Childless or Childfree?

Oct 10, 2013

Recent reports about women choosing not to bear children has brought the “Childfree Choice” into the spotlight. Time Magazine reports that in 1976, only one in ten American women in her forties was childless, compared to the current statistic of one in five.

Some say our world is in such a mess they cannot in good conscience bring a child into it.  Others describe their own sad upbringing and fear making the same mistakes their parents did.  Still others say they could never be as good at parenting as their parents were.

Nearly all childless adults cite the tremendous sacrifices they know childrearing involves. Many have made commitments that would suffer under the burdens of parenting. Actress Katherine Hepburn summed it up well when she wrote, “I had such a wonderful upbringing that I had a very high standard of how a mother and father should behave.  I couldn’t be that way and carry on a movie career.”

And I get it.  This weekend I observed one of my daughters graciously host a birthday party for her five-year-old while relaying another child to the emergency room for needed medical care.  Parenting is not for the faint of heart, for sure.

And yet many adults long for children, defying logic and reason.  The sacrifices seem irrelevant to the basic human need to procreate.  Many who love their children view “childfree” couples with suspicion, assuming they are too selfish to sacrifice.  And yet some of the most generous people I know have chosen not to bring children into the world. 

Becoming a parent is not the right path for everyone.  No one should conceive a child out of a sense of obligation.  For adults who choose not to bear children, I for one look forward to the other contributions they may be free to make with all that energy they don’t have to expend on parenting.

For those of us who embrace parenthood, even exhausting days hosting birthday parties and waiting in the ER are not too great a cost for the joy those children give us back.