Selflessness

Avatar for cl_shywon
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-20-2003
Selflessness
5
Wed, 08-06-2003 - 8:48pm
The friend I went on vacation with said something to me and I was wondering what you all thought. She said that she doesn't think that you can be truly selfless unless you have kids. Do you think this is true?

Avatar for northwestwanderer
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-26-2003
In reply to: cl_shywon
Wed, 08-06-2003 - 8:51pm
Um, did you happen to ask her if she thought Mother Theresa was a selfish person????

Sheri

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-26-2003
In reply to: cl_shywon
Wed, 08-06-2003 - 10:45pm
selflessness... i don't like the word much 'cause it implies a lack of self...

basically, i define selflessness as a "larger" kind of selfishness by including others in your sense of self. eg. if you see someone in pain, and it pains you, then your response is a selfless one.

parents naturally think of their children as an extention of themselves, so i can see where your friend is coming from. however, people act in the best interests of others over their own self interests on a regular basis. teachers (like yourself, shy) often exhibit this behaviour with their students... you don't teach simply to earn money afterall. yes, there's a certain degree of self gratification when you know you've done a good job, but there's more to it than that, right? when you teach well, don't you feel that you're contributing positively to your community? ie. the community becomes an extension of your self?

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-10-2003
In reply to: cl_shywon
Thu, 08-07-2003 - 12:07am
No, I don't. It's your friend's opinion and it seems to be the reality for *her*. But to claim that as a general or universal statement is flawed and alienating.

(1) Flawed because if your friend's statement was true, how can she explain the presence of abandoned or neglected children? Where are the parents who had them for, presumably, selfless reasons? To me, there is a *difference* between having a child given up for adoption because it would be in his/her best interests, and a child who is just left "somewhere" so that other people would have the heart and selflessness to take care of it and the responsibilities involved.

(2) Alienating to those who have no children but in their lives and day-to-day encounters with people are sharing the best parts of themselves...in service (such as volunteer work), in words, in thoughts, in spirit, and in action.

Each of us touches another person's life by *caring.* They may be subtle and not direct as a parent's influence is to his/her child, but they are nonetheless significant, even life-changing to the ones who are touched by them.

But to focus on your friend's statement, I have heard of first-time parents who do say that having a child has changed them....they are less self-centered or reckless in lifestyle or behavior because their life is no longer just about them...their life is intricately linked to that of their children and in putting their safety, well-being, and best interest first. But then both parent and child go through developmental cycles too, such as the point when the child needs to grow up and the parent needs to let go.

In closing, I think having a child *inspires* selfless behavior, but not having children does *not* mean that a person is incapable of selfless acts with deep and far-reaching effects on others.

My thoughts.

Avatar for cl_shywon
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-20-2003
In reply to: cl_shywon
Thu, 08-07-2003 - 8:40am
I agree with all of you. When she said it, she expanded by referring to some men she had dated that didn't understand why she ALWAYS put her children first.

I don't think it's healthy, even as a parent, to always do what your children want you to do. It spoils them into thinking that the world revolves around them. She won't even buy new clothes in front of them because she feels guilty about it. She does date, which her children don't like, but most of the time, life is all about them. Shouldn't a mother get her own time too??

I was really offended when she said it. Here we were, on vacation, and she's telling me that I can't be selfless. I took my little sister with me for goodness sakes! I didn't respond, though. I just sat there quietly like I did every other time she complained about something.

What do you think I should have said?

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-10-2003
In reply to: cl_shywon
Thu, 08-07-2003 - 10:29am
It's after the fact so I don't think it matters. Perhaps the "moment" just led you to be quiet. It sounded like the comment made you something to think about. However, next time you hear anything from her (or others) that you feel strongly about, in your own honest yet tactful way (as much as you can) assert yourself by voicing your opinion. You cannot control how "they" will react but at least you have taken a position. And in my opinion, if you let your friend always having a last say to things you feel strongly about, you are giving her the power to own what she says whether they are true or not. And that to me, can give someone a false sense of righteousness....unless someone can shake them with a different opinion.

If you feel that saying something would cause a "disruption" to the status quo such as your friend taking offense or creating tension in an otherwise relaxing vacation/get-together, you need to find a way to counter balance that with more "mutually agreeable" activities or topics of conversation.

I guess my point is, which is better....saying what's on your mind and letting it go, or keeping things to yourself to the point that you build resentment? And resentment can be a very poisonous thing.

To me the answer is not clear cut because you have to know yourself, the person you are talking to, and the context/situation that you are in to do what you feel is right/appropriate.

One more thing....if your friend *always* tend to put her children first, I think that she is making having children as an "excuse" NOT to take risks in carving out her own life

separate from being her children's mother.

As for dating, when she said that men "didn't understand why she ALWAYS put her children first," it's because she is seeing men who do NOT match the priority she is placing on her children. She is seeing men with incompatible goals and perspectives when it comes to dating and children. Maybe she should go out with someone who will not be bothered by having children in the picture.