Everyone Feels Selfish: Judgment in Parenthood
Friday, May 11, 2012Tweet
Since writing On Adoption and Selfishness over a year ago, I've had conversations about children with many different people, mostly women. And I discovered something fascinating.
So many women consider their specific decisions to be selfish.
In my previous post I wrote about how selfish I feel for wanting to have a big family but not having to "sacrifice" my body in order to get there. I recently had a conversation with a woman who said she'd always imagined she would adopt a child because she knows what a great need there is for adoptive parents. But then she admitted that she also had the selfish desire to bear a child herself, just to have that experience of intimacy of having another person grow inside you. How funny, I thought: She considers it selfish to want to experience the very thing I feel selfish for wanting to avoid!
I've talked to women who feel selfish for decisions across the spectrum.
Some feel selfish for wanting to have children as soon as they're married, feeling that they should really wait until they're more financially secure but craving that mother role. Others feel selfish for waiting to have children, as they've heard the disparaging comments about women who put their career and their personal dreams ahead of their family, who wait for that nonexistent "perfect time" to have a child.
Some feel selfish for only wanting one child, fearing they're dooming their child to being spoiled or lonely. Others feel selfish for wanting multiple children, reasoning that their attention and energy will be divided, that they'll have less money to spend on any one child.
Among those who want to adopt, the trend continues. I feel selfish and awkward telling people I want to adopt domestically, knowing that children in many other countries have far greater needs than most American children. But then I talk to those who tell me with embarrassment that they want to adopt internationally, because how can they go halfway around the world for a child when there are children right here in their own country who need homes?
It's no wonder, though, that so many people have doubts about their decisions regarding children. If there's one thing I've learned from reading parenting blogs, it's this: No matter what decisions you make, there will always be someone there to judge you.
A thoughtful reader sent me a link to this radio show about the ethics of having children. There's a caller right at the end who talks about how people will judge your decisions about having children almost no matter what you do.
If you have no children, it's "When are you having children?" or "What's wrong with you? Why don't you want kids?"
If you have one kid, it's "So, when are you having another? Don't you want him/her to have a playmate?"
But if you have three kids, you start getting, "Wow, how come you're having so many kids? Are you done yet?"
It's the same thing I wrote about when I said how everyone tells me I'm too skinny. There is, for some reason, an inexhaustible supply of people wanting to comment on other people's lives.
So at this point I've pretty much accepted that I'm going to be judged no matter what and that there is no one "selfish" or "unselfish" path when it comes to having kids. With so many women feeling called to so many different paths to motherhood (or not), why try to conform my life to someone else's calling?
Better to live my own imperfect life path the best I can than try to stumble through living someone else's.
Have you ever felt guilty or selfish for your decisions or plans about having children? Why or why not?