- Not having children is a failure of imagination
- March 22nd, 2011
While I was in Shanghai I talked to a friend of mine who said that at the age of 36, he was finding the idea of having a girlfriend difficult, let alone having children.
I launched into my normal rant about how great kids are. I regard it as my job now to evangelise about how having kids is wonderful, because there's a lot of negativity around it: don't get pregnant as a teenager, it changes your life, you have to be ready, etc.
My friend responded saying, yeah, I guess I'm kind of selfish. It's a bit of a pat answer, pretending to be aware of and sorry of a fault in oneself, while not actually intending to change. But it's also wrong.
Those who have kids are not less selfish/more selfless than those who don't. Rather, for me at least, it's been a process of redefinition of what the self is, and where the boundaries of selfishness lie. Getting married and having children has made me into a part of a unit in a way that I wasn't before. When I was young, I felt like I was a part of my family, but I didn't have any way to act on the world outside my family, so it didn't mean much. Now, as an adult, what creating a family means is that I align my interests exactly with those of Ann, Mikey and Darwin, so that to outsiders, we are just a unit. What's good for me is good for us, what's good for Ann is good for me. And actions which I take purely to benefit Ann or Mikey, at the cost of other people, count as selfish actions now.
So what I wanted to say to my friend in Shanghai is that it's not being selfish which stops you getting married. It's a failure of imagination which stops you understanding that you can choose to change how you define yourself.