Motherhood

8 Women on Choosing Not to Have Kids

8 Women on Choosing Not to Have Kids

We talk a lot about the many shapes families take. So, what about those of us who choose not to parent? Here, we spoke to eight women about how and why they decided to remain child-free…

Lauren, 34
When I was in high school, the thought of having children always felt like part of some abstract future plan. I thought about it the same way I did marriage and career, assuming I’d feel the desire for children someday. It’d just happen. Eventually.

Fast forward to my late twenties, and suddenly the pressure was unwavering. The second I got engaged, the baby talk started, mostly from older family members. The more questions I got, the more I started to worry. Why wasn’t I yearning for a baby? I’d had friends cry in my arms about their fertility struggles, and while my heart ached for them, I couldn’t imagine what that felt like to want something with every fiber of your being. I felt like I was somehow broken.

As I’d done with any major life decision, I started researching the hell out of it, devouring books and papers on parenthood. I learned I wasn’t alone in my uncertainty, and it gave me immense relief to realize there were other women choosing to remain childfree.

There are plenty of valid reasons to not have kids, but what it came down to for me was how I felt in my heart. Do I feel guilty that my parents will never have grandchildren? Of course. Do I look at the sweet faces of children and wonder what mine would look like? All the time. Did I grieve for the ‘what if?’ — the loss of that theoretical other life? Absolutely. But I came to realize that for me, these aren’t reasons to bring a child into this world. I can’t make serious life decisions to fulfill the wishes of my family or to satisfy my curiosity. I have to live authentically, even if it means going against the norm.

Dana, 33
My boyfriend and I had been dating for about a year. The topic of kids had come up occasionally, but only in vague ways. Then we went out to a fancy dinner on New Year’s Eve. He gazed at me over the romantic candlelight and said, ‘So, I’ve been thinking…’ He paused. ‘Would it be okay if I don’t want to have kids?’ (Sweet timing, honey! I had to laugh.) Fortunately, we were on the same page. We recently got married and have no plans to have children. We have a pinball machine instead.

Wudan, 28
Growing up, it was never a question of if I would have children, but when. My mother, who’s a Chinese immigrant here in the U.S., always asked, sometimes aggressively, ‘When am I going to have grandchildren?’

I got to a point where I realized that having kids would throw my career for a curve. I’m a journalist who travels all the time, and I truly love my job. I know having kids requires so much energy, and that would take away from the energy I put into my work. Then recently, I did a story about a movement of people who are voluntarily choosing not to have children for the sake of the planet. Doing that piece got me to consider the effects of overpopulation and the beneficial impact of not having children. That’s when I made the decision.

Maria, 30
It’s funny, people often want me to have very concrete reasons for not having kids. But from a young age, I just had a lack of interest in motherhood — even in dolls or any kind of nurturing play. I was always open about it with my parents, and I’m lucky that they never put pressure on me.

By the time I was 20, I decided to pursue tubal ligation. I was on birth control at the time, and it was annoying to take a pill every day. And I knew I wasn’t going to have kids — I was very, very sure about it. It just seemed like the logical thing to do.

But, of course, I ran into a lot of people who felt very differently — and that was a bit of a shock. I had to go to five doctors in the end, before I was able to have the procedure. They would ask me, ‘How do you think your future husband will feel about this?’ That was incredibly patronizing, of course, but I would just say, ‘Well, I wouldn’t marry someone who wanted children.’ Again, it helped that my parents were great throughout the process — my mom, in particular. She’d been a single parent before marrying my stepdad; she understood the reality of raising a kid. She told me she’d support whatever decision I made.

When people ask me questions, it’s usually out of curiosity and not hostility. I live in Indiana, and the midwest is one of the friendliest places I’ve ever lived. I just smile and say, ‘Oh, I’m child-free. My husband and I don’t want children.’ Most of the time, people don’t press.

Charlotte, 33
I never wanted children. I haven’t ever related to the identity of a parent. My politics are also leftist and queer — and though many disagree, I see that as incompatible with performing unpaid reproductive labor.

Then I was diagnosed with breast cancer at 31. I had only a small window to preserve my eggs before starting chemotherapy, but my priority was to save my own life rather than potentially saving my fertility — especially knowing that if I did bring a child into the world, there was a real possibility I might leave him or her without a parent at a young age. There were other reasons, too — like the fact that my cancer is genetic. I also live in an expensive city in order to access top medical care, and I can’t imagine a world where I could pay for rent, treatment and the expenses associated with raising a child. Luckily, my parents, sister and close friends have been really understanding.

Kristen, 44
Before I got married at 20, my husband and I didn’t talk about whether we’d have kids. Still, I never thought it would be an issue. I thought it was always the wife who wanted kids and the husband just went along with it. But soon it became clear that my husband wanted a child. I had such an overwhelming — almost physical — negative reaction that I knew motherhood wasn’t for me. We had other issues, but this was an irreconcilable difference and we eventually got divorced over it.

So, with my second husband, I made sure to tell and re-tell him that I didn’t want children, before we got married. He assured me he was fine with it. But three years in, he admitted he’d always expected me to ‘come around’ to having kids and had assumed I was in a ‘phase.’ Again: irreconcilable differences.

Now, I’m happily married to someone who’s truly on the same page. I honestly don’t mind when people ask questions. I fully understand their curiosity — even I’m curious about why other people choose not to have kids. I’m actually more curious about the decision people make to have them. A child affects energy, finances, work life, romantic life, free time, stress levels. Isn’t that a much more interesting choice to make?

When people do express judgment, I try to be compassionate. And I know if someone is angry at me for not having kids, it’s probably because they’ve felt pressured themselves. We’re constantly bombarded by messaging from media, peers and family, saying, ‘Everyone does it! You’ll figure it out!’ What I’d like to see is more openness to answering questions about reproductive decisions on both sides. I think it could help shift the narrative that everyone should have children.

Debbie
I don’t have a clean or neat answer, but I think it comes down to sovereignty over myself, my body, my mind and my life choices. I am a first generation Taiwanese immigrant. When I was seven, my dad borrowed money from the wrong people. To be safe, he sent my mom, and four-year-old sister and me to California to live with my maternal grandparents, my uncle, and his wife. All seven of us lived in one house, like many Asian families do, and even as a young child I knew very little was mine and mine alone. The financial hardships my mom endured first as an immigrant and then an overstayed illegal immigrant made it extremely difficult for us to save money. We lived paycheck to paycheck and in constant fear of ICE and deportation.

As a kid, I never subscribed to the traditional family model with a mom, dad, 2.5 kids, and a dog. That wasn’t my family, for sure, and I saw children as financial burdens. I was acutely aware of the sacrifices my mom made for us and it broke (and continues to break) my heart. I told myself I would never let myself live like that as an adult. I am going to be self sufficient and my choices will be mine; and my life would never be just mine if I become a mother. I’ve made my peace with it even if many people don’t understand it.

Tracey, 35
I have always known in my heart that I am not called to be a mother. Over time, I came to see that I am meant to be an aunty. I myself have an amazing aunty who, along with my parents, helped shape me into who I am. When I was eight and we moved from a farm to the city, she was the one to soothe me. She gave me bath beads as a gift. Our old home didn’t have a bath, so this city bath was something special, because she made it so. She did the same with training bras. When I was 13, she replaced my mortifying beige one with a jazzy fluorescent number. She modeled the most important lesson about being in a child’s life: just show up.

Now it’s my turn, and I have 14 children who call me ‘aunty’ (I am the biological aunt to just two of them). If you’re a kid in my orbit and I love you, I’m yours, for life. Recently, my friend’s five-year-old did a school project where he traced his hand and then, for each finger, he drew a face and labeled it with the name of someone who is a ‘safe person’ — someone he can trust and go to in tricky situations. I am extremely honored to report to the world that ‘Aunty Tracey’ was awarded the prestigious appointment of Thumb!

It hasn’t always been easy to be the outlier as a non-mum. It was a hard slog sometimes, wanting something different from my peers. But as these kids grow up, telling me their hopes and dreams in a way they don’t always with their own parents, I am more sure than ever that this is my calling. This isn’t second prize, it’s an alternate first.

Thank you so much to those who generously shared their stories! Would you like to have kids? Or not? Or are you on the fence? We’d love to hear your thoughts…

P.S. Five CoJ readers share why they chose not to have kids, and my friend Corrie on being completely ambivalent.

(Illustration by Leah Goren for Cup of Jo. A few names have been changed to protect privacy.)

  1. Anna says...

    I remember driving with my mom in the car for an interview and having her remind me of my “criminal record” I had in grade school after beingce caught trespassing in my old abandoned school..now in my 20s.. and I also remember the time she asked me if I wanted kids…at the time, I was interviewing for a better job, living alone. ..not even with a boyfriend and I found myself replying..”No..I don’t want kids ..right now.” Without questioning anything she immediately fired off “that is the most selfish thing I’ve ever heard” I went on to explain the fact that I wasn’t financially stable yet, nor have I even met the guy I was supposedly having kids with but that maybe I just didn’t feel the calling most women have and isn’t it better to reflect on that than to have kids out of wanting them apart from mutual love and for your own reasons, may they be selfish? I’m almost 50 now with no kids, but w two nieces I adore and yes..I am regretful for not having children but not for the reasons you would think..I regret not having the experience but for whatever reason it wasn’t meant to be.

  2. Karen says...

    I never wanted kids. They always seemed unpleasant and foreign. Babies never seemed cute. I made it clear to any mates that it was non-negotiable, and they were on board or gone.

    Lately, though, I’ve been wondering about the role formative experiences and chronic self-hatred have had to play in my decision to be child-free. In my teens, I based everything I didn’t want to be on everything I grew up with, but never truly replaced it with something positive. I always assumed I’d be a terrible parent because of my inability to be a balanced, positive person with decent self-esteem. Has anyone else made the decision not to repreodduce for possibly the wrong reasons? I still don’t want kids, but am now questioning a whole life of decisions based on depression and bad parenting. I used to be able to cover this up with the feeling of freedom, but now that I’m older and looking back, I feel like I was just wasting time and being selfish, all in the name of burying self-loathing as deep as possible, and I am anything but free.

    I’m so confused. Don’t tell me to seek therapy. I know. Just wondering if anyone else has chosen childlessness this partially based on feelings that they would offer nothing to a child.

  3. Jen says...

    I think I grew up with the thought of getting married and having kids because that’s what the other women in my family did. Ever since being my with Husband when I really think about kids there is such uncertainty. I religiously take my birth control and get scared of the thought of accidentally getting pregnant. He is aware of this and says he would be fine with going either way, which is great but then it just feels like the decision is mine to make. I wonder what if he regrets the decision I make and I don’t want to be the only one making that decision for us. He is so relaxed about the whole thing…

    Now that I turned 29 this year I’m thinking about this decision a lot. The more I think about it the more I realized I don’t think I want to have my own kids, being pregnant, taking time off work, etc. I see friends having kids, one who currently has a newborn and a 1 year old, just makes me think that I would never want to be in her situation. The idea of kids someday isn’t completely off the table for me but I think it would be to most likely adopt and give a child a home. I don’t feel a natural push to be a mother and have children. I know I would be a good parent and people tell me that but it isn’t a good enough reason for me to have a child…

  4. Margaret says...

    I turn 50 years old this year, and I am very happily child-free. What I love most about this article and the comments is how different they are than the articles I read 10-12 years ago when I was deciding what to do. Back then it seemed like 90% of the women who explained their decision did so based on negative reasons – e.g., because they struggled with health issues, or financially, or lacked faith in their abilities to parent. But the particular way they described the link between these very real problems and the parenting decision was to basically say “I don’t want to become a parent because there is something wrong with me.” I didn’t identify with that because my reluctance stemmed from my fear of losing what I loved about my life – having lots of time to spend with my husband, a demanding and socially meaningful career, financial security that would have eroded if a child were added to the mix. I’m so happy to see women talking about this decision without being so awfully hard on themselves. And I can report to you younger women currently struggling with your own decision: My husband and I celebrate this child-free life all the time. Although I have felt wistful about kids a few times over the years, I have never experienced something as sharp as regret. Choosing not to have children can be a very affirming, loving choice.

    • Sharon says...

      I’m 45 and embracing my decision to be child free. But lately I’ve been afraid that I’ll regret it in 5, 10, 20 years. It’s nice to read that you feel it’s been a life affirming, loving choice for you. I also have meaningful work and a wonderful relationship (finally). Thank you for sharing this, it brings me peace and reassurance :)

  5. Kelly says...

    Thank you so much for publishing this article. I went back and re-read this piece multiple times because pieces from each story deeply resonated with me. My childhood was spent being the “responsible adult” as an only child to one of my parents. I’m now free of that responsibility and able to focus on myself and embrace the glory of investing in my future and who I am and want to become. I’m 36, living in a big city with a flourishing career and just started graduate school. I’m surrounded by wonderfully intelligent, driven, compassionate, nurturing and loyal friends who are also childless, and like me, single. We travel, we go to bed at 8:30pm some nights, we stay out late drinking wine and simply enjoying one another. Still being single and not wanting children makes for interesting dating at times — many men are astonished at how definite my decision is…some seem relieved and others almost intimidated, oddly. Knowing that I do not have to obtain an objective that’s based on my body’s biological clock is a relief and has let me relish in this lovely life I get to live each day.

  6. Nessa Bixler says...

    Growing up, I was not a bbay person.
    Kids were fine, but infants freightened me to my core. I broke out in a cold sweat holding them, even for a second. But, everyone wants a family, right? I decided I would have one child when I was in my early 30’s and even imagined myself with my daughter, older never a baby, doing life together.

    Fast forward to me at age 27, career taking off and a promotion imminent. I decided I needed to have that baby now so I could be back and piosed to take that promotion. I did not want to be pregnant or on maternity leave when it was ladder climbing time. It took way longer than I expected to get pregnant. Truly after a few months I was thinking I was infertile. A you can see, I was a psychotic planner and box checker. Down to the month of delivery for unconcieved baby.

    Once I was promoted and promoted agon then pregnant, real life began to chip away at all my ideas and notions of what was going to happen. Bedrest, a very long recovery with complications, a colicy newborn and caring for that newborn shattered my preconceptions and plans into bits. I changed a grew so much in that year. I was all hard edges and strait lines before my baby softened me.

    My colleagues, my family, my husband and even myself really liked the new version of myself. Having a baby and being a mom made me more fluid, more open and more grounded. Sitting perfectly still, in fear any movement would wake the baby who just screamed for hours on end, (before smart phones) gives much time for thoughts and just the art of doing nothing. Something I never did.

    So here I am, a mom of 4 now. I added each baby think they would be the very last, and then found myself loving each edge these new lives softened or removed. The character and changes they created in my own person has surprised me.

    Funniest thing of all is that I understand ten fold more the reason people deceide to not have children. I will say I morning my child-free days weekly… sometimes hourly. But I also know that I love myself more now as a mom of 4 than I did before.

  7. R. says...

    I always thought that I would have one child. But when I was a teenager my mom gave birth to my brother in her second marriage at 36 years old and I was the one who first noticed that he was developmentally delayed.

    My brother is a wonderful person. He’s on the spectrum (low IQ) but without any official diagnosis. He isn’t able to get a driver’s license and has difficulty grasping spelling and math–the latter making it nearly impossible for him to ever manage his own money. He still lives at home now that he is 26 and probably always will. My mom loves him very much and is happy to have him there for company, but even she admits that it can be difficult sometimes.

    Because of this family experience, when I saw myself ending a relationship at 31, I knew that I only had a short window of time that I would feel comfortable thinking about starting a family. The risk factors seem to pile up after 35. After another relationship ended at 33, the vague urge to have one child started to diminish on its own. I realized around 36 that I had no inclination to have a child at all. I’m now 39 and many of my friends are having their first or second child. It’s uncomfortable to have to assure those friends that I am truly happy with my choice to not pursue pregnancy. These friends, even those closest to me, always seem to throw in a too-earnest “you still have time!” It’s such a awkward thing to have to restate my true wishes to them over and over.

    I wish that more moms would consider that maybe your childless friends aren’t trying to make small some “secret desire” to have children and believe that we have made informed decisions. I know they are only trying to be caring friends but the care is misplaced and only seems to widen the gap between the “moms” and the childless friends near-and-over-40.

  8. Jude says...

    I feel the utmost respect for those folk (both men and women) who make a conscious decision to not have children.
    I feel sad for those who would like to have children, but for many and varied reasons, are not able to.
    I also feel respect for those folk who make a conscious decision to have children.
    What I struggle with is the (perhaps majority of?) people who drift into parenthood because of external pressures, because ‘that’s what you do’, because that’s what the family/societal expectation is.
    I believe very strongly that no child should be brought into this world without being chosen and cherished.
    I salute all those who actually make a choice, either way, rather than living by pressure or default.

  9. Jen says...

    I’m 45 and have been in a committed relationship for almost 12 years. Neither of us had a strong desire to have kids. My partner’s family is an angry, crazy, tangled web (think: multiple marriages, a bevy of half-siblings who resented each other and fought constantly, lawsuits, years of no contact, etc.), and he had a traumatic childhood. He loves children but never wanted any of his own. I grew up as an only child in a (non-religious), stable, loving household, but even still, I never had that overwhelming desire to bring my own children into this world. For us, not having children has given me freedom to focus on my career and be adventurous in taking new opportunities across the country. We added a fur-baby to the mix a few years ago and obsessively dote on his sweet self. I am complete.

  10. Disan says...

    I love the idea of being an alternate first as an aunt! What a beautiful calling and what lucky kids. :)

  11. Karlene says...

    I was that girl. The one who always wanted kids and swooned over every little baby. I had a biological clock at 14. But then came puberty and the pain and the doctors not believing me and the years of wondering if I was crazy. Now I’m 33, I have 4 endo surgeries under my belt (literally), and I just can’t imagine putting something the size of a bowling ball in my pelvis. Maybe I’ll adopt one day when I’m done living life not tied to a heating pad. Maybe I won’t. I just don’t know anymore.

  12. Christina says...

    Up until this year, I didn’t want children. I still believe you can have a fufilled life wothout them. My husband and I came to an agreement we would have one. I delievered a premature baby who didn’t live, and the loss has been so much more profound than I thought it would be. Some of that is guilt because I wasn’t excited about him. I didn’t want random babies, but when I saw him, I wanted this one. So we are hopeful to get the chance again. I don’t feel the desperate need to hold a baby, diapers make me queezy, I don’t feel terribly maternal, but I love the idea of helping shape a new mind, teaching them but also re-learning life through his or her eyes. But, though it’s hard now, if it isn’t meant to happen, I will be OK.

    • Meg says...

      I’m so sorry about your boy.

    • J says...

      Oh Christina- I’m so sorry for your loss. What was his name? I’m sure he was absolutely beautiful.
      You sound like a dear friend of mine- she never wanted children but eventually came around to the idea that she want one (although that’s not the shift many women who don’t want to be matters make and that’s just right for them). She’s currently pregnant with twins and I can sense her fear of a) only wanting 1 and 2) not being excited enough and now having high risk pregnancy.
      You desires for your future child are so wonderful and thoughtful- I’m keeping you and your hopes in my thoughts. Be kind to yourself- wishing you all of the best.

    • Ashley says...

      I am so sorry for your loss Christina. My heart goes out to you ❤️

  13. Lindsay says...

    I’d love a post about women on the fence. I’m dating and 39 and on the fence. My heart pulls when I see my friends’ Christmas cards with three kids. But I also treasure my career and single life – particularly my friendships. So what do I want? It’s terribly difficult.

    • Rachel says...

      I spent years and years on the fence. I never felt a strong pull toward motherhood, but I love spending time with children and strongly value family. While on the fence, I devoured everything I could find (books, articles, blog posts) written by women who had spent time on the fence. Although I can’t remember any piece in particular, I highly recommend reading things written by women who also spent time on the fence and made varying decisions with varying results. The variety of perspectives and how they turned out really helped me make a decision (no children). It has also helped me deal with my occasional doubts that seem to arise more often when I see my husband (who also doesn’t want children) playing with our friends’ children. I could imagine us being parents, and being good at it, but when I revisit the possible scenarios and our reasons for not having children, I can once again embrace our decision.

    • Elyse says...

      I am so happy to read all of you, I wish it could bring some answers but I know I am the only one that can answer myself. I am almost 31 years old, my sister committed suicide 8 years ago because she suffered from paranoid schizophrenia. I have no other sibling. We had such an amazing childhood our little bubble as a family was amazing, we were so close and loving. Then the sickness came and destroyed her starting at 16. As a family we held up, went to therapies, conferences, became almost pharmacist, tried everything but at 19 she committed suicide. The pain was unbearable, althought in shock we never ever were angry with her. I was 22, it changes my perception in life and about a possible family. My aunt has borderline personnality, my cousin and probably grandma schizophrenia my mother depression and now i had depression too after her death. I am much better now, feeling like myself again for a few years. 4 years ago I fell in love with my spouse who has 2 daughters from a previous relationship, now 12 & 8 yrs old. I am a childless stepmom, we have them 50% of the time. It has been so difficult at times. At first I thought I would get the sentiment the bond, we have one but it will never be the one between parent and child. They already have both parents present. Younger I just imagined wanting children would happen at some point, but I never desired it. Now I am so confused. I don’t want children of my own because I simply don’t feel strong about it and would only bring a child in this crazy world if I would completely be sure and joyful about it. But I am wondering is it the context? My parents will never have a grandchild As I am now alone. I long for the bond I have with them and feel often lonely, an outsider, but never with my parents (now separated but we are all very close still) but having a child does not mean I would have the same family, not even sure I can trust a man enough, separation rates are exploding, the overpopulation, the mental health genetics. Just so many things but simply, my desire isn’t strong enough. My situation seems so complex and rare I feel lost.

  14. Megan says...

    This Dear Sugar column came out around the panicky time in my late thirties when I had to know NOW what I intended in terms of babies in the face of some ambivalence. Her words were clarifying at the time, and I still think about them. I decided not to have children, and sometimes I dream about the children I decided not to have. But that life was never mine.

    “My point is not that you should have a baby, Undecided. It’s that possibly you expect to have a feeling about wanting to have a baby that will never come and so the clear desire for a baby isn’t an accurate gauge for you when you’re trying to decide whether or not you should have one. So what then, is an accurate gauge?

    …I’ll never know and neither will you of the life you don’t choose. We’ll only know that whatever that sister life was, it was important and beautiful and not ours. It was the ghost ship that didn’t carry us. There’s nothing to do but salute it from the shore.”
    https://therumpus.net/2011/04/dear-sugar-the-rumpus-advice-column-71-the-ghost-ship-that-didnt-carry-us/

    • Kristen says...

      Thansk for linking to this article, Megan. This column is one of my favorite Dear Sugar columns, and one that I think about often when contemplating the paths I didn’t take. I hope others read this and find the same solace that I do.

    • I refer to that particular Dear Sugar column and the ghost ship metaphor more times than I can count!

    • Mel says...

      Oh my gosh, yes!! That’s one of her columns that has lingered with me through the years, that I’ve returned to over and over–“the ghost ship that didn’t carry us”. It’s so good and so insightful.

  15. Mar says...

    This is me: I know I would be an amazing mother, I love childrens, I’m very maternal, I’m in a loving realitionship with someone who that I’m sure can be amazing father also…. but I can ignore the world that we live in… the violence, the economic crisis, the climate change, the overpopulation…. I just don’t think I have what it takes to have a kid in this context and posible future …

    • Holly says...

      Mar, this is my situation as well. Any time I feel a warm “ping” when I think about maybe having children, serious concerns about climate change and lack of natural resources on our overpopulated planet come rushing into my head. That being said, my husband and I are starting to have serious conversations about fostering or possibly adopting down the road, and that is a path I am definitely interested in exploring. There are so many children out there who need a home, so if I decide I want to grow my family, that is probably what I’ll do. Best of luck to you.

  16. bp says...

    I would really appreciate a conversation on the life path that ends up in being childless, even if that wasn’t your intention. Wanting and trying and doing all the things, but it turns out traditional motherhood isn’t going to be your role and you have to grieve that loss and find your best life with a hand of cards you never expected would be yours.

    • Emily says...

      I second that. – Emily, who posted about having recently lost my fiancé.

    • I would greatly appreciate a post on that too. It’s my dream to be a mother, the biggest dream out of all the dreams I have, but its most likely highly contingent on finding the right guy for me. A post specifically on women who longed to be a mother, but it didn’t happen or they ended up adopting or having one on their own would be fascinating. (I know Alyssa Shelasky has contributed posts, but more please!) I’m only 28, almost 29, but I do wonder how could I possibly build a life that I’m fully happy with if I don’t have a family

      Even though I know Joanna and team can’t possibly respond to all our post requests, I love that this space feels enough like ours, that we feel like we have a say and people feel like suggesting all kinds of posts! I like that. Us readers, make this the place it is.

    • Kristy says...

      Yes, I read through a number of comments that were taking a philosophical angle that I hadn’t really though about…that life is really more of a mixture of choices and not choices… a sliding balance between possibility and impossibility before ultimately deciding, as sometimes our decision is partially decided for us.

      In the context of this topic, dealing with even a percentage of fertility issues, or preferring to raise (biological) children with a partner that does not exist.

      I also think it’s interesting that there is very little religion mentioned in these decisions to have children (or not), because I think that maybe some people who believe in an afterlife wouldn’t put as much emphasis on the environmental, financial, etc. cons of having (biological) children.

    • Jo says...

      BP that is me (I’m actually the sister of Tracey in this post)

      I recently shared the story of my journey with Liz Ellis for her book on fertility… here is a link to one of the stories about her book… it isn’t journey that features in the article.

      https://www.mamamia.com.au/liz-ellis-if-at-first-you-dont-conceive/

    • NPH says...

      I would really like a post on this too. We are staring down the possibility we will never be able to have biological children. It is lonely and hard and sad. We know there are other options – surrogacy or adoption – but it’s a grieving process for sure.

  17. Nicole says...

    I’m very happy to see this post. The pressure to have children in this society just because “that’s what you do” isn’t a good reason to have children. I’m 40 now and as a child, I loved my dolls and I always assumed I would be a mother one day. As an adult, “one day” never came. My therapist told me once “Inaction is an action”. I finally realized by consistently using birth control and never wanting to try and become pregnant that I didn’t want to have children. I’m happy with my husband and my cats. I often wonder in awe of how people manage this crazy life with children. As the wonderful Amy Poehler said “Good for her! Not for me.”

  18. Thank you for this post. I’ve never had strong feelings about having kids, but would be open to it if it was something my partner wanted. My committed partner doesn’t want marriage or kids, and I don’t doubt his commitment to me, just his views on these things. I love our life, but I don’t want to wake up at 50 with dying parents and no family of my own although I have a much younger sister who will have kids. I feel like I have so much power to veer my life in the direction I want it to go, but not over whether I will have kids or not and that’s what I struggle with right now.

  19. BLBS says...

    I’ve never wanted to have kids. It wasn’t a choice I made, it was a desire that never appeared. Husband feels the same way, and when my OB-GYN asked at my appointment after our wedding (I was 34) if we wanted to have kids, I said, “no,” and his reply was “one of you should get fixed, then.” Husband happily went along.

    I will say that the one painful consequence of this has been fights over family heirlooms. My only sibling/only other grandchild on that side feels entitled to and has taken most everything. It’s something to consider for those who don’t have children: the potential to be treated like not having had children disqualifies you from enjoying family heirlooms during life.

    • Nina Nattiv says...

      You’re family is just wrong about heirlooms. I have a stunning old tea set (that we recently found out is worth a fortune) and my daughters will have it until the next great-grandchild is old enough to want it (up next is a chubby 1 year old boy so we’ve got time). Fight for your right for heirlooms!

  20. Lily Ruiz Romero says...

    There’s an episode in Nurse Jackie where she tells her colleague something along the lines of “there are many reasons to have children and many reasons not to”. I totally agree! I really like Kristen’s point in this article about the decision to have children (versus to not have children) being perhaps the weightier decision to make. I also love Tracey’s approach with being involved in many different children’s lives. Great article!

  21. Sophia Mellein says...

    Thank you for this post. I have always known I don’t want kids. The number of times someone has told me that I will change my mind is astonishing and frustrating. The number of times people have looked at me in judgment because I proudly say I would like my career and not a child to be the center of my life is upsetting. In a world where starting a family feels like the only choice that is publicized, this type of post with so many examples of woman making a different choice is really refreshing.

    • Mara says...

      It really is astonishing, isn’t it? I try to swallow my frustration and say, in a cheerful/upbeat tone, “Wow, sounds like you know me even better than I know myself!” It gives me great satisfaction because 99% of the time it’s someone who barely knows me at all, like a friend of my parents or a work acquaintance.

    • Becca says...

      I can’t imagine how irritating that must be! I wonder if people make those comments to men. It seems as a woman whether you stay home, work, have children or stay childless someone ALWAYS has an opinion and they are too happy to share it.

    • Nicole says...

      They don’t make those comments to MEN. That is so irritating. The other thing that frustrates me is when you say you don’t want kids, suddenly you are labeled as a kid hater. I like kids and enjoy being around them very much. I love my niece. That is probably the thing that makes me the most angry.

  22. I can’t tell you how much these stories meant to me. Lauren’s words feel like they were ripped straight out of my own mind and feelings about wanting to remain child-free. It’s been a complicated journey to accepting my truth as OK in a world full of presumptuous questions, comments, and expectations. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for making me feel so much less alone today. :)

    • Alyssa says...

      I agree with this sentiment! These comments are oh so refreshing and make me feel so much less alone! I just got married 3 weeks ago, am only 25, and the pressure to have kids is already being laid on pretty thick! I am completely undecided, but leaning towards no children, and it’s frustrating and heartbreaking when people say “you’ll change your mind” or basically- “how sad”. And when they think you must be a child hater is the worst of all! Like others have said, I do love children….. but don’t necessarily want one of my own. This doesn’t mean I hate all children! I am hopeful that someday, society will be a bit more understanding of why some people choose to have kids instead of acting like it is the most horrid thing. Until then- smiles and grace for everyone asking me when – not if- I’m going to have children :)

  23. I’m almost 50 (in July! Wha?!?!), married for almost 20 years, and no kids.

    Happily.

    Even as a child, I veered away from dolls, straight to stuffed animals. By high school, I knew my mind well enough to say out loud “no kids”.
    That has not changed.

    I got lucky and met a partner who felt the same way. Actually he’s more intense about it – he doesn’t really enjoy kids at all. I do like some, but not all, because hey, they’re human beings and you’re not going to click with everyone.

    I’ve never had to really defend my choice on a personal level: my family and in-laws have always been fine with it, but on a societal level, it’s been harder. Even though I’m confident in my own mind, I still wobbled a little, mostly out of fear. But maturity grants you gifts, one of which is that you get to calm down and shut out a lot of the nonsense of other people.

    I know now that there is not a single path I could have walked in this life that would be free of all doubts and fears. There is good and bad in all things. You must live true to yourself, and that matters most of all when it comes to being responsible for someone else. In a marriage and with kids. In any relationship, really. Don’t lie – the other person will always know. You deny yourself, and you deny them their agency when you aren’t true. I am Me, and I’ve always been as honest as possible about that.

    So, here at the edge of 50, I can safely say I’m content with my choice to be child-free. It was the path that made the most sense to me, that rang true the loudest. It does mean I have to be a bit more thoughtful about care issues as I age, but that’s fine. I take responsibility for that.

    So, my sisters who are a few years behind me: trust your heart, and your head. It won’t always be easy, no matter what you choose, but if you go deep, past expectations, fears, and all the other noise, you’ll find it. I support and cheer you on, no matter what form your journey takes!

    • Sam says...

      I am so grateful for your perspective. I’ve done more thinking and researching and self-searching about it than probably anyone who chose to have a child but there aren’t all that many women to look to who have chosen to not have children, like I have. I agree that it’s a matter of a road not traveled but that there are lots of roads I won’t travel. I’ll never know what it’s like to be a mom (just like moms won’t usually know what it’s like to not be a mom in their 50s), but I also won’t know what it’s like to be a boy, or a supermodel, or an astronaut, or the captain of a ship. I’ll get to know and do a whole lot of things I choose (and don’t choose), though, and that’s pretty amazing.

  24. Erin says...

    I’ve always been relatively uninterested in having children and feel that I lucked out not having to have that conversation with a partner because my future husband is sterile due to a childhood illness. Maybe we will adopt in the future (my future husband is adopted as are many in his extended family), maybe we will just enjoy life with our two dogs.

    I have found people to be very understanding about my not wanting to have kids and haven’t had any negative blowback. I live in an expensive city, have a full personal and professional life, and work in a very diverse, supportive environment-people have been understanding, respectful and kind about it.

    The funniest though is when people say “you never know!” when I say my fiancé is sterile. Uh, yes, it’s for real.

  25. Mary says...

    Thank you so much for posting this. It’s nice to hear all these varied perspectives.

  26. Rita says...

    My husband and I were faced with the extremely difficult decision recently, to decline my BIL/SIL’s request to have us to their baby’s in-case-of-emergency guardian. My husband and I are in our late 30’s and happily childfree. This was his brother we’re talking about, and oh how I cried, sobbed, for DAYS over this decision. The fact is that I absolutely love our life as it is – we are considering moving abroad, in fact – and being a child’s guardian [off chance, but you never know] would 100% go against everything I want out of life. The child has dozens of wonderful, local kid-friendly family members, so I was curious what brought them to this decision (husband and I are the only childfree couple in the entire extended family). They said they thought of us “since” (??) we aren’t planning to have children, which I found most perplexing a statement because why leave a child with a couple who doesn’t want their own kids? They also said that they value our values, our outlook on life, our responsibility with money, level-headedness, etc. I was so anguished over this decision… my confidants tried to get me to see that this was a compliment to us. But ultimately we met in person and had to formally decline, saying that we couldn’t give the baby what he most deserved out of life, the best life. BIL/SIL were a bit taken aback and quiet, but respected our well thought out decision. To this day I still feel completely rotten about it, and I think my husband would have said yes off the bat had he been married to someone not SO opposed to children. I can’t even describe the panic I experienced that week before we met back up with BIL/SIL, thinking about losing our freedom and moving back to the hometown that I’m trying to get away from, to raise a child. [I’ll say that if the baby had very few others, of course we would step in]

  27. Lydia says...

    I love this. Thank you. I am a mom and I think we need to have this conversation much more frequently and openly.

  28. steph says...

    I could write a book about this and the phases I’ve gone through regarding being childless. What is the funniest is at 49, I’m STILL getting “you’ve got time” remark! lol

    • Kate says...

      I would read that book!!

  29. Envytee says...

    I recently turned 36, and have always felt ambivalent to having children. I watched my mother struggle as a single mother to twin girls, and I never wanted to live that life. I always prioritized a partnership over children. I always imagined that when I met the right person, then that’s when I’d want to have children. I’m now with the man I plan to marry, and children are very much a big discussion as part of our future. The thought still terrifies me, but then the thought of seeing his eyes in our child, or watching him be the most amazing father, and having someone be a blend between us, tugs at my heart strings.

  30. Marie says...

    I so loved reading this post.

    I am 25 and although there is time to change and think things over (and I will, of course), at this point I really have no interest in having kids. I think babies are sweet, but I don’t love children generally. That’s one aspect in my mind.

    I am also very committed to my training path and future career and I just can’t imagine having kids and loving that, and still going after the career and life I want, at the level I want.
    I want to be a career woman, and while you can certainly be both, I don’t know if I personally can be, or if I want to be.

    I do feel bad that I feel this way sometimes, but it is the honest truth. I will remain open minded but it is so nice to read about others with some similar perspectives -thank you all for sharing!

  31. I LOVE posts like these. I thought that getting older would quiet the questions and eliminate the strong reactions I get from people about not wanting to be a mom. But even at 38, this topic still comes up and people still react so strongly to my admission that I don’t want children. No, not when I was younger; no, not now and certainly no, not later. And no, I’m not depriving my husband of kids, he doesn’t want to be a father. No, our parents don’t mind- out of my husband’s seven siblings and my four, we are the only ones that don’t have or want children. Of course I love kids! I’m the best auntie I can be to my 31 nieces and nephews. They are over all the time and get special one-on-one auntie dates. Our first great-niece was born over the summer, and I had the special honor of being in the delivery room to do labor and delivery photos for our niece. What a powerful thing childbirth is! And while I admire and respect woman who choose to be mothers, I still (and will always) choose not to do it myself. Thank you for sharing these stories <3

  32. Jo says...

    From another childfree-by-choice individual (who just turned 40), thank you for this post and for all the thoughtful comments!

  33. Jill says...

    This is exactly what a lot of women needed to hear. That we are not alone in wanting to take a different path, and that there is no need to feel guilty about going against the norm. It’s crazy that we have to give people a detailed explanation if we don’t want children, and I’ll happily be linking people to this article from now on!

  34. maryst says...

    Thank you so much to everyone who has shared their story here. I’ve never regretted my decision to not become a mother, but it can be an isolating situation nonetheless. Let’s be more respectful of each other’s choices. You should never feel forced into a certain way of life.

  35. Peta trendall says...

    “This isn’t second prize, it’s an alternate first”. What a wonderful, enlightening perspective.

    • Lee says...

      Agreed, that line was brilliant.

  36. R says...

    39, never ever wanted kids from my earliest memory and have been waiting for this post on this site for a long, long time and through many Motherhood Mondays where I’m bummed there’s nothing for us child free (and loving it!) folks to read here. We do enjoy being included in conversation.

    I have zero regret about not having kids, sailing into my infertile years, and do not enjoy the fact that in this world people like me are constantly questioned/ignored/belittled/judged for what for us is our own natural course. I’m proud to say despite the chorus of haters I have never doubted myself even once on this, and from a young age. Children are lovely for some, I’m sure, but plenty of us have no interest, which isn’t to say we are not lovely, warm and nurturing folks. We just make different life choices.

    Further (and separate from my own feelings about motherhood), when I see what’s happening with the planet, every time I hear of another friend or acquaintance having a child I think, what kind of future does that baby have? Why is the world not acting faster to stop climate change? Shouldn’t that alone be enough to drive people into action?

  37. Mara says...

    I am 36, married, childfree, and one of the biggest thorns in my side is the expectation that the happily childfree must tack on “…but I love children!” when saying they don’t plan to have any. All along I want to say “I don’t have children because I don’t like children.” I wish that women were more free to admit this and can wipe the plastered-on smile off their faces, and not feel society’s eyes beating down on them when, for instance, they’re in an elevator with a screaming brat pressing all the buttons, and the mother looks to the women in the elevator for sympathetic cooing. Just because we’re women it does not mean that by default we enjoy putting up with children.

    This article has become my childfree bible in a sense — too many great points to mention! https://medium.com/@krisgage/read-this-if-youre-not-sure-you-want-kids-c24c7895ebd5

    • Amber says...

      Thank you for saying this! I often feel pressured to add “but I love children” or “but I will totally show up for my friends’ children as they grow up” after I tell someone that I don’t plan to have children. That’s great for some, but not all.

      It’s very telling that the most popular comments on this post seem to involve women who don’t want children but who still provide a great deal of childcare. It seems that with women who don’t want children, we still value them more if they want to help raise children.

    • R says...

      yes to this!! so much pressure every day to smile along and prove you aren’t just an angry hater.

    • Me says...

      ^This.

      When I found out that I was going to be an aunt, I was very worried because I do not enjoy babies or small children – at all. I confessed this to a friend who told me, “it’s different when they’re from your gene pool.” He was right. I adored them from the moment they were born and loved to hold them. I also loved to hand them back to their mom when they needed to be fed or changed.

      Besides my nieces and nephews, I do like children of good friends. But babies and small kids in general – still no. I enjoy childfree time and spaces. I actually become irritated trying to spend time with friends in the presence of their children because it’s impossible to carry on a conversation without frequent interruptions. I’m just not a kid person.

    • Mara says...

      I totally agree about how it’s different when the children (your own nieces and nephews) are from your own gene pool, when you aren’t fond of kids in general. I’ve been around my husband’s nieces for years and can still barely tolerate them. But when my biological nieces came around, my love for them came fast and fierce; I’d die for them in a heartbeat. People expect that I love all my nieces and nephews the same. The secret is that, while I truly care for them all, the true love only falls with my biological nieces.

    • Jodi says...

      Hahahaha, yes to this! I don’t necessarily dislike children, but I made a very conscious choice not to have any. Period. No excuses, no explanations. I am not anyone’s favorite auntie, I don’t babysit other friend’s kids. I have a rich, full life that looks very different than most women my age (almost 50) but thankfully I have never felt obligated to play along with anything that doesn’t truly resonate with me. The fact that women like myself are still referred to as “childless” or that I do say, “Nope, no kids – by choice,” tells me that our society still has a long way to go in accepting what women (and men) choose (or don’t choose) to do with their life. Oh, and lastly, please don’t tell me your birth story, ugh!

  38. Rosie says...

    Tracey’s story made me cry! Being a trusted non-parent adult in a child’s life is such a necessary and important role, and every child should have such people close to them. I am a mother, but I am extremely grateful for those “childless” friends and relatives who relate to my children in ways that I’m not able, and who can provide them with different experiences and different forms of love. I think that role is not identified or celebrated nearly as much as it should be!

  39. Stacy says...

    I didn’t choose to be child free. I have always wanted children. Even from a young age I was the one taking care of the dolls and being the mom. Throughout life I always thought that I would have kids after getting married. Then I married my husband who I love a lot. He didn’t want too many children was even happy with none so he didn’t care either way. Well, after three years of trying we found out that we are infertile and weren’t able to. I wasn’t willing to go through the hormone treatments and such to “make” it happen so it was over. I mourned for a few years after but have come to realize that, as a teacher, I would have tons of children. I also am involved in many young people’s lives and I love helping them as I can. We will not be having children and I think I’m finally ok with it.

  40. Mel says...

    What a great post and what wonderful, insightful comments (as always!). I’m child-free by choice and not by choice. I have endometriosis and have never been able to get pregnant. After a number of years of surgeries and low-level fertility treatments with the resultant anxiety and depression, I opted to go on birth control pills; I literally felt like I needed to save my own life.

    Infertility was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever been through and yet. I couldn’t quiet my researcher brain–why have kids? There really is no need in our Americanized culture other than expectation and fulfillment of an emotional need. In the past, people had kiddos to either carry on the family name/business or to help out at the farm. SAHM/D with no extra help is a pretty recent phenomenon.

    I know for a lot of people they just know and will do whatever it takes to have a child. I never got there. My husband and I went so far as applying to adopt and in the midst of the home study we both realized we just weren’t ready to let go of our little life together–we feel enormously lucky to have each other and there’s something beautiful and lovely about dedicating time and energy in supporting and loving another person. I’m glad that I get to be the person who’s waiting for him at the finish line at 8 am at the end of a marathon. I’m glad that he cheers me on in my writing pursuits. It’s nice to know that that attention does not have to be split.

  41. T says...

    Re:regret.
    We can only go on the information at hand at the time, we can’t predict our futures accurately. Having children and not having them are equal leaps of faith for future happiness. For me, I trust my emotional ability to process, grieve and cope if in the future my desires don’t match up with my circumstance – many people have endured worse. So for now, I choose what I choose with the information I have and have faith I’ll survive it.

    • Mel says...

      Yes! I love these words so very much.

    • Lauren says...

      If it was up to me, this would be a comment of the week for sure! Thank you so much for speaking up – your few words have made me feel better about the future :)

    • ANON says...

      I’m going to print these inspirational words and display them somewhere!

  42. Katrina says...

    What I would truly love to hear about from this amazing community is whether anyone is in the same boat as me. In a relationship with a much older person, who has had children already. I haven’t and very much would like to bring into this world at least one child. Broaching and navigating this with my partner is difficult. I would love to hear if other people have similar stories and how they are handling the conversation about children.

    • Jo says...

      I am not in this situation, but I have several friends who are—including one of my dearest, most-loved friends—and I know it’s been heartbreakingly hard for all but one of them. (For that dear friend, it’s difficult to even be around babies and young children…)

      On a happier note, I also have a friend who’s a man in his late sixties, with children in their thirties, who remarried a woman in her early forties—who desperately wanted a child. He was hugely opposed but changed his mind and they now have the sweetest one-year-old—and are very happy! (And his grown kids adore their baby half-sister!)

  43. Jeanne says...

    When this topic is discussed, the focus is usually on those who don’t want children for one reason or another. Yet I wonder if there’s a smaller contingent of us who very much want children but have made choices that keep us kid-free. Could I have continued to be in relationships with men I did not love and had children? Yes, but I chose not to. Could I have had a child on my own through adoption or science? Yes, but I chose not to? While it doesn’t seem anyone is ever truly ready to be a parent, and the circumstances or timing are never “perfect” to have a child, I have felt in my core that certain situations wouldn’t allow me to be a good parent and caretaker to a child. That doesn’t make me feel I’ve chosen not to have kids. It makes me feel that I want to have kids in a way that would be right for me—and them.

    • Ramona says...

      I think that’s very insightful. While there are some people who want or don’t want kids so strongly that they will structure the rest of their lives around that, probably many people are in the middle and are open to the possibility of kids but only if it makes sense in the context of the rest of what’s happening in their lives (including in the context of lots of things that aren’t really in our control, like relationships and health).

    • caty says...

      Jeanne, I love your comment and feel it deeply. Life happened differently than I expected, and I don’t have kids. It wasn’t a choice about children, it was a series of choices about other things and this is where life took me – not a mother and have aged out of the time when it was an option. It wasn’t really…binary, for lack of a better word.

    • Jessica says...

      I completely relate to this, Jeanne. And I can simultaneously find my childfree life fulfilling, and still feel sad knowing this might never happen for me.

    • steph says...

      This is me. I wanted kids but never met anyone that I wanted to have kids WITH. People always like to chime in with “well, you can adopt”, “you can get a sperm doner, do it by yourself”, and NO, that isn’t the answer either. My answer ended up as childless.

  44. Michelle says...

    I’m in my mid-30s and have never wanted kids. In my 20s it was easy – I had a female partner, so birth control was never an issue. But a few years ago I met a man who has two of his own, and is very much a dad. He only wanted two, and had a vasectomy long before we met, but being a stepmom (and not being or having any interest in being a mother) is a weird, complicated situation. I love my friend’s kids unconditionally, and I wish I felt the same way about my partner’s kids. But this is different somehow. Maybe because we share a home.
    I imagine only those in the same position could really understand, and I had no idea what I was getting into, emotionally.
    In any case, I feel like for women, the desire for maternity is on a spectrum the way gender or sexuality are. Some are on the far ends, and would never have kids or could never imagine a life without them. Some are in between, indifferent, floating between wanting and not wanting. I think recognizing it this way would help, too.

    • Elissa says...

      I love this idea of the desire for children being a spectrum! I’m definitely at the never the slightest inclination towards parenthood end.

    • Ashley says...

      Love the idea of a spectrum. I’ve always floated somewhere around the middle, happily making the decision not to, but knowing if circumstances were different I would l have, also happily. I have always resented the polarizing way the decision is usually portrayed.

    • C says...

      Michelle, this is so, so insightful. Absolutely it is a spectrum, and I’ve somehow never thought of it that way before. I am floating.

    • Megan says...

      Love the spectrum!

      I’m also a step mother who chose not to have kids, and it is a weird situation! I liked my partner’s kids, but it took a while, maybe a year or more, to realize that I loved them. And the way my love was felt was different from the way my love feels for my nieces and nephews.

    • A says...

      Yes yes yes! I would love a post on the complexities of being child-free and dating someone with children. I too love my friend’s kids. My boyfriend’s… not so much. This situation comes with a whole host of issues and complexities.

  45. Mel says...

    I feel for and empathize with all of these incredible women who have reflected on and generously shared their truths. The Aunty Tracey thumb makes my heart beam with joy. Thank you all for sharing – and Cup of Jo for creating this community that honors the fullness of womanhood!

  46. MLS says...

    I personally feel that people should be respectful of other’s life decisions as long as they do not impede on others. I have an aunt who is married and chose not to have children. It was really fun when I was younger, but now that I have children of my own and she is in worsening health she has expressed how she expects my siblings and I to care for her in her old age. I live almost an hour away and have small children (and will probably have more). I won’t be able to do this easily. If a person chooses not to have children and puts money aside for their golden years I have no issue with it. I also have my own parents and in-laws to take care of and I am resentful of her lack of planning.

    • jones says...

      I can understand how you feel and you are right that people need to plan for their older age. As someone who is childless I would comment that one thing that frustrates me is when people bring up that my husband and I will have no one to take care of us when we get older. In the field I work in, I see many people who have children who either are not taken care of well or not at all, even with children. Everyone should plan to the best they can for their older years. Having children is not guaranteed that you will have a caregiver. Children pass away before parents (this just happened in my family with my only sibling) or have their own health issues/problems.

    • katie says...

      Having children does not guarantee end of life care for a myriad of reasons. I can think of about a dozen plus right now. Everyone, including those with children, should plan accordingly.

    • Renee says...

      If it won’t be easy for you to do than don’ t do it. I have niece like you and I don’t want her anywhere near me in my old age. I have a nest egg set aside and two son’s but the best laid plans can fall through. Hypothetically if I was childless I would hope my family members would help when they are able despite their parental status because it’s just the right thing to do.

    • Meg says...

      Having children just so that they’ll care for you in old age has to be one of the worst financial investments of all time, right??? It’s not a guarantee by any stretch, and raising children is an extremely expensive prospect. I think I’ll drop all that money I could have spent on children into my 401k and other investments and live in a baller nursing home when I’m old :)

  47. Olivia says...

    “A child affects energy, finances, work life, romantic life, free time, stress levels. Isn’t that a much more interesting choice to make?” I think about this point a lot, but in regards to spouses, not children. Research shows that women who remain unmarried live longer, happier lives than their married counterparts. And yet, the choice to remain single and unmarried through adulthood is similarly questioned.

  48. Eileen says...

    I have to say I fully understand not having kids, as a mama myself. I have definitely thought (dreamily) of how my life would look without my spunky boys. BUT I’m certainly thankful to have them, I mostly think of the whole partner-kid gig as another layer of life experiences. I lived my 20s with max fun, I’ll soon be 40 and doing completely different things (homeschooling?!) and just enjoying the ride! I like to think I’d be doing that either way!😉

    • Annie says...

      Great comment! I think there are a lot of people out there who could go either way and be happy.

  49. Elaine says...

    So I’m sorry, but as a 45 year old woman, I think it would be great if you could have childless by choice commentary from women who are past their child bearing age. Even the knowledge that children are an option (even if one chooses not to exercise it) makes a difference.

    I speak from experience – I had a case of baby fever when I was 41 after having been ambivalent/negative about children. By that stage, it was too late, and I wish someone had said to me: make sure you won’t change your mind as there will come a time when it really is too late.

    • Kristy says...

      this is very poignant.

    • Emily says...

      Elaine – I had this exact same thought! Thank you for your comment.

    • Tara says...

      Yes exactly this.

      I don’t think someone in their 20’s has a lot to teach on being childless. It’d also be interesting to hear more from them — thought this would be more of an interview and not a string of quotes when you mentioned it was coming.

    • Mary says...

      Elaine, I am 56 and have no kids. It wasn’t a definitive choice — I mean, I never said, to myself or anyone else, that I didn’t want kids. It was just that I was in grad school and then struggling to make a living, and I got divorced in my mid-thirties (amicably, but painfully) and it took me a while to get over that.

      One of my friends had “baby fever” for several years in her late 30s and early 40s. She was single at the time and she didn’t seem to want a baby so much as the whole kaboodle: husband and house and . . . well, a perfect family. But it didn’t end up happening. I think that now she is mostly OK with the way it all came out — but who knows, really?

      I’m not a regretter. Like most people, I do feel sorry for myself sometimes, but I can usually focus on the things I’ve gained from the choices I made, or on the choices I can make now. I sometimes feel a pang about the loss of the possibility of having kids. (Then again, I also feel pangs about the loss of other possibilities.) And I confess that I sometimes feel like a real weirdo — I’m single, and childless, and almost everyone I know is in a long-term relationship and/or has kids. That feeling gets stronger at this time of year . . .

    • Natalie says...

      Have you seen the movie Private Life? (It’s on Netflix) It deals with an older couple who are trying everything possible to have a child because they didn’t decide to start until the woman was (I think) 41. It’s about exactly what you mention above – what happens when you are finally “ready” but then it may be too late. It’s such a good movie!

    • Meredith says...

      I also speak from experience. I’m about to turn 49, have always known I wasn’t interested in having kids, never experienced baby fever, and actually feel better about my decision with every passing year. I’m married, have a career, with a bunch of dogs, cats, and chickens. I guess its always possible for someone to change their mind about something that important, but I think if you feel strongly about it, its is highly unlikely. Also always somewhat irritates me that there is this built-in assumption that women are flakey and will have completely opposing viewpoints on something in a handful of years.

    • Lisa says...

      Agree completely. I felt very similar to the women quoted in this article–when I was their age. I had never put much stock into the whole “biological clock” thing until it came and walloped me upside the head around mid-late 30s. I couldn’t believe how powerful the desire to have a baby was at that time, and how sad I was with every passing month that it didn’t happen (I was single, so couldn’t “try” to have a baby without involving a sperm bank).

      That feeling eventually subsided without me even realizing it, but I still get pangs from time to time. There’s no changing it now, but I don’t rule out the possibility of fostering to adopt in the future if the desire to become a parent ever does crystallize.

    • Meg says...

      I’m in my early 40s. I was always ambivalent about having children until age 38 when – WHA-BAM – I felt a bit feverish about it. It was such a departure from the way I was used to feeling, and I was able to recognize it as a craving, in the same way as any intense desire, the hallmark of which fades. It helped that I think I had already identified as someone who wouldn’t become a mother more than someone who wanted to be a mother. And, like so many who have previously commented, worries about the future of the world tempered the fever, and I thought it would have been selfish (of me! Other people’s choices and babies are fine!) to bring a child into the world. I dream about being pregnant sometimes, and I’m convinced that it is hormone based, not stemming from a secret desire to get pregnant. And sometimes I see babies and think, man, I never had a baby, and it touches a feeling that feels a little like regret but not enough to justify making a new life.

  50. janine says...

    I like to think I chose the middle path between having kids and not having kids – I had one kid.

    • Meg says...

      Me too. Having an only is the best.

    • Julie Rosene says...

      I feel the same having decided on having only one child. The experiences of raising a child, yet the freedom (time-wise and financially) to pursue other paths in life. Everyone is different and I fully respect those who decide not to have any children, as well as those that desire large families.

    • Anna says...

      Me too! :-) It’s a wonderful middle ground.

    • Madalena says...

      I feel the same way – I am an only child and always said I wanted to have just one child. However, when I got pregnant…surprise surprise…twins!

  51. Claire says...

    I’m 26 and so far, I have never had any desire to become a mother. My boyfriend is on the same page, and I do feel like it gives me some breathing room in terms of planning my career as I have less of a ‘deadline’ to decide what I want to do on the long term. I’m diligent with birth control as I’m terrified of accidentally falling pregnant. In a decade, I might get a tubal ligation if I still feel the same way, but for the moment I don’t want surgery and I haven’t had any side effects from the implant.

    Do I feel guilty about not giving my parents grandchildren? No. I love my parents dearly but I do not owe them a child. I am also fully aware that I could change my mind down the line, but I could also not change my mind. As long as it’s a conscious decision on my part, I’m fine with that.

    What I find frustrating about talking about remaining childless is the fact that most of the questions about changing my mind/what will I do when I’m old/how could I do this to my parents are generally aimed at me whereas my boyfriend doesn’t have his choices picked apart quite as much.

  52. Babs says...

    Thank you so much for posting this. I’d like to offer another perspective, one that I, as a woman in her 40s who never wanted a child and has always been open about my lack of desire for one, encounters often enough to warrant discussion: women who have children and wish they hadn’t. I am unsure if these women approach me because they know I won’t judge them (I don’t), but several times throughout my life women with children said if they could do it over again, they would not become a mother. This is a narrative that is almost entirely absent from public discourse. It is verboten, not allowed, at a time where almost any previously taboo subject can now be discussed at length. Reading through these comments, multiple women stated that they never wanted children until they had them and then they couldn’t imagine their world without these small, magical beings. I don’t doubt these stories. I have friends who experienced the same thing. However, I’ve met women experiencing the other side, including a good friend who makes it very clear that she loves her daughter, but is unsure if she would do it again. These experiences can be lonely, and isolating, and even in this space very few people seem to want to acknowledge that maternal instincts are not always a given once the child appears. It would be interesting to hear stories from ambivalent or conflicted mothers.

    • carmen says...

      bravo! here here! i cannot thank you enough. i do not fall into that category (moms who wouldn’t do it over again), but someone very close to me does. i saw a great article about it in the last year or two. i wish i could find it. thanks for writing this – – a lot of people refuse to talk about it.

    • Ellen says...

      I’m in my early 40’s, married for 15 years, and child-free and I’ve had a few women privately admit to me that, while they love their kids, they wouldn’t have had kids if they could do it over. I agree that there is a tremendous amount of judgement and taboo around this subject.

      I chose not to have children due to health issues that limit the amount of energy I have but, also not wanting them badly enough to warrant such a huge, life-changing choice (though I think I would have been a good mom had I had them, but it would take a lot out of me). I do sometimes struggle with the choice I’ve made and question it but it would be harder, I think, to have made the opposite choice and have secretly regretted it.

    • Jill says...

      I always tell people on the fence about having kids that “You will love your child, but you won’t always love being a mother.”

      It is unfair and hurtful to a child to call call these people, “women who have children and wish they hadn’t.” It’s never that simple.

      I would rather say they are women who have regrets about motherhood vs. wishing they never had their children.

    • Cole says...

      Except, Jill, they do privately confess exactly that – they regret having their kids. They probably don’t tell you this based on your comment, but I’ll back up the other child free women who hear these confessions. I have had a number of mothers confess this to me over the years and I think it is because I’m open about not wanting them.

    • Megan says...

      Yes, but Jill’s point about it being hurtful to the children of these women is well taken. It may be taboo for a variety of reasons and we may need to allow a space for women with these feelings to somehow express them, but it should be done so very thoughtfully and carefully, as the idea that your mother regrets having you is a painful burden no individual should have to bear.

    • Kristy says...

      very interesting and important. And as not to hurt feelings, of course it would be very alright if these stories were anonymous.

      Think aloud thought–I wonder if there will ever be a world where children wouldn’t be traumatized by knowing their mother or father doesn’t love them. That it would just be a (not great, but oh well) fact. What I suppose is a world where not so much emphasis is put on love from these 1 or 2 people (especially biological), that it’s okay, because you have the love of the grandparents or aunties and uncles or babysitters or friends or teachers. That we give these people the credit to love a child that isn’t “theirs” and vice versa and that it can be just as fierce.

    • Cole says...

      I see, I missed Jill’s point was about the kids feelings. I think though that the kids probably know. Or they’ll figure it out as they get older. My own mom, I think, went along with social norms and had kids and I don’t think she enjoyed it at all. I think she loves us, but if she could hop in a time machine with present day knowledge, she wouldn’t do it again. I’m not broken up by this, and actually wish she’d be more open about it. Would have explained a lot of absence that was felt but not stated.

  53. Kristian says...

    I love all of these women and their responses, but Tracey’s stuck with and struck me the most because- I know an aunty exactly like that, down to the phrase “Love shows up.” This woman does all those same things- showing up for a surprising visit, a thoughtful gifts tailored to the nieces’ secret desires and needs. She gave one of her nieces a kidney this spring after finding out she was a match, an act she still insists was not a big deal because, as both she and Tracey would say, “Love shows up.” The whole family is an amazing group of people and it is wonderful to witness the love that shows up in all different ways and different relationships.

    PS the little niece is doing amazing as a result of the kidney transplant. Growing and even now able to walk for the first time <3

  54. Kelly says...

    I have always felt called to be a mother, since I was a baby myself (2!). I love babies and children and how they see the world. I’ve wanted a big family for a long time. But I am so so happy that it isn’t a given anymore, that it is something I can actively choose or leave behind. I am so honored that the women who have fought to normalize childfree life, and especially other queer women who have given a model of what “found family” looks like. They have left me with a choice.

    I’m facing some very serious health problems right now, and I’m very comforted that whether I am able to have kids biologically or not, I will be okay and complete, and so are other women.

    • Annie says...

      Great point. I know that I want children someday but, as a stubborn woman, if it was something that was basically a requirement, I think I would fight it tooth and nail because DON’T TELL ME WHAT TO DO.

      Having that choice gives breathing room. Breathing room lets you really take stock of you goals and wishes.

  55. Susan H. says...

    Even in my teens, I knew I lacked the motherhood gene. It had nothing to do with considering their impact on my career or future; I just had no desire to have children. This released any pressure to settle down and get married since I did not have the biological clock ticking. I met the love of my life at age 38 (divorced, two kids) and we married 8 years later, when they were ages 16 & 18. I have greatly enjoyed being a stepmother, and Auntie to nieces, nephews, and now four great-nephews, but I have never missed being a biological mother myself.

  56. Lauren says...

    Thank you so much for sharing these women’s stories. Each one resonated with me. When I was pretty young, an OBGYN told me that due to my irregular period, it would probably be difficult for me to have children (I now know that this was an unnecessary – and probably even incorrect – thing to tell a pre-teen), but I distinctly remember feeling ok with it. Relieved, even.
    Now in my mid-30s, with a partner of almost 15 years, I simply can’t picture kids in our future. I love my friends’ kids, and am absolutely thrilled to have a niece/nephew on the way, but I also love the life I’ve created for myself, and that my partner and I have created together. I’m excited to be the fun aunt forever! And I’m incredibly lucky to have a partner who feels the same way. I think what’s most important is that he and I regularly check in on this topic and make sure we continue to be on the same page.

  57. Amanda says...

    There have been a few comments on here from the child-free about feeling barraged by those who have had children offering up all of the “I bet you’ll change your mind” comments. Sometimes I wonder if the parent offering those comments somehow feels like one woman’s decision not to have children is somehow a criticism of the mother’s choice to do so. It’s not an us vs. them scenario, but I feel like it does play out that way sometimes – because when a person makes a decision that big you want to somehow defend it. I think we can all try to understand one another a little better and know that everyone is just trying to find their own way. These decisions are never simple.

    • jones says...

      This comment is very insightful. My husband and I were together for a very long time before we married and I observed that the people who badgered me most about not being married seemed to be people who had been married and divorced multiple times or seemed pretty unhappy in their marriages (based on my interactions with them). People who were happy and comfortable with their choices didn’t seem to push as much. We do not have children and I have noticed something similar. The women who seem to question me the most also seem to be the ones who complain the most about their children or their spouses relative to their children or their lack of money for not working, etc.

  58. Blair says...

    I love this! I used to think I would be child free always and then something shifted in my mid thirties. Three kids later I am aching for one more. It’s amazing this mystery called life. I also love to read about everyone elses thoughts and views.

    • Yulia says...

      If you don’t mind answering, I am so curious. How did it feel when things shifted in your mid-thirties? Did it begin as ambivalence and move into certainty? Was it confusing? Were you worried in any way, or was it a happy inner change?

      I don’t want kinds and have never wanted them, but like so many here I feel a wavering of hesitancy at the edges. Maybe I’ll get baby fever out of nowhere. Maybe it will happen accidentally and I’ll go with it. Whenever I think of a future where I end up having kids I feel scared and confused. Did you feel the same way, even if just initially?

  59. Amber says...

    Thank you so much for this post. I’m on the brink of 37 and have no plans to have children. As time goes on, it can be very isolating–and I’m so happy to see comments from amazing women in their 30s, 40s, and beyond who are happy with their decision to not have kids.

    For me, it’s like this: When I picture the many possible paths I can take in the future, I get a lot more excited (joyful, even!) when thinking about the paths that do not involve having my own children. It’s so exciting to think about the time and effort I’ll be able to allocate to only myself, my goals, my relationships with other adults. It’s gonna be great.

    • It IS very isolating! But I’m with ya, girl! 37, own my own business, and no plans for kids ever and totally fine with it. xoxo

  60. Loved reading these perspectives. But my god, Maria’s story infuriated me (on her behalf). Yet another example of deeply embedded patriarchal views of femaleness–women are only useful for bearing children, so why should she pursue such a permanent procedure? How could she possibly be so certain about something as “biologically ingrained” as having children?

    It bugs the hell out of me that in every way, shape, and form, women’s right to have autonomy over their bodies is still up for debate.

    • Rae says...

      After years of issues with endo/cysts I BEGGED my ob-gyn for a partial hysterectomy at the age of 27 and she refused because “well, of course you’ll want babies some day and then the pain of this will be worth it.” This was only like a decade ago too!
      I’m also curious if a maternal drive (or lack thereof) could be genetic. My nana had four children in the 50s when birth control wasn’t an option and while she loved her children, didn’t love being a parent. My mother was the same – loves us dearly but well, wishes her life had turned out differently. She had four daughters and only one of us ever wanted kids.

  61. caty says...

    Can we stipulate that motherhood is hard, fulfilling, life altering and no one who has a child could imagine otherwise? Because it feels like this space — a column and comments section meant about women who chose not to have kids — has become yet another place for moms to talk about motherhood. There is no need to “convince” the childless that being a mom is worthy. Just let their stories be the ones that are amplified, for a change.

    • Anne says...

      I don’t see that at all. I see hundreds of comments about ambivalence or reluctance regarding motherhood, and practically no comments trying to convince anyone of anything. Is it possible that you’re looking for someone to be mad at? Maybe if you went for a walk or drank a glass of water, you might be in a better mood.

    • Rae says...

      THANK YOU. Was super excited for this post and have already eyeballed a handful of “well I had kids and they make my life so special/couldn’t imagine my world without them.” We don’t need convincing ladies!

      I knew from childhood that I didn’t want any of my own children. I’m in my late 30s now and so many people have told me “you will change your mind”/your stepkids aren’t enough & you will want your own”/”you will never experience such all-consuming love” etc.

      I cannot for the life of me think of a similar situation in which people continually project their own attitudes/desires on to others with such presumed omniscience.

      It’s hard not to sound salty when you’ve been fielding these same remarks for two decades;)

    • Annie says...

      100 % with you on this Caty :) It’s not that the ‘happy-I-had-kids’-stories aren’t valid or well-meant. It’s that there’s so many of those stories everywhere, and so few spaces to explore being in doubt, having regrets or not wanting kids.

    • Sharon says...

      I agree with both comments, but wanted to add. My very nurturing mother in law, is all about kids and all about grandkids. She cried when my husband told her we didn’t want children. However, when I explained all the thought that went into that decision and some of our reasons for it, she said something that made so much sense to me. She said, “you have so many great choices with how to have a great life.” For women of a certain generation, they didn’t have choices. They found joy and fulfillment in the choices they were allowed to make. How lucky we are as woman today, to have birth control, the ability to provide for ourselves and the ability to have a fulfilling life without the partnership to a man.

    • Yvette says...

      Hi Caty, I don’t think it is so much a need to convince as much as a need to prevent others from missing out on something they have experienced. Kind of like when you taste something and tell your mate “You HAVE to taste this! I know it looks awful, but trust me you will love it!”. You just don’t want people to miss out on something they can’t possibly understand until they try it. Don’t get me wrong, not every one is cut out to be a parent, I fully understand that, but some people make their choice out of fear, and that is where the “convincing” might come in.

    • Jam says...

      I respectfully disagree. I’ve been following this blog for years and as with almost every post, I find the comments to be exceptionally thoughtful, curious, and understanding. It seems that almost all the comments that mention motherhood stipulate that they completely respect those who choose not to go down that path. As a mother, I was intrigued by this post not because I was thinking of all the reasons one should be convinced that motherhood is amazing, but because my reality along with other life decisions has been a lot more gray and not so black and white. Perhaps in saying “I became a mom and found motherhood to be hard, so I completely understand reasons not to pursue it…”, it may come across as moms trying to steal the spotlight. But I don’t think that’s the intent. I think we are all just looking for a way to feel connected and to show that these decisions aren’t always so crystal clear. If anything this post just proves to me that sharing our stories, as similar or different that they may be, can be comforting and thought provoking for us all.

    • caty says...

      Lol I’m not angry (or thirsty) — but there is so much ground covered on what it’s like to be a mom (all valid and profound) and so little about what it’s like to NOT be a mom. Mine is just a plea to make space for more narratives. Listen more.

    • Kiki says...

      This this this. What Caty says. Every single Monday column here is about mothers. Mothers, this one column is not about you. So please stop with the comments here about motherhood. Please. We are inundated every single day with motherhood as normative (this does not mean that moms are well supported, but it does mean that motherhood is the standard and those of who don’t have kids deviate from the norm). Please listen, for once, and stop mommyjacking this post.

    • Whatever says...

      If the comments are upsetting to you then maybe consider not reading them. People are just trying to share their thoughts. Nothing bad is happening if everybody in the world doesn’t exactly mimic the specific words you think they should be allowed to say. They are just comments. They won’t kill you.

    • Amy E. says...

      Thank you for this comment, Caty. I was feeling the same way.

    • Kate says...

      I’ve read a lot (though not all) of the comments on this post, and haven’t seen any myself that are trying to change anyone’s mind about their decisions. It seems to be that everyone’s perspectives can be valid here, whether they’ve had children or not. Just as your perspective would be interesting to me on one of the “motherhood” posts.

    • Rachel says...

      Thank you, Caty.
      I think maybe when you are in the majority it becomes hard to conceptualize what it might be like to have so few spaces. It’s like that quote; “When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.”
      I would ask everyone to consider that being asked to listen doesn’t belittle the validity of your experience, it just means there should be a time and a place for everyone’s experience and sometimes it might not be yours and that’s ok, because another time it will be.
      Also, I’m so surprised that someone told you that having a different opinion meant you needed a walk. I must need a lot of walks!

    • Jodi says...

      I hear you, Caty. I’ve endured years of people trying to convince me that I’ll change my mind. People with children can’t possibly understand what that’s like, or how it wears on you having to explain yourself. (In the same way, I will never fully understand what it is to be a parent.) Sometimes it feels almost like a religious person trying to convert you in order to save your soul. We don’t need saving, thanks anyway!

      Another point I’d like to make is that I have had countless experiences in which the freedom my child-free life allows is viewed as selfish. I travel to pretty far-flung places, sometimes for a couple months at a time. People whose lives are more tied down (with kids & responsibilities) will say things like, “Oh, must be nice,” with an eye roll. I am so stunned and offended. Why should I be judged for consciously choosing a lifestyle that suits me? How would they feel if they were accused of being the selfish one, their desire to have offspring so strong that they ignore overpopulation & the uncertain world they’ll leave their children behind in?

      All choices are valid. All voices deserve to be heard. And no, I don’t need a glass of water, haha.

    • bexie says...

      I completely agree with you, Caty. It shows just how pervasive the narrative on motherhood is, that even a post about people who choose not to have kids is littered with comments by women who do have children. That’s fine, and your stories about how much you love your children are great – but there s a time and place for that. This is not that place.

      And no, I don’t need a walk or a glass of water, because this has nothing to do with my mood. I just need the space to talk about the life choices that I am belittled for on an everyday basis. Even the comments above about women who regret having children are reflective of this lack of space and how taboo un-motherhood is.

  62. Julie says...

    Thank you guys so much for this post. I’m 30 and not sure. Sometimes onboard, sometimes way not. This is so helpful. I come from a super conservative Christian community where it’s taught that your number one purpose for being on this earth as a woman is to be a mother.

  63. Meghan says...

    I am 35 and a mother of two. I have always wanted to be a mother but now, especially after having children, I know how important of a decision it is. If it’s not for you, don’t do it!! Don’t let anyone pressure you into having children because, really, it’s a hard, messy, thankless job and it’s not a path for everyone to walk. Know thyself!

  64. N says...

    I am in my 60s and never wanted to have children. As an only child, I regret that the combination my parents chose to make in joining their lives together will be unexpressed beyond my life, but I lack the temperament as well as the inclination to gestate.

  65. Abbey says...

    Thank you for these perspectives! I’ll never stop appreciating the variety of women’s outlooks on this subject as it’s very meaningful to me as a nanny who doesn’t want kids.
    When staring into the beautiful face of a new baby as I’ve done many many many times, there’s an empty echo chamber in my mind where the persistent clack of that “biological clock” is said to be. Instead of hearing that sound I become rather overflowing with gratitude and near-disbelief at how lucky I am to know so many incredible children and be a special beloved part of many families AND still have my aloneness, and my own fulfilling path. My Mommy-Karma, as I call it, may have very well been all worked out in this life already. And it feels deep and natural and special to me.

  66. K says...

    I appreciate the perspectives in this post and the ability to choose whether you want to be a mother or not (versus what society dictates you “should” be.) But what about those of us who do long to be a mother but have yet to find the right partner that we’d like to have/raise children with? As a 39 year old woman I believe a lot of people assume I have made a decision for myself to not have children…when the reality of it is I would love to have children of my own, I just have yet to find someone to have that baby with and unfortunately cannot afford to raise one as a solo parent.

  67. Carrington says...

    Of course if you don’t want children you shouldn’t have them! As unfair as it would be to you, it would also be unfair to the child. That being said, I wasn’t ever one to always want a child but when I had my son I literally could not imagine a life where he did not exist.

  68. A says...

    I am writing as someone who never wanted to be a parent. Kids are great, but I never wanted any of my own. But a few years ago, it happened. I got pregnant while on the pill because I’d skipped one or two during a drunken and forgetful holiday season. I was devastated when I found out – I called my mother screaming and crying. But I was in my mid-30s and knew that I had to take responsibility for my lack thereof… My son is now 4 and I love him so much. But I still struggle daily with my reluctance at being a mother. I never wanted the responsibility of someone’s wellbeing and formation being dependent on me. I think I’m doing a good job. My son is happy, well-adjusted, well-traveled, outgoing, generous, and kind. But I still hate being a mom.

    • Lynn says...

      Thank you for your honesty.

  69. SB says...

    I have always been baffled by those who say not having kids is selfish. Most people who have kids only put their resources into their own kids, whereas people without kids may improve the lives of so many through volunteering, fostering, or helping the world in some way! If you are child free for another reason besides saving the world, power to you as well :)
    I have a one year old and I am loving motherhood, but I admit I made a selfish choice to have a biological child when there are children in need out there. If you want kids and then have them, that is just as selfish as not wanting kids and not having them. In both scenarios you are doing what you want. Selfish gets a bad rap anyway… p.s. this blog is the best thing ever.

    • anonymous says...

      Thank you so much for this!! I want to have my own kids one day – and I KNOW how selfish this is. It is so infuriating when people say choosing to NOT be a mom is selfish. People who choose to have biological children are doing an incredibly selfish thing – and though I will be part of that group, I hope I remain self-aware. Instead of helping children who are in need and don’t have my DNA or don’t look like me, or spending my time volunteering to serve the millions of people in the world who need help and support, I will be creating a being with half my DNA to take more resources away from existing children who are not having their needs met. Period.

    • jones says...

      Thank you for posting this. Many people (including my sister-in-law) have called me selfish for not having children. Some of those same people had their children for what I perceive as very selfish reasons (to try to save a crumbling marriage, to fill a void with themselves) when they were neither financially nor emotionally mature enough to do that. I think it is much more selfish to deliberately bring a child into the world (I am not talking about unexpected or unplanned pregnancies) when you are in no way ready. Plus people often forget that childless people contribute in significant ways to others being able to raise and support children. We pay a large amount in property taxes each year to help fund good schools in our area that we will likely never need. How is that selfish?

  70. Sarah T says...

    I felt the same way, Dana. My first year of motherhood was so, so difficult and scarring. And, I wondered why people didn’t warn me. Or, why they seemed to be handling it better. Then, I had my second child, and realized (only through that experience) what was going on. My fist baby was a hard baby, through no fault of his own or my own. And hard babies can be crushing for new moms who don’t have strong support systems. My second child was easier, in small ways that had huge impacts (she would sleep on a separate surface!) It made all the difference. Now, I just feel so fortunate for SURVIVING that first year with my first. New moms like to commiserate about that first year as if it’s a common experience — it’s not. Babies are so radically different and introduce us to motherhood is very different ways.

    • Carla says...

      Oh, thank you so much for this. It’s exactly what I needed to read today.

    • Sam says...

      I joke that I have PTSD from my first year of parenting. After an especially trying night of getting my baby to sleep I stood in our bathroom and repeated over and over: “you will reach a point where you think you want another baby, DO NOT DO IT. You can’t go through this again.” I very much wanted a child–wanted several, in fact–but I was unprepared for how hard it would be. How it could consume you. How I would lose myself at times. Was it that she was a difficult baby? Perhaps, or perhaps parenting just isn’t as easy for me. Who knows. But I get choosing not to have children, and I think what’s important is having the self-awareness to make whatever choice is right for you. There are many ways to lead a fulfilling life, and being a mother may be one, but at the same time it is by no means a simple, easy path.

  71. C says...

    I keep coming back to this thread. Many of the comments have lingered with me. I’m approaching 30. Just a few weeks before my last birthday, I felt a strange undercurrent of thinking about life as a mother. For the first time, the idea felt pleasant, even welcomed. And no, there hasn’t been outside pressure by family or friends.

    I still have a long list in my mind of all the reasons of why NOT having a child wouldn’t just be a comfortable decision, but could also directly benefit me in life. One topic I haven’t seen mentioned is, at the top of my No-Kid list is that having a child would tether me to a place where I don’t want to live forever. I know my partner would agonize over moving away from family if there was a kid involved. It bothers me to think that motherhood would restrict my path. Lastly, I still can’t figure out how to answer WHY I want a child even after experiencing these unexpected, warm thoughts of motherhood. Sure, for selfish reasons, it’d be great to see what my mini-me would look like. And it’s fulfilling to pour your love into another human being. But is that enough?

    • Claire says...

      “And it’s fulfilling to pour your love into another human being. ”

      Yes, that is enough.

    • C says...

      Hi Claire! Thank you for your input.

      I think for some people the act of wanting to love another being is enough. But that’s not enough for everyone, including myself. There are still plenty of other routes for me to do that. Just thinking out loud of the potential reasons women (and men) choose as their purpose in parenthood. :)

    • C says...

      Let me tell you as a military spouse where we ALL move with school age kids, I don’t think this is a deal breaker. People do it all the time. Is it ideal, absolutely not, but people do it, either out of necessity or want. I think kids are resilient and it can be perfectly fine! I think there are many reasons to both sides of the argument and I’m very much like you, a list maker, naming reasons, but I don’t know if that’s a solution to this (I’m 100% in the same boat. Not sure about kids, never have been, still on the fence at 31, happily married to someone who’s dying to have kids).

    • Erin says...

      THIS! This is the part of the conversation I wish could be explored more.

      I have moments where the thought of my partner and I with one kid (always already 5 in my mind) could be pleasant and right. Where maybe this is something we could do together.

      But, the reality is, we have not structured our lives in a way that having kids would be pleasant. We have mountains of student debt, bought a one bedroom house, live very far from family, and basically have no benefits from our jobs. We also got a late start settling into our (awesome) careers and are loving figuring these things out. We check in regularly, but having kids just isn’t a priority for us.

      I think it’s totally ok to sometimes wonder or even want having kids but still make the decision that it’s not right for you. Regret or sadness at not having done something is not always an indicator that you made the wrong choice. It just means that a choice was made, and choosing one thing closes the door on other things, and that’s ok.

  72. Anna says...

    I’ve known from a young age that I would never have children and have never wavered from this.
    Even though I’ve always been open about this, it’s cost me relationships, where my partner has assumed that I would change my mind, that I am not strong enough in my convictions and would be wooed by the inevitable call to have a child.
    I am constantly asked when I’m going to have kids, even at work. There is the perception that if you are a woman that chooses not to have children, there is something wrong with you. You are cold, you are lacking, you are less than something, I don’t know what.
    I have a nephew and niece now who are the centre of my world. To them, I am the hero. To me, they are mine. I am the best friend, the aunt, the only one besides their parents who they tell secrets to, who knows just how they liked their stuffed animals tucked in at night, how they like their nightlight to be set when they are cozy in bed, and what songs to sing when they are upset or scared. I am the one who knows how to make them cry with laughter when I read The Book With No Pictures. Watching them grow and learn is a privilege, and I’m honoured to be there for it.
    It’s taken me a while to realize that I can not want this life for myself, but love children deeply and give of myself to others without having to create life myself, and not be lacking.
    I can be warm, and I can choose to be childless. I can be kind, and I can choose not to be a mother. I can be nurturing, and I can choose not to bring another life into this world.
    Thank you COJ for this thoughtful post and all the beautiful comments on it.

  73. GRL says...

    I enjoyed reading this post and the many insightful comments. I was a little troubled, though, by those cautioning women to be “sure” of the desire before having kids. I understand that many women feel certain they do want kids and many women feel certain they don’t, but there is a huge middle ground – particularly since you can’t know the full reality of what having kids is like until you do it. Similarly, for many women there’s not an exact right time. To some extent, deciding to have a child is a leap of faith.

    I am not a baby person. I had a difficult pregnancy and now with a toddler remain really, really tired. I miss time alone with my husband, time alone for myself, and vacations. But the bottom line is that I’ve always wanted a family and more people to love, to care for, and who will love me. I love my husband and daughter more than anything. I hope I can become a little less tired before I know we have to start trying for our second kid because of my age.

    • AP says...

      Agree to ALL of this!

  74. Kate says...

    I’ve been thinking about this a lot since the post went up and I keep coming back to how much society has changed the Baby Boomer generation started having kids (I’m assuming a fair number of us here have parents who were born in the 40s and 50s). I think that a 65 year old woman in 2045 (so, me) is going to be so incredibly different than 65 year old woman today. My mom is 67 and her life is so vastly different than her mom’s life that you could hardly compare them at all. It’s not really at all odd for me to be considering a child-free world, but for my mom and my grandmother, I think it might have been a lot more difficult.

    • M says...

      That’s a good point!

  75. Vanessa G Parscale says...

    These are all so touching and relatable, even as a mom myself, but Tracey’s in particular made me tear up – such lucky kids to get an aunty like that! I yearn for a sister sometimes because of that reason but it made me realize that I can turn any loving lady in my life into an aunty if they are willing to make that bond. <3

    • Tracey says...

      You absolutely can. Invite them in!

  76. Dawn Karrington says...

    Thank you so much for representing those of us who made a conscious and mindful decision not to have children. I always felt that… I’d rather regret not having children then regret having them. But I’ve never regretted remaining childless a day in my life. It was lovely to hear stories of those who feel similar.

  77. MC says...

    Thank you for this post. Please have more posts exploring life for women who don’t have kids. I love being an aunt, always thought I would have my own biological and adopted children, but life didn’t turn out that way. I love kids, but I am grateful for my “child-free” life, I love reading Cup of Jo.

  78. Brandy says...

    I wish the article had perspectives from more older women. For them, it’s a certainty they will never have children, whereas most of the ones mentioned could still change their mind. I’m 44 and childless and even though I suppose I technically could still conceive, there’s no way I’d want to be a new mom at this age. What about women in their 50s and 60s who didn’t have children? How do they feel?

    • Becca says...

      I was wondering the same thing! I wonder if the perspective changes as you age. I’d have loved to have heard from women in their 50s, 60s, and 70s who chose to remain childless- what their decision-making process was initially and if it’s changed (or remained the same).

    • Alison Briggs says...

      I am so glad you said this and totally agree! I am so curious to know what older women who have made that decision think a looking back on their lives. Do they still agree with it? Any regrets? And I would love to not only hear why they decided – but what they are doing with their lives based on that decision (travel the world? start a company? etc…)

    • A says...

      I agree. I hate to be one of those people who nags “You’re so young, you will change your mind,” because I used to hate when people would say that to me, but… I was ADAMANTLY against having children until I hit my early 30s. I wanted a career, to travel, spontaneity, ownership of my life without having to be tied down or held back by the responsibility of parenting a child. Then I got married (another thing that I didn’t think i was interested in), and then all of a sudden I thought – kids, with this dude, maybe? It wasn’t until my mid/late 30s that we decided to take the leap. I’m grateful every day that we did, even when my daughter is being a total turd.

      Whatever your choice is – good for you. No justification is needed either way. Its your life. Live it however you want. But I wouldn’t be surprised if at least one of these women in their late 20s or early 30s changes their mind like I did.

    • Ramona says...

      I would also be curious to know how or whether women’s perspectives shift as their peers’ children grow older. I think we all justify or evaluate our life choices to a certain extent by looking at the lives of friends who chose differently, and of course the lives of younger mothers with small children can look very different from the lives of older mothers with adult children.

  79. e says...

    I am so thrilled to see this post. I’ve never wanted children. Ever. Of course, the idea that I would one day be a mother always existed abstractly in the back of my mind. As with many, I think the idea that we would grow up, get married, and become stay-at-home mothers was planted there long before we ever realized. And this is a great path…for those who want it. My sister would give anything for that life. Unfortunately, she fell in love with a man who doesn’t want children. After years of waiting for him to come around, she finally left. She chose a life in which there was still the potential of becoming a mother instead of a child-free life with the man she loves. It breaks my heart that she had to choose but I’m also proud of her for knowing what she wants. I also love that she’s never thought I was crazy for not wanting children.

    Besides simply not wanting them because 1) I feel no particular way when I meet babies and kids other than relief that I don’t have one, 2) I do not want and am not equipped for the financial burden of children, 3) I have many life goals and they simply don’t line up with motherhood (I am an aspiring academic who theoretically won’t have tenure until her mid/late-40s), and 4) the environmental strain, at 24 years old, my periods simply stopped. After many OBGYN visits and fertility tests, I learned that I can’t actually even have them. I felt an unexpected sense of relief. I had always felt guilty that I would prevent my future husband from becoming a father, would never be able to give my parents grandchildren, etc. But now, I simply can’t have them. It’s not my fault. No one can bully me about it. Perhaps that’s a huge cop-out. Either way, I’m excited about all of the potential futures my life holds even though motherhood isn’t one of them.

  80. Analog House says...

    This is so interesting to me. I never felt maternal, did not have a particularly maternal mother, was an only child, and never even held a baby till I had my own. I had no strong feelings to become a mother, but I was open to the possibility.
    But having a child was the best, most important thing that ever happened to me. I completely changed and loved the person I became. It’s like I became part of a secret club that I never knew existed until I had children of my own. I would have 4, 5, or 6 babies had I not started so late in life. I wish I had had my babies earlier, and I love being a mother.

  81. Jessica says...

    Very much enjoyed reading this. I can relate to something in each of these stories.

  82. Jessica says...

    I’m just so proud to see women making thoughtful decisions that work for them, their families, their careers, their lives. You can have a fulfilling, happy, wonderful life without or with children.

    YOU DO YOU.

    • Nikki says...

      hell ya. YOU DO YOU ladies!

  83. KL says...

    Can you post a link to Wudan’s piece? I feel very much the same way about only having one child. We’re leading this planet into a very dangerous reality, and I can’t imagine creating more than one person that will have to deal with it (though she’s only two months old so the constant crying could be the other reason I only want one child….). Not a criticism to those who want more than one child, just a reality of what I’m considering long term.

    • EM says...

      I do. I have read that if everyone had two children (or fewer, of course), our population would decrease–because of those who remain child-free by choice, unintentional circumstances such as infertility or early death, etc. This factored into my decision to have two children. I could have been happy with one, but my husband wanted a second, and my relationships with my siblings are some of the most fulfilling in my life, so it was easy for me to agree. My two boys are playing right now on the kitchen floor, drawing huge maps of imaginary countries. My two children are an absolute joy to me–but I absolutely recognize the other equally valuable joys in life that people choose instead of kids.

      I think it’s also worth noting that adoption is a population-decreasing choice for parenthood. I would have been very open to adopting, but again, my husband is more traditional and had some understandable qualms (though I don’t share them). I was interested in pregnancy, and I actually experienced some significant health benefits due to pregnancy, so I have no regrets. But I absolutely honor the value of people who choose parenthood through a method that benefits the planet, such as adoption or foster parenting.

  84. Holly says...

    I did not want to have children, but my husband did. So, I had children. You never read about people like me, or at least I don’t. Everyone either wants children, which I (still) can’t relate to, or they break up when their partner is not on the same page. I love my children, but I go through periods of complete despair, and I can’t help but wonder if it will never go away because I will always feel in part that I never should have had children. I’m still early in my journey, as my kids are both under 3, so I have hope that it will continue to evolve, but that worry is always there. I encourage anyone who talks to me about their ambivalence about having children to make an honest choice. I’m evidence that it’s possible to compromise, but there is a price for it.

    • Nikki says...

      Holly- thank you for your honest comment. It was beautiful said but also kind and compassionate. Thank you for allowing your voice to be heard. I value it.

    • sarah says...

      Older certainly helped me. I have a 5 year old, and this year has been the best for us yet. I did not enjoy much of mothering under age 3 for sure.
      My mom likes to remind me that you do not need to like every age of your child. Some people love babies (not me!) and some toddlers (not me again!) and some like older kiddos (hoping for a yes on that one)

    • Julie says...

      Holly, thank you so much for your comment.

    • Beth says...

      I want to hear these stories like yours, too. My husband is more on-board with having children than I am, but I don’t want to live with regret, and a regret that I can never voice so I don’t hurt my child. I hope your despair goes away. Thank you for your story and your advice to make an honest choice.

    • Michèle says...

      I have been thinking about you and your comment since I read it a few hours ago. Your use of the word “despair” touched and worried me. I hope that if you need help that you know where to reach out for it. A family member, a friend, a helpline?

    • Alyce says...

      I’m in your same situation. I have never wanted kids, yet my husband does (though he was undecided when we met and married and the first 4-5 years of our relationship). We had a very serious and real conversation where we agreed that if we couldn’t reach agreement about the issue, we should divorce, and it was honestly one of the saddest conversations of my life (and I say this as someone who had experienced Serious Life Events like the childhood death of a sibling, etc).

      Ultimately, I decided I’d rather have a kid than get divorced, and am currently 7 months pregnant. It was a decision I was willing to make because we have high incomes and can comfortably afford a kid, my in-laws live nearby so we’ll have family help, we both have flexible jobs, and my husband is an avowed feminist who always follows through on his commitments and I don’t doubt that he’ll be an actively engaged parent. Basically, this set up will make it as easy as it can be to have a kid in America.

      The one thing that is clear to me in reading this post, reading the comments, and my limited experience of pregnancy thus far – there is no one single or even a couple of ways to feel about the situation. Happiness with motherhood is not the only valid emotion, and there’s nothing wrong with you because you at times feel despair. Despair is an equally valid emotion, and you are not the only person who feels that way. In being candid with people about why I’m having a baby, and how I’m not over the moon excited about the future, I’ve been amazed at the number of people who have felt they could be candid with me and have said they have felt similar things. Ultimately, there’s nothing wrong with experiencing the full range of human emotions with regards to your experience as a mother.

    • Beth says...

      Thank you for your comment. As a (happily) childfree person, I’m always curious about people in your situation (i.e. mixed feelings on motherhood) who have multiple children. I can maybe imagine having one if you feel ambiguous about it, but why more than that? I’m asking because I have so many friends who seem totally steamrolled by their first kids, and many of them are now getting pregnant with their second children—and I just honestly cannot fathom why. Their answer is almost always so their first kid has someone to play with, but that doesn’t seem like an important enough reason to me. I think about this a lot and just cannot understand in it, to the point that I feel totally alien.

    • Katherine says...

      I sympathize with you, Holly. I was head over heels in love with my fiancé when I got pregnant by accident. I had thoughts of terminating the pregnancy but knew that that choice would be the end of my relationship and that was something I couldn’t face.

      I tried very hard to nuture any maternal instincts I might have during my pregnancy by connecting with other expectant mothers, reading hundreds of pregnancy/child-rearing books, etc. but I just never felt that connected to the idea of being a mother.

      I hoped I’d feel this blinding, life changing love after my son was born because that’s all I’d ever really heard could happen but I didn’t experience that at all. I felt responsible to care for my son but also completely overwhelmed and robotic.

      My son has grown into a lovely preschooler that I truly adore but motherhood still doesn’t come naturally to me. I often think that my child deserves more and that my decision to have him was so selfish and unfair to him.

  85. Sanna says...

    I recognize myself in Maria, just a sort of uninterest for having children. It upsets me that wanting-to-be-grandparents pressure their children into having babies. I just cannot believe someone would feel its OK to pressure someone into the biggest decision of their lives, which is MAYOR and will change every aspect of their life forever. A grandparent you are maybe some days a week, but a parent you are all day, everyday, forever.
    I will end this with a positive vibe and a tip to all wanting-to-be-grandparents or their children: my mother ‘adopted’ grandchildren. In the village where she lives, a family posted an add that they wished their children to have a grandparent, which was due to several reasons not the case. They specifically stated this grandparent would not be a free babysitter. Fast forward seven years later, and these sweet girls call my mom grandmother. Obviously there needs to be a click between the families, but it warms me to see my mom enjoy to have kids around. (My mother never pressured me with so many words, but if my sister would not have gotten her son and these two girls were not in the picture, I would definitely would have felt pressured).

    Someone else also commented a thought that i often have; it suprises me that not more parents of young children are taking actions with regards to climate change. I strongly believe that in 40+ years we will face huge challenges which we will not be able to solve with new technology.

  86. Anna says...

    I am always happy and intrigued to see other women’s thoughts on why they, like me, choose to not have children. It is good to know that I’m not alone, and it’s interesting to see others’ perspectives.

    I have chosen not to have children for a number of reasons. First and foremost, the idea of pregnancy just grosses me out! All of the natural changes and hardships that the body experiences during pregnancy are beyond anything I ever wish to endure. Secondly, I could never reconcile myself to being tied to and responsible for another Human life for the rest of my own life. Thirdly, I simply don’t have have any sign of “maternal instinct.” I do not think that babies are cute, I do not have patience to deal with the ways that children learn by testing and experimenting, and I do not have the faintest idea how to effectively communicate with anyone under age 12! Of course, there’s also the issue of finances. The cost of living is skyrocketing, and I doubt I will ever be able to retire as it is. How can I expect to provide financially for both myself and a child, even if I did have a partner/spouse? Finally, there is the issue of looming global environmental issues. I don’t feel right 1) contributing to an already out-of-control Human population and 2) forcing another Human being with no choice in the matter to have to face the environmental crises we are seeing on the horizon.

    I respect anyone with the capability and willingness to be a parent, and I do what I can to make children already in the world happy, safe, and healthy, but I can not justify putting myself through the intense rigors of motherhood. Fortunately, none of the people who matter to me have pressured me to have children. My father and my closest family and friends are completely supportive of whatever reproductive decisions I may make.

    • Amanda says...

      I agree 1,000%! I don’t find many others than share my feelings, glad to see someone else out there :)

  87. Paula says...

    I saw having kids as replacing myself and my husband in this world. Selfishly, I also saw it as having family, not being completely alone, when I’m 60, or whatever the age. I hear a lot of the “but what about the planet” argument. Our idea of saving the planet differs: we are vegetarians, we grow and eat seasonally, we own one car (we live in an area where you have to have a car, because previously we had no cars), we volunteer with local organizations, we work in research that benefits a lot of medical discoveries. So, you can be conscious about the path of this world, I think, while also making personal decisions on how to live in it.

    • Susanna says...

      I love your comment, Paula. It sounds like we are very similar in how we do life and in the reasons we wanted to have children. One of my favorite folk songs says, “we rise again in the faces of our children.” When we are gone, we will still live on in them. That, in my view, is a beautiful, awesome thing.

    • Tara says...

      I am pregnant with my first child and, like you, my idea about saving the planet is in following a vegan diet and making ethical, sustainable choices. I am a yoga teacher and lawyer and studying in the field of peace and conflict studies. I do think it is possible to be mindful of your footprint and have children.

  88. A says...

    I am so happy to see this many people supporting one another.

    I am 35 and married, and we have decided not to have children. I know myself and I would not handle the inevitable physical and emotional changes well. I teach and spend time with teenagers all day. I love them, but I also love coming home to a quiet house where I can focus on my husband, my passions, and my sleep. I do not think this is selfish–I really resent it when people describe themselves or child-free people as “selfish” for not having children. As a child of a mother who struggled with bipolar depression, my childhood was equal parts lovely and horrible, depending on my mother’s state. Although I do not have bipolar depression, I am very sensitive to physical and emotional change. It would be selfish, in my opinion, to will myself into having a child, only for the child to suffer the consequences of my choice. I am very happy with my life the way that it is, and feel no need to change or justify it.

  89. Mélanie says...

    I come from a big French Canadian family. Many of my cousins are around the same age as me and have all started settling down and having children. A few years ago at our big annual Christmas Shindig, my family couldn’t help but compare me to them and kept probing me about my reproductive plans. I was in my late twenties, and entirely focused on finishing a PhD in engineering and thinking about the next steps in my career. Babies were just not on the radar (and still aren’t). I also hadn’t told them yet that my then husband, who was not at the dinner with me, was soon to become my ex-husband. They had big lively discussions about my ovaries aging, suggesting I freeze my eggs like Céline Dion (did I mention we are Québecois??), until finally, my cousin declared a toast to my ovaries and the whole family joined in cheering: “To Melanie’s ovaries!!!” It was maybe the most mortifying, surreal, and hilarious moment of my life all at once. Laughs aside, as a female engineer, I sometimes feel like I operate in a world where I am never enough because I am not a man. Being lectured by my family like this made me feel like I would also never be enough as a woman if I didn’t have kids.

    On the way home in the car, my mom could tell I was livid. She said “Your grandmother had 8 of us and didn’t want any. She was miserable and we all knew why. You can have kids if and when you’re ready. That might mean never, and that’s ok.”

    • Kristy says...

      that is so loving of your mother to say.

    • Sasha L says...

      Bless your mom. What a kind thing to say at that moment.

      Coming from two grandmothers who left profound generational trauma on their children, who in turn left trauma for their own children (myself and my siblings), I can tell you the choice we have to be mothers, or not, is profound and sacred and should NEVER be taken for granted. Make the choice that is right for you and your happiness. We all deserve that.

  90. Lindsey says...

    HAVING A BIOLOGICAL CHILD IS NOT THE ONLY WAY TO BECOME A PARENT.

    You don’t have to perform “uncompensated reproductive labor”.
    You don’t have to add a brand new child to the overburdened ecosystem.
    You don’t have to follow your biological clock.
    You don’t have to deal with morning sickness or stretch marks.
    You don’t have to have a partner.
    You don’t have to deal with those sleepless nights with a newborn (if you don’t want to!)

    All of those things are challenges on one path to parenthood – but YOU GUYS…it isn’t the only way.

    We have one biological child and one child who we adopted through the foster care system.

    The ways that they joined our family are different, but the amount of challenges/joys of raising them and the love we feel for them are the same.

    And if you want to get super analytical about it, which judging from this comment thread I think I many of you do – showing up for kids in the foster care system – either as an adoptive parent, foster parent, mentor, etc. has tremendous positive impact on our society.

    I’d love to see more posts featuring foster + adoptive families. I think we are sometimes viewed as curiosities or saints in ways that make people think “nope, that could never be me.”

    Honestly we are just parents trying to keep our toddlers from licking their shoes and arguing over how no, we are not going to watch another episode of Tumbleleaf right now and yes, vegetables are food.

    • I love this. I always said that IF I ever had kids, it would only be by adopting an older one who needed a loving home. Sadly, I have just never felt in a good enough place to try to do that — financially, mentally, emotionally. All these years it’s been enough to try to keep my own self afloat, much less another human being. But thank you for mentioning this. So true.

    • Becca says...

      YES- thank you for this comment! My husband and I have one biological child (so far) and I’m interested in learning more about the foster/adoption system. It would be incredible to hear more stories about parents who choose to foster and/or adopt!

    • Yes please! I also am really interested in foster to adoption. Would love to hear more foster/adoption stories!

    • Laura says...

      I would really love to see posts about this too! I can see myself fostering kids in a few years when I’m a bit more financially established, but I feel like I need more info on what the experience is truly like from families who’ve lived it.

  91. Sarah says...

    I always thought to myself that I’d wait until I’m with a life partner to truly make this choice. But inherently, I don’t feel that maternal pull and desperation to be a mother. To me, it’s not smart to just have kids because that’s what you’re “supposed” to do. That is what my parents did and while I’m grateful to be on this earth, I sometimes think it wasn’t the best choice for them. I love babies so much (I studied to be a doula at one point), I am fascinated by pregnancy, childbirth, and labor, I love my friends’ children with all my heart. I just think that financially and emotionally, it might not be for me. But I will love them for the rest of my days and be there for them no matter what. Thanks to everyone for sharing their views and stories – it’s very encouraging and helpful!

  92. Ramona says...

    It always seems to me that for women, whether they have children or not, there’s this pressure to justify the choice. Which is crazy since many women have fertility challenges or unexpected pregnancies and aren’t really coming at it out of choice anyway. I don’t think it needs to be this big dichotomy. Women with kids can still travel and go out to eat. Women without kids can still have rewarding close relationships and exercise their caring-for-others muscles. I would imagine that once women make this choice (or have it made for them by happenstance), they come to see this. But I think that for women who are still deciding, presenting it in this way can make the stakes seem unnecessarily high. If you don’t want kids, you won’t die alone in a garret and it doesn’t mean that you’re somehow selfish or unnaturally non-nurturing. If you do have kids, you won’t have to give up travel and abandon your career and personal needs in order to spend the rest of your days wearing a bathrobe covered in spit-up. In either scenario, you continue to make choices while navigating the inevitable surprises and challenges and process of aging along the way.

    • asia says...

      Thanks for your comment. I agree wholeheartedly! I appreciate hearing these women’s perspectives, but I do think presenting in this way makes it seem like it’s all or nothing, whichever way you decide.

    • Kristin says...

      1000% to this comment! Yes! So weird to me in particular to see the job/career conundrum…seriously, unless you are at the VERY top of your field in your late 20’s or early 30’s, or are expected to work 80+ hour weeks or travel nonstop–you really can have children and have a rewarding job and a life. It does not need to be a choice between the two. Pretty much every woman I know works full-time and has children. There are many, many valid reason to not have kids and I would never want to convince someone to do it if they didn’t want to. But thinking you have to give up on the career you want if you have kids is a cop-out to me, or at least implies a lack of imagination.

  93. E says...

    I wonder about this all the time. I’m in my late 20s and in a serious relationship with a boyfriend that I love very much and live with. I know he wants kids, and I feel uncertain. I don’t feel strongly against it but I never really felt particularly like I wanted them either – I relate with the first author who said she just assumed she’d want them one day. I have a sister that’s much younger than me and in many ways I feel like I raised her, which I didn’t mind at all, and I felt very maternal to her. But I am just not sure about having kids of my own. The career thing is a big one but to be honest mostly it’s that I feel so ambivalent towards them. I thought I’d have a better sense by now and wish I knew one way or another. My boyfriend knows how I feel but I think he also assumes that I’ll feel like I’ll want kids as we get older. I don’t necessarily hope that I want them as I get older, I just hope that I’ll feel more strongly one way or another as I get older. It’s odd because it’s not like I feel familial pressure to have kids (my mom actually has told me that she thinks it’s probably better for me if I don’t) and my friends are cool with it too so it’s not like I secretly don’t want them but don’t want to say.. I just genuinely don’t know. I feel like I flip flop between a coin toss and being closer to not wanting them, but then I also wonder if that’ll change as my life gets more stable (ie work, finances) as I feel so stressed about that that I can’t even imagine being responsible for someone else, which I’m sure plays a big role.

    Basically just thinking out loud and wondering if anyone else here feels similarly and how they decided what to do in the end. I know I could opt to freeze my eggs as I get older and I do have the savings for it but I feel like if I’m in my mid 30s and still ambivalent that’s probably a sign I don’t want them as much as a parent should.

  94. Megan says...

    The fact that some women who have the choice whether or not to become mothers decide not to is one of the most salient arguments I’ve heard for how hard it is to be a mom. Maybe this will be helpful for getting moms more support.

    • Julie says...

      I don’t think it’s just about hardship vs. not, as if certain women aren’t up to the challenge, and therefore that proves motherhood is The Biggest Job Ever (of course, it often can seem that way!). It’s about what brings different people meaning in their lives, and how to connect in this world — a very complex question, as the post and subsequent comments show. Certainly, though, having choices is something for which to be thankful.

    • KC says...

      I think it would be wonderful for moms to get more support. (I think, also, it would be wonderful for human beings in general to get more support. Many, many people in our society have challenges and are struggling a lot.) Our cultural expectations of mothers are definitely too much, and support options (such as maternity leave) aren’t as good as they could be, ahem.

      However, the logic of this specific argument kind of falls down when you make it parallel with other choices:
      1. The fact that some people have the choice to own boats or not to own boats, and yet decide not to…
      2. The fact that some people have the choice to adopt puppies and yet decide not to…
      3. The fact that some people have the choice to ride motorcycles and yet decide not to…
      4. The fact that some people have the choice to learn several different languages and yet decide not to…
      Etc.

      I think being a mom *is* challenging, both in necessary ways (things that are basically inseparable from the endeavor; you’re adding a person to your life!) and in unnecessary ways (ways that cultural alterations or additional help could “fix”).

      But that some people choose against it would only be a salient argument for the difficulty of the endeavor *if people have a strong desire to have a child* and decide against it for cultural/inadequate-help reasons. There are a wide variety of reasons given in this piece and in the comments, and only some of them indicate that the desire for kids is, say, stronger than a desire to own a sailboat (it would be pretty cool sometimes! There might be some advantages! But… no. Definitely not for me.).

  95. Emily says...

    I’m 41, partnered for 8 yrs and just always thought the day would come when we felt “ready” and now finally realizing (er, a bit late) that it’s now or never (for a biological child). Problem is we don’t feel ready; I know no one is every truly ready for kids, but our circumstances just seem more challenging for bringing a baby into the world than for some of our friends who have extended family/caretakers nearby (we don’t), financial support from parents (nope), stable careers (one of us, but neither of us has a career we’re satisfied with), and/or a rock-solid relationship (ours has been 8+ years of w-o-r-k). We have both struggled in our careers; we are at a point that we’re financially stable but I’m terrified at the thought of adding another human and throwing our financial stability, vacation/travel, energy levels, free time, and work on ourselves and our relationship totally out of whack. I have the desire to have a child but the vision in my mind of that life is a romantic fairy tale, not reality. In this fairy tale, I’d be able to take 4-6 months off work to nurture this new baby, but my income is the one we rely on most, so that alone would be a huge financial squeeze, not to mention daycare expense after the 6 month mark, and a lifetime of other financial (and other) obligations. When I get serious and envision the reality of my life with a baby, I see myself madly in love with my child, but so so tired, hating my job even more than I do now, resenting my partner for not being a better financial provider (so that I could work less/not have to pay for daycare), and/or if we decided to have him be Mr. Mom, I think I’d be resentful that he gets to stay at home with the baby while I have to work I job I dislike but pays well, and maybe most devastating – hating myself for feeling like I’m not doing well at anything – – going through the motions at work, resentful of my partner, and only spending a few hours/day with my child. I worry that I’m letting “fear” of the what-ifs make this decision for me, but I also see pretty clearly the realities of my situation. Loved this post and loved the comments even more :)

  96. Heather says...

    I think many people think that if you choose not to have children that you won’t have children in your life, which is simply untrue. I happen to have children myself, but have friends and family who have chosen to be child free. Some are teachers and spend their entire days with children. Some are aunties or uncles and are happy to hold a special place in a child’s life, without having to live the day to day struggles that inevitably come with being a parent. I also think that the choice to be child free is relatively new to a lot of people. I was born in the 1970’s and there was never any question that I would of course grow up to be a mommy, at the time that seemed to be the main purpose for a woman’s life. I am glad that my sons and daughters will see this as their own choice and not some pre-destined life path. I am very happy to be a mother, but certainly understand that there are those who are just as happy without parenting responsibilities.

  97. G.G.T. says...

    I got married at age 32 and we agreed to have kids after 2 years so we could enjoy being together just the two of us. Those 2 years went by in a happy blur; we said let’s do another 2 years of baby free wedded bliss. I turned 36 and had to deal with a health issue, which forced us to make a decision on whether we wanted kids or not. We decided no, we were content with our life. It was fun, it was full and we didn’t feel there was anything lacking.

    I got a lot of flak for our decision from family, some friends and even strangers. The whole questioning my choice to be child fee always put me on the defensive. As I got older though, their opinions mattered less because despite all the pressure I got, in my heart I knew it was the right decision for us.

    I am now 45 years old. I love my life. My husband and I feel so grateful to have made this decision for ourselves and do not foresee having a change of heart.

    I love my niblings to bits and allocate a chunk of my resources to spending time with them as we live in different continents. I have a sister who is single and child free as well. We make it a point to visit them during their summer break and just have the best time making memories.

  98. Nina says...

    I like the kindness of Kristen. I do think it more odd that people WANT children then that they don’t. I mean why want children? I can’t fully articulate why. I had dreams since I was a young child of being a mother.

    Almost every thought was doing the opposite of what my abusive, mentally ill mother did.

    I would say yes and actually do the things I said. I would let my child(ren) invite others over and they would LOVE our house and feel like it was a second home. We would have a family bed and all snuggle together on the weekends reading and watching TV and being so close. I would have at least 3 children and I had their names picked out (Tori and Taci for my girls, Anders for my boy).

    And then I got pregnant. Vomiting from conception to (premature) birth. And the father decided alcohol was better than fatherhood. and I found out being a parent was exhausting, and expensive, and added to my anxiety like 1000-fold. So I have one.Whom I love with all my being and I hope and try everyday to do a better job than my parents did. I do try to make my home welcoming to others but it’s never as full as I imagined.

    For a long time my son didn’t want kids but now he talks about when he grows up and has them (he’s 11). I’m ok with whatever he decides.

    I think my choice was kinda selfish. Have a kid to prove I’m not my mom? I’ve done that everyday of my life. but…it is what it is.

  99. laura says...

    i’m 31, and up until recently had always imagined i’d have kids. when i was younger, i even said i wanted to be a daycare provider! now, i’m really not so sure and often lean towards the no–too many things feel tough to justify, the cost, the environmental impact/generally terrible world we’d bring them into, the potential loss of self, impact to my emotional wellbeing, etc. but also, i have to admit, sometimes i wonder if i’d feel this way if i weren’t on the pill—i’ve been on it since i was 15. i wonder how much that actually impacts me and my life. is that nuts? though i’m also terrified to go off of it, since it’s been helping me manage terrible migraines for just as long, too. curious if anyone has had experiences or thoughts about this, too.

    • Sophie says...

      I just wanted to comment that I was always on some form of hormonal contraceptive between age 17-35. From an early age, I was quite sure I didn’t want children, but sometimes I had the same niggling what-if-it’s-the-pill thought at the back of my mind. I really wanted to be sure I wasn’t making the wrong decision on such a big life question, so a year ago I stopped taking the pill. Nothing changed. I recently had a little pregnancy scare, but it just reaffirmed my feelings that I do not want my own children. (Some more anecdata: I also have migraine, which is strongly related to my hormonal cycle, and going off the pill didn’t make it worse.)

    • Marie says...

      Having children shifted my hormones in a way that ended my migraines! I haven’t had one in 6 years and I’d have 2-3 weekly prior to. My doctors stated that this is extremely common outcome of pregnancy.

    • anonymous says...

      As far as I know, birth control in no way affects your desire to have future children… do you have any scientific reason to believe this, or is this just a wonder you had?

    • laura says...

      @anonymous given that the pill is hormonal, i figured it could have an impact in that desire, which i see as, basically, one of our most primal instincts —just as studies have shown that the pill affects sex drive and levels of attraction (for ex: women who aren’t on the pill are attracted to different types of men throughout their cycles, etc– this is by no means the best reference, but just so you know what i’m referring to: http://time.com/3596014/attraction-sex-birth-control/ )

  100. Older mom here; my son turns 19 this month. We never wanted kids. Then when I was 34, my husband changed his mind. I was persuaded. And at 36 I gave birth. Being a mom continues to be the hardest thing ever; his needs supersede any need of mine, still. I can see the life I would have had in which I developed talents and focused on my career had I not had a child. Was it worth it? Absolutely. But the cost– to our relationship, finances, and my fulfillment- honestly it’s been huge. I applaud women who choose to be, and remain, childless. And if you change your mind that’s ok too.

  101. WOAH, i am now going to google Wudan’s article about the environmental impact of having kids. I have a biology degree and was particularly interested in sustainability in college, so of course human impact on the planet was constantly talked about–including the impact of having children. But, curiously, no one ever talked about it OUTSIDE of the classroom. Including me! I wonder if people just don’t know? I am now 30 and I have one child. I hesitate to have a second, for many reasons that include this one.. and yet when my husband and I have discussed it (he wants another), I kept quiet about my feelings on the environmental impact of having kids. I’m very very invested in environmental issues, my husband knows this. So why did I do that?

  102. Shannon says...

    Thank you for this post. I have never wanted to have children. I was always told “Ohhhh, you’ll change your mind.” Flash forward to this moment, on the brink of 40, and I still wholeheartedly do not want to have children and I have no regrets, shame, or fomo about it. And the thing is, I am one of the most mothery, nurturing, warm, caregiving people around. Just because I don’t have kids doesn’t mean my life isn’t full of love and hugs and kisses and imagination and magic and growth and change and rewards and setbacks and meal planning and someone wearing shoes in the house and heart to hearts and teaching and imparting wisdom and making people mad and feeling worried about someone and feeling so f#@&*ing proud and most of all everyday having the chance to have a positive impact on someone else, many someone elses! I feel so fulfilled today and grateful I stayed true to myself.

  103. Dana says...

    As someone who didn’t want kids badly, but ended up having one because I just said to myself that it’s one life experience that I didn’t want to miss out, I really felt betrayed by all of my female friends who never really told me how goddamn difficult it is. My son is now 20 months, and we’re starting to find our rhythm, but the first year of motherhood will probably haunt me for the rest of my life. Needless to say, we’re one and done. I do think that the more you want it, the easier it is. So if you’re on the fence, make sure you really know what you’re getting yourself into:))

  104. Emily says...

    I’m turning 34 in a few weeks, which somehow sounds older when I type it out than it does when I think it in my head. Four and a half months ago my fiance’, the love of my life, died suddenly and unexpectedly. I know I’m in the beginning stages of the grief process and no doubt time changes things you never thought could be changed, but in the spirit of honoring my intuition and believing that I am the best indicator of my own feelings, I can’t imagine having children without him. I’ve always wanted children and my fiance’ and I absolutely imagined our future together would include children. I grew up babysitting and even nannyed my way through college. I’ve worked with kids with special needs, including Autism, and my fiance’ and I had discussed feeling up to the challenge of raising a child with a special need. He was soon to go back to school to pursue music therapy, a worthy endeavor that sprung from his very generous, patient, loving heart. While I know I can’t predict the future, this tragedy has struck at an inopportune time, biologically speaking. Had we had warning he was going to die, I know we would have taken measures to preserve his sperm for future use, and perhaps I would have found the strength to have our child without his physical presence at some point in the future. But I can say with certainty that I don’t want to have my own biological child that is not half him. And while I’m certainly not opposed to adoption (another avenue to parenthood he and I had discussed), I don’t know when I’ll be mentally and emotionally healed and intact enough to offer a child the stability they need (and deserve) to thrive. I deal with some chronic health issues that certainly aren’t of the fatal variety but nonetheless take me out of the game with some frequency. My fiance’ and I had spoken at length about the necessity of him taking a lead role in parenting when my health issues were in play, and had even discussed the associated feelings and how to navigate them — my resentment that he had more time with our child, his resentment at having to bear the weight of primary caregiver, etc. I know if suddenly faced with the responsibility of single parenthood I would push through my health issues and no doubt show up for my child in all the ways that matter most. But given the fragility of my current emotional and mental health, the physical element feels like a bridge too far. In addition to the lack of desire to parent without him, and the health issues, when I consider the cost of supporting a household as a single woman, it all just starts to pile on and seems more and more unrealistic. I am also very career-driven and have had great success in a demanding field that often requires intervals of longer-than-usual hours. This, too, is another challenge he and I had discussed and planned for. (We really had a good thing going, my love and I.) I guess in summation, with all this in mind, I just wanted to offer a different perspective — I am a woman who’s always had strong maternal instincts and never considered the idea of living a child-free existence, but sometimes the things we can’t control, like the terrible tragedy of losing my love, are the dominant forces that shape our lives in ways we wouldn’t have anticipated. While I consider myself an empathetic person, previous to this experience I had flippantly and naively assumed what a person’s life looked like in their older age (children, no children, career, no career) was largely of their own design. I now know, deep in my bones, that we are at the whim of a chaotic world and “luck” isn’t always tossed our way. Anyone whose major life choices have been primarily in their control is living a charmed existence — and good for them, enjoy it! — but on the other side are those of us who may be living lives we wish were quite different in ways that can’t really be touched. I may always want children and never have them, and I wouldn’t be the first. It would be a comfort to me if our society, and my fellow women crew especially, would offer a soft space for my truth to reside — wanting but not having, with all its associated pain and longing, but also with its fair place in the world. Thank you, Cup of Jo, for opening up this important conversation. All the best to my fellow readers on their journeys through parenthood and non-parenthood and this curious mess we call life.

    • Sam says...

      So very sorry to hear of the loss of your fiance, Emily. The pain that comes not only from his passing, but as you described, the loss of some of your hopes and dreams for the future. What a great, simple way to put it–wanting but not having. Very different circumstance, I know, but after I had 3 miscarriages I also had to face a reality that was different from what I thought I would experience, and it’s a loss that is felt and grieved over time. Sending good vibes for healing and comfort to you during this time of loss, grief, and uncertainty.

    • Claire says...

      Sam and Emily – just wanted to tell you both I am thinking of you during the holiday season, as it has a tendency to amplify pain and grief that is already deeply felt. I am so sorry for both of your losses and hope that you both find small comforts to carry you through the sorrow.

    • Jill says...

      Emily, I’m so very sorry for your loss. I can’t even imagine what a shocking, disorienting grief you must be experiencing. From your writing, it sounds like your fiance must have been a wonderful man, and a wonderful partner too. Thank you for taking the time to share your story. Sending you my love. xx

    • Pam says...

      Emily, I am so very sorry about the loss of your fiance. You both sound like beautiful, caring people. Sending you a big virtual hug and positive thoughts.

    • Emily says...

      Sam, Claire, Jill & Pam — I want to thank you so much, sincerely, for your responses. In this time of darkness the kindness of strangers is a welcomed light, and to have my story validated and supported, even in a small way, somehow softens the intensity of the pain. To Sam, I wish you comfort. Your experience is no doubt its own difficult journey and I hope you have the support you need to endure the sadness you carry. To all, I send you my best for a happy and healthy new year. Thanks again for thinking of me and taking the time to respond. With gratitude — Emily.

  105. Kathryn says...

    Always with the crying on the train over the Cup of Jo posts’ honesty, humor, and compassion…will I never learn to only read these at home with the tissue box handy? Thank you for sharing these stories.

  106. Marta says...

    While reading comments, I start to wonder if there is a diffrence in handling motherhood between women who desired children and those who where on fence with having child. I wasn’t sure if I want a baby and then as a newlywed I got pregnant with twins. I was quite frustrated during pregnancy and had a lot of doubts. Now my babies are almost 3yo, love them more with every day, but can’t stop to wonder if I would be a better mother, more patient, more caring, more devoted if babies where my goal and dream from the beginning.

    I also think that nowadays there’s too much focus on having/not having babies. There’s always been many childfree people and I think that people weren’t making so much fuzz about that. Maybe it’s because that now there is IVF, birth control etc., so having a baby is more of a choice then before and that’s why nosy people think that they can ask about that directly.

  107. Julie b says...

    It’s something I craved but in the end I chose not to because my husband had been unwell for 17 years and by the time it was a possibility I worried it would put added pressure on him at a time when he was just starting to improve. Also we agreed the stress of being older parents would be a lot on top of coping with years of illness. It’s not always a straightforward decision. I still grieve the loss of creating a family and the joy that comes with that but have to learn to be content and accept that not everyone will follow this path. To quote this excellent article: “Quietly, so as not to be seen, I shelter an emotion resembling grief and dare not look too far into the chasm lest I topple in and cannot ever find a way back out”. https://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/childless-how-women-without-kids-are-treated-in-2016-20160712-gq49p3.html

  108. Christie says...

    Thank you for this post! I just love to see how CoJ reach out to so many different perspectives, it’s such an inclusive place here.

    I myself have one daughter, and a year after she was born a series of events lead to my inability to have more children. It took me about five years to come to terms with the fact we would be a single child household, but now I find myself nodding along with many of the reasons women give in this post when I think about a second child in our lives.
    While I think about it every day, the deep yearning in my belly just isn’t there anymore.

  109. Kate says...

    As a Mom of two toddlers, both currently screaming from the backseat as we drive home from a weekend away that was totally ruined by overtired, fighting and downright mean little humans, I can 100% understand the desire to remain child free! Those who are on the fence: I beg you to be absolutely SURE you want kids before you have them. This world of cake smash shoots and cute bumps and tiny onesies is only 5% of the reality. Motherhood pushes you to the brink and I honestly dont know how you cope if you weren’t sure in the first place. (I was sure from a very young age, I see kids as part of the human experience that I could never reconcile not having but completely respect the opposite).

  110. Alicia says...

    I love this post and the often unrepresented perspective on being a mother it highlights–too often, those I know assume that motherhood is or will be a major part of their lives. But I don’t appreciate aspects of this post that insinuate that having children is the “wrong” choice, irrespective of a person’s personal situation–e.g., having children is environmentally taxing, or that it’s “unpaid reproductive labor.”

  111. Jody Winter says...

    It would have been great to hear from women like myself, who never wanted kids, and are now of an age where they no longer have the option. Although I respect these womens’ stories, at 28 or 34, well, nothing is final, right? It would have been nice to hear the perspective of someone who decided not to have children, and is now in their 60s or 70s with no regrets, and what their lives look like child-free.

  112. Gigi says...

    most of these women are still in their thirties, meaning that there’s still some child bearing years ahead of them should they change their mind. would be more interesting to interview women in their late forties or fifties

  113. Me says...

    My husband and I never thought about having kids. And never thought about not having them. We werent paying much attention to other people’s comments either. We have two young ones now. They just (sort of) happened. I was happy to find out grandparents were more excited about their grandchildren than us. We are lucky enough to be able to raise them without having to sleep on the streets. We are overpopulating the earth though, I am sorry. But I think the earth can handle it. We envy friends on Facebook
    who travel the world and can probably get themselves out the door in 5 mins. I do feel like a shiny brand new me being a mother. You won’t know until you try it out. Okay okay, you know you won’t be shiny and that is okay too.

    • k. says...

      i would urge readers to find articles NOT on the focus on the family website, as that organization has a history of supporting conversion therapy–not exactly treating children as a blessing with that sort of bigotry.

    • Christina says...

      Focus on the Family is an incredibly biased, hate-based organization that parades itself as Christianity. I’m sure you are coming from a kind place, Katie, and I am truly sorry for your fertility struggles. I would argue that children are not a blessing for all, and that’s the whole point of this piece – to open us up to other perspectives, since so much of the world is all about the positives of parenthood. Wishing you the best.

    • Katie says...

      My comment is only an observation from my perspective…children ARE a blessing, but it would also be a blessing to know *for a fact* that you don’t want them. I DO want them but cannot have them (thus the stuggle). Focus on the Family does not support conversion therapy. Please don’t make my comment about an LGBT issue. Thanks!

    • Laura says...

      Focus on the family does does support conversion therapy, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

      https://www.hrc.org/resources/10-things-you-should-know-about-focus-on-the-family

      ‘Focus On The Family promotes the harmful and discredited practice of “conversion therapy,” claiming “just as there are many paths that may lead a person to experience same-sex attractions, there are likewise multiple ways out.” For years, they were behind Love Won Out, a national tour preaching that same-sex attraction is ‘preventable and treatable.’’

  114. Carrie says...

    I always joke I would have had kids if I could have done it 70s style – open the back door and kick the kids out until dark while I sat back with a Virginia Slims and can o Tab. When college tuition was free in-state, no one asked what your birth plan or parenting philosophy was. When I could drive a cool station wagon instead of a minivan. That’s when I would have done it. Today? Not so much, thanks.

    • M says...

      Yep!!!!

    • Cara says...

      hahahaha! Best comment ever <3

      I am not 100% sure either but turning 36 and per my doctors telling me to decide yesterday, am currently pursuing fertility treatments (so far, failed attempts). While motherhood sounds ok, I am terrified of things like Sunday morning soccer practice, sending ridic professional photo shoot xmas cards, watching groups of other kids, elementary school politics…

      Is it possible to avoid schlepping kids to 21 activities and still be a good parent or does this commitment to "keep up"/conform come with the territory, in a sense to Carrie's point?! If so, tips please!

    • mar says...

      TOTALLY!! I always same the same thing… if i had lived in another moment in time, without knowing all the things we know today (climate change, economical crisis..)………. Maybe in another life….

  115. Shayda says...

    Loving the comments and perspectives here!
    I’m 36 and have never, ever, ever wanted kids. I LOVE being an auntie and feel very fulfilled from that. I have an amazing husband and two adorable french bulldogs.
    The reason (I believe) as to why I never wanted kids: I became a teacher at the age of 22 and my students were my life. I gave (and still do) my heart and soul to them. I have many, many students that I have remained in touch with over the years and I think that I give so much of myself to my students that I literally can’t fathom coming home after work and giving my heart to my own kids.
    In my mid-twenties after having been teaching for a few years, someone asked my how many kids I had…I replied (without thinking) “Thirty”…which was the number of students in my class that year. Am I a biological mom? No. Do I mother young people? All the time. :-)

  116. Rebekah Harper says...

    It is sad that women still feel pressured to have children, we have worked so hard and come so far. If you truly feel it is not for you then don’t let yourself be swayed by the opinions of others. That said I also see comments about not feeling very maternal or not really desiring a baby. I was also never very maternal, never had “baby fever”, my feelings were ambivalent at best. But I did have a wonderful childhood as one of four siblings and those special relationships were something I always wanted to recreate. I waited until I was a little older and financially stable and I went back to work fairly soon. I planned all this ahead so that motherhood would be a source of joy for me and not resentment. For me being a bit older helped, because I knew myself so well. We took the plunge and had a baby and he is now almost two. Of all my career successes, world travels and adventures nothing has made me as happy as hearing that squeaky little voice call me Mama.

  117. Karen says...

    I knew from the age of 12 that I never wanted children. No doctor would tie my tubes. It cost me a marriage when 7 months into it he decided he wanted children (we had discussed and agreed prior to marriage, no children).
    Currently, I’m in my sixties and have NO regrets at all.
    KAREN

    • Kristen says...

      Karen, there are so many people in the comments section asking for experiences of women in their 50’s, 60’s and who remained child-free. Would you tell us more?? :)

  118. mary winchester says...

    Growing up I always wanted to have kids and be a mom…that is until my mom had my little sister when I was 15?1 At that point, my mom was 45 and I was the built-in babysitter. I was not ready for the full responsibility of a kid at 15. My mom was older and tired and way too much of the responsibility fell to me. When we would go places people would ask if the kid was mine and if my mom was the grandmother…ya really humiliating for a 15yr old. The questions probably had a lot to do with that I was always expected to carry my sister around too.

    Since my sister was born, I have completely changed my mind about wanting children. I know what it’s like to raise one and I don’t want to sacrifice my freedom like that again. Don’t get me wrong I love my little sister to death and wouldn’t trade her for the world, but I also feel like she is partly my child and don’t need to go there again. Part of me very much wants a mini-me but my little sister looks exactly like me too so basically she is my mini-me. My fertile clock is running out as I am almost 31 however I am perfectly at peace with it because I feel like I’ve already had a child.

    I’m 99% sure I don’t want my own child but could maybe convinced otherwise if the right partner came along. So far no one has come close to being a life a partner so very likely I’ll still be single past childbearing age which is a-ok, because I’m living my best life as a physical therapist in Colorado and snow skiing every free moment I have. In the meantime, I love watching my little baby sister grow up (Now 16?!?) and loving on my friends kids while I get to travel, ski, and grow my career.

  119. Natassia says...

    I’m 39 and don’t have my own children (though my husband has some from his first marriage but they are all grown up so I’m more of a friend/relative than a mother to them). I’m an big introvert and a person who needs a lot of freedom and alone time to function properly (chaos life with children is the exact opposite of what I want/need from life) . It saddens me to listen from people with children who comment on my life choices as they were living my life. People should really think twice (or three times) before giving advice in these matters.

  120. Kate says...

    I hope my daughter is lucky enough to have someone in her life like Tracey. That one made me cry. You don’t have to have your own children to have a life changing impact on someone.

  121. Jen says...

    I appreciate this so much. Thank you 🙏🏼

  122. Lauren says...

    My reason is that I’m not a huge fan of life in general! I make the best of things, but compared to, say, a plant, any human I created would likely have to endure: difficult physical pain, losing loved ones, watching loved ones suffer, having to spend a large part of their adulthood working for other people, etc. etc. In some ways I wouldn’t wish life on an enemy, so how could I do that to a precious child of my own? I do have problems with mental health – for me that’s all the more reason to not have kids because dealing with mental health problems is not easy, and there aren’t guaranteed cures! To me, the possibility of having a child whose life goes wonderfully isn’t worth the risk of making someone who ends up having to endure a hard life.

    I just don’t understand having kids for reasons like, “I just want one”, or “I’ve always wanted to be a mother”. Those are true for me, too, but I can’t imagine actually making someone have to exist, just to satisfy my own desires!

  123. Lauren says...

    I really don’t understand the logic of asking people if they want “babies” when that’s such a small part of the picture. Children are babies for about 365 days. They will probably be seniors, for example, for many times longer than that. If, when I look at at 20-80 year-olds, I don’t have a passionate urge to create one, shouldn’t that affect my decision more?

  124. JS says...

    38, married 11 years, and continuing to push against every norm, question, expectation of what my life SHOULD look like from now until probably forever, amen. Best response I’ve ever heard to the question: ‘But without kids, what are you going to do with your life?’ … Everything else.

  125. Mama says...

    So fascinting reading these comments! I never planned to have kids, then married a man who was absolutely in love with babies and now we have six kids. They are simultaneously the most amazing and the most infuriating things in my life. Sometimes I think about what my life would be like if i was childfree (for instance right now i would be on my husband’s work trip to Munich instead of driving everyone to piano and basketball) but overall I am such a better person as a mother than I was when i was single or newlywed. I was extraordinarily selfish and vain before motherhood—maybe other life experiences would have taken that out of me, but maybe not.

    But there are still a lot of days when i feel like we have too many kids. It’s just a LOT of people—but then i try to imagine my life without one of my children and it’s awful. They are all such interesting, witty, charming little people. So I’m grateful for my children but I totally see the appeal of a child free life!

    • Ash says...

      Hi Mama, I just wanted to share that I am a single childless lady and worry that people think I am selfish because I assume external optics sort of dictate that. However, I volunteer for meals on wheels, homeless shelter board and big brother and big sisters. I donate money to the Heartland Stroke Foundation, SPCA, purchase back to school supplies for the food bank and just bought a goat from World Vision. Christmas.

      I by no mean write this to pat myself on the back but just as an explanation that by not having children I have the freedom of time and money to help my community. For some reason no one validates or considers that as important as having children and I like to think it is.

      Just wanted to add my little two cents here. Good luck with the family, I imagine it’s crazy but rewarding to have such a large family,

  126. Mrs Z says...

    “The ridiculous building-up of motherhood into some sort of saintly existence is a creation of mothers themselves. If it’s become a rod for the backs of women everywhere, perhaps this is a revolution that needs to start closer to home“

  127. Kelly says...

    Thanks for featuring these stories, I think it’s important to normalize this choice.
    I am 34, and have two very young children. I love them very much, and I know that if I can, I would like to have another.
    That said, most of my closest friends, for various reasons, do not have children. Since having mine, I feel more strongly than ever that if you don’t think that you want children, then you really shouldn’t have them. It’s an enormous sacrifice to have children (and I don’t say that in a pious “look at what I did” sort of way) and while there are many beautiful moments, there are probably even more really hard moments that can really push you to your brink. I think it’s so important that it be a conscious CHOICE.

    • courtney says...

      You have such great perspective, Kelly! As someone who loves kids but does not necessarily desire to own them, I am often asked why I don’t plan to have children. Why I am not having children is a fine question to me, but I never feel that I can return the question and ask why a person *does* want children. However, I think it’s an important question for prospective parents to ask themselves. It’s so important that it’s a very intentional decision beyond just using children to fill a void. Whether people choose to have children or not, to adopt or bear their own, it would be wonderful to see all of these decisions be seen as more conscious choices than automatic.

    • Tera says...

      As a 37-year old mother with two young children, I agree with all your comments 100%. Parenthood is not for everyone, and that’s great.

    • This is such a good point, Kelly! After my son was born, I remember telling my best friend who knew she didn’t want kids not to let anyone talk her into it. Not in a “this is terrible” way, because it’s not. But like marriage or a demanding career or any other life choice, it is hard, and you should only do it if you want it with your whole heart.

    • Siheme says...

      I agree with you Kelly! I have one child and he is 7. I cannot imagine myself having a second one. Parenting is hard and it does include sacrifice. Lets not forget about that part.

    • Lydia says...

      I agree, Kelly. 100%. Well-stated.

  128. I would also be curios of older perspectives. Im 30 and 90% sure I don’t want kids. okay thats a hard thing to quantify – i’m pretty sure i wont be having my own children – which is kind of heartbreaking because we’d have a beautiful child and I looooove children but I really don’t want to go through pregnancy. At the end of the day, I could handle it but my main decision maker is the same as Wudan – for the sake of our planet I don’t need to have our own child, especially when so many babies/children in the world need a loving home. Luckily my person is on the same page, but disappointing our mothers is another story .

    • Urte says...

      Dear Steph, I´m 46, maybe I count as an “older person”? I kind of felt the same as you do. I never had that natural urge to become a mother and I could never really imagine going through a pregnancy. In the end I tried to become pregnant anyway but it didn´t work out. So after a long process of trying and thinking about alternatives, two years ago our little foster daughter moved in with us and frankly we couldn´t be happier. It does not at all matter that she doesn´t look like us or doesn´t carry our genes. She´s beautiful, she´s wonderful and my parents love her as much as they love their other grandchildren.

    • Linsey says...

      What she said. Although I am 33 and just had my first baby ten months ago, I would be curious to hear from women in their 40’s, 50’s, or 60’s.

    • C says...

      So it sounds like maybe you want to be a mother, just not give birth? In that case, adoption could be a great solution, for the sake of your body, the planet and a lucky child that gets a home.

  129. Kiki says...

    I wish the moms coming to comment here to extol how wonderful motherhood is would take a second to think before contributing: those of us without kids hear this everyday. This is one post–the only one–in a series on motherhood that is not about you, moms. It’s about those of us who are referred to (usually with pity) as ‘child free’. I’m glad motherhood has been so amazing for you. But some of us don’t want it, or can’t have it, and get tired of constantly incessantly hearing about how we are missing out, can’t truly or deeply love, or might regret it when we’re older. Maybe in this conversation about not having kids, the moms could refrain from mommyjacking.

    • Rachel says...

      I would like to second this sentiment. I’m really, truly glad that having children was fulfilling for you…and there’s no shortage of that point of view. I’m somewhat annoyed that I have to wade through the comments on this article specifically to find my people and have some community with women, who like me, don’t want children. There are mommy groups and mommy articles and mommy support systems, and I’m glad because parenting deserves support. But perhaps one blog post/comment thread could be about those of us who feel daily that we are in the minority?

    • Rachel says...

      I couldn’t agree more! Bravo!

    • Anon says...

      THIS ^^^^

      There are so many valid and valuable points of view to hear from re: expectations around being a woman but this one is pretty well represented. I am certainly not child free because it never occurred to me how fulfilling moms find motherhood. I often find discussions about being childless turning into a validation of how hard/wonderful/worthwhile motherhood is once moms start weighing in. Intended with grace and love, I’m sure, but thank you for the term ‘mommyjacking.’

    • Rachel says...

      I definitely understand this “mommyjacking,” but I’ll add that everyone’s experience is different. Personally I faced a lot of criticism when I decided to have a kid (environmental/overpopulation, career), and very little of the stereotypically incessant “when are you having kids?” question. When I first had kids I lived in a community of mostly singles and childless couples, and I felt like my kids mostly inconvenienced and annoyed them. For that reason, my Automatic response is to defend motherhood, the decision to have kids and the mere existence of kids in this world.

      It is also the reason that though I 100% respect someone’s decision to NOT have kids, I’m sensitive to some of the implied judgments of people who do have kids (which I see in some of these stories).

      It’s also worth mentioning that moms face immense judgment every day for their kids’ behavior (Aka mommyshaming). You wouldn’t believe some of the things people have said to me (the balls they have!). Point is: we are all a little sensitive and defensive—not to mention tired as hell. ;)

    • AM says...

      Hi Kiki,
      I was just reading these comments and thinking about how kind and respectful all of them were being. I loved reading about everyone’s different experiences and points of view. It’s ok to hear from all women on this topic without it feeling like they are “Mommyjacking” the conversation. The COJ community is amazing and inclusive and beautiful things happen in the comments section if you are open to it.

    • Marit says...

      Thanks for this, because it is so true. As a 39-year-old, with no children on the horizon both because I’m highly ambivalent about motherhood and because I have hardly any eggs left, children aren’t in the cards for me and my husband. I’m so tired. Tired when I’ve been told, “you don’t know what love is until you are a mother,” tired of being left out of conversations because I’m not a mom, or being asked why I’m not a mom, being shot looks of pity, tired of sitting through Mother’s Day brunches where everyone talks about how so and so is now “finally a woman” because she’s given birth. I love kids! And most likely, I love your kid! But guess what? Being a childless woman can be lonely and isolating. So please, can we all be more sensitive to mommyjacking? Can we all just grant those of us who are making different choices, whether due to biology, due to simply being unsure, or because other choices took priority, some grace?

      And maybe try to avoid the snide comments about how much “free time” I must have…

    • Amanda says...

      Yes to all of this! Thank you! I wouldn’t trade my child-free life for anything. A little taken aback by the people who are missing the point of this post.

    • Paula says...

      really? i haven’t read a single comment that hijacked this post! i see most of the comments adding a lot of valid points. it’s a personal decision, whatever that decision is.

    • Rachel says...

      It’s interesting to me that the point of this post seems to be being missed by a few people which makes sense on a post so emotionally charged but still makes me want to try again to explain. It’s not that I dislike hearing others experiences or don’t find other points of view educational or enlightening. However, this is a series called Motherhood Mondays and so I feel that I read that point of view weekly (and I appreciate that peek into the path not taken). But I don’t comment in the comments section on a motherhood post about my desire not to have children, not because my feelings aren’t valid or important, but because it’s not the place for them.
      I understand that women get judgment for everything so of course some folks have experienced reverse judgement and that’s terrible. We should all make the choices that are right for ourselves and our families. In return I’m asking that you take a minute to consider that spaces to talk about the desire not to have children are still rare in 2018 (and I live in a major city) and consider what you are adding to this space and why. (And if the motherhood spaces aren’t talking enough about the judgment you’re dealing with around having children, I’d suggest shaking those spaces up!)

    • D says...

      Completely agree.

  130. My boyfriend of 6 years and I just bought a dog–it’s both solidified and seriously question my strong conviction that I don’t want kids. I love the idea of seeing my partner be so nurturing and loving in a fatherly way. I also love that we have this common goal, responsibility, and joy outside of ourselves. However, it’s affected our relationship in many ways (good and bad!) and I really can’t imagine myself being a mom and having to take on that amount of emotional, physical, and mental responsibility. I’m 25 and still unsure–I’d love to be the mother of my partner’s children because he’d be such a great dad, but I’m not sure if I’d be the best mom, or even if I want to.

  131. Anna says...

    I had my son at 37 and struggled to understand and articulate to myself, my husband, and my many friends who had chosen not to have kids or were still in the process of deciding and wanted to know more about how parenthood changes you for better or worse. I ended up writing this article on medium about the simple diagram I created to help express the fundamental change in my emotional spectrum. Maybe it would resonate with some of you, one way or another, so I thought I’d post here. https://medium.com/handsome-perspectives/a-designers-perspective-on-parenthood-the-very-best-way-to-ruin-your-life-ebc9a61b187e

    • Siheme says...

      This diagram makes so much sense. Thanks for sharing!

  132. Riikka says...

    I never wanted kids. Then when I was 34 I suddenly had this “gah, it’s soon going to be too late, do I really not want any?”. It wasn’t the biological clock, just an intellectual pondering. I decided I wanted a kid, like Lauren said ‘to satisfy my curiosity’, to have that experience. Maybe not the best reason to have a kid, but that was mine. And I love her more than anything. But now I’m done. It’s funny how people with kids go on and on complaining about their kids and ‘then ask, when are you having another one?’ Lol, never.

    • Kimberly says...

      Same boat here. I had a child because I didn’t want to regret it, but I would’ve been fine with not having any kids. I fully understand wanting that first one, for whatever reason, but what I will never understand is having more children after you know what it’s actually like to have one! My one child takes up so much time, energy, money, and emotional capital that I cannot fathom having another one. I just can’t wait until the day everyone stops asking when I’m going to give her a sibling. I’m 42, people! That ship has sailed, and thank goodness!

    • elle says...

      Ha! I’m kind of in the same boat except mine was oops. Love her so much. But people incessantly ask me about the second: sometimes just curious, sometimes patronizingly. My answer is usually hmmm….. maybe in sometime in the distant future (I’m already mid 30s)….maybe never.

    • Nii says...

      This! ^^ You have articulated my struggle with the whole idea. I’m not fully on board but I’m definitely curious about the experience! I love the term ‘intellectual pondering’. Definitely not the best reason, but it is my exact thinking too.
      I’m still super freaked out by the whole process but I’ll prolly survive because of the curiosity. Thank you, I don’t feel like I’m the only one with such a cerebral attitude towards motherhood!

    • Lauren says...

      I don’t understand this particular reasoning. In choosing to have a child, you are also choosing to introduce the possibility of them having children, and those children having children… it’s hard to imagine a graver responsibility, and to base a ‘yes’ on one’s own wishes and desires, and not on things like whether or not you can guarantee an acceptable life for your own children and also for their children on down (which of course we can’t), just doesn’t make sense to me.
      I can’t see toying with people’s *entire lives* that way, and until people can decide for themselves whether or not they want to be born (which again would be impossible), I can’t see forcing the decision on them. We don’t believe in even giving someone a hug without their prior consent; how can we believe in forcing life on them??

      I really think it isn’t ethical to even have children of one’s own. I don’t like that I have such an unpopular belief, but I believe it so strongly, and have never received any reply more substantial than, “oh, well, you don’t think of those things, you just have them and do your best! That’s life!” etc etc.

      These ideas aren’t unusual in philosophy, but they haven’t made it into the mainstream, and maybe never will.