Motherhood

7 Women on Deciding Not to Have Kids

Lately, I’ve been on the fence about whether or not I want to have children. Is it what I want, or something society tells me I want? I haven’t made up my mind, but I love talking to people on both sides to gain perspective. We talked to seven women — of different ages — about why they decided to be childfree and how it has shaped their lives…

Danielle, 50
When my husband and I married at age 28, he was interested in the idea of kids, but I wasn’t sure, so we talked and talked and talked about it for years. We decided that if it still didn’t feel right by the time I was 40, it would officially be off the table. That was 10 years ago. I was worried at first because, meeting with friends, my husband is the guy who’s on the floor playing with kids and I’m talking to the adults. I never felt like I ‘had to’ have a baby. I knew that it would require a major life change and I just never felt the pull of motherhood that I imagine other women do. My husband had a vasectomy and we told our parents we weren’t going to have kids. Our families have been mostly supportive of our decision. One of my sisters said, ‘Who will take care of you when you’re old?’ which is not enough of a reason to have kids. We both like the life we’ve created together and didn’t feel a need to change it. I can’t imagine our lives any differently — we have no regrets.

Rachel, 34
I’ve always known I wanted to be childfree. Or rather I should say, my heart wants kids maybe 25%, which feels too low for my partner and me to bring a child into this world. So many of my friends and siblings who have kids seem to have really wanted them, which made me recognize the lack of my own desire.

Being in a queer relationship also means that having a child requires a large financial, time and energy investment. For so many of our queer friends, it’s such an intentional decision. Also, choosing a sperm donor, maybe someone you’ve never met, who carries your kid’s genes. With friends in lesbian relationships, it’s been interesting also to see which partner will carry the child, or if they have multiple children, if you each carry one child. What I like about queer relationships is that even though there are a lot of hurdles to getting a child, you can make your own rules, which can be scary but also liberating. It’s been wonderful to see how my friends parent.

I’m always surprised by how many people have assumed I will change my mind or assume that my decision reflects some judgement of their life (it does not). Among my scientist peers, being childfree is relatively common, compared to my non-scientist friends, most of whom have children. Instead, I’m leaning into what Rachel Cargle describes as Rich Auntie Supreme. It’s such a fun community and I feel so seen there. I love getting to show up for my friends’ and relatives’ children, spending time with them, reading, playing and exploring with them. I think of the ‘gay uncle theory’ (or in my case, the gay aunt) in biology, where I get to funnel all the love, time and money I could have spent on my own children into supporting other people’s kids.

Additionally, I’m able to spend the rest of my time nurturing and indulging myself, spending my time and money on things that bring me deep joy and nurture my inner child. I read novels and watch foreign films. I travel and make spontaneous plans (when there isn’t a pandemic). I learned how to cross stitch and skateboard. I go for long runs and practice yoga and swim in the ocean. I cook luxurious meals which I drink with red wine and bake my favorite desserts. For me, having a child would feel like a loss of self and I’ve loved being able to cultivate a life so focused on pleasure.

J., 29
It was a something I always knew. I had really loving parents, but I also got the idea that children were more of a nuisance. I was told to act like an adult when I was four. I grew up in the Baptist church and wondered in my early twenties if I would find a partner who was ok with my not wanting a child. My husband said, ‘I kept waiting for you to change your mind’ because I actually love kids. I think when people think of childfree women they think we’re like Miranda Hobbes and way more staunch, but I was a student teacher, I taught at our church’s nursery, and I loved kids. But if you ask a little girl what she wants to be when she grows up and she says, ‘I want to be a mommy,’ people never tell her, ‘Oh, you’ll change your mind someday!’

I got my tubes tied last year and it was hard to find a doctor in Texas who would do it since I was in my twenties. I was constantly told, ‘We only do it if you already have kids.’ I finally found a doctor through a co-worker, and I felt like I was doing a drug deal. My co-worker told me, ‘My doctor will do it, but she doesn’t advertise it.’ I felt such a weight lifted after I had the procedure done, and it only solidified my decision. I am so happy being the favorite auntie, and I honestly think I have more to give to the world by not being a mother.

Peggy, 67
I knew by age 13 that I didn’t want to have kids. In my life, at times I’ve exhibited enormous wisdom, and at other times, enormous stupidity. One of the points of wisdom was not marrying someone who wanted kids when I didn’t. My husband didn’t want kids, and every time we’d go to visit my in-laws they’d ask if I was pregnant yet. Finally, we just had to tell them we weren’t having children.

I would meet new women in town and the first thing they’d say is, ‘How many kids do you have? Don’t you want kids? Don’t you want someone to love?’ To which I answered, ‘None. No. I don’t need someone to love.’ I’ve been divorced for 40 years now and thank god I didn’t have any kids with my ex. I would’ve been tied to him forever, because parenting doesn’t just stop when they’re 18 and move out of the house. When I was about 35, I went to my gynecologist to get my tubes tied. I still didn’t want kids and I wanted to get off birth control. She explained some alternative options for avoiding pregnancy but told me I couldn’t get the procedure done then because I was still of childbearing age; they thought I might change my mind, which is bullshit. This was in the late 80s, and it took me about a decade to convince them to do the procedure.

Some benefits of being childfree have been how much I’ve been able to travel and how much money I have at my disposal. For example, I spent six weeks in Ecuador and I spent a month in the Yucatan Peninsula. I didn’t make a lot of money — I had a government job — and I wouldn’t have had enough to travel if I’d had a child. I cannot wait to travel solo again. All I need is someone to watch my cats when I go. I’ve never ever, ever had any regrets.

Margaret, 38
Back in the spring of 2016 when my now-husband were dating, I went to visit one of my best friends and meet her newborn baby, Stella. As I held the brand new life in my arms, I knew in that moment that this was not what I wanted. It was that fast. Sob stories and childhood issues aside, my relationship with my mother is almost non-existent. I realized I didn’t want to take a gamble on my life by creating another one just for the sake of expectations. After returning from my trip, my boyfriend and I went out to eat. Brian cautiously asked, ‘Soooo….does this now make you want to have a bunch of Stellas?’ I responded, ‘No. In fact made me realize that I don’t want children, but I do want you.’ And that’s how I proposed to my boyfriend, now husband.

Katie, 34
My journey to being childfree started with my French teacher in high school. She was the most well-traveled, well-spoken, smart, wonderful human, who opened my eyes to the option of choosing not to have kids. In the suburban Midwest, there were very few examples of women living a childfree life. My choice was solidified when I was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 27. The frenzy of appointments included an appointment with the fertility doctor. At the time, my partner and I weren’t yet married and ultimately I’d have to put off chemo and treatment to wait for the egg retrieval and all the hormone injections that go along with that. It was truly the most important ultimatum of my life: choose fertility or choose to preserve my own livelihood as quickly as possible. I chose myself. I hope that being childfree makes me a better daughter, friend, wife and sister. I can be present in ways that I probably couldn’t if I were looking after another human. I love kids and cherish my friends’ kids and my many nieces, but I don’t feel passionate enough about my love of kids to have one myself. I hope that we can normalize that feeling for women!

Ana, 53
My husband and I had a lot of discussion about children before we married, and essentially decided that if one of us wanted kids badly enough, then the other would happily compromise. We let it ride as long as we could and eventually realized that, while we loved kids, we also really loved our life the way it was. We live in a big city and enjoy a lot that it has to offer. Neither of us felt compelled to have children.

We’re completely content childfree and have friends and family with children who we enjoy spending time with. In my early 20s, I lived with my sister and her son. I was in the room when he popped out, which contributed to a strong connection to him. I very naturally fell into co-parenting with her, and I cared for him when she went back to work, so I got a lot of one-on-one time, just figuring it out as I went. A while back, he started including me in his Mother’s Day celebrations, and I was floored! It was so sweet and genuinely a beautiful gesture. Despite having been pretty darn close to motherhood, I never felt the pull to have a child myself. Still, I’m so grateful to be included in his life in this way. He’s very close to his mom, and I get to be the auntie-mom-second-banana. Lucky me!

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

P.S. 8 more women on choosing not to have kids, 5 Cup of Jo readers on why they’re childfree, and what if you’re not sure if you want kids or not?

(Photo by Lucas Ottone/Stocksy.)

  1. Robyn says...

    There is nothing wrong with not wanting children. I admire people who go against the norms of wanting children.

  2. Jane says...

    My partner and I have been together for 10 years and never planned to have kids – we talked about it very early on in our dating and both agreed. My only stipulation was that if, in my late 30s, I got hit with a sudden desire to have kids (which practically everyone my entire life has told me would happen) then the decision wouldn’t be an immediate no – we would re-open the discussion. Well, I’m turning 40 this year and can safely say we’ve avoided any hormonal urges to change our minds. One thing that has always been very important to me is to be vocal about our choice when anyone asks. I don’t think it’s a big deal to say “we’re not planning to have any kids!” anytime someone asks. I don’t make a big deal of it, or try to excuse or explain our decision. I just put it out in the air, as natural as the decision felt for us. If someone reacts badly, I let that awkwardness hang on them – not me. I long to meet others with the same perspective…. who unabashedly say “I’m not having kids” rather than feel the need to defend the choice.

  3. Anna says...

    Hello dear Cup of Jo,
    Have you ever done a post on women who ended up without kids …. and who have to come to terms with that? I admire women who are sure of themselves and create a rich life without children … but I can’t quite relate. I spent my twenties and my thirties (I’m 38 now) doing other cool things, thinking all along that I would meet someone and we would have kids eventually. Neither has happened – and coming to terms with that has so far been a challenge. Can other women relate?

    • Rachel says...

      Hi Anna!
      I second this request. I find myself in a similar scenario (age 36), and often feel like the decision to have children has been made for me, and the control is out of my hands. (I know I have a few years, but without a potential spouse on the horizon it feels less and less likely!). I know that the link about not being able to have children has been posted a few times in the comments here, which I appreciate, but that specifically discusses trying and encountering infertility, which is not the instance Anna and I are describing. I would be very interested in hearing more from women who have encountered similar scenarios. Thanks as always for the kind and thoughtful commentary here.

    • Jessica says...

      I heartily agree with Anna and Rachel. I’m also 38 and struggling to come to terms with the fact that having a baby will not happen for me for all the reasons Anna wrote about. And I know I can live a fulfilling life but this is also a major grief to me. And it’s hard to talk about because I can’t claim to have struggled with fertility. That isn’t the community I can (or even should) share this with. All of the child free women of my age that I know don’t want children so this isn’t a topic they especially relate to. I feel very alone in this. Because while I can hold out hope I still find a partner one day, there is an actual biological deadline for having a baby. Anna, Rachel, and anyone else who may feel the same: you’re not alone.

    • Jessica says...

      Just a quick follow up to clarify that I did love this post. I find it so helpful to read about women who didn’t have children by choice and what that decision has meant for them. It goes a long way I helping me accept my own situation and see the good in it. Because there is good in it! And I love seeing more women whose lives look like mine.

    • Ann says...

      I’m 36 and never seriously entertained motherhood because of ongoing mental health issues. I’ve always felt solid in my decision however as I’m getting older it’s given me pause. I don’t think I’ll change my mind but coming to terms with my decision has been tricky and I never anticipated feeling this way.

    • Katie says...

      Yes, Anna – I can totally relate & yes, it is a very specific situation & can often feel isolating.

      I would have loved to have kids, but I only wanted that a particular way: with a man I loved. And I never met him. It seems easier at a party (or the bazillionth baby shower) to just say I don’t want kids because saying, “I guess the only thing I wanted more than being a mom was not to commit to the wrong guy,” would be a real buzzkill. For me, I was so sad about it, maybe bereft even from like 34-36. And then I realized even though I really wanted to be a mom, more than that I really wanted to be in a loving relationship, and that it might mean I’d miss my chance to have kids with the love of my life (wherever he is). Ugh – it feels so defeatist when I’ve dated my buns off for decades. So yes – I would second the motion for a post about this. Just reading these comments felt like a breath of fresh air.

    • Kelly says...

      Actually need to reply to Ann’s reply about mental health…I feel this comment so much and my heart goes out to you. I’ve never been someone who longed for children, though I know I would love and be completely obsessed with my own. However, my mental well-being has been a lifelong struggle, and I don’t know that I could be the mother I’d want for my kids and I don’t want to raise kids like me. Sometimes I feel the tragedy of that, but mostly I’m trying to focus on building a life that feels good and generous without children.

  4. Caitlin says...

    I’d love a CoJ series on people who have decided to foster/adopt kids! I am considering this as an option and the layers there are sometimes overwhelming. Biracial adoptions, open adoptions, closed adoptions, feelings of abandonment…I could go on!

    • Kelsey says...

      Yes please!

  5. maria says...

    I apparently am so fortunate in that no one has ever chided me in any way for not having children, not even my parents. Take that back: one very obnoxious date (you know the type) went on a rant (a rant!) when I answered his question about whether I wanted children or not and I said I had no plans for kids by choice. He went on an incredibly sexist tirade that was literally so boring, that it didn’t phase me in the least, aside from my being appalled by his density. I simply forgot about it instantly haha. I guess it must be because it is such a non-issue for me that the universe doesn’t even bother me with it. I am at peace with God, or in divine alignment, however you look at it.

  6. Diana says...

    At one point I was wrestling very deeply with whether to have a child or not. Lots of folks on this post have made a choice one way or the other, and congratulations to all who have, but there are also lots of comments by people trying to decide. There was a comment on an old Cup of Jo post that really helped me, and I thought I’d pass it along, in case it helps anybody else who is in that very uncomfortable, ambivalent headspace! I’ve actually found it helpful with a variety of hard choices. Try to visualize the outcomes of either choice by comparing best outcome to best outcome, medium outcome to medium outcome, and worst outcome to worst outcome, and asking yourself which one you prefer. Death, illness, regret — these are all possibilities no matter what choices we make, as are fun, love, joy, and discoveries of self. I found it enlightening to realize that I was always mentally pitting worst outcome in one scenario versus best outcome in the other, which was obscuring a bit what I deep down preferred. And of course it’s always helpful to remember that if no choice is obviously the “best choice” to you, then possibly there is no “worst choice” either. Much love to everyone thinking about this!

    • Caitlin says...

      Thank you for this! I am going to do that for sure, watch out journal!

    • Thank you for this! I am 38 and recently married and am heavily in this “figuring out place”. I’m going to journal out these outcomes today!

  7. Rebekah says...

    I always assumed I’d have kids. I met my husband in high school, we were both from somewhat conservative backgrounds, and I was the oldest of 6 kids. But he was less keen on the idea and after a scare a few years into our marriage when neither of our parents were in a good place and needed more financial and physical support….we just realized how much harder life would be trying to care for both a child and a parent (and ourselves!) Nevertheless, we were still on the fence.

    People joked that we should get a dog (we already had 4 cats) because it would be “the next step towards kids” so we adopted a puppy. And yep, it sure is “kid light” potty training, rigid discipline, and guilt when that doesn’t happen. we both had a long conversation and realized we were happy with where we were and what we had. We’re in our mid-30s and (pandemic aside) have money and time to travel, 6 wonderful pets, and a home we will likely own outright in the next 10 years.
    Who knows what the world will be like post-pandemic and facing climate change.

  8. Sharon in Scotland says...

    I always knew I didn’t want to get married and I didn’t want children. But I love children, the smaller the better. Babies make me warm and fuzzy. My choice of career was partly based on working with children from 1 yr upwards. However, I didn’t ever want the worry or responsibility of raising other human beings and my admiration for parents is limitless, especially now.

    I had a hysterectomy when I was 32. I did wonder, for a little while, about trying to have a baby before the operation, given the choice was taken away from me. Other women were appalled by the situation and I remember crying on the steps of the health centre when I got the news that I needed to have the operation. But I was extremely single and was not about to be single mother when I still felt the same about NOT having children.

    So here I am, 57, childless and unmarried and doing okay………..more than okay. Sometimes when I’m tucked up in bed, warm and cosy, listening to something on the Internet Archive, I ask myself out loud, “are you happy?” and I usually reply, out loud, “yeh……..yeh I am!”

  9. Tracey says...

    As an Australian I am horrified at how normalized elder abuse and lack of social support is amongst these comments. It’s like you expect it??

    Should I become senile I expect that I will go into a home and be (almost certainly) well cared for, paid for with my life time of tax contributions. As our population rates fall, I hope we can open our borders to people from all over the world who might like to live here and take the employment my non-existent kids would have had.

    I also have strong connections with my peers, my nieces and nephews so I trust I’ll have someone to make essential decisions.

    Lastly. Nursing homes are filled with people who’s children do not visit.

    • Emma says...

      Even as an American, I don’t understand that argument. Let’s set aside the fact that our society has no safety net, which is 100% true. Just take all the money you would be spending on hypothetical children – paying for pregnancy/delivery, childcare, living expenses, schooling, healthcare, extracurriculars – and invest it. I think the average family pays like $200k to raise a child to 17, and many people spend considerably more. If you invest it right you’ll retire a millionaire and have more than enough money to pay for your care. If someone’s saying “I can’t afford to save that much” then they can’t afford to have a kid either!

    • kara says...

      Your last line resonated with me–during high school and college I worked at a retirement home. Then as an adult I’ve volunteered with hospice for about 8 years (in two states, DE and AZ). The percentage of elders who have visits–regular or holiday–from their children is single digits. Calls, cards, and gifts, maybe slightly higher.

    • margaret says...

      Yes, yes, yes to what Emma said! My next door neighbor is 75 and had a horrible year with an injury requiring several surgeries. Her 30-something son, whom she has done so much for!, is almost useless. My husband does more for her. I understand the emotional appeal of the urge to have children to help you in your old-age, but it breaks down quickly when you think of it rationally, in the sense that there is an enormous risk that your child will be unwilling or unable. Saving money? Much less risk.

    • Emma says...

      So true Margaret! Even if your child WANTS to help they may not be able to – they may not have the money or time, or their line of work may not allow them to live near you. They could have a crisis of their own or have in-laws who are worse off than you are, or end up having a partner or child with a disability who requires their own special care. Or your kid may just end up being a dirtbag who doesn’t want to help. The unfortunate reality is that an index fund is more reliable than most humans in the long term, but people understandably have trouble accepting that.

  10. Rebecca says...

    I am a parent, and the experience of having children really opened my eyes to the pressure women (and men) feel from every angle when it comes to working out what your own happiness
    looks like. The conflicts between what you want, whether you ‘should’ want it, whether you really want what you think you want, whether you are lucky enough to have the chance to try for what you think you want, and how to live without it if you can’t. From conception to breastfeeding, financial security to waist size, every choice or choice removed can feel like a fully loaded line in the sand. I have enormous admiration for these women who have the conviction to stand up for their choices in a world designed to make you second guess every move, whichever path you follow. There is no right path, and there is always another one.

  11. C says...

    I don’t remember how I came across this post earlier this week but all I have to say is THANK YOU for this! As someone who is 39, CFBC, and just recently started explaining my no kids situation as CFBC more openly (started a new job, all the coworkers are older than me with kids), I needed to hear these stories. While my husband and I made this decision a while ago and have had more conversations about it than any of our friends who chose to actually have kids, the societal pressures are REAL and it’s exhausting. Any CFBC ladies or couples out there in Los Angeles that want to start a CFBC friend/couple group?

  12. Emily Copp says...

    As always, a fascinating post topic and comment thread. May I pose a question to the child free here? Background: I’m in my mid 30s with a new baby (7 months). I never gave much thought to whether or not I’d have children until I got married and my husband and I decided that’s what we’d like to do, and were fortunate enough that it happened relatively easily for us. It was a choice that worked for us and we don’t regret. But now, as a working professional and a friend with a new baby, I feel ULTRA self conscious of what child free women must think of me. Do they think I’m obsessed with my baby? I talk about her too much? Am I scattered and useless at work? I personally feel so much more at ease around other new moms, because I know they’re equally as preoccupied with things like sleep schedules and day care options as I am, but I don’t want to be that person who is obsessed with that parent identity above everything. My question: Beyond being non-judgmental about your choice not to have children, and acknowledging that your life has as much value as mine despite our different child statuses, what are ways that people can support the child free among us? And not be insensitive jerks?

    • B says...

      I really appreciate this question. I’m sure that others will have something to add, but I would say that starting by making space for them and their experience, which goes both ways :) Acknowledging that there is challenge and fulfillment in both choices and that some of the challenges that they face are unique to their experience and you won’t necessarily understand (again goes both ways). The child free may be interested in your kid(s) and care about playing a role in their lives, or they might not, but will listen because they care about you and your kid (s) is something that matters to you. Making sure that the child free individuals in your life know that you care for and value them and take an interest in their life (ask how they’re doing and about things that matter to them). As someone who is child free, I realize that my friends with children are not necessarily able to be present in the same way, but even check-in texts help me to feel seen and valued.

      On a work front, realize that being child free doesn’t necessitate additional bandwidth for work responsibilities – we may care for aging parents, have health issues, or other commitments that we value.

    • B says...

      I don’t normally comment but I saw your question and wanted to offer up a thought, not all encompassing but a little perspective from a child free woman who has many friends with kids. First of all, being a new mother is so hard, you don’t need to feel insensitive because you are fully “in” motherhood and you relate to other women going through the same thing. We feel the same way about connecting with other child free women. One of the hard parts about friends having babies is that we miss spending time with you, and we fully understand why you have less time for dinner and drinks. Don’t rule us out as sounding boards if you need to talk or need support, a phone call goes a long way. I love being involved and babysitting my friends’ kids, it takes a village after all. And please, don’t be so hard on yourself.

    • Childfree Me says...

      You’re fine. You’re allowed to have your own life and love it dearly. Anyone who hates you for doing so has their own work to do. Just be a normal person. Ask as many questions of them as they ask of you. Be genuinely interested in their lives. Set reminders if your brain is custard to check in on job interviews, medical results, how’d that date go? Etc. just be a person. As women, so much more unites us than divides us. We all know worry and grief and joy and love and loss.

    • Chris says...

      Hi Emily,
      that’s very sweet and considerate of you! But I think you should not be too self conscious about what child free women might think – tactful yes, but of course you’ll talk a lot about your baby because this is important to you!
      As a woman in her 40ies without kids I appreciate it when people are genuinely interested in what’s going on in my life (as I am with theirs, too), are including me in their life instead of hanging out only with other moms and, while enjoying their family, naturally acknowledge that there are many ways to be happy (instead of implying that people without kids are less loving, caring and fulfilled).
      Love,
      Chris

    • M says...

      I appreciate the question. One thing that immediately comes to mind is, please don’t be a one-upper. As a CFBC woman who happens to suffer from insomnia, debilitating anxiety, depression, and other health issues, it doesn’t go over well with me to hear, “You don’t even KNOW what being tired is until you have a newborn!” The reality is that over the course of 20 years of insomnia, I’ve probably gotten less sleep overall than mothers of newborns and young kids. That’s just an example. Same goes for “You don’t know love until you have a child.” Again, it’s offensive. As others have said, we CFBC folks deal with loads of other issues — I am the first-in-line caregiver of my aging parents, while my sister with several kids is completely removed of any such responsibilities (and I’m fine with this). Each of the two choices comes with its own challenges. Thanks for asking this.

    • Emma says...

      That’s a good question. For me it boils down to two problems: discounting the experience of child-free people and making a habit of overburdening others. For instance, if someone says “I’m tired” don’t say “You have no idea what tired is until you are nursing a newborn!” Same with “You never know love until you’re a parent.” Honestly that one is just cruel, especially when so many women want to be mothers but can’t. An example of overburdening others would be if a parent is constantly dropping the ball at work and expecting non-parents to work late because they don’t have the same “responsibilities.” You just never know what is going on in someone else’s life. Being a parent is also (usually) a choice, so it’s annoying when coworkers act like martyrs and feel entitled to ask me to pick up their slack. To be clear, I think everyone understands that being a new parent is REALLY hard and things slip through the cracks, so I’m not AT ALL saying parents shouldn’t ask for help, or that I expect them to perform at 100%. I just find it frustrating when people who have been parents for years still make a habit of acting like people without children are just flouncing about without a care in the world. This also applies to people who act like parents need/deserve raises more than employees without children. Outside of the workplace, another example could be expecting child-free friends to always accommodate your schedule and never the other way around. Again, I think most people are really understanding – especially because childcare is so expensive – but it’s disappointing when it becomes a pattern of disrespectful behavior. Honestly you don’t sound like the kind of person to do any of these things so you’re probably on the right track :)

    • Zara says...

      It’s a small thing compared to these other comments, but it drives me bananas when people use the word “family” to mean a a couple with children–it’s such a dated definition. My partner and I are a family, we don’t need children to be a family.

    • B says...

      Yes 🙌 to @Emma and part of what I meant in my initial response. At my last job, I was on a team of 3 people and the only one who wasn’t a parent. This was also before I met my partner, so I was also long term single. Guess who was assigned to work the holiday shifts – New Year’s Eve, Christmas Eve? Guess who received the last minute requests from supervisors that needed to be done urgently? My teammates were not more senior and even if they had been, there should have been a more equitable distribution of labor. I felt like my time was seen as less valuable, since I didn’t have “someone at home”.

      But @Emily Copp, I don’t think that this applies to you. It seems like you’re already making an effort to be mindful of and respectful of others, which is pretty much the point of all of this :)

    • L says...

      This is such a lovely question, and I really appreciate you asking. The biggest thing I have observed is many people who have children think they know what it’s like not to have children, because there was a point in their lives when they didn’t. For me, not having children looks VASTLY different in my mid-30s (when the majority of my friends have children) vs. my early 30s (when only a few friends had kids). I think I’ve only had one friend ever ask what it is like not having kids; she asked it in such a genuinely curious, thoughtful way that really made me feel seen, and I’ve always appreciated that she asked and didn’t assume she knew or understood.

  13. K says...

    COVID has definitely changed my partner’s and my plans to have children. My boyfriend’s parents moved in with us after his father was laid off last summer, and we will likely be supporting them for the rest of their lives. With this drastic change, my partner and I are left wondering: Will we have enough money to raise children of our own and also be the primary caretakers of two adults? One reader commented that financial preparedness before having kids is often a pipedream, but I never want to be in a situation where I am forced to choose between spending on necessities for my child or for my elderly in-laws. The way I see it, our in-laws are here now, but bringing a child into this world (not to mention the climate crisis, worsening inequality, and increasingly unattainable nature of higher education) would be needlessly cruel at this point. We often have dreamed that if we lived in a different, more just country (we are currently in the US) that we may be able to afford having kids of our own.

    • Emma says...

      That sounds really thoughtful and reasonable! FYI – when your boyfriend files taxes, he may be able to claim his parents as dependents. I don’t know all the details but I know there are deductions and exemptions that apply to family caregivers. If this will be a long term situation I would definitely suggest seeing a tax professional to get advice about the best way to handle it.

  14. Mimi says...

    Thank you to CoJ for again discussing such a personal – and all encompassing – subject!
    I’d love to hear from women who have adopted…especially if adoption was their initial path to parenthood. At 36, having been on the fence my whole life about having kids, I’m feeling that while I do not want to (physically bear) “have” children, I may want to be a parent. Would love to hear some perspectives!

  15. Elizabeth says...

    I adore that people feel courageous enough to speak their truth against mainstream societal expectations. My sister LOVES kids but doesn’t want her own! That’s okay! She’s gonna be an awesome aunt. My best friends doesn’t want kids either. I can’t imagine not having my own kids some day but that’s everyone’s OWN CHOICE. I so admire the conscious decision to bring or not bring kids into this world.

  16. Angeline says...

    Just wanted to second and third all the commenters who expressed their disappointment at how the discussion for this less mainstream topic (women who are child free by choice) has been hijacked by proponents of the totally mainstream convention (women who chose to have kids). I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read a comment that starts out promisingly with “I knew I didn’t want kids” only to have my heart sink when the narrative inevitably turned to “but then I had 1/2/3/4/6 kids and honestly it’s been THE BEST THING EVER MY LIFE HAS BECOME A MILLION TIMES BETTER!!”. I mean, it’s not like we CFBC flood Motherhood Around the World or maternal-type posts on COJ with comments like “I thought I wanted kids but then I found out I didn’t and it’s been THE BEST THING EVER YOU GUYS!!!”. Honestly, in all my time reading this blog I truly can’t think of a single instance when something like that’s happened. But on the other hand, anytime there’s been a topic about being single, or opting not to have children — anything that’s not the conventional cultural norm — suddenly all the people who AREN’T single or child-free are crowding in and shoehorning their experiences into the comments section. Whereas when the topic is maternity-adjacent or about parenting and it doesn’t relate to the child-free/non-parents/singletons in general, I/we mostly just don’t comment, and move on to the next post or topic. Is it so hard to ask for the same consideration from the marrieds/parents? I totally agree with Kate below, who said that this post is about us CFBC, it’s our story, and the non-CFBCs need to let us have it.

    • M says...

      Agreed. This also happened on a post by Caroline about not being engaged
      and then the comments were flooded with engagement stories. The topic is deciding not to have kids. If you have them why comment? We don’t need the other side of the perspective.

    • Mara says...

      After this let-down, I’m considering taking to motherhood posts and being honest about how happy I am to be child-free. What, you say? That would be so obnoxious? Well, now you know how it feels for us when parents shoehorn their experiences into one small sliver of space that’s ours for our child-free commentary and camaraderie. Just let us have this rare bit of space, people.

    • K says...

      Re: commenting on Motherhood Around the World posts about being childfree

      I think it’s partly because commenting on what you *don’t* have when someone is proud of having that thing can sometimes feel a little unnatural–

      for a hasty example–
      blog post: why I LOVE chocolate
      comments: I hate chocolate and I’m glad I do!

      I mean, even then I do think it’s fine to voice your opinion. I think the other tricky thing is that is having children involves children being fellow humans with feelings, oftentimes helpless and/or innocent humans with feelings. So it may feel even odder to comment “I’m so glad I don’t have kids!” vs. chocolate. But even then, if you were to comment, “your kids seem “lovely/other adjective, but I can’t imagine raising kids myself because…” I feel that is quite constructive and if you feel that to be your true opinion that would add to the discussion, it would be beneficial to voice it.

    • Angeline says...

      @K, I appreciate your comment, but i have to respectfully disagree with you, especially what you said re Motherhood Around the World: “commenting on what you *don’t* have when someone is proud of having that thing can sometimes feel a little unnatural”. I presume you meant that the child-free are the ones who must needs feel unnatural about commenting on motherhood since that’s what they don’t have.

      Going by that same logic, women who are mothers should *also* find it unnatural to comment on what they don’t have, namely a child free by choice life, which CFBC women are also proud of, yet it clearly doesn’t stop these mothers from co-opting a conversation that totally and clearly isn’t about them. CFBC women by and large do feel pride in their choice to live their kid-free lives, yet they do not get the same permission/approbation from society at large to openly express this pride, certainly nowhere near as much latitude and approval as mothers get for expressing pride in their motherhood. Which is why it’s endlessly frustrating when the mothers try to make the discussion about being child free about the joys of motherhood instead. Which is just another tiresome retread of the same spiel we’ve been subjected to since childhood, that femininity rightly equals motherhood, the highest calling of women should be to sacrifice themselves on the altar of motherhood, raising children is a blessing, ad nauseam. Yes that may very well be the case to some women, and if so more power to them, but that’s not for us CFBCs, which is something so many still refuse to accept or condone.

      I do not mean to be harsh but I really, really feel that you’ve missed the point entirely when you try to equate children with chocolate — of course no one would bat an eye when anyone says they dislike/hate chocolate. Chocolate is chocolate! A delicious flavour/food item but as you yourself pointed out, a non-living entity. BUT, try saying out loud in polite society that you as a woman dislike/hate children, living entities, and watch how fast people turn on you/tear you apart for being such a right heartless monster. The pint is that safe spaces like this COJ post which allows us CFBC to affirm our choices and reassure each other that there really is absolutely nothing wrong with us for not wanting to have kids, or just plain not liking kids, are really few and far between, and that’s why it’s so maddening when the mothers — who have innumerable other spaces online and even on COJ a seemingly inexhaustible number of posts celebrating motherhood and every little nuance that comes with it — co-opt this narrow and rare sliver of space given to us CFBCs. You get to celebrate motherhood, that’s great. All we are asking for is a space to celebrate ourselves without other ppl wanting to make it about them and their kids instead.

      In terms of analogies, I’ll give you the most concise one I can think of right now. Picture the Titanic sinking. The parents, the mothers, the marrieds, are all safely ensconced on the few life rafts available, with food supplies, warm clothes, blankets, medicines, etc and assured of survival, even thriving once rescued. Meanwhile the singles, the CFBCs, are left to scramble to survive as best they can on the doomed ship, and some like Rose and Jack have found a spot on the railing on the highest point of the ship that’s still above water, but it is still going under. THEN, along comes a few straggler mothers who insist that the CFBCs give up their spot on the railing for them and their precious kids, because their lives are more valuable, and proceed to try to pry them off the tiny space on the boat. Yes that may be a tad over dramatic but THAT is what it feels like to me when mothers co-opt this space. All we are asking for is for others to respect our desire to keep this space for ourselves, and for others to allow us the grace to talk about our CFBC choice and everything that that entails, without constantly having to justify ourselves. It’s tiresome enough having to defend our choice IRL with absolutely everyone without having to be subjected to it here on COJ as well.

    • Britt says...

      @K I think that you’re missing the point. I’ve been thinking about this some more – the offensive and shaming comments (luckily in the minority) on this post were what bothered me initially, but I felt uncomfortable that the majority of comments on this post were from women who have already decided and already chosen to have kids – not those who hadn’t had but wanted, not those who were questioning, and not those who had chosen not to. It goes back to representation and the concept of giving/taking space. As a member of a mainstream group (those who chose to have and are already mothers), you get to see yourself represented in the world frequently, both in the community and on this blog – the group that you are a member of is often the target audience. You get to take space, both in your communities and here, where you have the opportunity to vocalize your perspectives and lived experience with motherhood. As someone who chooses not to have children, I don’t see or encounter often women who choose not to have children or are questioning (I’ve met two over the last ten years). In society, even if it’s becoming more mainstream, the voices of child free women are not given the same kind of platform and in some instances, we are treated like lesser members of society. I haven’t found many places, including in my community offline, where my experience as a childfree women is considered. When the majority of women responding to a rare post on a minority group are not themselves members of that group and have already definitely chosen, it takes space rather than gives it.

  17. Katherine says...

    Wooowhee! Sooo many comments – people have lots to say. I’m curious – what is your highest commented post?

  18. Hannah says...

    Is there a reason as to why on posts as this one the interviewees are anonymous? I’m genuinely curious.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Oh no reason! We just usually don’t put full names on quote posts like these.

  19. Jam says...

    I’ll admit I think it’s strange that there has been pushback about those who are parents commenting on this post. The vast majority of comments I have read from parents or those who desire to be parents has been supportive of people choosing to be child free. While we may acknowledge that we have/want kids, we are saying we respect a decision that is the complete opposite of ours. Why is that not an awesome thing to hear? That you are supported and you do not need to explain your choice ever. (Though I appreciated reading the stories behind the decisions). I also think the Kim specifically asked readers if they would like to have kids or not, so different perspectives were invited, not imposed. I sincerely support everyone’s choice, especially those who choose to be child free because you’re all right- it feels like you’re bucking some “tradition” (though I think it’s slowly becoming normalized and that’s a great thing). I’m in the camp of being the only parent in a group of close friends (female and male) who are all child free for various reasons. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to feeling lonely in that regard, but I respect their choices and let them know it if it ever comes up.

    Love to everyone here. You are being heard.

    • NM says...

      Yes to this.

    • B says...

      I appreciate this thoughtful comment. With all due respect though, I don’t think that issue is taken with any parent commenting on this post who chooses to share their story, but more so with comments that suggest that we are self absorbed or selfish or somehow shirking a responsibility to perpetuate the species and make sure that there is a generation to care for us all in our old age. There were other comments, some of since have been deleted, which went even further in their shaming of child free women – e.g. equating not liking children with racism and thereby also dismissing the lived experience of POC. As someone who is child free by choice, I absolutely appreciate when those who are parents are supportive of my choice and recognize that our lives can be full and challenging as well.

    • Jam says...

      B- I apologize for speaking with ignorance. You’re right- those kinds of comments are unacceptable. I didn’t see those posts and yeah I’m not with any of that at all. Thanks for letting me know. Glad they were removed.

  20. Meg says...

    I’m in my mid-30s and have always known that I didn’t want children. I will not add the coda of “but I love other people’s children” because I don’t. I don’t particularly enjoy being around babies or small children, and that’s ok. I have always lived with a complete absence of desire to have children. I’m grateful for that because I’ve never had to wrestle with any ambivalence. I sometimes feel a slight pang of exclusion from the Mom Club when around other friends, but I never feel a longing for a different life. I have long since given up on being offended by people who tell me I’ll surely change my mind. Those people are dumb, and their words deserve zero consideration. What does sometimes frustrate me is the feeling I get that people view my husband and I as incomplete-like were not technically a “family,” because it’s just the two of us. We are each other’s family, and our lives are full and happy.

    • Lucy says...

      “ Those people are dumb, and their words deserve zero consideration.” Love this!!

    • Christina Overall says...

      Same boat here. I’m 38 and I’ve been telling people I don’t want or plan to have kids for the last 30 years. I love older kids, like teenagers, and teach middle school, but I cannot handle young children. People told me I would feel differently when I married the right man, but now I know he’s the right man because he doesn’t want children either. It’s getting harder to have a keep “couple friends,” though, because we. have different lifestyles and priorities. I figure when we’re retirement age, everyone’s kids will be gone by then, and we can find more people with our level of freedom.

  21. Laura says...

    Happily childfree and married for 16 years here. Just wanted to share that the night after reading these comments, I dreamt I gave birth to a 9 pound baby and was very unhappy about it! I woke up relieved and laughing. Cup of Jo has entered my subconscious!

    • Cecile says...

      Hahahaha. Love this!

    • Em says...

      Hahaha I love this. I have pregnancy/baby dreams about one a month and always wake up SO relieved that it isn’t IRL.

  22. ML says...

    It is wonderful and important that this discussion is taking place, though I can admit to being disheartened to see many commenters turning the conversation back to why they chose to have children. 

    As a 37-year-old with a combination of uncertainty around my desire to have children and fertility concerns that may prevent me from conceiving naturally, I cling to stories about those who are happily child-free. It’s a perspective we don’t see nearly enough, and one that makes me feel very hopeful. This hope is very powerful in the midst of changing female friendships, pressure from family members and regular reminders of the dreaded biological clock. It is a very lonely experience made so much more difficult by the daily reminders that only women who choose to have children have true fulfillment. 

    I hope the dialogue on this topic encourages CoJ to continue the conversation in future posts. Thank you again for providing the platform for the discussion. 

    • Teresa says...

      ML, I was moved to reply to your comment because I feel the same way. I’m 37 and have always been uncertain about motherhood, and now facing a ticking biological clock and decreasing chances of conceiving a child naturally if I DID want to have child, it’s a stressful and lonely place. Reading stores about women who were also uncertain only to have a child and reach a state of happiness and fulfillment that only motherhood can bring is disheartening. As such, I cling to stories from women who are happily child-free. They give me hope. I agree that we don’t see this perspective enough.

  23. Lilly of the Valley says...

    This may be a little off-topic, but I just wanted to share my experience as the only CFBC person in my friend group/extended family, and how that shapes the way people treat me. I related to the accounts by other commenters about how friendships, even close ones, invariably shift and sometimes become estranged once one friend becomes a parent. One even said her child-free friend became standoffish once she had kids, and she had no idea why. I’d like to venture to guess that more often than not, it’s because conversations with friends/family members who are parents eventually drifts back to the topic of their kids. OR, the parent friend turns up with kids in tow for a previously agreed upon supposedly adult-only get together and says something breezy like, “You don’t mind, right?” without stopping to wait for an answer. We can totally understand if your sitter flaked, or childcare arrangements fell through at the 11th hour, but if you consistently do it more than once, that’s when it starts to feel disrespectful. And your child-free friend starts to feel resentful at their kind nature being taken advantage of, but may not be able to bring it up with you without having to deal with a guilt trip/defensiveness.

    Another sticking point is, and this is where sh!t gets real, is what happens when said kid(s) has a meltdown or behaves in a totally destructive manner in our presence. I have had friends turn up to adults-only dinner parties at my house with kids without so much as a by your leave and proceed to allow the kids (under 5) to run riot in my house, and when they inevitably broke some stuff, the parents just shrugged and carried on with a mere “be careful!” to the child, and not one word of apology to me the host. Another time a dear friend’s only child decided to fling Legos in my face — repeatedly — while we were sitting with him on the floor, and after each attempt to maim me all his mother did was blithely say “Billy, we don’t throw things, or your Auntie Lilly won’t come visit you again”. Like, really? That’s all you have to say about your child’s violence upon my person? It’s not like I expected her to spank the child for it or any other transgression, but doing nothing was a pretty clear indicator/quick way to convey to me that I was totally unimportant to her. There were so many non-violent but firm ways to deal with that — she could have swapped his toys with something less throwable, moved to a different room, or distracted/stopped him mid-throw. But no she just paid it lip service, which the child of course proceeded to ignore because really, what was the consequence? There were none. Also, heaven forbid we CFBC have an opinion on disciplinary methods, or how to raise functional kids, because as child-free people we of course know nothing about any of it and if we did have an opinion they don’t want to hear it because our opinions are clearly invalid/we clearly have no right to our opinions, much less attempt to share them. No doubt there are overbearing people who judge parents for every little thing but as close friends, would it really be so impossible to believe that your CFBC friends could have a valid, loving viewpoint to share, have your best interests at heart, and give them the benefit of the doubt?

    Ok this turned into a bit of a rant — guess I’d repressed a lot more resentment about being the ostracized/isolated CFBC person who felt like I was constantly on the outside looking in than I’d realised. Choosing not to have kids was absolutely the correct choice for me, and I don’t begrudge or think differently of my friends for choosing to have kids. But I often feel like I’m always the one meeting them halfway and doing the heavy lifting in the relationship, with ever-diminishing returns in investment. It sucks and I hate it and I wish I could change things, because no matter how many times they tell me they wish they could meet up, they never seem to follow through. One can only have plans cancelled so many times before one starts to infer that it’s probably time to take a step back and look for other friends. (I’m stuck with my family though!) Again, I can only speak to my personal experience, but I’m willing to bet at least some of it is universal to some extent.

    • NH observer says...

      Sadly, I think people who are considerate before they have kids are considerate after they have kids, and the opposite holds true as well. I have a seven-year-old and the behavior you described from some of your friends who are parents sounds truly awful. I also crave adult-only time with my friends and am terrible at multitasking, so even when people urge me to bring my son to various activities, I have been loath to do so because I know I’ll be distracted by attending to my son. The one point about which I disagreed with you is that I truly think all of us should give advice only when asked. I’m there for my friends to listen to them. If they want help, great. If not, it’s not my place to counsel them.

    • Olivia says...

      Wow, that sounds horrible. I have a 1.5 year old and I’ve never do any of those things! I’m so sorry you know so many people who do. Puke.

      I will say regarding advice – in my opinion there’s kind of almost nothing you can do to help other people in that regard. Either the issue is such that the parent has good intentions but just physically cannot do xyz thing 100% of the time (discipline, sleep, whatever, and no one wants anyone’s advice. It’s hard.), or they’re totally out to lunch, their kids are assholes (like the people you described), and there ain’t no changing them. As a parent I barely give advice bc I know that in general the person has though of all the things and has a reason they can’t or won’t work.

      I talk to my non parent friends on the phone all the time and relish talking about non kid stuff. It’s such a breath of fresh air! And adore hanging out with them! Complete and total treat. Granted, it’s not super often I can do so.

  24. Eli says...

    Thank you for this post! I have struggled to decide if I wanted to comment or not being a woman in my mid-30’s that decided in my 20s I do NOT want children.
    My idea of being a mother is to be a stay at home mom. It is how I was raised and it is how I envision raising children. Prior to getting divorced and finding true happiness in my second career, I wanted children. I wanted nothing more than to give my husband a child and to raise a family and to be a mother. But my ex-husband works in college football and I knew that it would not be US having children and raising a family… it would be ME. I watched my mother be a single-parent due to my step-father being in the military as well as the way our family was run. If I were to have children, I want it to be with someone that wants to be just as present and responsible and a parent as I am.
    I also suffer from anxiety, mild OCD, but most importantly – major depression. I am a prime candidate for post-partum depression. The type that would make me unable to function. My ex-husband was unable to learn (or maybe didn’t care) to help me and care for me when my depression took hold. I am continuing to see a lack of care in my current partner as depression has me in its grips. If I cannot rely on someone to take care of me, how can I rely on them to step up and care for me and a child?
    The comments I get when I tell people I do not want to be a mother and I do not want children are rude, disrespectful, and downright degrading. My choice in not wanting to have children, whatever the reasons may be, does not reflect on anyone else’s choices TO HAVE children. I will not “change my mind,” I will not “regret my choices.” There is nothing WRONG with me because I do not want children. There is nothing wrong with those whose dream is to have children.
    I agree with a fellow commenter below, Nicole, who stated a lot of the comments in this post are rude and disrespectful. The point was to showcase that it is ok to not have children and there are women who are completely fulfilled with their life by not having them. Stop trying to convince people that we are missing out, that we will change our mind, that we cannot know true joy without giving birth/adopting/fostering, etc. We are not selfish. We are not self-righteous. Leave us alone.
    As Jennifer Aniston said (on not having children) [and I paraphrase] “I don’t have this sort of checklist of things that have to be done and if they’re not checked then I’ve failed some part of my feminism, or my being a woman, or my worth, or my value as a woman.”

    • Kate says...

      Very good point, Eli. It would be difficult to be a single-mother or primary parent. One of the requisites for having children is often the need to find a suitable partner. I’m grateful I don’t feel the pull to have children which means I also don’t feel like I need to hurry up and find the right, or even good enough, partner. It’s such a relief. The pressures of those two huge life events, marriage and children, just falls away when you can remove the latter one.

    • ellie says...

      Also consider this excellent quote – which helped me enormously to clarify my life and the people I was mistakenly devoting myself to:

      “Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self-esteem, first make sure that you are not, in fact, just surrounded by assholes.” ~ William Gibson

  25. Ange says...

    I have never had the desire to have children. I told my husband that on our second date and warned him that if it was a deal-breaker, we should probably stop seeing each other. I can’t count the number I’ve been told “just wait!” or “you’ll change your mind!” There is a really unfair burden of justification. You would never ask someone to defend their choice to have children, but I often have to defend my choice not to. Imagine if I responded with “you’ll change your mind!” to my friend who’s told me that she can’t wait to be a mother?
    I hear of these longing and sometimes consuming feeling of wanting to have kids, but I have never felt that. My uterus doesn’t “skip a beat” when I see babies. I wholeheartedly support the people in my life who choose to have children and am genuinely excited for them. I joke that about once a quarter the idea crosses my mind, but it never lasts more than 6 hours, which proves that this really isn’t a life choice that I want. It took us 5 years of negotiations with our family physician to have my husband referred for a vasectomy, but eventually, he was able to have the procedure. Our physician was hesitant due to potential regret, although in my experience, regret is not a side effect discussed when planning a surgical procedure.
    We need to stop mistaking self-awareness for self-absorption. I would never choose money and travel (the double income no kids (DINK) life) over kids if I truly wanted them. I just want to live my life, and for me, that life doesn’t involve me having children.

    • Kate says...

      I also usually bring it up right away! I imagine a woman talking about wanting kids on the second date might seem strange, but because it is the assumed default I feel the need to bring up the non-negotiable fact I don’t want kids.

      Can I also point out that often the people saying, “You’ll change your mind” are people who have wanted children all along? Now, if it frequently came as a warning from childless middle-aged women or mothers who felt a sudden, deeply urgent, mid-thirties desire to have children, then maybe there would be some merit to these arguments. But 95% of the time it’s from people who’ve always had a strong desire and they simply can’t understand your lack of one.

  26. Meg says...

    I’m 38, and about a year ago made the decision that I’m definitely not going to have children. I had been wrestling with the idea for a few years, and most of my conversations (with myself and with my partner) centered around the question of whether I would make a good mother. One day, I was writing in my journal about it, and it occurred to me that I wasn’t asking myself some much more important questions: Do I want to be a mother? And, what do I want my life to look like? As soon as I answered those questions, focusing on the vision that I have for my life, what I value, what I enjoy, what I want to contribute and accomplish, how I want to grow, etc., I could easily say: “I don’t want to have kids.” I don’t think I’ve ever had the feeling of a weight being lifted from my shoulders as much as I did in that moment. After years of struggling with the idea of motherhood, I immediately felt more confident and more like myself.

    • E says...

      Meg, this is so interesting to me. I’m 28 and feel an incredibly deep sense of ambivalence about becoming a mother.

      On the ‘con’ side is definitely the level of scrutiny and judgement that seems to be the norm for American mothers. Having kids here (in the US) seems both insanely challenging logistically and financially, and a great way to immediately lose any non-maternal sense of identity.

      In all the conversation about this being a ‘personal choice,’ I also just want to point out that these decisions–and raising children–do not exist in a vacuum. (What I love about the motherhood around the world series!) My partner often talks about his childhood, where he lived in a very safe community and had a tremendous degree of independence. As a fairly young child, he would spend the entire day away from home, walking around barefoot in the woods. Where we live now, I would not have the luxury of allowing my child that much freedom–and I’m not sure I want to raise a kid in the more confined, sheltered way that I was brought up. When making decisions about becoming a parent, it’s not just you and your immediate family to consider–it’s also the wider world–and what kind of community you will be part of as a parent.

  27. NM says...

    Just want to say that I’m loving this thread. I love to hear about other people’s thoughts, choices, struggles, successes.

    I’d like to point out that there’s no reason to expect a homogeneous discussion here. There’s no reason to expect that this post is a space for only for those who chose not to have children.

    There are many places online, I’m sure, that are just for moms to chat, and just for for folks who don’t have/want kids to chat.

    Here you can listen to the stories of people who knew from age 5 that they didn’t want children, people who were in the fence and then decided to foster, people who are still on the fence and feeling torn, people who have children but struggle with the challenge of parenthood… and hundreds more.

    I love hearing about all the journeys people have taken. That’s what makes this community special.

    • Anonymous says...

      I don’t expect a homogeneous discussion, but I was hoping for more kindness and understanding than I’m finding. Yes, some of these comments are people just sharing their stories, but others, like this one, are rude and insensitive. You’re enjoying this discussion – great! But others of us are having really strong reactions to feeling attacked or silenced. Maybe try empathizing with us instead of telling us our feelings are wrong or don’t matter? I’m so tired of being policed by other women.

    • K says...

      hear, hear!

    • B says...

      Not expecting a homogeneous discussion, but women without children are marginalized by society and by other women. Women with children are marginalized too, but in different ways and are often given space to talk about their parenting experience. They’re treated as the societal norm – a desire to have children is the societal expectation placed upon women, and when you choose not to have children, you are often treated as someone to be pitied or as if there is something wrong with you. The article was about making space for those who are child free by choice. And when the space is co-opted by women who are are defensive about our choices or who shame us for not wanting children, it perpetuates the marginalization. And while women with children can travel, have hobbies, etc, that’s not what this post was about. And making a blanket statement that those things are possible post parenthood does not acknowledge the privilege behind the ability to have those options such as a career that enables you to work from home or with reduced hours, a partner who takes on an equal amount of parenting work, the financial ability to pay for childcare, and/or healthy relationships with family who are willing and able to assist with childcare. Those things are not the norm for many women.

    • Emma says...

      People expect respect and a safe place to talk freely about something they likely can’t do in real life, due to stereotyping and intolerance. That’s not too much to ask of any human being.

      A comment I read here yesterday was so awful that it’ll stick with me forever and I’m not a particularly overly sensitive person :/ I can’t imagine how others must have felt.

    • J says...

      B and Emma,
      Thank you for very eloquently describing how I also feel about these comments.  When us CFBC folks are constantly challenged and questioned about our decisions by society at large, it’s exhausting and alienating.  I was especially excited to come to the comment section of this article to feel supported and seen, because the COJ community is typically been such a welcoming and supportive environment, and to be fair, most of the comments here are just that.  But it’s disappointing to read comments from folks listing all of the reasons why cfbc folks in the article and comments are wrong.  If your lived experience is different than those that are expressed here, that’s fine, but that doesn’t invalidate theirs.  There’s no need for you to take issue or be perplexed by what some people have shared – good for them, not for me.  It must be heart breaking for many of the folks who have shared vulnerable stories and are looking for support to be on the receiving end of such critiques.  Really, all that us cfbc folks want is to live our lives and let you live yours. Thank you to the folks that do just that.

  28. Steph says...

    I have kids and have always wanted them and even I struggle with that choice a handful of years in. I love my children and I’m a good mom but I still mourn the life I had, one full of travel and adventure. I fully support anyone who thinks kids aren’t for them- it’s a huge life changing decision, that often for women, results in a loss of autonomy. Bravo to those who choose their own path and screw the naysayers!

    • Mara says...

      Thank you for this. I am happy with my decision to remain childfree for some of the reasons you gave (traveling and adventure), but sometimes that changes when I’m faced with an onslaught of moms at parties who want to judge my choice. Part of me wonders if they miss their old life too and are doubling down just to make me feel bad about what they once had.

    • J says...

      I completely agree— I have two young children who are simultaneously the best things in my life AND exhausting and all consuming. I always wanted children and only after I had them did I think: hmm, I totally understand the appeal of a childfree life. I still mourn that life while never wanting to imagine my life without my kids. It’s a strange emotional dichotomy for me. Wish I could live both lives, both paths are full of beauty in their own way.

  29. Amber J says...

    For those on the fence, this could be a helpful thought: Rather than “Do I want children?” how about “Do I want to be a parent?” It doesn’t have to do with *liking* kids (I don’t *like* kids, but absolutely adore my own and genuinely enjoy spending time with them), with being “ready” (you’re never actually ready), or even about being financially stable (for many, a pipe dream). Would the world benefit from people whom you have raised? Do you want to commit to raising them?

    • Julie says...

      Thank you so much for this!

    • Amber J says...

      Oh, you’re welcome, Julie! 🥰 Xoxo

    • Rory says...

      Amen to this. Parenting is something you do, not just what you are; so many individuals seemingly have children because they think they’re supposed to, as a logical next step in life. I have immense respect for people who take the opposite approach and think long and hard about becoming a parent, whichever decision they make.

  30. Amy says...

    This post comes at a very unique, gut-punch of a time for me. My husband and I just had to decline my brother- and sister-in-law’s request to have us be legal guardians of their 2- and 1-year-old boys, should the unthinkable happen. Husband and I have been very happily child-free, living in a tiny apartment, able to leave and travel whenever we want, and are planning to move abroad. Despite having numerous local siblings with big homes set up for kids already and the financial means, husband and I were asked *because* we don’t have kids. BIL/SIL even said we could move into their townhouse, in a neighborhood full of kids as far as the eye can see. So, I spent days crying, wrecked over having to reconvene and tell them no, that the life we want doesn’t mesh with the hometown life they envision for their boys (but of course we’d help out should the unthinkable occur). I wonder how many people go from a quiet, child-free life of their choice, to parents of rambunctious boys overnight. Anyway, in my guilt-ridden-but-now-content haze, I just want to say how important it is to stick to what’s best for you and your spouse regardless of family expectations. We can’t expect pro-kid people to understand why we think and do the things we do, but they’re still perfectly valid.

    • silly lily says...

      I hear your pain. I’m curious…..Were your brother and wife understanding of your decision? I hope so.

    • Anonymous says...

      That must have been so hard, Amy, but it sounds like you made exactly the right decision. Kudos for your bravery and your honesty!

    • Amy says...

      @Silly Lily, sister-in-law was understanding and appreciated our honestly, and brother-in-law who is usually very chatty was dead silent. I take it that he was shocked and upset, and I hope this doesn’t cause a rift in the family. But at the end of the day, at least we were true to ourselves.

    • Lucy says...

      Amy, I’m so so sorry you were put in such an impossible situation and that your BIL/SIL made you go through such an arduous and completely unnecessary decision making process. (Damned if you do take their kids on, and damned if you don’t!) As you said, they ignored other siblings with ideal child rearing setups already in place locally in favour of getting you and your husband to give up your CFBC life for them. Which to me speaks to a certain mindset common to a lot of couples with children, that your current CFBC life must somehow be “less than” compared to theirs, that they assumed you would be ready, willing and able to drop everything and simply step into their shoes and take up parenting where they’d left off should the unthinkable happen. The latter might not even be a conscious bias on their part but it still rings of the old “child-free ppl are just selfish and shallow” stereotype, and yet ironically I’m sure they also deliberately chose to ask you because they (selfishly, probably) believed you guys would be better able to devote undivided attention and resources to their kids seeing as you didn’t have your own to compete with theirs. I’m glad they were able to take your very brave and honest decision seemingly well but if your BIL seemed stunned by it, that’s his problem. Getting upset over a hypothetical situation, and one that involved such a huge ask, says more about him than you guys. As one half of a fellow CFBC couple I too have been faced with such a choice, which I ultimately said no to after much discussion with my husband — a decision that invited much negative commentary from others in my extended family, but which simply convinced me that my decision was the correct one. Ultimately it boils down to: you make a request of someone, you have to be prepared to hear and take no for an answer. It’s really as simple as that.

  31. Elizabeth says...

    Joanna, I just wanted to applaud you for finding the resilience and grace to post again and again even though no matter what you post, some people complain that it’s not exactly what they would have posted EVEN THOUGH ITS YOUR BLOG. I’m undoubtedly not your typical reader but have enjoyed cupofjo for many years now and it has truly enriched my life (thank you so much for recommending Olive Kitteridge!). Anyway, thanks again! I love having children but I think not having children unless you REALLY want them is the best for everyone. Obviously.

  32. act says...

    since it’s not a stance i see much of (here or elsewhere) i also want to say:
    it is OKAY if you don’t want kids because you don’t really like them!

    i feel like many of us who are childfree by choice feel obligated to say “oh but i LOVE kids, i’m the best aunt/uncle!” etc, which is perfectly valid if that’s the case for you but it’s not a requirement. honestly, i don’t really like kids. i wish everyone else’s kids the best, i don’t actively avoid my friends/family’s kids, but i just don’t really enjoy being around children most of the time. and that’s fine! i think all the time how lucky i am to live in a time & place where i didn’t feel pressured to have kids because my whole household would probably be miserable. it’s a gift to know what you want in life and be able to choose, for whatever reasons.

    • Tamara says...

      Thank you for saying this. I see a lot of women who preface their explanation of their choice to be child free with something along the lines of “of course I love kids, I’m not a MONSTER” and I wonder, “well, I don’t particularly enjoy the company of children, so what do you think that makes ME?” I chose to be child free because I like to spend my time doing grownup things and having grownup conversations with other grownups. I also knew in my bones from a very young age that I would be absolutely miserable as a mother. I’m 48 and have never regretted my decision.

    • Peggy says...

      Thank you for saying this, I feel exactly the same. I wish other people lots of happiness with their kids but I just do’nt enjoy being around them.

    • EP says...

      Thank you for voicing this. I also do not particularly enjoy children. I like infants/babies up to about 5 months old. After that, not so much. There are certain specific children I do like and do not mind being around but really… no, I do not like most children. I am not a monster for not liking children. I will also voice another unspeakable – I do not like dogs. I don’t care how cute your dog is or sweet or “insert adjective here.” I don’t like dogs. And I get called a psychopath more for saying that than saying I don’t like children.

    • Emma says...

      Agreed. Every time I meet a friend’s newborn they always offer to let me hold the baby with a tone that suggests that it is something I would really enjoy. I never know how I’m supposed to react. The only reason I hold the baby is so my friends can get a break!

  33. Jessica says...

    This is so coincidental, because I’m reading this on my last day of half-work; I head back to (virtual) full days tomorrow after having sterilization surgery (a bilateral salpingectomy) this past Friday.
    I grew up thinking I’d have kids (I’m 40 now); I come from a huge family and it was just sort of what I thought of as the default. But, being a teacher, I realized that I really felt like I was “meant” to be here for kiddos who are already on the planet; not to parent, but to “auntie.”
    I never thought, though, that a permanent surgery was a viable option, until someone that I really respect on social media (Sayward Rebhal, who is @bonzaiaphrodite on Insta and ran an incredible blog that I followed for years!) posted about her surgery. Permanent birth control just isn’t really normalized here, and it helped me to see someone else have it to know it was an option!
    I’m working up the courage to post about it myself–maybe someday.

  34. Kate says...

    I’m really surprised none of these women mention the environmental catastrophe we are facing as their reason for not having children. For me, this has really solidified my decision. I can’t imagine carrying that kind of guilt with me for the rest of my life.

    • Jan says...

      Yes!! For me, it was being smoked-in for a week in Seattle this fall from the wildfires.

    • NH observer says...

      Sam, I am so very sorry for your sister’s loss and your loss. How heartbreaking for her and for all of you.

    • Juliet says...

      Wow. The environmental catastrophe we face is less the responsibility of individuals and more that of the 10 or so companies that are wrecking the soil, oceans and air in the name of profit. They clearly did an excellent job convincing the public that having a family is guilt-worthy
      .

    • SR says...

      Juliet, the guilt isn’t associated with contributing to climate change, the guilt comes with raising a child in a world already destroyed by the climate. Like Jan said, with weeks of poor air quality and hardly seeing the sun. Some see it as an unethical choice to bring someone into a world like this that’s only getting worse. Many of us are aware that climate change is mostly the fault of corporations, we’re not trying to say having/not having a kid would make a big impact on the climate at this point.

    • Heather says...

      When I was a kid, I wanted to be an adult. Closer to being an adult, I couldn’t stand kids, and wanted my tubes tied asap (as if that were a thing someone could do at 18). I married at 21, and eventually changed my mind. I am not sure what changed my mind, whether boredom, societal influences, the desire to care for a human or something else? I am now 38, with 3 kids, and I have no regrets. I enjoy living alongside children. I love watching them learn and grow. They drive me crazy at some point every day. It is not always easy. I am parenting by myself a lot because of my husband’s job, but I never feel alone. My point is, these were our choices, no one else’s. No one else’s business. No one will raise your kids for you, so no one else should have a say. I do not have time to care whether or not other people have kids, and I do not understand why people think they should have any say in such a personal decision. I hope the readers can feel at peace with whatever decision they make, and release themselves of whatever societal guilt they have felt. People can be mean, but confidence can inspire anywhere.

  35. Emma says...

    I don’t think there’s a subject as contentious as this one or ever will be.

    It’s odd to me that people care so much whether random women (I get people wanting grandkids, etc so that’s a bit different) have children or not. The fact is, around 25% of women won’t have children, so we’re no longer a small group of people.

    Looking at the bigger picture, it benefits society and the planet for 25% of people not to procreate. It means more resources for everybody, including those with kids, less pressure on the planet and a higher number of people paying net tax, which helps disadvantaged people.

    I honestly don’t get the whole existential, super personal discussion we’re still having about the choice to be a mother. Sure, some women might regret not having kids but people have regrets in life and ultimately, that’s their issue to deal with anyway.

    People are way too polite usually, to openly judge people for pretty much every other life choice but not having kids is right out there, on the table, for people to dissect.

    • Morgan Mellinger says...

      This comment is amazing, thanks Emma

    • emma says...

      I totally agree. I don’t want kids. I like my career and my freedom and I love being alone. I have a chronic illness that’s passed down genetically. Mental illness and alcoholism also run in my family (missed me, thankfully). My illness would make it hard for me to conceive naturally without medical intervention. I don’t think I’d be a devoted mother. I can barely afford to support myself, much less anyone else. The world is heavily overpopulated. By all accounts I am making exactly the right choice, yet I typically get the opposite response.

      It’s also worth noting that there are probably tons of people who DO regret becoming parents and can’t talk about that openly, which is why you only ever hear the other side of the story.

    • Emma says...

      Oops – to clarify, different Emma than the parent comment :)

  36. Jen says...

    I would love to hear how women navigate the question of ‘do you have kids’ in work / small talk settings?

    It feels like if the answer is ‘no’ then people are afraid to ask more because they don’t know if it was by choice or not, and it can be a very sensitive topic. Work social outings are dreadful enough… I don’t look forward to having to navigate this question as I get older.

    • Anna says...

      Hi Jen, I think it’s important to remember that you owe no one an explanation for your choices.
      I use a simple “no” and if questions are asked by coworkers, strangers, or acquaintances (and they still weirdly are, often) I often say “wow, that’s a really personal question, don’t you think?”
      Your reproductive choices – though our government would often have you believe otherwise – are in not the public domain and are yours alone (and those who you willingly choose to discuss it with). It may feel awkward at first to not engage in the conversation. If you want to share, share! But if you don’t, it’s cool to draw that line too, and it gets easier over time.

    • Alli says...

      I just say, “No kids for us! That’s not part of my life’s plan.” That usually keeps folks quiet.

    • I am still on the fence but, at 32, finally leaning towards the “probably wouldn’t totally screw it up” side after being staunchly opposed since my first niece was born (I was 8).

      I tend to make a bit of a joke about it when it seems like the asker is just trying to start dialogue. “Oh, no. We have a dog the size and energy of 2 toddlers — plus, y’know, crushing student loan debt. And getting me up early is slower than the shift of the tectonic plates.”

      In the case of my quite opinionated in-laws, the final statement was “No. We have a lot to figure out first and it adds a year to the wait time for ever person who asks again.” They love their granddog.

    • Ana says...

      “None of my own–you?” Or, if I know they have kids, I ask about them: “none of my own, but I hear you have twins. What age?”. I try to give ppl the benefit of the doubt and not see it as nosiness or judgment, just as a bid to find common ground. So to keep the conversation moving, I just let them talk (parents live this) and chime in with stories about nephews, students, etc as relevant.

    • Jen says...

      Appreciate all these suggestions. Anna thank your for the reminder that I don’t owe anyone an explanation.

    • T says...

      If I ask people if they have kids it’s more to get the feeling of their lifestyle and I honestly don’t see it as being nosy or too personal…It’s like asking if they own a pet or what music/books they like. It’s the info for the rhythm of the dialogue..If someone says they don’t have kids, I won’t talk about my kids, If they say they love the outdoors I’ll ask them about their latest hikes or something.

    • T says...

      oh, I’ve just read through my reply and it sounds sooo inconsiderate. I guess what I wanted to write was that I understand that with these questions you walk a fine line between too nosy and just wanting to make a conversation. My questions never come from a judgemental place. And of course this is not something I throw around on every occasion – if the conversation comes to the point where it flows twards the topic of family I ask.

    • April says...

      I always struggle with how to respond also Jen. I don’t think people are necessarily being rude to ask but I always feel like I should say more than just “No” and I’m not sure why! I think maybe because just saying no seems to put an end to the entire conversation. I used to say “No, but I have a very emotionally needy dog”, but don’t have a dog anymore so can’t do that. I now tend to say “No, I enjoy napping too much to have children” because I’m quite awkward and it’s all I can think of. Haha.

  37. Priyanka says...

    I’m 50, married, with no kids and thought I’d add something I haven’t seen in the comments:

    There are many like me who don’t live in one camp or the other. I wanted kids when I was in my 20s and 30s, but when I met my husband, had changed my mind because I really wanted to focus on myself, and since he was leaning towards the no kids camp, we decided not to have kids.

    It hasn’t been universally easy. Things I found hard include:
    1) letting go of the ego around legacy, and being comfortable with my life being about my time on earth and perhaps nothing more after I’m gone
    2) being left out intentionally or unintentionally from many social groups that are formed by parents
    3) wondering what life will be like when I am in my 80s or 90s and needing assistance
    4) not knowing exactly how to plan for retirement, knowing that if I have money when I’m gone, I don’t have anyone to leave it to
    5) hearing a narrative that parenthood is the most selfless act, when many parents I know care only about their own children, rather than the community of children we all live with in our societies.
    6) being subject to so many comments about how I must not like kids, when in fact, I love kids

    Many people in the article and the comments have already talked about the upside of having no kids, and I echo most of them, and will add one more:

    1) I can truly focus on my marriage, which I find personally really fulfilling. Most of my married friends have become roommates with their partners at best and while they are happy, it’s not the kind of marriage I want.
    2) I have the space and energy to mother people who are not related to me including those who are not even known to me personally, by being involved with my godkids, nieces, nephews and community organizations

    I’m glad this conversation is happening, but I hope one day it is no longer a topic of conversation, because we have normalized women’s choices to be equal regardless of their path.

    • Katherine says...

      Thank you for sharing what has been hard and what has been a benefit to not having kids for you, Priyanka. I feel similarly and it’s nice to not feel alone in those experiences.

    • JB says...

      I so appreciate this analysis. I am happy with my decision to be childfree, but the social isolation is hard. Most people our age have children and their lives are centered almost entirely around them, unlike what we used to see in the past. So, it’s hard to find other cf couples out there who want to cultivate friendship not centered around children.

    • April says...

      These are really great points Priyanka that I totally relate too. As many people have mentioned, having kids just to have someone take care of you in your older years is not a great reason (or guaranteed that they will do that), but it is a real concern for someone who does not have children. My husband is 15 years older than me and Alzheimer’s runs in my family. It’s a real fear for me of what is going to happen to me when I’m older if I develop Alzheimer’s myself and my husband is no longer around to notice or help care for me. It’s terrifying to think about what could happen.

      Also as you mentioned about letting go of having a legacy, it can be hard to wrap your head around that your life story is going to end with you. I do sometimes think no one will want to keep pictures of my husband and I after we are gone and no one will carry on our stories and memories, which is sad to think about. It does take some financial pressure off at least that I don’t feel the need to grow any wealth to pass along and we can enjoy everything we earn ourselves. I do anticipate in my older years adjusting our will to leave any leftover money to my sweet niece and nephew and probably some charities we care about but it seems likely we will quickly be mostly forgotten about.

    • Caitlin says...

      Thank you so much for this comment. As someone on the fence, it means a lot to see a honest conversation about the pros and cons.

    • Karen says...

      I say this as a parent – we are the most selfish people in the entire world! We would do anything to protect our kids, set our kids up for success, even if it comes to the detriment of others. It truly is childless people who are the selfless ones.

      Just wanted to say how much this point resonated with me!

  38. cg says...

    I respect the decision to not have children, especially if you’re feeling like you don’t want to be a parent. I think it’s good to be self aware like that. Also, my heart goes out to folks who can’t bear children. I just want to put it out here that, IF for some reason you decide you do want children, please don’t think it’s too late. Perhaps it’s too late biologically, but there are plenty of children, babies and older, who would love to have a loving parent. Adoption can be so beautiful, says this adoptive mom. I’m just saying, you may have made a decision not to have kids, and it can be a permanent decision. But for that one subset of folks who end up thinking differently later, don’t ever believe that it’s absolute once you’ve made up your mind, there are options out there. Or, you can be that “cool, eccentric auntie” and that’s a great gig too!!!

    • Abbey says...

      Yes! Most US kids in foster care are older than six and are far less likely to ever be adopted than babies/toddlers– especially sibling groups. My husband and I are both 32 and child-free by choice. If down the road we ever somehow feel that parental urge, we plan on becoming foster or adoptive parents to older kids who need a loving home. That “what if you regret it when you’re older” argument doesn’t really do it for me.

    • Kate says...

      I always say this! Having a child is a decision that cannot be changed – not having one is. I’m not worried about missing out because if I ever feel the desire for children, I can always adopt later. And for many reasons, I would much rather do this than have children of my own.

      People will often argue with me that adoption is difficult and expensive and not realistic. Like it’s some kind of a myth or false hope. But there are people who do it and if I want children badly enough I will go through the process, however long it takes. It’s almost like they’re saying, “What if you suddenly have a burning desire to experience pregnancy and labour – might as well get pregnant now while you can!” Ridiculous.

  39. Anna says...

    The comments on this post are really interesting.

    As someone who is CFBC, I realized a few years ago that I felt compelled to disclose to others who inquired about my choice that I “really love kids though!” as if to prove that I wasn’t, in fact, a monster. If you don’t want children, you are seen as flawed, cold, heartless, selfish – contradicting the expectations we put on women to be warm, nurturing, and comforting.

    I’ve stopped explaining that to people now, because it’s none of their business, I’m frustrated by how much of our societal worth is tied up in our relationship to children, and most importantly, how much I love children doesn’t even rank on the list of the top 100 things I find to be important about myself. Now, instead of explaining to you how much I love children, I will tell you this about myself instead: how much I love a bath, a long walk, the charities I’m involved with, how I’d love to lend you the book I just finished, that dinner I made last night, and how much I hate the feeling of wet socks.

    • Kate says...

      Reading this thread has made me realize how often I temper my answer with this statement and how it is a disservice to those whose reasons might involve not liking kids. It’s okay to not like kids. While I love kids, I feel very nervous to admit that I don’t like dogs. So I know how it feels!

      From now on I will not even bother tagging this onto my statement, trying to prove I am not a ‘monster’. It also seems more acceptable for men to not enjoy the company of children. We should be allowed to live our lives with just as much freedom to just BE.

  40. Lucille says...

    Katie, thank you. I was forced to make the same decision two years ago after being diagnosed with Large B-Cell Lymphoma. I chose me too. Reading your words made me think of all of the other women who might have to make or have already made that choice- no judgment of course, either way. So here we are. HERE.

  41. Elise says...

    Something I find fascinating in this conversation is the concept of ‘selfishness’. It cuts both ways: people who choose not to have children are often classified as selfish (by themselves or others). However in light of the mental health illness that my partner and I live with, the idea of having a child seems ‘selfish’ too.

  42. Annie says...

    I’m 35 and I’m childfree (and intend to be forever- but I know life can change!) for two reasons.

    1. I have massive OCD and GAD, I have it under control for the time being, but I would never want to pass this on to my worst enemy, much less my child. Also, I think having a child would be terrible for my mental health and would make me a bad parent, and no child should have to suffer through that.

    2. The climate crisis is absolutely terrifying and getting progressively worse. As an American, the single greatest choice I can make for the environment as an individual is not to have children. I know this isn’t a popular opinion, and many don’t want to hear it, because they feel as if they’re being judged (I’m not! I love children). But it has 100% affected my choice.

    • Therese says...

      I feel the EXACT same way, Annie!

    • Liz says...

      As to your second reason, the climate crisis is the top reason why I wouldn’t have kids now. I have twins who will be 11 this year and even in 2009 when I got pregnant, we were pretty freaked out about what their future would be like. But just a decade ago, all the scariest stuff was sort of projected to happen at end of the century and I felt sad about whether they would have kids if they wanted. Now, holy fuck, I can’t believe my kids are going to have to deal with a full on climate emergency not just in their lifetimes but in my own. I feel really scared and guilty and bad. It’s so frightening. I would never, ever choose to have kids now. For me it’s not so much about the resources they use, but about how terrifying it is and will be to watch the ice melt, the animals die, the forests burn. I can hardly bear to think about what the global climate refugee crisis is going to look like starting in just a few years.

    • Jess R says...

      I have recently been debating whether or not I want to have children. One of my biggest concerns has been not only the environment, but what kind of world would I be bringing my child into? Will it get better? I think ultimately that should not be the deciding factor, but it has certainly given me pause…

  43. Sarah says...

    I loved this post. I recently got engaged after years of saying I would probably never get married. Now I feel like my whole family is waiting for the ‘other shoe’ to drop and for me to want babies. I have no desire to be pregnant or give birth, especially as someone who lives with chronic pelvic pain.

    Adoption is something my partner and I have talked about should we ever change our minds, but that option does not remove my hesitancy surrounding the massive responsibilities of parenting. As a queer woman in a hetero-conforming relationship, I would love to hear more from non-binary and queer women for whom adoption might be the only option.

  44. KP says...

    It’s interesting that a rare post about women who chose not to have kids is dominated by women commenting about how they chose to have kids. A lot of defensive people triggered here today. Having or not having children is not inherently easier or harder, better or worse, selfish or unselfish; it’s just different. A lot of loaded language being tossed around here. All lives are great and terrible and beautiful and crushing and lonely and happy and sad and boring and sleepless and quiet and loud and content by varying degrees. We all have to make peace with our own choices. I’m just glad to have gotten to choose for myself.

    • Anna says...

      “ All lives are great and terrible and beautiful and crushing and lonely and happy and sad and boring and sleepless and quiet and loud and content by varying degrees. We all have to make peace with our own choices. I’m just glad to have gotten to choose for myself.”

      Love this, KP.

    • katy says...

      This is such a beautiful comment! Yes, we still experience so much of the human-ness of life, regardless of our parenting status!

    • Amy says...

      Yes, that struck me too.

    • N says...

      Thank you, KP. You said it much more eloquently, but I felt this defensiveness too and it made me really sad. I’ve been a reader of Cup of Jo for more than 10 years, and I can remember maybe a handful of articles about not having children, versus dozens and dozens about parenting. I’m not judging – I love Motherhood Around The World as much as everyone else! – but I was looking forward to having some space to really talk to other women like me who are choosing not to have children. Instead, I feel like we’re being drowned out by people who are – for whatever reason – really threatened by our life choices.

    • Dana says...

      Amen. As a woman who was always ambivalent I feel this constantly. I am deeply fulfilled and saddened by the choice my partner and I made. I mourn for the ghost ship of the life I didn’t choose and the very next moment am so supremely happy I couldn’t imagine life being an inch different. It’s be the same if I was on that ship. Highs and lows either way.

    • Jennifer says...

      Yes – “it’s just different.” How about we normalize that?! Each person is different and gets to make different choices. Let’s be supportive of that!

    • Christy says...

      Thanks KP! For your wise, graceful writing.

  45. Cheryl says...

    I’d love to hear more from women who also chose not to adopt or foster too! These stories were so compelling, but it feels like we’re missing another key perspective – women who choose to not have children, even when there isn’t an impact to their physical health. Parenthood isn’t limited to the choice for biological children.

    • Clare says...

      YES PLEASE

    • Emma says...

      Do you mean people who otherwise want kids but can’t have them biologically? I’m confused…if someone doesn’t have kids (and none of the people featured here do) they’ve obviously chosen to not pursue parenthood through any means, biological or otherwise.

  46. Saskia says...

    Reduced my carbon footprint no end by not having kids.
    Dont pro-create = save the planet :)

    • Jane says...

      Did you know that the US military alone is a bigger polluter than 100+ countries combined? ***Individual choices, even the choice to not have children, will never make a significant impact on global climate change.*** There is a very important distinction between choosing not to have a child to “save the planet” and making that choice to spare a child from suffering the effects of climate change. There is also a horrible historical precedent of people in the West touting “population control” as a “cure” for most of society’s ills. The concept of population control is rooted in racism. I myself am also child-free by choice, and climate change was certainly one factor in my decision. But I hope no one who actually wants a child chooses not to because of their fear of the child’s ecological impact. Your efforts would be much better spent organizing for significant structural changes to the way our governments pollute this planet and allow corporations to do the same with impunity.

    • Sarah says...

      Am I missing something? Doesn’t the fact that these children are child free explicitly mean they have chosen not to adopt or foster? Many of these women don’t state if they would have been able to have biological children (I suppose they may not know).

    • Sarah says...

      Sorry that comment was meant for Cheryl above!

    • Stella says...

      YES, Jane! So perfectly said!

  47. Laura Barcelona says...

    I feel really sorry for my parents. I’m only child, we have a great relationship and they have been the best parents! They are great with children and they would love to become grandparents. I think they are feeling more pressure from their friends (already grandparents) than I do.
    Am I being selfish?

    • Clare says...

      You’re not being selfish although I understand feeling that way. I’m in the same boat – my parents have 3 kids and none of us are giving them grandkids, which they want so desperately. I want to give them grandkids but otherwise don’t want kids and even my mom admits that’s not reason enough to have them. But I still feel so guilty.

    • Annie says...

      Nope, it’s never selfish to not have kids! Simple as that.

    • Bex says...

      Absolutely not – having a baby to make someone else happy would be terrible! If your parents want to spend time around kids, they have other ways they can do that – they can volunteer at a school, they can mentor or tutor or coach, or just hang out with their friends’ kids and grandkids.

    • Annelise says...

      I have felt this too! My in-laws are impatiently waiting for us to have children, they think we’ll change our minds or something (and maybe that will happen- as my therapist says, “you should have empathy for your future self and the choices she might make”). It’s tricky, but I feel having children for the sake of my in-laws is a terrible reason to become a parent!

    • Caitlin says...

      No you aren’t. I think having children for the wrong reason, in this case to absolve guilt, would actually be the selfish move. Your parents sound really lovely and I would bet that they care more about your happiness and wellbeing than they do about becoming grandparents. <3

    • Peggy says...

      bell hooks has a beautiful line that I read years ago along the lines of, how could we think that a person who feels they have enough is selfish? how is it selfish to not want more?
      Deciding that you are content, that you do not need more to be happy or fulfilled, is anything but selfish. sending love and light <3

    • Lauren says...

      It’s not selfish at all! I’m in the same situation (only child, CFBC) and while initially I felt guilty that my parents wouldn’t have grandkids, I realized that’s not a valid reason to bring another human being into the world! They’ve made do with their siblings’ grandkids, and have my dog (their “grand dog” lol) to enjoy. Because you mention the great relationship you have with your parents (like I do with mine), know that your parents will want you to be happy and live authentically, and they will understand that the choices you make (as hard as they may be!) are the best choices for you.

    • Emma says...

      No. I’m in the same boat, other than the fact that I do have a sibling. I’m the oldest child and all my parents’ friends have kids who got married at 20 or 21 and many already have children or are pregnant. I’m 27 and very much focused on myself and my career. I don’t plan to have children, so I don’t feel any urgency to find a long term partner. I’m really proud of the progress I’ve made professionally and personally in terms of my finances, mental and physical health. I think it’s annoying that when my parents’ friends ask about me, the first thing they ask is whether I’m married yet. My parents seem understanding (and they LOVE their granddog) but I can see how it would be hard from their perspective when all their peers are becoming in laws and grandparents. I wish I could give them the experience of walking me down the aisle or holding their first grandchild, but at the end of the day, the responsibility would fall to me and it’s just not what I want. If it ever becomes a real point of contention I will remind them they raised a child who feels empowered to pursue the life they want, even when it’s outside of the norm, and for that I’m very thankful.

  48. KJ says...

    I have several hesitations about having children but the largest for me is that you are not guaranteed a healthy baby. You can do everything right (exercise, forgo wine!) and still have a child that is born with severe disabilities. I have seen this firsthand with a family member who will always need care and never be able to live independently.

    When you decide to have a child, you’re signing up for life – no matter the circumstances. More power to those that can enter into that with eyes open but I cannot.

    • Cheryl says...

      Absolutely! And not just on an individual level, it’s something that if you’re in a partnership, your partnership needs to be ready to handle that shared responsibility for whatever the circumstances too!

    • Roxana says...

      Living and loving is a risk. You’re not guaranteed anything in life and relationships.

      You can fall in love with someone and plan to spend the rest of your lives bouncing around the world, only to have that plan wrecked by illness or a freak accident. You can have a healthy child only to have them struck with cancer or hit by a car. . .

      Is disability the worst thing you think can happen to someone? Is dependency such a plague on life? Those of us in the disability community would strongly encourage you to think otherwise.

    • Tyler says...

      Yep. This. I worked at a children’s hospital ICU for two years and saw families go through some really hard things. It can definitely influence how you view the unknowns of having children and the what ifs are hard to ignore.

    • April says...

      Thank you for bringing this up KJ– This was also a factor in my choice to be child-free. My sister’s son was born with profound disabilities. My sister loves her son and is a great mom. Unfortunately, on top of being his mom, she also has to be his nurse, his social worker, and basically his human rights activist as well. It is shameful the way the US Government “supports” people with disabilities (and their families).

      @Roxana, I hear you. In a more just world, where society comes together to provide fully-funded care for anyone who needs it, I don’t think we would “fear” disabilities in the way we do today.

    • Lindsey says...

      KJ, I totally understand this. It’s a big one for me too. I have a friend with a sister who is severely disabled, and seeing through the years what her parents lives are like, and how they will always be constant care takers makes me really hesitant to have kids due to that being possible.

    • Roxana says...

      April, I appreciate you addressing what I said. While I agree that the world is hardly “just” I wouldn’t attribute that injustice to the government’s lack of support for those with disabilities. We live very modestly and are able to care for our son (as an aside, there are tons of privately funded programs and hospital financial aid programs that have helped us tremendously).

      I think the injustice lies in the superficial judgment that someone else’s life sucks and is undesirable because they have disabled or dependent children. How would any of you really know? Have you really walked in any of their shoes? To define someone’s life based on (relatively superficial) interactions with them is terrible. Can anyone reading define how much a parent loves their child? “Broken” and all? I’m saying this as someone who probably once thought some of the same things expressed here in this thread, and I can tell you with confidence that I was completely wrong. Hard does not equal bad. There is a depth of beauty that many will not understand. The depth of beauty and joy that comes with a life affected by disability is something that binds the disability community together so very tightly. It is an understanding that we are (ironically) privileged to share and experience.

      If I could change my son’s disabilities and his dependencies, I wouldn’t. He is exactly who he is supposed to be. My discomfort with that, is my problem. I’m the one who needs and needed changing, not him. If we expect the government or any other authority to support families like mine, the changes need to happen first with us and our mindsets, not the government giving us money. And even then, calling for government funding is a passive way of saying “not my problem.” And while I don’t think that my son or my life is anyone else’s “problem,” I rightly resent the implication that my life (or his life) is undesirable and not worth living.

    • Lauren says...

      KJ you read my mind. I always felt horrible and selfish for thinking that way but ultimately it’s my life to live. I know many people who have kids with disabilities that really love them and wouldn’t change a thing but I just don’t know if I could say the same about myself.

  49. Thank you for this post! I loved reading it. I am a mother of two and I don’t have any regrets about that, but after having kids, I’ve become very vocal about the fact that no one should EVER feel any obligation to have kids. Yes, they are amazing and wonderful, but they change your life completely.

    More, more, more of this type of dialogue and perspective – I love the comment above that talked about normalizing the choice to be childfree as the default because having children is a choice you make and not having children is continuing as you are; love that shift in perspective. : )

    • Jane says...

      Thank you for your honesty! It’s rare to hear anything other than “it’s totally worth it!” from moms

  50. Chelsea says...

    Thank you very much for sharing these stories.
    I’ve thought about this question often. I’m divorced and oh so thankful I didn’t have children with my ex. He was a great guy and would have a great dad but he and I quickly went our separate ways after the divorce and kids would have made that impossible.
    Now I’m in my 30s and I keep coming back to the “when will I be too old to start having kids?” thought. I’ve been dating someone new for a year now and he’s not in any rush for kids. I enjoy our life of freedom. I love traveling. I also feel selfish that I’m worried about my body and not being able to lose baby fat. I guess only time will tell.

  51. Sarah says...

    I always felt like the default setting should be child-free. You are born child-free. The CHOICE is to HAVE children. As someone who has two they are the best choice I every made but dont think they should be anyones default.

    • I love this shift in thinking!

    • Caraline says...

      I love the way you framed this, Sarah. It’s helpful for me!

    • Kate says...

      WOW! So true.

    • act says...

      agreed! i have a very vivid memory of asking my first boyfriend in high school whether he thought he’d have kids some day, and him looking at me like i had grown another head. he was like “of COURSE.” i was like, why am i the weird one for mulling this over?
      i’m in my thirties now, have never wanted kids and am pretty certain i never will, and i try to cultivate a culture of questioning when it comes to this decision for all my friends and family (particularly the younger generation). i want folks to know that either choice is fine, but it is absolutely a choice and shouldn’t be taken as a given.

    • Lauren says...

      Exactly! I didn’t “choose” to not have kids, I just kept living my life like I’ve always done, which is child-free.

  52. Lyndsay says...

    I’ve struggled with actually saying it out loud or communicating it concretely to friends and family, but I have never felt the pull to have children. I love kids, I just don’t want my own! For a long time I felt really guilty because I know my parents would LOVE to be grandparents and would make amazing grandparents, but that’s not a good reason to have children. I’m nearly 39 now, and they’ve always been supportive of my life decisions and this has been no different. They live close to my cousin her her kids and they call my Mom “Auntie Grandma” which I love!

  53. Benay says...

    My husband and I have always been on the fence. He once said to me, “I love you. I trust you. When it comes to kids, if you want to have them, great. If you don’t, great. I’m along for the ride.” I mean. What a gift to be given from a partner!

    We’ve been married 12 years and are now in our mid-30s. It’s time to make some official decisions, and we’ve spent the pandemic walking and talking about it…so much walking and talking! Through our discussions, we decided to adopt from the foster care system instead of pursue the biological route — and we are SO excited! It feels right. We bought a bigger house and we have our orientation meeting with social services in February.

    If we change our minds in a couple of years, there is still a little bit of time. But this feels like the right direction.

    • Ashley says...

      I’m so excited for you!

    • Mimi says...

      I just commented, desperate to hear from somebody like you :) 36, been “on the fence” but never felt a biological desire to have kids…now feeling maybe I do want to be a parent, though! (and not necessarily of an infant or young child) Good luck!

  54. J says...

    I am 44, married with no kids. I thought I wanted kids when I was younger, but when I met my husband he was firm about not wanting kids. The more I thought about it the more I think I was just going to have kids because that’s what people do. I have been very fortunate that I have not felt any intense pressure or judgement about having kids. Of course I’ve gotten comments from people that were not nice but they didn’t really bother me because I figured that the people who made the comments just had a different perspective and that’s ok. I have no regrets, I have a life that is about me and my husband and our dog and sometimes I feel overwhelmed with the responsibility I have now which let’s me know for sure that having kids would have been really hard for me emotionally.

  55. Rebecca says...

    I also sort of take offense to the idea that you “lose yourself” when you have kids. I have 2 children, one surprise baby and one planned. I can say that with each stage of life – single life, being married, pregnancy, motherhood – I have discovered a different version of myself. It’s been challenging and revealing and beautiful.
    I don’t think everyone needs to have children, but I think it’s narrow minded to believe that everything you are is tied up into one aspect of your life.

    • NM says...

      I love that sentiment. You don’t “lose yourself”. You change.
      I remember when I was on the fence about having kids. And my dad asked me— what are you conflicted about.
      And I said: I like who I am. I like my life. I don’t want to change.

      And my dad just started laughing. (In a loving way). And wisely said: our whole lives are built on change. Everything changes. So if your reason is that you’re afraid to change… maybe that’s worth looking into.

      Those were wise words that I needed to hear in that moment.

      (To clarify: this doesn’t mean everyone should change BY having kids. And I wholeheartedly agree that a choice TO have children is just as much a choice as not to have children. Both valid choices.)

      But if this resonates with anyone who is feeling as I did… just wanted to share!!

    • Rebecca says...

      Exactly, NM :)

    • Alex says...

      To NM: i really love this. Your dad sounds like an amazing person and dad :)

    • Kylee says...

      Yes to both of you! The way I love has changed since having my two kids. My work has changed. My social life has changed. I wouldn’t say I have lost myself, just have evolved into the person I currently am. I believe this happens throughout life whether you have children or not.

    • Pris says...

      That’s it. That’s the thing, I am quite happy with the person I am, I don’t feel like I have changed that much and I don’t want to.

    • J says...

      While I can’t speak for the author’s intentions, I can speak for myself as to why I relate to the sentiment of feeling the loss of self (side note, it seems the author does say she’s referring to herself and is not making a universal statement). My heart has always known that I am not a parent, just as it knows I’m gay and that I couldn’t live somewhere with snow (because my seasonal depression is bad) or want to go sky diving. If I were to suddenly be forced to not be gay and move somewhere snowy or have to sky dive, I wouldn’t feel like myself anymore. The same is true if I were to become a parent, because my heart just isn’t one. So it would feel like a loss of self for people like me. As others have expressed, being a parent or not being a parent isn’t better or worse – just different. It’s great and valid you feel connected and true to yourself by being a parent. But it’s valid if people feel most like themselves not as parents.

  56. MARTHA says...

    I am 33 and I feel the pressure to make a decision about having children more and more. I never felt a strong desire to have kids. For years I thought the answer would miracolously come to me, but obviously it won’t, I will have to make a rational decision one day.
    I have struggled with anxiety/OCD for years. That won’t go away. Do I have the capacity to take care of a child while dealing with my inner struggles? What if I regret my decision? And yes, who will take care of me when I grow old?
    The “when will you have kids?”, the “you will change your mind”, the “not having kids is selfish”, all the unnecessary questioning and judgment…. To be reminded of your struggle with such a life-changing decision or of your fear of being unfit for motherhood is not annoying, it is truly saddening.

    • Katie says...

      I’m not trying to convince you to have kids. If you don’t have a strong desire, then that may be your answer. I think life can be fulfilling either way. But if it helps, I wanted to share that my husband also suffers from OCD/anxiety and comes from a very toxic and dysfunctional family. However, while it’s tough at times, he is an amazing father and loves being a parent. To be fair, I had to show him alot and take on alot of the childcare. But that is likely due more to his upbringing and gender norms. So if it’s what your heart desires, and you have a good partner, go for it.

    • I struggle deeply with anxiety and am a mother of two. I always wanted to have kids, but I also had the same fears you explained above. Now, on the other side of having them, I would say, they add a definite extra set of challenges to managing my health/mental health. They do bring so much joy and light to my life, but they are also really exhausting! I don’t have any overall answers for you, but just wanted to connect and maybe say, if having kids is something you want, in my experience, it is possible with anxiety (+bipolar for me too). But, as you said above, if you don’t have a strong desire, then that could be part of your answer too! Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you need to.

      Wishing for a big cosmic baseball bat to blast away all that shame and judgment and questioning coming your way and wishing you peace as you sort through it all.

  57. Nicole says...

    I’d really encourage some moderation in the comment section here. So many of the responses are rude, ignorant, and obnoxious. This should be a place to support women who choose not to have children, NOT a place where people who want kids to repeat the same tired reasons we’ve had shoved down our throats since we were young.

    • Elizabeth says...

      Thanks, Nicole. I had the same thought as I read through. Loved the original post, and a lot of the comments are great, but there are a lot of very painful ones too. Especially troubling to me are the ones from moms expressing that they are offended by the personal reflections of the child-free women quoted in the post. Choosing to interpret someone’s celebration of their life choices as an attack on yours is a bummer.

    • Tyler says...

      Yep. This topic can REALLY touch a nerve with people that have children and it’s beyond irritating when they come here to tell us how fulfilled they are.

    • Julie says...

      Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. As Nicole says, why can’t we be as accepting and supportive of women who choose not to have children as we are of the women who choose to have them? If not, can we call ourselves feminists? I don’t believe so. Come on, everybody.

    • N says...

      Thanks, Nicole. I’ve been really disheartened too by so many of these comments.

    • B says...

      I second that. And deciding not to have children because of climate change doesn’t mean that those or any woman celebrates the stillbirth of another’s child. There is space for both concerns for the environment and caring about someone else’s loss. And as someone who’s partner is a POC, not liking children is not the same as racism.

    • Kristy Lin says...

      inspired by The Coddling of the American Mind–

      1) if one disagrees with something, offer as calm and level rebuttals as possible, and embrace the back and forth in good faith, instead of asking others to retract their thoughts (my natural compulsion is not this!).
      I feel like that is the beauty and privilege of the space like Cup of Jo where we do have the opportunity to have a discussion with such an abundance of POVs with pretty low stakes.

      2) disagreement/ voicing differences in opinion is not the same as silencing.

  58. Anna says...

    The thoughts shared here were helpful to me — even as a working mother of two young toddlers. I feel this insane pressure to keep having children like two is basic and I should be able to handle more. The voice in my head is very loud but I wonder how much of that noise is external rather than internal. It feels radical to make and voice these choices.

    • T says...

      Anna, I’ve been reading all of these comments the last two days, and I just want you to know that I’m in the exact same position as you. I have very young children, and our family is already asking when we’ll have the next one. They seem perplexed and almost insulted when I tell them we are most likely done. I don’t feel like “only” having two children makes me less of a mother or person.

      I think the external pressure we feel as mothers or as women who decide not to have children is insane. It would be nice to live in a culture that just smiled a little more. Just lifted each other up a little more.

      Sending love.

    • Cristy says...

      Yes to this! I have 2 young children (ages 2 and 4) and we are for sure done (husband got a vasectomy) but there was a period of time where I thought about a third because other women do it and I felt less than for being pretty sure it would push me over the edge. It’s insane in general the pressure and judgment women experience for all of our life choices.

    • A says...

      I appreciate this sentiment as well. I have an almost 5 year old and we are not having any more children. For years I have felt like I’m less of a mother because I “only” have one child. The older she gets, the more I am ok with our choice. She is a wonderful child and I am so thankful that we have her!

  59. Thank you for sharing these stories and opening this dialogue! My husband and I chose not to have kids and are happy with our decision but I still hear (at 48, no less), “You still have time,” inevitably followed by a story about Halle Berry or someone else who had a child later in life and all was well. I think that’s wonderful, but child-free is a choice too – and it’s valid.

    I’d always thought I’d have kids, but after getting divorced at 32 and spending the next seven years single but building a life and a business I loved, I started to think more intentionally about the decision. When I was 39, a friend suggested I get my fertility tested, just to see where I was at – maybe I’d want to freeze my eggs or suddenly feel the urge to procreate and decide to have a child on my own. I learned that my AMH was low (“still OK to try,” was the doctor’s recommendation) and instead of being devastated, I was relieved. At that moment, I knew I didn’t want children at all. So fertility testing was an investment in making an intentional decision. The clinic was ready to ship all the medications for egg retrieval, but I asked for a week to think about it. In that time, I let myself feel all the emotions, including grief, which involved holding my belly while sitting on the edge of the bathtub, feet submerged in warm water, tears streaming down my face. I told my uterus I wouldn’t be using it for what it was intended for, but that I appreciated it nonetheless and let go of the possibility of motherhood. I have never looked back. And I half-jokingly attribute checking the “doesn’t have kids, doesn’t want kids” box on OKCupid to leading me to my husband (it narrows the online dating field a LOT ;->).

    As these women shared, I love children. I have to warn my husband that I’m not going back on my/our decision when I hold a newborn baby and inhale their intoxicating scent and feel my ovaries rumble. I just relish that moment and then hand the baby back and go on with the beautiful life I created for myself, which only expanded when I met my husband. Two years ago, we were like, “Why are we still messing around with birth control?”, so he had a vasectomy. We’ll celebrate his second “Not a Father’s Day” this Saturday.

    • Lisa says...

      This was so beautiful. Thank you for writing this out. The scene of you grieving is especially poignant. This inspires me and reminds me to feel all our feelings and move on with our beautiful lives in gratitude.

    • Em says...

      I loved this comment, too. Thank you so much for sharing, Nicole!

    • Thank you so much, Lisa and Em. Here’s to feeling feelings and gratitude. Big hug to you both!

  60. Amy says...

    Something that jumped out to me was how often money and time were cited as reasons for not having children. To be clear, I 100% support any person’s choice to have kids or not have kids, period! I do wonder, though, what these testimonials might look like in countries where having a family is better supported by the government and society at large, and where it seems to require less career/money/lifestyle sacrifice than it does in the United States. (Something I learned about from the Motherhood Around the World series!)

    • Kelly says...

      That is a very good question, for sure. Although, I have to wonder if some of these explanations are more for other people than a reflection of the actual childfree person. I don’t mean that in a negative way! I do believe some people can be on the fence about kids and swayed in one direction or another…maybe some people would be more likely to have kids if the U.S were different. But I also think that sometimes, people don’t really accept “I just don’t want children” as an explanation, so some of us childfree people come up with other, “better” explanations. For me, for example, I have known since I was 12 that motherhood wasn’t for me, but people kept pressing for the “why.” I don’t know why I don’t feel pulled in that way! I’ve always known, and the other reasons (finances, etc.) just solidified my feeling and gave me some excuses that other people understand, but aren’t the REASON behind my childlessness.

    • Alice says...

      Amy – I live in France where having kids is so, so, so much easier than it is in the US, and I am still not sure I want to be a parent. As a step parent I have seen the other side and am leaning towards “not for me”. Nothing to do with resources / social / state support or not. Italy, Germany, UK, France all have lower birth rates than the US, probably because we have more access to education and opportunities than Americans and religion plays less of a role in our day to day lives.

    • Emma says...

      A lot of the time people who don’t want children (including myself) feel the need to cite more “concrete” reasons because *some* parents can’t seem to accept that others don’t want the same thing they do. I use quotes there because I think personal wishes and desires are 100% valid reasons, just like you! Personally, I wouldn’t have a child even if it were free, but the cost just makes me that much more sure of my decision. I also have a hormonal condition that means I likely wouldn’t be able to get pregnant without medical intervention (obviously I don’t plan to find out!) so if someone is really pestering me I just straight up tell them that I can’t get pregnant naturally. In a weird way, it seems like they’re more comforted by hearing a woman is infertile than knowing that she just doesn’t want to be a mother. In my case, both are true. American society definitely doesn’t have a safety net or robust social services or mandatory paid family leave, but our culture in general is very much geared toward parents and families with a desire for children seen as the default. It definitely requires sacrifice for women in particular, but I don’t think the choice itself is frowned upon.

  61. Kim, your post really speaks to me because I’ve been in the do-I-or-don’t-I phase for a long time. My cis male partner and I have been together for 12 years, married for 7, and at this point, people are starting to assume that we’re unable to have kids biologically. (The truth is we’ve never tried, so who knows!) For a long time, I was thrilled to be the fun aunt, and I still love it. I even started a new tradition. Once a week, I host a Zoom call for all my nieces and nephews (all ages 8 and under!), which is adorable and so much fun.

    I love that I can still be a part of their lives, but the pandemic has made it painfully clear to me that if you’re not a parent, you don’t often get a say in important decisions in kids’ lives. For example, parents decide whether their kids go back to in-person school, wear facemasks, get tested for COVID, etc. They decide about things like how many toys are enough (or too many), what values to impart about climate change and social justice, and how old kids should be before having their own phones. These are difficult choices and (perhaps with the exception of COVID decisions), there are no single right answers, so I’m surprised that I find myself yearning to be the one who decides. I like being an influence in their lives, and I strive to be someone they can trust and come to, but under quarantine, the limits of the cool aunt role have become clearer to me, and I think I want to be a parent.

    My partner and I care a lot about climate change and social justice, so we always thought we’d adopt, but figuring out the logistics seems daunting. Will we still be able to drive to Mexico to see my family like we’ve always done? Will our adopted children resent the fact that we don’t look like a “normal” family and that they don’t get to live with their biological parents? Is adoption unethical, especially if you don’t “need” to adopt because you could have children biologically? I know a lot about pregnancy, IVF, childbirth, and breastfeeding because I know so many people who’ve had kids that way, but it’s harder to know what adoption is like and how to do it ethically.

    It would be incredible if you did a CoJ post about that someday!

    Thank you again.

    • Mikayla says...

      You put some of my feelings to words so beautifully Kristy. I have had some of the very same questions you do about adoption. Almost no one in my circle has explored this option, so I would love to broaden my understanding of parenthood with the stories of people who have actually walked through adoption.

    • Lisa says...

      This is fascinating!!! As the parent of two young kids, I don’t think I’ve ever felt as overwhelmed by parenthood as during the pandemic. Deciding if seeing another child whose family seems “safe” and measuring that against the possibility of that child not being safe and therefore risking the lives of my parents (my kids grandparents)…..I feel like it’s the worst time to be a parent. It makes things that felt agonizing at the time (breastfeed vs bottle, for example), feel like cake! These Covid decisions with kids feel very burdensome and heavy for me. It’s very interesting to read your comment and see a different perspective, thank you.

  62. Sylvia says...

    Love this. And really I think you don’t need a reason to not want kids, you can just know that you don’t and trust that and no one should question you.

    • KCC says...

      Yessssss, Sylvia.

  63. sara k paculdo says...

    I love this post. I always wanted children. And I have 2. And it was and is HARD. No one should have kids just because society expects them to. I’m so happy that it is becoming more normalized to be happily childfree. It’s better for all of us.

  64. Courtney says...

    Reading through the comments section, I’m mostly shocked by how much pressure people are still getting around having kids. Maybe I’m just extremely lucky, but I don’t feel like I have any friends or family who have applied pressure or judgment about having kids, having just one kid, or having five kids. (I currently have one child.) I also want to second some of the comments I’ve read about having kids and still maintaining your identity. Sure, life and priorities change when you have kids? Will your life be the same? Absolutely not. But I sort of take offense to the notion that people completely abandon themselves and their needs when they have children. It is possible to choose otherwise (and we don’t have limitless resources to spend on babysitters.)

    • Sarah says...

      This comment reminds me of the saying “six of one, half a dozen of the other,” whether you call it complete abandonment or life priorities shift or a few changes in your lifestyle, it’s still the underlying feeling of enjoying your life how it is, and not needing or wanting it to change, and regardless of what you want to call it, your life does change from having child(ren). It is reality, no matter how you package it, your identity changes/shifts. I think you are extremely lucky that you have yet to experience pressure or judgment. I would also say you are extremely lucky to feel as though your identity and needs aren’t abandoned in the name of motherhood, and ask yourself why it offends you if someone who has kids or doesn’t know if they want kids feels the opposite way? I think you’re missing the point of the article as well as commentators who express that a choice to not have children is NOT an attack on one’s decision to have children. It’s not always possible to choose otherwise after you’ve have children so women should really spend the time to think about how it’ll change their life and if their desire to have children outweighs those possible changes. That is what this article is doing, creating a dialogue for women to express that they want their choice to be respected and sharing their “whys”.

  65. Rachel Julie Pound says...

    Hi A, Thanks for your comment and I wanted to offer some clarification on what I wrote above.  I was not meaning to imply that parents are one dimensional people; parents can absolutely have hobbies and travel and have a career and interests of their own, all while raising kids.  It is of course possible to cook dinner, go running and travel with kids.  Instead, for me, I feel fulfilled through my hobbies and travel and career and other relationships, and I love that my time is my own.  While it sounds like parenthood has been a wonderful and fulfilling choice for many commenters, I wanted to offer the perspective that, if it’s not the right choice for others (even those who are childfree not by choice) like myself, we can also lead wonderful and fulfilling lives.  I hope that helps.

    • N says...

      Rachel, your words were *chef’s kiss* perfect and I’ve reread them about a thousand times now. A life focused on pleasure, joy and self-care – I can’t think of anything better. Thank you for sharing your story.

    • Rachel says...

      Thanks for your kind words, N. I’m happy to hear this resonated with you!

  66. Marie D says...

    For people who choose not to have children because of climate change, I would love to read a post on a typical day/ how they live their lives. Not having children because of climate change is such a big action to help climate change. Does that also mean you shop local, do not purchase or consume products (clothes, furniture, autos, components, etc) that are manufactured overseas, limit/eliminate travel by air/car, compost, vegetarian food choices, grow your own food/farm produce, political lobbying/involvement, etc?

    I’d love to live a more climate change conscious life, and would be interested to hear how the folks who choose not to have children because of climate change have made other big life style changes (compared to the “typical” American consumer) that are more sustainable/green for the environment.

    • Kate says...

      I personally fear for the future of our planet and worry about the state of the Earth the next generation will inherit. I believe we are only years away from seeing a surge in climate refugees and I would not be able to, in good conscience, bring a child onto this Earth when I cannot answer with certainty that it’s going to be okay (even though my mom says every generation has felt that way). This is also why I would only consider adoption, these children are already here and all children deserve a good life.

      Additionally, despite my pessimism, I try to do my best for the environment and society at large. I do not own a car and I walk everywhere (fortunate to live in a walkable-ish, small-ish city), I am vegetarian, I compost, I bring my Baggu to the grocery store, I use beeswax food wraps, I shop local as much as possible…I don’t know. I just try to live my life in an ethical and sustainable way, and by that I mean I live by my principles and make choices that I feel would benefit the Earth if we all made the same choices (especially not eating meat). My choices are not perfect, but I try my best.

      There are definitely people who have kids and probably live more eco-friendly lives than I do! But many other parents also use the consumption needs of their family to justify supporting unethical, non-unionized businesses and their practices. In many ways, we vote with our dollar. All I’m saying is, besides feeling no innate desire to have children, an extra carbon footprint also does not align with my values.

    • Amanda says...

      Why do they need to prove themselves? They are not having kids for the reason they gave, and really don’t have to check off anything else on your list to have their choice be validated by you.

    • Ann says...

      I think it’s less about the actual carbon footprint of having a child and more about the world a child would inherit in terms of the effects of climate change that are already taking place. I think a lot of folks have a hard time realizing what the near future with climate change will look like…. it’s really grim! At this point the carbon footprint of having a kid won’t matter that much, we’re starting to experience the effects of climate change (think of CA wildfires, they aren’t stopping anytime soon) and there’s no stopping it, only mitigating the effects. As a society we will have to become more climate resilient, meaning extreme measures to conserve water, relocating because of catastrophe, living with frequent power outages due to severe weather/fires. And THATS the world I might not want a child to grow up in. I hope that makes sense. :)

    • Hi Marie!

      I’m so happy you asked this question. For me, the change to a climate-conscious life has happened gradually over the past 15 years (I started thinking about this in high school), so I’ve made a lot of changes that sound extreme, but because they happened gradually it wasn’t so hard as if I’d done it all at once. Here’s a short list of what I do:
      * avoid buying new whenever possible (the only new piece of furniture in our apartment is our mattress––and it was made with mismatched fabric, so it’s kind of made from scraps. I buy clothes from thrift/vintage stores or ThredUp.com, etc.)

      * avoid flying almost entirely (this means that I frequently take the train from New York or Chicago to the Southern border to visit my family in Mexico, where I’m from)

      * walk or bike (we did get a used Prius during the pandemic so that we could help our high-risk essential worker family members get to work without using public transit)

      * eat vegetarian (mostly vegan) and grow some of our own food (tomatillos, onions, and squashes because they grow easily)

      * fret over whether or not to have kids (haha)

      * most importantly, I vote with the climate in mind and get involved in campaigns early (never miss a primary!) and I try to divest from capitalism as much as possible (buying groceries at a co-op; supporting very small bookstores; buying detergent in bulk, refillable containers from Green Life Trading Co. [another small business])

      Again, I feel like all of these changes can seem overwhelming when they’re in a list like this, but it’s been wonderful to take small steps and ask myself “What else can I do?” and I feel like my life is so much happier now because I focus on living in the moment and enjoying small things like seeing the sun reflected on a little lake instead of being focused on what to get next, where to go next, as consumerism trains us to do.

      I write a little blog at https://smoothliminal.wordpress.com/ if you’re interested in reading more! xx

    • lynn says...

      I agree with Kate. Besides simply not being pulled to want kids (I was on the fence for a few years but feel ok in saying I’m child-free now) there are strong supporting factors that help affirm my decision, including the kind of planet my child would inherit. If I were to explore having a family with my husband, I think adoption would be the only way; a child who is already here- how can we help them have a life they might not otherwise have?

      Yes, children are huge carbon footprints (watching friends and family members attempt cloth diapers only to fall into ordering pampers by the amazon truckload) but it’s truly the state of the planet I fear for.

    • Jess says...

      I am actually very curious to hear the opposite, which is how people who choose to have children reckon with the future their children will inherit, when all signs point to things being very, very dire. This isn’t supposed to be a “gotcha,” I just genuinely am not sure what people’s inner monologues are about this, and tying to call people who’ve made legitimate, climate-motivated personal choices out on some kind of values inconsistency smacks to me of the kind of defensiveness I’ve seen throughout these comments. Other people’s choices aren’t a referendum on yours, and if it feels that way, maybe you have some inner work to do.

    • Blandine says...

      What a bizarre thing to say Marie D. As if you are doubting their reason and want to check that they have really exhausted all ways to be climate friendly before deciding to forgo children. Would you ask something similar from someone who decided to stop eating meat for environemental reasons?
      Also, several commenters mentioned that they have gotten into the habit of invoking one reason to explain their decision (for ex. finances) but that in reality, they only do that because of intrusive questions. The real reason is often that they do not want children full stop.

    • Emma says...

      It sounds like you’re asking to see the receipts and implying that their choice isn’t valid unless they are 100% perfect all the time and their choice is not motivated by emotions or desires. Having one less child is by FAR the biggest impact a regular person can have on carbon emissions. I am nearly plastic free, use public transit, shop local, eat vegetarian etc but that all pales in comparison to the carbon savings of not procreating. Please actually look up the data – it’s startling. Regardless, they don’t actually owe you a reason or an explanation. What are YOU doing to make sure children inherit a world that isn’t burning? As far as I’m concerned, the child-free people have already done their part.

  67. L says...

    Thank you also for normalizing not knowing. I’ve been married for 8 years – and we always said we would adopt, but as we live far from our parents who are in declining health – we realized that adoption might mean we can’t travel across state lines to be with parents in the event of an emergency without first getting a court order (our state requires a 12 month wait to formalize adoption, during which time you are a foster parent). This put adoption on the back burner. We have casually been trying to get pregnant – but honestly, we’re not trying very hard because our life is awesome now AND it would be awesome with a kid. Either way, its great – and we’re trying/going to be ok with whatever happens. (Some days that is easier than others!)

  68. KK says...

    As someone who always knew they wanted to be a mom – having kids has caused me to support and understand the choice of why people would want to be child free even MORE. My sister and her wife don’t want kids and people always assume they will change their mind (they’re amazing with their 6 nieces/nephews) and it makes me so mad lol. Having kids gives me the understanding to know that if you’re ambivalent about it, it might not be for you. Because it’s a commitment with a capital C. It’s night and day and the MOST selfless experience ever and it certainly doesn’t make your life “easier”. Do I think having kids has added a richer more colorful dimension to MY life? 100%. But if sleep and travel and money add that dimension to YOUR life – I support you wholeheartedly!

    I’m in the weird realm of having always pictured 3 kids (I’m 1 of 3 and loved it, my husband has one brother but always wanted more siblings, etc.) but being tempted to stop at 2? I have 2 healthy children, I’m certainly getting the full experience, they have each other, the first year is HARD for me mentally and so on. I could be done with the baby phase and reclaim myself a bit more and that excites me! But then I remember that the baby phase is pretty short in the grand scheme and I’m trying to remember that my kids will be my adult children far longer than they’ll be my baby children and will I regret not having that 3rd person in my family and life considering that’s what I’ve always “wanted” (up to this point). I wish someone could make this choice for me!! I analyze it daily…

    • Emiley says...

      I am so with you on your perspective on this, KK. Yes, yes, yes! Amen.
      As for your current situation, I went through the same dilemma about going for three. I’m one of six, so three maybe didn’t seem that ambitious, but it was for me. And that’s the thing. It’s so personal. Eventually, we had a third and I’m so glad we did. And now I’m certain that I’m done. I’m where you are with being grateful to have three healthy, beautiful children and at peace with giving away all of the baby things as we no longer need them and become more of who I was again. Mentally, this is my limit and I’m happy that I knew that limit. People still question if I’m *sure* but I don’t. What I’m saying is, follow your gut. I’m sure you and your family will figure out what’s best for you. I just wanted to say – I see you and I get it.

  69. Jen says...

    I grew up wanting kids. I’m now 29 and the my life is different than I expected. My husband and I are very content the two of us and the idea of having a child right now (or soon) does not appeal AT ALL. We love being just us. But I picture my future 10+ yrs from now with kids. I worry if we don’t take the plunge I’ll regret it later on. Yet, the idea of gritting my teeth and going for it when I don’t have that real desire feels “off”.

    • Cecile says...

      Hi Jen, I’m 42 and I used to worry a lot about future regrets too. I tried very, very hard to have children, but you can always try harder, which at some point I decided not to do any longer. By now, I realise that life without children is as good (better, really) at 42 as it is at 22 or 32, and I don’t see why I wouldn’t appreciate my childless life at 52, at 62, at 72 and at 82. I think what we need is love, connection, growth, a sense of belonging and purpose. For many people that’s what a traditional familiy brings, and that’s a beautiful thing. But I’ve found all that too, and even if I may lose it at times, I’ll find my way back to it. Life doesn’t get duller as you get older, and you don’t lose your capacity to learn, have great adventures, create meaningful bonds and enjoy loving friendships with people of all ages. There’s so much beauty in my life and in my marriage, and it really looks like it’s been multiplying all these years. I know what it feels like to genuinely, deeply long for a child, and I carry the enormous grief of multiple miscarriages: I know so very well that wanting a child can be about so much more than avoiding future regrets. But if the fear for future regrets is the problem, know that it’s based on a false assumption. There really is so much life after 40, with or without children.

    • Jen says...

      Cecile, reading your comment with tears in my eyes… Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful perspective. You have given me so much to ponder and quite frankly an entirely new way of viewing my life. I realized embedded in my fears I am also grieving ‘growing up’, but your comments remind me there is new joy to be had in all ages and I can embrace the future instead of fearing it. Again, I sincerely thank you for your thoughtful words.

  70. A says...

    I think, too, having children in America is also about choosing to stay in the mainstream of female friendships. So much of modern American friendships are centered around having and raising children together. It’s pretty chilly outside of that circle. I lost a best friend who really wasn’t into bridging the gap between her being a parent and me not, even though I am very interested in kids.

    We don’t talk about how non parents get cast aside from friends and community events. Team Parent seems to be the only one that matters.

    • Cate says...

      This comment really resonates with me – my husband and I don’t have children, and while our marriage is strong and fulfilling, I find being child-free VERY socially isolating and lonely, because my peers are raising families, and their communities and social networks are centered around kids, school, activities, etc…they are able to meet other adults and build community, but as a person with no kids it often feels like I am on the other side of a very tall fence. Hard to meet other adults (even in non-Covid times), hard to see my friends with full social calendars (again, pre-Covid) where non-parents don’t fit in. Being excluded from the world of child-rearing means being excluded from so much of adult friendships/interactions/community.

    • CaraM says...

      You know what’s interesting? I’m a mother of one child (I had her at age 36) and I WANT more child-free friends in my life! Although I enjoy connecting with my friends who already have children, I want conversations that have nothing to do with children. And that’s not to say you can’t talk about non-children things with other Mothers, but it seems like the conversation always veers into that direction. The only thing that can be a challenge is that schedules are a bit tighter and more confined with a child (naps, bedtimes, that sort of thing) – I wish I had a looser schedule to connect at other times.

    • ARC says...

      That’s a very interesting thought. While I have two children (and I was one of those people who were on the fence “let’s see if it happens” and it did), two of my best friends are childfree, and I enjoy having their perspective and haging out with them; they come over for dinner (pre-pandemic), no kids needed. I am not really friends with my childrens’ friends’ parents – we occasionally see each other, but no close friendship. I personally absolutely enjoy and value having the diversity of friendships and views, and fortunately never had a problem bridging the gap with child free friends, and they don’t seem to have that issue either.
      It’s so sad that you feel cast out because you don’t have children. I think it probably also depends on where you live – we are in the San Francisco Bay Area where there are so many types of families, so it seems that there is perhaps a little bit less judgment about not having children. (There are other types of judgment though …) Our celebrations, Thanksgiving and July 4 always include all of our friends, and our kids enjoy hanging out with their “aunties” and “uncles”.

    • L says...

      For what it is worth – when I had my first child, I had never felt so socially isolated. Being responsible for caring for such a helpless little person made me feel very vulnerable and protective of both of us. It didn’t help, I’m sure, that my child was born very early and very small. I was basically cast out of my career after kids. None of my close friends had children, and it took a really long time to find “mom” friends who weren’t bored to discuss some of the mundane/embarrassing/weird things that come with motherhood. The first few years of my daughter’s life were the loneliest of mine (even though I was never, ever alone). And I probably wasn’t the best friend during much of that time. That said – my closest friend is still my long-time best friend, who is child-free. She stretched to meet me where I am, is curious about my kids, and about my life as their mom, and I am excited to hear about her travels, career, and active social life. Our lives are different, but our bond is just as strong. Being friends with people on different paths has been enriching and interesting to both of us, I think, and I am so grateful for her patience and love over these years.

      This article spoke to me, and it might also speak to you: https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/11/having-kids-can-make-parents-less-empathetic/416592/.

    • EB says...

      Totally agree with A’s comment. As I watched my closest friend have her first baby, I saw our friendship change (if not slip away). Yes, this was a pity moment for myself, and of course I was happy for her, but I knew our friendship would be different from this point on. And it is. They’ve moved to a more family-oriented neighborhood (despite proudly saying they would never leave our artsy ‘hood) and it’s only a matter of time before the mom groups happen. And that’s all fine – that is life. But it makes me *wish* i wanted kids if only so that our lives and friendships (hers, my sister’s, other friends w/ kids) could continue on, uninterrupted.

    • N says...

      To all the mothers commenting how much you love hanging out with your childfree friends, I think the real question is, do they love hanging out with you? There might be a lot of hurt feelings/uncomfortable dynamics that you don’t see and that they don’t feel comfortable sharing with you because they don’t want to risk losing your friendship.

  71. Mikayla says...

    What annoys me most about the conversation around family planning is the lengths women have to go to justify why they don’t want to have kids. I have had to defend my lack of fixation on caregiving and children since well before adolescence – but my two brothers have never had to justify themselves in this arena. Whenever someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I gave a typical kid answer like “doctor” or “super reader.” People always followed up with the question, “But what about being a mommy?” It didn’t annoy me until I noticed that they turned to my brothers with the same question, only when they gave a typical career-centric answer, the adult never asked them “But what about being a daddy?”

    I understand that biological realities that make the kids question a little more serious for women. But I think it would be a bit easier of a question if we knew that, for heterosexual relationships, men were also “allowed” to fill the caregiving role instead of be stuffed into a career as resolutely as women are stuffed into child rearing. I love these posts that talk about widening and flexing gender roles, because it truly benefits everyone. My sincere thanks to all these women for sharing their lives with us.

    • Alice says...

      Such a good point. Recently I’ve also noticed how people will compliment girls on their appearance (what a pretty a dress you have!) versus asking boys what they like. I even noticed this tendency in myself and am trying to change how I interact with the kids around me. If a girl (or boy) want to talk about how awesome their outfit is, that’s cool. But I don’t want it to be the first thing I comment on because who we are is so much more important than how we look.

  72. Lauren says...

    I don’t want kids. I never really wanted them, but always bore the brunt of the expectation to have them. From family to friends, acquaintances and coworkers (invasive, no?), there has been pressure there for the past decade-plus. At 37, the pressure is finally dwindling, but not in an accepting way. It’s more like an “I’m sad for you” way. A lot of people have a biased line of thought around this topic, and I appreciate this post as a start to conversations on the topic.

  73. Ambreen Baig says...

    What a lovely post. I feel so connected to these women as I am the only person in my family without kids of my own . Indeed, I enjoy spending time with friends kids and love to be the cool ‘gay’ kind of Aunt in their lives. NO one calls me AUNT but I think they all like me .. I feel special when all these kids text me back right away & many more things that I do with them. Thank you for this lovely post !

  74. Vava says...

    I had my tubes tied for a 30th birthday gift to myself, and that was 35 years ago. (I knew as a young teen, I would never want any kids.) I went to a gynocologist for the procedure and during the initial consult two nuns were brought in because the surgery would take place at Sacred Heart, the local hospital. I’m not Catholic. They tried to talk me out of it, but obviously were not successful. My partner at the time was not as adamant about not having kids as I was. But I think he’s realized the choice was good and we’ve been married for 33 years now. I like the freedom we have and he does, too. We just dote on our pets, our friends, and our relatives and their children. Our lives are full and complete.

  75. Thank you so much for sharing this post! I’m a woman who has never really wanted to have children. Even when I was a kid and my friends wanted to talk about how many kids they’d want to have, I’d usually feel like I was the only one who didn’t want children. It’s so funny because I’m currently in my graduate internship which focuses on family therapy, and I generally work with kids and their families. Sometimes when I tell people that I don’t want to be a parent, they find it incongruent with what I do. However, for me, while I love working with children and their families, my work has only solidified my feelings about not wanting to be a parent. Funny how that happens! Either way, I think becoming a parent is a beautiful thing and I wish all parents and families well – it’s just not for me.

    • Agnès says...

      Sidney I am sure that makes you a great therapist, you seem to be very clear-minded and there is nothing incongruent here. You can love photography but not taking photographs, if that makes sense ;-)

  76. Claire says...

    To all of you who have chosen to be a doting auntie, or to play a role in the life of a child you are not a parent to, I would like to say you are amazing, and offering a great gift. Never underestimate the value of what you bring to those relationships. As the oldest of 6 children I would have loved it if there had been another adult who was invested in me, and had spent time getting to know me.

    • Thank you so much, Claire! I’ve felt like I’m on the periphery for much of the pandemic, and your comment reminded me that my role of doting aunt is important :’)

  77. A says...

    I do understand this conversation but humans would also cease to exist without the burning desire to have children that a lot of women feel. I understand wanting freedom and living the life you want. That’s your right. But don’t forget the deeper purpose behind raising a future generation. If that’s not worth some sacrifice, I don’t know what else would be.

    • Alice says...

      @A – The narrative of all the wonderful and important reasons to have kids is pretty omnipresent in our culture, which is why blog posts like this are so helpful and important for those of us who are in the minority (don’t want or questioning). Even this blog, which is great, is pretty heavy on the motherhood content. I feel like the general vibe is stay true to your authentic values, hopes, and desires.

    • Anne Elliot says...

      Respectfully, as a single childfree woman, I feel zero obligation to perpetuate the species, and would strongly rebut the idea that the survival of humanity can or should rest on the reproductive choices of women who would consider having kids to be a “sacrifice.”

    • Bex says...

      Why is it good for humans to continue to exist?

    • Stella says...

      How anthropocentric! I don’t see anything wrong with humans ceasing to exist. Would be pretty good for the planet! I really don’t think there is a deeper purpose behind human existence we just happened to be here at this point in time.

    • A says...

      @Stella human life is the most important value that we have. This discussion is meaningless if you really mean that. The whole blog post is about experiencing your best life. The reason why there is so much pressure is because women are the only ones who can perpetuate life. There are a lot
      of reasons to decide not to have kids but I wouldn’t want a younger woman to not contemplate it from that perspective.

    • Jess says...

      Interesting. If human life is the most important value we have (I would strongly question that assumption), does your plan for ensuring the continuation of the human race account for avoiding the collapse of our ecosystem?

    • Gabriela says...

      This comment is fairly amusing given that human beings are nowhere near becoming extinct due to lack of procreation.

    • Emma says...

      Your comment is really patronizing and unhelpful. Women aren’t being selfish or avoiding sacrifice when they choose not to have children. The best thing the human species could do for the planet and the environment is eradicate itself. But don’t worry, because the global population is expanding exponentially and we are nowhere near needing to worry about that.

  78. Sarah says...

    OMG thank you SO MUCH for this post. It can feel so lonely and like you’re an outlier for not wanting to have kids, and this post made me feel so seen. My husband has three young kids from a previous marriage and I always get the question of when we’ll have a “real” kid which is so deeply infuriating and problematic because I AM the mom of our house (they do a 50/50 split on time at their mom’s and dad’s). I feel so lucky to be able to spend a great week leaning into kid time and then to spend the next week being footloose and fancy-free.

  79. Kate says...

    The idea of having children so you have someone to look after you when you’re old is sadly misguided. In my experience working with elderly clients, for a number of them they rarely receive visits from their children and sometimes their children financially abuse them. Some say it’s a selfish reason to have children, but I understand the desire to not be alone. However, I’ve seen so many elderly people with nieces and nephews, sisters and brothers and friends and cousins, who do love them and visit them and share stories and laughter.

    I am happily child-free and I have always known I didn’t want kids. The same way I have no desire to go to medical school…it just doesn’t interest me. I could list the reasons, but I would rather just live my life and pursue things that do interest me! I feel like I shouldn’t even need to say this, but I don’t hate kids, I just don’t want to share my life or my home with one.

    I am grateful that I never felt compelled to raise children, there is no stress or pressure to hurry up and get pregnant or, more likely, adopt. I look forward to two amazing things: meeting my newborn baby niece whom I LOVE (I received a necklace for Christmas, a gift from her, of two interlinked circles, one big and one small – the note said, “This is me and you!” and I immediately teared up. I wear it everyday because our hearts are linked) and there is an amazing program in our city where homeless youths can stay in spare bedrooms in people’s homes – once all this is over I intend to open up my home to serve others. Lastly, while I relish my role as fun and loving wine aunt, I do look forward to being a grandmotherly figure, in the future. I know some older women who are child-free but very close with the children of their nieces and nephews as well. So much love to go around.

  80. Kelly Simmons says...

    I really wish society would support women no matter what they choose. These stories of pressure from in-laws make me sad. That being said, in talking to many women over the years, I have also seen how fear of childbirth, fear of being a bad parent, and fear that they don’t connect with other people’s children combined to convince some women they weren’t “meant” to have children. I know many women who have moved beyond those fears to be happy parents — they came to learn that fear was standing in their way, not destiny or deep knowing. Perhaps that’s why older women, like mothers-in-law, try to intervene. It’s wrong to intervene, of course, but they have seen perhaps that It’s hard to separate those feelings. I have met women who regretted having children; who had painful experiences. I have also met women who regretted not having children, and faced a terrible reckoning and regret at mid-life. It’s impossible to know if these things await us; that’s why it’s such a scary decision. But it’s a personal decision, and other people should only weigh in when they are invited to.

  81. janine says...

    I respect women’s choices to not have any kids – or to have kids. I feel something we don’t talk about a lot is the ideas of just having ONE kid. I am happily ‘one and done’ and I feel you get a lot of the benefits of both having a child and still some of the freedom that comes with having a smaller family (more flexibility, less cost).

    • Jamie says...

      My husband and I are totally content with having our one awesome little six year old son. And with COVID and online school, it only re-affirmed that decision for us…I really think our mental health would have rapidly deteriorated if we had a baby or toddler in addition to running two businesses and trying to be a kindergarten assistant. I really did not enjoy the baby and toddler stages, and am loving this kid phase, and I love that I can enjoy my son, but still get some me time, every day. It really has been the best of both worlds. We love it, and guess what? My son does too!

  82. Mouse says...

    Amen, Virginia. I chose not to have children but I strongly believe in structural and institutional support for children, and obviously by extension, their families. There is no downside to building supportive institutions for the vulnerable in our society except taxes, and everyone needs to grow up about that issue. I gladly pay taxes that support children although I don’t have any of my own. I live in our society so how those children grow up and who they become absolutely affects me. And all of us.

    • NM says...

      Love this.

      We build strong communities by supporting one another, not only those in the exact same boat as us…

      Because we actually are all in the same big boat together. :)

  83. Bridget says...

    Huge kudos and thanks for this post!
    I am childfree now but I actually did get pregnant (surprise!) when I was 30 and miscarried early on. It was genuinely one of the worst experiences of my life. We were going to try again (almost to fix the grief I think) and my doctor was optimistic, but the more I thought about it and the further we got from it, the more I realized I liked my life the way it is. While I will always carry that loss, I am so thankful for what I do have. (And in a much better place now, 3 years later :)
    Sometimes I do feel like an anomaly, especially because I was pregnant and am now childfree (when people find this out, they assume I am just too heartbroken to try again and that I secretly still want a baby. Although I did feel less alone when there was FINALLY a similar storyline of the Bold Type. If you are childfree — watch it on Hulu!) 
    While I love children, I love other things more: travel, sleeping, my hobbies, devoting myself to my small business, my pets and my husband. I really am fulfilled by those things. I also love the ease of being childfree. We decided to go to Japan in 2018 kind of on a whim — and we were able to. The freedom and extra income (not huge but nice) are major benefits to me. 
    Lastly, please don’t let this be the only childfree post of the year! There are so many motherhood posts (and rightly so — it’s a huge and important topic!) but there are also more depths to explore on being childfree. (Aging with no children, what if you don’t want kids and partner does or vice versa, tensions with family, childfree vacation spots…).

    • kathryn says...

      Hey! I just wanted to say thank you for sharing–I’m in a similar(ish) position in that I’ve had multiple miscarriages, but also like my childfree life. Each miscarriage was devastating, but I have never felt like I absolutely need to be a mom. I suppose it’ll happen if it’s supposed to happen? I sometimes feel guilty for enjoying a childfree life, especially when we are trying to have a baby. I’m living in a country where I’m not a citizen, so adoption isn’t an option and tbh, that was almost more upsetting to me–maybe because the decision of having children was 100% not my own?

    • Brigdget says...

      Hi Kathryn! Thank you for your kind and thoughtful response. I think there are lots of women that don’t fit neatly into the categories (childfree, childless, TTC, parents etc.) but everyone wants to box us in. People are complicated! And it’s infuriating that adoption can be so tough for people who would be great parents. I wish you happiness and peace wherever your journey takes you.

  84. E says...

    My friend, who is CLBC is one of my favorite people. We are still in our child bearing years and it is unconscionable how people treat her and especially her body. Any hint of weight gain “oooo are you pregnant??” Any night off from drinking, “you’re pregnant right?” She’s been married for 10 years, never have I heard anyone ask her husband. For her (and me with secondary infertility- don’t get me started on that but that’s not what this post is about) I will be glad when we’re both solidly past the “asking” years. It’s so cruel and just another way society keeps tabs on women and scrutinizes their choices. Uck.

  85. Elise says...

    It was interesting to notice how defensive I felt when reading this; that I felt personally challenged about my decision to have a child – ha! I can only imagine how it feels on the other side, when being questioned repeatedly about a decision not to become a parent. I also wonder if my defence is because I was actually on the fence about having a child and actually deep down still share some of the sentiments expressed here. I love my son, and do enjoy so much of parenting, but I think I could have been very happy childless too.

    • annie says...

      i really love your comment.how wonderfully honest you are with yourself (and with us!) even though it’s difficult. surely many women struggle with their choice to have or not have kids! i wish there were a support system that enabled them to express their doubts and what-ifs and not be dismissed, shunned, or shamed for it.

      you made me think of a quotation i read once: “it’s a mistake to make ourselves simpler than we are.” isn’t that the truth? :) thank you so much for your thoughts. xo

    • Rebecca says...

      Elise thank you for sharing your perspective. You never hear from people who have children who feel that they could have been happy either way. The narrative is always that having a child is a huge life altering and life affirming thing and that no other event in a persons life can ever compare. It’s nice to hear that maybe isn’t always the case.

    • Emma says...

      Thank you for sharing this! Most people lack this level of self awareness and women seem to get punished for expressing ANY degree of hesitation toward motherhood. I suspect there are many mothers who have had second thoughts or even regrets they can’t feel they can talk about openly. It’s as if people think being unsure automatically means you don’t love your child. I think the best thing we can all do is affirm the validity of other people’s thoughts and choices and accept that not everything is black and white, regardless of which side of the fence you end up on!

  86. Alyssa says...

    My partner and I have had many deep and thoughtful conversations about our imagined life with and without kiddos. Now that I’m 34, and I’ve seen about half of my close friends experience parenthood, I’m beginning to feel confident that I will not have my own. I love spending time with kids, but having an every day responsibility for them fills me with dread. I love how I get to structure my days and time right now. Last year, my parter and I spent six months living apart so that we could pursue our own interests, and I realize that I wouldn’t be able to do that easily with children. I love being able to prioritize my own passions, and I love being able to fully pour into my friends and family when they need support.

    When I think about the future, I look forward to being able to continue to write and travel with like-minded women. For years I’ve been grieving the anticipated loss of my freedom, and I feel a lot of peace and relief with this decision. And I’m realizing that childfree still means there are a lot of children in my life who I can love and have a connection with.

  87. Jennifer Peters says...

    I’m someone who decided not to have kids, fought against the judgments, and condescensions when people didn’t understand or believe my decision. At 45 I decided to buy a house with my partner who has two kids (10, 16) and now live with kids half of the time and really don’t like it. It’s not the kids I don’t like, it’s the whole world of “having kids” I don’t like. It gives me comfort to know I made the right decision to not have kids, and I mourn my childfree days…but my partner is the best thing to have happened to me so it’s worth it in the end.

  88. MT says...

    I’m 42 and I would say “child-free chose me”. I chose my husband, who already had raised 2 kids. As it is in those crazy Californian families, I’m now a Grandma of 2 lovely granddaughters, which is — in hindsight — a better fit for me than motherhood probably would have, in all actuality, been. I’m from the Midwest: I was raised believing that if I hadn’t married and had kids by 23, that was it! I love my nephews and all of my friends’ kids. I’ve been hounded over the years to adopt! Foster! Freeze my eggs! Etc. But, it’s annoying to have to justify that NOT having kids is okay and, really, it’s hurtful and insulting when people with kids push the issue. I would NEVER IN A MILLION YEARS ASK A PARENT: “but are you sure of your decision? maybe you should return the kid to the hospital…there’s always another way!” – it’s absurd!! I hate that double standard that still exists and it needs upheaved/dismantled all the way to it’s foundation.

    • Emma says...

      One of my grandparents is a grandma by marriage and her lifestyle seems ideal for someone who enjoys kids but isn’t sure about having their own. I can’t speak to her thought process or whether she ever pursued biological motherhood, but today she is very happy and seems to have reaped all the benefits of both options :) She is wonderful and I am so thankful for her.

  89. Quyen says...

    Many people without children always say I can’t imagine my life with children. That is because it is impossible! It is impossible to understand the love of your own child until you have one.

    I have two kids and I have a career, traveled all over Europe and US with them (more continents to come), have my own hobbies and free time (and they are only 5 and 3).

    For those that don’t want kids, that’s fine! But for those that might want children, please don’t let anyone make you believe you will lose everything if you have kids. It is not true! It just depends on your priorities and what you choose to do with your time.

    • Kari T. says...

      Like Quyen says, you don’t have to lose everything if you have kids, BUT you might. I honestly think it also strongly depends on your community of support (and also what you do for money). If you are on the fence about children don’t just explore your own feelings, looks outside to the systems of support available to you. Where I live there are no day cares and the nearest grocery is 45 minutes away, my parents are a 3 day drive. I really hadn’t considered these things when I was pregnant and I can see how much harder motherhood is on my mental health without a close knit community of support and help. There are no days of doing things on a whim and to have a “day off” from the kids (that isn’t just going to work) involves a lot of planning and is a very rare occurrence.

    • Emily says...

      Absolutely. I have three kids ages 6, 5, and 3 and I still have time for my prior hobbies and friends. Having kids doesn’t mean losing yourself; for me, it’s been like jumping into the ocean. Every part of me has been refreshed by the cool waters of motherhood. Every part renewed and awakened.

    • Sarah P. says...

      Yes! Things don’t have to exist in extremes. Thank you for expressing what I was feeling.

    • B says...

      I think there are a lot of mothers and fathers who can and do continue to travel, have hobbies and excel in their careers. And good for them! They should. However, it’s crucial to note (like many already have) that these parents have the income and resources to do so. Not everyone has extended family nearby to babysit or extra income for sitters. I think it’s important to be honest on this point and not expect everyone can just figure it out without making major sacrifices.

      Like you said, it is impossible for a childfree person to imagine the love of their own child. But on the flip side, it’s impossible for a parent to imagine some of the joys a childfree life brings. I saw something a mother wrote on another website that basically boiled down to “love is love.” That she didn’t compare the loves in her life or others. So the love you feel for your child is amazing and big, but that’s not to say it’s bigger than the love I feel for my spouse, friend, pet, parent etc. It’s just different. For many people, children are the number one love they will ever have — and that’s beautiful (and natural). But it’s condescending to assume that childfree people can’t know love that big. (Not saying you are implying that, but others have.) There are different joys, freedoms and loves to each lifestyle choice.

  90. Karen says...

    I‘m glad there is a post here on CoJ on this important subject. But I‘m disappointed by the shortness of the answers to this question. The post seems a bit superficial and I would have appreciated more in depth portraits, or even real interviews. It seems to come down to „no, not for me“ without going into details. But as the decision to have kids is something you think about differently at different times, I‘m sure the same goes for not having kids.

    What strikes me, is that no full names were in the article, no photos. Is deciding against kids something you can only write about in this form?

    I don‘t have kids and support every person in whatever their decision might be. I find it sad, that even here on CoJ – a place for open discussions – I couldn‘t see a photo of a women who decided not to have kids, or read about the downsides that come with that. For of course, like with every decision, there are also downsides. Why can‘t we talk about them? I think that wouldn‘t make the decisions any less valid and right!

    • miranda says...

      Thanks for this! Appreciate it. Also, weird that these are such individualistic perspectives. Children are born into a family + a history, they’re not like buying a new dress – “I liked it, I got it, it’s MY choice.” And they’re gifts – even if you get pregnant immediately, a child is still a gift, not something you can “choose”. So very strange to me that this is interpreted as choice, as though it’s only one person’s voice who counts.

    • Em says...

      Thanks for your note, Karen. I too appreciate CoJ for posting about this important topic, but was also a bit disappointed at the format of the post. I feel like we have seen a similar one in form and subject before?

      This is a great starting point, but I too would appreciate more posts in the future with greater detail and breadth of profile about people who are CFBC. There are so many motherhood-themed posts (which I love and devour!) and there is no reason why similar pieces can’t be written from the child-free perspective. As a person who is wrestling with this decision, I have no shortage of perspectives from people with children, but the same cannot be said of those without! “Living abroad childfree”, “My career path child-free”, “dating and relationships childfree”, “relationships with my parents childfree”, etc.

      Just my two cents! <3

    • lynn says...

      Agree, the construct of this post has been done before on COJ. I was hoping when I saw them ask for reader submissions on IG, that there would be more in-depth discussion ( I guess that’s what the comments section is for huh?).

    • Lucy says...

      Agreed 1000%, Karen. This post felt very familiar, and not necessarily in a good way. There’s nothing wrong with revisiting topics — especially one as interesting as this — but not if it’s going to be given such superficial treatment. I think COJ readers deserve more nuance than this.

  91. It always floors me how much people care about whether or not other people have kids. Parenting is a life experience you can choose to have (if you’re lucky enough to have that choice), but if you’re unsure, as I was, it requires a huge reimagining of “self.” I’d never push having kids on someone who’s unsure, let alone someone who’s adamantly against it. You can think about it, talk about it, ask for advice to your heart’s content — but you never have to justify your choices.

  92. Annie says...

    This article reaffirms why I love reading CoJ every day! You’ve made me feel less alone in my thoughts on whether I want children or not. The hardest part is the level of judgment (spoken or unspoken) that comes with being childless. It hurts. I feel empowered by these stories and the inspiring comments from people about why they have or have not chosen to have children. Thank you for giving me much needed perspective.

  93. JJ says...

    I have one kid who I love though I was definitely on the fence before so this resonates with me.. But my question is, the mothers who say they have time to travel, see friends, exercise, read…how?! My husband and I work full time, we have a 3 year old. Between work and spending time together and with her, there just isn’t time for other stuff. Do you have unlimited babysitter money? I really don’t get it. I love being a mom but I definitely don’t have the social life and freedom I had before. Nor do I expect to.

    • J says...

      I might be able to answer this! My husband and I have pretty flexible work schedules — he is self-employed and I work in the tech industry which was quite flexible in terms of working from home even before the pandemic. My mother-in-law comes over each Saturday afternoon so we can run errands and have a date night. Otherwise, we probably would do something like kid-swaps (watch a friend’s kids one Saturday afternoon so they get a break, and then they watch our kids the next week). My husband and I also take turns watching kiddos to give each other breaks (like he often takes them to the park so I can shower and put away laundry on Sunday morning, for example).

      Obviously we don’t have the full freedom like we did before kids, and we know we are lucky. I was raised by a single mom and we were very poor (on and off food stamps), and I saw how much she leaned into her church community and other moms for support.

    • Louise says...

      I tend to agree with this. We have one child and I feel like I worked hard for any time to invest in my part-time business, socialize with friends sans kiddo and have date nights. We live in a fairly pricey city without grandparents at the ready, so every time we want a date night, we pay for it. I’ve tried all sorts of “free” childcare arrangements (swapping with friends, scheduling group playdates, sleepovers with uncles and aunties) and they are lovely arrangements, but far from reliable. More like happy one-offs. The only mothers I know who’s lives allow for solo travel, free time, hobbies and frequent date nights are quite well-off or have retired grandparents that happily step up to help.

  94. Geneva says...

    I am a childless woman myself, partly by circumstance but also never felt a burning desire to birth a child or be a mother. Our western culture glorifies a certain type of motherhood (we women are expected to gladly make all the sacrifices that motherhood entails). It is sometimes hard to feel excluded from the mother’s club, esp at the age one’s peers are all marrying and child rearing. In a hospital waiting room I had a surprising conversation with a fellow patient about my doubts and fears that I was missing out. Somehow I ended up sharing my feelings about this (as often happens with perfect strangers) and she said that though she is a mother of one and deeply loves her daughter, she would not have had a child if she had the choice. She regretted so many missed opportunities and sacrifices, sharing that motherhood is no easy ride, and for her all the love was not enough. I think some women are made for motherhood and others, not. There are many ways to contribute to the world beyond mothering, which are not largely recognised. I would also say there are already too many people on this planet, many in great suffering and it may be a good thing if more of us choose not to.

  95. Sofie says...

    I am 41 and chose not to have children. Ever since I was a teenager I was sure of that. But ever since I was a teenager (from around 16 onwards) I have been asked íf I would be having children, whén I would be having children or when I finálly would become pregnant.
    Not to mention everyone telling me; “just wait, one day you’ll know you want kids/one day your biologicl clock will start ticking” That lasted till I was around 35.

    More than 25 years my life has revolved around my children although I have always been adament that I didn’t want them and have not been shy of voicing this to my parents, my extended family, my inlaws, anyone really. It can be invallidating, like your selfworth should only be as bog as the number of children you have.

    On a more positive note; I am the best aunt my two nieces have ever had :)

  96. Rachel says...

    Thank you so much for posting this. I was on the fence for a while (would I regret it, etc) but the reasons for for us would not be the right reasons: fear of old age, fear of regret, loneliness of being on the “outside” of what our friends were experiencing (which is real and sometimes difficult) but there just wasn’t enough in the pro column for such a monumental decision. I believe you should want up be a parent badly and I just…don’t feel that. I liked babysitting growing up and I love my friend’s kids but my husband and I feel validated that we made the right decision every time we leave the homes of our friends with kids and are filled with immense relief that that is not our life. I think everyone should make the choice that feels right for their life and listen to their inner voice (which is sometimes difficult to hear with so many voices of others) and stop looking for validation in others choices. I think the definition of a healthy society is making the right choices for your life while carefully considering your potential impact on others and there’s room for both choices in that model.

    I am however constantly annoyed that I am asked to justify this decision while no one asks folks having kids to justify their decisions (which is arguably a larger impact on others). Why would you want someone who doesn’t deeply want kids to have them? From what I hear from my circle, parenting is challenging and joyful in equal measure, it’s too difficult to do well if you don’t really want it. I can list it out just like all child free women have learned to do; the climate is one of my #1 reasons, and health issues, and freedom to travel, and long quiet hours for books, and dislike of animated programming (even as a child) but I shouldn’t NEED any of those reasons. I shouldn’t have to prove my life is otherwise full for it to be a reasonable decision. Not wanting it badly is enough of a reason. I feel that it should relieve people that I didn’t have children out of fear or societal pressure but for some reason it doesn’t, it’s seen as selfish when I think it’s quite the opposite. I wish it were easier to somehow convince people that your choices aren’t a referendum on theirs.

    • Blandine says...

      ‘there just wasn’t enough in the pro column for such a monumental decision. I believe you should want up be a parent badly and I just…don’t feel that.’ This is so well put. Being a parent is so taxing and all-consuming (I have two and online learning is starting to feel old) that you really have to want it! Also I fully agree that it is unfair that people are never asked to justify themselves and explain their reasons for having children.

  97. Alice says...

    Does anyone else feel conflicted also because of the anxiety involved in keeping someone alive and safe? I feel like I am anxious enough as an adult, I cannot imagine how overwhelmingly stressful it must be to worry constantly about the safety of your kid(s). In my family there have been a lot of really horrible tragedies, kids dying young, and I truly don’t know if I could handle the stress of protecting my own child. How do parents deal with this? Along with climate change this is something that truly terrifies me about being a parent.

    • Lindsey says...

      Anxiety plays a huge part in my decision too, Alice — you are not alone xo

    • Blandine says...

      Yes, I have never experienced any tragedies but the worrying has been a central part of my experience as a parent. It can feel paralyzing sometimes. And then you feel guilty that your fear is coloring their childhood which should be free and careless. It is hard to navigate really.

  98. My wife and I have always known we wanted kids, but being a queer couple we obviously knew that there would be a lot more thought and intention put into it. A big reason that we ended up on the idea of adoption was because of climate change and not wanting to bring another child into the world that wouldn’t otherwise be here. We’ve been on this journey for the past year and are still waiting to match. The wait is heartbreaking and painful to have so many maybe’s and so many no’s. You can follow our adoption journey here: https://www.facebook.com/emilyandemilyadopt (yes we’re both Emily & Emily hah).

  99. Mishka says...

    Many of the reasons shared in this story are why I everyday feel the loss of self, loss of pleasure, loss of energy, loss of independence associated with having just one child. This is along side loving her to bits and making choice after choice to put her needs first. Being a mother is certainly much more gruelling then expected. Would I have chosen differently had I known? I think I would have not have discounted the impact of having no support network or family around where we live, or put such pressure on myself to be able to maintain all aspects of my former self/idealised family life.

    • Kari T. says...

      Having a support network is huge! I also hadn’t considered this and am in a similar situation to yourself Mishka. Grueling indeed. “It takes a village to raise a child” is a sentiment I truly truly wish was still a part of our North American culture.

    • Michelle Adam says...

      Completely agree Kari T. But please know it’s not just North America – I’m in Australia and it’s the same situation (although I’ve very grateful we have a number of safety nets such as paid parental leave etc!).

  100. Tyler says...

    interesting how many childless women feel compelled to add to their comments some version of, “but I love kids!” Like, we’re not MONSTERS, lol. I don’t have children myself and am finding this comment section FASCINATING.

    • Lindsey says...

      I am fascinated by this too, Tyler. I personally do not enjoy the company of children, and — even though I fess up to this fact — I do feel bad saying it (especially to/in front of parents).

    • Danielle says...

      Yes, I was struck by this as well. I am a 34 year old, child free woman. I love my life as it is, and haven’t questioned my decision. I also don’t particularly enjoy the company of children. I just don’t connect with them. Perhaps that’s an unpopular opinion. I’m inclined to think women feel they cannot share that openly, though.

    • Sage says...

      Truth, haha! Meanwhile plenty of women with kids feel free to say they like their own kids, but not other people’s, hahaha. :)

  101. Eva says...

    I always love these posts about reflections on the chosen (and for many, unchosen) life. The decision to become parent, or not to become one, is huge.

    My current deliberation sits at a less monumental intersection, though not insignificant: as the 36yo parent of an almost 2yo, I’m wading in uncertainty about whether to have a second. I feel SO fulfilled with the one (and we’ve been incredibly fortunate with a healthy baby and minimal complications/hardships), and no pangs currently for another—paired with a not-so-fulfilling relationship with my given family, and fears stemming intimate experience with mental illness in that family.

    More often than not, my heart is leaning no. But there’s that little spark of curiosity and that feeling of pure love for my child (and not wanting to be fear-driven … and maybe FOMO) that is keeping it on the table.

    Maybe I’m delaying a (perhaps temporary) feeling of loss that would come with deciding “no.” I would love to ask those in the COJ community who chose to go for a second (and didn’t know from the outset), what made you take the leap? For those who chose not to, what informed your decision? <3

    • Agnès says...

      Hi Eva, it is so different for each of us, depending on your age, your energy, your country, your support system. I chose not to have a second child; to have one is a lot of work already (more than work, it takes my energy away, I find it reaaaly hard to keep focused). I am so glad I made that choice, regardless of the enormous pressure there is in France, where one child is not well accepted (probably worse than childfree, it is perceived as selfish). I pay attention to have a very open house and hace my son’s friends over whenever possible. I love that they find peace in our home and that their parents can rest, while we have the advantages of other people’s children. It’s really nice. I don’t know how my child will live our choice but it’s his fate, I have to accept it. No path is equal. Good luck Eva.

    • M says...

      Eva, your comment resonated with me so much. I am also in my 30s with a 2-year-old, and I feel no pull to have another baby. I’m very content with my life as it is, and I am leaning toward the one-child path, but am constantly second-guessing myself for all the reasons you mentioned, plus the external pressure/expectation to have multiple kids—when I’ve mentioned this to friends and family, many people have responded with, “but you can’t have just one!” Of course you can! The arguments about only children being spoiled/weird are outdated, insulting, and just plain untrue. And it seems crazy to bring another baby into the world out of obligation instead of love.

      I don’t have any input on decision-making, since I haven’t fully decided myself. But it’s always nice to know that there’s someone else out there going through the same thing.

    • Sage says...

      Hi, Eva, if you go to the next page of comments, I posted there about having an only child and others piped up in affirmation. Joanna also linked to the previous post where women talked about having their one & only child. :)

      For me personally… I have a 2.5 yr old, but already knew when I was pregnant I’d never have or want another. Husband got a vasectomy two months or so after our son was born. Seeing what a kind, sweet, smart, happy little boy he’s turning out to be – I feel like I hit the megamillions jackpot & have NEVER been tempted to press my luck twice. Starting over just as he’s getting talkative and playful and interesting and independent…?! That – to me – sounds like hell, haha.

      But everyone’s different. No other person has YOUR specific circumstances. It’s helpful to see that people can be happy with any choice (childfree, 1 kid, 2+ kids) but it doesn’t say or dictate jack about your own choices. Someone can be happy with 10 kids and I can be happy with 1 and another can be happy with none and we can all be “right.”

      (Another, crucial, thing: what does your partner think? Me & my partner were always agreed on 1, thankfully. I have actual nightmares of him asking me for a second kid, haha, something he assures me “will never happen.”)

      Cheers!

    • Leah says...

      After years of not wanting kids, I changed my mind. Had my first at 35, second at 37. I knew I don’t want my child to be an only child, and that I didn’t have many years if I wanted more kids so I rushed it. I actually wanted 3, but the 2nd pregnancy was hard and I didn’t want to go through it again.
      Here’s what I would consider: 2 kids, especially so young and close in age, is hard! It’s really really hard. You need to have a lot of support (we didn’t) or prioritize your life. I didn’t and my health paid the price.
      It’s also very rewarding and fun and seeing them together is amazing and they do grow up and it gets easier and than they have someone with them for life. Even as they fight, I know I’ve given them the greatest gift by having a sibling.

      All that said – it’s a very personal decision and you should do what is right for you.
      I once read (I wish I remember where!) you always miss the last kid you didn’t have. I think it’s true, regardless of it being the 2nd 3rd or 5th.

    • Hi Eva, I had my first child at 39, and I was certain I was one and done. I figured my husband and I were lucky to have had her before the clock ran out. My husband, however, wanted a second, and after much deliberation and many difficult conversations, I finally got on board. I will be honest with you that I really didn’t want another one–the idea of going through another infant year when we now had a talking, sleeping, independent four-year-old about to stop needing paid daycare actually filled me with dread. But I didn’t feel wonderful about her being alone, especially as a biracial child, with no cousins even near her in age. So we did it. I had a son at 43. And I must tell you, I’m thankful every day my husband felt this drive so strongly. I never would have done it on my own without that push. My son, born just this past May during the pandemic, is truly a joy and delight, and having a second child has added such a rich dimension to my parenting (no longer do I see everything she does as archetypal and obsess over my parenting; there’s another child, and he’s so different!). I never believed I could have one child, let alone two. They are my miracles, truly, and they have deepened my love, my life, and my work as a writer immeasurably.

    • Eva says...

      I’m overwhelmed with appreciation to everyone who shared their own experiences in this thread! I’m wishfully envisioning us all sitting in a cozy cabin with wine/cocoa and a fire continuing this convo.

      Leah, that bit about “you always miss the last kid you didn’t have”—whew—gutted me a little. Coupled with Ramya’s quoting of Cheryl Strayed below (THANK you for that reminder)—”the ghost ship that didn’t carry us”—I have some things to meditate on.

      As several of you said, I know I’ll only find my answer with myself (in consultation with my partner ;)), but it’s so heartwarming to feel in the company of others (even at different times) in these thoughts. Thank you for these treasures <3

  102. Ramya says...

    For some reason, this thread (and more so the comments) made me think of a lovely passage from the breathtaking book Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed (based on her “Dear Sugar” advice columns). I think it’s useful for those who are on the fence about having kids – the notion that you’ll never know what you missed out on by making either choice and that that’s OK.

    “If I could go back in time I’d make the same choice in a snap. And yet, there remains my sister life. All the other things I could have done instead. I wouldn’t know what I couldn’t know until I became a mom, and so I’m certain there are things I don’t know because I can’t know because I did. Who would I have nurtured had I not been nurturing my two children over these past seven years? In what creative and practical forces would my love have been gathered up? What didn’t I write because I was catching my children at the bottoms of slides and spotting them as they balanced along the tops of low brick walls and pushing them endlessly in swings? What did I write because I did? Would I be happier and more intelligent and prettier if I had been free all this time to read in silence on a couch that sat opposite of Mr. Sugar’s? Would I complain less? Has sleep deprivation and the consumption of an exorbitant number of Annie’s Homegrown Organic Cheddar Bunnies taken years off my life or added years onto it? Who would I have met if I had bicycled across Iceland and hiked around Mongolia and what would I have experienced and where would that have taken me?

    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.”

    • Agnès says...

      I love that quote Ramya; I’m writing it down right now. I had read it before here, but not that whole paragraph. Thank you!

  103. Sarah says...

    I love this. While I am a mother, I fully support every woman doing what feels best for her. No one will ever regret listening to her heart and trusting her gut.

    On a personal note, my best friend is 46 and happily child-free. She has told me several times how grateful she is not to have children so she can have nearly limitless freedom. She helped me enormously when my babies were born, has a precious and dear relationship with them, but is never obligated to anyone but herself and those she chooses to love. She travels, saves and spends, and lives a life I support but don’t want. We are opposites in so many ways and it benefits both of us. My fave CoJ quote: Good for her, not for me.

    Thank you, CoJ team, for continuing to push your bounds with the content you produce and the conversations you spark.

  104. celeste says...

    I never considered having children, until I met a man who indirectly helped me realize that some men REALLY want to be parents and have a family, a novel understanding for me. Our connection never became a relationship for other reasons but through him I did realize that, “never say never”, is totally true. I would have had a child with him for his sake. I love children and would have happily led that life. This is awkward to write about – I am not as skilled at writing my feelings as this particular overshare requires, haha.

  105. Anonymous says...

    I apologize in advance for sharing my thoughts if they don’t come out right

    J’s comment in the post made me sad. She said she didn’t want kids at 29. Its just that what if her biological clock does change in and she does regret it?

    Also years ago I had cancer and one thing that made me sad, what if I missed out on my children’s lives and one day being a grandmother? I have little kids but the thought of being a grandmother is thrilling. I’d love to be one , one day. I don’t know if it will happen, I pray it does. But if my daughters willingly chose to not have kids, and I’d not be a grandmother, I’d be so sad. It kept me going when I was sick.

    I’m sorry if I said something wrong, I just hope J will be ok and the others too.

    • Sarah says...

      Hi – with all due respect, someone else’s life choices literally don’t affect you. So you can be sad if that’s how you feel, but you don’t need to project that onto the person. :)

    • Stacey says...

      As someone who has chosen not to have kids, I’ve thought a lot about the whole “biological clock” thing. Maybe it helped my decision that I didn’t feel that strong physical desire for motherhood. But I know that even if that changes, even if in ten or twenty years I suddenly feel a physical yearning to have a baby but can’t, it’ll be ok. I’m an adult, and I can live with my choices, even if they involve regret. I would MUCH rather risk regretting not having kids, than having kids “just in case” and turning out to regret that. I’ve regretted many things in my life, and I’ve learned how to live with that. I’d learn how to live with the regret of not having kids, if it came to that.

    • Emma says...

      It’s fine to be sad, but at the end of the day nobody owes it to you to have children – even your own children. Regarding the “biological clock,” I think we need to trust that women know their lives and their bodies better than anyone else. I think that the biological clock or “you’ll change your mind” are often used as tools to discount people’s thoughts and desires for what they want out of life, or for someone who DID choose motherhood to project and validate their own choices. And as Stacey pointed out, isn’t it better to not have kids and regret it than end up with a child who isn’t wanted or loved the way they deserve? There are still many ways to have a family and have kids in your life (if that’s something you desire) without having children of your own.

  106. jdp says...

    “Instead, I’m leaning into what Rachel Cargle describes as Rich Auntie Supreme. It’s such a fun community and I feel so seen there. I love getting to show up for my friends’ and relatives’ children, spending time with them, reading, playing and exploring with them. I think of the ‘gay uncle theory’ (or in my case, the gay aunt) in biology, where I get to funnel all the love, time and money I could have spent on my own children into supporting other people’s kids.”

    THIS. Caroline’s essay “Hello from Your Childless Friend” roiled up a few feelings and ideals that I felt selfish for wishing for– I chose the kid route, a close female friend did not, and there seemed no way to bridge back into closeness after that. Except…why the hell not? If the roles were reversed, and they easily could have been, I know that I would have pitched in, celebrated, babysat, and showed up with bells on for the friend and her kid, whereas her reaction was more standoffish. I’m just saying there’s another way that I never knew how to describe until now — it’s the way of the Rich Auntie Supreme.

    Childless aunties or uncles are the best! I wish every kid had one. They are the best at spoiling, at explaining the good stuff parents fail at, at encouraging happy fun times and expanded horizons. I wish more people opted for that attitude and not just, I choose not to have kids and you can keep yours to yourself, good luck and thanks.

    • Rachel says...

      I’m so happy to you could relate to the joys of child free aunts and uncles!

  107. Liz says...

    Thank you so much for this. I’m 42, happily married with no kids. I don’t have any non mother friends, and sometimes it feels very lonely. I also dislike how everyone assumes I have kids, and when I say I don’t, they don’t know what to say. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one out there!

  108. Sonya says...

    I’m 36, turning 37 this year and am still not sure whether kids are for me. But I’m learning to be OK with not knowing instead of stressing about it (in a way, it reminds me of being very anxiously single in my twenties).

  109. Julie says...

    Having kids is a bonkers experience, and any rationalization of it pro or con is either pre or post hoc rationalization. We try to tell our stories as though we are the author, but I think we’re merely collaborators.
    After I had my first kid, I felt very unseen by my kidfree friends, which was all of my friends. I felt like an alien who had just made this really weird decision. In trying to articulate who I was and why I was, the best I came up with is:
    There are a million reasons not to have children. There are basically no reasons to have children, and yet, people have children all the time, and that’s why we’re all here. We can be happy that someone decided to have us, and for all the people that decided not to, well, that’s good too.

  110. JFS says...

    Thank you for inviting this conversation. I’m here to say I swung the other way. I didn’t think I’d EVER have kids. No one who knew me would have said I was “mom” material. I’m an introvert, and was positive that having kids would ruin everything. Other people’s kids annoyed me. I didn’t like holding babies.

    Then I met my now-husband. His clarity about wanting kids scared and intrigued me. So in true nerd fashion I polled a dozen or so older people whom I really respected. I asked them, What’s the best thing you’ve done with your life, to-date? What about your life has been most meaningful? Nearly all of them said, becoming a parent. (Ok, biased data set, I admit.)

    Not gonna lie, being a parent is really hard; the hardest thing I’ve ever done. There’s so much hearts+rainbows crap around motherhood, it’s hard to separate how YOU feel from how you’re told you SHOULD feel. Sometimes I don’t recognize the person I’ve become. And when the world feels like a dumpster fire, I even feel pangs of regret that I brought two innocent humans into it.

    But. But! being a parent has also been the most meaningful, awe-inspiring, enlightening experience of my life. It’s made me think about myself and my connection to other humans in a whole different way, especially my husband and my own parents. I feel like I walk around in the world now immensely more vulnerable to both pain and awe, as if I were missing several layers of skin. It’s intense, but I guess it works for me.

    I’m glad that women at least have choices now. I applaud anyone who knows themselves well enough to be CFBC and wish your decision didn’t have to feel “brave.” The wellbeing of the human race will require all of us to show up, and motherhood is just one of many ways we can do that.

    • Kelli says...

      Aw, I love this. I’ll just tag onto your eloquence with “ditto” :)

    • Cara M says...

      Perfectly worded and also sums up my experience!

    • JR says...

      SO well said.

  111. SS says...

    Someone in a previous comment mentioned after becoming a mom not knowing true peace again. This resonated with me so much. I dont think I will ever not have the feeling of anxiety that I am responsible for my sons existence. The love is SO great I sometimes find it hard to manage the fear that something could happen to him. The lack of control is overwhelming.

    • Ell says...

      Hopefully this isn’t too dark, but one thing I’ve been thinking over and over again this year is how much of the control we think we have is an illusion. There was something weirdly comforting to me, especially earlier on in the pandemic, about the fact that regardless of what crazy thing my day/week/year is doing, I can and will get up and at least feed, clothe, etc my daughter (and hopefully at least some days, do more for her). And then I have to remind myself, what is it that grounds me, strengthens me to accept my lack of control?

  112. Meg says...

    Is it okay to not have kids and be able to say I don’t love kids?

    I just want the women who choose not to have kids not to also have to back it up with “but I’m an amazing aunt” if they don’t actually feel that. If they do, right on but just like not feeling obligated to having kids they shouldn’t feel obligated to also say “oh but I love kids”

    • Kari T. says...

      Absolutely Meg! I love my own kids but must admit I’m not a great Auntie, kids aren’t for everyone and that is ok.

  113. caitlin says...

    I’d love to hear from people grappling with this decision. 35 is around the corner, and I feel the biological pressure to decide one way or the other. I’m lucky that my family doesn’t press the issue, and that my partner can openly talk about it. I have 3 amazing niblings who I get to see a lot. When my first niece was born, I felt an overwhelming sense of love, one that made a lightbulb go off in my head and I thought “oh that’s why people do this!”

    But, whenever I hang out with them, there’s always a point where I get tired, where I’m ready for adult conversation again. I love them, but it’s really hard to imagine being that on alllll the time with a kid. And being pregnant sounds terrible personally, I can’t imagine it!

    I love my friends kids, I am so happy for them, and it’s a privilege to be there for that. I just…I don’t feel a strong pull. Sometimes I imagine it, but I have never felt that aching want.

    What happens at 50? Will I regret it then? Would I regret having a kid? I just don’t know.

    • Katherine says...

      Hi Caitlin,
      I hear you. I’ve always wavered on whether or not I want kids. When I was younger I used to say, “if it happens it happens and if it doesn’t I am not going to force it”. That being said when I was single at age 34 I went to see about freezing my eggs just in case I wanted kids at a later date. Egg freezing didn’t feel like the right path for me so I didn’t pursue it. Now I’m almost 40 and in a really happy relationship with a partner who doesn’t want kids.

      At first I panicked that I was allowing a man make this decision for me, I was in a major crisis. To gain clarity I decided to secretly spend a week with the mindset that I would never have children and just see how it went. I anticipated that I would feel a lot of sadness and mourn the entire week, but I ended up having the most amazing week of stress-free living! A huge weight was lifted off of me when I sank into the idea of not having kids.

      Now I feel a lot of peace and confidence in not having kids, but I still have moments where I worry I will regret this decision in the future. We will never know what could/would have been so I try not to focus on that. Instead I try to root myself in what FEELS right for me, and let go of explaining that to either myself or others.

      Best wishes on your path too!

    • annie says...

      niblings! haha. never heard that one before.

      i’m 35 and this year i’ve been turning over the question of having a kid a LOT. i’m in a relationship with someone who could go either way, and i feel like if i did get pregnant, i’d have the baby and be pretty happy. but when it comes to making the plans, and thinking about being pregnant (also scary to me! but i think it is to many women, moms and non-moms alike), and the next 18 years, and the things we can’t control… and what i come up with is that i can think about it until the cows come home and STILL not know what to do. i think that’s why this is such a decision of the heart (well, and biology, haha) for many, and why we need to feel that PULL to be completely sure. my mom, who accepts whatever decision i make, would be overjoyed if i had a baby. i would love so much to give her that, and to share in the successes and vagaries of motherhood with the women of the world. but for me, the pull isn’t there. i really, really wish it was sometimes.

    • Caitlin says...

      Thank you both for the replies! It’s comforting to know others don’t feel solidly one way or the other, especially as so many of my friends are having kids. I appreciate the reminder to maybe think less and listen to my gut more.

      Also, on the “niblings” note, I picked it up from the podcast Every Little Thing: https://gimletmedia.com/shows/every-little-thing/2oh8o8a/americas-next-top-word

      “nieces and nephew” just gets tiresome to say, y’know?

  114. Micah says...

    Thank you for this article! When I was young, I remember playing “Would you rather” with my dad. I asked him, “Would you rather have 12 kids or no kids?” to which he instantly responded, “12. No doubt about it.” That told me everything I needed to know: I was genuinely loved and wanted– I added real value to his life. Since then, I’ve always wanted to be a mom!

  115. KG says...

    When I was nine, I wrote, “Never have kids,” in my diary and my decision has rarely wavered over the ensuing 3+ decades. As the oldest child and defacto third parent in my nuclear family, I always loved children but never yearned for any of my own. My decision was solidified while working as an early childhood educator as a twentysomething. After seeing firsthand the struggles of child-rearing, I realized that if choosing parenthood didn’t feel like a HELL YEAH for me, then I should treat it as a Hell No. And so I did.

    My now-husband and I informed each other of our mutual desire not to have kids on our first date. Before getting married we agreed that we had enough confidence in our partnership and in our prospective parenting abilities to try for a child if one of us suddenly felt incomplete without one. We checked in about the kid question regularly for the first fifteen years of our relationship, after which my husband happily marched himself to the doctor for a vasectomy. We are in love with each other and the life we have created. We have no regrets.

  116. Dana says...

    Until a few years ago, I felt unsure of if I wanted children. Something that helped bring me clarity was to imagine what I wanted my future life to look like. What I imagined at 35 was pretty damn similar to what I imagined when I was a kid. I saw myself married, happy, with lots of crazy animals in my home. It’s what I already have, although I’d like to add a few more animals to the family.

  117. Robin says...

    Just here to say as a mama of two kids, aunties are THE BEST. My kids love love love their aunties (both biological and by choice) and are missing them so much this year. There’s a different kind of love you can give when you aren’t thinking about dinner or laundry or what skills you’re working on teaching your kid. I try to be present and we have fun but it just isn’t the same. You can be such a wonderful important of a kid‘s life (or several kids lives) without being a parent. Not to mention community – I hope to be the activist I used to be again but right now I am head down in this tiny bubble and it destroys me sometimes. Not to say it hasn’t been the right choice, for me, but aunties are where it’s at :). Sending love and hugs to all the aunties distanced from their littles this year. We miss you. xox

  118. Virginia says...

    As someone who is both an educator and a parent during Covid, I’ve noticed a tension playing out in terms of whose responsibility children are and what their value is to our society. On one hand, I’ve heard some absurd arguments for going back into school buildings when community spread is rampant. These arguments (this example from a pediatrician) can run along the lines of: “it’s on teachers if this crisis makes the childhood obesity problem worse.” Clearly, schools are too often expected to do the parent’s job. On the other hand I’ve heard a lot of parent-shaming like: “if you can’t handle being with your kids all the time then you shouldn’t have had them in the first place.” Clearly, these sorts of claims are extreme, but they’re actual things I’ve heard people say as we all try to get through this crisis.

    As a teacher, I really don’t want to go back into a school building when test positivity rates in my community are over 10%. As a parent, I see what a disaster remote learning is for my elementary-aged kids.

    What does all that have to do with this article? I think that there’s a certain short-sightedness in thinking of the decision to have children as a strictly personal one. Yes, it is reassuring to hear that population growth is slowing in the West when you’re really freaked out about climate change, as I am. But all of us– those with kids and those without– have a horse in this race. Even if you are without children by choice, you will someday lean heavily on today’s generation of children for your most basic needs…even if you have limitless income and plan to pay for all of your elderly care. There’s only so much care that people of the same age– spouses, friends, siblings, etc– can provide each other after a certain age.

    It may be stating the obvious, but all of us should be voicing support for those who care for children in our society– parents, teachers, and other caregivers– not calling them out on inconsistencies or failures (I’m not saying that’s happening in this thread, but instead more generally in society.) And forgive me for being grim, but we should also, all of us, think frankly about what we want our elderly years to look like, and be very intentional in setting things up so that we aren’t subject to the cascade of medical interventions that many elderly people go through at the end of their lives without ever really choosing it.

    • Avigail says...

      I totally hear this! I was thinking something similar but from a different angle that choosing not to have kids won’t guarantee a glamorous life of travel and freedom, especially as older age sets in. And just the same that a life with children does not guarantee fulfillment and strong relationships, and being cared for at old age. All these dynamics have infinite possibilities and the childless articles generally seem to very strongly show how easy, fun, effortless, and free such a life is while the motherhood articles tend to show the difficulties and challenges. There are so many graduations, I would like to see other experiences and possibilities

    • Sara says...

      Such a thoughtful comment Virginia, thank you!

    • Rachel says...

      Wow- great points. I am 35 and trying to have kids, but have had a few pregnancy losses. We will get there eventually. But watching my colleagues and friends who have children trying to cope with this pandemic has really reinforced just how few resources there are for parents and educators in this country. It makes me wonder if I really want to put myself through what people with children are going through right now. Maybe I should just save my money and my sanity and not have children. And that thought just makes me so so angry that those are the only options.

    • Elle says...

      What a wise and refreshing perspective. Thank you.

    • Molly says...

      Whew, this is all very overwhelming. Yet, you make very good points! We Westerners value autonomy and independence so much but our personal decisions have far-reaching ramifications. Thanks for bringing this up in this discussion.

    • Holly says...

      YES YES YES!!! I so agree with this. I see many people who decide to have kids and many who choose not to think primarily about themselves. We will all come to rely on the younger generations and should all be invested in their upbringing. Children are so vital weather or not they are your own.

    • abigale says...

      The third option between the choices of back-to-class vs remote learning: consider homeschooling along the lines of Waldorf and other progressive approaches. There are a lot of homeschooling programs perfect for the flexibility quarantine requires. Standards are very high and could open entirely new opportunities for you AND your kids. If homeschooling is a new thought I’d call your local Waldorf and see what they suggest just to feel the option out. It could be an answer.

    • Lyra says...

      Wow Virginia — I have never posted a comment on Cup of Joe before (despite reading the comments religiously), but your thoughts here are so eloquent and well-put, that I had to respond.

      I currently work at an international school, and I’ve heard both of the extremes you pointed out. It’s shocking how primitive and cruel people can be when taking care of children affects an entire community, as opposed to just one family. For a long time, I’ve thought that the West (generalizing, here) and modern society has made raising children an almost impossible task with little regard of the “it takes a village” approach. Parenting seems to be one of the most toxic, judgement-fueled spaces around (no matter which side of the kids vs. no kids fence you’re on) and I think that’s largely because we view kids as someone else’s problem, rather than a collective responsibility. Anyway, thank you for your insightful comment! Gave me a lot to think about.

    • Katie says...

      This is so, so well said. I’ve also noticed a sharp uptick in the ugliness of comments regarding children in the pandemic. It always seem to float around the idea of “fairness”—people with kids feel they are being treated unfairly, maybe because now they have their regular workload as well as handling their child’s education, people without kids feel they are being treated less fairly than colleagues with children, maybe those coworkers get more flexibility in terms of working at home, participate less in projects, etc.

      But YES to what you said! We all have a horse in this race. Our success as a society hinges on the well being of the next generation.

    • Annie says...

      Thanks for this comment Virginia, I’ve never thought about it that way.

    • Alison D says...

      Yes this is so well put. I’m also a teacher (luckily remote until May) and I don’t have kids yet, but it’s been interesting to watch how culturally it feels like teachers vs. parents or nonparents vs. parents… and just feeling like we are all in this together and coming up with better solutions for children (and adults).

    • K says...

      wow this is such an interesting point. one of the things that particularly stuck out to me that you wrote is that whether or not we have children, we *will* be relying on the younger generation to take care of us, even if we are currently a younger generation to someone else.

      and what i glean from your comment is that this is an age old problem of externalizing the issue so that it’s allegedly always someone else’s ultimate responsibility.

    • Amber says...

      Love this comment, and totally agree with Avigails’ response: “All these dynamics have infinite possibilities and the childless articles generally seem to very strongly show how easy, fun, effortless, and free such a life is while the motherhood articles tend to show the difficulties and challenges. There are so many graduations, I would like to see other experiences and possibilities” Would love for CoJ team to consider this in future parenting and child-free related articles!

    • Lauren says...

      Yes. Those young kids whose behavior you sneer at will be the ones changing your iv or your diaper, carrying out your groceries or cooking your meals, fixing your teeth or fitting you for new ones, and hopefully going the extra mile when you really want or need something that isn’t strictly in someone’s job description but that you can’t get yourself. “It takes a village” isn’t just something for harried parents to think!

  119. Mal says...

    There’s a lot on this site about the decision not to have kids. But the post I’d love to see is about women who regret having kids.

    • A. says...

      I second this. As someone who has recently had a child, I wouldn’t say I regret it, but I have very conflicting feelings about it (grieving my feminist ideals, parenting as an introvert, managing personal and professionals spheres, existing in a new body, etc). I’m only starting to find more articles that give nuance to this topic.

    • AB says...

      Do people miss parts of their formers lives and identities, of course! But regret? I hope not, because a child is sure to pick up on that. How sad!

    • Anonymous says...

      Ooh snap
      Also interested.

      I once read about a moms honest post where her last kid had a disability and she wondered how life would be if he wasn’t there. And how it would be easier.

    • abigale says...

      I mean, think about the psychology of a person who would admit that. Love always eventually rises to the occasion, especially where children are concerned. Is is possible to love AND regret? I doubt it. I’m not saying there are not parents who do not love their children – some people are incapable of healthy love because they are too damaged themselves and yet they still reproduce because, biology. I don’t know maybe I’m wrong but it doesn’t seem likely anyone would be capable of admitting that without reconsidering their position.

    • Sarah says...

      I agree! I would also like to see a discussion around the ethics of having children when we have myriad studies which indicate the world will be quite a different place to live in 20 years.

    • EmBed says...

      Yes, this is THE REAL taboo topic. I feel like the decision not to have kids is like the “strawman taboo.”

    • Tamara says...

      I agree. I always feels so torn with these childfree articles because I was slowly starting to realize I didn’t really when kids when I found out I was pregnant at 23. I was raised religious and even though I wanted an abortion, didn’t feel like I could get one because my partner wanted the baby. My kids are teenagers now and it’s all worked out fine, but it was very hard for a few years there and when I hear woman who had the ability to make a different choice for themselves talk about how much they love their lives, I still feel a little twinge of sadness about the life I could have had if I hadn’t been so disempowered by both my upbringing and by our culture that pressures people to have kids.

      Having children does involve a lot of sacrifice and not only should people be able to choose whether or not they want to, those who do have kids should be much much more supported than they are.

    • Rachelle says...

      Or regret not having kids.

    • Malissa says...

      I am very much with you on this. I commented about my being 42 and my life’s path not giving me kids (it gave me international living and travel and fulfilling work). My friend’s still question me and push/prod (you could still adopt! it’s NOT HAPPENING, I explain over and over — like defending it). I would never in one million years ask someone “But…. (wink/nudge)… don’t you just want to reverse that choice and wipe the slate clean of kids? Be honest….” – UGH!! I would love to hear honesty around this topic, too.

    • Susan Landgrebe says...

      Yes, I would like to see an article on this as well. There are seldom articles out there on this topic but it does happen and I am interested in hearing those stories.

    • IJ says...

      Yes, this is a FAR bigger taboo. I have two kids. I love them so much. But I also miss my old life every day. Sometimes I wish I had stuck with one child, which seems horrible, but it would be so much easier. I would love to see this addressed.

    • Marta says...

      Yes totally!!!!!!
      Please write such a post Cup of Jo!

    • Luna says...

      I have always wondered if people like that exist… since no one would dare talk about it.

    • Kate says...

      I have met two women who openly regret it – an overwhelmed mother of two at a party who said, “Don’t make the mistake I did! Enjoy your life!” which was so sad. And a close friend of mine who has two adult children, which she had very young. She loves her children, of course, but said her happiness is forever tied to whether they are safe and well and the feeling of your ‘heart walking around outside your body’ is anxiety-inducing at all times. She is also very honest and open about how caring for them and their needs eclipsed her own enjoyment of life. Now that they’re out of the house she’s doing a graduate degree and enjoying the freedom, but she says for twenty years they sapped her of both energy and money. And continue to do so on occasion. She is a loving mother, but recommends against it.

    • Laura says...

      Agreed, Mal! I understand why it is so hard to get women to speak up on this. But as a childfree woman, I hear a lot of people saying “you’d regret it later”- as if the opposite doesn’t exist. Liz Moody has a podcast episode on the decision to have children or not with anonymous confessions of many women saying they regret having children.

    • Alyce says...

      Of course there are women/parents who regret having children, even if they’re not shouting it from rooftops. Abortion, adoption, parents leaving their families are all obvious examples of men and women regretting [the possibility of] parenthood and trying to undo the situation. I personally didn’t want to have kids – never did – but my husband did. When we married, he was undecided, but over time, he wound up in the yes camp. We had a very honest and profoundly sad conversation where we acknowledged that if we couldn’t reach agreement over a having a baby, we would divorce so that we would each be free to pursue the life we wanted to lead. I ultimately caved because I loved him and didn’t want to lose him, plus I was afraid to get divorced and he agreed to do more than 50% of the work of raising a kid. To Abigale, who asked whether it’s possible to love and regret – the answer is yes. They are completely separate emotions that can definitely exist at the same time. They don’t cancel one another out. I love my child, but I certainly regret how I spend my time on a daily basis. For me, how parenthood requires me to spend my time is a huge part of the regret I feel. I regret that it’s a 24/7 endeavor. I regret the loss of freedom and flexibility (which is not the same as regretting my pre-kid life – now that my time is more limited, I fully understand how much of my pre-kid life was truly wasted…which I also regret). I regret the mental and emotional stress having a kid brings into your life. I regret the anxieties I have now about the future, both for the world generally and for my child specifically. And the funny thing is, I very much love my child and know that I want to raise a kind and compassionate and strong and confident child who is prepared to face the hostilities they will face as a black and disabled person in America, in addition to the everyday challenges that are part of the human experience. And the irony of having this love for my child and this vision for their future is that I actually spend a lot of time and energy parenting, which I don’t actually want to be doing, which actually magnifies my regret. I’m willing to bet I would regret the decision less if I were willing to phone in parenting. And I say all of this from an incredibly privileged perch – a husband who kept his promise and does his fair share of daily childrearing and household tasks (though I alone carry the mental load of administrative stuff, which is a lot, but I don’t mind most of the time) and is fully supportive of me taking time for self-care; a high household income and more than enough financial resources; a flexible, high paying career where I’ve continued to advance professionally even after having a kid; excellent medical insurance and affordable access to the top doctors in the country for my child’s medical issues; wonderful in-laws nearby who I love dearly and are unbelievably and unfailingly helpful. I don’t have regret because parenting is especially hard and difficult. It’s because at my core, it’s not something I ever wanted to do, and now I’m tasked with doing it every day. And in my case given my child’s health issues, possibly every day for the rest of my life. Because I love my child, I’m committed to doing it well, so there’s no way that I’m willing to even try to undo the situation, but that doesn’t mean that, if asked, I wouldn’t tell you that I regret the decision. Whether I would regret it was a question I had before having kids, and the lack of honest answers really influenced my decision making. Everyone just said “it’s hard but you love your kid and that makes everything ok!” And I don’t think that’s true. Life is more complicated and nuanced than that, and unlike the usual story we’re sold time and time again, love doesn’t actually conquer all.

    • T says...

      Yes—this, please! I wanted my kids and I love my kids. But after going through a really tough time in my marriage—the outcome of which was highly dependent on the fact that we do have children—I often wonder where I might be had I not had them. I do not think that having these thoughts is shameful, and would love to hear about similar stories from other women.

    • A. says...

      I think you can love your children and be a “good” parent and still regret having them.
      Also, I think this is a very taboo subject, but mothers should be free to express all their feelings about motherhood, even the hard, taboo ones, without jugement. We don’t know what baggage they went into motherhood with, and we don’t know what baggage they have living in motherhood.

    • TEA says...

      Agreed! And I wanted to second Sarah’s request for “a discussion around the ethics of having children when we have myriad studies which indicate the world will be quite a different place to live in 20 years.” Moreso now after reading the moralistic comments (which all seemed to be from women already do have kids, themselves…ahem…) about how important and selfless it is to produce and care for the next generation of humans. There are 7 billion people on this planet. Please trust that the world will be just fine, if not better, if birth rates decrease :) That reason might have held up better a couple of centuries ago. It seems more important now than ever to connect these discussions about personal choices to the broader environment, but only if we can do it in an honest (not self-rationalizing) way.

    • Katherine says...

      @Alyce, thanks for sharing your story and your honesty here. You are living the complexities of love and regret intertwined. Appreciate hearing your truth.

    • Sequoia says...

      I tried to write something eloquent that explains how maternal regret works but I think the comment section is the wrong space. But yes I would be happy to read or write it and to tell the truth. What it does to your brain; forgetfulness, anxiety, confusion. Your body; stretch marks, wrecked boobs, back pain, joint pain, for me specifically; pre-eclampsia, pulmonary edema, liver failure, heart strain. Your finances, your relationships with other including your partner, your relationship with your body, how you have no control over their safety or success when that’s all you can think about. Your relationship with time and how I haven’t read book in two years( cuz The Pout Pout Fish doesn’t count.) The amount of space they take up!!! ETC.

      It’s my personal mission and coping and strategy to crave out a space in this world where he can be his own person and I can be one too. Not just a mother but a woman, a lover, a reader, an artist, a shoe lover and a friend who smells like jasmine and answers your calls in the middle of the night and always has chocolate in her purse. I’m still all that person but she gets timed out and sidelined everyday and its heartbreaking. It’s not so much that I regret becoming a mother as I am dismayed by what motherhood actually is. To those on the fence or firmly decided defend your existing self fiercely, nurture her, love her, commit to her. She is far more fragile than you can ever realize.

    • Lauren says...

      I know a counsellor who hears about this kind of regret one-on-one. I wouldn’t expect people to openly talk about it in public out of respect for their kids’ feelings, for better or for worse.

    • act says...

      i’ve been up front about not wanting kids since i was a teenager. i’m very lucky to have parents & family who have never guilted me about this (maybe because they had so much time to get used to it). a few years ago i had a conversation with my mom where she told me that in retrospect, she really wasn’t cut out to be a parent and she probably shouldn’t have put herself through it. she’s always been fairly anxious and impatient, and obviously these aren’t the best traits to have when dealing with a kid. she really was an overall good parent to me and i always felt cared for and still know she loves me so much, my childhood was just stressful for her and i really appreciated her honesty about that.

  120. Vish says...

    I’m not sure if the environment is something others factor into their decision, but I desperately want to have kids, I just worry that it may be irresponsible to do so given the current environment and how poorly we are handling climate change. I don’t want to bring a child into the world if they will have to deal with the consequences of inaction. Do others worry about these sorts of things? Like water wars and the such?

    • Elizabeth says...

      This is a huge consideration for my husband and I. We have one and while I would like another, the environmental and financial impact (as well as the impact another would have on our marriage) are our largest concerns. Still TBD but you are not alone in those thoughts.

      I really appreciate this conversation! Growing up in the conservative suburbs, having children was assumed and I think we have many, many variables we need to consider. I have two aunts who decided to not have children because of mental health issues and I deeply respect them for it.

    • courtney says...

      Bush, it’s very thoughtful that you’re considering this aspect. Also, beyond having to deal with these problems, there is the aspect of contributing to them – having a child is the biggest carbon footprint a person can have. I understand that it’s still a normal biological thing to do and don’t judge people for doing it, but the impact is a huge consideration; if you really want to be a parent and not add to the climate implications, adoption could be an option!

    • Sara says...

      This is such a difficult issue.
      I did worry about it while thinking about getting pregnant, and I still do worry about it now that I have a child. I haven’t “solved” it, I have no good response.
      I can only say that there are so many other ways to contribute well to the current crisis (I know that’s not all you’re asking about), and I try to focus on that, and at the same time I have to add that having a child has almost by necessity made me hopeful for the future – hopeful enough that I try and do what I can to make it better, rather than giving up and just riding the wave…

    • Ann says...

      Yes, Vish, climate change is in my top two reasons for deciding not to have biological children. My husband and I are keeping fostering and adoption on the table, but the thought of what the planet will be like 20, 50, etc. years down the road frightens me.

    • Leah says...

      You’re not the only one! I worry a lot about this, especially in the past year with the constant onslaught of political, health and climate crises, I go back and forth between whether it seems like a selfish idea or not to bring children into this world? Also being as strict as my partner and I currently are with ou environmental choices is VERY different from how either of us was raised and it seems that everyone gives up on these self imposed restrictions once they have kids. This is a major topic of our ongoing kids-or-no-kids debate.

    • Yael says...

      Totally. I am pregnant with my first child right now, and before I got pregnant this is something my husband and I discuss a lot. To add to the tension, we are Orthodox Jews, and having large families is the norm, as well as a responsibility we feel as Jews to the continuity of our people (we also live in Israel, where birth rate is high even among secular families due to cultural values). This on its own isn’t reason enough to have children, but we do have the biological pull, and ultimately we are happy with our decision. That said, there are several things we have committed to in order to ease the burden on climate change (while recognising nothing will be as impactful as being childfree), and hope to raise responsible little stewards of the environment: we will raise them as vegetarians (my husband as been one his entire life, I have meat about once a month but find because of a severe ED in my past cannot cut it out completely for now), we do not have a car as we live in a large city with good transport, we limit our flying to 1 or 2 round trips a year (usually used to visit family in the US or UK), and we have drastically reduced waste and continue to find ways to do that and to reduce our carbon footprint (One nice thing about where we live: it is very common in Israel for most apartments to come with a “dood shemesh”, which heats your water using solar energy).

    • veronica sanchez says...

      It definitely is for me! And for my friends and colleagues.
      I have two children whom I adore and I am happy that we can be together. The question did not arise at the time, but I feel tremendously responsible for the world we leave them. At the last “Klima Demo” here in Bern, Switzerland (pre-pandemic), when my 7 year old son heard that we had 12 years left to reverse the climate situation, his questions about the future gave me a huge sense of guilt…
      My husband clearly feels that these children of today will continue the fight for a better world… but what if it is not their choice? What if we “force” them into a world where conditions will be increasingly difficult? Too many questions. I think the positive thing is to ask them. ..

    • Maggie says...

      Absolutely. I have children and worry about this all the time. I have many friends with children that are fearful of the future. We all love our kids and I personally wouldn’t have changed my decision to have them but some friends would not have had children if they were informed then about climate change and other environmental concerns as they are now.

    • A says...

      Environment is the reason I decided against children. I spend my time volunteering at climate action related workplaces. Time is a zero sum game. I would do this work if I had a child waiting for me at home. I quit my AI job peddling ADs to people, to work in green tech. I wouldn’t have done it if I had children. I would have kept the job that paid me more. Given how terrified I am about the climate break down, I would have tried to hoard wealth for my children to make sure they are okay instead of donating it to the cause. I wouldn’t have the mental will power to do so.

      What I do endure in return, is constant reproductive harassment from family. “The radical left has brain washed you. All this is paranoia. We will all be fine”, they say on few days. “How can you be this selfish? You need to give the family children”, they say too. I am a scientist with a PhD in STEM. I will chew up anyone who insults me professionally, but I wear my stone face with it comes to the in-laws.

    • Kellyn says...

      I often think about climate too, and when I was younger was committed to adoption for this reason. But it’s about raising your child in the west….not that they exist as a person.

      So, adoption also has a big impact. Particularly domestic infant adoption where there are many more waiting parents than there are babies looking for placements.

      With that logic, adopting legally free children through foster care or providing temporary foster placements would be the route that would have the smallest environmental impact, since these children are already being raised in the same country.

      Just providing information — not encouraging one path over the other.

  121. Leah says...

    Growing up and in my 20s, I always said I don’t want children. I loved my independence and freedom and didn’t want to be the non who blamed her kids for lacking it (as I’ve seen around me).
    It changed in my 30s and I had my first at 35. Now I Couldn’t imagine life without them, but that was the right choice for me and I have nothing but respect to those who follow their heart and choose to be child free.

    • Leah says...

      Didn’t want to be the Mom., not non…

  122. Kim says...

    I just wanted to thank all of the women who shared their stories in the article, and in the comments, about not wanting children. I have 2 children, both of whom I worked very long and hard to conceive via science, BUT I so deeply appreciate the experiences and perspectives of women who feel called to be childless. There is something so beautiful about people sharing their truths with one another. It’s a privilege to be able to read these honest accounts.

    • Marybeth says...

      A privilege – Well said! I have one child and we are hoping for another, yet I deeply respect the decision to not have children and love hearing that perspective. I think it is brave in a society that expects you to have kids to be loyal to your own truth.

    • Mika says...

      What a lovely comment, Kim. :)

  123. Auntie says...

    Bravo. When will the world learn that women can be complete, fulfilled, whole, loved, and valued WITHOUT kids? Also, it wasn’t mentioned in the article (maybe it was in some comments?), but let’s not forget about the environmental impact of brining kids into this world, and… what the enviroment and world is going to look like when these kids are the age we are now.

    • Mina says...

      But let’s also not re-frame intensely personal life choices as good or bad from an environmental perspective.

      I have a hard time believing that women who really really want to have children, choose not to have them for environmental reasons. And I think lauding the decision not to have children as an environmental win, is just as damaging as shaming women who have many children for making a bad environmental decision.

      Our decisions regarding motherhood are personal and shouldn’t have to be justified either way. Yes, the size of your family has an environmental impact, but so do other things (air travel! eating meat!), so it seems a bit much to lift up this one personal choice – whether or not to have children – and re-position it as something it’s really not: an environmental choice.

    • Alyce says...

      Mina – believe it or not, I actually have a co-worker who wanted kids but did have any because of the environment. Not so much because of the expected impact the child would have on the environment, but because of the work she has done personally to stem to effects of climate change, the insufficient progress, and not wanting her children to inherit the death and destruction she expects children born now will experience. But for those who don’t have a child, or another child because of the environmental impact, it is objectively is one of the most impactful things they can do as an individual to minimize their environmental impact on the world. More so than cutting out air travel, or not eating meat (even though those things are other significant areas of individual impact).

  124. T says...

    Like most young adult married women, I get asked constantly if I want kids. I do! A bit later. But what GETS ME is the exclusive language my parent friends use. I have a masters in school counseling and work with children everyday and have 7 nieces and nephews. Please stop making “being a parent” every single excuse and excluding others’ experiences with “well when you’re a parent..”.
    I know more about birth and child development than some of my parent friends, I’m not a parent but I don’t just “not understand”.

    • adele says...

      I agree with this sentiment. As someone raising a child with a partner in a city away from our families, I now understand the idea of “it takes a village”. There are so many ways to be a parental figure in someone’s life and the importance of those people is made so clear to me in their absence.

    • Roxana says...

      Respectfully, most parents agree that there is a huge identity shift that happens upon becoming a parent. You might know a lot about birth and child development, but that doesn’t mean you know what it FEELS like to have a small human be utterly and completely dependent on you. It doesn’t mean you know the reality of being a parent. To feel a child kicking in your womb, to see and smell your baby for the first time. For many people, these feelings are so profound that the consensus is that your identity changes. People who don’t have kids simply cannot relate. My sister has two step daughters whom she loves deeply and cares for so well (she does more for them than their biological mother). She freely admits that she is not attached to them in the same way that I must be attached to my children.

      Anyway, I don’t know the context in which your friends are saying “well, when you’re a parent,” but if you know as much about birth and child development as you say you do, then you should be able to appreciate that there is also a whole heck of a lot that you just don’t understand. . . and that’s okay.

    • Kate says...

      T, I used to feel this way too. I’m a teacher and very knowledgeable about children, which made me a little judgy. But there IS something very different about parenting. Namely, it’s relentlessness. There is no break from parenting (even when you’re not with them- there is always stuff on your mind to do or to worry about). The other big thing is that it’s a very different relationship. When my daughter (who is a classic “good girl”) was 3, I remember saying to my teaching friends, “how can I control 30 5 year olds with ease, but not one 3 year old?” The pressure is much different than being a teacher or a person in a child’s life. I remember reading that your mother becomes the voice in your head, which is intense and seems somewhat true. I also want to raise children that I want to be dear friends with in 20 years. I don’t think about all the children I know/teach with that type of lens. I know it seems condescending, but it really IS different than knowing and loving children.

  125. Emily says...

    Thank you so much for this collection! I am someone who really wants kids eventually but am likely nowhere close now — I am not even currently dating. However as I get older (now late 20s) I have more and more close friends and colleagues with/thinking about children and am happy to see all these women have full lives who also don’t have children (even if it’s for a different reason than me).

  126. kat says...

    We had our first at 34, after 12 years together/about 5 of marriage. I’ve always wanted kids but my husband needed time to come around to it. What I’ve thought about is all this talk about losing one’s pre-kid life, and how that’s also a generational thing. Like, hubs still laments missing our pre-kid days of going to the coffee shop on the weekend, or taking a long canoe ride. I think part of what made it harder is knowing more of what’s gone. We had a long time to be in a relationship with just us. Case in point, I see my SIL who married my older bro right out of school. She hasn’t known a different life – kids and then she’ll be “done” in her mid-40s. So yes, now that people get married later and have kids later, there is more weight to losing what you had. I think I loved my 20s (maybe? there were many $$ nights drinking) but at the cost of having kids older, feeling my body very tired at 39 with a 3 year old, if I could change what I know now I think I’d hedge have ’em younger, and know my husband agrees, too. I know this discussion is about having kids at all, and this doesn’t answer that. But I’ve certainly given it thought. I’ve learned a LOT about myself as a mom and I’m only 6 years in. I recall seeing moms of friends’ parents (who started young) going back to school in their mid-40s as kids headed off to college, finding new passions, etc. I feel a bit frustrated that I used up healthy exploring time in my 20s when I was going with the flow from college, rather than once I’m more clearly found myself through motherhood. If that makes any sense.

    • Jess says...

      Hi Kat, I loved reading your comment. You and I are in similar circumstances and I can soooo relate (late 30’s with young children). I, too, know that tired-39-year-old-body feeling while chasing after my toddler. Sometimes I think to myself, “if I would have had kids at such-and-such age they would be this many years old now. Waiting “so long” to have kids wasn’t necessarily by design for my husband and I, but I have to say (for me,personally) I think I’m a better mom for it. I also think that I am able to really appreciate the experience of mothering my kids in a different way than my 20-something year old self would have. That brings me comfort when my knees ache from building with blocks with my kiddos – ha! Anyway, just wanted to say I relate and it was nice to read a comment from someone in a similar boat. Thanks for sharing!

    • Roxana says...

      I totally agree. I feel like I wasted a lot of time and energy in my twenties. I was just having a similar discussion with a friend whose 19 year old son (a Jr. in college) hopes to get engaged and married after graduation. When he first told me about his son I was like “Whoa! That’s young!” But then I was like “Actually, I think that’s when you should do it! When you’re young and energetic and maybe a little dumb ;).” Biology just corroborates this; you’re just more fertile when you’re younger, you have more energy, you have less toxic load, you’re more flexible (mentally and emotionally), maybe a little more resilient. I wish I would’ve gotten together with my husband sooner and would’ve gotten serious sooner. I wish I would’ve been able to give my kids a healthier more energetic version of myself. I tell my younger newly married friends not to wait to become parents. You’re never “ready” anyway. Admittedly, there are benefits to being an older parent (perspective, education, etc.), but dang I regret all the energy I spent on my stupid career and the all-nighters going out and have meaningless “relationships” with guys who didn’t care about me. I care so much more about my children (and of course my husband) and my relationships with them than I do about all the other things that culture has said defines me. I also think part of the issue (problem?) is that our culture encourages extended adolescence.

      I didn’t have my first until I was 32, and then my youngest (I think? part of me wants to give it one last go) at 38. He just turned four and I’m now 42. One of my priorities is getting healthier and staying that way so that I can love the people (especially my kiddos) in my life better.

      Anyway, this is all a total tangent from the post! Either way, can’t spend too much time regretting. You can’t change where you’ve been, but you can try to change where you’re going, right? ;)

    • Eva says...

      Try not to be so hard on yourself, Kat. The grass is always greener on the other side, as they say, and you never know what really lay on the path unchosen. Also: Don’t underestimate your future energy and potential! I’ll always remember what my mom said on my 35th birthday, with my then 5-month-old in tow: “You have your whole life ahead of you.” At 35, she was leaving a still Soviet-occupied Hungary, bringing two little ones to the U.S. to restart her medical career.

      So, sure, babies be exhausting (mine’s two now, phew). But remember, you have your whole life ahead of you. Don’t tell yourself otherwise!

    • Tina Crisas says...

      Oh I feel you so much. I had a wonderful time in my 20’s and 30’s. Then at just shy of 43 we had our beautiful daughter who will soon turn four. (very luckily conceiving on our first and only round of ivf)
      Granted, I met my husband at 39.
      But, I so wish I had had a child so much sooner.
      I did manage to conceive naturally a year after her birth which led to a miscarriage. I was still however just enjoying the early stages of motherhood and didn’t enjoy my pregnancy at all, so, while the miscarriage was pretty devastating, I didn’t pursue trying to conceive again.
      But, oh how I wish I had for a number of reasons:
      -Even though we are very hands on and engaging, she can get very lonely as an only child (wanting to be with other kids) and it breaks my heart. (she has expressed this)
      -My Mum passed away and never got to meet her which also breaks my heart.
      -I don’t have the same energy or positive mindset that comes with a younger age (in my case) which was also one of the main reasons not to really try for a second child.
      “I feel a bit frustrated that I used up healthy exploring time in my 20s when I was going with the flow from college, rather than once I’m more clearly found myself through motherhood” Absolutely.

    • kat says...

      Thanks for your comments! It’s so helpful to hear from folks in similar mindsets. I agree that I have a whole life ahead of me. Roxana captured it well about how she cares more about her husband and family than what culture says she should be doing. Knowing what I know now/if I were to have a deathbed moment, it’d be lament over not starting family sooner since it’s enriched me so much. Damn hard, but beautiful. We have the generation of women who felt rushed into marriage/motherhood, and now the flip side where everything is taking forever, and I just wish there was more balance. Hopefully this is the generation that isn’t swayed one way or the other, but can make informed decisions and have community/public support for whatever it is. (Don’t get me started on how childcare weighs in on all these decisions!)

    • Ann says...

      Kat, I totally agree with you on this (38 with a 1 year old, started trying at 34, been with husband since high school!), and I’ve thought about it a lot too. What I’ve come to conclude though is that those years in my twenties and thirties helped me be a better mother — more mature, thoughtful, intentional. I would’ve been a rather different mother at 22. So instead of seeing it as not having saved years for post-kids, I’ve lived years for the kid’s benefit. That helps me, anyway!

    • K says...

      wow! this is really nuanced.
      i always felt a disconnect when people said that they can get back to their lives “after” children. i totally get that children can be exhausting, but don’t they also bring so much joy along with the downsides? like the fresh humans that see the world with such wonder, doesn’t that enrich our world and make it/keep it dimensional? as for the climate issues, i do have a feeling it’s not so straightforward–yes humans may be burdens to nature but don’t we also have great capacity to improve it as well?

      And it obliquely reminds me of a thought i’ve had lately–i consider myself artistic but i don’t necessarily think going to undergrad for art is always the optimal idea. I am a millennial indoctrinated with the idea that the earlier you start honing skills for your career, the better. but with art, what good is say, spending so much money on learning filmmaking skills if you generally haven’t had an opportunity to live enough life to film anything (to share with the greater world) about? i and my peers had that zest and creativity when we were young adults, but it took almost a decade to deepen and more fully texturize those ideas as we experienced more and understood ourselves more in order to make something more “worthwhile.”

  127. I’m turning 34 in a couple of days, my husband will be 40 next month. We are both only children, so we’ve never known anything beyond a small family unit. Our marriage/relationship has always evolved organically – no pressure to live any certain way, so we are “open” to whatever happens. Our life together is full and loving and is sprinkled with adventure, and we could continue this forever, just the two of us. However, if a baby happens, then we’ll just adapt like we always have and extend our great love to that little human.

    I feel very fortunate to be in the headspace of letting nature decide and being with a partner who meets me there. I think this pandemic has allowed me the freedom to let go of expectations and recalibrate my energy, giving me a little more clarity on how precious our time is on this earth, with or without a child.

  128. MJ says...

    As the call to be child-free grew stronger and stronger, I found solace in Orna Donath’s “Regretting Motherhood.” I could practically taste the regret as I thought more and more about having kids, and knowing that regret was not only a real experience but one that was being bravely shared ultimately did it for me. I had my tubes taken out (salpingectomy vs a tubal ligation), and Icouldn’t feel more at ease with how right this choice has been for me.

  129. A says...

    There is so much stigma attached to not opting to have kids when you are a woman. It makes me shake my head, because no one calls out the truly bad parenting that is more common than not in America. We live under this illusion that everyone should have kids and that it’s odd not to. I kind of feel the opposite.

  130. katie says...

    I absolutely love every parent who has to come on here and list all of their accomplishments and interests outside of their children. It’s as if they think those of us who opted to not have children don’t understand that parents can travel, see friends, have hobbies. Guess what, we know. We’re not stupid. And we still don’t want children.

    Sharing how we’ve decided to live our lives does not mean we don’t understand parents so do similar things. This post isn’t about you and your beautiful children and your lives. It’s our story. Let us have it.

    • Jenica says...

      Very well said, Katie.

    • Liz says...

      Was just thinking this. You put it perfectly.

    • jeannie pham says...

      SAME. I’m quite tired of the culture of shoving parenthood down peoples (especially) femmes/women’s throats. I really appreciate this piece! This being said, someone mentioned wanting to hear more about peoples’ regret of not having children and I agree that would be interesting to read about. <3 Space for everyone. Promise not to trample all over that post with my "I'm-so-happy-without-children" sentiment.

      Signed,
      Lover of children who is happy to not be a parent!

    • A L says...

      Yes, but when I read the above stories featured mentioning something to the effect of, “I preferred to travel, have more money, have dinners with red wine etc.” it’s as though the parents who opted to not have children are implying you can’t do that as a parent.

    • Britt says...

      @Al, but there isn’t flexibility or as much of it in deciding when you get to do those things – for example, a parent (if they don’t take on the self-sacrificing for their child mentality) might have time for hobbies, but not until their child is school aged unless they are lucky to have parental/community/paid support. Travel with a child, particularly a small one, is completely different than travel without a child. Traveling without a child means that I can go to restaurants that aren’t kid friendly, without considering if a kid will eat items on the menu, or taking kid interests and patience or nap times into which activities are selected or travel times chosen. The hobbies/travel/cooking are different as a parent vs not. Not being a parent gives me freedom in my choices and what the outcome of those choices looks like; that’s not a statement on the value of yours.

    • Emily says...

      Gah, I feel the same way. Lots of comment from parents on this post about “my child has given me X or taught my Y or made me feel Z unlike anything before BUT I respect your decision to be child free!!!” It all feels super patronizing. We know this already and we still choose to be child-free. Those comments might be helpful for folks on the fence but that wasn’t the point of this post. Geesh.

    • act says...

      I honestly find it kind of cringey when my fellow childfree-by-choice folks only cite benefits like traveling and hobbies as reasons they’re glad not to be parents. Like yes, I think it’s true that those things can be more difficult if you have kids. But I’d guess most of us know folks that are parenting and also doing stuff that they enjoy.

      The main motivation for me is less about the things I could miss out on, and more about the fact that PARENTING at its core is not something that is interesting to me. I don’t want to stay up all night with an infant, I don’t want to potty-train, I don’t want to clean up toys, I don’t want to worry about social media boundaries for a teenager, etc. I often come home from a long shift at work where I barely have the energy to stick a pizza in the oven for myself and I just look around and think… wow, I’m so thankful I don’t have another person around that is fully dependent on me.

      I don’t mean any of this as a dig on parents – if you enjoy parenting, then I’m glad you made the right choice for you. I just wish more CFBC people would focus on what they are happily, consciously opting out of, instead of citing vague stuff they like to do like “sleeping in.”

  131. Caroline says...

    I thought I wanted children until my best friend asked me why. It was like a splash of cold water. Like I woke up from this massive mental fog. Of course! Why the hell did I want the stress and responsibility of bringing another human being into this messed up place?! I still think back in shock at how I never questioned it. Ultimately, being able to make the choice to NOT have a child is such a massive privilege. This is not the case for many. It’s tied to economics, our programmed self-worth, controlling womxn and keeping them in abusive relationships, reproductive coercion, etc. I look at my niece and it feels like my biggest wish for her is to grow into a racialized woman who feels strong and proud ownership over her body and has the incredible power of choice. Well, that and reliable access to chocolate covered peanuts!

  132. S says...

    I’ve had a recurring dream for most of my adult life.
    With every boyfriend, the dream is the same:
    I come home from a work trip, boyfriend opens the door, happily greets me while holding a little girl that looks *exactly like me* my double from my babyhood, and says “Look! We’ve had a baby while you were gone!”
    In a panic, I always ask for a maternity test even though deep down I know that adorable little girl must be mine, I mean it’s my baby picture come to life!
    *I have tokophobia (fear of pregnancy -I can’t even see pregnant women)
    But I’m great with kids, even newborns. And now, one of my siblings is having a little girl, and I am so thrilled to have a little girl to love on and not call my own but call my own ;)

  133. Melissa says...

    this from Danielle resonated with me: “‘Who will take care of you when you’re old?’ which is not enough of a reason to have kids.” I am 49, married, and my husband has grown kids from a previous marriage. I’m very comfortable not having had kids – we have a good life together! But I do worry about what will happen when I’m old; it is almost certain that I will outlive my husband. I’d love to see a post (or a few) about this topic. I think the answer is money, but how do I use it to ensure I’m taken care of, not abused in the nursing home, etc, especially if I get dementia?

    • Gina s says...

      Agree

    • catherine says...

      i am 42, single and have never wanted children. There is also a family history of Alzheimer’s disease. My biggest fear is i will die alone in squalor or a decrepit nursing home, unable to afford the care needed. i save money and am somewhat obsessed with planning for my “senior” years – so much so that i deprive myself of things now in order to save. That said – all of this fear and anxiety still isn’t enough to have made me want children.

    • Hanh Vu says...

      I’ve asked for that before on here. I haven’t seen it. Every time there is a post on this topic, most women are in their 30s-50s. Even on this particular post the highest age was 63. Essentially all of these women are still able and have full life, as social as they want to have it. But I’ve always been curious about the elderly. Those who have to depend on someone else. What happen to them? How do they manage?

    • Toska Gamble says...

      Your fear of who will care for you hurt my heart to read. My (biological) grandparents were divorced after raising two kids (one being my dad). My grandfather remarried a woman (~20 years his junior; 6 years older than my dad) when my dad and his brother were grown, out of the house and well past the “step-mom” age range (in their 20’s). And while my grandmother is a wonderful person, let’s just say it was scandalous and controversial – all of it, the divorce and subsequent marriage, the age gap. Fast forward to now and I am now in my 30’s, my dad in his 60’s and both of my biological grandparents (dad’s parents) have passed away (as of 7+ years ago). Any and all past wounds a generation above me have healed. My grandfather’s second wife, our grandmother (in her 70’s), who we love with all of our hearts and adore more than words, is VERY much apart of all of our lives and is treated as if she was our dad’s step-mom and/or our biological grandmother. Cards, gifts, weekly phone chats, texts, inside jokes, vacations – you name it, she is included in our family. It never, ever crosses my mind that she’s not blood related to us. To your point, she doesn’t have “a lot” of money. In fact, she works 3 part time jobs to make ends meet (and my dad generously steps in when needed and I would/will do the same if I can someday). But she does have 2 loving (step) sons, 2 loving daughter-in-law’s, 6 loving grandkids (11 including our spouses) and 2 adoring great-grandkids, with 1 on the way — none of whom are blood. LOTS of love and lots of happy. My dad is an incredible example for all of us. And, if I could walk the earth and have my pick at any grandmother, I would choose her over and over again, all day, every. single. day. I hope your husbands family will step up, if that’s what you so desire, when that time comes (a long time from now)! I am sure you’re already loved (or liked) by them more than you know, but give them a chance to care for you – if that’s what you want! Don’t assume they won’t!

    • maria says...

      melissa – i’ve often have had similar thoughts. bottomline though, having a child(ren) is absolutely no guarantee that will “ensure I’m taken care of, not abused in the nursing home, etc, especially if I get dementia?” there are plenty of people, alone in nursing homes, who are parents – but children for myriad reasons i’m sure – do not visit or care, or simply moved too far away, etc.

      i would love to see good ideas on this topic though, for sure! my husband and i are in our early 50s and really don’t have family – and we grapple with making decisions, large and small, about the inevitability ahead.

      this whole subject is SO loaded. i’ve enjoyed reading all the comments and they have been very much what i’ve expected – which is why i was refraining from commenting. haha.

      i consider myself CFBC – but it’s more complicated than that. another commenter mentioned wanting/trying for a child – but that she could’ve tried harder. that’s me. i took it as far as i was willing ( i did have 2 miscarriages along the way) and then realized, this was how my life was meant to be.

      i could also consider – would i have gone further, done IVF, if it was covered by insurance? it wasn’t at the time we were trying. as a young couple we did not have that kind of money – and i did not want to bankrupt ourselves with the hope of a child, no guarantees, put my body through all that, etc. again though, i realized – whenever i monetize a choice – it’s not for me. i realized i simply didn’t want a child THAT much to go through that, or adopt, foster, etc. as we considered all options before we decided we really did want to be CFBC and my husband had a vasectomy.

      i DID grieve my perceived loss, for a long time. but in time, i did realize it WAS a choice – we did choose not to have a child. and looking back, and looking at my life and future now, i do NOT regret it and am happy with the choice and my life.

      CFBC, not by choice – having kids by choice, or not by choice – there are so many ways to live a life and to be happy and fulfilled, there is no one right way. being child-free is not selfish or selfless, nor is being a parent either/or. there are plenty of selfish and also selfless people in both camps. BOTH choices can be entirely selfish, and can often both be selfless – it’s all dependent on the people. i just SO wish judgement would be removed in general with the idea of even making a choice.

      bottom-line, i am SO glad i actually got to make a choice – so many don’t.
      i see now i am exactly where i should be.

      and sure, i hope i don’t end up in a nursing home covered in my own feces or wandering around the neighborhood in my robe and slippers – as my dad more than likely had alzheimer’s and my mom dementia. (those are always the scenarios i envision – yikes!).

  134. Jess says...

    Re: Having kids for the purpose of securing eldercare, heartily agree that that is *not* a good reason to bring a human into the world in and of itself, but also want to point out how American it is to shift our society’s ageism and failure to support seniors into something everyone has to solve individually by creating their own caretakers. What!? As a country, we tend to blame society’s failing on individual choices, and it is just gross, especially when so many people have beautifully articulated why it’s simply not an option for some people.

  135. Emma says...

    This post and all of the comments are so great.

    I’m not sure whether I want kids or not. My husband and I are in our early thirties so we have some time, but ideally we’d figure it out in the next couple of years. I used to think we’d “pull the goalie” and see what happened, but he was recently diagnosed with Lynch syndrome (kind of similar to BRCA but seriously increased risk of colorectal and other cancers). The increased cancer risk is significant enough that I don’t feel comfortable passing that gene on, so if we want to have a baby, we have to do IVF. So much of a bigger commitment than just seeing what happens. I always thought if we didn’t get pregnant naturally, we’d take that as the universe deciding for us, but now that IVF is the first option, I don’t know how to proceed. I find the idea of doing IVF terrifying but I’m also feeling a stronger pull towards parenthood these days.

    • Sonya says...

      Emma! I’m rooting for you, whatever you decide to do. And hope your husband is OK.

  136. lk says...

    I have 2 children, many years apart…. and it never crossed my mind not to have children. But I have so many dear friends who do not have them- and they have full real lives, just like me- with joy and sadness, sleep deprivation and worry, financial ups and downs, partners and alone times, careers and responsibilities, vacations and home improvements, car breakdowns and toilets overflowing, lumps and bumps, hugs and hot tea on a blustery day- we are so much more alike as we are all women….. I just think that everyone is looking so hard at each others life and comparing our selves to each other is a joy thief- I want to be a joy sharer…. love what you got, not what you are thinking you are missing.

    • Peggy says...

      I love this comment so much. “I want to be a joy sharer” is such a beautiful goal. I think the very real burdens that parents carry (in a society that offers little support) is directly connected to the way non-parents are generally seen as irrelevant to raising children (something we could see as a community-level project). If we focused more on sharing joy and less on our different life choices/outcomes, we might end up with more hands to carry the burden.

    • Tally says...

      What a beautiful thought. I want to be a “joy sharer,” or a “lifter,” as my grandmother put it.

    • Rachel says...

      Really love this sentiment

    • Em says...

      Huge love for these comments. Thank you! <3

  137. Emily says...

    Another article idea might be women who have decided to have larger than average families. We often don’t hear their stories. It’d be interesting to hear why they’ve made their choices, on the opposite spectrum from this.

    • Bb says...

      Agree! I am a few months away from having my fifth… I never dreamed about being a mother. And I never dreamed about having a big family. It’s so strange how life turns out. When I had my first at 28 I distinctly remember thinking it was so freaking hard and I would never make it and I took solace in the idea that when I was 40 I would at least have a 12 year old… Which will be true but I’ll also have a 6 month old…. And a 2, 6 and 9 year old! Its funny bc I don’t even really like kids generally speaking – I hated babysitting, went to an ivy league college and never thought a lick about motherhood. But it’s like something inside of me has at intervals urged me to have just one more – and the personal growth, refinement, death to selfishness, unhealthy coping mechanisms, and even the idea of being in control has led to a sense of freedom In a spiritual sense. Which also doesn’t really make sense bc I’m totally constricted in some ways. Anyway all that to say I’m curious too.

    • Maya says...

      Agreed. It’s very difficult for me to comprehend those choices – especially when I see couples that have four or five children despite overpopulation, climate change… I truly don’t get it, and would really love to see the thinking behind it!

    • Stacey says...

      Thanks to my husband’s family, I know so many people with huge families. Two of his siblings have 6 kids each, another has 7. One of them married into a family with 13 kids, another married into one with 15 kids. They’re all super conservative and religious, and their reasons for having lots of kids are, across the board, “because God said so.” Also, none of them believe climate change is real. I’m not trying to simplify their reasoning, that just really is the way they think. So I’d be really curious to read about people who weren’t religious but have big families, because I’m only familiar with fundamentalist big families.

  138. Jen says...

    Very nearly 47 here. My husband and I were also on the fence throughout our 30’s. We also felt if one really wanted them, the other would happily do it. We never did. We also have no children in our lives and it’s GREAT. I repeat GREAT. I love kids but no thanks.

    • Jen says...

      I should also say, regarding parents: I know mine were at first disappointed. But over time, it’s not only me who is free, they are too. And they like that!

  139. Robin says...

    I have 3 kids and always thought being a mother would be my greatest joy (and it is!). But I also grew up with several childless aunts and uncles that adored my brothers and me. Our lives were made so much richer by their love and examples of living.
    I guess my point is, follow your gut and it’ll be best for everyone.

  140. Jan says...

    I wasn’t sure if I wanted kids, but then over the course of a few months I decided that I definitely did. I have one toddler now and another one the way. I’m really happy with my decision, BUT I noticed that people treated me like much more of an adult after I had a child. It was as if I had to earn respect previously, but people automatically respect me now. (I had my first child at 31). That’s so lame! It’s really sad and disrespectful that we often infantalize women without children.

    • anne says...

      Honestly, that to me is the most frustrating part. I’m 32, I’m single, I have no children. I know I don’t want to have a child by myself, so it is looking less and less likely each year that I am going to have children. I’m a real adult, I have a PhD and a job and a dog and a whole life. But I still get treated like I should be at the kids table until I have kids of my own.

    • Rae says...

      This Jan, this.
      I have always looked younger than my age (as in cute young, not “wow, you look so great for your age”) and I thought that was why I was treated like a child. The moment I had a baby – bam – I am treated like a responsible adult. As you said – lame.

  141. Lee says...

    “I love kids and cherish my friends’ kids and my many nieces, but I don’t feel passionate enough about my love of kids to have one myself. I hope that we can normalize that feeling for women!”

    YES! This is everything. As a woman in her mid 40’s without children – but educating them every day – I am constantly put in a position of having to explain my choice of not being a parent. You’d be amazed at how complete strangers think it is permissible to inquire about why you are without children. I wish having children was not the default but, rather just an other glorious choice.
    I am not missing anything, my life is full. I am loved, I love. This is my story. Yours can be different and equally beautiful. We all get to write our own and shouldn’t pretend to be the authors of someone else’s story.

    • yes, exactly that!!! why is it, if women do not have kids we have to EXPLAIN WHY???!!!!!
      great article and comments!

  142. ABC says...

    I’ve never wanted kids, and am super fortunate to have married a man who also doesn’t want kids. We’re 15 years into our relationship and SUPER happy about the commitment we made to each other in our early 20’s.

    That being said, I’m really boggled by my friends, in their late 30’s, who are having second and third kids when they’re very vocal about how miserable they are: sleepless, sexless, romance-less, overworked, underappreciated, financially strained, and on and on and on…. WHYYYY do it again? Someone please explain to me why so many women opt-in to repeating this tough pattern when they’re admittedly (only to their best friends) miserable?

    • Allison says...

      The book “All Joy and No Fun” could explain a lot of this :) Super interesting for parents/non-parents/potential parents.

    • Candice says...

      I can’t answer for anyone else, but for me, it’s the connection I have with my son that made me want to “do it again.” We are happy with 2 but I feel a very real societal pressure to have another even though I can relate to the string of challenges your friend mentioned. I listened to a podcast on this very question – one I appreciate very much – I’ll link it back here if I can find it -and it helped me realize how much I talk about how hard it is but rarely focus on that connection – the laughter, smiles, funny stories, etc that make it the right choice for me. This question / this podcast has helped me talk about the good, rich things that come from my life with kids and focus on those after a rough night’s sleep etc. And I honestly believe that a lot of relationships will go through those same challenges with a different catalyst. I’m happy the catalyst is my kids. Thanks again for your honest question and cheers!

    • Natasha says...

      Maybe they’re struggling, but the joys their children bring outweighs the (often temporary) hardships they are facing right now. At least, that’s the case for me :)

    • Justine says...

      I’m very interested in seeing replies to this as well…

    • Margaret says...

      I’m a mother of three and one of my closest friends is a very happy, very childless person. When I read this comment, I wondered if she thinks this about me – kids in some ways have really wrecked me and I ended up having a surprise third kid – I wonder if she thought I was a glutton for punishment!

      However, I realize that she also was one of the safest spaces for me to share my griefs about having children. She provided the most non-judgmental atmosphere for me to safely share regrets or really heavy feelings about my kids.
      And then I realize while she may be the first one I share the pain with, she is probably the last one I share the glories of motherhood with. Maybe I subconsciously assume she won’t appreciate them, or maybe mountaintops are harder to share with valleys, or maybe I worry I’d make her feel bad for her decision, or maybe I’d feel afraid it would make us feel disconnected.

      Somehow, my love for my kids and my grievances with motherhood are two very tender spots, and sometimes they are so paradoxical and simultaneous they make my brain hurt. It’s so hard to explain. And yet you, as the friend who chooses not to have children, likely get most of the complaints and gripes and tears because you have been so brave yourself with your choices, you understand that children aren’t everything, and so you are the safest person with which we can cast off our motherhood roles and just sit in the sadness of losing parts of ourselves, as we inevitably do.

      Thanks for being there. We probably ought to share more of our joys with such friends as you, too – to accurately represent our situation. But know you’ve likely been an incredible port in the storm to your friends and it’s deeply felt and needed so from across the internet – THANK YOU!

    • Miranda says...

      I have a toddler and would probably like to have another but I pretty openly am really into motherhood! I have wondered this exact thing about quite a few of my friends who complain a LOT (and never seem to share stories of love or joy). My theory is that they’ve got some kind of drive to give their kid a sibling that doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with how they actually *like* parenthood — pressure from family or friends having to do with not raising a “selfish” only child (eye roll) or some effort to recreate their own childhood. I wish people would reflect more deeply on the decision to have kids, like the many people who have shared their stories here have done! I adore parenthood but it’s also a massive lifestyle change that’s really really not for everyone.

    • G says...

      ABC. I totally get what you are saying- I’m about to have baby #3 (I have a 2 and 4 year old) and I know I complain a lot. First of all this wasn’t exactly planned but I always wanted 3 kids so I’m happy- I had one sister growing up and hated her and I have 2 girls now and worried so much that would happen to my girls/always wished I had another sibling growing up. And then the other reason is my family is on the other side of the country and I wanted to build my own big family here so I partly wanted 3 kids for future reasons. Toddlers and this stage we are in is so hard but I’m hoping it gets easier. I’m sure your friends are in this stage too- it’s just a lot. But there are tons of moments that make it worth it.

    • Amy says...

      Haha, great question! For me (mom of two) who was indeed pretty miserable when I had two very young kids, it was thinking about the life I wanted long-term, not just the hard years for me when they were both little at the same time. I suspected and was right that I enjoy parenting much more now that I have two “big kids.” And I look forward to the life I’ll have with them as adult children. And I grew up with siblings and hoped that my kids would enjoy that.
      As for why I had them so close together… that timing was a huge shock after years of trying to have the first.

    • Roxana says...

      ABC, you ask a legit question. This pattern doesn’t seem very reasonable and yet many of us are neck-deep in it. I’ve had four kids. My first passed away shortly after birth and I have since had three more. My youngest is four and has Down syndrome. Lately I’ve been feeling like I want to have one more (even though I’m 42). While parenting does kick your ass (and special needs parenting, especially), there is also something about the love for your child that is (for me, anyway) so inexplicably profound and intoxicating. In a very real sense, there isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for my kids. My love for them is that deep. They have sucked the life out of me. I’m not going to lie. And there are moments of resentment, but those are fleeting and inconsequential in light of my love for them and my desire for them to be the best version of themselves that they can possibly be.

      I think there is a very real element to parenting that hits at the truth that “it is more blessed to give than to receive.” For many people, the most selfless kind of love that they give is to their children. That’s not a judgment on people who don’t have kids or don’t want them (my beloved sister unexpectedly found herself choosing not to have children after getting married. She does have two step-daughters, though). I just think it’s something that’s true for most people and might help explain the desire to repeat it.

      Anyway, hope this helps :).

    • Elizabeth says...

      Margaret, wow – I am so appreciative of your thoughtful response. Like ABC, I have often wondered this myself but have been too afraid to ask in real life!

      Not a total parallel, but I feel a similar tension when talking about my partner of 10+ year with my friends that are single (choice and not). I have resolved that it’s nice to share day-to-day highs and lows. In doing that, I build in protection so that I do not purport a hallmark-level or shawshank redemption-level relationship. Perhaps this might be a soft start with your friend? As someone who is childfree, I would be equally honored to hear the good things, too :)

    • Kate says...

      They’re venting. Also, it’s a lot easier to put the hard bits into words than it is the wonderful bits.

    • Isabelle says...

      I just wanted to say that this thread is really illuminating, and Margaret, your comment is so beautifully written and thoughtful. As the friend who is still on the fence, in a group of friends with children, it’s true that you sometimes only hear the difficult parts. But I appreciate that that fits with the role I might represent for others, and I would love to have those same friends share their joys as well. :)

    • hvu says...

      Because the joy we feel when we watch our children grow, giggle, attempt to make un-funny jokes are unmatched. Not by any misery. Not by joy brought by anything else. I often lay in bed at night exhausted, telling my husband our kids are magical and we are so lucky to have them. He agrees.

      Sexless, romance-less, overwork, under appreciated are experienced by many, with or without kids. The kids aren’t the reasons.

    • kat says...

      Margaret makes a strong point. I also think it’s easier to vent than to share the moments that make it all worth it. Both for bragging as well as understanding. They can be so unique and possibly trivial to someone else. The way my son says “you’re welcome” every time he should say thank you. Or when my lanky 6 year old dances with a hip sizzle. Seeing them post-bath with clean puffy hair that is the spitting image of my dad. It’s such joy but articulating that feels like bragging, or like it may yield a, “wow, that’s…great” response. I’m the parent and of course it feels monumental to me but outside my world I suspect it wouldn’t, and I’m okay with that.

    • TEA says...

      I’ve heard several women describe being pregnant and childbirth as its own kind of high. Like any addiction, they come to crave that flood of loving feelings when it starts to dissipate – the kids get older, breastfeeding ends, etc.

    • ABC says...

      Wow, COJ commenters have done it again! Thank you, thank you.

      “ABC” here (the original poster) and I never expected to get such thoughtful responses to my off-the-cuff inquiry about why women repeat the pattern of motherhood, despite sharing their resentment & misery.

      @Margaret, your beautiful response will probably save a friendship of mine, and I am indebted to you for that. I hadn’t realized the role that I might be playing in this longstanding friendship, and see how it might be equally as important for me to inquire about the positives and the “good times” in my mom-friend’s life, rather than just sympathize when she complains. I can certainly do that too, but you’ve opened up my eyes to the fact that just because I’m NOT hearing the stories of how wonderful motherhood is for my friend, it doesn’t mean they don’t exist. That sounds so obvious in hindsight, but it really took your comment to wake me up to that.

      I’m trying to figure out what the deeper emotion is here for me, and it seems like there’s some self-work to be done. My surface-level answer is “I want my friends to be happy and not make choices just because of what they THINK they’re supposed to do, societally.” I’ve argued to myself that they’re NOT really happy if they’re honest with themselves, but again, this could be because I’m not hearing the full story. Hmmm. There’s this tension between wanting women to advocate for themselves and make choices FOR THEMSELVES, and accepting my friends at face-value when they say they WANT to have kid #2 or #3.

      In any case – I’m grateful for this community and the sincere responses I got to my casual question! I appreciate the commenters here & the COJ team!

    • Blandine says...

      Thank you Margaret for this comment. You have articulated this so well and I full relate to your experience of what you choose to share with different friends and how it may colour their perceptions of motherhood.

  143. Sheila says...

    I really enjoyed these interview responses. Since I was seven years old I’ve known I never want to be a mother — and people always balk when I share that, but it’s true! I’ve also observed two different assumptions from outsiders (strangers, not family or friends) because I’m in a lesbian marriage: they’re either certain we’re going to have kids and ask “which way” (meaning by sperm donor or adoption), or they expect we’ll never have children. It’s interesting to be a witness to those extremely different responses to our marriage.

    I’d like to add that I also really love children, as many have shared, despite my certainty I never want to have any of my own. I adore my nephews and am a proxy auntie to my friends’ children. My wife and I also discuss our desire to someday be foster parents. I know parenting is an enormous responsibility, and I take that responsibility seriously. So when our lives are more stable, financially and emotionally, we’d like to open our homes as a shelter for disenfranchised children.

  144. laura says...

    Just a comment on the question of who will take care of you when you are old. I worked for several years in the hospital as a discharge planner for patients who were often elderly. I can tell you that it is absolutely no guarantee that children will take care of their aging parents. Yes, often the kids stepped up. But often they did not. Sometimes it’s a friend, sibling, or even a neighbor that shows up and makes all the difference.

    • Sarah S says...

      Thank you for mentioning this! I am a nurse practitioner and discharged many many elderly patients when I worked as an inpatient cardiac nurse. The number of patients I discharged that were cared for exclusively by their children was few and far between. Also thank you for your work, discharge planning is no easy feat!

    • Caitlin says...

      Yes! And also let’s advocate for universal design, home healthcare, and other services that can help people age in place comfortably and with the support they need!

    • Kristen says...

      Laura, I appreciate this comment so much. My husband and I joke about which kid will take care of us (it is VERY obvious…and he’s currently six), but we both have parents who work in hospice and medical ethics who have seen plenty of adult children override sick or dying parents’ wishes — often in good faith, but often in power struggles with siblings or other family members. Always a good reminder that the family you chose can be as significant as the family you’re born into.

    • Taylor says...

      This comment is so obnoxious. So people should have children to take care of them when they get old? That’s so selfish. I’ll be able to pay for care with all the money I will have save from not having kids. Besides, do you know how many people planned on having their kids take care of them who now sit in a home and get one 15 minute visit every 6-months? It’s way more than you think.

  145. Rachael says...

    As someone with six (I know, I know!) kids, here’s what it has looked like for me: my husband has a PhD and I have a master’s degree. I have always been a stay-at-home mom who also works full time from home, but my schedule is flexible enough (I teach remote classes for a Big 10 school) that I don’t actually work when my children are around. I come from a religious background that encourages big families, so we never even considered not having kids, but now that I’m older (37) I have a lot of angst bound up in the fact that I started having children before I had considered another life.

    With that said, I really am so happy in my day-to-day life and find joy in things I would never have known to be joyful. I developed a huge passion for reading aloud to my children and that is a very meaningful part of my life I would never have discovered otherwise—same with hiking with my children and even the mundane things like teaching them to drive or cook. I don’t jet-set at the drop of the hat, but I run marathons, I oil paint, I’ve completely renovated two homes, I spend weeks every year hiking and camping, and I’m raising pretty great kids who are turning into some of my favorite people. There are opportunities for unanticipated beauty in life both with children and without.

    • Molly says...

      Love this. Way to go. Those of us with lots of kids definitely give up a lot. But we gain things we never knew we wanted. I do feel like my life is richer because of kids. Sometimes I get weary of the messes and not being able to jetset, but the time will come when the house is clean and quiet and I have more freedom – and I will probably be a little sad about it!

    • maria says...

      thi s is an awesome story and sounds like you have a beautiful life!

      stating the obvious here but yes – having 6 children with a husband with a phd and you with a masters – far different life than parents of 6 with little education and/or low paying jobs. not saying it can’t still be joyful and a wonderful life – but having means definitely is a great help.

      and yea, i have a masters as well but not a big income with it, haha, so it can go many ways!

  146. shannon says...

    I was extremely blessed to have a special aunt, my mom’s sister, who did not have children of her own. Our relationship became even closer in my adult years during which she truly was a second mom to me. We lost her almost a year ago to melanoma. I loved reading this post and thinking of her…she had endometriosis plus an intense career with lots of traveling and told me she just never felt it was the right time to have her own kids. She never expressed any regret!

    Now I have a son and hope for another child in the future. If it’s a girl we hope to name her after my aunt.

  147. Maclean Nash says...

    I am a 27 year old woman and my boyfriend of 5 years is 30.
    Being CFBC increasingly seems like the path our lives will take and this excites us!
    We have nephews who we love dearly, our friends are either getting pregnant or are growing their own families which is great for us because we DO think kids are awesome and we love being around them.
    Every 4-6 months we check in with one another to see if any maternal/paternal feelings are percolating. So far, they aren’t. After much discussion, we are very keen on the types of freedom a CFBC life would offer us! We would be able to work fewer hours, move abroad, and accomplish other life achievements which, for us, wouldn’t involve kids of our own.
    Comments we often hear from our parents and friends sound like, “You will regret being childless”, “What happens when one of you dies and you’re alone?”, “HA! You will change your mind”, “You don’t know what you’re missing!” etc, etc. These comments hurt and it takes a great deal of effort to respond to these remarks calmly. What I say to say to these people varies, but I highlight that there is no guarantee your kids will be there for you in your later years. For one, people relocate. Being estranged from my dad, I know kids will not always be by your side. Having kids is not some guarantee you will always have their friendship and love. If, in some alternate universe I were to have kids, I would hope I made sure my children didn’t feel they were pressured to be our saviour as we age. Whatsmore, that’s no reason to have children!

    People have a choice to have kids. Parents have chosen to have kids. Good for you! I don’t think we will be choosing to – good for us!
    For me, what it really boils down to, is that I have no feeling, no desire, no “burn” within my heart to have kids. To anyone feeling the same I want you to know that is okay! There is no right or wrong way to feel and not having those romanticized feelings people/parents always talk about does not make you less than. Being CFBC is not selfish and frankly, it is no one’s business but yours.

    Thanks for reading and for discussing this topic! It means so much!

  148. Irena says...

    Perhaps most important in this discussion, is that women make a mindful decision, one way or another.
    I don’t ever remember consciously thinking about having children or not having them. Although there were men I loved and could see a life with, there was only one with whom I’d even remotely thought about having a child and as things turned out, we were very lucky we did NOT marry nor have children. A good person, but our life goals were very different and incompatible.

    To me, having a child is/was always about having a child with one particular man to create my vision of a traditional family. When we didn’t marry, I didn’t transfer my desire to another guy.

    My parents were divorced when I was still a toddler and my father was mostly absent due to his work choices. My mother and I never bonded and it took me many years into adulthood to understand why. Then I also observed how horribly she “parented” my younger (20 years!) brother. That confirmed what I had finally come to realize: Some people are NOT meant to be parents.

    I’ve been and am a very involved “auntie” with my friends’ kids over the years and am truly grateful for that opportunity. I am told I am a very nurturing person, but that alone, to me, doesn’t make for a good 24/7 parent. I’ve seen too many women who were clearly not into being a mother for multiple reasons and how that negatively impacted their children. I would never have taken that risk. You can love a child, love children but not have the “DNA” to be a loving and healthy parent.

    Not many people will admit that about themselves because they have seen how others often treat them if they say they would not be emotionally invested in raising a child. To me, you ultimately show respect about parenting by being honest with yourself. Other women also have a hard time admitting that they are with men/women/others who either do not want kids–but won’t admit it–or who are clearly NOT parental material.

    I read a lot here about women whose choice was linked to them wanting the freedom to do other things. It takes a lot of courage to be that honest and I, for one, appreciate it. That is preferable to having children and then quite obviously regretting it. Children know whether they are really and truly wanted and actively nurtured. Too many of us have gown up in households where the mothers just were not into it and been traumatized for life.

    In 2021, men and women who are honest with themselves (even if they risk criticism in families and from friends, spoken or unspoken) about either definitely not wanting children–or indifferent– should be supported and allowed their life choices. They should also not be viewed as anti-kids, because not having them yourself is NOT the same things as neither liking nor loving children.

    Children deserve to have parents who are both willing and able and emotionally invested to the best of their ability to have and raise children.
    I shudder just thinking of the children I’ve seen in homes where one or both parents are clearly unhappy with being a parent and regret their decision. There are far more people out there who have only had kids because they were expected to and/or because it was easier than having to face the criticism of family and friends.

    It takes courage in life to be honest about what you are capable of and women’s choices about having or not having children need to be respected.

    • Abbie says...

      I love this so much Irena. That it requires so much courage for us to just be honest about who we are and what we want is so heart breaking, but so incredibly powerful, and motivating for others hopefully, when it happens!

  149. Kim says...

    I respect everyone’s choices in life, but I just wish those that don’t like children would stop telling me (a mother) how much they despise kids.

    • AB says...

      YES! Same here. My kids are HUMANS. With FEELINGS. Stop talking to me in front of them about how hard my life must be because I have them. I love them! They bring so much joy to my life and they are worth every late night, early morning, giant mess, etc. I get bugged when people tell me what a burden they must be. NOPE. We feel very lucky to have them.

    • maria says...

      in general, people should just not share such things period. i don’t need to hear people tell me they despise dogs when they know i love them. neither are constructive comments, ha!

  150. Sarah says...

    I have 3 kids. I always wanted kids. It was very important to me to have kids. That said, I wish more people had the courage to make the decision not to have kids. I wish that society didn’t pressure people to have kids, as if their self worth depends on it. I see too many people having children because of family and societal pressure and they just don’t seem like they’re enjoying the life they’re leading. It doesn’t mean they don’t love their kids. It just seems like the yearn for a childless life and that a life with kids is more of a sacrifice.