Young women are asked this question constantly in their lives leading up to adulthood: “How many children do you want to have?”
To this question, I usually answer, “None.” Each time, I have received judgment in the form of a question, expression or statement. Some said that I am selfish for not wanting children. Others said that I will change my mind when I find the right person.
Women have been perceived as caregivers and loving mothers for centuries. Images of mothers caressing their children have been broadcasted around the world as a cultural norm. It seems as if a woman’s ultimate purpose on earth is to procreate. Although, according to an Urban Institute study of the Millennial generation, birth rates among twenty-something women declined more than 15 percent between 2007 and 2012.
When women decide to not have children, it suddenly causes “moral outrage,” which is an emotion made up of anger, disapproval and disgust that people feel toward someone they think committed a moral violation. They are assumed to be workaholics, child haters or selfish.
These assumptions may be true for some, but are mostly a way for society to suppress the ideas of childlessness. Personally, I do not hate children, I just don’t see myself ever raising one. Parenthood is not something I desire and I don’t think I will ever want it.
Child-free couples also are given the same reactions. In a study at Midwestern University, 204 psychology students read passages about married adults that consisted of only their gender and decision to have kids or not. They then rated their feelings toward the person and their opinion of the person’s psychological fulfillment. The students continuously labeled child-free men and women as less personally fulfilled than those with children.
Child-free individuals in relationships are often met with the question, “Won’t your partner leave you when they find out?” or, “Are you sure your partner is okay with that?” These questions showed up in the Huffington Post’s article, “12 Questions Childfree Women Don’t Want To Hear.” If someone would leave you because of your choice of staying child-free, then they are not someone that you should be with in the first place. It is absurd for someone to ask that question, assuming someone is only with someone to have a child.
People may choose to be child-free for many reasons. Some may wish to pursue their career rather than a family. Some may desire exposure to different cultures, wanting to travel. Others may face economic uncertainty. For many child-free women, they just never had the thought of bearing and raising children.
People may also choose to be child-free for environmental reasons. Human overpopulation and environmental degradation, which is when the environment deteriorates due to the depletion of natural resources, are major issues facing society today. In the United Nations’ High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change report in 2004, environmental degradation was ranked third most threatening. Many have abstained from reproducing due to these issues, like racing driver and environmental activist Leilani Münter who has stated that she and her husband are child-free by choice.
It seems that no matter what women do to voice their opinions about not wanting children, society shames them for their choices. As I have previously stated, I do not want children and cannot envision myself raising a family. If someone wishes to have children and start a family, I respect that. I am not at all against that idea, but I am against the judgement that comes with the decision of childlessness.
I want to find fulfillment through ways other than a family, like working towards a career or traveling. Women without children are not missing out on anything and there is a variety of paths for women to take in order to satisfy their lives.