I’m always astounded when I hear someone express the opinion that not having children is selfish — my immediate response is, “Holy crap! Are you serious?” Let me begin this impassioned rebuttal by stating the obvious — there’s not a person alive who doesn’t act in his/her own self-interest, day after day after day. Any creature’s first instinct is for survival (otherwise none of us would have made it past the protozoa-swimming-in-primordial-ooze stage of evolution) — so it’s entirely natural to ask “What’s in it for me?” before acting.
Technically speaking, there’s no such thing as a wholly selfless act — even the most generous philanthropists want something in return. When folks volunteer their time (caring for abandoned pets or cooking meals at a homeless shelter or serving as a scout leader), you can thank a little bit of narcissism for that altruistic impulse. They contribute (in part) because they benefit from the good feelings they get helping others — does that make their actions wrong? Not in the least. Viewed through this same lens, reproduction is not a charitable endeavor — parental units expect to be compensated for their hard work and sacrifice. The currency with which they’re paid might be love and affection, pride in their offspring’s achievements, a sense of accomplishment at a child-rearing job well-done — or (most valuable of all) for that kid to appreciate their efforts, to one day say “I had a great mom and dad.”
Is that selfish? I’ll let you be the judge — but anyone who tells you that the decision to breed is driven by completely magnanimous motives is up to his/her proverbial eyebrows in crap. (If that were the case, couples would adopt needy orphans, rather than cloning a world full of mini-mes.) I’m not saying that the desire to create a quality human being who’ll positively contribute to society isn’t a valid rationalization for having unprotected sex. But unfortunately, the urge to replicate is often sparked by greedier concerns — scoring a faithful servant to look after me when I’m old, an heir to carry on the family name, an adorable infant that will garner lots of attention, a talented prodigy who can accomplish what I never did. For a lot of folks, parenthood is a total ego trip — sproglodytes as the ultimate lifestyle accessory.
These same hypocrites like to claim that the child-free collectively engage in a hedonistic and irresponsible existence — partying all night, splurging on expensive luxuries, adding nothing to the greater good. You’d be right busting me if I avoided pregnancy in favor of endless orgies and tequila shots. But the no-kidders I’ve met are all (every last one of them) hard-working, socially-committed members of their communities — and a lot less self-centered than so many of those who herd around a litter of pups. What it boils down to is that logistically-flawed spawning is just as egocentric as (if not more than) avoiding procreation for the wrong reasons. But in the interest of fairness, let’s look at the accusations hurled at we reproductive renegades, to see if they really hold water:
“the child-free are a drain on the retirement system” (all working CFers spend their lives paying into the general Social Security fund, while mombies who stay home with their precious snowflakes don’t — still, all those unemployed entitlemoos still expect a check when they hit “retirement” age — we’re not draining so much as supporting the system)
“the child-free only care about themselves” (funny how no-kidding aunts, uncles, neighbors, and friends always come running when junior needs something — babysitting, new skates, school fundraising shoppers, homework help — and don’t forget all the times those sans enfants colleagues fill in for you at work when your bratleigh is home sick)
“the child-free are less reliable workers” (tally up every vacation and sick day taken by your average DINK or SINK — now compare it to the absenteeism rate of the diaper-whipped, who play hooky every time their nipple nibblers get a cold or go on a field trip or have a school holiday — and don’t forget to add in all that extra maternity and FMLA leave!)
“the child-free don’t care about family” (of course they do, they just have a more flexible definition than that old-fashioned-50s-era-nuclear arrangement — a voluntarily childless familial circle is all-inclusive — significant others, blood/non-blood relatives, friends, pets, neighbors, colleagues, and other important community members — just not kids)
“the child-free live extravagant lifestyles” (we’re the ones content to live in modestly sized abodes, while breeders often feel compelled to buy homes far beyond what they need or can afford so there’s plenty of room for that house-ape and all his paraphernalia — not many kid-laden collectives could simplify down to less than 200 square feet, like I have)
“the child-free don’t contribute financially to society” (families with goldensprogs get all sorts of automatic IRS credits for having done nothing more than give birth — and who do you think pays for those deductions, as well as the majority of the property assessments that fund local schools? — take away non-parents and you have no tax base)
“the child-free aren’t thinking about the future” (how is that possible, when these folks are accepting full responsibility for their autumn years, rather than expecting the fruit of their loins to care-give in their old age? — it’s way more selfish to saddle your progeny with a nursing job they never wanted, claiming that they “owe” you that for giving them life)
“the child-free are less productive” (I’ve actually read articles warning bosses away from the childless-by-choice, suggesting that they’ll spend their work hours hung over and crashed out on their desks after long nights of carousing — in reality, it’s the stretched-too-thin-sleep-deprived-worn-out-suffering-from-baby-brain sect who end up slacking at the office)
“the child-free will bring about our extinction” (civic duty to procreate and keep the human race from dying out? — since when are sapiens an endangered species? — in a world that’s over-populated, depleting its non-renewable resources at an alarming rate, and polluting its environment beyond repair, do we really need MORE of us littering the landscape?)
“the child-free do nothing but spend money” (it’s easy to find yourself deep in debt when you feel pressured to buy that tiny consumer any and every bit of passing-fad kindercrap that catches his eye — my little-darling-less peeps have more opportunity to actively choose simplicity over materialism, spending less money and owning less “stuff”)
“the child-free are all career-obsessed” (those in reproductive stasis enjoy the freedom to pursue careers that flame their passion, instead of taking jobs they despise out of a sense of obligation — they’re also not forced to divide their time between their brood and work responsibilities, a major source of friction and dissatisfaction for mom-and-dad-types)
“the child-free are slacking on the most important job you can do” (raising a munchkin is only a meaningful activity if you do it well, while crappy BNP-ing is actively detrimental to society — unfortunately, the number of folks in the latter category far outweighs the former — according to the Hippocratic oath of “do no harm,” CFers are way ahead on this one)
“the child-free aren’t leaving anything for future generations” (no-kidders are responsible for some our culture’s greatest achievements — they create art and music and literature, make scientific and philosophical advancements, advocate for social change — I promise there are more valuable contributions than just pumping out a baby every few years)
“the child-free are workaholics” (they’ve traded diaper-changing duty for total commitment to a fulfilling vocation — but most childless-by-choice also have better professional-versus-personal balance, leaving work at a reasonable hour and spending evenings/weekends on social activities, instead of toting shrieklings to a never-ending series of extracurriculars)
“the child-free are socially irresponsible” (we’re the ones with the time, money, and energy to engage in extensive charitable and community activist work — truth be told, kid-raisers have very little left over to give outside their families, ‘cuz that parasite sucks every penny from their wallet, every minute from their day, every bit of motivation from their soul)
“the child-free forget that the children are our future” (maybe, if you could selectively breed your rugrats to become doctors and teachers and scientists, all of which we’re sorely lacking — but statistically speaking, we’re bound to end up with a much larger percentage of telemarketers, ambulance-chasers, criminals, and deadbeats — great future!)
“the child-free take advantage of government” (non-parents, unless they’re of the elderly or disabled variety, aren’t eligible for the vast majority of social safety-net program benefits that able-bodied procreators can receive — TANF checks, food stamps, WIC, medicaid, and often even housing/utility assistance are the sole domain of the reproductively active)Click here for reuse options!
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Ramona Creel is an award-winning 15-year veteran organizer and member of the National Association Of Professional Organizers. As well as having birthed “The A-To-Z Of Getting Organized,” Ramona is also the author of “The Professional Organizer’s Bible: A Slightly Irreverent And Completely Unorthodox Guide For Turning Clutter Into A Career”—and the creator of more than 200 “quick-start” business tools and templates for use by productivity professionals. She writes seven different blogs, has worked with hundreds of clients, and has delivered scores of presentations on getting organized. Ramona resides on the roads of America as a full-time RVer—living and working in a 29-foot Airstream. Learn more at and RamonaCreel.com.
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