As a childfree adult, I've found that when someone asks me if I have kids and I reply, "No," most people don't feel comfortable following up with a request for more information about my reasons for not being a mom, nor do they ask about my life without children. Not asking, however, doesn't mean that there isn't curiosity about these topics. So read on to get a behind-the-scenes view of childfree living.
What are some of the key reasons some couples choose not to have kids?
Many couples say they enjoy their time together so much that they aren't willing to do anything that might jeopardize their relationship. They feel complete and don't see the need to have a child to round out their family unit. Half of all marriages end in divorce, and growing apart due to not having time for one another is one contributor. Bring a child into the family and all kinds of changes occur-a couple has less time and energy for sex, less leisure time together, less discretionary income, and more day-to-day responsibilities. These changes can all put stress on a relationship, even one that is solid, and the end result may be divorce.
Some couples who have had the opportunity to be around friends and relatives with children may recognize that, even if they like kids, the lifestyle and the sacrifices they'd have to make to be parents is not for them. For example, they may not want to replace the cozy dinners for two with meals focused on a child. Or, they decide they'd rather put energy into their careers and community service projects rather than devoting eight hours a day to parent a child.
Are there other reasons that couples don't have kids?
Some couples say that they were busy living life, and the years went by and parenting just didn't happen. In other words, they didn't take the time to discuss the decision and they happened to not get pregnant. This sounds odd, but the reality is that many other couples don't take time to discuss the decision and they accidently get pregnant and become parents. This is the case for over half of pregnancies in the United States today!
Other times, by the time a couple gets around to talking about children, they either can't get pregnant or they decide they're too old or their lifestyle isn't conducive to child-rearing. For me, I was very busy in my 20's and 30's going to school, traveling, participating in hobbies and volunteer work, and building a career, and by the time I felt any semblance of "baby-lust" I was almost forty-five years old. It simply didn't make sense at that point to start a family.
What are some of the biggest misconceptions about couples that choose not to have kids?
One huge misconception is that childfree couples are unable physically to have children (they are infertile), and they are in a perpetual state of grief. This false idea results in some people actually feeling pity for a childfree couple. The reality is that most childfree adults feel quite content with their lives, and they spend very little time thinking about how their life would be had they had a child.
A second common misconception is that childfree couples don't like kids. Many couples and singles without kids love to spend time with nieces and nephews or their friends' children. Others enjoy volunteering with kid in programs such as Big Brothers/Big Sisters, and some childfree adults choose to go into a field such as teaching that allows them to be closely involved with children, without taking on the responsibility of being a full time parent themselves.
Do many childfree couples (or individuals) regret not having kids?
Don't we all have some decisions that we regret? Some common ones include not finishing a college degree, passing up a job opportunity, ending a certain relationship, and choosing one career over another. Not having a child is certainly a regret for some, but I've also been told by a number of parents that, if they could be go back and do it over again, they'd choose to not have children.
It's human nature to justify decisions, to feel positive about where we are in our lives-it's necessary for survival. For the most part, childfree men and women have no regrets about not having had kids. Their lives are full with rich, satisfying activities, and they've made the choice to embrace, rather than regret their childfree life.
Do couples without kids face unique social challenges?
There are unique social challenges for the childfree couple. The percentage of couples that don't have kids is still low, and so at some point a childfree couple will find themselves surrounded by a group of friends, neighbors, and coworkers who are all focused on family activities. This can feel lonely and can, for some, result in a decision to join in rather than being the odd man out.
For a couple that has tried, but been unable to conceive, being the only one who is childfree can be extremely painful. Being around other people's children is a constant reminder of what they yearned for and could not attain. These couples tend to refer to themselves as childless rather than childfree.
What is the best thing about a childfree life?
Childfree adults truly value their freedom, independence and ability to control their lives. It takes an estimated eight hours a day to parent a child-adults without this responsibility have in comparison an abundance of time. I'm able to come home after a day at work and do what I please, including having dinner out, serving on a volunteer committee, going to bed early, or spending the evening on the phone with a friend. I don't have to consider the needs of others in the way I would if I were a parent. Childfree adults also have the freedom to be spontaneous, to plan a trip, make a geographical move, have ice cream for dinner, or to skip the Saturday chores. This kind of life may sound selfish, but if we believe that parenting is a choice, so is deciding to not parent.