In other “complaining about stuff on the ‘Naccle” news…

We’ve been having a lively discussion of some quotes from The Crucible of Doubt, and on the same day that that came up in my reader, some other ‘Naccler managed to link to something even worse. Take a gander at this article.

The author lists off a bunch of positive learning and growth experiences that come from parenting, but instead of framing them in a positive sense, she flips them around and states them in terms of how horrible non-parents must therefore be. Normally I would save this sort of thing for a quick mention in Sunday in Outer Blogness, but there are just too many choice quotes to highlight, and I don’t want to clutter up SiOB with them. Like this one:

Pope Francis warned married couples not to forego children in favor of having “a dog, two cats,” and offered a cautionary description of childless old age “in solitude, with the bitterness of loneliness.”

Is it me, or is that weird coming from a childless old guy? Is he saying his life is bitter and lonely, or does he think he’s the exception?

What would a society of adults skewed toward childlessness, like the perpetually barren Time magazine beach couple, look and act like without having acquired the altruism, personal growth, and wisdom that bringing up children generally bequeaths on those who undergo parenthood?

This is what the whole article is like. You can learn some great life lessons from parenting, therefore childless people must be inferior.

And with every area of interest that children pursue, parents discover, they bring along mentors and friends who alter our lives and perceptions and create alliances unlikely to form otherwise.

Yeah, but you don’t know what experiences you’d be having if you weren’t busy having kids. You also don’t know what kinds of experiences childless adults are having, and the author apparently has no interest in finding out.

Comedian Jim Gaffigan, who describes his early career as marked by a “lazy, gluttonous, selfish point of view,” now raises five kids with his wife in Manhattan and admits that “having five kids dramatically changed me,” replacing narcissism with the gift of never having the luxury of forgetting about parental responsibilities, and also giving him “an incredible skill set.”

This is the closest the author comes to proving that childless people are selfish, narcissistic, etc. The problem is that the personal life journey of one random lazy, gluttonous, selfish, narcissistic guy doesn’t prove anything about anyone else.

“I didn’t understand,” she explains, “that having a child would make all my other experiences seem hollow, frantic, and a little silly. I didn’t know that my child would become my whole experience, the standard against which I measured all other feelings and found them wanting.”

Again, you can’t prove general principles from a handful of personal anecdotes. This one in particular may well be an outlier.

Comparing to my own personal experience, I found that parenting did not make all my other experiences seem hollow, frantic, and a little silly. However, if all of a person’s non-parenting experiences are “hollow, frantic, and a little silly”, I guess it stands to reason that that person’s child would become the person’s whole experience.

Interestingly, the emotional intensity of paradigms shifting and egocentric worldviews giving way are not contingent on the birth of a perfect child.

I’m not convinced that the author’s egocentric worldview has given way.

That empathy then reaches outward to others — hopefully creating an adult world less narcissistic and undoubtedly more humble

Seriously? Repeatedly implying that childless people are “narcissistic” demonstrates some impressive levels of empathy and humility.

Wisdom and self-actualization, empathy and humility are not limited to parents.

Indeed. OK, she just broke my irony meter with that one.

I think the article sheds some interesting light on Mormon culture. The idea that childless=selfish is so ingrained that someone can write an article like that one, and many Mormons perceive it as simply a positive statement about parenting.


C. L. Hanson is the friendly Swiss-French-American ExMormon atheist mom living in Switzerland! Follow me on mastadon at or see "letters from a broad" for further adventures!!

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4 Responses

  1. Holly says:

    What about the possibility that narcissists choose to have children because they like the idea of their very own mini-me (or two, or three) running around? I’ve actually been reading about people with narcissistic personality disorder—one seems to have made an appearance in my life—and one main characteristic of it is that NPDs view other people as an extension of themselves—especially partners and children. Furthermore, I came across a couple of references to the fact that NPDs like having little kids, because little kids adore their parents (though I can’t find them now, despite looking through my browser history).

    Google “narcissistic personality disorder parent child relationships” or “children of parents with narcissistic personality disorder” and you’ll see that narcissists reproduce pretty often.

  2. chanson says:

    @1 I know! The article bugs me in two big ways:

    First, as I said the other day, I really hate it when people project self-serving narratives onto other people’s life stories.

    In this case, I think parenting has been an extremely positive part of my life. But it is neither humble nor empathetic to follow that up with “therefore people who had different experiences are inferior; they must have been motivated by XYZ, and the terrible consequences for them must be PDQ…”. It is more constructive to listen than to pontificate when it comes to subjects you know nothing about, such as other people’s lives.

    Second, the idea that not having kids is selfish and that having kids is (or even should be) a selfless act is just wrong. It’s not true, and as I’ve said before I think it’s a doctrine that does quite a lot of harm.

  3. Circus Watcher says:

    I don’t have children.
    I worked with an Indian and he told me that people who don’t have children are seen as not requiring the lessons children give their parents. Childless parents have progressed to where they don’t require children. It is a natural progress of reincarnation. Score one for Hindu world view!

  4. chanson says:

    @3 That’s cool. It’s not quite my position, though. Of the two choices (having kids, not having kids), I don’t think either one is inherently better or always right. I think the error is to teach that we all need to make the same choice.

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