…
    Your words welled up in me the impact we have as parents on our children. I value the fact that you are deeply concerned with the question of having children.

    I thought back to the days when my children were young. Bulimia was not the issue when I grew up but alcoholism was. I married a man who drank heavily and has recently passed away due to the complications of his choice. Did this all affect myself and our children…Yes it did…

    But what I want to say to you is to just float.

    …In the moment…in our lives…we are sometimes faced with choices that seem so overwhelming that we are swallowed by them…These are moments to float…My mom always told me that when you don’t know what to do…do nothing. I have modified that to simply float…the answer usually appears, just like Christine’s line “Leap and the net will appear.”

    Lizabeth,
    be not afraid to be as you choose to be, with or without children, for your reasons and yours alone, equiped or not and sometimes the village be damned, but the heart is blessed.

  • lizabeth

    Wow, what an important topic! I really appreciate what you’ve written, and the many wonderful comments. I’m working with the decision TO HAVE kids, struggling with the fact that the values of our society at large go against, even squash, the actual process of motherhood (be that with OR without kids), those revolutionary qualities of love and care-taking, qualities I find here, on your blog or on a well-run farm, qualities of stewardship perhaps.
    In having children I fear the loss of my personal space ( I need LOTS of it). And the mother-guilt, YIKES, I’ve got enough guilt as it is… But more importantly, I fear that I’m somehow unfit for this incredibly challenging task and I’m terrified of being one of those mother’s who uses her children as the measurement of her own personal worth or sense of perfection. My own mother was bulemic for twenty some years, a good ten of them in my early years. (and of course there is MUCH more to her than that; she’s a beautiful woman, in many ways just now really coming into herself and, as her daughter, it’s pretty incredible to see). But naturally everything in our household kinda revolved around that, the secrecy of it, the shame. And the food/self-image thing is something my sister and I have both struggled with. I’ve been diagnosed with this, that, and the other and been on medication since I was 13 (I’m now 29). Of course there’s the question of the actual impact of the medications I’m now taking on the physical/mental/emotional well-being of my child, the questions of whether or not I’d breast-feed, and with these questions, that larger one: “Do I even have the right to have children?”
    From where i stand, it seems that so many women just have kids, that it’s easy, the next natural step in their lives, and there isn’t much discussion about what it means… How awesome would that be, to never question whether or not I’m “equipped”!
    Surely child-rearing is not something that we can do alone. It DOES take a village to raise a child and while I know that the decision to have children ultimately belongs to me, it’s not a decision that I can make without knowing that the larger community in which I live is committed to supporting my efforts and caring for my child… and me.

    I’ve thrown a lot out there and will work on a more coherent articulation of these questions but in the meantime, I’d love any feedback on these questions! And thank you, Christine, for opening up this discussion!

  • pati

    Hi Christine,

    No — you didn’t say it. Someone on the blog did. I’ve heard it before, though. You have such a nice way of putting things in perspective, I thought you could address it better than me. My take is this: I’m just glad to be alive. Thank you! p

  • Christine Kane

    Pati — Did I write that somewhere? I can’t remember?

    Personally, I think ALL jobs are probably hard – but that’s only because I believe that we are placed on this planet to grow, and if you’ve chosen one path, most likely you’ll be required to experience growth and face some of your inner obstacles and stuck spots. This is never easy.

    I have often thought that being a songwriter is the hardest job on the planet – because it has made me grow past my comfort zones and insecurities in a huge way. It’s the path I chose – and I think it’s MY soul that needed to do it.

    But now, I don’t believe in a “hardest job on the planet.” (though i wouldn’t want to be president of our country right now. that’s for sure!) I think it’s just something people say, an expression.

    I think parenting is a deep job. And if you’re having a bad day, it’s a hard job. There are times when my brother (who has four girls) seems so tired and harried, and I KNOW he just wants peace and free time. THAT’s what is hard for him… to learn how to be present, even when he’s frustrated. But I know there are days when he loves it, too! (AND, I also have to remember that he chose to have all four of them! 🙂 )

    When it comes down to it, every job is what you decide to label it.

    My favorite expression is this: Life is an illusion. Make it a good one!

  • pati

    Christine,

    Could you comment on the statement, “Being a parent is the hardest job on the plante”? When I hear things “like” this, it makes me want to scream. “Being a “this or that” is the hardest whatever. It’s an arrogant and closed-minded statement. If someone has “taken” that path, so be it. But it means that the person has foregone another path — which may be just as hard or harder. Your blog is usually so peaceful. I hate to sound so contradictory, but perhaps you can say something in the way that you say it to shed perspective in a way that I’m not.

  • kate

    Whew…well in case no one else said it – I think it is far more selfish to HAVE children to fullfill some social expecation or try to vicariously live out your unexplored dreams through a child than to choose not to have one. There are all kinds of families in all kinds of sizes with and without blood relationships and legal documents. I have children – and I love them (obvs.;) but it wasn’t a choice I made lightly. Kudos to you for being exactly who & where you need to be right now.

  • Maddie Rose

    I remember being confronted by relatives after being married for over a year. My husband and me had decided not to have children…..but we didn’t make an annoucement on our private decision to the family. Did they question him….No!! But they were always putting me on trial during family events. I did ask my husband’s aunt why I should have children. Without hesitation she replied….”To get it over with!!”……how do you like that reply.

  • KMK

    I appreciate you starting this dialogue. As someone who does not want to have children, I am gratified to know there are so many others who feel the same.

  • seventh sister

    I think that this is an odd subject or maybe I am just surprised that it is an issue at all. I have children and never really considered not having them but I don’t see that there is anything really to discuss about having or not having them. It is such a personal choice that I guess I don’t understand why it is discussed in a public forum.

  • Jean

    Wow, it’s amazing to me that we are still having this conversation.

    I’m a no-kids person. Never had “the urge” that was supposed to show up. And it has never once been a big deal. I went and traveled, I have had great jobs, great sex, great boyfriends (and two great husbands).

    If that makes me selfish, I can certainly live with that. And what’s so bad about being selfish, anyway? Doesn’t it beat doing things because you’re “supposed” to?

    Let’s dispense with the guilt toute de suite and enjoy our precious lives.

    As always, a stimulating post!

    Cheers,
    Jean in Oregon

  • Lainie

    Thank you Christine. This is a very valuable post. I’m 50, never married, no kids, but the circumstances of that decision are sad for me, and very personal. Yet people make all kinds of judgements about it (selfish, gay, bitter, etc. — and none of these are true). And you’re right, selfish is a cheap “default” label that people throw out there too easily, and women will do almost anything not to be accused of selfishness, so it often works.

    It always seems ironic that the people who seem most judgemental about it are the ones with the worst marriages and whose kids have problems of their own that they should be worrying about . . . yet they feel superior just because they said ‘I do’ and reproduced.

    Thanks for writing this.

  • Erica

    Thanks Christine for an interesting and delicate topic! I didn’t get less selfish having a child, but I think that was the beginning of my self-discovery-journey. I got more conscious of my inherited reactions (thanks for that!). (Of course I’m not saying you have to have children to learn about yourself). And now I feel selfish, just like Jannie mentioned, for not having a second child, although my son’s begging and people always say how “lonely” a single child will be.. I’ll stick to my decision, though..

  • Sunrise Sister

    Excellent post. Coming from an “age of reaction rather than planning women” I applaud the young women today who make the decision to have a child or NOT to have a child. I agree it has little to do with selfishness but with the act of knowing yourself and being conscious of the impact your personal decisions make.

    P.S. Have recently downloaded one of your albums and am definitely looking forward to getting my hands on your newest! Great music – great decisions you’ve made:)!!

  • m

    I’m with Mindful Mimi and Monica the subject of children should never be brought up as you NEVER know the circumstances of why people do or don’t have children.

    The choice to have children can be quite selfish to fill a hole in a person’s life and make someone fill it. I’ve got a friend who has done exactly that but I would never ever tell her that.

  • Hagit

    This is a very difficult topic, and I don’t feel comfortable discussing it. However, here’s a great quote by Benjamin Franklin. He said, “Those Who Sacrifice Liberty For Security Deserve Neither”. I think there’s so much to think about, and so little freedom in this area. So many expectations and so much fear, that it’s impossible to make a decision based on what you (I) really want. I will never be able to know what I want, because there are too many constraining variables.

  • jannie

    I did feel a bit selfish for not having a second child since my existing one asked for a sibling. No, pined, longed, cried for one.

    But she got over it.

    And she has lots of friends to play with.

  • Tim

    Christine, great and timely post. I am a single male, 39, with no kids. Reading an eHarmony profile tonight, I was matched with a beautiful woman, a mother of two kids. Her profile stated something to the effect that she loves her kids, etc, and that having kids has made her less selfish. I agree with Stacey at the top of the comments that, in many cases, having kids can be selfish. If you are having kids just to keep up with your friends, then you are having kids for the wrong reason.

    I have always been unsure about having kids and have felt that it would depend on my future wife. It makes no sense to me to want to have kids when I have not met the right woman yet. It is a decision that needs to be made out of love and for the right reasons.

  • Monica

    OH, and one more thing. I truly believe that we should stop judging the choices of one another, especially of other women. I thought the point of the woman’s movement was that we would all be able to choose the best path for our individual talents and life circumstances.

  • Monica

    As a forty eight year old woman, who never felt the “ticking” clock and am now menopausal, I ultimately chose to remain childless…it was the rigth decision for me. I am astonished by the number of situations where strangers start a conversation with not, “Do you have children?” but “How many kids do you have?” When I reply in the negative, the follow up is one of 2: either “Why not? Or, “Oh, you will change your mind.” Let me ask, if fthe situation were reversed would it be “appropriate” or socially acceptable for me to ask, “Why did you have children?” I think not. Yet, I am asked to explain myself over and over again.

    As to the selfish aspect, my personal take is that it would be far more selfish of me to bring a child into this world when I am ambivalent, at best, about child rearing; and sincerley feel that I am not up to the task. Perhaps, for some, choosing not to have a child is the ultimate in selflessness.

    Overall, I agree, with the generaly thread here. This is still America. Land of the free. We each get to chose the lives we want to create, as long as we are doing no harm.

  • Mindful Mimi

    I think the topic of having (or not having) kids is up there with politics, religion and sex. You get a lot of different opinions and points of views and discussions can get very heated because the topic is close to the heart to everyone. So I’m always saying ‘be and do what you want to do – if it makes you happy, fine – it’s your life – I respect your choices and preferences – please do the same with mine’. And I usually try to wiggle myself out of conversations that start to heat up because people just want to drill down their opinion. That’s where you are right on the selfishness part: that is is selfish to expect other people to live/think/vote/have babies(or not)/pray/have sex like you.

  • Christine Kane

    writing SLOWLY on my iPhone in the Austin airport…firstly — michelle, I wasn’t coaching anyone about this issue. I was speaking to the idea of selfishness and decision making. When I work with people I don’t give advice. I steer then to their own decisions. But u r right about this issue! I’ve never coached someone about kids. It was just unclear writing on my part!

    Thanks everyone for such deeply considered comments! As u know, I font believe in RIGHT or WRONG decisions. But I DO encourage clarity… And there’s lots of that here. Very moving.

    Gotta go board the plane!

  • Lance

    I’m just catching up with this series Christine. And I come into this discussion as a father of three children. And…the older I get, the more I accept that it is YOUR choice to do what YOU want. And it should remain your choice. Whatever that is – kids, career, spouse, volunteering, etc, etc. Point 6 nails it – we should all live how we want to live – and not expect everyone to comply with what our definition of living is. Christine, I respect your decisions to live your life that way you desire. In fact (I think you mentioned this), you are truly living your life in this way. More so than many people out there. (but who am I to judge…).

    So…it’s not selfish to NOT have kids. It’s a choice….more than many have honestly made for themselves…

  • Michele

    Once aspect of coaching is to know your limits. When to step aside and recommend a mental health counselor. Pregnancy issues for me are one of those areas. Your questions are great they help a woman seeking this guidance to go deeper. To get pregnant or not is more than a coaching question for a woman. My concerns are this- transference and counter-transference.

    Does the person you’re are speaking with have children or not, can they remain objective? Do you need to talk to a mental health counselor about ‘the issue’ because of your own family dynamics? I share this because I watched a coach (friend) guide her client (a friend) into not having children, and it always felt wrong. Please the issue needs to be addressed by someone with the proper training and education.

  • Sue

    I love this dialogue because it brings into the open the many fears and misperceptions out there. I appreciate your equating selfishness with fear b/c that’s sooo true!
    People all but tell me I’m selfish all the time for traveling sometimes for work when I have kids at home. So, there seems to be no end to the judgement. Even having kids does not seem to release one from the judgement police! Thank god I’ve learned not to take that on anymore.
    Thank you for this post. It is great. My favorite line may be, “Not having children makes you not have children. That’s all.” Love that. It is really that simple.

  • Tracy

    Bravo.
    At 46 with no child or husband, I’ve been called selfish. Not by anyone being mean, but just someone who couldn’t imagine anything else. Maybe the decade spent teacher squashed the few desires I had to make the commitment to raising children.

    Love the way you’ve been talking about the paradigm shift (I have to re-read Creating vs Getting!) I’m only just beginning to lift the self-imposed limits of my visions of my future.

    Thanks for talking about this so eloquently!

  • Karen

    ::sigh::

    And if you have a (wanted, cherished) child, you are told that it’s selfish to want to stop at one. Never mind that you had postpartum depression liek whoa. Never mind that you feel financially and emotionally able to care for one, but not more. Not only is it selfish, but you are doomed to having a horribly, horribly spoiled, lonely and maladjusted child.

    No matter what we do we’re wrong!

    I can totally understand not wanting to have children; I felt that way for the first 6 years of my marriage, until I *didn’t*, and nothing was going to sway me at either time. If someone *never* feels that s/he wants to have children… cool! It is not the be-all, end-all of existence; you can be completely fulfilled with other parts of your life.

  • Diane

    When someone tells me they don’t want children I always say, “How great that you know that and honor that!” I say that because being a parent is the hardest job on the planet! And I never even had to ask myself if I wanted children, I always knew I did. I never have thought it was selfish on their part…usually they have a very full and fulfilled life. I can remember a friend that as she approached 40 was rethinking the decision to not have children. She always came back to “But I couldn’t play golf all weekend if I had a child” I don’t know if that was the real reason but I’m glad she listened to those doubts.

  • amy

    I’ve read these past two posts with some reticence. I struggled with my family choices most of my adult life. Many of these external and internal voices you’ve talked about here have paraded through my mind for the better part of a decade.

    So, finally, I made the choice to have children and also made some pretty radical changes in my life to support that choice. I love my two beautiful babies very much and wouldn’t change a thing. But, it has been a road that hasn’t been easy.

    Did I make the choice for the right reasons? Maybe not.

    I agree 100% that those who accuse others of selfishness are doing so out of a place of powerlessness. And many of my fellow moms live in this place. Our society and culture does not support families the way it used to, and those of us who choose this path don’t realize that until after we’ve experienced parenthood for awhile.

    To use your language, many of us have bought into the myth that we will “get” a certain family life, and are disgruntled when we don’t. Making a paradigm shift to “creating” that life is difficult when we are tired and disappointed. Inertia is hard to overcome. It’s easier to criticize others to medicate our aching souls.

    But, those who have made the choice to be childless by no means have the monopoly on feeling selfish. Just try walking away from a sobbing two-year-old for some personal time. It kills me every time.

  • Christi

    I can’t imagine ever calling someone selfish because of the decision not to have a child. I think of it as the more responsible decision in many respects, especially given environmental and overpopulation concerns.

    However, whenever I think of my children, one of the gifts I think that they’ve given me is the ability to expand and be more generous rather than contracting. They’ve helped me to do and be and grow more than I would have otherwise. They’ve helped me to see and expand the limits of my patience and endurance. At times when I was depressed and my motivation to change my situation was flagging (close to nonexistent), knowing that there were small people dependent upon me helped me to take the steps I needed to take to become well.

    So, from this side…I truly do believe that having children helped me personally to be less selfish, in both the sense of giving and in terms of not being attached to outcome (’cause my kids will really bust me on that one!)

    Does that make sense? I can honor the decision not to have kids and respect it, and at the same time I can feel that having kids fundamentally changed me. I hope – though I can’t of course know for sure – that I’m better off for it.

  • m

    It is not selfish to choose to live how you want to live. It is selfish to expect other people to live how you want to live.

    Wow ! so important to remember.

  • Peg

    Well said. Much appreciated.

  • Irene

    WOW! That is well put.
    It is true when creation comes from within the outcome is quite different.
    It makes me understand that I allowed the pressure at times to make me feel selfish. As time went by I decide to choose for me and not for others. Each day I am learning to live and let live. No matter what parent or not we are all precious.

  • Gladys

    As a child, I did not want to share my doll with my sister once. My mother, no doubt in a fit of exasperation, told me to stop being selfish and share. That incident left quite an emotional scar on me, one that I have been working hard to redefine this year.

    One of the smartest things I have done in my life waiting to have a child when I felt more prepared for it. Yes, I was called selfish and people wondered what was “wrong” with me, but on this decision I held firm.

  • Stacey

    I was surprised by the title of this post. I have always thought it was selfish to have kids. You look around and see a lot of disparity in the world and so many children without parents – and yet you want to *bring* a child into the world? And yes, I did. And our son has brought me and my husband such enormous joy it is like he filled a well from which i now have so much more to give to others.