Selfishness was brought up the other night, specifically in relation to the decision on whether or not to have children. A friend said she was too selfish to have children. That she enjoyed her carefree existence, and didn’t want to have to change her ways. She wanted to be able to sleep-in whenever she liked or go on hikes at the spur of the moment. I understand her perspective, and can relate to it. I’m selfish, and I have absolutely no qualms about admitting it. In some ways I even take pride in my selfishness, because I think it’s healthy.
Let me explain.
When I was pregnant, one of the many issues that I grappled with was the fear that I would resent my child. I never wanted to be put in a situation where I would begrudge the fact that I had to take care of him and that his needs had to come before my own. I knew I would feel bitter, for example, that any potential mate would need to prove himself capable of being a good father before being a good lover. So the only way to assure that I didn’t resent my son was to admit my selfishness and make the choice not to parent. Selfish, yes, but also honest, which is why I think selfishness can be healthy.
Too often selfishness is viewed exclusively in a negative light. And, so, while some would label my reasons for placing my son for adoption as selfish, I would counter with my belief that those who choose to parent are also selfish. To have a child for self-gratification, to fulfill a need for unconditional love or in hopes of being taken care of in your old age are all selfish. And it’s selfish to have a child when you know you can’t afford too. But being selfish doesn’t always mean it’s a bad thing.
There are two sides to the selfish coin: one side is healthy, honest and moral; the other narcissistic and self-absorbed. Most of the decisions so far in my life reflect both the “good” and the “bad” of selfishness, but more importantly I’ve attempted to enter into my decisions with an understanding of my motives and intentions. With clarity.
Realizing that I did not want to feel resentful of my son is certainly selfish, but I want you to take it a step further with me. In my resentment I am fairly positive that I would have become abusive –neglectful, verbally or physically abusive. I would have become that which I desperately did not want to become, that model I’d been shown most of my life. And, had that happened, the cycle would repeat and perpetuate itself.
Now I know there are those of you out there who say it’s different when you’re actually in the situation, that you’ll “rise to the occasion” when it’s your child. And I have seen that happen, but I’ve also seen when it doesn’t. And the time I took to really think this through and be honest with myself made me realize I’d be taking a huge risk. And I’m not the gambling type – certainly not with another’s life in my hands.
So, this is why I’m proud to say I am selfish. And while my choice to place my son for adoption represented both sides of the selfishness coin, that choice ultimately benefited us both.