The guilt of living alone

I have what might be described as an underdeveloped sense of entitlement. I struggle to believe that I’m entitled to want what I want, live how I want, spend my money how I want, etc. I struggle to distinguish between what is selfish and what  is a perfectly reasonable level of self interest.

So I am particularly sensitive to accusations that living alone makes me selfish.

Coming from someone with children, this accusation normally centres more on my decision not to have kids that it does on living alone per se. But what always puzzles me about this particular jab is that those with the kids doing the accusing will, within the next breath, talk about how they have always wanted kids. So having children is every bit as selfish as deciding not to.

From an environmental point of view, living alone is undeniably more consequential than living with others. But living in a nuclear family is more consequential than living in a commune, and on and on. I try to  live as responsibly as I can, minimising waste, buying fewer quality goods rather than lots of cheap tat. I walk to work – that right there probably makes up for the other ‘costs’ of living alone.

The most annoying is the accusation in the form of admiration:”you’re so lucky, you can do whatever you want”.  Sure, when you feel like you’d like to lie down and have a nap and you can’t because your kids are climbing  up the walls, I am sure my life seems full of such blissful freedoms. At the same time, it implies that I am self indulgent, and that I should be suffering along with everyone else . Why should I get to nap while the rest of you get to wrangle toddlers in amongst mounds of dirty laundry? Then, in the next breath, they tell me they could never live on their own, they’d find it too quiet.

That we have different needs in terms of relationships, solitude, companionship, and socialising should be obvious. But it is not. I have to catch myself when I start feeling guilty because I have nothing to feel guilty about. That I choose to live alone means I have made a particular set of tradeoffs and choices that are best suited to my personality and my needs. That others have done the same should not blind them to the fact that my choices and theirs are both choices, and they are merely different.

Advertisements