No Kids, No Problem

To be a parent or not to be? This question tends to cross the minds of many people. Due to gender norms, women tend to ask themselves this question earlier than normal. At the age of 15, I was introduced to the idea of having a boyfriend and learning how to cook and clean to one day allure a man. Now, as a 20-year-old, I see this tendency of putting pressure on women mirroring setting a pig up for slaughter. This comparison may seem extreme, but the continual pressure of going through “housewife training” also creates an unnecessary target on the backs of women who do not fit the mold.

Even though we’re in 2020, the image of women being child bearers and rearers is still prevalent. I have been adamant about not wanting to have kids. Each time I mention this, I am met with a wrinkled nose and a casual “Well you never know.” But what if I do know? What if I’m certain that my priorities in life don’t include children? Of course, I barely have an idea of what I’m going to think in 10 or 15 years, but it is the questioning of my decision that demonstrates the pressure I feel to justify my choice.

I have always been surrounded by children. As a child, my mother took time off and took care of other children simultaneously in order to make ends meet. I grew up in a makeshift daycare at home and experienced the variations of child behavior. Later, I’d always volunteer to take care of kids after school and at a children’s hospital. While I enjoyed taking care of children, I saw instances of abuse and abandonment. It reminded me that while society criticizes women for not wanting kids, they neglect to highlight the many injustices children face in life. Becoming the child whisperer made me realize that I don’t need to have children and highlighted the fact that there are some people who shouldn’t have them.

Solo-life stigma

One of the most common responses I’ve come across is “If you don’t have kids, then you’ll be alone when you’re old.” In this scenario, there are several problems, the first being the assumption that women who do not have kids tend to be unmarried. Another is the view of children as sources of companionship. Finally, there is the belief that there is something wrong with wanting to be alone.

Each of these assumptions is constructed on the basis of women being “needy” individuals. However, in a poll conducted by the New York Times, out of 2,000 respondents (people from the ages of 20 to 45), around 36% said they did not want children. Afterwards, around 64% said they simply couldn’t afford to have children and 34% said they hadn’t found a partner to start a family with. It should be noted that this poll was performed on both men and women, meaning both genders are leaning towards not having children. While both genders are hesitant to have children, because of gender norms, women are looked down upon more for not wanting to procreate and are ostracized for being “unwomanly.”

Additionally, women who voice their decision not to have children are harassed by women who do have children. Society as a whole judges women, yet the biggest critics of women like myself are other women. Women who do not want kids aren’t a rarity. The Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates that between 2023 and 2029, there will be more people in childfree relationships than families with kids. As more and more people are coming to terms with their decision not to have kids, why are more people skeptical of their choice to do so?

Reasons for not wanting kids

There shouldn’t need to be a reason given to justify not wanting kids. However, in order to enlighten those who simply don’t understand, here are a few reasons why many people do not want children:

  1. 1. An increase in carbon emissions and a worsening environment

    As our climate worsens, many people have found a solution in not having children. A Swedish study conducted by IOPscience reported that having one less child reduces carbon emissions by 60 tons per year. Additionally, it has been widely noted that having less children or no children at all could significantly benefit the environment. Having children in some parts of the world could cause scarcity among resources.

    With an unprecedented climate that continues to worsen, we have no idea what the state of the world will be in the future. One thing for sure is that with an expected addition of a billion people to our population, there will be an increase in emissions that will only cause more harm than good.

  2. 2. It's too expensive

    This one is more common and, in reality, might be the most disheartening reason. Child-care expenses are at an all-time high. It has become more difficult for parents to find the financial means to cover not only the costs of living but also education, care, transportation and the other costs that come with having a kid. In my own personal experience, my mother worked two jobs and struggled to make ends meet. Her strain led her to be financially capable of taking care of me and my brother but caused her to be emotionally detached from both our childhoods.

    Whether to be present or to provide sustenance is a question parents ask themselves. As a result, people who struggle to even maintain just themselves have come to terms with the fact that having children is not financially feasible.

  3. 3. Wanting to obtain career goals

    With an increase in higher education, people tend to strive for careers that take years to acquire. Achieving those career goals is an important aspect of becoming an adult. For some people, their first priority is achieving a stable role in life that can provide the financial means to care for a child. Others work to achieve those goals, but when the time comes that they reach their goal, they decide not to have kids. The latter was Stephanie Zacharek’s experience. Zacharek thought she’d have a baby eventually but found her career taking off, and by the time she was in a good place monetarily, she had realized motherhood wasn’t for her. It wasn’t as though she had solely focused on her career, but she found that her passion lied in writing and not in starting a family. She found the joy parents talk about in her career.

  4. 4. Maintaining mental health

    This is my own personal opinion, but I suspect it may resonate with others. I have found myself not wanting kids due to my experiences of seeing children as victims of abuse or abandonment. Most cases are caused by their parents’ own mental health issues or addictions. It saddens me to know that there are individuals out there who, knowing that their own state is not well, would choose to put a child through the tumultuous experience. Those children are then placed in a broken foster care system and affected for the rest of their lives.

    Additionally, many parents find themselves with an increase in anxiety and postpartum depression. As someone who struggles with anxiety, I know that the pressure women face to both work and be a mom is one I would not be able to deal with. I’d rather be the happy cool aunt than the depressed mother. Not only do I think my nonexistent child would benefit from this, but my own mental health would be preserved.

I am aware that my own opinion may shift and sway, but that is for me to decide. For now, I hope that when I forward this article to my questioning family, they’ll begin to understand just why motherhood isn’t a goal of mine. Society should focus on both genders deciding not to have kids, rather than criticizing women as the main “culprits.”