Women

02.27.13

Why I Choose to Be Child-Free: Readers Share Their Stories

DINKs, DILDOs, and other readers respond to Joel Kotkin and Harry Siegel’s Newsweek story about America’s declining birthrate and offer their reasons for remaining child-free.

In reading through the hundreds of stories readers shared about “Why I Choose To Remain Childless,” we were scolded for using the term “childless” rather than “child-free,” reminded of DINKS (Double Income, No Kids), learned about DILDOs (Dual Income Large Dog Owners, of course), and heard numerous times about the pleasures of being a “cool aunt.” Many of the (mostly female) respondents noted that they knew from a very young age that they didn’t want to have children—with several saying it was clear to them when they were playing with dolls that babies weren’t for them, and that they never wavered in their decision—while others detailed their moment of epiphany later in life, from adolescence to one postmenopausal writer who said that it was only in the course of writing to us that she fully realized that not having children was a choice she’d made. Others brought up the environment and overpopulation, difficult childhoods, mental and physical illnesses they’d had or feared transmitting, their dislike of babies or revulsion about carrying and delivering one, and, of course, the economy. A few writers brought up foster care and adoption, and many more wrote about the cats and dogs in their care.

We asked readers to share their stories after Joel Kotkin and I wrote for the NewsBeast about the demographic implications of America’s plummeting birthrate since 2007, noting that “for many younger Americans and especially those in cities, having children is no longer an obvious or inevitable choice,” and that “many of those opting for childlessness have legitimate, if perhaps selfish, reasons for their decision,” given the aggregate impact of those individual decisions.” The word “selfish” came up in many of the responses, with some agreeing that they didn’t care to sacrifice their own pursuits, others pointing to the economic benefits of being child-free, and others still objecting strongly to the term. Many viewed raising a child as a significant choice, rather than simply what happens in the course of sex after marriage, and suggested that it was people who had children causally who were in fact selfish or irresponsible. As one woman wrote: “If it’s selfish to not want to bring children into the world that are unwanted, then call us selfish, but to me having children you don’t want to have is much much worse.”

Here, then, is a selection of the most representative and striking stories, very lightly copy-edited but otherwise as submitted—and you can share your own here or email it to us as dailybeastsubmit@gmail.com. We’ll keep reading all your submissions and share more of them here over the coming days (with the newest ones on top). To link directly to any single story, just click anywhere in the gray box surrounding each one.

I am far more than a baby factory. Plenty of other women love kids, so they can keep on having them.

I'm a twenty-seven year old college graduate that's over $140,000 in debt from private student loans. I'm no choice but to live in my parent's basement working a call-center job that's always desperate for breathing bodies. Based on how much the bank makes me pay back a month, I have no money for an apartment, a car, groceries, or any frivolous items. That is not the environment to raise a child in.

That being said, even if I was better off, I will not bring children into this world. I like children...but only part time. I'll be the cool, hip aunt to my sibling's kids, or godmother to friend's kids. I think I could raise children well, that's not the issue. I just want to live my life for me, or together with a spouse. I'd be happy filling a house up with pets, those can be my kids.

I don't like it when people and the media imply I'm not doing my job. I am far more than a baby factory. Plenty of other women love kids, so they can keep on having them.

—Rhiannon, Minnesota

I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, there are good parents out there who are raising kids that will be a positive force in the world to come. I just see it as a losing battle on the way to an eventual future straight out of the movie Idiocracy.

My wife and I are childless by choice. I'm 38, born and raised in Wyoming, and the only child of two white-collar professional parents (one with a PhD). My wife is 34, born and raised in Georgia with two brothers, and her parents own their own blue-collar business. We are now both white-collar workers (IT and healthcare), probably on the lower end of what used to be the middle class.

As for the decision, my wife just says that she "always knew" with no specific time or reason. Myself, I remember deciding when I was about 13 or so. I had a miserable school experience right on through dropping out of college (not the actual schooling part, the social part) and had decided that I never wanted to put another human/soul/awareness through anything as miserable as what I was dealing with. My personal life has changed, gotten better with a partner who shares my outlook, but neither of us would willingly bring a life into this world (which we both feel has become a worse place to live than when we were kids).

There are no real steps to ensure being childless... well, there's the one about not being completely ignorant when it comes to sex. But the same thing that protects against STD's is rather effective with limiting procreation as well. A few years into our marriage I had a vasectomy because my wife was having health issues related to birth control pills.

Thankfully, Both sides of our family are perfectly happy with our decision. We have a dog, and they call themselves "Dogparents" in the Grandparents fashion. I noticed that it was an issue when I took my wife back to my home town in Wyoming for a few years though, as all social life revolves around kids/school and church. Our social lives suffered badly (we're not organized religion followers either).

There's a whole subculture around being childless. New acronyms (DINK, Double Income, No Kids), people who have the time to go out and do adult things (4 days of kayaking and camping? No problem), and none of the stupid "but why?" questioning. That last part is where the rift begins and ends. Procreators believe, in their bones, that they are in the right, and any other decision is wrong. Even people who are medically incapable are given the "shame on you" treatment. It's like any other hot-topic debate, abortion, gun rights, politics and religion. The decision is deeply personal with a lot invested, emotionally, on whatever side of the fence you happen to be on.

I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, there are good parents out there who are raising kids that will be a positive force in the world to come. I just see it as a losing battle on the way to an eventual future straight out of the movie Idiocracy.

—Brian M, Georgia

My name is Veronica. I'm 34, I'm married, and I'm a registered nurse. I never had a desire to have children. I don't like babies or toddlers, I don't find them cute or have any desire to interact with them. I've never had any regrets and must have not come equipped with the mythical biological clock.

My parents divorced when I was in kindergarten and I saw how much my mother hated the drudgery of caring for children on her own. I never wanted that life for myself. I also never had a positive experience with the nuclear family. My extended family is wonderful but the nuclear family was nothing but drama, resentment, financial strain, and unhappiness for everybody. I didn't want to re-live it, this time in the role of mother rather than child.

Thanks to the minimal role religion played in my childhood and the comprehensive sex education I received in public school, I always knew that having children was a choice and not an inevitability. My mother helped me get started on the birth control pill in high school to treat a medical issue, although I was abstinent throughout high school and college. I took the pill for over a decade and then got an IUD. I have never been pregnant or even had a scare, and am grateful I always had access to contraception.

My husband has no interest in having children either. My mother has never indicated to me that she's upset about never becoming a grandmother, nor have other relatives. Both my friends with and without children are accepting of my life choices, as I am of theirs.

Having children is a lifetime commitment and the most serious one anybody can make. Children deserve parents who want them. If you're not 100% invested in becoming and staying a parent, then why do it especially when you are perfectly happy with your life the way it is?

—Veronica, New Jersey

I read The Population Bomb at puberty, around the first Earth Day. I decided at 15 that I'd like to adopt one kid of every race, to have a rainbow house. When I grew up and realized humans are causing mass extinction, I got cats instead and now devote my spare time to the "Fanged Wilds and Women Program." Also, I lie around reading and writing novels.

—VCB

I always knew that having children was a choice and not an inevitability.

At 34, I currently have no plans to have children. Yes, pregnancy freaks me out, yes, I like my current levels of disposable income and time, yes I don't want to be defined first and foremost as a mother.

But also I have always bristled at the idea that having a child is the most important thing I could ever do. I think a lot of people have children because they're hungry to fully invest themselves in something that matters, that has lasting implications, that will make a difference.

I do all of that through my work—it is all-consuming, and self-sacrificing and tiring and I work on things with lasting implications that will make a difference for lots of people. And that for me fills the very human need to have an indelible impact on the world.

—Kathryn, DC

I am 65, so I probably don't fit the demographic you are looking for, but since it was so unusual to make that decision in my child-bearing years I thought I would share anyway. I was in that first generation to take birth-control pills. I never really thought about that. From my perspective it was just the way things were, and I knew I had a choice. My husband would have had children, but it didn't really matter to him.

I was an educator, and by the time I was 35—when you "had" to decide in those years—I was well into the 60-hour work weeks that would continue through my career. I suppose the fact that I worked with 150 middle schoolers every year may have taken some of the edge off of any maternal instincts I may have had. I also think the fact that I had a sister 13 years younger also had an impact. I knew that babies weren't just fun and cute. But those were not the most significant reasons that I made a conscious decision to not bear children.

I was born into an alcoholic family, and it was clear to me then that it was somehow genetic. Although I was fortunate to not have to deal with substance abuse, I had experienced the uncertainties of living with those who do. I was determined to stop that genetic factor with me and not pass it on.

While I deeply love my husband of 47 years, I soon realized that our approaches to family life would not be the same. Our relationship is like many of my generation. Although I eventually earned my doctorate and had a highly successful career which he respected and supported, at home his decisions still dominated. I felt that if we had children, we would most likely end up divorced or I would live my life frustrated by his choices for them. And so, I made a conscious decision to live my life with him without children.

Finally, as an educator I was exposed to all the things that impact a child's life in today's world, and it was overwhelming. While I could do what I needed to do at school to help my students have a successful life, it was clear to me that there were many forces coming together in our society that were leading to the kind of upheaval we are seeing today. I didn't want my child to have to live in that kind of a world. I also knew that if my child carried the tendency toward substance abuse and came from a divorced family that he/she would struggle even more in this world. And so, I made the decision to not bring a child into the world I lived in.

These reasons may seem far-fetched to those who yearn for a child, but they have been very clear in my mind for over 30 years. They have not been vague feelings that I could not articulate. For 30 years, they have been a clear list of specific choices I have made to not have children.

What has been interesting to me through the years is how few people have chosen to make that decision. I have had people feel sorry for me because I didn't have children. I remember one day in my 50s looking around my office and realizing that of the two dozen people who I worked with, I was the only one without children—and I was surprised. I had never really noticed before what a minority I was in because I had such a fulfilling life.

I am fortunate to be very close to my nieces and nephews and to experience a form of grandparenting with their children. I have mentored dozens of my friend's children through college frustrations and job searches. So even though I do not have biological children, I have been able to experience many opportunities to interact with the children and young adults in my life in meaningful ways. I have never wished I made a different decision.

—Jen

I decided at 15 that I'd like to adopt one kid of every race, to have a rainbow house. When I grew up and realized humans are causing mass extinction, I got cats instead.

I am 45 years old and have no children and frankly never wanted any. From a young age I did not feel comfortable holding babies and never had the internal need of wanting to be a mother. I associated more with Barbie and fashionable dolls, not baby dolls.

I do love children and like being around them, but only for short periods of time. They are a lot to handle and you constantly have to be “on” and present, something that frankly drains me.

I went on birth control when I was a teenage virgin, to ensure if and when I had sex I would not get pregnant. In my twenties I focused on my career. My life consisted fashion, friends and fun and I do not regret it. Children never entered into the equation. The friends I had in in my twenties that had children usually had their parents or relatives watch them so they could go out and enjoy their lives. Children seemed like an expensive burden to me.

When my thirties rolled around I had a great job in the apparel industry and I was busy working hard, dating and having fun. I did have a serious boyfriend during that time and we discussed having children. However, he mentioned something that has forever stuck in my mind. “If we have kids now in our thirties, we will be raising teenagers in our fifties.” That was something I knew I did not want to do.

I will admit, I am selfish. I want to do what I want when I want to do it. I enjoy life with my current fiancé as it is. We can sleep in, travel, and pamper ourselves when we want to without having to worry about another person’s life. Yes, it may sound awful to some, but I knew this and therefore decided not to have children.

I think a lot of people have children because they feel it is “the thing to do.” Or that having a child will help keep their relationship going. To the contrary, having children can strain any great relationship. I also believe people decide “we are going to have a baby,” not realizing that the baby grows up fast and you will always be responsible for that life. Even in my forties my Mom calls to see if I need anything! It never ends. Another reason I think people have children is to glorify their own ego. They want to see what their child will look like. How beautiful he/she will be. It’s a reflection of them. I think that is extremely selfish. Then, once they have the child and it’s not the next Jesus, they are disappointed.

For the people that have children and are great parents, I admire them, however in my life, I am very happy with my choice not to have children. You need to do what is right for you.

—Sher M, California

When I was married in 1971, there were pretty much 2 choices: have children and be a housewife or do not have children and do whatever you wanted. I chose to do the latter. When my husband —to whom I am still married—proposed, I told him I didn't think I wanted children so if he did, I wasn't the one to marry. We reconsidered several times but each time came to the same decision: children were not for us. I don't regret not having children but I do regret that there wasn't more support for women to have both children and a career. I know some women my age managed to do both, but it didn't seem possible considering what else I wanted to do with my life. To this day, my in-laws have never forgiven me—my only value to them was to produce grandchildren. But my mom, who loves kids and had two, said it best: if you don't want a baby and all the responsibility that entails, don't have one!

—Saskia, Washington

I felt that if we had children, we would most likely end up divorced or I would live my life frustrated by his choices for them.

I hope I would have been a great mom and thought it's something I wanted at one time, but now that I am post-menopausal but not quite 50, I see how much hormones and biology and tradition drive the desire to reproduce and nurture.

My mother went the traditional route and sacrificed her entire identity and replaced it with Self-Sacrificing Mother of the Year, with frustration and anger at this sacrifice always present. We never quite met her expectations for us because she chose to live her life through us.

My younger sister, wildly successful and educated, who vehemently loathed other people's children and her friends' absorption in their kids up through her 30s, has now sadly doubled down on my mother's sacrifice and competes for Best Soccer Mom of All Time. Watching her kids grow up is like painfully watching my own unhappy childhood, and I can see the desperation in my sister's face as her delightful pre-kids personality has disappeared in Stepford Wives fashion. Naturally she pities me for not having this wonderful experience, too.

I'm convinced now the same might have happened to me had I had kids, and now, safe from ever getting pregnant, I see the choices I made in my 20s and 30s were all designed so as not to be in a stable relationship where kids would be the next logical step. Menopause came early like a gift.

Now I am happily married and so very grateful that I will continue to live MY life, learning every day, not demanding my kids live my life for me. At the end of my life, I won't be sad and lonely and, near the end, come to the tragic realization, like my mother did, that she wasn't a great mom after all. She did the best she could, and I am grateful to her in many ways.

I am grateful that I did not raise unhappy kids, as I think I probably would have like my mom did. I view my decision as a loving decision, love for my hypothetical children, not a selfish one.

God bless great parents, who balance their lives between their children and themselves and nurture their own continued development rather than sacrifice themselves completely for their kids. THAT must be the hardest part of parenting. Great parents rarely question my childfree life choice.

—Anonymous

I was married. My husband wanted children. I truly believe the "child switch" would turn on for me, but each year, I felt more and more certain that my life would be complete never raising a child.

I like my freedom. I like being an aunt. I like having my own time.

I'm a giving person. With a big heart. But I don't need to have a child to feel I have a place in the world.

It's incredibly painful to realize you're in a marriage where you alone are not enough. Where your value is determined by your willingness to procreate. No marriage can survive like that and mine certainly didn't.

Today I woke to fourteen inches of snow. My dog and I blissfully tucked in at home. Me working on the computer, him watching through the window for the slightest bit of activity. I'm not trying to placate a whiny child. Stressed that I don't have something to feed a kid (my cupboards are notoriously bare).

Best of all, I'm me and my life is mine. I wouldn't have it any other way. Though I should probably consider moving to a more "single with no kids" kind of place. The middle of Kansas is far more welcoming to those who are just like them—married with children.

—Jessica, Kansas

People have children to glorify their own ego. Then, once they have the child and it’s not the next Jesus, they are disappointed.

I've known since I was a child I didn't want to be a mother. I never played with dolls and when adults said. "When you become a mommy..." I replied, "I don't want kids" I was told I'd change my mind, "grow up" and do the right thing. It has never happened.

I've been married for 17 years and it's sad that women think there are no options, that it's a rite of passage to bare children. People look at me like I'm crazy, like something is wrong with me, then you see another look in their face, like it never occurred to them that it was an option—like it’s a secret that childbirth was actually a choice they had, too. I hate how society treats the childfree and hope there is change in motion because I'm sick of comments like: "Who's going to take care of you?", "What do you do do with your time," "I wish I had time to_____", You did, you had choices too,

I thought long and hard about mine and made the right choice. Some mothers (most that I know) don't even realize how miserable they really are, always complaining and then in the next breath saying how you too should change your mind and have one, like you don't get to join their misery club until you give birth. No thanks, I'm good! The more honest ones will say that they love their kids but had they known how much work it was they would never have had them and that child rearing is "just not worth it."

People say that us childfree might regret our choice but I never have, not once had a second thought about it. It's better to regret not having kids then having them and regretting it. I love my life and would not change a thing. I wish more women made thoughtful decisions instead of "if it happens it happens" and they don't use any birth control. I don't get THAT indifference.

—Carrie

I looked at the world and said: "I see no reason to subject a child to living on this messed up planet."

To those politicians clamoring for women to have more babies: breed your own wage slaves!

I'll be 45 this year, so don't expect me to change my mind.

—Anonymous, Michigan

It's incredibly painful to realize you're in a marriage where you alone are not enough. Where your value is determined by your willingness to procreate.

To whom it may concern:

Are you considering parenthood? Then you have a fucked-up gambling problem. There are support groups for deranged lunatics who want to ruin their life. Find one and go immediately. There is still time.

Gambling is a serious addiction and should not go untreated. You run the risk of destroying the precious time you’ve set aside to read and masturbate. You want to recklessly throw your entire life into the hands of a total stranger who doesn't give a shit about you and will never pick up the check. This is not normal behavior. You need help.

If you’re even remotely considering this, then you’ve obviously been spending time with other toxic gambling addicts. They’ve been lying to you. They’ve been spewing unhealthy, condescending bullshit like “you’ll never know what love is until you’ve become a parent.” This is the kind of propaganda desperate people make up when they’re forced to do something so terrible they can’t face it without a stiff drink and a meaningless platitude. They boldly lie and convince you that it’s all worth it. "Give up your money, your time, aspirations, and personality – join our sick little club so we can all be miserable together!"

You see, I know the secret – you don’t have to do this terrible thing. No one can make you. Not your parents, not your friends and not God (of course it’s easier if you hold God and Frosty the Snowman in the same esteem.)

You’ll know you’re on the road to recovery when you'd rather remove all of your skin with an oyster shell than become a parent. If you imagine someone bothering you every moment for the next thirty years and then make a weekly appointment at an abortion clinic “just in case” – you can breathe a sigh of relief. If you’ve hired someone to permanently and painfully wedge a piece of copper into your twat to keep out the "Other" you can finally relax for now you are cured.

Now you realize how lucky you are to own your life - you would never willingly give it away. Close call!

Think about how narrowly you’ve escaped having to pretend you’re overjoyed when some jerk agrees to eat a few carrots. Now you’ll never have to speak to someone you don’t like just because they decided to stop peeing in their pants. Now you’ll never be held responsible for the outcome of someone else’s shitty life. Unless you choose to!

The other secret. If anyone gives you shit about your decision to quit gambling – you can cut them out of your life because they’re worthless assholes. Parents, friends, pets, anyone. If they question you, get rid of them because they are in the grips of a social illness. Simply explain that the world is overpopulated and that you equate having children with giving the world cancer and pretending like it’s your right to do so.

—Liz M, 38, NM

I can see the desperation in my sister's face as her delightful pre-kids personality has disappeared in Stepford Wives fashion. Naturally she pities me for not having this wonderful experience, too.

I've been married for 1.5 years and I'm 33. My husband is 38. We like our lives just the way they are. We love sleeping and being lazy. Before we got married we thought we would have children and luckily, we decided to get a dog as a test run. He is super adorable, but enough work for us. Your whole life changes with a child and I would be sad if I had to suddenly put this child ahead of other things—international traveling, gym time, etc. When we get home from work we are already tired and the last thing we want to do is feed, bathe, play with a kid. My sister has two boys with a little girl on the way so I feel like my parents have enough grandchildren. My husband's sister-in-law is currently pregnant so both sides of our family will have little ones running around....just not ours though! We have a dog son and we can at least leave him at home all day and not worry about a babysitter.

—JJ, CA

We’re the type of people who probably should have children. Responsible, hard-working and with old-school beliefs about being accountable for your own actions and making your own way in the world.

My husband and I started our relationship when we were young: just 16 and 18. When you’re that age, discussing whether to have kids isn’t a priority. After marrying in our early 20’s, we always said we would have kids “someday.” That felt like a lifetime away.

After 10 years of marriage, our ambivalence towards kids has been consistent. There’s always been another reason why now isn’t the right time. We simply lacked the desire to actually do it.

Two years ago, we finally said we “should” have kids. Being early 30’s it was time to put that into action and we decided to start trying once we returned from an overseas holiday. I was hellishly uncomfortable with the prospect and my husband wasn’t enthusiastic either.

We lived with relatives who regularly had their grandkids for the weekend – every time I saw these kids, my immediate thoughts were “I don’t want that”. I’m a self-confessed child hater and I don’t enjoy the company of children. Relating to them or enjoying child-related activities is a battle I have no chance of winning.

I started reading books (such as Laura Carroll’s Families of Two) and my eyes suddenly opened: having children is optional. The decision to remain childfree was not made for me overnight; I’ve spent months analysing this decision to ensure we are making an informed choice.

We discussed questions like these:

- What would it do to our relationship? We’re happy together – why should we change that dynamic?

- As a potential mother, am I willing to give up my career or change companies in order to remain closer to home? Would taking time off for maternity leave be career suicide? Working in the fast-paced and ever-changing IT industry, what are my chances of re-entering it once my skills are outdated?

- If I traded working for child-rearing, how would I get the intellectual stimulation I need? If I continued working, who would raise my kid while I’m working and spending hours commuting each day? Why would I have a kid then pay someone else to raise it?

- Who would become the guardian if we both died? Given our options in this country, how do we feel about having someone with an opposing political view and parenting style raise our children? Would we prefer our kids be returned to our home country?

- What about the hobbies we both enjoy? Would we have to sacrifice them indefinitely? If having a baby required this, would I have an identity other than being someone’s wife and mother?

- Do I want to spend an enormous portion of my life chauffeuring kids around, attending kid’s birthday parties or school sports days? What about caring for sick children and refereeing sibling fights? Will experiencing “culture” be restricted only to productions of The Wiggles? Do we want to spend our lives being judged by sanctimommies or participate in “competitive parenting”?

After careful deliberation, it was easy to see that we don’t want our lives to be dictated by children. We're adventurers and we only get one shot at this life. We want to spend it doing things that make us happy.

—Arow, Australia

Some mothers (most that I know) don't even realize how miserable they really are, always complaining and then in the next breath saying how you too should change your mind and have one, like you don't get to join their misery club until you give birth. No thanks, I'm good!

"I am a 47-year-old woman living in Brooklyn, NY. I'm not sure if I consciously chose not to have children but here are some of the reasons why I'm part of the "childless revolution"—

Economics: I earn my own salary and take care of myself. I don't have to rely on someone for my livelihood. This probably led to

Comfort: I remained single longer, got a little set in my ways and the older you get, the harder it is to meet someone or even be willing to change to accommodate that person.

Other family members with kids: Having nephews and a niece helps fill that part of me that never had kids.

Bad parenting: I've seen so much of this—whether it is an over-indulgent parent or one who ignores their child. Upsetting to see.

Bad marriages: Sadly I see too many of them. It doesn't help that married friends tell you not to get married. Less than half seem truly happy.

Sure there's a part of me that wishes for marriage and kids—but not at the expense of all above.

—Anonymous, New York

I am a 65 year old woman who started taking birth control pills at 18. Yes, they have been around that long. I was one of the first generation to have that option. Through multiple marriages I never felt my home life was stable enough to bring children into. And yes, I was a bit selfish and didn't want to give up the freedom.

—Melanie, California

It's better to regret not having kids then having them and regretting it.

I assumed I'd have children. As an only child I wanted lots of them, at least four, and I wanted boys. I wanted a loud, boisterous, sports loving house. Of course I was 6 when I decided this, so what did I know? More importantly, a week away from 35, here is what I know: I don't want children. I got married right out of college, and then I got divorced.

I became involved with a highly unsuitable much older man with three children of his own - talk about a crash course in child rearing. Teenagers really are just horrible, soul sucking, completely unpredictable balls of hormones.

I got out and on my own for the first time ever in my late 20s and you know what? I loved it! I went to graduate school, I pursued career opportunities I had only previously imagined. I traveled, I moved every year and made my mother crazy in the process. But I loved it. I made mistakes, I fell on my face, I formed friendships that go so deep I don't even have words to describe them. I had fun, I lived it up.

And I learned so much along the way. I learned that I love my life, I love the freedom of not having children, I learned (vicariously) that pregnancy sucks and that no matter how far we have come, women still do the lion's share of child rearing and housework.

I actively shun a life of half-lived mediocrity on all sides. If I've got one shot at this then I'm going to do things well and to the fullest, and for me that means a career I am fulfilled by, a life of new experiences and travel and good food and great friends. I would like a person to share those things with, but not children. Not now. Not as the person I have become and learned to love.

—Anonymous

When I was a teenager, I watched while girls in my freshman class pored over Brides magazine picking out their future wedding dress. I remember thinking how silly this was since getting married and having a family is not inevitable. I always knew it was a choice. As I went through my twenties, I never sustained a relationship beyond a year or two and did not think of getting married to anyone I dated. I my thirties I met someone I was serious about and ending up marrying when I turned 40. Both of us were still grappling with our careers and paying off student debt that we did not think of starting a family. I never felt a maternal urge and thought about what a bother it would be for me to have a child. We both like to travel and go to the Opera and bike so having kid would definitely put a kink in our lifestyle.

When I turned 43 my gynecologist reminded me that if I was planning on having kids the time was now. I told her no but decided to bring it up with my husband because it is not only my decision to make. He said his initial reaction was not to have kids but once he thought about it, he thought he could do it. I threw away my pack of pills and we tried for about 6 months to get pregnant.

In the meantime, I was having doubts. A few of my friends who are my age had kids with born with mental and physical defects which freaked me out. An autistic child next door to me vocalizes all day and cannot complete a sentence. If I were to have a kid, I would want it to be healthy and there was no guarantee that this would be the case. It is hard enough raising a child but a child with special needs is another story. I was afraid I would resent the child if that happened so I decided to resume the pill. My husband was upset but said it's my body and I can decide what I want. I am 46, and I sometimes wonder if I made the right decision.

—Anonymous

They’ve been lying to you. They’ve been spewing unhealthy, condescending bullshit like “you’ll never know what love is until you’ve become a parent.” This is the kind of propaganda desperate people make up when they’re forced to do something so terrible they can’t face it without a stiff drink and a meaningless platitude.

My husband and I do not want kids. We love animals, and we have a very spoiled cat and dog. I know a lot of my husbands feelings towards not wanting children stem from a unpleasant relationship with his father, and me? I don't want the responsibility for 18+ years, or having my vagina shred, let alone a bunch of people looking at it… and I just don't have that maternal feeling towards children. I love being able to do whatever I want. We can have sex anywhere, we can pick up and go camping or on a road trip, we can smoke pot whenever we want, and we don't have to worry about making an impression on anyone.

Since I was a very young child I had always dreamed of one day adopting a family to call my own. I never wanted to have biological children, it seemed selfish and cruel to leave countless orphaned or abandoned kids without homes. I was on the verge of adoption in 2008 when I was laid off from my job in Salt Lake City, Utah and the prospect of starting a family seemed even more daunting. I was considering adopting again in 2009 when I had found comparable work in Boise, Idaho but was laid off again the end of that same year. The social services field was in continual upheaval and the future seemed bleak. I am now living in New York CIty where I hope that my Teaching Fellowship position will provide greater stability and an opportunity to start a family but frankly without going through the foster-care system and relying on the funding available to foster parents I wouldn't be able to afford to start a family on my own, especially not in the city. It's not the circumstance that I dreamed of, but I know that being even a foster parent will make a difference.

—N, NY

I am a 22 year old female living and working in Manhattan. I grew up wanting the whole shebang: Prince Charming, white picket fence and our cooing angel-faced children. That was until about a year ago when I sat on a train and stared in horror at a very young woman trying to control her kids to no avail. It was right then that I thought to myself, "I never want to have children.” As I pondered my revelation I came to discover multiple reasons for my decision. First off the idea of pushing a 6-10 pound human being through my lady parts seems absolutely horrifying. Second it is a huge time commitment that I believe I want to spend doing other things (working, traveling, possibly participating in less than socially acceptable activities...)

But more than anything the decision really came from the fact that no one had really talked about the option of deciding not to have kids. It was always a part of the plan: Graduate college, have a career, get married, have kids, die. In my opinion people, and women specifically, consume so much time and energy with the thoughts of finding the right partner and reproducing that it takes time away from other important areas of life. And they are not presented with the option early enough to really decide what they want. If I had to guess, I would say there is a large population of people that regret having children but it is taboo to say such things and one would be labeled as dastardly if they were ever to own up to such feelings.

I've had this conversation with countless people since the day of my "awakening" and I have also come to realize that I may not always hold this view. In five or ten years I could wake up and that instinct to have a child could very well be there, who knows. But at the end of the day the conversation about whether to have kids or not to have kids is just not happening, and those who do choose the childless lifestyle are generally looked down upon in the eyes of society as vagabonds who are missing something vital, when in reality the decision not to have children is just as legitimate and the decision to have them.

—Amber, NY

Your whole life changes with a child and I would be sad if I had to suddenly put this child ahead of other things – international traveling, gym time, etc.

When I was growing up, I always assumed I'd have kids. Friends would talk about how many, what names, gender preferences, and all the associated details. I joined in, and happily.

It came to me one day, with no provocation from what I can recall, that I had never thought over whether I wanted to have kids. I'd made an assumption that I would, and had never thought about the kids decision after that. And that's when I realized, at 17 years old, that no, I did not want to have kids. It wasn't a revolt, or a revulsion, or a fear. It was a bit of a revelation in how suddenly and finally this knowledge came to me. I simply knew I wasn't supposed to be a parent, much in the same way many people know they are supposed to be parents. It's not that I'm determined not to reproduce, per se, it's that having kids just isn't for me. I'm comfortable with this, and looking forward to many of the other milestones and joys that come with living.

I'm also looking forward to my child-minded friends having children of their own. I'll have fun being an aunt, or a parents' friend, or an occasional babysitter on my friends' date nights. That's a hard thing for many other people to understand. I like kids. But I don't want them for my own.

Please don't tell me I'll change my mind. I've known for six years now that having kids wasn't for me, and I'm also lucky enough to have married someone who feels the same way.

You don't say to a 16-year-old who's planning on having kids that she's too young to know if she wants to and will change her mind when she'd older; why would you say that to a 23-year-old who plans on remaining childless? You don't say to a Democrat they'll see the light later on and convert to Republicanism. You don't tell a chef that his or her true calling must be in another profession, and that the Chef is just being self-centered until they change careers. Parenthood is a wonderful thing for so many people, but the attitudes I've encountered over my not wanting children hasn't been sympathy over my missing out on something great (although really, I can imagine that would be annoying enough), it's been an attitude of superiority, one of the know-it-all, the prophet or clairvoyant. This is coming from my mostly childless peers as well. This comes from the neighbor who mansplains to me that he can tell I'll want kids later. This comes from the friend who insists that since my parents' lives wouldn't have been as fulfilling had they not had children, my life surely can't be as fulfilling without offspring. This comes from the in-laws who want their male relative to have a fertile wife, and who think our decision to be childless is my decision to be childless and he must be going along with it.

These conversations never start with my loudly, bluntly proclaiming, "I'm not having kids! And I think having kids is a bad idea, not that I've even thought about it very much myself!" This comes up when people discuss career goals, dream vacations, or their own thoughts on raising kids later on. My contribution, if I say anything related to the compensations in career or vacation when there are children at home, or when people state their plans for when and how often they'd like to give birth, is a simple, "We're not having kids." Then I'm happy listening to their plans, or answering any polite questions they may have. But that's rarely the end of their scrutiny.

Here is what I say to them: I'm actually pretty good at knowing my own opinion. My life is fulfilling now. I will always work on making the world a better place, and I can help accomplish that without raising another human being. What makes some people happy doesn't work for others. I have better communication with my husband than you do. I accept fully, wholeheartedly, and happily that you do want children. Please accept me, and respect me, too.

–Hannah, Oregon

I vowed to never have children at a young age. I grew up in an extremely non-nuclear family. That is: no dad, mom constantly working/dating, and 2 little brothers who needed raising. At 12 I took the reins and at 18 I escaped to college, confident that I had raised those boys well enough that they would get on without me. Though not perfect, I can safely say that my brothers are currently successful men.

This is not a tirade against divorce or against the working mother. Times can be rough and raising 3 children is expensive. However, raising my brothers was all the motherhood I needed in life. I was consistently told that I would grow out of this; that, come my mid-twenties, I would be lured in by bald mini-people and tiny shoes.

Well, that didn't happen. I dated several men who wanted children. Who joked with me that, if we ended up getting married, they would "trick" me into getting pregnant and I would love it. But, even when I thought I was head-over-heels for a Midwestern boy determined to fill his house to the attic with kids, I knew my womb would remain empty.

My mother is still unhappy and some friends still joke I'll pop a few out; but my resolve is unwavering. My stable, long-term paramour and I both agree that children are not in the cards for us. While I can appreciate kids from afar, and while I make a killer Auntie, I know I am too selfish, too easily bored, and just too damn tired to ever have kids. I don't want the strain on my body, wallet, or life, and would much prefer seeing the world for myself than focusing on not screwing up the world of someone else.

Besides, who wants to rear a child in a world hurtling toward the plot of Idiocracy anyway?

–Beth, NY

No matter how far we have come, women still do the lion's share of child rearing and housework.

I'm 34 and have been married for 5 years. We discussed children very early on, but I have never really wanted kids. I was about 12 when I heard my mother on the phone telling someone that she couldn't wait until we were all grown and out of the house, then she could "do stuff again." I guess I just decided I never wanted to stop "doing stuff" long enough have a baby.

–Jen, Missouri

I was in the United States Air Force in 1981. I wanted to get my tubes tied, because I knew I didn't want kids and the procedure would be free. The military doctor (a man) I asked to perform the procedure refused because he "knew" I would change my mind. I'm now 51, never had kids and never regretted it. I did marry and after many years of taking (and paying out of pocket) for birth control pills, my husband graciously agreed to get a vasectomy. Our lives are whole and happy and I don't miss not having had kids, although it's difficult to project what that might have been like. I know that I had a lot of great wild times in my 20's and early 30's that I look back on fondly that would have been impossible if I had children then. I'm so glad there was no Facebook in the 1980's! HA!

Now after reading this article, I hope I can still rely on the kindness of strangers in my old age! Yikes!

BTW, I have two siblings, one older sister and an older brother, who is deceased, and they never had kids either. So I guess we are the last of the line."

—Lisa B, CA

One of my main reasons for not wanting to have children? You don't know what kind of parent your partner will be until there's no turning back.

Several of my friends with children have husbands who are not very supportive of their wives. The mothers do the majority of the child-rearing work, and the fathers are content to watch TV or play video games, totally unaware of how overwhelmed their wives are. Then the wives either have to ask/plead with/nag their blissfully unaware husbands to be more participatory, or the wives soldier on as basically a single parent in a two-parent household. These women are in California, Texas, and Georgia, range from rich to middle class to poor, and have varying levels of education.

Even more annoying, have you heard of a guy say he has to "babysit" his children when his wife has something to do? How can one "babysit" his own children? It's as if these fathers are so disconnected from thinking of themselves as a parent, anytime they spend time rearing their child without the supervision of their wife is viewed as a favor or chore. The saddest part is that these husbands seem to think that they're good parents. They hold the kid for a few minutes, or read her a story, or "babysit" her, and think they've done a fantastic job. Moreover, each of my friends' husbands really wanted to have children! Naturally, the wives had no idea that they'd be on their own as a parent. (Or if they did, I feel even sorrier for them.)

I know there are great supportive dads out there who are egalitarian with their child-rearing duties. I have seen maybe one or two in my life. So the chances of me being a married "single" parent are very, very high—and I don't want to be a single parent. I'm content with being an "aunt" to my friends' kids.

—Anonymous

One of my main reasons for not wanting to have children? You don't know what kind of parent your partner will be until there's no turning back.

I am 41, female, and have known I never wanted kids since I was about 15. I think that must have been when I started to realize that it could be a very difficult thing to exist in this world—that there was great suffering all around, and there would always be.

Even in my youth I knew that part of what made me feel that way was my own brain chemistry—that I felt things maybe too deeply for my own good—and I knew that I would not want to bring a child into the world that might end up with my same tendencies towards depression. Even though I don't struggle with that as much as I did when younger, I still think that in itself was a good reason not to have children.

Also, I have always known that there are plenty of kids who have been brought into this world without a stable family situation, and I thought that if I did ever change my mind I would rather adopt someone who was already here and needed a good and loving home.

As I've gotten older and seen my wonderful friends have their kids and begin to raise them, I am secure in my decision. I see how hard it is and I see how amazing it is, and I am awed by my friends' parenting skills. Those are some lucky kids.

—Astrid, Oregon

I am a 42-year-old woman who decided in my early 30s that having children was just not for me. In my 20s, I thought my future would have me follow society's conventions and get married and have a family. However, as my siblings and friends began having children, the more time I spent around the kids, the more I realized that lifestyle did not suit me. The more time I spent around babies, the more it solidified that I did not want my own. I can appreciate the hard work and dedication of parents and the rewards that parenting brings, but in the end the best decision for me was to maintain my independent, spontaneous lifestyle. Some may call it selfish, but I see it as a courageous decision to buck the societal norms and make the choice to be childless.

So many times I would hear "well, you'll change your mind once you meet the right man." Many people cannot accept that a woman CHOOSES not to have children. That sentiment is slowly changing, thankfully. Luckily, my choice has never impacted my relationships with men, and my partner and I share the decision of not wanting children. In fact, I recently underwent a permanent sterilization and have not one regret about it. My family has never questioned or wondered about my decision—in fact sometimes they joke that I'm the "smart one" in the family for not having kids! Having nieces and nephews is just fine with me.

—Anon

My family has never questioned or wondered about my decision—in fact sometimes they joke that I'm the "smart one" in the family for not having kids!

I have known since I was a kid that I did not want kids. I never had the fantasy dream of getting married, having kids, etc. I personally never even thought I would ever get married, but I did- twice.

During my first marriage, my husband tried to "force" me to have kids, even though he knew from the beginning that not only did I not WANT kids, I HATED them.... After 8 years of marriage he finally gave me an ultimatum (by that December), that I was tostart trying to have kids or we were going to get a divorce. I was on birth control pills and at the time, the clinic I was going to knew full well how I felt about kids and that I never wanted them.

After the ultimatum, I was at the clinic and told them what was going on and they told me I could get an IUD there and it was good for 5 years and I could "pretend" like I was trying to get pregnant just to remain married. I gave it much consideration, but in the end I knew my marriage needed to be over anyways.

After coming back from a hunting vacation that I did not go on (since I was not "allowed" to go hunting and was only going to be allowed to stay in the motel) he started his same old name calling and said, "and you're not having my kid, eitherm are you?", to which I replied "NO, I'm not having ANYONE'S kid.” We then started divorce proceedings and before the divorce was even final I went and got my tubes tied (free of charge here in Arkansas).

My life was a total disaster but I kept a notebook of my goals and upon divorcing I completed them all in under 6 months! At that time I was not looking to meet another man, but as fate has it, I met Gabe and we have been married almost 10 years now. He knew from the moment I met him that (1) I did not have kids (2) I did not want kids and (3) I hate kids. I also told him that the only things I care about are cars and motorcycles. We married after 6 months of dating. He doesn't like kids either!

Ten years later nothing has changed. We do what we want, when we want and to what extent we want. Our whole life revolves around buying things that we love. Our current and most obsessive love is old Harleys! I have 4 motorcycles now and have been getting featured in a lot of magazines and blogs.

I don't care what other people think or say. I know in the end they are just jealous that they cannot do the things I do because they don't have the freedom or the money to do them. If we want to go eat at midnight or go for a three-day cruise or whatever, we CAN!

It is definitely a decision I will NEVER regret and it is probably my greatest accomplishment. We even have a "No Children Allowed" sign on the front of our house. There are truly no children allowed at my house and another great accomplishment of mine is to say that I have NEVER held or touched a baby- a fact that I am QUITE proud of! How many females can say that?

We live an AMAZING life without children. When I drive my Corvette I see the looks it gets from all the people that have children. People now are becoming more honest and telling me that they wish they would have never had children and that if they didn't, maybe they could have a Corvette or Harley also.

—Chris G, Arkansas

I knew when I was ten years old that having children was not in my future. As the youngest of five in a traditional Irish Catholic family, I was burdened with the care of a terminally-ill mother starting at the age of eight. My siblings all managed their level best to help but failed to see the daily load that crushed me. In practical terms, I was the one who did the work of running the household. I believe that I raised my family and truly did not want to have that responsibility as an adult. Further, I never wanted to have a child who could possibly be burdened with what I grew up in.

My body did the work of making me sterile. I underwent surgery to remove one burst fallopian tube at the age of 19 and the second at the age of 20. I remember the doctor telling me after the first surgery that I was good candidate for in vitro fertilization should I want children in the future. I thought (but never said) Hell no!

When I got married, I would ask my husband every six months or so if he wanted children. He answer was always 'not if you don't'. I told him that if he ever changed his mind, I would grant him the quickest, easiest divorce known to mankind. I was that certain. We are still happily married after 22 years.

I am as certain now at 50 as I was at 8 that this was the correct action for me. I have a life as an adult that I wasn't granted as a child and am satisfied with my choices.

—Ann S, MI

I grow weary of people telling me that BECAUSE I came from a bad home, it would be more likely that I would go out of my way to be a good mother. Unless someone could give me powerful proof of how virtuous I would be as a mother despite my dysfunctional upbringing, then they shouldn’t make that assumption nor would I submit a child to be a guinea pig in that experiment. My mother was raised by a mother who didn’t want her. She turned around and became a mother who was a complete narcissist because she had never had enough attention. After 5 husbands and her numerous dramatic breakdowns, leaving home as soon as I was legally able to do so was my means of survival. It did not instill in me some maternal instinct for my future children. I never felt that instinct. When I met my husband over 13 years ago and I was still safely within childbearing age, I kept waiting for that desire to happen. The fact is, it never did. So I wanted to be different than the previous women in my life and actually listen to my instincts to not have a child. To not have children when you think that maybe you wouldn’t do such a good job being a mother is a hard decision. And for those who assume childless couples are selfish, well they need to walk a mile in my shoes.

—Anonymous, CT

He knew from the moment I met him that (1) I did not have kids (2) I did not want kids and (3) I hate kids. I also told him that the only things I care about are cars and motorcycles. We married after 6 months of dating. He doesn't like kids either!

"I'm not sure we'll never have kids, but I am currently 32, married for four years, and we are childless as of yet and I grow increasingly concerned that we will never be able to have children if we want them.

It's purely economical. I have a mortgage worth of student debt, literally—my education cost almost exactly what my parent's house in New Hampshire did. I graduated from law school in 2009, when jobs were scarce. They still are. My husband got a teaching degree in 2010, when teaching jobs in New Jersey evaporated. We've both been struggling with unemployment and underemployment, and we're just now starting to make some headway.

It seems irresponsible to have a child now. Not to mention the fact that it would seriously impair my career prospects. I get asked pointed questions about my intentions towards children all the time in interview. Never mind that they're not supposed to ask me about things like that. Never mind the fact that my husband and I agreed that if one of us has to take care of a child full time, it can't be me, my field punishes women who leave the workforce too heavily, and the only way we'll ever pay off my debt is if I work full time: people still look at me and go "young woman, early thirties, married for a few years, watch, we hire her, and she'll be on maternity leave within the year, and then she'll go part time, and then we'll lose her entirely and we'll be hiring again this time next year."

I can't afford a child if I don't work. If I have a child, getting and keeping work will be harder. It's hard enough when people think I might want one.

I've gotten into it with family about whether these constant delays—and possibly forgoing children altogether, if the situation never really improves, or if it takes so long to improve that time runs out—is selfish of me. I find this depressing. If I had a child I could not support, society—and these same family members—would doubtless call me selfish. But not having a child because I can't support one is also selfish, as if I am waiting until I can afford to have a child and fancy shoes and eat out all the time and go on expensive vacations and so on rather than waiting until I can have a child and still pay the rent on our very modest apartment and not get sued by my student lenders.

Make up your mind, society.

—Anonymous

I never felt the urge to be a mom. If it happens, then I will deal with it, but I have a wonderful life with my husband and I don't want it to change to the degree required by parenthood. I love that my free time is mine and that we can afford nice vacations and watch our shows and movies. I love my nieces and nephews, but find playing their games tedious and I don't want that for myself. I see friends and relatives with children and how much their relationships have changed and I don't like it.

If my husband stresses me out now because of the things he does or doesn't do or the ways he does or doesn't contribute around the house, how much worse will I be with children around! I imagine we would resent each other very quickly and have to give up many of the fun things that we do and that make us "us." My husband in my number-one priority and I his; why would we want to change this so we can be slaves to a child? A child who will alter our finances, upset the balance and harmony of the house, that will need to be sent to a failing school system, and that requires so much attention in order to turn out "right." I know how much hard work it takes to raise a child and make sure it is smart, kind, and all of the good traits we want in our citizens of the world. I don't want to take that on.

I'm 37 and my window is closing. We have discussed this ad nauseum and are still committed to prioritizing each other and our careers. We have worked too hard to give it up now or debt and aggravation. If we change our minds, we would much rather adopt or foster (when we are further along our career paths) and help out those kids and teens who have never had anyone. We don't need more people on this earth, we need to take better care of those already on it. It is a complicated issue and one I think about all the time. I want to make sure this life doesn't appeal to me, but it never has and may never. Just like you may know you don't want to jump out of a helicopter, I know I don't want to have babies.

—Anonymous, CA

I can't afford a child if I don't work. If I have a child, getting and keeping work will be harder.

I'm a 32-year-old multinational sales manager with a marketing degree and MBA. I'm currently single, and have chosen to be childless. This profile is not common in my country, where only 2% of the population have the opportunity to start college and less than 50% of that group graduates. The usual (for non indigenous women) is to marry in their late 20s and have one or two kids. In native, more traditional communities, girls are often married at 15 and become mothers of five or six children before they turn 30. Important to mention that these women drop school before even finishing elementary. They need not to plan for the future, since their descendants are meant to be their late-day guardians and will take care of their every need until their death.

These statistics sounded scary for me when growing up. I come from a single-parent family, and am a single child, so I spent a fair amount of time on my own, usually reading. By the time I was 10, I started questioning everything I was taught in church and school, both tried to impose what I was supposed to feel, say and do as a Catholic, nice girl. Although I tried to belong to this traditional group (and got married at age 21) one day I decided to be happy rather than adequate. During the three years I was married, I took a treatment for not getting pregnant: I had a career to finish. I also wasn't sure I wanted kids with someone who didn't seem committed enough. I believe it was the right choice.

I've had a couple meaningful relationships since, parallel to studying my MBA and building my career. These two things have kept me busy, that's true, but the main reason behind my postponed motherhood was the consciousness of the huge responsibility raising a human being is, and having the certainty that my partner at the time was not prepared to deal with it. I basically didn't want to wake up one morning ten years from now and realize I've been raising my kids alone, without the necessary support, emotionally and economically.

As this idea became more evident to me, I found myself relieved and liberated from the pressure of time getting too old to have kids, and lost my uncertainty of the future with concise retirement plans. I've also met many women with the same mindset, many of them are now close friends. We are all sure being a mother is a wonderful choice, and love kids, but prefer to enjoy our freedom: freedom regarding schedule, money, activities... But mostly the freedom to decide over our own lives.

—Ana Mazariegos, Guatemala

My wife and I are childless because of the typical economic considerations and atypical emotional reasons.

First the typical: we don't earn enough money for one person to support the family. We decided that daycare would be out of the question, even though we could afford it. We would want to raise our kids and not hand it off to someone else while we work.

Now the atypical: My mother largely checked out of the parent role when I was 6. Yes she was around, but she clearly shifted her priorities to herself when she filed for divorce and began ramping up for a career. Her being neglectful and absent left deep scars. (Thankfully, my father took up the torch and left no doubt that we were looked after.)

My wife has a similar tale.

We both believe that parenting is an all-in or nothing proposition. Without the resources and with reservations informed by the past experiences, we remain childless.

—Anonymous

It's not much of a story. It's just a choice. I never had a strong maternal urge, knew I could be happy with or without kids, married a guy who didn't want them, the end. No problem, happy life, and fully funded in retirement.

—Anonymous

I imagine we would resent each other very quickly and have to give up many of the fun things that we do and that make us "us."

"Having kids is a “want” - a desire - not a need and I just don't want them nor have I ever felt the need for them. It's really that simple. No further introspection required.

According to society, I am "selfish." Of course, I've yet to hear a reason to have children that didn't start with "I want," but yeah, I'm the selfish one. In a way, I will fully admit that I am. I am fiercely protective of my personal time and space, am very comfortable with my own company (unlike a lot of people) and don't feel the need for constant social interaction. I love the sound of an empty apartment, especially after a 40-hour (or more) work week.

I can't even say I “chose” to be childfree. That would imply a conscious choice you make after giving it much thought. I knew at a VERY young age I would never have children and I never gave it any thought. I don't hate children, I just don't like them enough to want one of my own. I don't like cats enough to want one of them, either.

It is an extremely, self-serving myth that childfree by choice people are "lonely." To believe such is self-validation for people with children. The overreaction to people who dare say they don't like kids only goes to underline their own insecurities because, whether they realize it or not, they assume my choice to not have children is a condemnation of their choice to have them. It's not. As far as I'm concerned, kids are like religion. I don't care if you have it, I just get tired of you trying to convince me you're a better person because you do. You're not. And you aren't special because you did something every species on this planet can do. It's not a "gift from god,” it's just biology.

It's had no real impact on my interactions with relatives. There is a small clutch who are close-minded and have no problem (rudely) telling me I will feel differently when I have my own children — I'm almost 40 but they still tell me that. At least they stopped asking if I was a lesbian. And it is EXTREMELY rude to have someone tell you you'll feel differently when you have your own kids — it's akin to telling someone they are too stupid to make the choice on whether to have an abortion so the choice must be made for them.

Parents and CFbc people just don't think the same. People with children see a childless person and assume they want kids. CFbc people see a childless person and don't assume anything either way. "Oh, she's so precious. Don't you just want a dozen of them?" said no Childfree by choice person, ever. At least not about babies.

As for the impact on relationships with significant others, non-issue. Most guys I've dated were actually relieved to hear I've no interest in having kids. At my age, wanting kids and not yet having them puts intense pressure on a relationship to move it along faster than might be good for both parties.

Beyond that, condoms are a girl's bestfriend. Better still, "chicks dig scars" and my partner's vasectomy scar is the sexiest one of all (that's a joke, there's no real scar).

—Jennifer, Texas

Most guys I've dated were actually relieved to hear I've no interest in having kids. At my age, wanting kids and not yet having them puts intense pressure on a relationship to move it along faster than might be good for both parties.

I am turning 38 next month, my husband will be 40 this year, and we are childfree by choice. It was a easy discussion ("You don't want kids?" "Nope" "Me neither.") and most of our friends and relatives haven't given us any flack about it. In fact, more than a few have confidentially expressed their jealousy. Bringing a child into the world is a momentous decision, not to be taken lightly, with huge ramifications. If you are at all ambivalent about it, you shouldn't do it just because it's what traditionally comes next. We are very happy with our lives they way they are. When people criticize our choice, or try and convince us that we are wrong, I get the sense that they are really trying to justify their own situation. Someone who tells me that children "don't change your life that much" is either in denial, a bad parent, or has a live-in nanny. If I was independently wealthy and didn't have to work for a living I might consider adopting a child a very worthwhile endeavor - a real positive contribution to the world. In the meantime, I'll continue to volunteer, donate blood, pay plenty of taxes, and be a "productive" member of society in other ways!

—Sherry, NH

The term is child-free. I don't have children because I choose not to, not because I am unable to (which childless implies). I'm 42 and have never had any desire to be anyone's mother for a number of reasons. My husband and I share a fun and fulfilling life. Why is a woman expected to defend her decision not to have children?

—Anonymous

Someone who tells me that children “don’t change your life that much” is either in denial, a bad parent, or has a live-in nanny.

Some big decisions, I think, come about through the slow accretion of hundreds of other small decisions over the years. I didn't choose to childless--but I got a PhD, which delayed the clock. I didn't choose to be childless--but I took time to travel, which made long-term partnership challenging. I didn't choose to be childless--but I broke off an engagement, which removed an opportunity for kids. And so here, in my early 40s, I suppose, yes, I guess I did make a choice to childless, though I've actually never stated that until this moment of typing. It's how glaciers become the sea, right? One fraction of a degree at a time.

—Andi, OH

My wife and I married to spend our lives with each other, not with anyone else. We didn’t want anyone new coming between us.

Why don’t I have kids? Wrong question, really. Every person’s default status is to be childless; one has to actually take some action, make some decision (we hope) to become a parent. And since bringing a child into the world or deciding to rear one has such massive consequences for that life, shouldn’t we be more concerned about how, when, and why people make the decision to become parents? But I suppose that’s a question for another time.

To answer YOUR question… Ask 10 different childfree people why they are childfree and you’ll get 100 different answers (I should know – I’m a sociologist who studies childfree adults). I am childfree because I live at a time and in a place where I get to make that choice. I have the right and the ability to be a sexually active person without becoming pregnant. I have the right and the ability to find fulfillment in ways that do not include children – I have a marriage that I adore and want to put my energy toward, I have a job that I love and want to succeed at, I have hobbies that I enjoy that I want to learn about and become proficient in. Even more, if ever I want to make a direct, interpersonal difference in a child’s life, all I need to do is reach out to any child – my nieces, my nephews, my neighbors, my friend’s kids, my students. All children need caring adults in their lives who are not their parents.

Most importantly, there are millions of humans who already exist who need care. Why are we so intent on creating more human beings when we already have too many? I guess that brings us back to my original question, the more pressing question. Rather than asking, “Why don’t you have kids?,” we should be asking, “Why DO you have kids?”

—Amy B, Professor of Sociology

That we haven’t created our own family is due to only one reason: we are two gay men who came to maturity at a time when having a family was so outside of the norm that to do so seemed, more than anything else, selfish and indulgent.

I am 53, married for 26 years. My husband and I made the decision not to have children prior to getting married. I was on birth control pills for years, and when I got my OBGYN to agree to it- I got a tubal ligation. I never felt a maternal instinct with babies or children. I did not want my life dictated by child chores - taking the kids to school, soccer practice, etc. I also felt that having children was a great expense that I did not want to pay for. I also wanted to travel and see the world.

Another big reason for not wanting children was seeing the problems other people were having with their children.Raising children with developmental disabilities which caused great stress in their marriages and subsequent divorce. Or, having children who turned out bad–drug addicted, in jail, etc. It appeared to me that having children was a gamble. You are bringing a person into your life whom you don’t know anything about, and how they will develop as a person. They could be great kids or like a bomb thrown into your life, ruining it forever. I don't gamble.

Sometimes, I wonder if I will regret not having children when I get really old. But, then I think about all the elderly in nursing homes who got dumped there by their children, and who rarely visit. It used to make sense in the old days when a family needed many children to take care of the elderly, keep the family farm producing. In those days, your children was your retirement plan. Not anymore.

I have had some people tell me that I am selfish, but how can I be selfish in regards to someone that does not exist? Most people tell me that I made a smart decision. A coworker told me that the smartest people she knew had no children.

—Anonymous, WA

The best way of ensuring you won’t damage your children is by not having any.

"They loved each other too much to have children." I'd read a novel called Staying On by Paul Scott. It wasn't about children, but about an elderly couple. They didn't have children, and that single simple explanation stuck in my mind, so that later, when my wife and I were talking about our choices, it came back to me.

We both agreed that neither of us had a strong desire to have our own children. We have friends who did and have seen the impact it makes on people's lives. I'm sure it strengthens some relationships and is a source of joy to many. But wow, children can also take over people's days and years, sucking life out of them and leaving partners much less time for each other. My wife and I married to spend our lives with each other, not with anyone else. We didn't want anyone new coming between us.

People call it “starting a family.” We feel we already are a family. We've found our happiness, and we don't feel the need to seek a new kind. And children are a gamble. You don't know what kind of person you'll invite into your home and heart. We might not like our child. It does happen, despite what everyone tells you. And we are not prepared to take that risk. We love each other too much to do otherwise and want to continue doing that and being happy all our lives.

Who will look after us when we get old? We don't know. But having a child for that reason must be the most selfish justification of all.

—Alex W, Washington

I guess that isn’t really a good answer to why I won’t have kids, because in a backwards way I am saying I will love another’s if given the chance.

I choose to be childfree for a few reasons. Firstly, pregnancy seems like a hassle and terrifying all at the same time. You literally have a parasite feeding off of you. How does that not make people squeamish just thinking about it?

Secondly, we get an average of 65 years of life. Why would I waste that by raising children?

And thirdly? I hate children and I always have. Children are, in general, stupid, selfish, and completely unintelligible. Sure, there are some well-behaved children who are naturally empathetic and smart, but a great number of them aren't worth the effort.

My fiance and I don't plan on having children. There are a lot of factors. Financial is a big one. There's no real incentive to have children. I don't want to be a stay at home Mom, but child care costs are ridiculous. Not to mention, more and more children need their parents to help support them for longer. I also work with children, and simply don't have the energy to be teaching them all day and come home to my own. We talk about maybe one day adopting a much older child, but we both like the life we have and like our jobs and don't want to give any of it up for children. If it's selfish to not want to bring children into the world that are unwanted, then call us selfish, but to me having children you don't want to have is much much worse.  

—Anonymous, WA

To the people who say they didn’t know who they really were until they became parents I say that’s a hell of a lot of responsibility to lay on a baby.

My partner and I met in college and have been together for thirty years. We have the longest-lasting relationship of all of our siblings, who during that period have each divorced and remarried, and in two cases divorced again. We are stable, educated and prosperous and occasionally remark that we would have been excellent parents. We have been told by two of our nephews that we have been a stronger and more positive influence on their lives than their own parents.

That we haven't created our own family is due to only one reason: we are two gay men who came to maturity at a time when having a family was so outside of the norm that to do so seemed, more than anything else, selfish and indulgent. We feared the social consequences for our children. Perhaps, were we thirty years younger and entering into a relationship today, we would choose differently.

Are we happy with our lives together? Exceedingly. Would we be happier with children? Perhaps not happier, but happy in more ways.

—Patrick, California

I decided not to have children, because there are already so many that need a safe, loving home. I knew I did not need to give birth to be a mother. So I chose adoption. The best decision I ever made. My family agrees.

—Michelle, CA

I am a childless 40-year-old person. I decided as a teenager never to have children. I grew up and lived with a bitter and resentful mother due to the perceived loss of freedom and career from having children. I decided I never wanted to make another being feel that way. The best way of ensuring you won't damage your children is by not having any.

Over the years, I have seen my fellow co-workers and their inability to pay bills, mountains of debt, and inability to do things. This has just reinforced my choice. I am not rich but I will be able to retire comfortably. In my non-working years I will be able to live the life of my choosing. Not what I am stuck with after paying all the bills required to raise children.

I am a childless 40-year-old person. I decided as a teenager never to have children. I grew up and lived with a bitter and resentful mother due to the perceived loss of freedom and career from having children. I decided I never wanted to make another being feel that way. The best way of ensuring you won't damage your children is by not having any.

Over the years, I have seen my fellow co-workers and their inability to pay bills, mountains of debt, and inability to do things. This has just reinforced my choice. I am not rich but I will be able to retire comfortably. In my non-working years I will be able to live the life of my choosing. Not what I am stuck with after paying all the bills required to raise children.

—Anonymous, UT

There’s something else no one wants to talk about: what if my kid is an asshole? Seriously. There are assholes everywhere, and they came from someone. I know plenty of lovely people who have produced assholes—hell, I’m related to a few of them.

My wife and I must be pioneers of a sort, as we are in our mid to late fifties and chose not to have children way back in the early 1980's when we first met. And we don't fit your assumed demographic: We are Republicans and live in a subdivision consisting exclusively of single-family homes.

I can't remember ever wanting children. My mother was pregnant most of the time from her wedding day until her hysterectomy; she had five of us in seven years, plus a miscarriage. My father had no hobbies and spent what little free time he had helping my Mom take care of us. So I guess I decided that life wasn't for me, and I married the first girl I met (we dated for three years and will celebrate our 29th anniversary this year) who seemed indifferent to parenthood. No regrets.

—Anonymous

In the U.S., women do not get very good maternity benefits, so the thought of having children is already daunting. My profession is more open to maternity leave because attachment is a fundamental idea in counseling and mental health. Also, many counselors work on billable hours, so agencies don't lose much money if we take time off. Not all women are that lucky. Hell, I'm not that lucky. If I don't work, I don't bring income home, I can't afford to have a child. There have been many posts lately about countries with maternity/paternity leave, it's depressing how Neanderthal America seems.

The second reason I will not have a child is the more important for me. As a counselor I am faced with children in foster care, and I see how many children often age out of "the system." It breaks my heart to hear so many teenagers say "no one loves me" or "why didn't my parents want me back?" There are plenty of foster children who need love just as much as a possible future biological child. I have plenty of love to give to a living human, and it would be selfish of me to say "no, I want my OWN."

I guess that isn't really a good answer to why I won't have kids, because in a backwards way I am saying I will love another's if given the chance.

—Belinda D, Idaho

But here’s the rub: I know that by making the choice to remain child-free that I’m giving up something potentially incredible in my existence.

I’ve never wanted kids. The safe explanation – the one I often use to make people feel better, and because it’s just easier – is to say, “I know I’m selfish”, but that’s not entirely truthful. Most people who feel it’s their business to inquire about my reproductive choices find my reason for having ovaries that are just for show more palatable if I admit to some character flaw real or imagined. I don’t believe myself to be selfish. I think I’m realistic.

I knew I didn’t want kids when I was four and grown-ups would condescendingly tell me I’d change my mind, and yet I still feel that way now that I’m staring down the business end of forty. I do, however, consider myself lazy. Lazy but attentive. I actually listened to all the people who said that parenting was the “hardest job in the world,” and decided that it was an occupation I would willingly avoid.

My common-law husband and I have been nauseatingly in love for twelve years. We recognize that our love is rare, and we don’t want to risk it by throwing a kid into the mix. We’re also fortunate in that we don’t have to succumb to religious or familial constraints in regards to our reproductive decisions. Our families recognize and respect our relationship as it exists. I’ve seen strong relationships sag and flat-line under the weight of child-rearing pressures and what Nick and I have is just too precious to gamble on what might be behind mystery door number three. I know couples who have maintained stability once they’ve had kids, but those couples are few and far between, and they all admit that it’s a daily struggle. Friends often tell us we’re exactly the type of people who should have kids because we’re well-adjusted, educated, financially stable and basically decent folks. Anyone with an alcoholic, job-hopping, chronically unhappy yet lovable train-wreck of a friend who was raised in a seemingly ideal household knows that a parent’s skill won’t necessarily determine how well their kids turn out. Just because I can do something doesn’t mean it should be done. Using that logic, I’d probably make a pretty good crack-whore but that doesn’t mean I’m gonna run out and try it.

I think there are too many variables and too many unknowns involved in child-rearing and I’m just not a risk taker. That’s why I could never back-pack across Europe (fit everything I need for a summer into one bag? Pfft!), I couldn’t negotiate the what-ifs. I excel when I’m over- prepared. When I hear my breeder friends complain about being more exhausted than they ever knew possible and how hard raising a baby is, my inner monologue is screaming, “What did you think it was going to be?” Maybe that’s harsh but it’s how I feel. I find it difficult to have sympathy for people who willingly put themselves in a situation and then lament the outcome. Kind of like how a hangover isn’t a punishment but a consequence. Unless you’re the first people in the history of ever, you had access to resources – books, videos, first-person accounts, babysitting experiences, a Wal-Mart during Christmas – that could illuminate you on the intense demands of parenting. If someone tells me not to stick my finger in a socket because I’ll get a shock, I’m gonna take them at their word instead of finding out for myself then bitching that it hurts. An integral component of adulthood is self-awareness, and if you don’t know who you are – strengths, weaknesses, what you’re willing to compromise, in which direction your moral compass points – you’re not going to have much time or energy to figure it out after you have a kid. To the people who say they didn’t know who they really were until they became parents I say that’s a hell of a lot of responsibility to lay on a baby when you could have trained for an Ironman if you were that intent on testing your mettle.

I see parenthood as a numbers game: There’s no guarantee that my kid is going to be what society so lovingly calls “normal.” My kid could have a host of physical, mental or emotional difficulties that we then have to manage on top of the basic food, clothing, shelter, and nurture requirements. There’s no guarantee that Nick or I won’t die, leaving the other partner to raise a child alone. There’s no guarantee that our kid is going to take care of us when we’re older. In fact, the odds are that our kid will be in debt, underemployed and living with us into her twenties. That’s the reality faced by many parents of Millennials today. This is the first generation that won’t be better off than their parents. The odds today that I’ll have a perfectly healthy child who will not incur crushing debt pursuing post-secondary education, that will then find a job in her field and be able to support herself as an adult are about as good as the odds of a not coming across a Seinfeld rerun playing somewhere in the developed world at this very moment.

There’s something else no one wants to talk about: what if my kid is an asshole? Seriously. There are assholes everywhere, and they came from someone. I know plenty of lovely people who have produced assholes—hell, I’m related to a few of them. That might be the worst scenario for me personally. I would love my kid but I might not like her. At least with a physical or mental ailment some guilt can be assuaged. It’s not my fault. But if my kid is an asshole, despite all my best efforts to love, provide and prepare for her, I will forever blame myself.

I suppose the same argument could be used in defense of the odds of producing the next Stephen Hawking or Hillary Clinton, but this is a survey about why I don’t want kids and I am historically unlucky. The odds are almost always not in my favor. Which is why I have a dog. She will never disappoint me in any major way – date a guy I don’t approve of, get pregnant in middle school, steal the car – and she worships me. She’ll never go through a teen phase when I embarrass her and she avoids me. When we got our dog my business partner said, “It’s the perfect amount of responsibility for you. More than a plant, less than a kid.” He calls Nick and I DILDOs — Dual Income Large Dog Owners.

My life is plenty full. So much so that I often wonder how I’d be able to do all the things I want and need to do and also take care of a child. I simply couldn’t. I like my life the way it is. I like to sleep in. As a writer and documentary filmmaker I spend a big part of my day trying to learn as much as I can in order to do my part to make the world a more enlightened place, or at least not make it worse. Kids, particularly in their first few years, make carbon footprints of Sasquatchian proportions.The falling birth-rate isn’t necessarily a bad thing and it’s certainly not a good enough reason to start having more babies. I don’t feel any obligation to, as my hero George Carlin so eloquently put it, “be a brood-mare for the state” just so that the Boomers can ensure people will care for them in their Depends years. As a matter of fact, my 75-year-old sharp-as-a-tack Mum lives on the third floor of my house and I’m happy about that. I’m more focused on trying to shape a world where taking care of people isn’t an imposed obligation but something we do because it’s simply the right effing thing to do. Sure, it’s a lofty ambition but it’s no more wide-eyed and optimistic than entering into parenthood like it’s the most noble thing a person can aspire to. It’s not.

A common misconception about child-free people is that we don’t like children and in my case that isn’t true. I have eight nieces and nephews that I absolutely adore and feel a sense of responsibility to inasmuch as I’m someone in their lives they will always know they can count on. Like the office slacker that lets everyone else plan the boss’s birthday then sweeps in at the last minute to sign the card, I get to reap many of the benefits without doing any heavy lifting. But here’s the rub: I know that by making the choice to remain child-free that I’m giving up something potentially incredible in my existence. When I see the elation on my nephew’s face as he launches himself into his mother’s arms like she’s made of candy and Lego-puppies, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t sometimes feel a pang of doubt. All of my breeder friends will say without prompting that the sleepless nights and projectile vomiting are worth it for the moments of unexpected joy and sheer wonder their children bring into their lives. Do I envy that kind of closeness? Sure I do. But that’s how the most important life decisions are designed to work - the flip side to every choice is that you are losing something of worth, otherwise it's not a choice if one of the choices is all bad.

When I read the Newsweek article and saw that the authors quoted mostly late twenty-somethings/early thirty-somethings, I recalled all of the friends I had at that age who said very similar things about not wanting kids and who now have children. My BFF in particular was dead set against drinking the parenthood Kool-Aid to the point that when, at 36, she told me she was pregnant I didn’t believe her for several days. There are pressures that increase as you get older and the fear of missing out on being parents becomes more real as the fertility window closes. I know people that had kids simply because they were worried they’d regret it if they didn’t, which I suppose is as good a reason as any. At least once a week Nick and I will be in a situation and one of us will say, “I’m so glad we don’t have kids.” But we’re also evolved enough to admit that we too might change our minds. We’ve discussed the possibility of adoption on the slim chance that we ever decide having a child is something we want to do. If we sincerely want a child it doesn’t matter whose it is, we’ll love it regardless and lord knows there are plenty of kids out there who could use a family – even if it’s an opinionated and cynical family governed by a couple of DILDOs.

—Di G, 39, Ottowa

We have great sex and the freedom to move where we please when we please.

There are so many reasons why people have children, but last on the list seems to be "because I'm 100% sure my child would be 100% glad they were born."

I don't want to have children for their own sake. There's a chance they'd inherit my physical and emotional health problems, and any chance of them being forced into a life of suffering is too great a gamble for me.

If pangs of longing for motherhood get to be too strong, I'd much rather adopt an already existing child—I don't need a baby who looks like me in order to love and care for it.

—Laura, MD

When we want a hit of kid-ness, we have nine nieces and nephews to spend time with.

I am 34 years old, happily married (for 10 years), and childless by choice. I am able to maintain this blissful state thanks to the miraculous Mirena IUD. After a rocky first 3 years, our marriage blossomed into a strong, mutually satisfying partnership that I know for a fact would not be as glorious as it is today had we chosen to have kids. We have great sex and the freedom to move where we please when we please.

Witnessing the experiences of our friends and family has been a huge factor in our choice to limit our family to two. I saw my good friend's husband have a vasectomy on the sly because he was working two jobs to support their family of five and she wanted to have another child regardless of his financial concerns. My husband's brother and his wife had 3 children in four years and their youngest was born with severe medical problems requiring open heart surgery at age six months. Thankfully at age three he is now thriving and I have nothing but the greatest respect and admiration for them both. They are both committed to the marriage and I know they love each other but it is obvious their marriage has stagnated as a result of the enormous time and energy that must be devoted to their son.

As a couple we have weathered bankruptcy, foreclosure, six moves, my mother's mental illness, and my husband's return to college at the age of 34, all of which could have been disastrous for my own mental health had children been in the picture. Of course others have dealt with far worse circumstances while raising children and come out the other side better individuals for it but I would not be among them.

Medical science has given us the chance to remain childless and we are incredibly grateful for it. Maybe one day we will have kids. Isn't it amazing that we have the choice?

—Anonymous

Perhaps sadly it is those of us who have chosen to be childless that are the most aware and responsible beings on the planet.

This year will mark both my 20th wedding anniversary, and my 50th birthday. My husband and I discussed children before we got married, and our attitude can best be summed up as: "It's not that we didn't want children, it's that we didn't want children." We had no strong desire to procreate, and no strong need to avoid it. As it happens, we've remained childless and don't feel the lack of children – and when we want a hit of kid-ness, we have nine nieces and nephews to spend time with.

I suspect, in our case, part of the indifference is that we are both first-born children, with a significant gap between us and at least some of our siblings: my brother is seven years younger than I am, and while my husband has two siblings close to him in age (and the second-born in his family is also childless, at 52), his youngest sister and brother are ten and twelve years younger than he is. We were, essentially, "assistant" parents; we helped feed, clothe, diaper, bathe and babysit; we helped with homework; we chauffeured them to sports and Scouts; we taught them to drive. It's enough of a parenting role to know at an early age how difficult and time-consuming parenting is, and enough of a responsibility to feel a sense of "job well done" when it's over.

As a woman who came of age in the 1980s – and who has self-identified as a feminist since September 1969 – I can also understand the unwillingness of young women to put careers on hold for motherhood, as well. The US doesn't have a good infrastructure for childcare; in our extended family, those nine nieces and nephews have been cared for by some ever-changing combination of parents (both genders) working part-time or from home; stay-at-home grandparents; and paid child care.

—Anonymous

I have this idea of what it means to be a parent, and it means your own story stops, or at least pauses, for 20 years.

I'm a 28 year old female. The moment I realized that having children is a choice and not a requirement, I wept tears of joy. What a great sense of freedom. Pregnancy would be awful. I love my career, and the income that comes with it. Not procreating is the single best thing I can do for our environment. Children are not appealing to me in anyway—even as a child I felt this way. Sleep is nice. Painting abstract art the entire weekend fulfills me. I have hundreds of reasons to be childfree. I am so thankful to be a woman born at this time so that I can follow my heart.

In my life, this choice has negative consequences. People say nasty, ignorant, and judgmental things about my lifestyle. I won't lie, it hurts. I love others, and want to be accepted, but I must be true to myself.

—Anonymous

I decided not to have children because of the exponential population explosion on the planet. As supposedly the smartest carbon based bipeds on the planet, we are using up so many of Gaia's resources. Eventually this planet will not be able to sustain itself or our species. Are we the smartest animals?

This is a human fruit-fly experiment gone awry. How short-sighted, irresponsible and narcissistic of people to have so many kids. We only have a finite amount of fresh H2o and food on the planet, there is no more. There is no planet B.

With that said, while I really wanted a child of my own, I could not see contributing to the disastrous course this planet is taking based on the stupidity of our human race. If we keep multiplying with no end in sight, we too will become extinct. While we are worrying about saving all the apex predators on our planet, humanity should take a good look in the mirror because there will come a point where we will not even be able to save ourselves. It will be too late!

Perhaps sadly it is those of us who have chosen to be childless that are the most aware and responsible beings on the planet. I believe we as a collective would have been exceptional parents. It is we who probably should of had children, rather then the thoughtless people who don't even care about anything except themselves or their legacies.

While it is up to us to make a thoughtful decision about our species and the future of this planet, what does it say about these people who are having so many children? Think about it...

I have given this considerable thought. I am married and my husband has also struggled with our choice.

Both our sets of parents are disappointed and so superficial: They just wanted grandchildren to play with, and what's worse is that it’s clear that most people have children just so they have someone to take care of them when they get older. Unconscionable. People are in denial.

—Anonymous

I also recognize that I’m selfish, and want to do what I want to do, when I want to do it.

I honestly think I could be a good Mom, because I am selfless and conscientious and responsible. I would live for the kid(s). And that's part of the problem. I have this idea of what it means to be a parent, and it means your own story stops, or at least pauses, for 20 years. You focus on someone else, someone who has no appreciation for your sacrifice, and won't until they're old enough to have their own kids. And every day they get older, and they need you less, and for a while they hate you, and then they're adults and you have to learn to let them be and exist on their own. It seems like the most terrifying and least rewarding endeavor in humankind.

There are other reasons—I don't like how loud kids are, I don't want all of my stuff to be covered in jam, etc.—but the bottom line is that I think the emotional cost is way too high.

—Courtney, Philadelphia

A friend sent me the story about women choosing to be childless. She is a very dear friend, and the mother of two. We have discussed the choice of becoming a mother, more specifically my choice not to, at great length. I have been saying since I was about twelve years old that I didn't want kids. It used to be cute, and adults would shake their heads and cluck their tongues. But in my young heart, I knew I meant it. I kept saying it as a young adult, through my twenties, and the same adults would tell me "the right man will come along and you'll change your mind." I still knew I meant it. Now that I'm 35, and very recently divorced, people are finally starting to take me seriously.

I don't want children for lots of reasons. I joke about it with my friends and acquaintances, and talk about it at length with my close friends. I had a terrible childhood. Lots of trauma, lots of bad things happened. I still had birthday parties, and family vacations, but the times in between were dark and scary. I never wanted to subject another human being to those cruelties. I also had a lot of anger, and I was afraid I might live out the patterns that keep abuse alive and well in this world. I'm not violent, ever, but I can be short tempered and was afraid of myself. And afraid I could never trust the other parent completely. I, like many women before me, choose partners that mirror my family history.

I also recognize that I'm selfish, and want to do what I want to do, when I want to do it. Parents tell me that feeling changes when you are responsible for another life. The thing is, I don't want to change that. I like late dinners, and outings with friends, and weekend trips. Babies are not conducive to those things.

And lastly, my deep dark secret. I generally don't like children. They are loud and perpetually sticky and whiney and selfish. And then they get older and are hormonal and emotional and needy. And while I love my friends children, and find them entertaining more often than not, I don't have to deal with it 24/7. And I like that. I keep hearing "it's different when they're yours" and it might be true. But I don't want to find out.

I have never regretted my decision not to reproduce. And even writing this, I've thought of still more reasons I know I've made the right decision for me.

—Kelly

At six, I told my mother—proudly and with half-eaten crayon on my face—that “children were yucky and dogs were better.” She laughed and assured me I’d grow out of it.

At 25, I've know I didn't want children for just as long as I was aware of what a child was. At six, I told my mother - proudly and with half-eaten crayon on my face - that "children were yucky and dogs were better." She laughed and assured me I'd grow out of it.

And so has almost every other single person (most frequently, the middle-aged woman saddled with multiple offspring and with the type of sad, droopy eyes that beg you to ask her why she looks quite as tired as she does).

At 18, I dated a 23-year-old with a few-months-old child. I was with him for three years and it truly solidified my decision. Each time the kid woke me up at 7 a.m. with her piercing siren song, I wanted to bolt. Each time she came at me with sticky fingers and a sticky face and snot dribbling down her chin, I further wanted to remain childless. Even when she stopped looking reptilian and began looking like a little human, I wanted no part of it.

My life is mine. I want to be able to, at any point, go to the movies or out to dinner or fly to Vancouver (I know, I'm an adventurer). I want to stay up late and get up late if I so choose. And as I finish off my last semester of law school, I begin seeing children less and less.

I think people tend to put too much emphasis on a little replica on themselves and much too little emphasis on the fact that they are taking complete responsibility for the life and being of another human. That's terrifying to me and should be similarly terrifying to everyone. Not because I'm incapable or intangibly defunct, but because that amount of time and effort and energy is something I'm just not willing to dedicate to anyone that isn't me.

—Anya L

I remember announcing as a 13-year-old to friends and family, that I was never going to be a mother. Neither with children of my own or adopted ones – the thought just did not appeal to me. At the time and for the next 10 years or so, most people would give me an overbearing look, usually followed by ''you're young, you'll change your mind when the time comes''......I am 36 and still waiting for that moment :) No, not really because it was never even a decision.....more a state of mind.

I have left a good relationship but we were friends before and remain great friends now. I am now in a relationship with a man who shares my view.

I have been forced to think about my reasons for not wanting children, not because I need an explanation but because once you pass 30 or so, the overbearing look is replaced by ''WHY?''. I can think of many reasons but here’s a few:

I relish the freedom and lifestyle of not having to plan around a child

I am a big child myself

The thought of something growing inside me freaks me out

And with that last reason I can almost hear all the mothers of world going ‘’that all changes once you’re pregnant and feel a connection with child you are carrying… just wait and see’’. Well I have seen and not for one second during that unwanted pregnancy, did I feel anything but discomfort at the thought of having a stranger in my womb.

—Jana (lucky aunt of two adorable nephews), 36, Copenhagen

When my husband expressed he was not ready for children I could have left to pursue a relationship where children were in the future but what came to mind is that I would not have left if he was sterile.

I did not realize I had the choice to be childfree, I had always thought having children is what you did when you were old enough or rather when it was the right time (from societal expectations, religion, and/or peer pressure) so I submitted to it.

When my husband expressed he was not ready for children then later admitted he never wants children I had to sit down and evaluate the situation. I certainly understood his concerns economically, for the changes it would bring to our relationship and way of life, and having to worry about another person for the next 18+ years. I could have left to pursue a relationship where children were in the future but what came to mind is that I would not have left if he was sterile... I married him so we could spend our life together not to have a live-in sperm donor.

After taking about a year of self-reflection, research, considering the pros and cons, and then working as a nanny for years I realized I like my freedom, children are a financial strain, a mother will never be an individual–she will live for two or even through her child, while I'm patient I'm not patient enough, my body will change, I have lots of health problems that would put a child or myself at risk, I could end up caring for a child with MR or other extreme health conditions, and my relationship would change with my husband.

I have no doubts that I'd be a good mother or that my husband would be a great father. I've continued working as a nanny because I have a knack for it, bringing joy to children, being a positive role model, bringing aid to mothers, etc is something I see myself doing for the rest of my life–as an 8-5 career.

I know I'd give up my life for my offspring/live for their happiness—I'm just not ready to lose my identity. I also think if you aren't 100% you shouldn't be a parent, it would lead to resentment and putting a child in the middle of an unhappy/difficult situation. It's not like you can't change your mind or adopt later if you regret not having children but you can't exactly take back a child if you regret it.

Essentially I feel like my husband made me realize I have the choice, in choosing love (staying with him) over the financial, mental, and physical strain of a future child. I choose to live a life for myself and be happy with what I have.

My mother is happy with my choice, she thinks I'm lucky I don't have to struggle with parenthood and put my fragile body through a pregnancy. My father thinks that there is nothing wrong with our decision to see the world and just wants my happiness. My youngest sister was glad I don't want children because it made it easier for her to admit she doesn't want any either.

My husband and I have been together 9 years and our relationship is stronger than ever. We've also met great childfree couples by joining childfree groups.

Tomorrow I get an IUD so that I can prevent pregnancy without taking the pill. Though I wanted my tubes tied but was told I'm too young. I'm old enough to vote, drink, etc but not old enough to control my fertility.

—Amy

I know I’d give up my life for my offspring/live for their happiness—I’m just not ready to lose my identity.

Reasons why my husband and I are not having children:

1. I have $70,000 in student debt and work in a field that is far from lucrative. We live in Boston where rents are sky high. Basically, we don't want to raise a child with the poverty that we grew up with. Neither of us got help to pay for college, and we will NOT put that burden on our child.

2. Meat. Humans are meat eaters. We buy meat for ourselves that is humanely raised and butchered (when we can). Most humans cannot be healthy on a vegetarian diet. However, industrial farming is way too cruel to the animals. It's a conundrum. Our answer is to not give birth to other beings that need dead animals to be healthy.

3. I personally think it is unethical to have children. I would have liked to have had the choice to not have been born. Since I can't give that choice to a child before it is born, it is not ethical to give that child life in the first place.

—Betsy, Massachusetts

I got married in 1971, and I knew from the start I did not want kids. My husband agreed. He was busy getting a graduate degree and I had to work to support us. Many of my friends felt the same way, and we all read a book called The Baby Trap which confirmed for us that we were doing the right thing.

My husband finished his degree and we moved and both got good jobs making good salaries. I knew, however, that if I had children, they would be MINE; my responsibility, my work. I also knew that he was not about to agree to have me quit my job and stay home with children. He was too fond of money to let that happen.

Therefore, I elected not to take on TWO full time jobs for the next 25 years or so.

There came a time about the time in his early forties when his golf game was in the dumpster, that he said he would like to think about having some kids. I was properly horrified, but I agreed, since he was not going to demand that I keep my day job, but it turned out that he was infertile by that time.

We took on some foster children, but six months of that persuaded him that he had made the right decision in the first place.

I have NEVER missed having offspring, and I don't think he has either. We love our nieces and nephews and we both enjoy spending time with them and spoiling them.

So I guess that our inclination to remain childless had its roots in my laziness.....but we are still married and I think having had no children has a lot to do with that.

—Anonymous, Wisconsin

I think I can answer this question because I'm the only woman I know in my position who has kids. Let me explain. I have a Ph.D . and I'm a university professor and I have two sons, but none of the women I knew in graduate school or became friends with later had children. In fact, none of them even married. The expectations in the work force are tremendous in the United States...a country that doesn't believe in rest, family outings, or "down time." To be really successful, one needs to be totally focused on the job. In may case, how could I leave my children and go off and do research, especially since my husband works. I made it happen but it was so hard on the children, a terrible emotional struggle every time I went off on a research trip. The cost of research is also very high and schools are no longer raising faculty salaries as they were in the past. In 12 years I've had 3 raises, none in the last 5 years. So who can afford children?

I know by trying to "have it all" I've ruined my own health and impoverished myself. My single, childless colleagues at least have time to breath and can put a little away in savings. I'd love my children, but the paradigm changed on me and I don't have the time or money to be a parent. I think many have figured this out. American rewards corporate business. Academics are devalued, especially in the humanities. This wouldn't have been the case in the past. For all these reasons, I think professional women realize they don't have enough to give to have children. It's just not possible in this country. In the past there was much talk about the breakdown of the family—then it was focused on divorce. But in fact, excessive focus in this country on work and productivity makes home life almost impossible now. As Americans we have little balance.

—Annette FC, VA

I'm still young, so whenever I begin telling someone I do not plan on having children, ever, they always say "Well, you're young, you'll meet a nice man, you'll change your mind." It doesn't help that I'm from the south... I don't think women are bred to really do anything else.

Why don't I want children? Well, I want to live my own life. I want to live for me, and I'm ok sounding selfish about it. It's really simple as that. I want to be able to go where I want to go, do what I want to do, be with who I want to be with. I don't want to be a role model, I don't want to deal with children's good moods and bad moods, I don't want to be responsible for someone else's well being. I'm still learning how to live my own life to be happy, I don't want to lose sight of that.

It's so funny because right now my friends are having children so they can be grown by the time they're retired... and so then they can live their lives and travel and do whatever they want. Why can't they just skip that step to begin with? Why is it mandated that the next step after marriage is children?

I have to admit dating is weird because I need to let it known up front that I'm not interested in that sort of future. It seems as if, at first, it's a dream situation for the guy... but I think at some point their own biological clock starts ticking, and they realize that might not be the future they envisioned. I can understand that, simply, because I don't see myself compromising either.

My mom still doesn't want to believe she'll be the only person she knows without grand children. Sorry mom.

—Anonymous, LA