Disapproving looks, judgmental comments and the good old “Oh, you’ll change your mind when you’re older.” Living a child-free life is becoming more popular.
I often wonder what my child would be like. Whether they would have my eye colour, my left-handedness, or my indecisive nature. I am indecisive in all aspects of my life except for one: I don’t want children. Specifically, I don’t want to give birth to children.
When I announced this in a creative writing workshop at uni, I vividly remember my lecturer gasping as if I’d just announced my imminent departure to the heart of a volcano.
“But you must!” she cried. “You would make lovely babies!”
I remember being stunned, affronted that she couldn’t just accept my life choice. After all, it was MY life choice. I then realised that I hadn’t actually said it out loud before, subconsciously worried about the reactions that I might get.
Historically, society has deemed that it is a woman’s ‘duty’ to raise children. Particularly now, in my early twenties, there is such a prevalent pressure to settle down. It is incredible how many times you get asked, as a woman of childbearing age, about your relationship status. The number of times that the conversation turns offhandedly to “When your children…” or “When you have children…” is startling, assuming that that is what will happen. Your twenties are difficult enough without seeing your friends have babies and hearing a relative say “You next, lovely!”
Even Pope Francis, arguably THE celibate of the century, says that “The choice not to have children is selfish.”
Personally, no matter how many times I try to convince myself that it is my life, my choice, I think my heart will always break a little when I see my mother’s reaction to her friend’s grandchildren. As much as I would love to do that for her, it simply isn’t an option for me.
Reasons for being child-free
In a 2018 New York Times poll, a third of Americans of childbearing age cited climate change as a factor in their decision to have fewer children.The Guardian, 2020
Between not wanting to add to our overpopulated planet, many are fearing for their own lives due to climate change, and so don’t want to place that burden on any children that they might have.
Asking someone if/when they are having children is not only rude, but can also be triggering. They might be suffering from their own childhood trauma, or have a genetic condition that they don’t want to pass on.
An estimated 1 in 10 women in the UK suffer from Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), which is a known contributor of infertility in women. This is one of the many medical conditions that might pose a danger to both parent and child, and so to avoid situations like these, there are an increasing number of women choosing not to have children, rather than go through years of procedures, trauma and potential risk to life.
Because there are a few people (believe it or not) who are HAPPY with their child-free lives. There are people who don’t want to commit to dirty nappies and years of someone else being entirely dependent on them.
So, if you are reading this, choosing to be child-free for whatever reason, good for you. Fighting against the constant stream of traditionalist pressures and society’s judgement isn’t easy, but it really is a case of just saying no.