Why I Choose to Be Child-Free: Readers Share Their Stories- by Harry Siegel
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 email@example.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 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.
I always knew that having children was a choice and not an inevitability.
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 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.
People have children is to glorify their own ego. Then, once they have the child and it’s not the next Jesus, they are disappointed.
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.
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.
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!
It's better to regret not having kids then having them and regretting it.
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.
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.
No matter how far we have come, women still do the lion's share of child rearing and housework.
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.
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!
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 can't afford a child if I don't work. If I have a child, getting and keeping work will be harder.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
The best way of ensuring you won’t damage your children is by not having any.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We have great sex and the freedom to move where we please when we please.
When we want a hit of kid-ness, we have nine nieces and nephews to spend time with.
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 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 also recognize that I’m selfish, and want to do what I want to do, when I want to do it.
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.
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 know I’d give up my life for my offspring/live for their happiness—I’m just not ready to lose my identity.