Child Rearing: A Decades-Long Exercise in Selfishness?

Child Rearing: A Decades-Long Exercise in Selfishness?

Why you should care

The kids are all right, but are we? 

It’s not that we don’t like kids — quite the contrary. We love children. Babies hypnotize us, we love how easy it is to make toddlers laugh, and even teenagers amuse us with their angst. We hit “like” on nearly every kid photo we see on Facebook, and what we really mean is “love.”

At the same time, as more of our peers and siblings have kids, we’ve begun to wonder about the costs of raising children. Not just the time, money and career disruptions, but also something more subtle: Does having children make a person more selfish, or narcissistic? Is having children itself a narcissistic act? What happens to a person’s political beliefs and attitude toward the wider world when he or she becomes a parent?

…parents’ worlds shrink to focus on what’s right for their them and theirs.

These days, with Time Magazine blaring headlines like “Child-free Adults Are Not Selfish,” many people apparently think that not having kids is selfish. Hmmmm. We were actually wondering if it was the other way around, if being a parent might make you more selfish, or at least a lot more focused on your own narrow world and less worried about larger concerns.Especially in the early years, it seems, parents’ worlds shrink to focus on what’s right for their them and theirs. Die-hard public school supporters wind up sending their children to private school. Resources that might otherwise go to the community — time for volunteering, money for charity — end up at soccer practice or in the college fund. Sacrificing public commitments for family is unimpeachable to us — we’d probably do the same – but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have an effect. Kids can always serve as an excuse to not do something, a get-out-of-annoying-social-do-gooding-free card.

Some parents will tell you that having kids makes them less selfish, that they no longer think first and foremost of themselves, but of their children. But we had to wonder: Is navel gazing any better if it’s Junior’s navel you’re gazing at instead of your own? To find out why people have kids and what happens to their outlooks when they do, OZY hit the streets.

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