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Childfree Adults: Selfish or Selfless?

Misconceptions about childfree living run rampant.

Childfree professionals have more time to develop their careers.

The choice to not have children is often viewed as a selfish one, but there are huge misconceptions about how we childfree adults spend our time. In our defense, author Shawna Atteberry writes in protest of a column by Ross Douthat published last month in The New York Times.

In his column, Douthat discusses the dramatic increase in whining among parents and cites Jennifer Senior’s new book, All Joy and No Fun. Senior, he says, describes parenting as more of a shock to today’s parents for a couple of reasons. For one, parenting is the one permanent commitment that has endured in our society. Second, childfree adults today enjoy an abundance of free time and so feel the full negative impact when it’s suddenly snatched away by a needy baby. Douthat portrays this free time in a rather derogatory manner complete with drawn out brunches and happy hours and binge-watching television shows.

From my perspective, it’s evident that there are real misconceptions about childfree living. The people described in Douthat’s article sound more like teens and young adults who haven’t yet taken on the responsibilities of independent living than anyone close to my age, childfree or not. Who has the time or desire to binge watch TV? The childfree adults I know are wholly devoted to their careers, putting in a full forty hours or even more. Our careers are front and center in our lives, and we take seriously our professional contributions to others.

Douthat implies that childfree adults are unable to commit, or that parents are somehow unique in their ability to do so. As a psychologist, I meet parents on a daily basis who have as many as five or six children, and who – sadly – feel no obligation to provide financially or emotionally for their offspring. This is surprisingly true of both dads and moms and blows the theory that parents will instinctively prioritize protecting and caring for their offspring. It’s led me to believe that the willingness to commit is more of an individual personality trait than a side effect of having a child. Those parents who do prioritize their children are held up as heroes of sorts when in fact they are simply taking responsibility for their choice to have kids.

Parental complaining is not only in vogue these days, it’s the focus of our entertainment. Just take a look at this hilarious comedy routine viewed almost five million times.

With so much grumbling about parenthood, perhaps it’s not the childfree folks who are overly focused on themselves. What’s your perspective?

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