Childless by choice


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group of womenKids – can’t live with them, can’t live without them! Or can you? The women and men choosing a childfree lifestyle get along just fine without kids: while a minority in society, a United Nations World Fertility Report states that almost 20% of 44-year-old women are childless, and according to the CDC, half of these women are childless by choice. So why do some people choose childlessness and would it be awkward to invite them to your next dinner party?

Childless vs. childless by choice

Although many people don’t have children, they all are not “childless by choice.” Childlessness comes to some through circumstances and timing, infertility or other medical reasons. However, women and men who are “childless by choice” are deliberate about not being parents, and in a society very focused on bringing up the next generation, it’s a choice that can be hard to understand. It’s important to remember that this is a personal decision and someone choosing childlessness is not condemning those with children.

Why do people choose childless lives?

Everyone is different but here are some common reasons for someone being childless by choice:

  1. Lack of desire Some people are made to be parents and others are not. Either way, we often know at a young age whether we want kids or not.
  2. Lifestyle goals – Having kids provides a whole different lifestyle than not having kids. Childfree people have diverse lifestyles, but all have decided the one they want doesn’t involve raising children.
  3. Finances – Kids are expensive! Estimates range from $67,500 to $200,000+ to raise a child per year (until end of high school). People who are childless by choice prefer to spend their money elsewhere.
  4. Environmental – Each of us has an environmental footprint and, while a terribly unpopular idea to articulate, not having children reduces this footprint.
  5. I love children – sometimes! It’s true some people don’t like children. But many childless by choice people love spending time with kids but love returning them to their parents at the end of the day!

With child and without – can’t we all just get along?

This whole subject can be a bit of a minefield and can get everybody in a defensive mode pretty fast. For some reason, saying you’re childless by choice is sometimes heard as an attack on those who have or want to have children. And the rebuttals abound: “you’re selfish”, “your life is without meaning”, and “who’s going to look after you when you’re old and decrepit”? If you find yourself in this sort of conversation, diffuse the tension by offering to just agree to disagree about the philosophical points. Close the chasm by (gently) pointing out, “my choice is about me and your choice is about you – it’s okay they’re not the same.” By focusing on what we have in common – choosing a life that works for us – we can get along even if we really don’t see eye to eye.

So, go ahead and host a “mixed” dinner party of parents and childless by choice individuals. Any awkwardness will fade away as the evening progresses and diverse ideas are shared – or when the childless accidentally agree to babysit!

If you could use some additional help coping with a decision to raise a family or not, please contact your EFAP to talk about how a counsellor can support you and your goals.


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