One in five women today reaches the end of their childbearing years and has not become a mom, but the stories behind the scenes are many. In my book, Complete Without Kids: An Insider’s Guide to Childfree Living by Choice or by Chance, I describe three different categories of childfree adults. Which one describes you?
Childfree by Happenstance
Folks in the group say, “It just never happened.” They got busy doing other things, had effective birth control, and before they knew it all their peers were done raising children and the answer was made for them. I, myself, am a childfree by happenstance woman. Had I married someone who wanted to be a father, or had I not been accepted into a PhD program at the age of 35, it’s likely that motherhood would have been an alternate route. Had I become a mom, I know I would have embraced this life with as much zeal as I’ve embraced my life without children—it simply would have been a different path. I’m noticing today that more and more young women are busy with their careers, and they too are avoiding the “accidental” pregnancies experienced so often by past generations. Many of these women will let time pass and find that the decision of whether or not to be a mom has been made for them by default.
Childfree by Circumstance
There are many men and women who truly yearn to be parents, but for whatever reason it doesn’t happen for them. Infertility is a primary impediment to pregnancy and many couples are unwilling to undergo expensive and risky fertility treatments. Others seek adoption and do not succeed with this route. Other childfree by circumstance adults simply never met an appropriate mate and ended up not becoming a parent as a result. Most men and women in this category prefer to refer to themselves as “childless” because this reflects the loss they experience.
Childfree by Choice
Some people say that they’ve always known they didn’t want to have children. For them, it’s a deliberate choice. Some of these adults have tubal ligations or vasectomies done when they’re still in their twenties. They don’t want to take any chances! Being childfree by choice can reflect a lack of interest in parenting or it may be because of concern about overpopulation and the environment. Despite societal pressures to procreate and so many people telling them that they’re missing out or that they’ll change their mind, they firmly and happily stick with their decision.
Life’s Biggest Decision
The choice of whether or not to have a child is huge, and deserves more contemplation than any other decision one makes. Even today, over half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned, but I’m betting that we can get this number down. More and more women, even teens, are choosing the IUD, a birth control method that’s on par with tubal ligation and requires absolutely no thought for years at a time. With upcoming legislation that will require insurance plans to cover birth control with no copayments, more women (and even men) will do their part to prevent accidental pregnancies. And then there are economic factors. New data show that the cost to raise a child through high school is up to $235,000. That’s enough to cause couples to carefully consider their future options rather than letting simply allowing fate to take over. As a psychologist, I strongly encourage my clients to sit in the driver’s seat of the car of their life rather than on the passenger’s side. Choose your life path! If parenting is your dream, find a way to make it happen and then be the best mother or father you can be. On the other hand, if you don’t have a strong inclination to parent, you can’t figure out how to make it work financially or to fit it in with other priorities, embrace this decision also. Both life options are wonderful and potentially rich and full.