Wanting to Have Kids is Selfish.

Via R.R. Shakti
on Jan 4, 2011
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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.


About R.R. Shakti

Yoga World Reach Director, and Certified Yoga Therapist, R.R. Shakti has been teaching "the blissipline" of Inner Power Yoga since 2000. She is a Certified Massage Therapist and Ayurvedic Health Counselor and has studied holistic approaches to health and well being for over 15 years. She has traveled extensively throughout the world gaining insight, experience, and inspiration, bringing yoga and hope to people from all walks of life. Shakti is a firm believer in the power of yoga to awaken the body’s own healing process by aligning with Grace and empowering one’s unique expression of their True Nature. She holds an A.A. in Outdoor Recreation Leadership from Colorado Mountain College, a B.A. in Traditional Eastern Arts from Naropa University and is currently pursuing a M.A./Ph.D. in Mythology and Depth Psychology at Pacifica Graduate Institute. Visit Shakti at rrshakti.com.


11 Responses to “Wanting to Have Kids is Selfish.”

  1. YesuDas says:


    This isn't the first time I've encountered childless people on Elephant talking about the pressure they get to break down and have children; I heard from a few of them in response to my very first post here: http://www.elephantjournal.com/2010/07/too-busy-t

    I'm sorry that parents have put you through that; it must feel like people think your life choices aren't valid, and people have no business telling you that.

    I do want to make one suggestion, however. I've known a couple of former Roman Catholic priests who gave up the priesthood to marry. One of them used to do, of all things, marriage counseling–while he was a celibate priest. Years later, with a family of his own, he said, "I can't believe the shit I used to tell people about marriage!"

    Likewise, I'd be very careful about "advising" parents; becoming a parent isn't just taking on a job–it's a change of state, something I would never hold a childless person responsible for understanding. I must lovingly submit that you have no business advising parents on how to parent.

  2. Charlotte says:

    I know exactly what you mean about being pressured to have children. When I was married and of childbearing age, so many people pushed my husband and me to have kids. I never had the compelling desire to have children that so many other women feel, and the time was never optimal within the context of my marriage, so I chose not to do it. When people prodded us to have kids, the reasons they would give us were all selfish: Who's going to take care of you when you get old? (I don't feel it's fair to lay this responsibility on kids.) You'll never be fulfilled as a woman. (Again, do I want to make this the responsibility of children I might have?) And my favorite in the arrogance department: You should have kids because you are educated and will raise better kids. I found this to be profoundly presumptive.

    I unequivocally respect the choice to have children. It is a noble and selfless pursuit. But I also ask for the respect for those of us who have profoundly personal and valid reasons to have made a different choice.

  3. Interesting, thoughtful, provocative blog, Shakti. Thank you for writing.

    Bob W.
    Yoga Editor

  4. r.r. Shakti says:

    Thank you so much for your response.
    I agree with you, completely, that I cannot know what it is like to be a parent. My suggestion was less about how to be a better parent, but how to embrace the paradox of being human. And truth be told, I don't personally get ANY pressure from my parents to have children and very little from my friends. Yet I have clearly seen the pressures all around me. This article is less a response to emotion, than to observation. An observation, that for me is rich and timely; because (again, truth be told) I haven't decided if I want to have children or not. I am in a spiritually solid and intimate relationship. I love the idea of being a mother. I believe I could rise to the challenge. So far, the desire just hasn't been strong enough. And I don't have much time left to think about it.
    In Love and Light
    r.r. Shakti

  5. r.r. Shakti says:

    You have it, sister.
    In Love and Light,
    r.r. Shakti

  6. r.r. Shakti says:

    Thanks Bob! It is sometimes precarious to dive into the rich paradox(es) of life. Yet, it is here that I find some of the most exquisite opportunities to fully embrace LIFE.

  7. r.r. Shakti says:

    You have it, sister!

  8. r.r. Shakti says:

    Thanks Bob! Sometimes (as with this article) it feels precarious to dive into the rich paradox(es) of life. And yet it is there that I find the most exquisite opportunities to truly embrace what it means to fully LIVE.

  9. guest says:

    I have mulled over these same thoughts. There ARE certainly enough children in the world, and children who need loving homes! To me, that makes the greatest case for giving birth to a brand new child at least partly, if not totally selfish. I also think it's ego driven as well as biologically instinctual to some degree to want to procreate. Of course there are the people who actually name their children variations on their own names (mini-me)! Dead giveaway in my book for the ego-driven.

    When I had my first child, I remember what I was thinking/feeling exactly. I wrote it down so I wouldn't forget what it felt like to be me at that moment. I wrote in a letter to my unborn child that I wanted him to know how wanted he was, and that I loved his dad so much that I wanted to have more of him (his dad) in the world! I suppose we were in the infatuation state still : )


  10. guest says:

    16 years later we have 2 children who are 13 and 11, boy and girl. It's hard work. I worry about them and I worry about the world. I am also a teacher, and I worry for the children who lag behind and don't get proper care, love and support for a variety of reasons.

    There is a video on TED about parenting and the "real" things people don't tell you or you are oblivious to when in the infatuation state. http://www.ted.com/talks/rufus_griscom_alisa_volk
    One slide shows a graph of personal happiness of the parents relative to the age of your children – ha ha! It gets into the real work of parenting.

    When I think of myself the teacher, I remember a line from a poem I think of often. ALL of our children are ALL of our children. I'd like to live it that way.

    Thanks for your interesting and honest article.