We all hear about how not wanting kids is “selfish”, but you know what? Maybe having children is “selfish” too.

At the beginning of the year, the Catholic Pope Francis said to an audience at the Vatican in Rome“We see a form of selfishness… that some people do not want to have a child.” He went on to say that not having children “diminishes us” and “takes away our humanity”. 

The childless male pope certainly has a flair for the dramatics in his wordings, which is something I can understand. What I cannot understand, however, is the idea that not wanting kids is “selfish”.

If someone does not want children, and are clear that they will never be able offer the love and affection and security a child needs, why are we still asking them to have children?

Image: Pexels/ Ketut Subiyanto

Imagine a child growing up in an environment where they are resented and not loved. Actually, you do not even need to imagine. Such children are everywhere, growing up to seek literature about breaking generational trauma and ending toxic filial cycles.

The Pope is not the only one who feels this way. For many childfree people across the world of a certain age, they would have heard again and again about how they need to have children. The clock is ticking, you are only a woman if you have children, having kids in old age is hard, and so on.

Personally, I would rather regret not having kids, rather than regret having kids. Let’s not act like all parents want their children.

Read: I moved in with my partner and tried not to become my mother.

If one insists that not having children is “selfish”, I can turn the tables and say that having children is “selfish” too. Here’s why: 

1) The idea of having kids so someone will look after you in your old age is selfish and unrealistic

One of the frequent answers as to why people should have kids, at least in an Asian society, is always: 

“Who will look after you in your old age if you don’t have kids?”

I am certain that there are people with many children that are not looked after in their old age. Having children is not a guarantee that they will look after you when you are old.

Image: Pexels/ Jimmy Chan

That aside, though, is it not “selfish” to expect that your child has to “return” your investment by being there for you in your old age?

“I’ve done so much for you, so now you have to do these for me.” 

This statement reduces a parent-child relationship to a transactional one, and it is one that can foster a lot of resentment. 

With the state of the economy as it is, most people are finding it hard to look after themselves alone. Imagine this person also saddled with family members that expect you to look after them now that their job of looking after you to adulthood is done.

If you want to be looked after in your old age, invest in a retirement scheme or plan for living in a retirement village instead. 

If you must have a child, have one for the sake of loving it, not for it to pay you back in the future.

2) There are many unloved kids around 

If bearing offspring is so important, why are there still many unloved children around on earth? The children in orphanages or foster homes aside, there are children in homes that are not loving, too.

The act of reproduction is so easy that you do not have to have to study or work for it. Raising a child in a loving and nurturing environment, on the other hand, is not easy.

Image: Pexels/ Jep Gambardella

If you are unable to provide a child with a loving and stable home, but you still want to bring children up in this environment, this is definitely “selfish”.

3) Children are not a rite of passage, they are both a privilege and a burden  

Finally, it is “selfish” to want kids simply because you think you should have them by a certain age. Kids are both a privilege and a burden. 

Of course, they are a good burden to have if you have the resources to cope with them. However, if you do not, there is no shame in delaying having children – or just not at all.

In a nutshell, we all live our lives differently. There is no need to label a certain lifestyle “selfish”, just because it is not one you agree with. If we are to go down that route, anyone anywhere can simply be called “selfish” for choosing to do something for themselves. 

Whether you are childfree, have children, or wish to have children later, may you live the life that brings you the most happiness (without it being at other people’s expenses).