Women who intend to remain childfree by choice are often judged with suspicion or pitied for making an alleged mistake. They can receive an incredible amount of backlash when announcing that they wish to remain childfree, considered by some as being peculiar, cold-hearted, deluded, lazy or immature.
According to the Office for National Statistics (2011), one in five women were childless at the age of 45. Surprising? Not really. I predict this trend will increase and I wouldn’t be shocked to see this number rise from 20% to 25% by 2024-2029.
So, why all the suspicion and hostility? Let’s take a look at some of the common misconceptions about the childfree choice.
Childfree Living Misconception 1
“Who will look after you when you’re older?” seems to be the most common question thrown at those declaring their desire to stay childfree. The problem with this statement is there are no guarantees that your kids will look after you when you’re older, especially in the modern day.
I love my parents dearly, see them very frequently, feel it is my duty to be around them for the rest of their lives and give back to them as they gave and continue to give to their children. However, I am under no illusion that this is the case for all and we see all too often the elderly parents whose children live hundreds of miles away, who live down the road and still see their parents very occasionally, who marry someone who divides the family, who are so busy in their own life that they forget about their parents’ existence.
Childfree Living Misconception 2
“You’ll regret it when you’re in your forties.” If someone knows deep down after years of introspection that there is no shift taking place within that takes them from completely content to broody, the likelihood of that changing is slim. Those who choose to be childfree are deemed as unaware of themselves, yet ironically, they are perhaps more self-aware than most. After all, they are self-aware enough to make one of the biggest life decisions one can make. When you talk to these people, you will hear many valid reasons for not having children.
Childfree Living Misconception 3
“Having children is (one of) the most rewarding things you can do.” If you want children, it may well be. For those who don’t want children, who are perfectly happy with their life as it is, having children could be the most unrewarding thing for them to do. Becoming a parent often means your needs, desires, dreams and goals take second place. It means you cannot make the same daily choices you can when you are childfree. For some people, that is the exact opposite of rewarding and fulfilling. For some, it fills them with dread, not joy.
Childfree Living Misconception 4
“Childfree people are selfish.” People who have children when they don’t want them or didn’t realise how much they didn’t want them will likely be pretty miserable. If they are miserable, their children won’t get the best start in life and the marriage won’t be as happy as it could be. Is that really a selfish choice, then?
Note, you will rarely find an unhappy parent willing to confess that they are not as happy with parenthood as they had thought they would be. In a bid to protect their own mental health, and their children, they would find it near impossible to admit that parenthood was not as pleasant or rewarding as expected. How could they possibly admit that they are envious of childfree couples? As a relationship coach I can tell you, having children does not always bring people the joy and self-development they believed it would.
Childfree Living Misconception 5
“Childfree couples live empty and superficial lives.” Hmmm, really? Childfree living means people are able to pursue other goals wholeheartedly, with more energy, with more time, with more money and with fewer stresses. Being a parent is very hard work if you simultaneously want to have a career, change the world for the better in some way, pursue a time-consuming and/or expensive hobby, be heavily involved in philanthropic work, or do something else that entails a great deal of commitment. Many of those that fall into these categories are living anything but superficial, empty lives.
Childfree Living Misconception 6
“You won’t be as close as a couple if you don’t bear children together.” It actually depends on the depth of love you have between you, not on whether you have children together. Besides, having children can bring some couples closer whilst actually driving others apart. One thing’s for sure, having children greatly reduces the time you can spend with your beloved which can lead to a relationship downfall, temporary for some, permanent for others. Choosing to procreate also paves the way to more arguments, more financial spending, less personal time and increased stress within the relationship. Having children means you devote less time to nurturing your relationship with your spouse or partner and have less time for yourself, two of the biggest ingredients for relationship dissatisfaction.
Childfree Living Misconception 7
“Having children is the natural next step in a relationship.” Maybe in days gone by when women reared children and tended to their husband’s needs and maintained the house whilst the men were sole breadwinners, however, society has evolved too much for old norms to still be as relevant now. This is perhaps the biggest frustration that women, especially, face when they tell other women that they (and their partner) do not want to have children.
There has been a massive shift in society and having children is now one of many options instead of our only option as women. Now, many women want to have a career instead. Many men and women don’t “settle down” until their late 20s or early 30s, some even later. These late settlers want to cherish the time they have with their partner and as marriage (or lifelong partnership) is something that we now do much later in life, the biological clock starts ticking much sooner than some are ready for. Let’s also not forget, we already lead very busy lives in this modern world and so wanting a life with fewer commitments is the trade-off some feel they need to take for their own happiness and sanity. Lastly, as families disperse across the same land or to foreign lands, the idea that we are going to live by our offspring when we’re older is no longer high on the list of probabilities, therefore, this idea that by creating a brood you are creating some form of protection or stability for your own survival is a much weaker guarantee.
The Childfree Choice Is Part Of Our Evolution
Those who are completely happy and fulfilled in their current lifestyle are struggling to see the alleged perks of parenthood and are perhaps more self-aware than others of the need to ask, “Is parenthood really for me?” Rather than judging people for wanting to live a life that is childfree, take time to think about our changing world and norms.
Perhaps bearing children is no longer a natural next step in our modern, evolved society. It is inevitable that more people will choose the childfree path over the coming decades and, consequently, more services will be set up to cater for the childfree elderly.
Having children will completely change your life, forever. If you are unsure of whether you want to live a childfree life, take time to introspect and understand it’s not something you have to do because others are doing it or because others expect it of you. There is a choice now, and it’s an intelligent choice if it’s the right choice for you. Nobody else is going to have to live with the decision so nobody else has the right to force their disapproval upon you if you choose to live childfree.