Parent vs A-hole Philosopher: Childfree or Not? Is It Selfish to Have Kids?

Parent vs A-hole Philosopher: Childfree or Not? Is It Selfish to Have Kids? December 9, 2018

By A-hole Philosopher, Mark W. Gura, CW Brown,  Rosi Guastella
“Is it selfish not to have kids? Does the world need more people?” – A-hole Philosopher



A-hole Philosopher: You are NOT selfish when you don’t have children and you are not a saint if you do have children. This is why I’m childfree.

Parent: WTH! What do you mean?

A-hole Philosopher: Parents so often act as if they are selfless. Is it still selfless if children are biochemical extensions of one’s self, of the parent? It may seem selfless, parents do sacrifice for their children—but they are sacrificing to an extension of themselves. They are little mini-me’s. Children are also extensions of the family group.

To illustrate this point, look at another way if a bad guy were to point a gun at two children, which child would a parent rescue? Their own or some else’s? We evolved to be this way. When we look at our children we get chemical highs to the brain in the form of oxytocin. This is the same biological response that keeps parents from the continuous demands that they would never withstand from anyone else they didn’t love so deeply. This is how nature continues the species, so it’s not entirely anyone’s fault. The point is, parenting is not selfless.

Parent: Being a parent is a lot of work. There are no guarantees. You don’t necessarily get anything back in return. You don’t necessarily see results until much later. You guide them, your influence is important, but it’s like winning the lottery if things go well, and things often do not go well. On top of it all, you being a good parent does not mean that your children will be good people, and the opposite can also be true.

A-Hole Philosopher: So let’s say we apply all these criteria to an investor. Lots of work; no guarantees; good results can be equivalent to winning the lottery; a good investor doesn’t always get returns and often doesn’t see results until much later. If we apply the same standard, does this that mean that being an investor is a selfless job? Of course not!

I think the word “selflessness,” must by definition include an element of not getting or expecting anything in return for one’s efforts. But parents don’t fall into this criteria. Parents reap rewards and benefits from being parents all the time. For women, pregnancy alone gives personal benefits. I am not saying there are not inconveniences, self-sacrifices, and dangers, but being a parent often gives people meaning and purpose. In some cases, especially in patriarchal societies, being a mother is cast as the sole purpose of a woman’s existence. This is sad and unfortunate. Women, and often men, who are not parents, and live in such societies are ostracized. This is far from selflessness.     

Parent: Parents play a huge role in the development of their children. Mothers help their kids to develop social skills while providing physical, mental and emotional health. With proper support from parents, children are armed with the tools they need to develop their skills and talents and to attain life-changing successes. When children grow up and achieve success in life, parents tend to get a sense of satisfaction from the accomplishments of these separate human beings whom they’ve nurtured, even though they may never personally benefit from these successes. Isn’t that selfless, too?  

A-hole Philosopher: Okay, fair enough. Some parents are good parents and add value to their children’s lives, others screw up their kids for life, irreparably and maybe help contribute to them being the serial killer next door. So what? How does this prove that parents are selfless? Getting a feeling satisfaction from successful outcomes is a personal benefit, so isn’t this the opposite of selflessness?

Parent: Some people parent and help children who are not their own. Isn’t that selfless?

A-hole Philosopher: Even animals do that, animals help other animals who are not their offspring all the time. Maybe this is instinctual, and some animal can’t help but nurture helpless things, this is perhaps nature in action, an evolutionary trait. Is this saintly? Is it selflessness?

Parent: When you make a child, and you feel that child cooking inside your belly and eventually you watch it be born. Something happens in the brain, not only to mothers but fathers as well. You eventually realize that although this tiny human is a part of you, it is also a whole different being from you. It has your genetic information, you made him or her, but then there’s this connection. It’s a type of love. Often, that being changes you. You stop being you. You know that little human depends on you.  

A-hole Philosopher: What happens inside the brain when we have those warm feelings is chemistry. It’s not some sort of saintly or selfless act. Some parents react protectively towards their children and others turn on their children and hurt them. But it’s all chemistry, isn’t it?

Children are like visitors who come and stay and do not leave our house for like 20-years or more. And even after that, they get pissed off if you don’t give them more. Some will blow your brains out of your head if you don’t help them. Evolution wired us to have children and to be super attached to our children, so as to aid in survival and to further the species. Nothing wrong with this, it’s just important that we know that biology plays a role in our work as parents so that we know there is nothing magical, or selfless going on here.

We sacrifice for our kids, we put their priorities over our priorities, we give up our lives for them, we change their diapers, nurse them, give all of ourselves to them, but these are not selfless acts. These are acts tied to ourselves, to our progeny, to the survival of OURS over THEIRS. We don’t generally put this much of ourselves into other people’s kids.  

Why? Because (when the body is functioning according to its designs) these evolutionary biochemicals in our brains force us to protect our assets. We propagate and put everything into our children mainly because the biochemicals tell us to do it.

You know what this means, don’t you? It means we are not exercising a pure, selfless, free will choice. Saints are considered selfless (and I’m not talking about the supernatural variety of saint, but just the “good people” type) because by definition they make a choice to be selfless. Parents are just protecting what’s theirs and their biochemicals tell them to do it. This benefits the parent, the parent’s family and in some cases their society. Children often return acts of goodwill, in many different ways. Meanwhile, saintly people tend not to get anything in return, and they often help anonymously. Parents with healthy biochemical systems have little choice, their bodies virtually bid them to act on behalf of their progeny. Parents are wired by nature to be parents, some less so than others and some parents should not have been parents at all, because they are not good at the role.

Parent: You are wrong! I love my children. My love for my children is and always will be my choice. These moments that we spend together and the love I feel for them is real.

A-hole Philosopher: I don’t doubt that it all feels real. But you would not be the parent that you are had evolution not enriched your biochemical system with the chemicals that now make you act the way you do towards your children. Plus, you have years of vested interest in your kids. You’ve spent time, money and life on them. You will make sure your children receive your inheritance after your death. Most don’t give their inheritance to an orphanage, to children who need it more (unless you know your children are taken care of already). Why?

Parent: You suck, you’re crude and selfish. This is insulting. What have you done for the world??? I help Atheist Alliance Helping the Homeless. I serve the poor. I help ill babies and elderly people in the hospital. I donate my time to the Atheist Cats and I rescue other animals too. I donate to the poor. You?

A-hole Philosopher: There is no reason to name call. I know you’re frustrated because I’m hitting you with the truth, I’m just being real. You seem to be saying that some forms of helping people are superior to other forms of helping people and that altruism trumps activism. I think there is value in every altruistic act. Some write and this helps people, some feed the poor, others criticize and change minds. We do what we can with the talents and interests, and abilities that we have. I don’t find name-calling of much value. That’s just mean, brainless and sadistic, but being real is cool. Besides, this is not about me.

We are talking about what makes you tick right now. You might be a saint, but it’s not because you help your kids. Most people do that, in some way. I ain’t even saying you’re not a saint, but being a parent does not automatically make you selfless, even though the sacrifices are great.

Just about every dog, cat, and hamster are parents too. This is biology. You likely had fun and voila. From there on, biology took over and now you have responsibilities. By law, even. Don’t be pissed off at me for saying it like it is. You don’t get a medal from me for being a parent, although your kids should give you one because you probably do deserve it, and maybe society should give you a medal if your kids contribute something positive to society. If your kids don’t then they are additional flesh bodies taking up space on a soon to be an overpopulated planet.

They don’t call me the “A-hole Philosopher” for nothing. I have to tell you how it is, to break your self-aggrandized delusions.

Parent: You have no idea what makes me tick!!! Nor who my spouse is! You are a poor, selfish, pathetic excuse for a human being!

A-hole Philosopher: Is it selfish not to have kids? Does the world need more people? Why not help strangers using whatever capabilities you have. Use your interest and talents to help talented and passionate people. That will probably do this planet more good.

Wait, but ask yourself this question, “Who am I?” Truly, who are you? Are you a mother or a father? Or is this just a role that you play? Aren’t you so much more than that?

Maybe parenting is what you put most of your energy into, day-in-and-day-out, divided by your entire life, but is this who you are?

Your hubby, he might live for making money, or for having pleasure, or for being important. Maybe your children have been your whole life and you’ve never lived your own life. This is selfless in a way, but helping your family unit is still an act of helping yourself, so it is not purely selfless. This is why parenting, by definition, doesn’t make a person entirely selfless. Also, the brain chemicals had something to do with it, too.  

Parent: My main priority in life is God, then my children and my husband. Besides, my religion tells me to be fruitful and multiply.

A-hole Philosopher: Oh come on! There is no proper evidence, whatsoever, that God exists. Therefore, God is at best a hypothesis. A fictitious imaginary friend that was implanted in your brain and you now carry this mental virus in your mind, likely you spread it to others, and so does your church every Sunday. It cracks me up to see churchgoers hang out at their “place of worship,” every Sunday, with their friends, in all their finery, showing off. You haven’t even taken the time to read your own “holy” book from cover to cover, I’ll bet. In reality, our “God,” if you want to call it that, is what we put most of our time and energy into, day-to-day, year-to-year. What do you put most of your energy into every day? This is your god.

Yeah, maybe your entire sense of worth and purpose is vested in your kids, what you do for them, how good of a parent you are, how “selfless” you are to them. As already mentioned, this is not entirely selfless, but it’s very nice. You are giving love to other people.

But then look at your kids. If they are grown and “on their own,” are they selfless to you? Do they give back even one-tenth of what you’ve sacrificed for them, or do they just continuously ask for more. When will they stop to bleed you dry, when you’re laying five feet under? Probably not. They probably tell you “You’re a good parent.” But do they now let you live your life and enjoy your remaining years, or are they still expecting you to sacrifice all you’ve got for them? If so, will this allow you to achieve your ultimate life?

This is why you HATE what I am telling you. It is your ego reacting to the bubble-shell that it has created around your personality, around you being “mommy” or “daddy.”

But I have news for you, even some psychopathic serial killers were good parents. Look at that Polish hit-man for the mob from New York, Kuklinski the Iceman. He is said to have been a great and loving parent. His children had no idea he stuffed decaying humans into acid buckets.   

Besides, your religion probably tells you to multiply because this is the primary way your religion gets new followers. To add, your religion also tells you to only have sex for procreation. How did that work out for you?

Parent: Isn’t giving love, in and of itself, selfless?

A-hole Philosopher: Love can be exercised for its own sake. Especially if done anonymously and randomly for strangers without getting nothing in return. Doing it for friends and family is not entirely selfless. It’s usually even expected and demanded, if not by law then by culture and by one’s biochemistry.

Parent: There’s a maternal instinct that will kick in for most women when we see babies and children in distress. Isn’t there?

A-hole Philosopher: That maternal instinct is biochemical in nature, we’ve talked about this a lot. Some women are born with a huge motherly instinct. This is why some adopt when they cannot have children. Others adopt to help the world, and this can actually be selfless. If this is the reason why it’s done. But in the case of the biochemicals, it’s the chemicals that help decide that your children are more important than other people, and this is not selflessness.

Then again, due to different biochemistry, some women are not attracted to having children. Nature provides for all differentiations. Bad biochemistry or mental illness might even bid some mothers kill their own children.

Parent: My love for my children gives me meaning and purpose in life. If I did not have my kids, I do not know what I would do.

A-hole Philosopher: Doesn’t this show that you have not yet expanded your life outside of this dynamic? Many people who do not have kids, or whose kids have grown up lead a wondrous and meaningful life.

Parent: This conversation is hurting the public good. There are tons of bad parents and you are disincentivizing parents to be good parents. 

A-hole Philosopher: No! This serves the public good because some parents forget to live and then coddle their kids too much, making said kids too non-independent. The millennials are almost poster children for this syndrome. This is what tends to happen to wealthy societies. Parents wind up giving their children too much and children then don’t do as much for themselves–they don’t have to. Their parents are doing it for them. This is probably what helped kill Rome.

Do you want to help the public good? Does having more children harm or help the world? From an ecological perspective, for every child you have, think how many diapers will be used, how many tons of trash each additional person will contribute to an already overburdened world. How many cars and tires will that child buy and throw away throughout their lives. How many tons of forests will be chopped down?

“An American woman who drives a more fuel-efficient car lives in an energy efficient home recycles, and makes similar lifestyle choices only saves approximately 486 tons of CO2 emissions, whereas having one less child would save 9,441 tons.”1

Parent: I am 63 years old and I still need my mother. There are toxic parents, which I hate and disagree with all the time.

A-hole Philosopher: Yes! This needs to be mentioned too. We can vent about those people here too. I am not saying parents shouldn’t be good parents. I am just explaining why parenting is not selfless, whether you are a good parent or a bad parent, it’s probably your biochemistry that plays the greatest contribution.

Parent: And then there are the absent parents, the emotionally absent parents whose children will resent them for the rest of their lives.

A-hole Philosopher: Yes, true. I agree with your point here. It’s somewhat counter-intuitive, but withholding oneself emotionally from people who love you can be hurtful to them and is likely to be psychologically detrimental to them, especially if they are dependent on that person.

Parent: There is a big difference between raising a lonely, empty, fragile, scared, unable-to-cope-with-small-issues child who is emotionally damaged, and with raising a healthy confident self-sufficient, an emotionally stable child who learned by example from a strong consistent parent and who now has great coping skills and is socially intelligent.

Take bullying for example, as a parent you want to rush to school and demand names and punishment. When there is a positive parental influence, bullied kids tend to stand up for themselves, in fact, they are rarely bullied. These are traits that are instilled in a child as soon as they start to walk and talk.  

A-hole Philosopher: True! Yes, some parents have true skills in this regard, just like some artists are able to paint the perfect painting. But, once again, does being Picasso make you selfless? Was Picasso selfless when he painted? He was expressing his love and talent. If he was utilizing his art to change the world, in an activist sort of way and not receiving any real benefit, then his were selfless, but if he expected to benefit from his work, even though he loved his work, then he was human.

Are you a mother? Are you a father? Is this who you are??? Or is this just a role you play? Aren’t you a human being, above and beyond it all? Won’t you die one day? If you put your entire life into your children and forget to live, even though you have benefited others, you have also sabotaged your own life!

And what duty do you owe to your significant other? This is another topic to talk about? If you are sabotaging your own life, are you also sabotaging your partner’s needs or future relationships? I’m not talking about when a child is just born and requires constant care, but what about when they are grown up? Can selfless mothers also be selfless wives and girlfriends? Can selfless dads also be selfless husbands and boyfriends? How would that look if they were?

Parent: Wouldn’t they divide up their energies amongst all loved ones as equally and as much as is needed between all of them?

A-hole Philosopher: Let’s say your child needs you and your spouse needs you. Both are suffering. How do you handle this in order to play both roles?

Parent: As I just mentioned, above. As equally as possible. This conversation is pointless!!! Goodbye!


1- Brown, Kalee. “GINK: The Environmental Impact Of Having A Child.” Collective Evolution. July 19, 2016. Accessed December 08, 2018.



The A-hole Philosopher is just that, an a-hole and a philosopher. He’s a devil’s advocate by trade who lives in Kathmandu, spends his days operating on butterflies, and does not mind kicking sweet old gramps in the gonads when grandpa gets out of line in his thinking (this is metaphorical of course, the A-hole Philosopher is not into violence. They are an activist, they write with piss, they are an author, a she-male-douche-tard who makes everyone angry. In the end, though, communication occurs, thoughts leak into crevices never before explored, and this is the point.


Mark W. Gura




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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Anat

    For women, pregnancy alone gives personal benefits.

    This woman is puzzled as to which those are. Pregnancy is overall a huge health risk, some of which lasts well past the pregnancy itself.

    My life had a sense of purpose before I had my kid. Once I had the kid some of the purpose changed, but then that happens with all kinds of life-changes. For many years the main thought regarding my role as the mother of a child was ‘I just hope we all survive this and get out of this in one piece’. Now that kid is in college the nature of my worries changed, but they are still present. There was very little joy in being a parent in my personal experience, mostly in the early years when kid was cute and relatively easily manageable. Of course this has nothing to do with the selflessness argument. Let only those who really want kids have them. Pressuring people to have kids against their wishes and better judgment is a recipe for all sorts of trouble.

  • The Bofa on the Sofa

    When you make a child, and you feel that child cooking inside your belly and eventually you watch it be born. Something happens in the brain, not only to mothers but fathers as well. You eventually realize that although this tiny human is a part of you, it is also a whole different being from you. It has your genetic information, you made him or her, but then there’s this connection. It’s a type of love. Often, that being changes you. You stop being you. You know that little human depends on you.

    Yes, that little human depends on you. For sure, and it is a major responsibility. But then, there are two things

    1) You (likely) chose this. Yeah, it’s a responsibility, but one that you chose to take upon yourself. Don’t pretend that it is some noble endeavor you are doing, were you are stepping up and taking on the burden for the team, and
    2) Given that, what is the alternative? When my kids were born, it was like “whoa! I am now responsible for this! I can’t screw it up, because this is a little human that needs to grow up. I can’t just shirk my responsibility.” Now see 1.

    I get the part about the special love and all, but, in the end, this has no bearing on the topic at hand. Childless adults have different situations from me, and that’s for them.

  • Karen the rock whisperer

    I find the whole selfish/selfless argument tiresome. First, there’s usually an implied understanding that selfishness is bad, and selflessness is good. I don’t think that’s true. If you give a charitable gift because you recognize a need that needs filling, is that somehow better than giving because it feels good? The net effect is the same. If you selflessly care for, say, an aging parent, and burn yourself out doing it, is that really a good thing?

    If you want one or more children, and you can reasonably expect to be able to raise them, have them. But do think about about the planet while you’re doing it, please, and not flood it with them. If you have no clue how you’re going to support them, but you are certain some deity will provide, please don’t have them. Generally that means they’ll grow up in poverty, perhaps abject poverty, unless you live in a very enlightened country. Definitely not the US.

  • Cynthia

    Echoing that first paragraph. The entire premise of the argument is BS. Who cares if having children or not is considered selfish or selfless? The impact of your parenting, if you do become a parent, is really the only thing that matters. Your feelings are irrelevant.

    Also, I didn’t see that whole long argument really challenging the idea that selfless = good. That’s unfortunate, because it is a downright toxic idea, especially when it comes to parenting. I know it’s really common, but I was a far better mother when I declared it was total BS.

    I had my kids because my husband and I desperately wanted to have them. They know this. They know about the miscarriages I had, they know how miserable we were, and they know that their births brought us joy. They know that we love them, and they also know that we like them and enjoy being with them. We think that our kids are pretty awesome people. Now, it could be that we are simply lucky and won the life lottery, since our kids are teens who aren’t horrible, but I think we can take a bit of credit for not fucking them up. After all, why would they rebel when we love and support them and have confidence that they can do great things? Unfortunately, I see far too many people – both friends and clients – who do just that. They take kids who are basically decent, and manage to treat them badly and make the kids feel horrible about themselves, and then these parents complain about how their children are acting out and making them miserable.

  • EH

    Oh, Anat, you silly little lady. You think you know more about the effects of pregnancy than Mark Gura does. How dare you be so presumptuous! Use your lady brains.

  • EH

    P.S. Please note that I’m being sarcastic.