In an online article that swept the Web, Isabella Dutton, a fifty-seven-year-old mother of two grown children, admits publicly that she regrets having children. She never wanted a child, yet had two because she felt it would be “unfair of me to deny [my husband] the chance to be a dad.” She chose to be a full-time mother, raising them “without any help from nannies or childminders,” because, she felt, “if you take your job as a parent seriously, you always put their needs before your own.” She writes that throughout her life, she “resented the time my children consumed. Like parasites, they took from me and didn’t give back.”
Mrs. Dutton concludes, “I know my life with [my husband] would have been so much happier without children, less complicated and more carefree.”
Here is a woman who has sacrificed her hobbies, her free time, her career, her life, to raise children she didn’t want, in order to make her husband happy; a woman who has put the needs of others first, willfully and intentionally, from the moment thirty-four years ago when she consented to having a child for her husband’s sake, to the present when her life consists of being the caretaker of her unwanted daughter who is suffering from MS; a woman whose life is a vivid example of the morality of altruism in practice.
Altruism holds that “man has no right to exist for his own sake, that service to others is the only justification of his existence, and that self-sacrifice is his highest moral duty, virtue and value.”
Many Americans hold altruism as an ideal, and, in fact, hundreds of commenters on this article laud Mrs. Dutton for her life of selfless service.
Yet what did her selflessness achieve? Her life, by her own admission, has been misery—and, as many commenters rightly remarked, her children must have suffered for the lack of a loving and correspondingly engaged mom (not to mention the impact this article must have had on them).
Children can and should bring joy to parents’ lives—but they can do so only if parents choose to have them for rational, self-interested reasons, and embrace them as personal, life-enhancing values.
In parenting, as in all areas of life, rational selfishness, not altruism, is the proper moral code.