Selfish, Shallow, and Self- Absorbed

I just finished reading (well, listening to) “Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on the Decision Not to Have Kids”. Overall, I really enjoyed it. As an intentionally childless adult it was nice to listen to likeminded individuals explain their reasons for deciding not to have children. Many times I found myself nodding and smiling as the audiobook progressed, but mostly I was surprised at how diverse the reasoning was for many people. Even as one of the childless I still see the issue primarily through my own lens and hearing the authors (primarily women) discuss their situations opened my eyes to how easy I have it when it comes to this issue (and many others) primarily because I am a man.

The main title (Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed) is a bit tongue-in-cheek. Those accusations are something most intentionally childless people hear from time to time, and to some extent they are accurate. But, they are also accurate of people who have children. Isn’t it “selfish” to have a child because you’ve always wanted one or you get pleasure out of being a parent? Isn’t it shallow to have a child because that is what is expected of you from society? Isn’t it self-absorbed to require a genetic copy of you when nearly half a million children in the US alone need to be adopted or fostered? In the end, we are all selfish, shallow, and self-absorbed to some extent. It is our reasoning beyond those adjectives that I find much more important.

Some of the authors had abusive parents, some did not. Some were focused on their careers, but some did not. Some regret the decision, but others did not. The authors are individual humans, and as such they are complicated people and their reasoning reflects that. It is so easy to just label an intentionally childless person as selfish (or a Trump supporter as dumb or a Christian as foolish etc etc etc) but that removes their humanity. It reduces them to a small, inaccurate box based on one thing you know about them. It is like Dan Savage says about telling someone you have HIV… “When you tell someone you have HIV you are telling them one fact about you, but the way they respond tells you a lot about them”

We need to just cut each other a break once in a while. If you are truly interested in why someone chose not to have children (or why they did have children, support Trump, call themselves Christian, etc) then the proper thing to do is ask in a private and respectful way, and realize they don’t have to tell you if they don’t want to. I certainly wouldn’t ask those questions of strangers, it is kind of rude to ask a stranger why they do or don’t do the things they do with their genitalia, finances, vote, or soul.

So, if you are interested in hearing a small sample of the reasons people choose to be childless I highly recommend this book. Some of the authors are snarky and harsh, but so are some parents. It is a good read and can really open your eyes to how and why other people do the things they do.

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