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Is it Selfish to Not Have Kids?

  April 23

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Happy CoupleThis is DC from Young Adult Money. While Cat is away on maternity leave I’m filling in and talking about the benefits of, well, not having kids! Don’t worry, I made sure this topic was okay with Cat beforehand 😉

My wife and I are a “DINK” couple – Dual Income No Kids. While we have many (many) friends having children these days, especially those a few years older than us, we are happy being a DINK couple and are both on the same page. We might want kids down the road, but for now we are happy reaping the benefits that come with the DINK lifestyle.

What benefits, you ask? Well without further delay, here are just a few of the benefits of being a DINK:

1) Time to get finances in order

Let’s face it: children are expensive. It just takes simple math to realize that not having children will save you money. Therefore, not having children means you have extra money to save, invest, or spend.

While there is never a “right” time to have kids, it’s hard to argue that putting off having kids is bad for you financially. In this “pre-children” time period you can focus on a number of things:

  • Build up your savings
  • Buy a House
  • Pay down debt (consumer, student loans, mortgage)
  • Add to your investments

Yes you can (and will) do all these things while you have children, but if you don’t have children you will have access to funds for getting your finances in order that otherwise would have gone towards all the expenses that children come with.

2) Time for your spouse

I’m willing to admit something: I don’t make enough time for my wife. Between working a 9-5 full-time job, pursuing my side hustles, working out, and all those small time-consuming things that come with “life” I simply don’t give her the time she deserves. If we were to have children right now I would certainly have to cut back on my side hustle pursuits, even though they are helping us reach our long-term goals.

Because I already feel like I don’t give my wife the time she deserves I can’t even imagine throwing kids into the mix! I think all parents would agree that when you have kids you need to sacrifice things. Unfortunately I can only imagine that includes sacrificing some of the time you used to give towards your spouse. If you live in a DINK household, though, you can (more) easily dedicate your free time to your spouse.

3) Ability to focus on your career

One time I was interviewing for a job and I asked the interviewer about his experience getting his MBA. He told me he finished a part-time MBA in a very short period of time because they had their first child.

A pastor I knew told us getting his phd resulted in a few years being a ‘blur’ and that his wife and children suffered the most.

These stories reveal an obvious truth: it’s easier to focus on your career when you don’t have children. It’s hard enough to sacrifice your evenings and weekends going to grad school if you are single or married, but if you have children it’s a whole new form of sacrifice.

There is only so much time in a day and if you want to move up in your career, build your business, or get that advanced degree it’s going to take a time sacrifice. It’s easier to make that sacrifice when you don’t have children.

4) Freedom to Travel

Traveling is something that almost everyone I know wants to do. Not having the time or money for it is usually the reason why people don’t travel. Adding children to the equation not only limits your time and money but also brings in a whole new variable. From now on every time you travel you have to think about whether your children will go with. If they are going with, you have to make sure you are doing child-safe activities. If they aren’t going with you have to make arrangements for them to be taken care of.

Beyond time and responsibility, you will have to think about how your financial responsibilities to your children will impact your ability to travel. Yes, there are creative ways to pay for travel but it’s simply easier to find money for travel if you don’t have kids.

Yes, I realize you can get your finances in order, spend time with your spouse, focus on your career, and travel while having kids. I’m not ignorant of that fact. If you don’t have kids, though, these things become easier.

Ultimately I think it all comes down to being on the same page with your significant other. If you both want children, that’s great! If you both want to put off having children for a few years (or not have children at all), that’s perfectly fine as well.

Just please don’t call me selfish for not having kids like one person did a while back 🙂

Are you or have you ever been a DINK household? If you have kids now, how has it impacted your finances, time, etc.?

Editor’s Note: Thanks so much, DC! I have to agree with the above. Having kids has really changed everything, and the hubs and I are so glad that we traveled and saved some moolah before they got here!
Photo by Gareth Williams

67 responses to “Is it Selfish to Not Have Kids?

  1. I agree with most of your points. Kids cost money (but in my opinion not as much as the media plays it up to be) so your financial goals might take longer to reach. But on the other hand having kids can inspire you to get your financial house in order faster.

    As far as spending time with a spouse I disagree. When you have a baby you and your spouse are both going to want to be watching the babies every movement. I think having a baby makes couples want to spend more time together. It may not be alone time, but family time.

    You definitely won’t want to spend every waking moment working on your career though. And traveling with young children is a disaster in my opinion. Not fun! But I don’t really care about travelling so that didn’t impact me much.

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Alexa! You definitely have a point about the ‘having time with your spouse’ argument I made. I have not personally had/raised children so I suppose my opinion is coming from a limited viewpoint.

  2. I never understood the “selfish” comments, and am glad no one has ever lobbed them my way because they would certainly get a mouthful lobbed back. IMHO, the most selfish thing one can do is have kids when you don’t really want to or before you are ready to give them everything they need – and here I’m talking time not specifically money. The kids don’t deserve to suffer for something they didn’t choose.

    1. I have been called selfish by my family for not wanting to have kids. It sucks. But I’m not going to have kids just so they think I’m not selfish. I agree with you, Mrs. PoP, the most selfish thing to do is have kids when you are ready to give them what kids need (happy time).

      1. I’m completely stunned by the selfish comment or idea of it as well. It’s not like there is a huge shortage of children in this world already who need a loving home. It’s interesting how family can push you to have children and how you are expected to almost.

  3. All of your points are reasons why we are either not having kids or putting it off. Not sure yet! They are a huge commitment and something we aren’t ready for yet. I would feel much better about having kids if we were in a better financial situation, with student loans paid off and a lot of money saved. Some people are definitely capable of making the situation work, but I don’t think it’s selfish to wait.

    1. I’m definitely with you on that! If at all possible, I would much rather have a few more years of work and in turn, savings/debt pay down before having kids. I know some people are in different spots when it comes to finances, like how Cat is having kids while her husband is in med school, but it’s not my situation. I also just generally don’t have a desire to have kids right now and thankfully my wife is on the same page.

  4. I would actually argue that having kids is selfish. I mean, most people have kids for personal fulfillment, and they ignore the fact that their kids will probably a) be less healthy than us b) have a lower standard of living than us and c) live through some of the worst environmental disasters known to man. I’m not sold on the idea of bringing more people into the world because of these issues, but I can totally get on board with adoption, giving a loving home to children who are already in the world.

    1. You raise a good point about wealth. There is a huge burden being shifted to our generation and I can’t image what the next generation will experience if we continue to put off some of the financial/economic problems that we’ve ‘punted’ for decades now.

    1. Me either, it really kind of blows my mind. I have heard many people say that at one point or another they were called selfish for not wanting to have kids, though.

  5. This is an awesome “argument” DC and I would actually say that you are the exact opposite of selfish. I hate to see people have children when they are not emotionally or financially prepared to take on the responsibility of a child. And I actually feel as though they are the selfish ones and not you and your wife. I felt as though my hubby and I planned a lot before my son was born, and we still were not ready for the process. Good for you for being so self-aware and thoughtful about parenthood!

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Shannon! I could see my wife (or me) raise the issue of having a kid 5 years down the road, but it’s interesting how neither of us have much incentive. It’s not even that we don’t like kids, we are around babies all the time with all our friends who have babies and toddlers. My wife even nannied recently! But we definitely want to wait and if all goes as planned *fingers crossed* it will be a while before we have kids.

  6. These are all great points! I can’t believe someone called you selfish for not wanting kids right now! I don’t want kids ever. Not because I don’t like kids, but because I just know it’s not for me. Thanks for sharing with us today.

    1. That’s definitely a false belief people have about people who don’t have kids. It’s not that you dislike kids, but raising them isn’t for everyone. Good for you for recognizing that!

  7. It’s not selfish at all. Having kids is a lifestyle choice. I have one and I can tell you it has screwed my career (lost / had to refuse a few contracts), and I haven’t really slept in 2 months (until last night when he FINALLY slept 7 hours through the night).

    They even did a study once that said people without kids were happier than those WITH kids so.. 😛

    But I’ve always wanted children, this is my choice and I don’t expect anyone else to make the same one.

  8. When did it become mandatory to have children? Haha. My husband and I are a DINK family. There’s no way we’re bringing a kid into the debt we currently have. I don’t even know if we can have children as I need to see a reproductive endocrinologist if we ever reach a time when we’re financial stable. I’ve never actually been the type of person that wanted to have a kid. When I was a young teen, my sister had her first baby and often left me baby sitting for hours/days and sometimes overnight when she said she was just running to the gas station. While I love my niece, it kind of had a negative impact on babies. I like my sleep but it’d be interesting to see what our own offspring would look like. If I can’t have kids, we may think about adoption in the future, maybe beyond potty training years. 🙂

    1. We definitely plan on adopting down the road. I’m so sorry to hear about your experience with your sister and your niece. I can see how that would have a lasting impact on you and influence your opinions on the matter.

  9. We were not planning on having kids and we were shocked when I found out I was pregnant. It really truly is not selfish to not have kids…what it comes down to is knowing yourself and being on the same page as your spouse. Would you really want to bring a child into a home where it really wasn’t wanted? Or into a home without financial stability. I wouldn’t give me daughter up for anything now that I have her, but deciding not to have children is certainly not the worst thing in the world!

    1. I feel like I need to add a little disclaimer to posts like this. If we ended up having a kid, which is totally possible even when you are trying to NOT have one, I would love and embrace them. With that being said, I definitely do not plan on having them and I have many reasons for not wanting to have them right now.

  10. You guys are young…no need to rush to have kids right away. And I agree with Shannon, it’s selfish to have kids when you’re not financially and emotionally ready to handle them. Babies definitely change the family dynamics, add costs and yes, traveling will be a lot different…heck, going out for dinner is a lot different!

    1. I have friends who have newborns and it’s crazy how much they change your life! Even going out to dinner seems to take quite a bit of effort. It’s nice not having to deal with babysitters…I’ll say that much haha.

  11. I could argue either way on this. No, you are not being selfish because only you know if you are emotionally and financially ready to have kids. Don’t let others try to convince you that they know better than you if you are ready. And if you think you never want kids, that is your decision and no one else’s. On the other hand, too many irresponsible people ARE having children and too often they become a liability for the taxpayers to support. And then they have kids, and on and on…..
    This country needs responsible, self-supporting people to have and raise responsible and self-supporting children. People who pay their own way in this world are becoming rare and if they don’t raise the next generation to follow in their footsteps, this country is doomed. So I’m asking you – not telling you – to have children. The Social Security Ponzi scheme needs them!

    1. You raise a good point, and one that wasn’t raised by any other of the commenters. If I do have kids I plan on having at least 4, which is a bit ironic. But my wife has convinced me that’s a good number haha.

  12. I always felt that I didn’t want to have kids. There are so many children in my family and I never really felt that motherly instinct. My husband didn’t really have a strong need to be a father so we waited to see if things would change. They didn’t and now we know for sure we will not be having kids. No one has ever called me selfish to my face, ha! But who cares what others think. They are not the ones who will be raising my children if I were to have them so they have no say in my decision.

  13. Great post!! While I currently have one child, we waited until we were in a secure situation financially and were both either finished or close to finishing our degrees (PhDs for both hubby and I). We are proud to say we just bought our first house with a 20% down payment and still have a good bit of savings still in the bank.

    Now we are getting asked when we are going to have another, and our daughter is not even a year old!! The answer is not anytime soon, especially because I haven’t been able to secure a full time job yet. In fact, we aren’t entirely convinced that our daughter won’t be an only child. We want to be able to afford college for her and take her traveling with us, and that might not be possible if we more than one child. And people are saying it is selfish to have one child and not “give” them a sibling.

    Finally, I wanted to add my husband and I were married for 7 years before we had a baby. I’m a big proponent of spending quality time together as a couple before throwing a baby into the equation. With that being said, our kid is pretty awesome and we are glad she is here 🙂

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and opinions on this topic. Congrats on both getting your PhD! My Dad has a PhD, I considered getting one, and my wife would still like to get one eventually. I know how much work it is to get one, so congrats on that.

      Seems like you guys are really thinking logically about children and finances. It’s also really cool that you aren’t rushing into having a second one, as I know many people like to have additional siblings all be pretty close in age and I can only imagine there’s a lot of pressure that comes along with having your first.

  14. I don’t get selfish as much as I get, “but children will make you so much happier” comment. Uh, fairly happy without them and pretty sure I’d be more stressed having them. But it’s like some people paint you as this unhappy spinster if you aren’t married and don’t have kids. People this is 2014!!

  15. I’ve never understood the accusation of being selfish for not having children. HAVING CHILDREN IS SELFISH! No one has a kid for the good of anyone else, it’s a purely selfish motive!!

    1. Haha this is pretty much true. You aren’t doing anyone else favors by bringing a kid in the world, nor is that even remotely near anyone’s line of thinking when they have a kid.

  16. I don’t think it’s selfish, in fact, I think it’s more selfish (and unfair) to have kids when you don’t really want them or can’t properly provide. My husband and I have a few financial goals we hope to achieve before having kids and from what my 20-something parent friends say, it’s not a bad idea 🙂

    1. I also have a few 20-something friends with kids as well as some 30-something friends with kids. They definitely are happy to have children and the kids bring joy into their life, but from a time/finance standpoint it’s almost always better to wait.

  17. I’m with the other DINKs and SINKs (yea, I’m single-income-no-kids) who think having a child can be the selfish move. As babysitter in NYC, I see so many parents who clearly only procreated for the status symbol. They spend little to no time with their kids and use a cycle of nannies and babysitters instead of shouldering any of the child-rearing duties. This obviously isn’t the case for everyone. Some people truly want to be parents and it’s something they feel they’re called to do. I just think it’s best to know your motivation for children and not be doing it because it’s the expected next move in your life.

    1. I think your point about checking your motivation is extremely important. Ironically I do plan on having a nanny when I have kids because I already know that neither my wife nor I want to be stay at home parents, which might explain our focus on furthering our education and focusing on careers/finances right now.

      Also: SINK is an awesome acronym!

  18. I don’t think it’s selfish at all. Married couples have to decide for themselves.

    We could’ve been happy either way. I’m glad we have kids, but they don’t really define me. Do what makes you happy!

    1. I think we’re the same way, Holly. I think we’d be fine without children but if we do have them we’d be just as happy. The problem is my wife convinced me years ago that the ideal number of children is 0, 4, or 6 :0

  19. Its just plain old smart to get those finances in order before babies start working into the plans. You can provide a better quality of life for them if you are careful now. DINKs do get to enjoy a lot of benefits which will be hard to come by when the children start appearing. Enjoy your time now and make plans for the future.

    1. That’s the thing about children, they change your life forever. Not that it’s a bad thing, but it is a fact that you have to adjust your lifestyle once you start having kids. They impact your finances, your schedule, your ability to pursue side hustles, etc.

  20. I more face societal pressures from friends/family to have kids, not fears of being called selfish. It’s like you have to follow the steps, get married, buy a house, have children, etc etc. I think it’s best to do whatever is financially sound in one’s life, and if all the “must-do’s” aren’t affordable, it’s selfish to still try to accomplish them. Right now, buying a home is out of the question where we live but that doesn’t mean we won’t do it some day. Same thing goes for having kids!

    A couple friend of ours had to buy a house and then had to have a kid right now because the woman’s friends were all married and having kids so she had to follow suit. I know they’re not in great financial shape and while they’re loving parents, putting that extra financial stress in a very short time frame (baby born months after home purchase) is not always the best thing for a marriage.

    My husband and I want to have kids but we both want to wait at least another 2-3 years before having them. And even then, if we run into fertility issues, we’d look at adoption/fostering.

    But also, my caveat is that do what works!

  21. Kids are a personal choice…….I’m not sure why so many people make a big deal out of those that don’t want children. My kids make ME happy, and I wouldn’t trade being a Dad for anything – but that doesn’t mean it’s the right choice for everyone else.

  22. DC, I think the reasons you state are objectively selfish in the sense that you are making choices that benefit yourself rather than leaving open the opportunity for having children. I think the same reasons would apply in contrast for anything you would have to make sacrifices for (ie. taking care of aging parents, going on a mission trip, etc.), not just having children.

    That isn’t to say that it is morally unacceptable to put off having children (in acceptable ways, which vary by religious and other beliefs). Particularly in the sense of getting your career started, I think with careful consideration it might be good judgement to get your feet under you as best as possible. However, the means that people take to not have children before everything is perfect is often quite selfish, too. Again, this isn’t my judgement, but rather a fact of choosing a convenience over an openness to having children.

    There’s no question having kids are a huge sacrifice in several areas you mention but they create a common bond with your spouse that nothing else can create, and they also alter your priorities so greatly that many of the things that were important to you before you had them aren’t important afterward. The meaning and purpose of children has turned some of the most selfish people (including people who have had unplanned children) I know into the most caring people I know.

    If you go by the book definition of “selfish,” it’s clear that the reasons stated above are, by and large, selfish. If you are going for people’s personal opinion on the matter, you are going to get a wide variety of opinions (and on a financial blog, mostly like-minded opinions putting finances ahead of many other things). But, it is an interesting topic and there are some interesting responses already.

    1. Thanks for sharing your opinion, Judd! You’re definitely right that many opinions shared are “like-minded” so I appreciate your perspective on the topic.

  23. Honestly, I respect couples who either choose not to have kids because they simply don’t want them or two, can recognize they’re not in a position to welcome them. Having children is the hardest thing I (we) have ever done in our lives. Every minute detail of our lives has changed. For the best, yes but it’s a massive adjustment. On a similar note, we get a lot of slack from people for entertaining the idea of only having the one child. Our daughter is almost two and people are shocked that I’m not pregnant again. We have one and that’s enough for us, at least for now, maybe ever.

  24. Yep, we’re DINKs. I haven’t wanted kids since I was 14 and I haven’t changed my mind. My husband got on board once he thought about the realities of child-rearing. We just aren’t the right temperament for being parents and prefer to minimize our responsibilities. If we decide we want kids in the future we will consider fostering/adoption. That’s always been more logical in my mind. If I’m interested in any of it, it’s the raising new members of society, not reproducing biologically.

  25. Hi Catherine! Thanks for being honest about just how much having a child impacted your life. I don’t understand why people make comments about you needing to have a second child – and quick! Then if you have too many kids you start getting comments about that…it’s a lose-lose situation!

  26. It is selfish to have them. People with kids make others pay for the kids schools, tax refunds, etc. But at least when I am on SS, their kids will pay for me!

  27. I absolutely do not think it’s selfish to not want to have kids. It means you have other priorities. If you have kids, they should 100% be your priority. If you are honest with yourself, and you can’t commit to that, I think that is smart and not selfish. I am not having kids and I never understood the reasoning that people think it is selfish. With overpopulation, and all the world problems, I will tell you that no one congratulates you when you say you don’t want kids. They look at you like a freak! I am so happy for Cat and other moms who clearly want it/love it, but some of us don’t and THAT’S OK.

  28. Until you have set aside your needs and wants to help or care for another person’s needs and wants day after day after day, your life primarily revolves around you- like it or not.

    Having children is just one of many possible trials in life. How you approach and respond to tough situations determines everything. Having children will bring out the worst in you as well as the best. You can choose to use this trial as an opportunity for improving your character, relationships, and perspective OR you can choose to simply manage your discomfort.

    Now, this “choice” you all speak of- it is an illusion of control invented in the past hundred years. This choice is so hard because it is not one we are intended to make. Actually, I’m not even going into the topic of birth control; this is a comment for pete’s sake!

  29. I’m always sort of frustrated when people say one’s choices about children are “selfish” – whether it is not to have them, to have them, to have lots of them, how to feed them, whether to stay home, etc. Why can’t we all make the decisions that are right for us without everyone else having some judgment about it? Thanks for sharing your reasons for not having kids. Kids are no joke, and they are EXPENSIVE! 🙂

  30. I knew in my teenage years that I didn’t want to have children. I came from a very dysfunctional family with a teenage mom who left me with a man she married to be my dad (he was awesome) and then pulling me away to drop me off where every and whenever and it was always uncomfortable explaining the logistics of the family and where I was living or why I ended up out on my own as a 15 year old teenager.

    For the longest time, I heard that I may regret not having kids when I get older. I heard, who’s going to take care of you in your golden years. There were so many what if’s or gosh, your so selfish responses.

    My ex husband always thought he could change my mind. Always pushing to have kids. Stressing me out and making me feel bad for my decision. After 12 years of marriage and his pressures to have kids even though he really wasn’t part of the relationship, I finally had enough and walked away at 32. AT that time, I wasn’t sure I’d ever find someone to share my life with that understand. I did tho. We’ve been married 6 years. He has two boys that live in another state and their mother doesn’t share but takes my husbands child support.

    Here I am in my early 40’s…still no desire to have kids. Occasionally, I am asked if I’m going to have kids but most of my friends except that I’m not going to. Not because I’m selfish or that they’re expensive but just that they are not part of my life plan.

    If I ever do change my mind, there are millions of kids in foster care that would love a home and a family to love them…but after going through what I did as a kid, making friends and nurturing relationships is hard enough…especially when you have to explain why you don’t talk to you mother or why you don’t really celebrate holidays…

    There are far more reasons that being selfish or expensive for people not to have kids. I think it’s selfish of people to thing it’s abnormal to not have them or push their views of having kids on others.

    As humans we’re individuals…and what makes us unique is our desire to be different. So when you see a “dink” assume that they just are a couple without kids…maybe they can’t have kids…maybe they don’t want kids…or maybe there’s something in their past that makes that decision a personal one and respect and love them for who they are and how they fit into your life and don’t pass judgement because of your own beliefs.

    1. I find it funny how people class people couples and singles without any children selfish maybe they believe you don’t like kids or hate kids in my opinion it is a choice whether you have children or not and it is a choice for the couple not other people in society. I am 33 year and have no desire to have a family never really have and believe that in 20 years time I will still be happy with my choice I don’t have enough patience with children and children don’t do anything for me and have no maternal instinct. A choice to not have children is a private choice and is no one elses business.

  31. I always find if odd that many people think couples without children are unhappy or that they tried and couldn’t have them. Not everyone wants a child and I don’t think you have to have one to be fulfilled. Having a kid was the hardest and best thing I’ve ever done, and I was right with you until my early 30’s. Unless you want to have a whole bunch of children, I think it’s easier to wait until you’re a bit older for all the reasons you mentioned. I think sometimes couple have kids right away and never really get to know each other and find things they enjoy together. Then after the kids are gone, they don’t have anything in common and either split up are unhappy. I’m glad Jim and I had several years to ourselves.

  32. Do people really think that? That it is selfish to not have kids? Wow. While not having kids does provide a couple (or single person) with more time to work on other areas of life, I wouldn’t say it is selfish. It is just a choice like anything else. Not having kids isn’t affecting anyone else so how could that be selfish. It’s not like we have a shortage of people and it’s our obligation to procreate. I think it is much more selfish to have kids for the wrong reasons or to have more kids than one can afford to support.

    I also have heard people downplay DINK’s or single without children women’s accomplishments, which is also wrong. Becoming an accomplished photographer, writer, business owner, whatever still takes an incredible amount of drive, discipline and effort. To think one has only succeeded because they have no children and one has only not succeeded because they have children is very much a “poor me” attitude.

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