It’s a provocative question, and one I’ve had directed at me for much of my adult life. And you know what? I’m not going to answer it for you today (mainly because the answer is both yes and no and because it doesn’t really matter). What I am going to do is talk about the paths that we all choose to take and why it is so important to appreciate personal choice.
First, let me direct you to the interview I did for Delicious Day about the subject. The interviewer makes it a policy to use only first names or pseudonyms because she often tackles provocative or taboo subjects. This assures anonymity for her subjects and honesty for the interview (you should definitely check out the archives – fascinating!). She was kind enough to offer this to me, and after a bit of reflection I decided to publicly comment and out myself.
Whether you are talking about the whether or not to have children, where to live, how to live, what religion (if any) to follow, or how to educate yourself and your children, you will find a difference of opinion among even the people close to you. Sometimes good friends can’t even decide what movie to see together.
What I find so invigorating about the relationships in my life are the differences, not the similarities. Sure, I like knowing that most of my friends are fairly liberal granola eaters like me who have passports and travel, but two of my best friends happen to be Republicans (who also eat granola and have passports and travel – hey, this is Seattle we’re talking about!).
How boring would it be if we were all exactly the same!
“There are so many people that say their way is the way. You get that from people who have kids, from people who don’t, people who are religious, people who are not, Republicans, Democrats. I think the important thing to recognize is we are all on a path. We are not on the path. We should be respectful of other people’s decisions. We should understand why they are where they are and hopefully get the same respect back. I think it is the key to all of us getting along better and living happier lives. I certainly do not hate children. I love that other people are having kids and enjoying their families and obviously, [laughing] that there will be people to take care of me in my old age.” ~ Betsy Talbot on the decision to not have children at Delicious Day
Choosing to not have children does and does not prove that we are selfish. Choosing to have children does and does not prove that you are selfish. You could easily look at this from both viewpoints, and I think this holds true for most of lifestyle decisions. Holding other people accountable to your lifestyle decisions means you believe there is only a single way of living, and any kid with a crayon box knows that choice is the key to a beautiful picture.
When we judge others, we are only limiting ourselves.
So, it is probably selfish for us to not have kids. Or not. And it might be selfish of you to have them. Or not.
Whether you are talking about children, religion, money, politics, or even hairstyles, I challenge you to focus less on the judgment and more on the “or not.” Because we are all the opposite of someone’s version of ideal. And that is a very good thing.