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Thursday, August 15, 2013

More People Choosing To Be Childless, But Still Facing Stigma

(sam sherwood1/Flickr)

(sam sherwood1/Flickr)

American birthrates are lower now than at any time in American history — including the period after the Great Depression.

The trend is consistent across racial, cultural and socioeconomic lines.

Author Lauren Sandler writes about the phenomenon in the Time magazine cover story, “The Childfree Life: When having it all means not having children,” where she notes that though it’s becoming more common, a decision to remain child-free is anything but socially acceptable.

“We’ve always had the mandate for motherhood — it’s what women have been deemed ‘for’ in human history,” Sandler told Here & Now. “But lately, the mommy industry is so enormous, what I call ‘the ambient roar of motherhood’ seems to be so deafening, that I think that women who feel like we should have transcended this pressure by now are feeling pretty stigmatized.”

I didn’t make the decision because it’s too expensive or any of these other reasons. I just — this is who I am.
– Barbara Brownell

Some people may feel it’s too expensive to have kids, but others would rather do something else with their time, Sandler said. Many people who make a conscious decision not to have children feel strongly that it’s not for them.

Among them is Barbara Brownell, a hospital administrator and avid gardener in Oakland, Calif., who has been married for almost three years. She and her husband have no plans to have kids.

“Over the first two years of our relationship, we just decided that we’ve got a great life — neither one of us really had a huge pull to have children, and we’re happy the way it is,” Brownell told Here & Now. “We have plenty of children in our lives. I think that we choose to spend our time with each other and in the garden and cooking together, rather than raising children.”

Brownell does feel pressure from friends and family to have children, but she says it doesn’t burden her or her husband.

“Since we’ve been married and we have lots of friends with kids, it’s ‘Oh my God you guys are going to be the best parents! You guys are going to have beautiful children. When are you going to start?’” Brownell said. “I didn’t make the decision because it’s too expensive or any of these other reasons. I just — this is who I am.”

Guests

Transcript

JEREMY HOBSON, HOST:

It's HERE AND NOW. The birth rate in this country is now lower than it was during the Great Depression, lower than when birth control first became ubiquitous; and that is true across all races and cultures. But why are so many people deciding not to have children? That's the subject of a Time magazine cover story called "The Childfree Life." Lauren Sandler wrote it, and she's with us now from NPR studios in New York.

And Lauren, let's just say from the outset, there's nothing new per se about deciding not to have kids. Couples have done it for a long time. What is different now?

LAUREN SANDLER: I think that what's different now is there are more people doing it than ever before, and I think that there are more people aware of the pressure to have children in a different way. Of course, we've always had the mandate for motherhood. It's what women have been deemed for, in human history.

But lately, the mommy industry is so enormous. What I call the ambient roar of motherhood seems to be so deafening, that I think that women who feel like we should have transcended this pressure by now are feeling pretty stigmatized. And so I think it's both the number of women, and also the experience in a culture that seems to resist it, even though it celebrates independence.

HOBSON: So the pressure is even greater to have children?

SANDLER: I've heard that from a lot of people. I mean, certainly in the 1950s, it was a very different thing, when one was sort of understood to be a mother first. But it's funny how after feminism, to a certain extent, and when we rely on women as such an important part of the marketplace, when we celebrate self-reliance and individual choice as hallmarks of what it means to be an adult in America today, this is the one thing that kind of refuses to die; that if women do not choose to have children, our culture does not know what to do with them. They must be lacking something. They must be non-nurturing. They must be refusing to participate in our norms.

HOBSON: And is the main reason that people opt out, money - that it just costs now hundreds of thousands of dollars, from age 0 to 18, to raise a child?

SANDLER: Well, you certainly have to want it more, I think, because it's so expensive. But I think that from the beginning of time, there are some people who have really lusted for motherhood, really desired that experience; and other people who have felt ambivalent, and still more who just felt like it wasn't them at all.

For some people, it feels like it's expensive. For other people, there are other things they would rather do with their time. And I think that something that we find in common with a lot of people who don't have kids, but who really strongly made that choice, it's because they feel like they don't have the impulse inside them to make that leap.

HOBSON: Well, let's bring in Barbara Brownell. She is living in Oakland, Calif. She works in hospital administration. She takes care of her puppy, she cooks, she has social gatherings. She's been married for almost three years, but she and her husband have no plans to have children. Barbara, why did you make that choice?

BARBARA BROWNELL: Well, I think it's kind of interesting because over the, you know, first two years of our relationship, we just decided that we've got a great life. Neither one of us really had a huge pull to have children, and we're happy the way it is. We have plenty of children in our lives. I think that we choose to spend our time with each other and in the garden and cooking together, rather than raising children.

HOBSON: Are you feeling the pressure that we just heard about from Lauren; from others who say, you should be having kids?

BROWNELL: Well, it's really interesting. I think as a woman, my whole life I've heard, when are you going to get married? When are you going to have kids? Your kids are going to be gorgeous. And I've always just said, well, that's just not where I'm going with my life.

But since we've been married - and we have lots of friends with kids - it's oh my God, you guys are going to be the best parents; you guys are going to have beautiful children; when are you going to start? And I think most of our friends know us well enough that we are making an active decision.

But I think that a lot of friends still continue to say oh, there's that little glimmer of hope that they're going to have kids. So I think it's still there. I don't think either one of us are burdened with the pressure of other people wanting us to have children.

HOBSON: Do you think you ever might change your mind?

BROWNELL: You know, I think - I think anything could happen. But I'm 40; my husband's 37; and we're really, really happy. We love our life the way it is. We, you know, bought a house last year, and we have a beautiful garden that we spend every night in, and we have great vacations and fun with our friends. And I feel like for me, it's such an independent choice on my own.

Culturally, I know there are all types of things in society that are pushing people in other directions. But I didn't make the decision because it's too expensive, or any of those other reasons. I just - this is who I am.

SANDLER: Barbara, I've heard that from so many people I've interviewed, and it's really interesting because that economic question is always the logical question. And I asked it so many times myself but, you know, it really is that thing within, isn't it?

BROWNELL: Well, it's happiness. What makes you happy? That's what you do.

HOBSON: Now Lauren, we do see certain areas of the world, certain ethnicities, that are having lots of kids. I just did an interview last week about the nation of Yemen, where each woman has an average of five kids. So is this something that is happening all over the world, or is this really a U.S.-specific phenomenon - and maybe Europe, too?

SANDLER: Well, the U.S. is actually a little late to the game. The child-free trend has been far stronger in Europe, and also in Asia. But it's interesting that you mention Yemen because what you'll see around the world, and especially in the U.S., is a correlation between religiosity and the number of babies that a woman has.

This tends to be a very secular trend, although I certainly interviewed people who are Christians, who feel very excluded within their own community because it's not an impulse that they feel that God is impelling them to follow through on.

HOBSON: What are the consequences that you learned about in your reporting, that we should be thinking about if many people are choosing to go child-free?

SANDLER: You know, it's a good question, and there are a lot of different answers to it. You'll find a lot of conservative economists who think that this means the end of our economy. There are some people who believe that this will be the end of our military. There is a lot of hand-wringing amongst people who believe that women's purpose is really to have babies.

I am not one of those people, and I see a very different way of looking at this - which is that I don't believe that we have yet really come to terms with what women's freedom truly looks like, and yet even though we depend on women so much now in the marketplace and in furthering our culture, we have an expectation, and we don't have policy to support that expectation.

The disconnect between the realities of motherhood and the realities of a modern working life are quite dramatic, and they're especially dramatic in the United States. I recently published a book on what it means to have an only child, which is actually my personal choice, and so I've spent years now, talking to people about how these choices are made. And I have yet to find a single person who thinks about the larger social implications of their own possible birth.

HOBSON: Barbara, are you one of many children, or are you an only child?

BROWNELL: I'm one of three. I have a younger brother and an older sister.

HOBSON: And what about you, Lauren?

SANDLER: I am an only child with an only child. So this is interesting, too. People tend to either rebel against what they were raised within, or repeat it if it made them happy. And so you will find people who, you know, weren't nuts about their siblings and therefore, make different choices.

HOBSON: Lauren Sandler wrote "The Childfree Life" in Time magazine. She joined us from NPR in New York. And Barbara Brownell joined us from Oakland, Calif. Thanks to both of you.

BROWNELL: Thank you.

SANDLER: Thank you.

ROBIN YOUNG, HOST:

Well, Jeremy, a lot of people are weighing in our Facebook page - no surprise. Lacey Finn(ph) addresses regrets. She writes: People constantly told me I'd get the urge to have kids. I'm 47, never did. Vicky Gann(ph) says: I'm a juvenile custody service specialist. I see the effects of misinformed parenting. Karen Wood(ph) says when she sees a cute baby, she regrets not having kids but then says: When it cries or throws up, I am good.

HOBSON: (Laughter)

YOUNG: Father Tom Brown(ph) is skeptical, though. He writes: I've known several couples who have chosen not to have children. They're missing something; they're not complete.

HOBSON: Well, let us know what you think at Facebook.com/hereandnowradio or at hereandnow.org. We'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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  • J__o__h__n

    I’ve never judged anyone for not having children. Some awful parents have raised the opposite judgement.

  • Elaine

    Thanks very much for covering this topic! I’m a divorced, 46-year old woman who made the very conscious choice in my late teens not to have children. While a few people have expressed surprise, and I’ve had a couple say that I’ll never know or understand what joys children bring, I have never, ever regretted the decision. Frankly, in looking at the broke, stressed, over-worked, and overwhelmed parents of today, I know that I absolutely made the right choice. Travel, savings, career and a peaceful home environment have definitely been more important, and more rewarding, to me.

    • A M Lewis

      Amen!

      • Dbom

        Irony alert…

    • Laura L.

      Parents will often say that you are missing out and that it’s the greatest most rewarding experience of their life. It’s funny how their words don’t match up to their actual lives. I have to say that most of the parents I know are miserable, stressed out and live paycheck to paycheck. When I get people pestering about having children I figure it’s because misery loves company. How dare we not have children who put us through sleepless nights and take all our money. It’s all cute full of fun and games when they are little but what about when they grow up and all you are to them is an ATM and they grow up to be a complete disappointment despite your best efforts. I’m sorry but every way I look at it parenting seems like torture.

  • Gen

    USA Today reported today that “Parents with a baby born in 2012 will spend $217,000 to half a million dollars to raise the child to age 18.” That’s reason enough to be happy with a childfree lifestyle!

    • Laura L.

      Imagine those parents who have more that one child! I’m sure most of them cannot afford to have them. But hey there’s always the government and those of us who don’t have children but get taxed up the nose to help take care of them right?

  • Ashley Cannon

    I’m so glad to see this topic covered. Thank you!

  • Ada

    When I was little, I always liked the older relatives who’d never had children best: they weren’t harried & stressed out, but were happy, relaxed, fulfilled, kind, and able to focus on things other than navel-gazing immediate family. This “pressure” thing is silly; people should feel pressure NOT to have children in this overcrowded world. Also, it’s not “child-free” or “childless”: my husband and I are delighted with our 2-person nuclear family, enjoying friends & wider family. We are not defined by children or the lack thereof.

  • Childless and happy.

    I use to want kids until my father passed away. The want died with him.The thought of having children who would never know my father was to much. I’m happy with my life and have no need to add a child. My friend’s have kids, my sister has great kids, I can be a great aunt and am content with that. Instead I’d rather get a puppy.

  • dialyn

    I don’t have children and, sometimes, I regret it but mostly I don’t. For one thing, and this is the main one, I think I’d have been a terrible parent. But I think in a society says it is pro-life and pro-babies, it is also a society that is not very supportive of the mothers of those children. Fathers can and do walk away from the responsibilities of raising children (and I don’t mean tossing money at their issue) but the mothers can be left stranded without adequate training or support to be mothers/parents. Considering the anti-female rhetoric we hear from some areas, I wouldn’t want to have a child in this environment. I don’t think a woman should be judged by her appearance or her fertility, and yet too many people still do. One thing is sure…if you have children because you think they will take care of you if you have the misfortune to live to old age without adequate funds or health, don’t count on it. Some of the most tragic examples of the elderly being robbed of their resources I’ve seen have been tracked back to their offspring. It’s pretty sad.

  • Velma

    The decision to not have children is also a sustainable choice in an overpopulated world. The resource use of large families is excessive especially in the United States.

    • Duxford

      Absolutey true. Now find any phoney environmental group that will make that statement and position. They dont dare say certain populations tend to have high birth rates even though it’s the gorilla in the room.

      • Dbom

        Absolutely false actually.

        You should read the demographic reports coming in from all over the world, decline, decline decline

        …keep your eyes on japan to see where a future of Childlessness ends…

        By the way, when you say “certain populations” you aren’t making a racist reference to non-white cultures are you?

        Wouldn’t be surprised though…

        • Maddy

          Yes. That’s why we’ve grown to 7 BILLION people.

  • Cindi

    Finally! I’m not alone! I decided in my mid-30s not to have children and I love my life! At 45, I own my own home, go out when I want, travel when I want and date when I want. I am living the independent, glamorous, urban life I dreamed of as a child.

    • Lance Blackstone

      You’re not alone. Check us out at werenothavingababy.com

  • Daniel

    I’m childless, 52, in a wonderful long-term relationship, “fixed” and never regretted it. I have nieces. =)

    • Lance Blackstone

      Yeah! Way to represent!

      Lance @ werenothavingababy.com

  • Emily4HL

    I desperately want children, but have a genetic disorder I’m not willing to pass on. So we will adopt, or foster, or just spend time with children in our community. Childless does not mean child-free. Kids need adults to talk to, and most of all, I want to be that trusted adult, whether or not the child is my own.

  • Martina

    I love that this is being covered. I am in my early 30′s and do not feel that I want children. It’s just who I am. So many people, including perfect strangers, question me about this and tell me I’m wrong in my thinking or I will change my mind “when I get older”. Ha! I even had one relative postulate that I don’t want children because I was abused by someone as a child! I was never abused! I had the best childhood possible. I just don’t want children. I enjoy my independence and my life the way it is. Admittedly I could not give a child the financial stability I would hope to, but I do not think this impacts my choice. I just don’t understand why this is such a taboo in this day and age.

    • Elaine

      I heard the “you’ll change your mind” or “you’ll regret” comments, too. I’m in my mid-40′s and there’s no changing my mind or regretting over the childfree choice. Live your life, your way and be happy!

      • Kristin

        Or the “oh, you just haven’t met the right guy yet.” *eyeroll*

        • Martina

          Yes. I respond that I did meet the right guy because he doesn’t want children either.

          • Dbom

            Wow, you met a guy who didn’t want to have the responsibility to raise kids but still wanted s*x from you??

            In America? Today?

            Shocker!!!

  • Shoshana

    Thank you, as always, for a great show! I always enjoy listening.

    Although I believe this is a significant topic, I feel the way Here&Now framed the interview reinforces the central issue:

    In my opinion, the question should not be: “Why are more people choosing not to have children?” but rather, “Why do we question one’s decision to have children (or not)?”

    Thanks!

    • Dbom

      The Answer is simple:

      a) if we all choose to have NO children, then society ends. And even if some do have kids, there will be fewer of them to care for an aging population (see japan)

      b) increased abortion is a negative (at least that’s what liberals always say “safe but rare” right?). Obviously these childless couples still have s*x, right? And contraception isn’t 100% effective. So “mistakes” happen, and if your choice is to REMAIN childless, you will kill any children that get in the way of that noble goal.

      Good luck all!

  • fsbi2

    Nothing reveals the selfishness of ones own heart like caring for a completely helpless individual. That revelation can be uncomfortable and unwanted but in the end “what makes you happy” is not always what is best.

    • Elaine

      Not everyone is ready, willing and able to be a caretaker and, if that’s the case, they shouldn’t be pressured to go against their very nature. It won’t end well for them or the person/child under their care. I believe the mature decision NOT to have children is actually a very selfless act. Many of us know, without doubt, that we wouldn’t be good parents. You’re welcome, society! :)

    • Maddy

      It’s very different when it’s your own genes, though. If you’re talking about adopting then kudos to you, but if it’s about adding another human into this hugely over-populated world, then that is a million times more selfish than not having any children at all.

  • Duxford

    I think people are making some really valid points about not having children. Kids certainly change just about everything in your life. But, spouses & partners come & go – at least statistically. The bond between a parent and a child seems impossible to explain if you haven’t experienced it. I would do anything for my children’s well being but I would probably hesitate when asked the same for a spouse/partner.

  • Miss Emily

    I am the oldest of four children, and have at best been indifferent to the idea of having children my entire life. When I reached age twenty-five, I had a revelation that I didn’t HAVE to have children despite the societal pressure to do so. My boyfriend and I travel to at least one new country and one new U.S. city every year, fully fund our retirement, and live debt free. It is a good life. Most of my friends that have children are two things: tired and broke. I told my boyfriend on our fifth date about my decision to be childfree, so that neither of us wasted our time. He has always been supportive of my decision. We enjoy our nieces and nephews, but are often met with indignant responses to our traveling and discretionary spending “It must be nice!” to which we reply “Yes, it is.”.

    • Laura L.

      This sounds a lot like my life. It is really great to be able to have money to travel and experience new cultures. Most people never get the opportunity to leave the country due to the responsibility and cost that comes with having children. If I had a child I would honestly feel like I was a prisoner being stuck in a monotonous life. Being child free allows both my boyfriend and I to pursue multiple college degrees, travel and the flexibility to work and live abroad one day. Children should come into the world wanted and those of us who do not want them should not be pressured by family or society to reproduce. It’s not like the human population is in danger of scarcity.

  • A M Lewis

    I was very aware of my decision to not have children and focus on career & education a long time ago. I have absolutely NO regrets. My girlfriends children confide in me, I mentor other young women in the community and I spoil my nieces and nephews. I knew I didn’t want the ‘mother’ job but I love making a difference in the lives of young people who’s parents can’t be everything for them. I firmly believe that I’m making a positive contribution to society by sharing my life’s experience with young people who want more than to just get married and have children after high school or college. There is so much to life – I encourage them to explore the universe. Again, no regrets!

  • guest

    i apologize if this has already been said, i listened to this just now on west coast time and unfortunately don’t have time to read all previous comments. i have 2 children even though i swore for years i had zero interest in reproducing. it has been hands down the best decision i ever made besides suckering a great guy like my husband into marrying me. additionally i don’t worry about whether or not others remain child free, it’s none of my business and i don’t secretly wish i had their freedom and then judge them as if they are not holding up their end of the biological bargain.

    i was thinking about this from a civic point of view after the show. aren’t households with (more likely) 2 high income earners paying taxes into the public education system and NOT adding more head count into my children’s classroom a good thing? i don’t mean this to sound like a “gotcha!” but seriously, isn’t that how things would play out? all of this assuming that any local government could manage to route that money towards schools and not frivolous projects. and one of my favorite cousins and her husband (both VERY high income earners) are perfectly happy with their cats, nieces and nephews and frequent trips to the wine country and i say rock on freedom fighters!

  • Johnathan_Cache

    Happily married for 10 years, when we both got near 40, we were ready to have children, but discovered wife could not have kids. We still want them, with no acceptable natural way, we decided not to. I feel no stigma, I don’t feel diminished, our lives are not missing something, we are still as happy with each other as ever. Recently CNN reported couples with children are 40-60 percent more likely to divorce anyway. Good for us! Divorce is expensive, and very painful for children.

    • Lance Blackstone

      Excellent points.

      Lance @ werenothavingababy.com

  • Gwen

    I love that this topic is out in the open. I actually write a blog on living child-free: http://badinkadink.wordpress.com/2013/08/14/child-free-series-snowballs-of-doom/
    It shouldn’t take “courage” to talk openly about the reasons a person chooses not to have children, but everytime I sit down to write about it, I find myself fighting the need to apologize for my convictions to my friends with children, or qualifying my statements with unnecessary appendages like, “but that’s just me, I understand it might be different for you.”
    People with children don’t justify their choice (in fact it’s often not even a conscious choice!). We don’t need to either.

  • Guest

    Thanks for covering this topic without sensationalizing it or adding in the

  • Lance Blackstone

    Thanks for covering the childfree topic without sensationalizing it like so many do. We get sick of being cast as selfish and narcissistic.

    Lance @werenothavingababy.com

  • methos1999

    My wife and I are at the age where the decision needs to be made soon, or it will become increasingly difficult. We want kids, but it is still very intimidating between the responsibility & cost. I would be lying if I said the idea of not having kids hadn’t at least crossed my mind.

  • Phil

    My Wife and I have been married for 27 years and have never had children through no fault of our own, we did try. We now look at the world population of 7.2 billion and wonder if there are too many people on the planet as it is so I think couples that deside not have children should be praised because there are going to be many issues for the new generations to come.

  • Billy

    My question is, with more and more people deciding not to have children, who will provide health for these folks when they become elderly? In the future will there be a need for more social services or elderly support infrastructure to care for this new large population of folks without children? And is this trend healthy? I have read research that say that elderly people are generally healthier and live longer when they live with family. Without children to care for them, who will assist this new demographic with their care when they become elderly enough to need it?

    • Elaine

      Why do we always assume that children are going to take care of their parents when they are elderly? And why do we want to burden our youth with that very overwhelming task? Frankly, if I had children, the last thing I’d want is for them to be my caregiver. Our senior support system is an embarrassment and we had better, as a society, start giving it more thought, funding and attention.

      • Billy

        Personally I would much rather have my children be my caregiver instead of a stranger who is not family. Alternatively, I would much rather take care of my elders than have under paid strangers who may or may not be qualified do it for me. I think the problem is not only with our senior support system in this country, but that we have a culture in which we have come to think that caring for our elders is a “burden” instead of an honor. Why is it that when parent’s become older they cease to be thought of as famiy members, or even people in some cases and are identified as burdens? Perhaps that is why people are having less children, because they are thought of as burdens as well. We have a very self centric culture in this country in which taking care or children, the elderly, or anyone other than ourselves is considered a burden instead of a social responsibility. Research shows that the stronger the family unit is the healther people are. Children learn better when spending more time with parents, elderly people live longer when living with family, and men live longer when married. I am not sure if women live longer when married. The point I am trying to make is that if we all learn to rtake care of each other as fellow human beings we will all do better as individuals.

        • Elaine

          I watched my mother destroy her health, her finances, and her mental stability by being my grandmother’s primary caretaker. It’s not an issue of selfishness. The issue is that being a caretaker for the elderly is an extremely taxing, overwhelming, exhausting and complicated commitment and one must have experienced professionals involved. I wouldn’t want any of my family to care for me. They are completely ill equipped on every level to do it correctly. Perhaps, too, we need to be addressing how to age in a more healthy manner, starting with diet, exercise, nutrition and the decrease of obesity and processed foods in our diets. Seniors who are healthier in their later years makes things easier everyone, especially on them.

    • Cathie

      I work in a senior community. Frankly I would rather depend on paid caregivers, after seeing the care given by “family”.

    • ok

      In no way shape or form is your elder care the responsibility of your children.

      • Maddy

        Parents choose to be parents, therefore have an obligation to look after their offspring. No child chooses to be born, so why should it be simply expected that they spend their hours being the primary caregivers of their elders?

  • Katie

    I have an only child and wish I’d had at least one more. That being said, I completely respect and understand why people don’t have children. Aside from the complete change in lifestyle for about 18 years, there is also an impact on careers. In my experience it is incredibly difficult to have a career and be a mother (or father) because many companies are not friendly to the idea of people having responsibilities outside of work that would take precedence. I worked for a childless woman who was openly hostile towards women who had children even sneeringly referring to those who “wasted” their talents by going onto the “mommy track”. An female executive at that same company made no bones about the fact that if a couple wants to have children, one of them has to sideline their career as she and her husband chose to do.

  • Cathie

    We’ve been married 37 years, chose not to have children early in our marriage and have never regretted the decision. We have over the years had, two grandparents, his folks, my niece, sister and a nephew in residence. We enjoy our time with family and friends, and we enjoy our time alone.
    Looking forward to retirement and travel.

  • Mage

    My sister was told that because she did not have children she has cancer! She is now in the process of recovery / surgery. Mage

    • Julie

      Her doctor is an idiot! Wishing her a speedy recovery.

  • Kat

    My husband and I are in our early 50′s, married 23 years and childless. And it wasn’t always easy, our society caters to families. We have a happy and full life with lots of nieces and nephews and now great nieces and nephews. I simply never wanted children. It had nothing to do with finances, it had to do with instincts. I knew I’d be a lousy parent and had no desire to force myself to do something that I really didn’t want to do. I don’t feel any less fulfilled as a human or as a woman. I’m glad to see more people actually thinking through the decision to have children rather than having them just because they can. We made the right decision and have never regretted a minute of our child-free lifestyle! Now, my dogs are another story…

  • LMGale

    It is such a timely topic for me personally…the key as far as I am concerned is that parenthood should be a thoughtful and deliberate choice. It is personal, and people who think they know the ‘right’ choice for someone else are simply wrong. If they think some other force beyond personal well-informed decisionmaking validates their choice as ‘right’, they need to check their compass.

  • Marie

    Thanks for bringing up this subject. I’m a 61-year old woman and chose not to have children when I was in my late teens. I’ve always just known it wasn’t for me – didn’t have the desire for children. I haven’t had much pressure to have them, my friends and family were understanding and I’m very hard-headed :-) There are many influencing factors, like knowing I’d probably always be career oriented and working full time, of course the expense, and the huge responsibility and burden of raising children. Women who work full time and raise kids have my admiration – they are tougher than I am. If you really want them it’s probably worth it all, but I just didn’t. I have furry children, and a boyfriend I plan to retire with and have fun. It’s been a pretty happy, carefree life so far and I don’t regret it. One of my closest friends, who is like a sister to me, also chose not to have kids, partly because she teaches emotionally disabled and learning disabled kids and says she has enough children in her life.

  • Tiffany Adams

    I don’t mean this to be rude, I am just speaking from my own personal experience.

    I worry that men and women who choose not to have children are missing out on something great. When I found out I was pregnant, I was much more nervous than I was excited, and I’ll admit, I regretted the choice my husband and I made to start expanding our family. But after I had my son, my whole perspective changed. Before I had my son, I thought I was happy, but after I had my son, the level of joy I experience is leaps and bounds beyond what I experienced before I became a parent. Of course being a mother (and one who also works outside of the home 40 hours a week) is difficult. There are endless challenges, and being a parent is inconvenient more often than not. But I mean this sincerely, being a mother gives me more joy than anything else I have ever done in my life.

    • Gen

      That’s wonderful for you and your son is very lucky. I can only speak for myself, but I am absolutely certain that I’m living my life completely right for me and I’m missing out on nothing by being childfree! Parenting is just simply not for everyone and many of us know that to our core.

  • Freedom

    In the early 1980′s, when i was in my early 30′s and in my childbearing year — and back when America was a relatively more free and far nicer society than what it has devolved into, I made the decision not to bring children in the world — and particularly not ito raise my children in a capitalist society. Even way back then I could read the handwriting on the wall and understood that American society was on a downward trajectory. So many times throughout my life, as I have observed the increasing absurdity and decline of this society, I would find myself inwardly chanting my one and only mantra: “Thank God, I did not bring children into this world!” That was one of the best decisions I made in my life. Children are sacred. We do not live in a society that honors and values the sacred – or people for that matter. It only values money!
    The way I look at it, I did my children a big favor. I didn’t bring them into the world.

  • Crystal

    Two points–

    1-We are living on an over populated world. Having fewer or no kids helps reverse that trend. There aren’t jobs for college grads, people are staying in the workplace & living longer. Fewer people is not a bad thing.

    2-My husband and I are both only kids. We knew we wanted to have kids. We love our two girls. But parenting is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and I don’t think anyone should enter into it without the desire to do so. Further, while I love my kids, I’ve given up a tremendous amount to have them.

    Between their two pregnancies, I spent a total of 13 months in my bathroom throwing up violently, with anti-nausea drugs helping only to the extent that I didn’t spend my pregnancy hospitalized and only needing to get dehydrated via IV roughly every other week. I would often throw up so violently that I would lose bladder control. So there I was-throat and mouth andnose raw from puking, kneeling in my own urine, shaking from the effort, in my bathroom for over a year if my life to birth my kids. On top of that I had ppre-eclampsia both times, which meant my doctors and I spent the end of my pregnancies fighting for each day, weighing the risks to my life and my daughter’s. 50 years ago, I’d likely have died, or my children (as my grandmother’s eldest child) would have. No one should go through that because of peer pressure to get pregnant—-and quite frankly, that was the easy part.

    The lack of sleep, the tighter budget, the choices we make because we have kids. I walked into this as open-eyed as I could and it’s still so hard. For me, it is worth it because I choose it. But I’m also occasionally very envious of my child-free friends, if only because they can sleep in on Sunday and we’ll be up earlier than we’d want to be otherwise.

    Bottom line–You should do what makes you happy. Have 0, 1, 2, 3-whatever kids, cats, spouses, jobs, whatever. If you are living a life that makes you happy and causes no harm to others (and not giving your parents grandkids is not actually harming them) then you don’t owe anyone explanations or apologies.

  • BrianWNK
  • creaker

    Children deserve parents that really want them. Anyone who is childless by choice is is being responsible and doing those never to be born kids a huge favor.

  • Thymoleon

    I didn’t hear anything mentioned about the health risks for women of the “childless lifestyle choice”. What about the varied risks of contraception, which include hepatic hemangiomas, deep venous thrombosis, pulmonary embolism, and cancer of the breast and ovaries? The Women’s Health Initiative was very clear on the potent side effects of long-term exogenous hormonal administration. When we fight nature, we end up following its laws. Most of the childless couples out there, however, are not by choice childless. The numbers of infertile people all over the world are staggering, which is another subject in and of itself.

    • Jack

      I’m a childfree male and I made the choice to have a Vasectomy years ago. Problem solved!

  • Jess

    I grew up in a family of five kids and I was the 4th born and the oldest girl. My mom always stated, “when you grow up, if you choose to have children”. It was never a given and it clearly gave me the opportunity to follow what I knew was right for me. I am in my mid 40′s and have been married for over 20 years. I never think of not having children until someone mentions it. I don’t have longings or sad moments feeling that I missed something precious in my life. It does not fit my personality at all. I think it is a gift that I recognized this aspect of my personality early in my life. I would make a terrible parent, I would feel trapped and basically feel parenthood is like indentured servitude. For those who feel differently, more power to you. Please do your children a favor and make them aware it is a very personal choice. Don’t make your kids feel they owe you grandchildren. Please…let them find out who they are and really put thought into whether they want and can provide for children.

  • Marco Cuenca

    I for one am glad these self described ‘just happy with my life’ people choose not to have children. The choice to create a child and foster that new person’s development is not taken lightly. Being a parent is difficult and serious and selfless, and you will sacrifice your happiness if need be to make your family successful. That means healthy and well adjusted, and not just happy and self-satisfied. It is hard work, but it is rewarding in a way that you can never know.
    In your case it is better you don’t have children. Just stay in your little perfect childless cocoon, and allow your seed to extinguish.

    • Ella Warnock

      “Just stay in your little perfect childless cocoon”

      I will, thanks!

  • Skip Conrad

    We should provide incentives to Americans to have children. Then our immigration rates would not be so high. We are importing children produced by the rest of the world, and we get no benefit from it.

    • Maddy

      Where do Americans come from then? I think you need to check your history.

  • hunhun52

    tinyurl.com/l3cselt

    v

  • Dbom

    My bet- in a couple of years “childless” will be a protected class.

    It will be a hate crime to suggest or impute selfish motives for those who go childless.

    societal decline, baby boomer’s lameness, the self raised as a god, woman *freed* to be selfish…

    Congrats all you childless commenters here, you just made my Catholic kid’s life a lot easier by not procreating…

    Good luck America!

  • LesKit

    There are quite a few people out there I wish would not have had children. Some people do it so thoughtlessly – have kids. And they’re not good parents. I see it all the time.

  • Maddy

    I want to have kids, but I admit that it’s selfish to want children. What I don’t understand is those people who think it’s selfish NOT to procreate- the world needs more people to not want biological children.

  • Dillard Jenkins

    More people are choosing to be childless in a few countries, but the population of the earth as a planet is still growing so there is no need for guilt feelings about not being a parent. If you wish to feel guilty, that your decision too. I’m completely satisfied with my decision, and it’s impossible to change it now anyway. Just Add Water: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/HarranPlains/

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