On the contrary, I’ve come to believe that having children is one of the most selfish things a person can do.
My mother has eight grandchildren already. Eight. And yet it’s on me, her only daughter, to have one of my own. “Don’t you want a little Jessica?!” she pushes. My face crinkles. Is there some unseen evolutionary force that makes mothers so pushy?
My partner’s mother isn’t any better. The very first day I met her she popped the question: “So, you want to have children?” Really, it was more of a statement. A demand.
“Ummm, well, I, uh ….” I searched for the perfect answer. You know how kids fry bugs under magnifying glasses? That’s how being questioned about having children feels to me — like I’m being watched by a giant eye while I fry in the hot sun.
To be honest, I never wanted children. Still not sure if I do. To me, kids are like ballet flats — cute, but not my style. The cool thing about fashion choices is that people respect them, at least to your face. Not so with kids. It’s like people feel obligated to tell you their opinions.
I’ve heard it all: That I’ll regret not having children. That I’ll die alone. That I’ll never experience the divine love a mother has for her child. My sister-in-law even went so far as to ask me how I would know if I was truly a “strong woman” if I never had babies.
Over the years, these insinuations have made me laugh, get defensive, and throw my hands up in exasperation. But none have bothered me as greatly as the accusation that not having children is inherently selfish.
I’ve never understood that one. Even as a child, hearing my parents talk about couples who were childless by choice (presumably), they seemed to assume people without kids were too greedy, too selfish, to share their lives and finances with others. That they chose not to have children was because they didn’t want to “cramp their lifestyle.”
For me, nothing could be further from the truth.
On the contrary, I’ve come to believe that having children is one of the most selfish things a person can do. Especially in today’s world.
Children have zero say in whether they’re created or born. Two people get together and decide they want an extension of themselves to love, a mini-them, and they make it happen. They create an entirely new human being, without its consent, just so they can love it and continue a piece of themselves.
It’s incredibly selfish — and totally human at the same time.
I’m saying this with respect and love for my friends and family who have chosen to have children. But I will not be told that, if I choose to diverge from their well-worn path, that it’s somehow I who am being selfish.
Part of me now wants kids. But 100 percent of me still isn’t sure. What kind of world would I be bringing them in to?
Life is hard. It’s dangerous and unknown. Global warming is a real threat to the future. Depression and addiction run in my family. My partner and I would raise a mixed-race/black child in a country not built for them. These are the things I think about when I think about having children. How could I possibly bring another human being into this world without being totally selfish?
Because that’s what is would be. A totally selfish, and potentially wonderful, decision.
And I’m OK with that.
Jessica Schreindl is a campaign director and freelance writer in Seattle, Washington. She is a contributing writer for Mic.com and has been published on Feministing.com. She graduated with her M.A. from Syracuse University where she studied film history and documentary filmmaking.