What’s So Wrong With A Woman Being Selfish?

There’s no better way to get everybody fighting than to bring up the “having kids” or “not having kids” debate. The so-called “mommy wars” are a surefire way to make everybody defensive!

But the discussion gets the nastiest and most infuriating when women with kids accuse women sans kids of being “selfish”—which happened repeatedly in the comment section when I posted a joke-y list last week — “10 Reads Not To Have Kids Now…Or Ever” — which was pegged to Cameron Diaz talking about childless women.

Frankly, I was surprised some commenters even went there with the word “selfish.” After all, isn’t one of the upshots of feminism supposed to be that women have more choices than ever before and each of us is free to do what makes us happy?

Let me be clear: I respect whatever other women choose to do because I’d want them to respect what I choose to do. Kids, no kids, puppies, iguanas, I don’t care what your choice is. But I do care about the kind of judgments us women make against one another. And instead of reading the comments on my post and making judgments, I kept having one recurring thought:

Really, what’s so wrong with being selfish?

  • Women should be allowed to care about pleasing ourselves—and only ourselves—without being judged. What is wrong with a woman being selfish? Really. Think about it for a second. Why shouldn’t we be selfish if it means we’re meeting our own needs and taking care of ourselves? What’s wrong with caring more about bringing pleasure to your own life than anything else? It should not be as controversial as it apparently is for women to think of themselves first if they are not hurting anyone. One commenter, “FabulousJoi,” wrote, “I’m selfish and proud of it!” and “Miss Missy” commented, “You’re right. I AM selfish. I DO love my life exactly the way it is and I don’t want it to change.” That’s the spirit, I say. Reasonable people agree a woman should make herself happy, but why do these people suddenly because so unreasonable when those women say it would make her happy to just focus on herself?
  • Some women just want to have fun—the same fun they’ve always had. I wonder if the women who call other women “selfish” are just a little bitter because it’s harder for them to meet some of their “having fun” needs. I have no doubt that having kids is “fun” in its own way, but women with children sacrifice so much that they surely can’t have “fun” the way they used to—spend their money on themselves, drive a better car, stay out at all night drinking, splurge at Nordstrom’s. I don’t think it’s wrong not to want to change that.
  • There isn’t one way to be selfless. Children ask selflessness of women and to think of others’ needs before their own. But no way, no how do moms have a monopoly on selflessness. Even if they’re shopping, drinking, partying, sleeping around, whatever, women without kids can still be selfless. They donate their time and money to causes they believe in, mentor younger people in their office, care for their elderly parents, and play babysitter for the evening so their sister can get a night out. They are still being selfless—they’re just prioritizing having more fun over being more selfless. And furthermore, why do the judgmental women with children prioritize selflessly meeting the needs of a few people—their kids—over childless women selflessly meeting the needs of possibly more people?
  • Life isn’t one size fits all—different things make our lives fulfilling. Women with children sometimes realize that their lives were unfulfilled or shallow before they had kids. But don’t they realize childless women experience these realizations, too, only about our jobs, our hobbies, our passions, our extended families? Deciding that having kids is the best way not to be shallow implies women aren’t good enough unless we’re sacrificing ourselves to children. Put another way, it implies it’s not OK for us to choose what brings us pleasure.

I’m really glad my post sparked such a debate with our commenters—not only because it prompted a great discussion, but it showed me our society has still got a ways to go before some of us let women cherish their independence.

Like another commenter, “msPriss,” said: “Why can’t I be the crazy spinster I have always longed for?”