Is being selfish as a parent really a bad thing?

Go on with yer selfish self.Go on with yer selfish self.When the news broke that Mila Kunis and Macaulay Culkin (holy oh hell, he's 30?!) ended an eight-year relationship (wait...they were together?), it wasn't the announcement of yet another celebrity ending that stopped me. Nor was it the point-blank statement by Kunis that she is not really down with the whole marriage thing (maybe a good thing in Hollywood?). What made me re-read the gossip column was a bit Kunis had to say about parenting. One day. Far off. In the un-selfish future.

While she says she is not sold on being wed, she'd like a family that includes kids.

"Not to say that I don't believe in [marriage], but it's just not something that's important to me. But I will have children. I'm too selfish to have them now, but when I do, I don't feel like I need to be married. I need to have a person in my life who will care for me and my children -- nothing else," Kunis said.

It struck me that Kunis both recognizes that she is selfish right now and also that she thinks you aren't when you have children. I get what she's saying and I am not quite sure I agree.

To be clear, there's a certain kind of selfishness that isn't good for parenting. If you're staying out all night and only thinking of yourself and prioritizing buying $200 jeggings over paying the electric bill, then maybe now's not the time to be a mama.

However, just the desire to have children is a bit selfish, isn't it? It's what we want for our very own lives. Sure, that desire turns to getting up at all hours of the night to feed an infant and playing Lego endlessly on the living room floor when a piping hot bubble bath sounds a hell of a lot better. Still, the beginning seems to very often stem from an I-statement, like "I'm ready to have a baby" or "I just really want to have a third child." We don't set about to conceive saying aloud something like, "I think the world needs another bedheaded four-year old who dresses himself in six kinds of stripes" or "We really need to support local schools by sending them a choo-choo train obsessed child from this block in the city." It's not bad. It's lovely. It's wonderful. It's one of the best all-about-me things to desire. But it is self-centered.

Even if your reasons for having children are altruistic, I think holding on to a bit of selfishness when you become a parent could actually be a good thing. Whether it comes in five-minute doses in that dreamy, steamy tub or a child-free vacation once a year or getting a sitter so you can do yoga twice a week, thinking of yourself first once in a while makes you a healthier, saner, rejuvenated, less yelly parent (according to me, anyway).

Before I get flamed for not putting my own child ahead of myself enough, know that I, like many other parents out there, have gotten so lost in parenthood that I almost forgot I needed tending as well. Sometimes that has had big consequences (like when I put off going to the doctor for two days even though I had such terrible stomach pains I could not stand up, only to require an emergency appendectomy when I finally went in) and other times, those small things have added up (like how my boy always has fourteen pairs of clean, folded socks in his drawer and I have a pile of questionable, holey mismatches). Life and my parenting got a lot better (not easier, just more fun and relaxing and happy) when I dictated time and space and a few new pairs of socks for myself. See? Selfish = good.

When I was in my 20s, I was certainly the kind of selfish that was appropriate for me at the time, for grad school, for hopeless crushes on bad boys, for awful hangovers, and for risks like moving across the country with very little money in my bank account. Maybe then, I would have said something very much like Mila did.

But now, with the wisdom of years and some experience being a mother and even a few moments to myself, I see selfishness differently. I see it as an important part of being a better employee, a better mama and mostly, a better me. One day, when he's done banging on the bathroom door to come help him build another Lego Star Wars ship, I hope he sees that. And he gets it.


Do you think a certain amount of selfishness makes you a better parent? Or do you strive to be selfless as a mom or dad?



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