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How China's Three-Kid Policy Impacts Those Who Have None

Three kids are okay. None is too.

Key points

  • When China increased the number of children its citizens are permitted to have, those who have none got attention, too.
  • A worldwide, largely invisible subculture of people who will never have children is becoming more normalized.
  • Increasing numbers of books, films, and services depict what life is like when you don't have kids.
Doron Rosenblum/Unsplash
Source: Doron Rosenblum/Unsplash

When first announced, China’s new procreation policy of increasing the allowable number of children from two to three boggled my mind. Now I’m for it. Probably not for the reasons you might think.

Like many westerners, I squirmed when One Child went into effect in the 1980s. I thought that was pretty heavy-handed. When Two Babies was announced in 2015, I was nonplussed. This week, China’s announcement of Three Kids got my attention.

By fiddling with how many kids its citizens could have, China pragmatically acknowledged the fact that some people would never have any at all. In the beginning, I suspect those folks were even held in high esteem for their forbearance.

Coincident with restricting family size came booming growth of China’s cities and its economy. The relative value assigned to male children over females resulted in a dearth of marriageable potential mothers. Immigration and increasing allowable progeny addressed the need for fertile females, now and for generations to come.

Ani Adogyozalyan/Unsplash
Source: Ani Adogyozalyan/Unsplash

The proverbial cat was now out of the bag, however. Today Chinese women have more access to the workplace and weigh the merits of career over motherhood. These days, an old descriptor from the 1980s, “Double Income, No Kids,” has taken root in China.

Living childfree has caught the attention of Chinese males, too. Vasectomies are in high demand as young singles and couples weigh their procreative options.

Joining them, both in China and in every other nation on earth, are those who unwittingly go through life without having children of their own. Their reasons are many, including infertility, lack of a viable partner, economic resources, disability, and illness.

There’s a worldwide, largely invisible subculture of adults who will never have kids, more of us than ever before. While in years past we may have talked furtively and sometimes tentatively among ourselves, today there’s swelling recognition of and appreciation for childfree and childless living. We’re finding voice and validation while living in the midst of a world high on family.

Books about childlessness were few as little as a decade ago. Today top-quality work is being picked up by big publishing houses and small presses alike, as well as self-published by authors around the globe. Goodreads lists over 200 current titles for books about the childless and childfree.

Brainchild of voracious reader Lisa Kissane, the NoMo Book Club includes detailed reviews that are designated with color-coded trigger warnings for those childless not by choice.

The Childfree by Choice website lists over 30 movies that are childfree. A growing number of documentaries cover the topic, including To Kid or Not to Kid and The Guardian’s Childfree series.

Jacob Bourgeious on Unsplash
Source: Jacob Bourgeious on Unsplash

There’s even a dating site dedicated for our kind to find childfree partners. CFdating was founded in 2018 by a childfree Atlanta couple. In less than three years, membership has taken off, with steady growth all over the world, including China. Users range in age from 18 to 57, most in the 40+ category.

When you sign up, CFdating asks why you chose to be childfree. Overpopulation is one of the most frequently cited reasons, with concerns that contributing another child isn’t in the planet’s best interest.

When China proclaims its need for more children, the ensuing media coverage and pushback gives impetus to counterpoints raised by those who occupy our adulthood without having kids—lives some of us chose, others unintentionally childless. May we all create lives of meaning, connection, and joy and revel in the different routes each of us ultimately follow.

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