The time has come.
It is time to put an end to the persistent and pervasive myth that will not die - the myth that until a person becomes a parent, s/he doesn't know what love is and doesn't know what it means to be a giving, selfless person. I am sick to death of hearing this lie from celebrity moms who are on the front lines in spreading this garbage around (and news media outlets who eat it up), and I am equally sick of hearing it from everyday moms who think they are Mother Teresa for pumping out a unit (thanks, George Carlin). With bags under their eyes, empty wallets, splitting headaches, and husbands who intentionally work long hours just so they can avoid coming home, moms everywhere are heard shouting from the rooftops that motherhood has transformed them from self-centered creatures, to "much better", "much less selfish", "more caring" people who "finally know what real love is".
Do moms love their kids? Most do, and many love their kids deeply. (Many also resent them and regret having them, but that's another blog post).
Do moms have to sacrifice a great deal of themselves in order to raise children? Absolutely.
Does being a mom result in a woman giving, giving, giving and giving some more? Yep.
Does a mom have to give up many of the joys she once enjoyed, like keeping her appearance up, dining out with hubby, working out at the gym, relaxing without interuption, reading, napping, cooking sophisticated meals, shopping for herself...and on and on? Affirmative.
Do moms have the corner on love? On caring? On sharing? On selflessness?
IT IS NOT SELFLESS TO MEET ONE'S RESPONSIBILITIES: If a couple decides to have a child and bring a new life into the world, then that couple is responsible for caring for the child they created. This caring will take a seemingly infinite number of forms, including feeding, dressing, bathing, changing diapers, wiping noses, bandaging cuts and scapes, doctor visits, expenditures of vast sums of money, teaching, correcting, scolding, praising, prodding, encouraging, cheuffering, PTA meetings, play dates and the list goes on and on and on. These tasks will eat up most of the parents' life. Does meeting these responsibilities make a person selfless? NO. It makes him responsible and there is a difference.
It is not selfless to bring a new life into the world and then take care of all the responsibilities that are created because of that choice. A truly selfless person looks around and identifies already-existing people or other creatures who need help or care and then steps up to the plate and gives of themselves to help them. Taking this a step further, I would argue that considering how many truly needy people and creatures there are in the world, and taking into account that the world is already straining under the weight of overpopulation and the destructive and dire effects of global warming, bringing more people into the world is a truly selfish act, and one which should be actively discouraged rather than encouraged, praised and glorified to the point of absurdity the way it is.
PARENTS DO NOT HAVE THE MARKET ON LOVE, CARING AND SELFLESSNESS: Contrary to the negative stereotypes parents like to hurl around about the childfree, we do not live in a bubble where we exist only for ourselves. Only in our dreams are we lying around in bed all day, being fed bon-bons and brought tropical drinks by a cabana boy. We have jobs, and mortgages and bills to pay and most of us are not rolling in dough. It is not all about me, me, me. We are spouses. We are significant others. We are siblings. We are sons and daughters. We are grandchildren. We are friends. We are aunts and uncles. We are companions to animals. We are volunteers in our communities. We are dedicated employees and many of us are teachers, firefighters, EMTs, doctors, therapists and other caring professionals. There are many roles in life that allow a person to express love, caring and selflessness and being a parent isn't the only role in life that makes that possible.
IN MANY WAYS, PARENTS ARE MORE SELFISH THAN THE CHILDFREE: Let's face it. Parents have children for themselves, not for the children. They want to have a "family". They want to experience being a parent. They want someone to carry on their name. They want to relive their childhood. They want to have a helpless little being to love and they want to be loved by this little person. They want a little Mini-Me who can reflect themselves back like a mirror. They want someone to take care of them in old age. They want to be a grandparent someday. They want to fit in and be a validated member of the Parent Club. They want to feel the accomplishment of "having it all". These are all selfish motivations and are all about me, me, me. The unborn, non-existent child does not need to be created, so it is ridiculous to argue that having a child is a selfless endeavor.
IN MANY WAYS, THE CHILDFREE ARE MORE SELFLESS THAN PARENTS: Whereas the majority of a parent's life, energy, time and resources are used up caring for her children and the responsibilities that exist in the insular family bubble she has created, the childfree's resources can be directed outward. Childfree folks make great spouses and partners because their love, energy and attention is fully focused on the other person. They are not distracted by needy, draining third parties. The childfree are helpful to their parents, since their lives are not bogged down with childrearing responsibilities. The childfree make great friends. They truly listen. They care. They are available. Want to do something, go somewhere, plan something? They are up for it and will likely have the time and money. Call them on the phone and you will have their full attention the entire phone call. They are fun to talk to because they are able to stay up on current events and remain interesting conversationalists. The childfree make great employees. They can be counted on to arrive on time, well-rested and alert, work their full shift, fully focused on the tasks at hand, and are often available to work overtime when needed. Finally, by nature of not being overwhelmed with childcare responsibilities, the childfree are able to be more involved in their communities and with volunteer activities to make the world a better place for everyone.
Despite everything mentioned above, parents still get to prance around emblazoned with the Selfless Saint Martyr Medal, while the childfree continue to fight off the barrage of relentless negative judgements and perceptions of us as selfish, immature, materialistic hedonists. Our only consolation is that our ranks are growing and more and more attention (much of it positive!) is being paid to us in the media. Through in-person meetups, childfree blogs, discussion forums and online social networking, we are connecting, supporting and providing validation to each other. We are mirroring each others' feelings, thoughts and observations.
Most importantly, we are no longer alone.