Why Childfree Women Are An Essential Part Of Society's Cohesion
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  • Post published:20/10/2022
  • Post last modified:20/10/2022

Editor’s Note: This is a part of YourTango’s Opinion section where individual authors can provide varying perspectives for wide-ranging political, social, and personal commentary on issues.

My jaws clenched as I continued reading to the very end. This article entitled Childless-By-Choice Women Are a Big Part Of Society’s Deterioration sent my emotions on a roller coaster ride. It reads like something from Keep Sweet: Pray And Obey. Initially, I felt anger. This anger turned to mild amusement before settling on feelings of pity. Pity directed at the author of the offending piece.

It makes empty and underdeveloped claims against the childfree. It reveres parents as heroes (even Christ-like!) while simultaneously brandishing people, correction — women — who choose to forgo reproduction as selfish. I have known my whole life that I don’t want to be a mother. This offending article is problematic for many reasons.

This hostility to the childfree is commonplace.

But articles like this widen the divide between parents and non-parents — whether by choice or circumstance. Science has already evidenced ingroup favoritism between parents, which supports the lived experiences of many childfree people. 

Once I was done with my swearing, laughing, and then pitying, my fingers started itching with the urge to respond. 

“Intelligent parents grasp the idea of living childfree and the value of this decision for them and their children, first and foremost. Only extremely stupid and inconsiderate parents want everyone else to pop out as many babies as possible.” – Dr. Verena Brunschweiger.

Why do people choose not to have children? 

The author links to this humorous and honest article and refers to it as a “rant,” then the author dares to state that this other writer’s reasons for not wanting children are inadequate.

Do you know the best reason for not having children? Not wanting them in the first place.

We don’t habitually ask someone why they had children and then judge whether they provide virtuous enough reasons. Yet, perfect strangers feel entitled to gatekeep our reasons for not wanting children. 

A recent study by Pew Research found that 44% of Americans between 18 and 49 years old are unlikely to have children. The large majority of the participants don’t desire children. Other reasons cited in this study for forgoing parenthood include: 

  • Medical reasons. 
  • Financial reasons. 
  • No partner. 
  • Age. 
  • State of the world. 
  • Climate change/environment
  • Partner doesn’t want kids

I believe the only reasons to have children in the first place are if you desperately want them, and you will be a phenomenal parent. 

According to the author, protecting our happiness is not a reason to forgo childbearing. And yet, many people have children in an attempt to increase their happiness levels. So which is it? A quick reminder, the path to happiness and fulfillment looks different for all of us. The most sensible thing to do is to follow your own yearnings.

Childfree people are as selfish as parents.

Oh, this makes me laugh. Calling people “selfish” for choosing not to have children is the most ubiquitous child-free bingo around. 

The Pope famously pedaled the “selfish” term in 2015 and then again in 2022. Yes, that’s right, a childfree man calls people selfish for not having children. What’s a religious leader supposed to do when the population of his congregation is at risk? Blame and shame the world into reproduction, of course!

If it’s selfish to lead the life of your own calling, then both childfree and parents are selfish.

But here’s the thing. Many child-free people have agonized about whether they can give a child a good life and if parenting is for them. The films To Kid or Not To Kid and My So-Called Selfish Life illustrate this decision-making process beautifully. 

Also, my favorite novel, Wild Egg, by Jennifer Flint, follows the protagonist’s journey of inner turmoil while trying to establish if motherhood is for her. 

It’s time to flip the rhetoric. It is not selfish to choose not to have children. While some childfree people simply do not want children, many have put the needs of their unborn children before their own. Yet, ask any parent why they decided to have children, and the answer usually starts with, “I wanted ….” Ironic, isn’t it?

I would argue it is selfish to manipulate society into reproducing with impunity in a world with an alarming population growth rate. 

Heck, America has almost half a million children in foster care! Isn’t it selfish to continue having biological children, when so many children need a home? 

In his enlightening video, the spiritual leader, Sadhguru, even goes as far as to say we should award women for choosing not to have children. And in this candid and vulnerable piece, author Andrea Askowitz claims parenthood has rendered her selfish. 

Let me be clear, I don’t think having or not having children is selfish. It’s time to cut out the “selfish” BS! I advocate for everyone to do what is right for them on the reproduction front. I am by no means shaming biological parents or suggesting everyone should adopt. I’m merely shining the light of hypocrisy in the eyes of the author.

Is doing what you want to do a sacrifice? 

The author refers to sacrifice several times. 

In one fell swoop, the author alienates not only those of us who are childfree by choice but also those who are childless by circumstances: “The sacrifices you make when you have children are things you need to exercise to be a person of value — from a quality employee to a reliable friend, and especially a loving spouse.”

So you can only be a “person of value” if you have children. Not only is this offensive to a wide range of non-parents, but it is hierarchical, reductive, and tragically unkind. Please, will someone tell Oprah Winfrey and Dolly Parton that they have no value as people? 

The author says life is about “blood, sweat, and tears.” That may be the meaning of her life, but it certainly isn’t the meaning of mine. This part is where I start to feel pity. Is that honestly how the author sees her life? Is she even happy? 

Misery loves company.

In my experience, the people most bothered by my child-free status are those who didn’t realize parenting was a choice. 

The childfree resisters resent that I managed to avoid the parent trap. They harbor an, “if I had to do it, you should too” frustration. This anger and internal unhappiness with their life circumstances add venom to their spittal. 

The author preaches that we must all experience a curtailment of our freedom, desire, and personal needs to live a life of fulfillment. 

Hell, no, lady! I am a Scottish lass after all, so in the slightly edited words of William Wallace, “You can try and make me have children, but you will never take my freedom!”

Pronatalists love to weaponize fear.

Those who believe child producing and rearing is the only path to fulfillment often use fear to try and galvanize a mating frenzy. 

The author talks about the childfree going down a “dangerous route,” describing it as “one that’s not particularly safe for the individual and one that will surely lead to a deterioration for society as a whole.” 

What a load of unsubstantiated codswallop. 

The author closes her piece with the threat of regret. 

The truth is, maybe I will regret not having children. But having children to prevent FOMO in later life would be utter lunacy. Interestingly there are more cases of parent regret than regret over choosing not to have children. A Facebook group with over 44,000 followers is dedicated to this cause. 

Non-parents are an essential part of society’s cohesion.

The author boldly claims that the childfree are responsible for societal deterioration. Her words shame and minimize a growing section of society. 

I spent 5 years as the chair of a voluntary community group. None of my committee were parents. I gave up several weeks a year to volunteer at a camp for terminally ill children. Most volunteers were not parents. 

Non-parents are responsible for creating a whopping 42% of charitable foundations.

Laura Carroll is an internationally known expert and leading voice on child-free choice. She has collected data since the 90s with over 5,000 online surveys. She has established that many childfree people work in the helping profession and are more likely than their siblings with children to take on care responsibilities of aging parents. 

This article suggests our empathy levels shrink and expand during our lifetime. It explains that when people become parents, they turn their empathy inwards, leaving less empathy available for the outside world.  

People without children are not the death of society. We step up and keep society functioning while parents turn inward to raise their children. And this is ok; we all have our roles to play in the big melting pot of society. 

My favorite reflection of a child-free life is the case of this 85-year-old widow, who says she “would live the same life one thousand times.” 

Like most childfree people, I have immeasurable love in my life. I cherish the connections I have with invaluable souls. My eternal hope for society is that all those who want children will have them, and the wishes of those of us who don’t want them will be respected and honored. 

In the words of Florence and the Machine: “I am no mother, I am no bride, I am King.”

Ali Hall has served as an ambassador for the childfree by choice and has written over 20 articles on the subject. She also runs a Twitter account with nearly 2,000 followers dedicated to this subject. 

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