Non-parents are pushing back against harmful, outdated stereotypes that they’re selfish or immature just because they are choosing to not have kids. A recent survey by the CDC said 6.4 percent of women and 9.4 percent of men agreed with the statement “People can’t be really happy unless they have children.” That judgmental attitude is something non-parents are looking to change.
Some people know from a young age that they aren’t interested in being a parent; diapers, rattles, and pacifiers hold little appeal. Others took a little more time to conclude that being childfree is the right choice for them. While they adore the children in their lives, they looked around at the current political climate, their busy lifestyle (and their sizable student loan debt), and thoughtfully concluded that parenthood wasn’t in the cards.
We asked people why they decided to be childfree. Here’s what they said. Answers have been edited for length and clarity.
Kimya N. Dennis PhD, 40
Do not fall for the romance novel idea that people in some societies write about parenthood and children. They pretend parenthood and childhood are perfect and flawless. They do not offer realities such as difficult pregnancies, an unhealthy fetus, unhealthy babies, unhealthy children, unhappy parenting, and other things that can happen. It is a roll of the dice.
Not having children is the right decision for me because I have no reason to feel otherwise. There are no “cons” for my decision. People who attempt to convince me of “cons” need to realize that my life is not based on their thoughts. Also, I would much rather regret never having children when I become elderly than risk regretting having a child. I deserve a good life and a child deserves a good life. Life is too short to play roulette “just in case."
Most people say things along the lines of “Don’t you want to leave your mark on the world” or “Don’t you want to extend your family lineage” and honestly? Not really. I feel like it is a gloriously arrogant thing to think that my mark should be left on this world in the form of another human being draining its resources. I’d like to leave my mark on the world by enjoying it as much as I can while being as gentle to it and everyone else who lives in it as I can.
If you don’t want to have kids, don’t let anyone pressure you into thinking you have some sort of human obligation to do so. If you don’t think you can be a great and loving parent, that’s completely fine and doesn’t make you any worse of a person. Enjoy your life the best you can and go out into the world and see as much of it as possible.
Archana Ram, 33
Since I was young, I assumed I would have kids. When I finally gave it serious thought in my late 20s and figured out that I don’t have to follow anyone else’s rules, it dawned on me that I actually have no desire to have kids. My husband, who I’ve been with for 12 years, feels exactly the same way. It was actually kind of magical that when we first broached the subject, we realized, wait a minute, neither of us wants kids.
There are a few reasons: I like alone time, reading books, going out with my friends, volunteering, working out, going on weekend trips, etc. There’s also the cost factor. And then there are the environmental concerns—our planet is so overpopulated and resources are so slim. Perhaps most importantly, we just don’t want kids. And I can’t think of anything worse than bringing a child into this world that you don't 10,000 percent want.
Don’t let other people’s assumptions about what you should and shouldn’t do guide your life. Those people won’t be raising your child—you will. Think about what kind of lifestyle you want, talk to parent friends who will be honest about their experiences, and figure out what works for you.
Eileen W. Cho, 26
I’m a Korean American freelance photographer and journalist living in Paris. I have to hustle 24/7. I’m lucky if I have time to eat dinner with my French partner. I travel extensively, almost seven months out of the year. I don’t want to give this up for a kid.
My mom had a baby when she was 43, and I was 15, so it feels as if I raised my baby sister. I know how hard it is so raise a kid, how expensive one is, firsthand. I’ve been through that already, and I know it’s not for me. When I hear a baby cry in public, I get super upset. I’m not cut out for it.
Everyone says shit like, “Oh, it’s cause you’re only 25.” No, dude. It’s not the life for me. The world is going to shit, our global population levels are high, we can barely sustain ourselves, Trump is president—do you really want to have a kid?! I’m incredibly selfish, I want to live my life, children are parasites, I want Chanel over buying baby clothes.
Suzannah Weiss, 27
Being childfree is part of a long series of decisions challenging what social convention prescribes as a desirable life. It's assumed that everybody wants a stable home, a traditional marriage, and kids. These assumptions are also tied in with what it means to be assigned female at birth.
Identifying as non-binary is another way I've freed myself from these conventions. To me, this means I don't subscribe to the gender binary. (More specifically, I identify as a non-binary woman because a lot of my experiences are the result of being socialized as a woman, so I do feel an affiliation with that gender in that way, but I don't personally feel this is something inherent to my identity.)
You have to work on yourself to be a decent parent. I have way too much baggage I'd pass on to kids. It's taken me about a year of life coaching and five ayahuasca ceremonies just to be a decent partner, and I'm still not great. At least I have the self-awareness to know that. Many people who become parents by default don't.
Emily Flesch, 27
I can't remember EVER thinking I would have kids or wanting to. I have had a huge fear of pregnancy and childbirth since I was a kid. As I got older, I noticed I didn't seem to have the same interest, patience, or a nurturing attitude toward kids that a lot of my friends did. Anytime I have pictured my future, it has never been with kids.
Doctors have told me my whole life that I would change my mind. It can be really awkward when people ask questions or automatically assume you want kids just because I'm a woman. I have had complete strangers ask when I am going to "start a family." Trust yourself. Don't assume others know your own life better than you do.
Arun Kristian Das, 44
By the time I began a relationship with the woman I would later marry, I was already 38, and she was 35. But as our relationship grew and strengthened, parenthood just didn't call out to us. I have spent years coming to terms with and then learning to cope with some mental health issues. These challenges make balancing my work, marriage, family, friendships, and personal ambitions emotionally draining at best and fucking crippling at worst. Sometimes, the depression is so nasty and insidious that I'm not even sure I can be a good partner to my wife let alone a good dad to some rugrats. Not being parents doesn't mean we have endless amounts of free time (we don't), but it does mean we make decisions about our careers, finances, travel, and living circumstances based on what is best for the two of us.
Jaime Fountaine, 33
I didn’t enjoy being a child. My mother has untreated mental health issues, and my dad was only sporadically in the picture; they weren’t inspiring models for parenthood. In a lot of ways, I already parented myself and my younger brother. It was plenty.
I think it can be hard for people whose life’s work is their family to understand that it’s not the path for everyone. There aren't markers for adulthood. Having a child or owning a house or taking on some other complicated responsibility will absolutely change your life, but it won't make you a better or more mature person. Not having kids isn’t a selfish or irresponsible or childish decision—it’s as valid a choice has having them.
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