More on the Selfish Issue: How are Parents Selfish?

As I mention in the vlog on the August On-the-Ground question wrap up,  I received lots of mail from childfree and parents re the question about how parents can be selfish. Thanks again to all that wrote in — parents and childfree.  And double thanks to parents’ candor. It really does help expand the conversation on selfishness, with kids and without. Here’s a few more themes that came up from parents:

Some parents talked about how it’s selfish if you know what do to as parents and don’t, like not: giving them good nutrition, love and nurturing, praise, and discipline. On discipline, it can be self-centered to refrain from disciplining children when the parents make not wanting to deal with an upset child more important than giving the child the discipline they know s/he needs.  Then there is the issue of time: it can be selfish when the parents just don’t spend the time with their children they know they need to, and choose to tend to their own  needs instead.

In addition to what I mention in the vlog regarding how parents think it is selfish when they think of themselves at the expense of their kids, some said in effect that it’s also selfish when they think of themselves “over” the needs of their kids. For example, this can be bringing them to a movie or some kind of entertainment the parents want to see but they are clearly not ready for, or taking them on trips the parents want to go on but one that the kid is clearly not ready to go on.

Another point that came up in various forms was the issue of day care.  While in many families day care is necessary because both parents need to work outside the home, some parents argue that it can be a selfish choice when the parent would rather be at work, or when the motivation boils down to making a certain lifestyle more important (that requires two full time incomes) than what they believe is best for the kids (one parent at home).

Finally, a few quotes from parents I really liked:

On selfless parenting: “Ideally we should selflessly embrace our kid’s childhood dreams, educate them on the whimsy or intelligence of those choices and be there to offer assistance in achieving their dreams.”

On why we judge: “People get so judgmental on all these issues (kids vs. non-kids, different kinds of parenting, etc) because it seems like at the root of it all is great insecurity.  Being a parent means making decisions you hope will turn out ok, feeling unsure, shooting in the dark sometimes.  So if you are feeling this way at times, it’s easy to be judgmental of other people and how they parent, or whether they decide to parent or not. ”

My grandmother and my mom
My grandmother and my mom

And OK, I just have to: “We have a daughter and son-in-law and a son and daughter-in-law who have made the decision not to have children. They are caring and loving couples who touch the lives of many people of all ages. I am very proud of them. Some couples have children because their “selfish” parents want and expect grandchildren in their lives.  They want that experience for themselves whether it is the best situation for everyone involved. Parenthood is a lifetime commitment and one which I have loved, but it is not right or the best decision for everyone.”

Who wrote that? Even my Mom wrote in!  I’ve got a great one..there she is on the left, with my late grandmother….

Please add to the conversation~!

4 thoughts on “More on the Selfish Issue: How are Parents Selfish?

  1. Your mother sounds like a smart lady! Very well said. A more simplistic way to look at the selfish issue- aren’t we all selfish in some way? Parents have children because they want them, sometimes that is the only reason. Childfree don’t have them for many reasons, sometimes simply because we don’t want the parenthood lifestyle. Both sides can be seen as selfish, we are doing what we think will make us happy. Maybe this shouldn’t always be seen as such a bad thing! As long as selfishness doesn’t come at someone else’s expense, it isn’t necessarily a negative thing. Certainly, not having children doesn’t hurt anyone, but selfish parents could be very damaging. Good parents, who had kids because they very much wanted them, are just as selfish as us childfree.

    1. My mom is great. I agree that we are all selfish if you define it as we think of ourselves first and/or when we do something we want to do for our own reasons….to me selfish means more than this — doing something at at someone else’s expense is what makes it selfish or self-centered, at the least. Bigger point I wanted to try and make is that not having kids sure does not determine whether someone is selfish or not! ~L

  2. On selfishness – I love this quote attributed to Oscar Wilde – “Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, but asking others to live as one wishes to live.”

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