Being Childfree by Choice


{Header image courtesy Pixabay, and used under a CC0 Public Domain license}

Note: this article was also published on Project Quinn (website no longer active).

Ever since I became engaged to my husband, the Christmas holidays have had one ongoing painful trait. At least once, if not more, we would get asked the question, “So, when do you plan on having kids?” The concept that I didn’t want kids at that point – and didn’t plan on changing my mind any time in the future – was as foreign as if I had said I wanted to eat grass. “Are you sure?” I get asked. “But you’d be such a good mom,” I get told. And most fun of all, “You’d change your mind about kids once you had one.”

People have a basic biological desire to procreate. That’s understandable. The need to pass on your genetics to the next level is part of what makes us alive, and trapped within that is the concept of leaving something of yourself behind, a desire for immortality. But not everyone has that desire: and those of us who don’t form the basis of the childfree community.

Photo courtesy M_AlPhotography via Flickr Creative Commons
Photo courtesy M_AlPhotography via Flickr, and used under a Creative Commons Attribution license

Childfree versus Childless

As a writer, I know that words have meaning. I understand when people prefer the term ‘marriage equality’ over ‘gay marriage’: it’s an equality issue for those of us fighting for it, not a gay issue. And for those of us in the childfree by choice community, that term is intentional as well. Childless tends to imply either a promise in the future (“I’m childless now, but plan on having kids”) or the interest but inability to have children (i.e., being sterile). In other words, it implies we’re lacking somehow by not wanting kids. Meanwhile, childfree has the implication that it’s a decision: a choice, if you will, and that it’s not a whim.

But why be Childfree?

Trying to isolate just one reason why people are in the childfree community is like trying to say all feminists are the same. Some come from bad childhoods themselves and want to break the cycle of bad parenting. Others do it because they know they don’t have the time or money (or energy, for that matter) to devote their lives to a small human. Some know that the resources of the world are already straining under the population and aren’t sure that putting another life on this planet is necessarily a good idea. Still others readily admit they just don’t like children and don’t want them as part of their lives. There are just as many reasons people choose to not have children than there are for people who do have them.

Child-Free Bingo card - by Carlos Castillo via his Flickr, and used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license
Child-Free Bingo card – by Carlos Castillo via his Flickr, and used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license

The Stereotypes and Issues

Like any group, the childfree community has stereotypes to battle and inequalities to manage. The idea that you don’t want to have kids has those with kids sometimes think you’re lazy or selfish. There are plenty of stories from the childfree community of workplaces that assume that just because you don’t have children means you can work holidays and overtime, and that your emergencies somehow have to be more important than a sick child. There’s also sometimes the implication that there’s something wrong with us: either biological (“are you able to have kids?” is often a follow up question from someone first meeting a childfree by choice person) or psychological (“what’s wrong with you that you don’t want kids?”). And finally, society does seem baby-obsessed at times, which is frustrating for those of us who don’t want them.

What’s Next?

If you’re childfree by choice, there are support communities out there. However, I stopped participating in one when it seemed like most of the conversations were people complaining about those with kids, which seemed antithetical in nature. It still made it about the kids.

The stigma of being childfree is becoming less and less. More articles are being written about it (there’s even a tag on Huffington Post for childfree by choice), and the reasons behind it are becoming more understandable as the population continues to increase and the economy continues to not get much better. People overall are waiting longer to have kids, and so the decision to not have them is not as big of a deal. Even my family has seemed to get the message, and are no longer asking me about my future childrearing plans.

So, if you have a reason (or 100) to consider being childfree, just a reminder that you are not alone.