Childfree: The Way to Be?

More people are choosing to remain childfree.

My friend, Katherine, has always been sure that she wanted a house full of children; she’s just one of those people who falls into motherhood easily and happily. Another friend, Anna, does not want to have children. I walk the middle line, with the mother role being something I’m still learning to wear comfortably.

It’s a cliche by now that those with children encourage, pressure, even browbeat all the misguided people who claim to care less about having children. But why should this be so?

Taking On Parenthood

Parenthood is a major life change and it requires a huge emotional, financial and lifestyle investment for the rest of your years. How can we blame anyone who honestly assesses their hopes and dreams and decides that being a parent is not part of them? What our society should do is encourage and support those who do want children, and applaud those who realize that they don’t. Pushing people to take on such a huge unwanted responsibility can only spell misery for everyone.

Many people call the childfree choice selfish. Selfish, to me, would be having children and then always placing your needs and desires above theirs, resenting them for demanding time, money and energy you don’t want to give, and making them feel unwanted. Realizing that you don’t want to go down this path is simply being self-aware of your mental, spiritual and financial demands, and knowing that a child simply doesn’t fit.

If You Don’t Want to Be a Parent, You Can’t Be a Good One

I recently read a comment by a woman who spelled out all the reasons she chose not to have children and why she didn’t want to be a parent. She then added that she really resented it when she told people this and they assumed that she would be a poor parent. They’re right. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t say that you don’t want to invest the time, emotion, or money it takes to be a parent, and then say that, nevertheless, you would be a great parent.

I don’t choose to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars into attending law school, spend hours studying kitchen plumbing or log enough airtime to become a pilot so similarly, why would I force anyone to become a parent? While no parent is perfect, the baseline requirement is wanting to be one.

The Great Divide

While I support a person’s right not to have children, I also don’t want to be glared at in restaurants, resented in the workplace, and disparaged because I chose to have children. Similarly, childfree adults also don’t want to be discriminated against for their choices.

The family landscape is changing, and the point is choice. The number of women not having children is rising whether society chooses to accept it or not. We can let this issue drive a wedge between parents and non-parents, or we can see it as a way to improve our society’s health. Is it such a bad thing to promote fewer families with children, and stronger family units? To have individuals who lead better, more contented lives because they are encouraged to feel proud of their chosen lifestyle?

Image: kevindooley

Andrea Newell

Andrea Newell is a Michigan-based writer specializing in corporate social responsibility, women’s issues, and the environment.