The ethics of becoming a parent and the ethics of being a parent seem to have a different character and different rules. For example, what counts as selflessness in the latter may be criticised as selfish in the former. Thus, on the model of the ethics of war, we may separate the ethics of parenthood into two phases, which might be parodied as jus ad parenthood and jus in parenthood.
The critique of parenthood as selfish relies on a strong distinction between becoming and being a parent, so that a parent’s own selfless dedication to their children cannot count in their favour. The charge is that the decision to become a parent is a selfish one because it effectively hijacks society’s sense of justice towards the needs of children once created to socialise the costs of a private and therefore necessarily self-interested lifestyle choice.
My concern in this article has been to reject the strong distinction between the ethics of becoming and the ethics of being a parent, and hence the claim that parenthood is selfish.