Sure it was a brazen statement, but I was just a punk teenager. I had barely adopted the practice of non-judgement and had a LOT to learn about inclusive communication. Plus, she was family and I was simply speaking my truth. My aunt wanted to know:
“So, do you think you might want to have kids someday?”
Having two of her own, she was flabbergasted by my answer; “Selfish!?!”
She was a little offended and a lot annoyed. I wasn’t a mother, “how could [I] possibly understand that giving birth to and caring for another human is the single most gigantic lesson in selfLESSness?!?!”
But it isn’t the giving birth part I was referring to as selfish. Not the pregnancy. Not the parenting that comes with the post-birth daily operations. It was the intention leading up to all that: Why did you want to have a child in the first place?
Chances are it was to enrich your own life in some way.
Did you want to experience the joys of maternity/paternity?
Did you want to have a little version of you to play ball/piano/”when I grow up, I’ll be….” with.
Were you wanting a second chance, at the life you always wanted, through the life of your child?
Did you want to get your in-laws off your case? Or make your mother proud? Or try your hand at parenting? Or do it better than your parents? Or share a special bond with your partner?
Were you bored of all things you, and wanted to concentrate on someone else for a change? Were you caught up in the heat of passion, and it just happened? Or, did you just WANT to?
Whatever the real reason, it probably started with, “YOU wanted….”
Of course, it was for you. It wasn’t for your child; he/she/it wasn’t even born yet.
And it wasn’t for the world, ‘cause there are certainly enough children out there.
And that’s o.k. It is totally natural—even crucial sometimes—to desire things for your self. In fact, Yoga philosophy teaches that the whole universe is born (just like most children) out of a burning, yearning, passionate desire.
Here’s my advice, though, as someone who is NOT a parent:
When your child is two or nine or 17—and acting out in that especially frustrating way that only a two year-old, nine year-old or 17 year-old can—think back to before they were born. Remember why you wanted to have a child in the first place, and chuck that original selfish idea right on out the window! Then, embrace the opportunity to experience the true freedom of selfless un-attachment.
After all, there is no guarantee that, even with all your positive influence and good intentions, your child will become the next righteous leader of the “free world.” In fact, It is much more likely that they won’t.
But rather than dwell on the myriad possibilities of human life, both really really beautiful and really really ugly, let me just say this:
To all of you who have decided to be parents for WHATEVER reason, I whole-heartedly put my palms together and bow to you. You have one of the most challenging, thankless, and yes, selfless jobs on the planet.
While I honor you a lot, this is an attempt to turn the tables just a bit for women and men who have chosen not to have children. Those who catch a ton of flack. Those whose in-laws are on their case or their friends constantly goad them to join the diaper club.
So if you decide not to have kids, I also salute you. There are other ways to learn selflessness. Like using all that free time NOT herding your own little ones to support orphaned children or at-risk youth.
And talk about selfless: A-D-O-P-T-I-O-N.
My sister and brother are adopted. My life partner is adopted. My dad adopted me (thanks pops). And although she was offended and annoyed at first; my aunt went on to later adopt two gorgeous little girls from Haiti. Through all of the major challenges that country has seen, I have often thought of my cousins and how different their lives could have been if not for my aunt.
She really is an amazingly selfless mama.