Is Having Children Or Not Having Children Selfish?

cwt edt


You must have seen the online arguments amongst the ‘breeders’ versus the non breeders.

Always somewhere in the debate a ‘breeder’ – let’s use ‘parent’ – will pipe up with ‘how selfish not to have children. You people just think of yourselves and no one else!’

Fair enough. But is there meant to be something wrong with that? If you know yourself to be committed to other things – even if that IS your own ego, why give birth to a child that is not wanted? Surely…surely THAT would be selfish? Or am I missing the point?

I think it’s part of that dubious argument about humans dying out if everyone chooses to be ‘selfish’ and not to have children, even though humans are clearly not all choosing to be child free suddenly and simultaneously.

Then we have a planet teeming with abused and unwanted children – (a winning argument for non parents surely?) One could argue that adding yet more children to the world is egotistical rather than shepherding one of those lost lambs into your loving home instead. If we are thinking about the world and the planet and the suffering of millions of innocent children in need of care, could adding (lots) more be described as the more insular and selfish act?

Perhaps indeed no one is selfish and the variety of choice is all a beautiful thing, but that word SELFISH comes up EVERY time in these debates and I’ve always wanted to understand why it’s the go-to word predominantly used by those with children.



I’m an idiot.

Is having children or choosing not to have children the more selfish act?


81 thoughts on “Is Having Children Or Not Having Children Selfish?

  1. Great points, and a great question! Being childfree myself and CONSTANTLY being on the receiving end of this, I bristle at people calling me selfish. Why do I not want kids? Because I desire independence. Why do couples decide to have kids? Because it’s something that they desire, for whatever reasons they may have. You see, I want my freedom, and I have it. You want your kids, and you have them. We both have the things that we WANT, which either makes both of us selfish, or neither of us selfish!
    *side note – regardless of which camp you’re in, NOBODY likes other people cramming their life choices down their throat. It’s egotistical to think that your life choice is always the right one for everyone.

  2. I found this bit today after searching for ones similar to mine! You hit some points I didn’t and I love it. I’m new to the blogging world and I’m so thrilled to already be finding so many like minded people.

  3. Awesome article! It engaged me from beginning to end. I would say that neither is selfish. My wife is currently pregnant with our 3rd child, and she wants to be done after this one. But, there’s something about children that brings more love into a home. They make “most of us grow up”, and experience parts of life we wouldn’t understand otherwise. Although, it is true that some kids get abused, and mistreated. If one is not ready for children, then it’s fair to not have them. At the moment, the world is over-populated. So I don’t think that we’ll have a problem because people don’t want kids. In conclusion, it’s really not selfish either way. It’s up to the individual to experience life for themselves, and to walk their own path. Again, great article! I saw that you followed our old blog We’ve recently moved over to Come through and check us out. Thanks

  4. Selfish or not selfish…that’s just a judgement others might pass of others. To chose not to have kids Is a personal choice that we are entitled to make ourselves and not have to justify our stance in this issue. More open discussion is better though.
    Yet what I often see is mainly one sided view, from people who are biased against this child free decision in support of all the mothers out there. Well, being a mother is also a choice. So when someone decides to not have kids, this should be respected and accepted. And not questioned and picked on. That will happen in the near future I believe if we all unite and get our point across.
    Follow your joy.

    1. I agree. The more we talk about it the more normalized either decision becomes – although having said that, I read an article only yesterday about a woman who felt that her choice of being a stay at home mother was stigmatized…so much for progress huh? πŸ™‚

      1. Shows just how judmental we can be of others, who are not LIKE us. It’s matter of education and insight. Have a magical day πŸ™‚

  5. aah yes, all the ‘holier than thou’ mummies who have perfectly unhappy kiddies. Whose hair has a perfect parting in the middle, or has been cut short and strict. Whose shoes are shone till pearly white teeth that are meticulously brushed with vigour twice a day can be seen in them, paired with brilliant white socks (should that be part of the uniform). If the ‘holier than thou’ Mummy has a Daughter, then the little girl’s dress or skirt has been measured to hang exactly 1/2 inch above the knee and so on….It’s pathetic and ‘SELFISH’ to do this to children.

    Why ‘selfish’? well, the only reason the Mother is putting her young child/ren through these obscene rituals, which go much further – sports, piano, flute, ballet, tennis, extra maths, homework and so on, is because it’s the MOTHER who wants to be applauded, she really couldn’t give a hoot about the kid. In reality, she’s living her miserable life through her child.

    It’s these kind of women who will say ‘It’s so selfish not to have children’. My God, give me a break!!! selfish to whom?? Selfish because one is comfortable in their own skin, and you are a jealous malign nightmare? Selfish because you wish that you’d thought twice about dropping the 2 you have dropped, and your husband has long since lost interest in you, and is now looking around, because you are so kid obsessed, and perhaps your kids hate you too? Selfish because you were too afraid to do what your friend did, and go it alone without leaning on kids?

    No, the Selfish one is YOU. You are selfish in every way if you are one of these perfectionist Mothers whose lives are so crap, you’d end it if only you had the courage. Your lips are so pursed you cant get lipstick on anymore.

    but if you have had children because you love kids, and want to mess around and play with them, make them your buddies, play in tents, play barbies, pretend to ride horses on broomsticks and carry on like crazy, not caring how clean the school shoes are. You wouldn’t even dream of using the word ‘selfish’, because if anyone didn’t want kids, your answer would be ‘cool, play with mine!’

    It’s only the insecure, angry ones of society who have so much negative, nasty things to say. Ignore them. they shouldn’t be breeding anyway.

    Besides our world is bursting with unwanted and abused kids that beg to be adopted, so if one really wanted a kid, without overpopulating, go that route.

    1. ‘Your lips are so pursed you cant get lipstick on anymore.’ ROFL! πŸ˜€

      That sounds like an African or African inspired saying lol! Yeah it’s mostly people just projecting their own dissatisfaction I would guess also. Nice one.

      1. ‘your lips are so pursed you can’t get lipstick on anymore’ is my saying relating to bitter, horrible women. LOL……….and since I’m South African, yeah, lets call it an ‘African inspired Saying’ LOL………but it’s true! have a look at dissatisfied women’s mouths. OMG, poor Revlon would go broke! πŸ™‚ Love you Madam Ed x x x

  6. There are the parents who have kids to fulfill something within themselves. To live out their dreams vicariously because they couldn’t do it for themselves. To show other people that they can.

    There are people who don’t have kids because they want to keep their independence. At least until they are old incontinent and alone.

    Both selfish.

    There are people who have kids to share the love, to contribute to their community, to build something for future generations.
    There are people who don’t have kids because they know they’d be crappie parents or they don’t have the resources.
    Not selfish.

    There are parents doing the best they can because they miscounted the days or the condom broke or they forgot about that course of antibiotics.
    There are people who are not parents because of childhood cancer treatments, or because they never met the one until.later in life or because their systems just wouldn’t take it.

    Sometimes selfish doesn’t come into it.

  7. My husband thinks that people choose not to to have kids so they can do whatever they want to do, and to him that’s selfishness. But why have kids if you don’t want them? I had a friend who once told me that having children is our obligation to society. But society doesn’t necessarily want our kids.

    I sure don’t want anyone’s kids. My kids are more than enough LOL!

    1. I am fascinated as to why we are obligated to society? Who says we are? And are we born to do what we don’t want to do? Is that why we are here? Not to do what we want and for what reason?
      These are the arguments that puzzle me!

  8. A lot of children are abused but I’m not quite as certain they are all unwanted. More often than not people are ill-equipped to handle the emotions that come up when having little people pushing your buttons all the time–and then there’s lack of sleep, too. Kids in foster care often still want to be with their abusive parents.

    I think the whole argument is silly. ALL people do things for selfish reasons and then try to justify their actions. Selfishness is our default setting. I’m not sure why people even involve themselves in arguments like this. I have met many people who say for environmental reasons we shouldn’t have kids–very often these people have one or two of their own (but their children will be trained properly about recycling, I suppose). I recommend fostering and adoption–it’s a crazy, maddening and rewarding experience.

    1. ‘ Selfishness is our default setting. ‘ Interesting…I had to think about that one! Still thinking.
      ‘I’m not sure why people even involve themselves in arguments like this.’ Well this is the crux of the discussion of course – why is it anyone else’s beeswax?

      1. I guess I don’t know why it’s anyone’s beeswax to judge others about having children or not–do we judge elephants or birds for doing what’s natural? If we are just creatures then producing offspring is kinda what’s done. If we think we are different than other animals then we have a choice. I think because selfishness and pride drive a lot of what we are doing there is some of that in our decision to produce offspring or not. That doesn’t mean we don’t also have altruistic notions as well, but the need to see others as “less than us” is definitely a pride thing and possibly a selfish thing as we think our way of looking at the world is good for others because it’s good for us. I used to be a staunch environmentalist and was actually ashamed that I wanted children–until I read that all the people on earth could live comfortably in the state of Texas if our resources were managed better–but that kind of management would rely on people becoming something they’re not–perfect or even sorta good. History details man’s inability to stray far from corruption. Environmentalists seem to start with good motives but all too often become the monsters they want to destroy. We very rarely want to see our own family and friends eliminated for the good of the planet–only other people’s. I applaud people who make the decision not to have kids if they don’t want them but I don’t think either side holds any moral high ground.

      2. ‘the need to see others as β€œless than us” is definitely a pride thing and possibly a selfish thing as we think our way of looking at the world is good for others because it’s good for us.’ – Ouch! Truth hurts! In fact brilliant comment all round, too many golden nuggets to even single them out. I’m still mulling over the previous selfish comment and I think you may right there too…I feel a querying post coming on perhaps…

  9. I don’t think either way is selfish. Some people just do not want kids or do not have the capacity to raise kids. Some people can and want to raise kids. It is up to each couple what they choose to do and everyone else should stay out of their lives and bedrooms…lol!!

  10. I would say neither, my dear Edith. There are many factors for siding one way or the other. Strangely enough Daughter #1 just had a baby boy (One month, and everyone is already gaga… drooling. Yes. The baby too). Now Daughter #2 doesn’t want kids, though she’s as good as married. Fine. She may change her mind though, judging how much she fusses about her nephew. πŸ™‚
    Yours truly,
    (Until Sunday at 12:00 local time)

    1. So many obvious and subtle things make up our minds for us, whether it’s deciding on an EU referendum or having a baby. Then on top of that as you say Bertie(!) our new experiences keep changing our perspectives as we live our lives. So who knows? But it’s interesting to hear why people make such sweeping statements about either group.

      1. Dearest Edith, Bertie has gone in Limbo as of last Sunday at 11:59 PM GMT. (If GMT is not swept away by all the latest nonsense). Your point about sweeping statements is very… sharp. Part of the growing intolerance is that people seem unable to… live their own beliefs without tearing down others’ thoughts. Insecurity maybe? Going back to your argument, someone’s choice to have children is fine, without trying to “bully” those who don’t want any. And vice-versa. 😦 (I think it is insecurity). πŸ™‚
        Yours truly, “Bernard”. (Not Bernie, please) until next Sunday 11.59PM Paris Time. Have a lovely week.

      2. Now wait a cotton picking minute! Since when in our fast name changing relationship did the law change and we get to name ourselves??!! – Did I miss that particular referendum?! πŸ˜€ Let alone insist on the non truncated versions?

      3. Cotton pickin’ minute? Are you, my dear Scarlett, from South of the Mason-Dixon line? (Praise the Lord!)
        Now blame Brexit for all unexpected changes… Yours truly, Bruno.

  11. Neither having nor not having children is in and of itself selfish. There are plenty of selfish parents and plenty of selfish non-parents. The ones that got to me (and I have six kids, thoughtfully and by choice), are the professional women, I’ve known quite a few, who spend their fertile decades swearing that they aren’t interested in having kids, they are career women, etc., ad nauseum, then turn forty and suddenly have to have kids because their biological clock is going off. Not relevant to the topic perhaps, but were they lying all those years they swore they didn’t want kids? Are they just afraid of missing out? I have no clue, but they did bother me.

    I have more thoughts, but can’t type more at this time. Maybe more later?

    1. Yes, bring it on when you are ready! πŸ™‚ Interesting. Didn’t know you have six children, thought it was 2 or 3.

      I would guess that some of the women may have genuinely thought that they didn’t want them and then met someone in later years that changed their mind. Or perhaps another change of circumstance made them rethink, perhaps being laid off that job they were so foccussed on for years?

      1. They were women I or my husband worked with, professional women who were at least 35. One of which said that she had to have the kids before biological clock ran out. Many of them had been quite outspoken about not wanting kids. One that I worked with had two kids, who were in day care practically from the start – anyway I know that I am judgmental about them but why should they have kids that they didn’t even want? It was thirty years ago and it still bugs me.

        Selfish is having kids you don’t want because someone else has them. Selfish is not having kids only because they might interfere with your lifestyle. Selfish isn’t about the kids, it’s about the person who has (or doesn’t have) them.

        Now I’ve been called a ‘useless eater’ and a ‘breeder’ before. I’m what all those superior intellectuals turn up their noses at while putting on a sour face. I’m disabled (at the moment unable to hold a job), overweight, used to be middle-aged, stay-at-home mom. You can’t get much lower than that, right?

        The thing is that I am probably better educated and smarter than all those who put me down. I wanted to have kids and I wanted to do it right. I chose to stay home with them before I became disabled. I also chose to live in the country, cook meals from scratch, fill my house with books and limited television. So who is selfish? I wanted those kids enough to give up everything else, but some would say I’m selfish for having them at all, leave alone so many.

        The problem that I see is more about calling names, something all of my kids learned not to do before they hit puberty. Why does anyone have to call anyone selfish? We all make different choices. I made the choices that were right for me (and, I trust, my kids). You make the choices that are right for you(I hope). As long as none of our choices are hurting each other…

  12. I never wanted to have children, never felt the need or the urge. I don’t think it was a selfish decision though my in-laws do, but I also don’t see it as my job to provide them with grandchildren. I am a live and let live person, you want kids, have kids, you don’t want want kids, don’t have them. I think that raising children is one of the toughest jobs out there so kudos to people that do it. However, as I’ve gotten older I am now getting the, “Oh poor you! No children? Then you haven’t fully lived, because as a woman you must use those procreation parts to be complete.” And I call bullcrap, I am successful, happily married with a very full life and future. Also, I hate to be the one to say it but there is no guarantee that the children you have will complete your life, give you grandchildren, or take care of you when you’re old.

    1. So true. It smacks a bit of patriarchy that a woman’s bits appear to be viewed as a community possession, where people feel they have a right to expectations as to what you do with those bits for their own agendas.

      I’m with you with the live and let live stance and struggle to understand people are so involved in others lives rather than add a spit and polish to their own to make their own lives perfect. But that’s humans for ya! πŸ™‚

  13. Do not get me wrong, I am coming from another direction. Looking from the other side I wish I had really not had 5 of them. Maybe none. I was young and naive because of many circumstances. I had no clue when I married that the guy would be mentally and verbally -later spiritually-abusive. I did not know I was an extremely sensitive type. (It is actually a condition.)I wanted kids and had one right off the git go. They grew up in not the best environment and I never realized it was abuse, though I knew something was wrong because it destroyed my health. My kids are messed up. Because of my sensitive above normal nature( Even though I left him late in the game) I am devastated for what they go through because I was so hindered from teaching them what they needed. I was a good mom, but it destroyed me and I feel their pain physically and the guilt. I wish I had waited to get married and have kids: it may have been different, but the fallout on all of us makes me wish I had stayed working and did not bring them into the world to hurt and have such hard knocks to live with. Marry well,l and be sure before doing it if you do.

    1. You raise a good point, it is often easy to point the finger at women in particular and question why they stay in negative domestic situations, but you remind us that sometimes you don’t always ‘know.’ Sometimes you just feel the aftershocks of the situation and can’t join the dots and see the reason for your misery. Thank you for your input. Made me think.

  14. Think the decision is a personal choice between two consenting adults. My husband and I decided NOT to have kids due to the fact he has a 50% chance of giving me a female child which will end up cursed with multiple sclerosis like I have. Do not want to curse an innocent child with this life altering disease.

    1. Bless your heart. Tough, tough break. I’m always surprised when I hear that parents who have conditions they can pass on make the decision to risk a child’s life for their wants, but each to their own I guess. I couldn’t do it to a kid, but it’s easy to make that judgement from a keyboard.

  15. See what happens when you attribute value to the utterings of idiots. Why would this opinion give you any pause at all. It is more telling of the utterer than of the utterance. It sounds as if they are complaining that they were forced into parenthood and you should be, too. Idiotic.

    Interestingly, the couples I have know who decided not to have children were, in my opinion of course, the best candidates for being good parents I have met. This is sad, possibly, but not selfish.

    1. That seems to be the case Steve, those who make mindful, slow decisions are the ones who have none or few children (generally speaking of course). Plus I wouldn’t say I attribute value to what they are saying but I’d certainly discuss it around a dinner table or indeed on a blog!

  16. I have never understood why people can’t be allowed to make their own personal choices in life without having to be criticised for it. It could be argued that wanting to have children isn’t exactly the most selfless thing either. But I’m not going to argue that. If you want ’em, fine. If you don’t want ’em, fine. What’s the problem? I’m really failing to see how either party is hurting the other by following their own desires on this… πŸ˜›

  17. There are people who have children and do not care or provide for them as they should…that is selfishness and there are people who just adopt and give all the love they can to such children…that is what i call “selflessness”. So it depends on which angle an individual is viewing this matter from. So I’d say if you have a lot of love and time to give have children by “breeding” or by adopting”. But this should not be a yardstick for measuring selfishness.

      1. I went for years never wanting to have children. Then in my mid-30’s I decided it was now or never. It really has to be about what works for both of you. We have friends who don’t have kids – she doesn’t want, he does. There it gets tricky, because the decision has to work for both. Fortunately, my husband and I were on the same page. We complicate life too much.

  18. At first I was gonna be all ‘both selfish,’ mostly because I’m jealous of all the travelling these smug childless swine do and the exciting lives they lead. Both my sisters are childless. By the time I finished, though, I was all Dark Side, I’m sorry. I don’t want to say “everyone is selfish” if it means I’m agreeing that having kids is selfless. Of course childless people are selfish, we all are – but not just because they’re childless.The Parents are the selfish ones. You don’t have kids “for the kids,” that would mean you planned your life to serve something which doesn’t exist.

    First, genes are selfish, they want kids, and a very close second, inseminating someone is selfish, it’s the thing our selfish genes reward us with for making their (our genes’) schemes come true. I think it’s safe to say that many, many caring parents are created when some dude selfishly orgasms with little or no concern for the consequences – but we’re talking about the breeders, the ones who plan to get married and raise kids, right?

    Still selfish.The parents I saw around me when we were parenting – youngest one just turned eighteen – just needed to be parents for the power. Sorry again – but the only ones who actually THINK about having children are the ones that don’t. In the eighteen years I’ve been raising my kids in a minority way and the five years I’ve spent writing and blogging about it, I have come to the conclusion that breeding isn’t a conscious activity. The ideas I try to promote and the discussions I try to have about it fall on deaf ears, the reaction from parents, apparently as a bloc, seems to be “Why are you thinking about this stuff? Don’t you just know?”

    Then they explain to me how children need to learn that there are consequences. They’re twenty or twenty-five and I’m fifty or fifty-five, and they all think I must have never heard it before, and once they explain it to me, surely I’ll understand. Too bad I didn’t have great parents like theirs who would have taught me that, like everyone thinks it’s their family secret, LOL.

    I know, I have a bad attitude, but at least I’m tellin’ ya straight.

    Hey, EJ, you could be starting a fun one here, and I just thought of something – don’t approve this comment yet, I’m afraid sometimes I scare everyone off, kill all discussion. You should hold this one until the usual discussion begins to slow down, maybe.

    1. ‘because I’m jealous of all the travelling these smug childless swine do..’ Lool! Jeff’s back! πŸ™‚

      ‘but the only ones who actually THINK about having children are the ones that don’t.’ – Woah! Okay. Deep. Had to absorb that one a little and see if I fully agreed or not, cos I get what you’re saying but there ARE parents who sit down and discuss the viability of children and how many they can afford – and not just financially. They’re the ones that end up having one or two usually as opposed to 12.

      ‘…the reaction from parents, apparently as a bloc, seems to be β€œWhy are you thinking about this stuff? Don’t you just know?” ‘ – Ha! This I DO fully agree with although I’m trying not to generalise.

      As for withholding. Nope. In a world of tiresome flabby, easily offended pc whinging, I like your straight talking.

  19. I have never considered either act to be selfish. Having children is a personal choice, or at least I thought it was. I have one child. I am certainly glad I have her, but I would never think that someone who chooses not to have children is selfish – in fact I will say I think that is the opposite. Far more selfish to HAVE children that you aren’t prepared to care for or do not wish to care for…

  20. I used to think I’d never have kids. I wanted to travel, enjoy life on my own (or with someone special) and I didn’t think that was at all selfish. I still don’t think it is. Some people just don’t want to have kids. Either in their current lives or in their future. I don’t think it’s selfish at all. We don’t always know the reason a person is choosing not to have kids. Maybe they can’t. Maybe they had an unpleasant childhood and don’t wish to pass it on. Maybe they just want to. All perfectly non-selfish reasons in my mind. Why do parents call people selfish who don’t want kids? Jealous? Misery loves company? I don’t know, I don’t get it. Have kids if you want.. Don’t if you don’t want! πŸ™‚ Either way, I’ll never pass up the opportunity for you to hang out with mine to see if you want to change your mind? (or verify your choice?!!) πŸ™‚

    1. Ha! Ha! A new little cottage industry perhaps? Supervised kiddie loans? Yeah I don’t get it either, hence the post. But I did kind of sway to thinking that the ‘misery loves company’ line might have something to do with it, because the parents are often so forceful with their opinion you’re left thinking ‘why do you even care so much?’

  21. Everyone has their own opinion and I think perhaps a case could be made for either side.

    Personally, and I am a parent or “breeder” as you put it, I think if you become a parent and you treat your kids poorly, that’s selfish. Subjecting your children to either a life of neglect or abuse is cruel and wrong.

    The argument that people are worried we’ll go extinct due to the number of people that choose not to have kids is ridiculous. We’re overpopulated as it is and that trend isn’t slowing down.

    If you don’t want kids and want to focus on your career, seeing the world, etc, I think that’s your right. Is it selfish not to further your lineage and deny your parent’s grandchildren? Some would say yes, I think to be guilted into having kids is wrong. If you don’t want to be a parent, then don’t be one.

    Honestly, I think it’s selfish of those pushing parenthood on their loved ones. Yeah, I understand that many times they just want to become grandparents and I hear to be one is an amazing thing. However, it’s not okay to guilt trip your kids into having kids. Not everyone is meant to be a mom or dad. There are already too many kids in the foster care system and not enough people willing to take them in AND treat them right. I know, I used to be one of those kids.

    If you’re going to be a parent, you need to learn what it means to love someone more than yourself and make the necessary sacrifices for the children’s welfare. If you aren’t prepared to put someone’s needs ahead of yours, parenting isn’t for you, plain and simple.

    1. ‘ Is it selfish not to further your lineage and deny your parent’s grandchildren? Some would say yes,’ – aha! Yes that could be why people say it’s selfish too! Hadn’t thought of that. But like you suggest that decision seems to have little bearing for the welfare of the child and is all about the selfish(?) wants of the adult.
      ‘Breeder’ is not my term, it is a word I found repeatedly on tons of angry discussions about parenting. I would have to agree with your summation particularly because for me it isn’t about what adults want, it is about the child.

      1. Exactly! Many forget that. It should be about the needs of the child first and too many people lose sight of that and many children suffer because of it. 😦 Don’t get me started on broken relationships where kids are involved and put in the middle instead of before the bickering between the parents. That’s a whole different topic, but the choices should still be made with the best interests of the child in mind, not the adults.

      2. Now YOU don’t ME started! Lol! Women when they don’t get their way in an argument shouting ‘You’ll never see your child!’ Grrrr! Or men with influence, power or money kidnapping children and disallowing the mother access because that is in the best interest of him alone. Gah!
        Bickering in front of the children or forcing them to take sides. Vom!

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