Thursday, April 12, 2012

Truly Unselfish Reasons to Have a Child

Yes, I’m a Selfish Childfree Person, Part II

I can think of several unselfish reasons to have children, but it’s hard to imagine any that are not totally lame or totally creepy. None of these are very common reasons for Americans to have children.

Some relatively unselfish, for-the-greater-good kinds of reasons:

1. My religion needs more followers.

2. The rain god demands more human sacrifices or else my people will starve.

3. The master race needs more members.

4. My country needs more soldiers, especially since those evil ____s are breeding like rabbits.

5. My parents want grandchildren.

6. My spouse wants children.

7. My first child needs a bone marrow transplant.

8. My cannibal village will starve without fresh meat.

9. My first child needs some companionship.

10. My pets need more human companionship.

11. My friend the neonatal nurse will lose her job if the birth rate goes too low.

12. The community garden needs compostable material, and if I don’t provide it, who will?

(Okay, some of these are gruesome, but don’t tell me that having a baby for food is really all that different from having a baby to provide organs for your other child. Potayto, potahto.)

There is another kind of extremely lame “unselfish reason,” unselfish in the sense that it is not overtly or consciously driven by self-interest, so it’s not exactly cold calculation. That doesn’t mean it’s selfless, either, just that it’s easy for that person to imagine that it’s not an actively selfish choice.

I’m talking about getting pregnant or getting someone pregnant:

1. On accident, because of laziness, carelessness, or ignorance about birth control or reproduction.  (Yes, sweetie, unprotected vaginal intercourse in a hot tub CAN result in pregnancy.)

2. Because you never really thought about doing anything else.

3. Because you let other people make the choice for you.

4. Because you were totally wasted when it happened.

5. Because you weren’t considering the consequences of your actions.

Notice how many of these unselfish reasons are grounded in ignorance or carelessness. That’s not a very noble basis for becoming a parent. Something like half the pregnancies in the U.S. are unplanned. There are a whole lot of “oopsie” babies out there. As bad as the American sex education curriculum is, it’s not THAT bad. These are largely preventable oopsies, assuming the people WANT to prevent them.

A lot of the myth of the unselfish parent is based on the reality that parenthood may not be a well-thought-out choice in the first place. “How can I be selfish when it was a total accident? Don’t blame me, it must have been fate!” To really take credit for an unselfish decision, it ought to be a real decision.

Sorry, no credit for selflessness when it's really thoughtlessness.


  1. OMG that list busted me up...the garden needs more "compostable material"? Too funny.

    1. I may be watching too many "true crime" shows lately. Really, though, here in the Pacific Northwest, at least west of the Cascades, people are obsessed with composting. There are compost snobs and a whole hierarchy of hipness. Portland is probably the worst: people smoking cigarettes in their hybrids on the way to composting boutiques.

      Reduce, reuse, recyle. Why not for kids as well?