People who choose not to have kids are often told (erroneously) that they are being selfish. Now people who choose not to have kids are turning the tables and saying those who have kids are selfish.

Oookay then.

In as much as conceiving and giving birth to a child involves the desire to create a minime to love and which arguably does not contribute anything to society (if one takes the view that the world does not need more people which I don’t), having children is selfish. The thing though is that having a child is as selfish as doing anything that gives one pleasure and requires effort in the process. Like climbing a mountain or tending a garden or creating a work of art.

But we don’t call those selfish pursuits. We don’t because there’s a qualitative difference between those activities and the ones that we normally term selfish. Selfishness is not just about being motivated by one’s own interest, but about negating the needs of others. While it is quite common to point to how the earth doesn’t need more children, the link between the environment and population growth is not simplistically more people = worse environment. So unless you believe parents are creating monsters in raising kids or are willing to go around shouting “selfish, selfish” at artists and mountaineers and frankly everyone, then “selfish” is a stretch.

Therefore, while an effective word for the purpose of defamiliarisation, I find the application of the word to “selfish” to human reproduction unfair. It smacks of tit for tat. Surely, there must be other ways to make the case for not having children (if such a case needs to be made at all) than going: “I’m not selfish. You’re selfish” even to people who never said you were selfish in the first place. Mature.

On a side note, while the desire to rear a child might originate in selfishness (if we must call it that), the process of child rearing is a lesson in the erosion of self. Having a child is like undertaking an allegedly selfish act in order to (hopefully) become less selfish. Like Buddha meditating under the tree, so to speak. Or fasting. Okay, don’t kill me. I’m not claiming to have attained Nirvana, only to doing a lot of deep breathing while under pressure. Only more fun, because slides and finger paint.

To summarise, people should be able to choose if they would like to embark on the fascinating journey (to those who choose it) of raising another human being or or the equally fascinating journey of not. Just because. The end.