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The Choice To Be Childfree

Childless by choice.  We look at the trend of couples saying “no thanks” to having kids.

(Jenny Huey/Flickr)

(Jenny Huey/Flickr)

In 1970, just one in ten American women never bore a child.  Today, it’s one in five.  More and more American women, men, couples are going childfree.  Once there was a stigma.  Today it’s not so clear.

Some of the childfree say it’s too expensive.  Some say the world’s population is enough.  Some say it’s too much trouble.  They’re just not inclined.  The Bible says “be fruitful and multiply.”  We’ve certainly done that.  What about the childfree way?  For individuals?  Couples?  For society?

This hour, On Point:  going childfree in America.

- Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Lauren Sandler, author of the Time magazine article “Having It All Without Having Children.” Also author of “One and Only: The Freedom of Having an Only Child and the Joy of Being One.”

Laura Scott, director of the Childless by Choice Project. Author of “Two is Enough: A Couple’s Guide to Living Childless by Choice.”

D’Vera Cohn, senior writer at the Pew Research Center.

From Tom’s Reading List

Time Magazine: Having It All Without Having Children – ”The decision to have a child or not is a private one, but it takes place, in America, in a culture that often equates womanhood with motherhood. Any national discussion about the struggle to reconcile womanhood with modernity tends to begin and end with one subject: parenting. If you’re a woman who’s not in the mommy trenches, more often than not you’re excluded from the discussion.”

CBS News: What it costs to raise a kid: $241,080 – “Psst! Want an easy way to save a fortune? Don’t have kids.  Children will cost you roughly one-quarter of a million dollars before they turn age 18. If you send them to college, you could spend twice as much, according to a new report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.”

Los Angeles Times: Parenthood Optional — “That’s why this whole childlessness discussion needs to be reframed. It’s great that Time is moving in the direction of validating those who, by choice or circumstance, will never be parents. But the point is not simply that society should stop judging those of us who don’t have children. It’s that society actually needs us. Children need us. It may take a village to raise a child, but not every villager needs to be a mom or dad. Some of us just need to be who we are. The children we never had would thank us. And so should you.”

 

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  • Michiganjf

    There are certainly both pros and cons to having kids, but my own reason for not wanting kids is something I never hear from anyone else… having kids introduces a potential for nearly unparalleled tragedy into a person’s life!
    A good parent will invest so much of themselves into their child/children, that any tragedy which befalls their child has the potential to forever rob a person of happiness… and so much can go wrong!

    Illness, death, drug use, criminal behavior and prison, apathy/depression, estrangement, financial ruin, catastrophic accident, rape, myriad types of criminal victimhood, etc…

    Yes, there are potential rewards, but there is great potential for heartbreak as well.
    One can live a very happy, accomplished life without children, so why introduce unnecessary risk into the equation?
    The bottom line is this:
    1) with kids- potential happiness, greater risk of a life tragedy
    2) without kids- potential happiness, lesser risk of a life tragedy
    … it seems like a no-brainer!
    I’ve sometimes felt that the desire for offspring is, to some degree, an extension of ego (and something of a power trip).
    I also feel that this planet can do with a bit of a break from the human population explosion, and that the bleak future our planet now faces means you’re not necessarily doing anyone a favor by bringing them into this world (how many people on earth feel they would have been better off never having been born?).
    All in all, NOT having children is a far more sane choice than having children, and so far, I’m quite pleased with MY choice… money saved is just a fringe benefit!

    • Expanded_Consciousness

      Kids used to be an insurance against tragedy. An assurance that the farm or family business would continue to thrive. Security that someone would take care of you and your spouse in old age or illness. It was the retirement pension, Social Security, and Medicare before there were retirement pensions, Social Security, and Medicare. During the Great Depression of the 1930s, poverty rates among senior citizens exceeded 50 percent.

      • Michiganjf

        Yes… but the same doesn’t seem to apply anymore in modern western countries.
        Nowadays, parents don’t want to burden their children, nor do children seem to want the burden.

        • thequietkid10

          It doesn’t help the situation when the kids can think “oh well my parents get Social Security and Medicare, they’re fine”

          • Michiganjf

            Yeah, social security just doesn’t help anyone… brilliant.

          • thequietkid10

            I think you missed my point. I’m just saying that because of government safety nets there is less need, less incentive, for kids to help their parents when they reach old age. And by extension there is less incentive for parents to have children or to foster a really good relationship with them.

          • OrangeGina

            You make the assumption that the children will be available and ABLE to help their parents. Not always the case!

    • Leonard Bast

      There are many good reasons for not having children, but not having them because you’re afraid of potential risk seems rather childish, if you’ll excuse the pun. It’s like not buying a house because you’re scared it might burn down one day, or not driving a car because you’re afraid you might have a crash, or not marrying because you know your spouse will die one day. A life spent calculating risk hardly seems like a life at all. Life is a risk from the very beginning, and you have to accept and embrace both its triumphs and its tragedies.

      • 1Brett1

        While I understand Michiganjf’s feelings, and people who for whatever reason see it as a bad idea to have children shouldn’t probably have children anyway, ultimately you are right. Life is for living and it is about risks/challenges. Yes, life is full of tragedy and is a delicate fragile thing that is also harsh, we have to embrace what is scary about life to truly experience the joy, or we are not truly living. There is really no way to rid ourselves and our loved ones of risk, pain, and tragedy.

      • Michiganjf

        Having a car is a necessity for many people… having children is not.

        I consider my spouse as indispensable to my life and happiness… we’ve never considered having children as indispensable to OUR lives or our happiness!

        I think you’re making a false equivalence.

  • Expanded_Consciousness

    Too many unloved and abused kids in the world, so I’m all for less people feeling they have to have kids. It is a shame if the decision arises from economic worries and constraints. Otherwise, please only have kids if you are going to love them properly.

  • Ed75

    To decide to remain childless, unless there is extreme economic hardship, is badly misguided. The greatest fruit of the love of a man and woman in marriage is another human being, the greatest gift to the marriage. A child is a gift also to everyone, that person will grow up to work for decades and help people.
    It’s misguided to say ‘a child costs this much to raise’ because it doesn’t count up the work the child does, as a child and as an adult, and doesn’t count on changing situations and costs.

    • J__o__h__n

      “To decide to remain childless, unless there is extreme economic hardship, is badly misguided.” — Jesus, St Paul and most of the popes didn’t have children.

      • methos1999

        Look up your history on the Popes, not all of them were good people – particularly during the medieval period.

        • J__o__h__n

          I didn’t claim they were. Ratzinger and his predecessor weren’t.

    • hellokitty0580

      I think that’s an extreme judgment call to make. People all have their various personal reasons to not have children. And some people who have children aren’t in love or can’t care for their children or even if they can they don’t care for their children properly. What of those people? Isn’t it more important to know who you are and what you can contribute to other human beings, rather than bring a child into this world that you aren’t entirely sure of wanting in the first place?

    • Kathy

      FOR YOU. Other people may have different feelings.

    • Swashbucklr

      How is your belief, that yours is the Correct Answer for Everyone, not selfish? It’s certainly condescending.

    • J__o__h__n

      Who is worse, a childless yet fertile heterosexual couple, a childless gay couple, or a gay couple with children?

    • methos1999

      That assumes the parents are good parents & the child is a good person; which clearly is not always the case – as many children grow up to be evil.

  • thequietkid10

    Can’t say it’s not tempting, but ultimately I want to have kids. Jonathan Last did a really interesting book on the larger socio-economic implications of this movement in “What to Expect When No One is Expected” He’s a writer at the National Review, but the book itself is fairly apolitical.

    The only possible downside IMO, is that if you have two couples, and only couple A has kids, then the kids of couple A will grow up and support the Social Security and Medicare for couples A and B.

  • SamEw

    It seems to me the most important thing kids do for adults is they keep adults from being self-centered. ‘Self-centered’ meaning not selfish per se or immature but having a constantly inward looking world view.

    • E. Houde

      So you’re saying by not having children, I’m self-centered and selfish?
      Maybe so, but why should I live my life for someone else, be it my
      parents or my children?

      • SamEw

        I think you probably live a more self focused live than you would with children. I don’t think of being self focused and selfish as the same and made the distinction in the post.

        • hellokitty0580

          Maybe not though. Just because one doesn’t have children doesn’t mean there aren’t other life focuses that make one giving. One could focus on other members of their family such as parents, siblings, nieces or nephews, aunts, uncles, etc. Second, someone could have friends’ children to give to or just friends in general. They could volunteer, work in global crisis relief, or be a civil servant trying to give back to the community. Parents do not corner the market on altruism. In fact, my parents are pathetically self-centered regardless of the fact they have two children. They try, but it’s not in their nature to not be narcissistic. Having children doesn’t automatically make you a self-sacrificing person in the extreme.

          • SamEw

            Sure, children aren’t the only way to avoid being self focused.

          • hellokitty0580

            I mean, you’re generalizing and it’s just wrong. Just because you choose not to have children doesn’t diminish one’s empathy. I know lots of people who haven’t had children and don’t want to have children and they’re very empathetic and feeling toward other people and want to contribute to the world. And ya, maybe people who don’t want to have children are more self-focused (and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that), but that doesn’t make them self-centered. And just because you bring children into this world may not take away from the reality that it would have been better for you to be who you are and be more self-focused.

          • SamEw

            The point isn’t that there aren’t self focused people who have children but that I think on balance children make people less self focused. If you noticed in the original post I didn’t say ‘having kids’. I’m single my two nephews though do more than anything else in the world to pull me out of my own head-space and force me to live in the moment. Realistically, one of biggest challenges I face and other single adults face is avoiding living a life that is mostly about individual needs and wants.

        • J__o__h__n

          As long as you aren’t selfish, how is being self focused less desirable?

          • SamEw

            Well, I guess I can’t speak for everyone but I know personally I’m worried and bothered about things that ultimately aren’t very important. When I’m around my nephews though I’m challenged to move mentally out of my own thoughts and to be present in a way I am often not. I also think it makes me more empathetic and caring when I focus on other people.

            Having children isn’t the only way to avoid being self focused. For the record, I’m single but I honestly think for myself and other single adults it is more challenging to not live in a manner that is focused individual wants and needs.

    • OrangeGina

      voted you down b/c I have many childless single and married friends of both sexes that would disprove your point.

      • SamEw

        I’m single and don’t have kids but I do honestly think that if people are married and reasonably and responsibly can they should have kids and that could include adopting.

    • J__o__h__n

      It doesn’t make them more altruistic. The focus shifts from self centered to their child centered. Flawed people without children just become flawed people with children.

      • SamEw

        You’re right having children doesn’t make a person a better human but it does make them less self focused and I think that is a good thing.

        • J__o__h__n

          I think their child just becomes an extension of their self and doesn’t net any improvement.

          • SamEw

            The point isn’t that there aren’t self focused people who have children but that I think on balance children make people less self focused. If you disagree I don’t know what else to say other than that we view it differently.

    • NellaLou

      Mother Teresa, Florence Nightingale, Virginia Woolf, Sally Ride, Sonia Sotomayor, Helen Clark (former prime minister of New Zealand), Angela Merkel (chancellor of Germany), Beethoven, former US president James Buchanan, poet William Blake and tens of thousands of others never had kids and have instead dedicated their lives to public service, art, science, exploration and the good of humanity. I wouldn’t exactly call that self centered.

      • SamEw

        Congratulations you thoroughly refuted an argument I didn’t make you must be proud of yourself.

  • thequietkid10

    Also I should note the CBS number does not take into consideration lost wages, from being a stay at home parent.

    Lets say two spouses make 40,000 a year. They have a kid, one spouse is a full time stay at home parent for 10 years, then part time employee for the next twenty. Assuming the parents never got a raise, raising that’s a loss $1,000,000 in lost wages alone.

  • OrangeGina

    Many US politicians like to boast about how much they or the US is family oriented and all that sort of blather.

    I found that society made it very hard to be a parent if you are also a dual earner household. I mean the type of dual earner household where both work out of necessity. Day care is way too expensive, and often of poor quality and limited quantity. Schools have very unfriendly hours for parents, not to mention the annual scramble to cover the summer months. Then if you can get through all of that, you are hit with the high cost of college. And that’s for a child or children who are growing up normally with no medical or other conditions!

    I believe that in these days with all the economic and political uncertainty, women and men are making the calculation that raising the a so-called “nuclear family” is not for them.

  • Coastghost

    “Those children I never wanted to have–if only they knew what happiness they owe me!” –E. M. Cioran (R. Howard tr.)

  • Wahoo_wa

    Having children in our current culture is not environmentally friendly or sustainable. The downward trend in birth rate is a good thing.

  • Markus6

    There are all kinds of studies on all kinds of things. It’d be interesting if the panelists knew some of those that show the measurable differences between people with kids and those without.

    Is one group happier, more narcissistic, more optimistic, live longer, use drugs more, divorce more, etc.

    Note, a lot of these kinds of studies come with the researcher’s biases and lots of them tend to sample from very specific groups, like college students or people with the time to participate. But it would be interesting and better than the mushy thoughts I usually hear on this topic.

  • Laura Scott

    How many posting here are men? I will a guest on the show today speaking from the perspective of researcher, author, reproductive decision making coach. Specifically, why and how are men making choices and taking control of their reproductive lives?

    • Emily4HL

      I desperately want children in the next 10 years or so. But I will only go down that path if my finance desperately wants kids too. We will adopt due to my genetic disorder. If you get a dog, everyone in the family needs to be on board. The mentality that women usually drive the decision to have children and men go along, suddenly loving their children once they arrive in the world, is alarming to me. I worry that he won’t be on board, but I don’t want a family where one partner is just following the other, especially in such a life changing choice.

      • viacarrozza

        Everybody gets on board with that adopted baby! My father was so alarmed at my decision to adopt and the adopted baby (now 16) became his favorite grandchild from the moment he laid eyes on her. The adoption agency told me that this would happen and I didn’t believe them!

        • Emily4HL

          The issue I has is the “laid eyes on.” What about the decision to pursue adoption in the first place?

          • viacarrozza

            I had a strong instinct to pursue adoption. I did air my concerns with the agency over the negative attitudes posed by my extended family. (My husband was curious about it but certainly not as bonkers about having a baby as I was! ) The agency told me that it is very common for extended families to have all kinds of opinions (mostly negative) about adoption. I came to a realization (rather late in life) that people are going to have opinions and conclusions drawn about practically everything you do no matter what it is! I’ve decided to just do everything I’ve ever really wanted to do and my life has been richer and full of marvelous experiences ever since.

      • Laurie Anne

        Your “finance”? Is that Freudian slip?

        • Emily4HL

          Whoops–Maybe!

          • Laurie Anne

            Too funny! Good luck to you!

      • Laura Scott

        Yes I hear you Emily! Both should be fully on board, otherwise it feels like single parenthood and priorities differ to such a degree that it’s becomes a huge challenge to navigate.

        • Emily4HL

          Amusingly, though he usually listens to both hours of On Point, he skipped this one! Right now, he doesn’t have the urge, so for him, it’s all about our lack of financial readiness, which I agree with.

          • Laura Scott

            A good question to ask is “What will need to be in place before you feel comfortable adopting?”

    • Emily4HL

      I also find the relative simplicity of a young man getting a vasectomy, compared with a young woman getting her tubes tied, alarming. Doctors still assume women will eventually want children and generally will not let women make the same, permanent, reproductive choices as men.

    • Swashbucklr

      In my early twenties, I kinda maybe sorta wanted kids, but after a stint in the Peace Corps, and returning to see more of my cohort having had children. I realized that I greatly perferred being childfree.
      Interesting, I’ve only dated two women who have either wanted kids or gone on to have them. I’ve had relationships with many more women who don’t want children. I’ve apparently been self-selecting for childfree for a long time.

  • Samuel Walworth

    As an Immigrant, I find it increasingly difficult for USA to be family friendly.

    1. There is a strong necessity that both partners need to work, otherwise the economically the life is unsustainable.

    2. Once a couple becomes parent, the social fabric that is available in most of the other countries, totally not available or minimal here (No Maternity Leave, Lack or Unavailability of Child Day cares in reasonable rates (we have one which charges around 800 USD per week)

    3. School system is geared towards Tax Income of the cities / towns, which makes education uneven across a state or the nation, hence favors the pockets of “good school” “bad school” districts. In Europe or Australia its almost standard curriculum and exams across the states or country, making the “good school” “bad school” less of an impact.

    • John Cedar

      You could always go back to whence you came.
      Our ancestors all left Europe because Europe sucks.

  • Emily4HL

    Child-free does not mean child-less. Choosing not to have children of your own does not preclude choosing to positively influence children’s lives, through volunteering, teaching, or simply supporting children in your community. You can be part of the village without being a parent.

    • hellokitty0580

      And it absolutely takes a village to raise a child.

    • Laurie Anne

      Exactly, I made a comment about this with examples of people I know.

  • MsAbila

    Having a family in the US has become increasingly difficult. In this market economy children are ‘consumers’ along with their parents to fulfill unnecessary needs to buy them temporary happiness. In this time and age, the true necessities for raising children in this society have gone missing – i.e. childcare, decent wages to care for a family, good and affordable education (K-12 and beyond), etc.
    The emphasis on cost of raising a family has become the important factor (not without reason) and unfortunately we all bought into this ideology instead of building a better social network and demanding economic support from society.
    p.s. And, please guys, don’t fret about how much you are already supporting other people’s children with your taxes… because other people’s children are most likely the taxpayers of the future to support you…

    • David_from_Lowell

      It’s true what you say about reduced societal support for families. Thank goodness for this working poor man’s safety net: extended family! My parents and my wife’s parents swap off babysitting during the week so that we can both work.

  • AC

    this is really hard for me to hear, i cant have children and i really want one…
    ? what? i have a masters?

    • Emily4HL

      I can’t, or rather, won’t have biological children because of a genetic disorder. It is also very hard for me.

    • viacarrozza

      I adopted a gorgeous baby and now she’s a gorgeous 16 year old ! I also have a child by birth (who is 27). Both experiences have been remarkable in that they have been more alike than different. I think people are afraid to give up control through adoption BUT you never know who you’re going to give birth to either ! You have to really WANT to have children or you should not do it…it’s an extraordinary endeavor.

      • AC

        the price has skyrocketed since the 2000s. i’m in line waiting on a healthy baby/toddler, but it’s a long wait

  • ToyYoda

    Tom, please comment if one of the reasons why women are opting not to have kids is due to the education of men. In the early 90′s Scientific American had a demographic article discussing the trend in education. And they had predicted that more women will be better educated than men their own age. Since women often marry men that are better educated than them, the demographers wondered what the social implication would be. Perhaps going childless is one of these consequences?

  • ToyYoda

    I’m a guy, and I have no desire to have kids. There’s a number of reasons. There’s no biological urge, they are too expensive, they are too much of a hassle, and I’m just not mature enough despite my advance age.

  • Coastghost

    “The culture MANDATES childbearing.” Hunh? What?
    I hear hyperbolic analysis at work . . . .

    • Tracy Estabrook Boal

      That was the gist of my comment, too. The plural of anecdote is not data, of course, but I’ve NEVER EVER perceived anything like this cultural pressure.

  • Call_Me_Missouri

    I’m hearing this and I am reminded of a comedy sketch done where the thrust of the sketch was that stupid people are breeding more stupid people and smart people aren’t having kids so society is becoming increasingly more stupid. It quickly devolves to ridiculousness. It was so bad!

    • tncanoeguy

      Not sure about intelligence, but it does seem that couples of more means have fewer kids than poorer couples. (Not sure if data backs this up.) Bill Gates could afford an army of kids, but he has what, two? (clearly anecdotal)

    • mso9999

      You might be thinking of the opening sequence of the movie “Idiocracy”. A totally silly movie based on a frighteningly realistic proposition.

  • Coastghost

    “Parenting: the begetting of children so that they can be raised by someone else.”

  • Indigo Spider

    I decided when I was around 14 years old I never wanted to have children. I was told that would change when my “biological clock started ticking”. I’m now 45 & never regretted my choice so I guess my biological clock is broken! Among the myriad of reasons, depression was a major problem for me, and in my family, so I did not want to pass that along to my child. I do have a master’s but did not go to college until my mid-30s. I hope the panel discusses the stigma attached to women who chose not to have children, as though we are monsters or completely selfish, when the reality is quite the opposite.

  • Fran

    My husband and I have been married almost 42 years. We made the choice to not have children for an abundance of reasons, but the most important was that I did not want them. I often say I don’t have the ‘child gene’. I do not think a pregnant woman is attractive, I do not like the concept of a parasite growing inside of me, I do not want the burden of carrying for them for years. Occasionally, I borrowed my nieces or nephews and that only re-confirmed that children are for others. Finally, being childress has allowed my husband and I to do things we would never have been able to if we had the responsibility of childcare. Ironically, my husband and I are now and have been ‘parents’ to our parents. Because we don’t have children, we are the logical choice for caring for them.

  • adks12020

    I’m 31 and my girlfriend of 4 years is 27. I don’t know if we will ever had kids or not. We talk about it sometimes but we are also extremely busy (I just finished grad school while working full time and work a lot; she is still in grad school and working full time) and don’t make a lot of money. I always pictured myself having kids but the older I get the more ambivalent I am about it. I think anyone having kids should really want to have them. Otherwise it isn’t fair to the kids or parents. Maybe in a few years or maybe I will always be content to have my dogs be my kids. Only time will tell.

  • Coastghost

    Less than one segment in, and THIS show shows the compelling need for “On Point” to host a series of programs on cosmopolitan provincialism: this show’s portraying the entire Vaunted Northeast Corridor as living in an academic and professional bubble, remote from America, remote from life.

  • GarretWoodward

    I’m 28 going on 29 years old. When I was 18 in my tiny
    hometown, I was all about the whole John Mellencamp “Jack and Diane” situation. Sitting at the Tasty Freeze with my high school sweetheart, and by 28 bringing “my kids” there, too. Now, I’m 28, no kids in sight, no kids on the horizon. I ventured out into the world and haven’t looked back. If having kids happens, it
    happens. Otherwise, I’m not putting any value in it anymore and wasting my life worrying about saving face and joining the masses.

  • ToyYoda

    If going childless is a problem, it’s nothing that technology can’t solve. With advances in robotics, you may soon be able to buy child models at BestBuy. You get the best of both worlds: an adorable robot which all your friends will envy, but none of the hassle like changing diapers!

    • J__o__h__n

      I don’t want a child but I would love a robot.

    • Becky R

      or get a pet my dogs are like my children and better behaved than my niece and nephew also if you want a kid that bad and your to old adopt there are lots of kids that need homes.

  • Really???

    I first got married at age 39 and I did not have children until my 40′s. Today I am 51 with a 3 and a 5 year old. Given my age I would not have had children but my wife is 12 years my junior. Given that women on average live 7 years longer than men, I anticipate that my wife will spend 20 years without me. That is the most compelling reason for me to have kids. Once we had kids I fell deeply in love with them. 5 years later I am still amazed by the depth of my love. The benefits of waiting this long: maturity & a financial position that is vastly different from that of a 20-something. Disadvantage: I wish I had more years ahead of me to spend my kids. Like Chelsea Handler, my choice was to be child-free. I did an about-face immediately after birth.

  • AMS

    I am child-free by circumstance. I have found over the years my sisters, who both have children, seem to treat me as one of their children. Newsflash, just because I am an adult who doesn’t have a child doesn’t mean I am one!!!

  • David_from_Lowell

    My wife and I had 2 kids, and we started when we were 27. We are in love, and love our children, and though there have been a LOT of sleepless nights and difficulty, we can’t imagine not having children. Probably in a similar way that people who don’t want children can’t imagine having them. To each their own; variety turns the world. Every choice, especially the major life altering ones, has pros and cons. I don’t understand what the furor over this issue is all about.

  • nontoxicissexy

    I’m 8 months pregnant w/ my first child – very excited!- and I’m already prepping family members for the chance that we might only have one. People seem to think this is a terrible thing to do to a kid, which my husband and I find silly and unfortunate. Having one kid will allow us to bring our kid into our lives, not live our lives around our kids… More freedom, more financial cushion, and more focus on that one kid. So we’ll see. One at a time, anyway! -mia

    • Kathy

      Very happy only child married to an only child with an only child.

  • Paul Nurnberg

    Married successfully for 31 years without kids. Neither my wife or I ever wanted children. I wish I could say it was for the environment, but I don’t particularly like children and we love the child free life style. I knew from before I even realized that I had a choice that I did not want children.

    • skelly74

      Get off my lawn you little ruffian… stay away from old grumpy Numberg…hr smells of mothballs.

  • http://www.joycemichaud.net Joyce Michaud

    I’m a 27 year old married woman who chooses not to have children. I’m not ruling it out down the road but I haven’t heard that proverbial clock ticking yet and I’m not sure I ever will.

    What bothers me is the constant pressure from the world outside my marriage. Everyone assumes because my husband and I finally married after ten years of dating that we are automatically having kids. I almost have to feel guilty saying, “No, we aren’t planning on having children.” It’s extremely frustrating to have to feel like I have to validate it or give reasons why. How about, “It’s my life, my body, and my choice. I don’t owe it to anyone and there is nothing wrong with the choice.” It doesn’t make me selfish despite how people make me feel. In fact, I feel it makes me more selfLESS. I don’t feel bringing a child into this world would be fair given our lifestyle, personalities and financial situation.

    Would everyone just quit asking when the kids are coming already?! Sheesh.

    • StarGeezer

      Its quite remarkable the negativity surrounding a child free choice. When asked why we didn’t have children we now usually just reply – it’s a bit personal – and leave it at that. Most folks will go away feeling sorry for you but that’s OK by me and its a more polite way of saying mind your own business.

  • Laurie Anne

    Many of my child free friends spend most of their time with children through their work (for example are dance teachers, etc). They tell me that their students ARE their children. They have a great positive impact on those children as well.
    We also have one child free couple in our neighborhood, and they are always the ones to host child oriented get-togethers for all of the families, and do the most elaborate Halloween displays just for the kids. They did recently buy a big boat, though, that they were thinking of naming “No Tuition”!

  • tncanoeguy

    Without immigration we would eventually end up like Japan with a shrinking population and fewer working folks to maintain the welfare state.

  • Jim

    Child free is a choice. but it is the easiest way out. I am not against it. I have two children working around the clock. however, that is nothing wrong as well. That is my choice.

    but again.. not having children is the easiest way out of life and it may be a choice that must be agreed upon by both partners.

    I use to think children are obnoxious, dirty, and bad manner, but when i have my first son… i feel so bless. that is why i change my view on abortion which i do not care in the past..

    • tncanoeguy

      I’m on the fence as well regarding abortion, but once you have kids you have to commit to them.

  • Luke

    Can someone please talk a bit about how this affects gay and lesbian couples? What are the trends in what these couples are deciding?

    • Kathy

      Virtually all children of GLBT people are wanted. If you ever go to something like family week, you see exactly what a difference that makes. It’s the best behaved group of kids you’ll ever see in your life.

  • gqlewis

    I don’t have children but I would love to have some (or at least one) someday. I really can’t believe some of the selfish comments I’ve read regarding this topic. I’m very glad to have not dated some of the selfish women here. It isn’t just about economics people. I’m very glad your offspring will not be populating the future earth.

    • adks12020

      Are you saying you think it’s selfish to not want kids? I really don’t think that’s the case with a lot of people. Some people just aren’t good with kids or want to do other things with their life that don’t involve children (focus on career, travel, etc.). I’m not trying to be combative, just curious.

      • gqlewis

        I believe in a good balance of life also. I love to travel, have a great career, etc. But I also think that there is perhaps no other experience on earth like parenthood. I am more than willing to make any necessary sacrifices for the people I love. Be it time, money, energy, etc. I am not so tied to having material possessions that I won’t be able to share. I understand if biologically people are unable to have children. That’s a completely different issue.

        • Tracy Estabrook Boal

          Of course there’s no experience on earth like parenthood LOL. That’s a tautology, not a justification of why child-rearing is superior. There’s also no experience on earth like lots of other experiences. That’s the nature of experiences. If you’ve always wanted the experience of parenthood, great. Other people have always wanted other experiences. It’s just a personal preference, not a moral choice.

          • gqlewis

            In the immortal words of Lauryn Hill “let me break it down for you again”. When I said parenthood is a unique experience, I mean that the child you bear and or raise has a unique personality, will face unique challenges, and will have a unique path through life than anyone that has ever come before or after them. How a parent helps that child navigate from birth to adolescence therefore is also a unique experience. It isn’t an experience like riding a roller coaster at an amusement park, there are a trillion variations.

          • Tracy Estabrook Boal

            No argument from me. It still doesn’t make child-bearing a superior moral life choice.

    • Tracy Estabrook Boal

      The problem with that attitude is that it’s selfish to have kids as well. It’s selfish to do either, depending on the circumstances. Every kid born in the first world uses disproportionate resources, which contributes to the suffering of others; whereas, relatively few individuals contribute to real advances in the welfare of humankind. Most people have kids because they personally want to experience parenthood (a selfish decision). Or their religious beliefs instruct them to (which isn’t really a decision at all, it’s giving up your decision to a higher power). Or they want someone to ‘look after them in old age’ (also selfish, or at least self-interested). Or they want to leave genetic descendants or carry on the family name (how is it that everyone seems convinced that their genes or family name is so special or vital that they should be perpetuated?).
      I see nothing wrong with having a reasonable number of kids, but don’t kid yourself that most people are doing it as a ‘selfless’ act.

      • methos1999

        True, true. People may be selfish in planning to have kids, but once they arrive a good parent will abruptly end their selfish ways.

    • Becky R

      It’s not selfish to know you can’t offer a child the best and therefore chose not to bring a child into a situation of hardship it’s actually very giving.

      • gqlewis

        The best usually comes from the heart. It isn’t always about the material things you can offer a child. Granted, if you cannot provide the basic necessities, one should not have children. I agree there. But if you say you can’t afford to send your child to Oxford/Harvard is not a valid argument in my opinion.

    • ToyYoda

      You are so right about that. Nuns like Mother Teresa are some of the most selfish people to walk the planet.

      • gqlewis

        Very nice. Barring vows to chastity and oaths to God, which is probably less than 1% of the planet. Many of the “Childless by Choice” advocates usually invoke reasons such as they won’t be able to hang out with their friends as much, or buy that extra vacation home in Maui. That’s what I meant by selfish. Not sacrificing your own desires to the betterment of all humanity.

    • Paducah72

      If my fear of ending up a single mother is greater than my desire to have children, does that make me selfish?

      • gqlewis

        I don’t think you should fear being a single mother at all, regardless of what the divorce rates are. There are actually guys out there that value relationships and family. In fact, they cherish them. But, it is up to both of you to find each other. Many people seem to put off the search for meaningful relationships until later in life. That typically says a lot about what their priorities are. If you expect him to just land on your doorstep or fall out of the sky, that may never happen. You can generally tell fairly early in a relationship the things that a guy values. If a devoted relationship and children are not among them, move on quickly. There are those of us who do. It is up to you to define what you want and need in a relationship, and you don’t even need to do so in a demanding way. Guys respect boundaries. We like definition. It’s written in our DNA.

        • Paducah72

          Thanks for the relationship advice, but your idealism doesn’t change the fact that over 90% of welfare recipients are single mothers. Wages have stagnated since the 1970s, upward mobility has diminished, and poor/middle class women have to make sure they’re not having kids too soon – not out of selfishness but for self preservation.

  • mapruter

    I’m a 30 year old lesbian woman who is child free. I often tell my friends an myself that this is because I can’t afford a child. Because I don’t want the responsibility. Because I enjoy my lifestyle. Because I’m single. Because raising children with another woman would be so hard. But in truth, I’d like a child. I think I’d make a great mom. But if it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen. And I’ll be happy regardless.

  • mso9999

    Having fewer children could be a good thing for humanity, 7 billion is plenty. BUT, if only high achieving people are opting to be childless, and knowing that some of their high-achieving characteristics are heritable, there is a brutal logic for what that means for humanity’s future. What about a population genetics argument for a moral responsibility for ‘responsible’ reproduction?

  • tncanoeguy

    I have a hard time understanding men who have kids but don’t want to be a part of their lives.

  • Kit

    I actually admire people who have taken the time to make a thoughtful choice about whether or not to have children. There is not a more difficult job to do well. Narcissists need not apply.

    • Kristine Kelly

      Your implication is that people who consciously choose not to have children are narcissistic. I GREATLY resent your implication.

  • Elizabeth_in_RI

    An important part of the women’s movement was to provide women (and families) with choices – so the trend toward childlessness is natural – and understandable given all of the problems facing the world. But it also reflects the lack of value our society places on motherhood in particular. We have lots of sentiments about “mom”, but our policies don’t adequately support women and children. Think about the current political arguments we are having. Discussions about not wanting to provide funding for schools, family-leave, working wage so parents don’t have to work 2 and 3 jobs etc. all inundate women with the message that we really don’t value children as much as all the lip service.

    I had a child older in life, would like to have had another, but the timing (i.e. biological clock) didn’t work out. I am part of that graduate school generation that made the choice to have children later – and it has consequences. And until society begins to truly value future generations (think social and environmental policies) this trend is likely to continue.

  • tncanoeguy

    My childless brother-in-law and his wife have been a great uncle and aunt. They love their nieces and nephews. (They do travel a lot more than us.)

  • Kate N.

    I am 50 and never really had the desire to have children. My husband and I spoil our dog rotten, see our nieces and nephews when we want and generally feel we get to have it all by not having kids. I have never felt judged for my choice – just lucky I guess!

  • Jim Schley

    Parenting has been the single best experience of my life, yet we chose to have one child. This has given us much more flexibility in our job and living choices (my wife and I both work in the arts, and we live off-the-grid in a home we built ourselves), and having one child has helped us weather difficulties (I’ve been laid off twice in the past decade). On every level, one child costs less — food, clothes, and now college expenses. I’m sure our daughter wishes sometimes that she’d had siblings, yet we all appreciate the lower-impact “ecology” of our smaller family. This is not a simple matter, even so, and I’m grateful for the thought-provoking discussion.

  • Francoise

    I think much of the decision is influenced by our actually family support system, and what that brings emotionally, logistically, financially. I’ve always been very much on the fence about having children and now in my 30s, I see how much friends rely on their parents emotionally, financially and logistically (free daycare makes life a little easier!). Moreover, my friends know that their families are eager to have grandchildren, nieces, etc., which in many ways makes having children a joyous, wanted decision. I lost my parents in my early 20s… I don’t sense that desire from another generation to meet their grandchildren and I wonder it’s possible without the financial, emotional, logistical support that so many people have from their families. As Americans continue having children later in life, or live farther away from their immediate families, the large multi-generational support that once existed isn’t as present…

  • Krista

    I find it interesting that the societal defacto is to have children. Currently married and in my 40′s, I new with certainty in my early 20′s that I did not desire to have children. I feel many individuals do not give enough thoughtful intent on the CHOICE of being or not being a parent. Many non parental individuals can contribute to society in a more focused manner by ‘raising’ ideas and sharing knowledge with others.

    • DataGrrl

      Many people give having a child less thought than getting a pet. You have to actively go out and get a pet. Look how many animals end up in shelters. It is much harder to get rid of a child when they stop being cute or fun. Instead these kids are left to the underfunded schools to raise.

      • methos1999

        Haha funny you should make the comparison to pets. My Dad always used to say having a dog is good preparation for having a kid, or to put another way – if you can’t handle a dog, there’s no way you’ll be able to handle a kid. Whether my wife and I have kids or how many kids we have has yet to be determined, but I’m proud to say we are at least able to handle a puppy (now full grown) & a cat – but seeing our “children” fight definitely gives me pause about having more than one child…

  • Becky R

    I’m 27 and my husband is 25 it seems like every female we know single and paired up are having babies. Many with out as much forethought as I would like. I know so many girls younger than us that seem to get unintentionally pregnant I get so frustrated and even annoyed with what seems like responsible behavior . We are choosing to wait until it makes financial sense for us not further impoverishing ourselves. If you don’t have a job and can’t pay your rent then you certainly should not be have babies as well! regardless we are considered the “childless” ones and outsiders for chosing to be responsible with our lives.

  • Stef

    I am a 28 year old female who does not want children. And always get judgmental comments and looks when I tell people that. Also, I feel pressure from my mother who’s friends have grandchildren.

  • Amanda

    I never wanted children. I’ve never been around kids much in my family, and I didn’t necessarily like them much when I was a kid. In my early 20′s, I found myself wanting one, and I didn’t know or understand why. I just felt like I might actually want one. But now that I’ve crossed into my 30′s, I’ve settled back on the side of not wanting a child – my trajectory in life isn’t open to the possibility, and I’m okay with that. I’m far too selfish of a person to be a parent. And while every parent I know says that changes, I don’t want to risk being the exception to that rule, having a child, and then not being the parent it deserves. I want to positively contribute to the world by the means I know how and I’m content with being an awesome “Aunt” to all my friends’ children!

    • tbphkm33

      I agree with you. I am the favorite uncle to nieces, nephews and friends kids, a great role. Plus, you don’t have to have your own kids to be positive influences on kids. Especially teenagers are more likely to listen to advice from their parents adult friends than their parents themselves.

  • Jennifer Woods

    Believe it or not, I decided at the age of 5 that I never wanted children. I’m 65 and have never regretted that decision. Children aren’t for everyone.

    • Annie

      I’m with you, Jennifer. In fact, didn’t I see you hiding in the women’s room with me when they were handing out the “maternal gene”???? : )

  • Bigtruck

    We were not rich growing up but back then a father could go to work and support a family. Now I have 2 kids and my wife and I have to work full time or more just to stay in our house and keep the kids in a good school. It is sad

  • Kathy

    The number of people who can’t seem to conceive of life without children is horrifying. You wanted a child? Great. So did we. That’s what we have one. We also believed in doing it when we had the financial and emotional means to be parents and that was a very very wise choice. It doesn’t make us better people or “real adults” or anything else.

    Lay off the judgmental nonsense about people who don’t want kids or who want to wait until they feel ready. The last thing we need to do is to guilt people who don’t want kids into having them. That’s a recipe for bad parenting, unhappy children, and maladjusted adults.

    • Tracy Estabrook Boal

      I know, right? The ongoing obsession with this is WEIRD.

      • methos1999

        I think NPR gets stuck on some topics and just passes them around from program to program, because likewise they seem to be obsessed lately with kids lack of interest in cars. Oddly enough, there doesn’t seem to be a shortage of people having kids and buying cars around me…

    • John Cedar

      Waiting until you had the financial and emotional means to be parents DOES make you better and a “real adult”.

      If a significant number that “didn’t want kids”, was REALLY a recipe for pad parenting, unhappy children and maladjusted adults, …then we would have a lot more of the aforementioned then we do. Many a great child could aptly be named “Accident” by their great parents.

      The last thing we need…is to provide incentives for the ugliest, dumbest, least capable and least responsible to procreate. But…that’s what we do.

  • bs6440

    My wife and I don’t have kids. If we have one – great. If we don’t that is fine. My wife and I looked into IVF if we choose to wait. However, $40K a pop with no guarantees on pregnancy and lack of coverage under our medical insurance is not a good investment. I fail to see the argument point that it is our job for the good of the country to have kids. THe country can’t reasonably educate or care for many children in country right how – how will more children in the system help with that? We are both professionals with good incomes but want to be sure could could provide what we would like for a chold. Also, I fail to see how childless couples are selfish. If you are having kids because you always wanted kids is that not selfish?

  • Vicki A

    I hate to bring this up, but I fear no one else will. It seems like intelligent and highly educated couples are making this child-free choice. What impact will this have on our civilization?

    • viacarrozza

      I just can’t buy into this one. Highly educated people are not necessarily the most intelligent. They often have the most opportunity for education. Ask geneticists about this…it doesn’t work that way. Brainiacs can be subject to genetic problems like autism and Aspergers. “Common folk” can have very high multiple intelligence as well as high IQ’s. People who WANT to have families are going to make better parents regardless of their educational status.

      • methos1999

        I think you’re missing the point. What I took away is not “smart, but can’t afford college” or “braniacs on the spectrum”, but rather thoughtful & informed people versus those who are frequently on Jerry Springer… get the idea?

    • tbphkm33

      Statistics do show that educated and well off people tend to have fewer kids. In part because they engage in more social activities, either through interests tied to education or through being able to afford to do things. Unfortunately, the poor and uneducated tend to have more sex simply because its a cheap form of entertainment. By extension, this socio grouping tends to end up with not only more kids, but more likely to have unplanned pregnancies.

      • John Cedar

        If you subscribe to gauging intelligence as a single number and that number is determined with a written test, then there is a very strong correlation between “highly educated” and intelligence. But keep in mind that much of the education people attain is in the form of such things as thousands of hours of training for nuclear power plant operator, which does not get recorded as “highly educated” in the stat books.

        At any rate…there is a chicken and egg thing. Ugly people have less sex and so they tend to occupy themselves as bookworms and students. American campuses are a dysgenics utopia.

        • tbphkm33

          My friends and I were just discussing this last week. We concluded that probably “ugly” people have more sex than “attractive” people. It is often the very attractive that sit at home on a Saturday night as other’s are too scared to ask them out. Less attractive people in some way are less risky to ask out. In any case, I’m sure someone has done a study on this, probably could be pulled up.

    • Laura Scott

      There is a strong correlation between advanced degrees and childlessness in Women. It’s about competing opportunities and postponement. Also educated people are also trained in critical thinking and they are more likely and able to challenge someone who asserts “You have to be a mother to be happy and fulfilled.”

  • emdonpoint

    While I completely accept anyone’s choice to be childless what worries
    me is when those without children do not support schools and other
    family support systems. Remember, The health and education of our
    children will effect the future of all of us with or without children.
    Plus they be supporting all of us (Social Security) as we get older.

    • DataGrrl

      There are plenty of people making up for my one child decision. Just left the store and a family with five children walked in.
      My concern is that these large families often have a different ideology than I do. Knowing that mentality is being passed to these children is my biggest concern. I can only hope that some of these kids are accidentally exposed to science, so they realize there is another way.

      • notafeminista

        Did you really say you are concerned by someone who has a different ideology than yours? Two thoughts come to mind..the first from my mother “Wouldn’t the world be a boring place if we were all the same?” And secondly – what on earth happened to the notion of diversity? Isn’t the idea of inclusiveness is that we embrace cultures and ideas different from our own in the hopes of learning from them?
        On the other hand, I suppose its entirely possible that the five child family hopes as fervently for your child as you do for theirs, that he or she is accidentally exposed to an ideology other than your own as well.

  • JG

    We are child-free by circumstance, and it just didn’t work out for us. The thing that bothers me is when people who have kids are referred to as people ‘with a family’, as if my spouse and I are less than a ‘family’. Families are not just a Dad, Mom, and one or more kids. There are all different kinds of families.

    I am a nurse and a teacher, and my husband is a teacher. We work to affect the lives of children and other people for the better every day. Having your own kids is definitely not the only way to make the world a better place.

    • John Cedar

      I have very fond feelings for a handful of former teachers and 5 out of 6 of them never sired or birthed any children.
      You do not go unappreciated.

    • Laura Scott

      I ditto John Cedar. A lot of my favorite teachers were childless by choice or by circumstance!

  • tncanoeguy

    Regarding money, it definitely helps to be in the middle/upper class. Can’t imagine trying to raise kids on minimum wage.

  • ToyYoda

    I work in corporate America. And when I go out with my colleagues for lunch friday’s, I ask them, “What are you doing this weekend?” And the reply is almost always the same “Whatever my wife tells me.”

    From my stats, my male colleagues who are married and have kids are miserable. The only highlight of their day is the commute to and from work.

    Why would any single guy want to choose such a lifestyle? Better to stay single and childless.

    • tncanoeguy

      For guys that have have kids and love spending time with their kids, the problem is when the kids leave home. All of a sudden you find yourself with time and the friendships with other guys might not be there. It’s hard to maintain those friendships when you’re married with kids.

  • Barbara Moore

    This is so much more complicated. Growing up I did not want kids. It was a time – 50′s – when parenthood was expected. I had three children and had a struggle being a mother, don’t think I was a very good one – but now I have three wonderful adult children who mean everything to me. My life would be so much poorer without them. And four wonderful grandchildren as well. People need to think very carefully about their choices.

    • OrangeGina

      Glad it worked out for you. Not only did “your time” come with the expectation of parenthood, it was also a time when girls and women didn’t have much else to look forward to: Teacher, nurse, librarian, housemaker or “old maid”.

  • Joy

    I am a teacher, and I see some parents who have kids out of social pressure. They don’t think about the ramifications of having children, and the children suffer. I am grateful that people are admitting that they don’t want children and acting as such.

    Personally, my husband and I have chosen to be childless at this point, although we have gone through the class and paperwork for Foster Care/Adoption. My husband and I are 45 and 46, respectively, and we are “sitting with” this issue for a bit, to be sure we want to go there. (We were married two years ago.) There is a lot to contemplate.

    In addition, some of the younger teachers in my school say the following, “Teaching is one of the best forms of birth control.”

    • DataGrrl

      Sadly I agree with you. I taught in a few low income school districts or if college, and I saw tons of kids who needed help, but their family members could barely read and write. I decided not to go back and pursue a teaching degree because I learned I really don’t like people, adults more so than children. I was not on board with my husband’s one child decision until then. I am stretched far enough with one. I get comments that we are such good parents, it is a pity we only have one. We are good parents because we have one.

    • Laura Scott

      Joy, I have to laugh because I hear that quote too in my interviewing and coaching. You get to express your values of caring for and supporting kids in your career. As a coach and mentor I get to do that too. If I was working as a welder I wouldn’t have that experience and I might like the idea of coming home to a houseful of kids. As it is I like my quiet times in the evening because I am a natural introvert, so we all have to take our personality into consideration too.

  • Queen Cupcake

    I am a 60 year old woman who is child-free. I have never regretted my decision (with my husband) not to have children. Part of this decision was financial–at first. We enjoy our lives and feel very fulfilled with work, friends, hobbies, and cultural interests. There are lots of people who want kids and are well-suited to having them, and that is great! But not everyone is going to be or want to be a parent. I have never understood the “is it selfish?” question. Selfish, toward whom!??? (And by the way, do we ask that question of men who do not have children?)

    And by the way, can we PLEASE dispense with the “having it all” cliche? It is very misleading. No one has it all, not when you examine lives in closeup detail.

    To your caller who said anyone can be a parent: No, not really. There are plenty of people who abuse and neglect, even kill their own children. Those people should not have kids. Nor should anyone who isn’t really committed to having them and providing for their well-being.

    • OrangeGina

      Agree that “having it all” is a marketing concept created to sell products and manufacture guilt!

  • Tammy Motsinger

    I have never liked children. My husband and I got a lot of pressure for grandkids from his parents- until I told them to go adopt their own grandkid. Why should I do something 24/7 for the next 20 years that I very much do NOT want to do just so they can play with a kid sometimes?! My mom didn’t want children either but birth control wasn’t as reliable then. She is totally behind me and has no desire for grandchildren. She likes her furry grandchildren just fine! People don’t seem to believe me when I tell them I don’t want kids but I explain that I know myself well enough to know that I’d be a terrible mother. I have this horrible desire to cause pain to children who are misbehaving. It’s better that for everyone if I don’t become a mother.

  • Clareita

    Although I am a parent of three, I completely understand why some people don’t want children. However, I wonder how childless individuals will deal with old age and end of life issues. To be clear, I am not suggesting that the reason to have kids is to have someone to look after when you are old. That is a terrible reason to have kids. However, as my family is in the midst of helping take care of my dying 90 year old grandmother, I have found myself wondering what she would do without us. I have friends with no children, and no nieces or nephews as well, and I hope they plan very thoroughly and carefully for the future.

    • tncanoeguy

      Having multiple generations to care for and learn from each other does seem to be the natural course of things.

    • J__o__h__n

      I plan to off myself if I couldn’t take care of myself with more than minimal assistance. I’m also nice to my nephew.

      • tncanoeguy

        I’m glad that you are nice to your nephew, never know when you might need him.

      • Call_Me_Missouri

        My nephew is going to be taking care of at least 5 of us as we get older. Poor boy!

      • tbphkm33

        I concur, much rather take an early exit under my own free will than be a burden on others.

        • Clareita

          Why do you assume that needing help from others will make you a burden? That is what families are for – giving help to others when they need and accepting help when you need it.

          • Tracy Estabrook Boal

            But you are making the assumption that the family relationships are intact and healthy. If that is your experience, that’s great. I’m not sure it’s the norm. And anyway, I’ve seen extreme dysfunction created within my own loving, relatively healthy family by this dilemma. I can’t imagine how bad it would have gotten if the family didn’t start out getting along well. And that doesn’t even take into account people (and I know MANY) who have unhappy family relationships to begin with, or who have cut ties to their family members due to dysfunction, abuse, addiction, etc. Lots of people have very little contact with their family, or none.

    • Tracy Estabrook Boal

      I think this is a real legitimate question, and I’m not looking forward to it myself. On the other hand, I watched the near total breakdown of family bonds as a fairly large family of kids and grandkids struggled to deal with the chaos created by the aging and disability of one parent. Having kids is absolutely no guarantee of safe/happy/stable aging, and the emotional backlash and resentment created within the family can be extreme.
      At least I won’t be responsible for causing THAT and making my (imaginary) kids resentful of me, their choices, or each other. The suffering would be just mine.

    • Fran

      My mother-in-law continually posed that argument. Who will take care of us? I thought and still think it’s a selfish question. At 63 I take care of my 87 year old mom who suffers Alzheimers. I would never wish this on any child but I do care for her with the love she has earned for being a great mom. My husband and I don’t have an answer as to who will take care of us if we need it in our old age, but having brothers and a sister that is not around to help with mom shows that having children is not an insurance policy for future long-term care.

      • Clareita

        It may be a selfish quesiton, but it is a realistic one. I agree that there is no guarantee that one’s children will helpful to aging parents, but at least there is someone to call. When my grandmother fell last week and broke her arm, what would have happened if she was completely on her own?

        • Fran

          Clareita,

          Unfortunately, having children doesn’t mean having someone to call either. That is the true reality. No guarantees, just hopes that we will have someone kind, considerate and compassionate to reach out to. My siblings wanted to put mom in a nursing home. I wouldn’t allow it. I would feel the same way if it were my husband or my best friend. That is my choice just as my siblings made theirs. That’s not a criticism, just life. So, who will care for me? I don’t know but it was never a good argument for having children.

          • Clareita

            How many people are there that would ignore a call from a hospital ER about their ill parent? I hope not many.
            Having children is certainly no guarentee of having someone to help you when you are older, but not having any children (or nieces or nephews) means you will most likely be on your own.

          • DataGrrl

            You can’t know people’s reasons. Some people are selfish. My friend was abused by her father, and she still takes care of him. I wouldn’t be as forgiving. I volunteer for meals on wheels and many of my customers have no family. They get by. We are all going to die someday. I don’t think it makes sense to worry about having someone to take care of you. You don’t know your fate.

    • Call_Me_Missouri

      My Great Aunt had no children and her nieces and nephews took care of her as she aged. So, there are other ways to work these things out than having a brood of your own.

      • Clareita

        The bottom line is that at the end of the day, you need someone to have children to look after you.

    • ml77

      My mother’s much older friend never had children and my mother always felt sorry for her. It wasn’t until her funeral that my mom realized she had lots of loving people in her life. She acted as a surrogate grandmother to some neighbors and surrounded herself with people who loved her. She was well taken care of. Just because someone doesn’t have children, doesn’t mean they are alone with no one who cares about them.

    • Laura Scott

      When I coach childless people we plan for end of life issues. See ml77′s post and you will see that part of the plan is to build a tribe where you take care of each other.

  • Queen Cupcake

    Tracy, I agree with you. I am 60 years old, child-free. I have never been aware of pressure, stigma or the like.

  • JanaHod

    What’s with the constant need to judge or feel judged by Brooklyn moms?

    • DataGrrl

      I don’t think it is just Brooklyn moms. Most people are insecure and want validation that their decision was the right one., the more families you see like yours, the better your choice was. At the end of the day no one person’s decision is the best. We have to do what is best for us. I just wish other people would stop telling me what is best for my family.

  • Andrew

    How did I come to the decision not to have children? Easy. I don’t like children. I have two sisters (I’m the middle child) and they have five children between them, which means my mother is already a grandmother many times over! I love being able to travel, live, and grow without the responsibility of taking care of a child. I applaud people who raise children, but it’s never been appealing to me.

  • spirit17of76

    The only time I ever deeply wanted a child was when I fell in love with a man and very much wanted HIS child specifically. When the relationship was over the feeling passed only to arise again when I fell in love again (which is the only time you really need this feeling anyway.) The desire for a child per se was not a part of my life goals at all. I did want a husband, but that never happened.

    I do remember though that when I was a young teenager and had not yet had my first “period” I was worried about possibly not being able to have children. Out of sadness I decided “Well if I can’t have children I will become a nun.” Even though I am not Catholic!

    Now as an older person my life has been full and satisfying and I am grateful for the freedom I have had. I don’t have a clear concept of what it is l’ve missed of course, which could be substantial.

    Obviously though in old age having children is a valuable thing. I was acutely aware of this in my mother’s last years, with her four children all taking an interest in her welfare.

  • Molly

    I’m 25 and will be a first year law student in September. I’ve been in a relationship for over 8 years and I picture children in our future. I’m certain however that if I didn’t have this fulling relationship and a very supportive partner willing to be responsible for at least half of the child care then I would not have children.

  • Philip

    Why is it so hard to understand that some people simply don’t want to have children? Will there be an On Point program dedicated to asking why some people don’t want to eat pizza?

    If any persons should have to justify their actions, it’s people who have children even though they are not psychologically or financially able to provide for them.

  • SuziVt

    My son had a desire to become a father until he became involved with his current girlfriend. She has made it clear that she has no desire to have children. He has made a commitment to their relationship & agrees to forgo parenthood. You might think I would be upset, while I’m sorry he will miss the greatest joy-having a child, I am glad that they have made the decision, rather than going with the status quo. I’m sure we’ve all seen questionable parenting & the thought has crossed our minds that it’s really too bad that just anyone is capable of giving birth! As far as my son is concerned, we visited him out west a few weeks ago & their lives are full & active. There are many meaningful things to do in life that will make it rich & joyful. Should they change their minds, I hope they make a responsible choice to limit themselves to no more than two, since each & every one of us makes a physical impact on the environment, no matter how delightful & talented you are.

    • Queen Cupcake

      There are other ways to enjoy kids, and if your son develops an interest in volunteering, he could work with Big Brothers big Sisters of America. They are a
      non-profit organization whose mission is to help children reach their
      potential through professionally supported, one-to-one relationships
      with mentors

      • SuziVt

        Thank you, honestly he is not the type to volunteer in those ways, however, it is good advice for many others. I didn’t mean to imply that he was heartbroken about their agreement. If he was truly determined to have children, he would have looked further for a partner. I just think they will find fulfillment in other ways and, hopefully, have no regrets.

    • Laura Scott

      It’s so nice to see parents supporting their kid’s decisions. I just blogged on this on the Childless by Choice Project blog and featured a clip of Barbara Walters defending her daughters choice to remain childfree. She too sees how her daughter’s life is rich and loving and joyful.

      • SuziVt

        Thank you, it is his life. If I thought his life was empty without children then I would have to judge that every childless person’s life was also void of merit. I can only imagine how those who’ve tried, but have not succeeded in having children. Certainly their lives are every bit as meaningful. It’s really who you are yourself that gives depth to your life, not your children.

        • Laura Scott

          So, so true, SuziVt!

  • StarGeezer

    As half of a deliberately child free relationship I find it absurd that parents call us selfish. We pay, through our taxes, for your child’s education, pay for parks, splash pads, swimming pools and playgrounds for your children, pay to have the vandalism and graffiti cleaned up that children have caused and, in the jurisdiction where we live, we even pay for subsidized day-care for your children. We do this without complaint so how do you figure we’re selfish when you and your children use so much of the available resources?

    There are many, sound, objective reasons to be child free. I can only see subjective, emotional reasons for having children, with the possible exception of expecting your children to look after you in your old age. But as earlier posts have noted that’s not guaranteed to be the case. We’ll use what we don’t spend raising & educating a child to take care of our needs in old age.

    In a world that, by any reasonable standard, is overpopulated by human beings and becoming more so, how long can indiscriminate breeding continue? At some point, if nothing changes, the whole thing will come to a screeching halt. Or is an economic and environmental apocalypse what you had in mind for your kids?

    • spirit17of76

      We definitely subsidize other peoples children. My property taxes are a bargain for a family with children. A very good deal indeed. But for me they are way out of proportion to my income. Over 25% of income – added to my income tax and self employment tax which together are quite a bit less. Property taxes have quite a regressive aspect to them.

    • methos1999

      I certainly understand the many benefits of not having children, but to dismiss wanting children as having only subjective & emotional reasons (elderly care excluded), is at least a little naive. Procreation is the fundamental urge that drives evolution, as some species die as soon as they’ve laid eggs/given birth, while others (such as lions) will kill the offspring of another male just so its own genes are the ones to survive. So even if the human motivation comes across as emotional and subjective, it has primal survival instincts at it’s core.

      Again, this is not to disparage those who choose not to have children, because while evolutionary survival has driven most to desire children, it is the tribal, knowledge & reason base that has allowed humans to succeed as a species.

    • http://www.findingourdream.blogspot.com Hal Horvath

      Somehow people continue to miss understanding the reality that *all* retirement, everywhere, always depends on the economy (because stocks and bonds and investments of *every* kind depend on the economy). And the economy always depends on the workforce, especially the well-educated portion of the workforce.
      When you pay for kids to be educated, you are raising the value of all of your investments — the amount you will have in retirement.
      Stocks depend on the workforce productivity. Bonds also. All investments — rent houses, houses for sale, bank interest, any and all depend on workforce productivity over time, and in the future.
      This is very clear and well understood, but it’s also clear this is not widely known.

  • Fran

    You would be surprised at how many ignore the calls. Perhaps a visit to a few local nursing homes and hospitals where parents are just dumped off might be enlightening. At 63 I know too many people who never hear from their kids, or when they do it’s because they need something. THis is not to say that all children are that way. I’m only saying that having children doesn’t guarantee access to a caregiver. Another version of your question is, how many parents really want to be a burden on their children if they become completely disabled, need 24/7 care, loose the ability to communicate or even remember their children? Ask the self-sufficient parent and they will surely say ‘No, they don’t want to be cared for by their children.’ Ask them when they become disabled and most feel guilty. Yes, the majority are appreciative that they have a child to help them (when they have one that is loving and caring), but that was never the parent’s plan or wish when they were younger. We change as circumstances change. All this to say, I still stand by my statement that being taken care of in our old age is not a reason to have children.

    • Clareita

      People don’t get to nursing homes by themselves. I know that many residents of nursing homes don’t have visitors, but someone had to help get them there, which is at least something.
      As for the idea that parents are a burden when they are older and unable to live independently, this is a sad statement of modern life. I depended on my parents and grandparents when I was young, and it is completely natural that I help them when they need it.

      • J__o__h__n

        I don’t think modern life is responsible other than we are keeping people alive long past they would have lived in the past. I want to live as long as possible but not if I’m incapacitated and utterly dependent and shuttling between the nursing home and the hospital constantly.

        • Clareita

          Based on my experience with older relatives, people need help as they get older even if they are never incapcitated. You can be a relatively healthy and vital 85 year old, but still not able to drive yourself to doctors appointments, do all of your own shopping, or pack up your own home if you need to move to some sort of assisted living community. I’ve helped my grandparents with all of these tasks, and I never thought of it as a burden. I was grateful that they lived long enough to need me.

  • Kid-obsessed America

    American kids are so extremely rude that for many people seeing them in public places is the best birth control method.

    http://kidobsessedamerica.com/

    • StarGeezer

      Thanks for the article!

  • thequietkid10

    One complaint about the guest…The birth rates in the United States are higher then the birth rates in Europe, despite the “community support” (read as government daycare and healthcare) that European countries offer.

  • myblusky

    Being child free isn’t a problem to be solved. It just is.

    The world will be fine.

  • fblevens

    Why don’t you and others in the media figure out why the cost of college is escalating? This is NOT a federal issue and I have no idea how the president is going to get 50 legislatures to play in his game. Please educate yourselves and the country about higher education economy, which has nothing to do with exorbitant pending but everything to do with state cuts in higher education, which are dramatic. If you factor OUT the cuts, the cost of higher education does not even match the cost of living index. Please tell the truth on this matter and challenge this phenomenon. You are doing us all a serious disservice and so is this president.

  • Jules

    I am struck by how female-centric this conversation has been. Where are the viewpoints of males and potential fathers in this discussion?

  • notafeminista

    Well you know, back in the day, “less educated people” (specificially women) were sterilized without their consent. That would certainly address your concerns.

  • rich4321

    With 7 billions in population today, why in the world anyone in his/her right mind want to bring another life to this world? So many people bring a child to the world but without the ability to take care of it, the child grow up to be a social burden perhaps even social threat.

  • 228929292AABBB

    The problem is not how many people are having children and how many are not, it’s which people are having children and which people are not. On any scale which predicts a successful and happy life based on the demographics of the parents, we’re on the highway to hell.

  • John Cedar

    What does Suck up or Shut Up mean and who do you think said that to you?

    I encourage you to keep posting your opinions earrrregardless that they are based on your misperceptions of the world.

  • fun bobby

    a lot of women choose to be child free, then they turn 30

    • Sy2502

      I am 40, and in 40 years I never wanted children. And now I couldn’t be happier about my choice. I hope this didn’t burst your bubble.

      • fun bobby

        pretty defensive huh?

        • Sy2502

          When some random stranger pretends to know what others think and feel then yes, they deserve to be taken down a notch.

          • fun bobby

            I did not say everyone changes their mind. I said that a lot do. then you got all defensive. I could care less about what you think or feel. My bubble is intact. Why are you so defensive? If you really don’t care and could not be happier then why bother posting?

          • Sy2502

            You implied you know what goes on in people’s head, apparently even better than they do. You don’t. I just wanted to let you to know that.

          • fun bobby

            I did no such thing. you read into it and got all worked up because of cognitive dissonance.
            Sylvia you seem quite involved in defending your decision to not reproduce. seems like you are trying to make a career out of it. if you really could not be any happier I feel bad for you. you really do not seem that happy. what if everyone decided not to have kids?

          • Sy2502

            I simply told you that you were wrong in your hubris of pretending to know what people want now and will want in the future. Every other speculation on your part is irrelevant. You were wrong. Accept it, correct your thinking and move on.

          • fun bobby

            Observation not speculation

          • Sy2502

            And you made the elementary fallacy of generalizing from your limited observation. Sorry, but no matter how you try to turn it, you made a fool of yourself. And now you are complaining because you are being called on it. The solution is actually simple: next time, think before you post.

          • fun bobby

            Sylvia you have been wrong all along. Anyone who is not in denial like you are can see that.

          • Sy2502

            Why do you keep calling me “Sylvia”? That’s not my name. And I am wrong about what exactly?

          • fun bobby

            oh I guess you just have the same exact tone as Sylvia and you have not complained about it yet and your name starts with Sy. I will just address my comments to her as she is clearly obsessed with not having children and not afraid to put her insecurity out for all the world to see.

          • Sy2502

            Oh I guess you don’t even THINK before you post. Yep, we noticed that. And I see that making a fool of yourself didn’t teach you a single thing, since you CONTINUE to make assumptions about people you don’t know. Unfortunately, it’s always the dumb ones that reproduce most readily.

          • fun bobby

            yes the dumb ones reproduce and the smart ones go extinct. that’s how it works.

  • Anton_Chehov

    Let’s talk again in 30 years

    • http://sylviadlucas.com/ Sylvia D. Lucas

      Your condescension is cute.

  • Sy2502

    Actually I find it hilarious since most parents I know have children for entirely selfish reasons. They have kids because they WANT them. And they are going to have what they want. Often at any cost. Many have children to have somebody take care of them when they are old. Others use their kids to vicariously live the life they wish they had. Sorry, I know it’s fashionable to say parents are oh so selfless, but I have news, they are just as selfish as everybody else.

  • Sy2502

    We are childless by choice, and any criticism we get from parents about our choices makes us wonder if it’s not really envy on their part. All we hear when we are around parents is complaints about their children, how expensive they are, how they drive them crazy, all the problems they cause… funny, we on the other hand never complain about our childless life.

    • fun bobby

      except for the articles you write complaining about it

      • Sy2502

        I have never written an article about having children in my life. Have you taken your medications today?

        • fun bobby
          • Sy2502

            No it’s not me, moron.

          • fun bobby

            sure

          • Sy2502

            You are confusing me with another poster. Because as I said, you don’t THINK before you post. You didn’t think when you posted your moronic “wait until you are 30″ poster, and you don’t even bother to think to whose poster you are replying to. Thank you for making a fool of yourself in public and for confirming my point.

  • NonnerDoIt

    Reading through these comments I’m surprised at the vitriol. From both sides I guess, but mostly from the childless. I get not wanting children. I agree that there’s too many people and I think moderately decreasing populations should and will be econonomically viable. But many people commenting here actually seem hostile to parents and children and resent the portion of their taxes that go to raising children. And that makes no sense.

    First and foremost, it is in your best interests for there to be reasonably large younger generations that are physically and psychologically healthy and well-educated. Otherwise what do you expect your hard-earned retirement of fancy paper + bits in the bank computers + material assets to buy? This should be a no brainer. Your contributions to public education are every bit as important to your retirement as is your 401k.

    Secondly, the notion that people have children for purely selfish reasons is laughably simplistic. That is, unless you define “selfish” in this context to mean something more like “enlightened self-interest,” which is certainly not the typical use. The little love machines assumed in some of these comments actually only exist for about a year, maybe two. From the age of about 8 months to about 2 years kids are both easy enough to deal with and loving enough to give warm fuzzies on a consistent basis. Before that they are mostly open mouths, stinky diapers and annoying messes, after that they give love when they feel like it, demand what they want when they want it, and are liable to raise hell when things don’t go their way. I’ve got one at 19 months and he’s just wonderful – full of life and love and cute as can be. I’ve got one at 4 years and, to keep it simple, he requires way more effort than he returns in warm fuzzies. Anybody who has kids so they’ll get some love is much, much better off with a dog. The joys of children have far more in common with the pleasures of a job well done than the pleasures of being loved and adored. A similar response can be made for the claim that people have kids so they can satisfy their vanity.

    So enjoy the pleasures of your childless life. Please. I’m often envious. I wouldn’t trade places with you, but I’m glad you wouldn’t trade places with me. I sincerely hope everyone with no kids never regrets it. In the end I will, statistically speaking, have less retirement money than you and/or far fewer nice things to enjoy or vacations to remember. I don’t expect my kids to support me but I still won’t resent you for enjoying a retirement supported by the labor of my children. (I might even suggest they get into the elder care field.) All I ask is that you not resent me or my kids if I have to take a few extra sick days when they have fever. Believe me, nobody takes their kids out of daycare or school for a runny nose, and if you can’t get raises or promotions faster than I do you’re not nearly as talented or you’re just plain lazy. And please no glares when they run accross your path while you’re jogging in the park. Know I’m envious that you look so fit and beautiful while I’m falling apart ’cause I haven’t had time to take care of myself in years.

  • chrisk

    I’ve lost count of the times I’ve had this exchange with women who are mothers: “Do you have kids?” “No.” “Oh.” End of conversation, mom no longer knows how to carry on a conversation with me, turns her head away in silence and discomfort. These are educated women who simply have no idea how to to understand or converse with those of us who live (chosen or circumstantial) a child-free path. Incredibly condesending and perplexing.

    • Sy2502

      Lucky you. I generally have a complete stranger prying into my personal choices, making sure to be as judgmental and inappropriate as possible. Getting just a “oh?”? I wish, where do I sign for that!

    • fun bobby

      dammed breeders!

  • http://sylviadlucas.com/ Sylvia D. Lucas

    You have a high opinion of all people who procreate. You’ve seen no “selfish pricks” with children? The ones who are too busy to care for them, who bring them up to be mean little critters, who abuse them, who try to make them little mini-me clones? You’re delusional. Being a parent does not by extension make you a better person. People are good or bad, responsible or not, selfish or not, regardless of whether they have procreative sex.

    • Anton_Chehov

      “You have a high opinion of all people who procreate.”

      Nowhere did I say that. Are there parents who treat their children badly? Of course there are. But at least they don’t make a virtue out of their bad parenting. I haven’t seen a child abuser invited to “On point” to promote a “Having it all while abusing your children” book. May be I will, who knows…

      “Being a parent does not by extension make you a better person.”

      Nowhere did I say that either. My point is that a child-free movement is evolutionary self-limiting. Evolution doesn’t know “good” from “bad”. All it cares about is whether you pass along your genes or you don’t. You are modern day’s Shakers, my friend, and as Shakers you are going to vanish from Earth and not pass your selfish genes to future generations. And I can’t say I am very sorry for you…

      • fun bobby

        one of her seems like enough

  • Annie

    It’s not that I don’t like children. I just feel better when I’m not around them.

  • Anton_Chehov

    “No parent should expect their children to take care of them when they get old.”

    Somebody will have to take care of you when you grow old. You probably assume this will be the government (through social security, Medicare, etc.). Good luck with that.

    “Ppl with children will be ruthlessly cleared out when their offspring say good bye grandpa or good bye grandma….”

    Having children is a necessary, but not sufficient requirement for having peace of mind in the old age. The additional requirement is bringing up the children to love and respect their parents. It’s a tough, but rewarding job.

    But again, I think you did not understand my point. Everyone is going to die sometimes, with or without children. The difference is that child-free people are not going to pass their child-free defect to the next generations. And yes, from the evolutionary standpoint being childless IS a defect.

    “instead of having MORE kids you should think of saving the countless young souls that have no home and no family.”

    You ask me to prefer strangers to my own children? Why on Earth should I do this???

  • fun bobby

    because people with children want everyone to be as miserable as them?

  • fun bobby

    perhaps the conversation should be why do some people work so hard to defend their choices if they are truly secure with them?

    • http://sylviadlucas.com/ Sylvia D. Lucas

      Interesting point. What I’ve seen, in large part, is childfree people responding to questions and criticisms. I might ask why so many people work so hard to put down others who have made a different choice. Are they not happy with their own choice and feeling a little envious, maybe?

      • fun bobby

        I haven’t had to write a book about it.

  • Birdwatcher1

    This whole notion of “having it ALL” is really bizarre to me. In what generation, and in what culture has anyone ever “had it all?” Have we, as a culture completely lost the notion of some form of sacrifice in life? When did sacrificing somethings for other things in life become so unacceptable?

  • Jane

    Thank, Ryan.

  • fun bobby

    would you like an award of some sort?

    • Jane

      I would like people not to make gross generalizations about women.

      • fun bobby

        I am sure they will stop doing that as soon as they stop making generalizations about everything else

ONPOINT
TODAY
Apr 23, 2014
In this Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012, file photo, Chet Kanojia, founder and CEO of Aereo, Inc., shows a tablet displaying his company's technology, in New York. Aereo is one of several startups created to deliver traditional media over the Internet without licensing agreements. (AP)

The Supreme Court looks at Aereo, the little startup that could cut your cable cord and up-end TV as we’ve known it. We look at the battle. Plus: a state ban on affirmative action in college admissions is upheld. We’ll examine the implications.

Apr 23, 2014
Attendees of the 2013 Argentina International Coaching Federation meet for networking and coaching training. (ICF)

The booming business of life coaches. Everybody seems to have one these days. Therapists are feeling the pinch. We look at the life coach craze.

RECENT
SHOWS
Apr 22, 2014
This undated handout photo, taken in 2001, provided by the Museum of the Rockies shows a bronze cast of the Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton known as the Wankel T.rex, in front of the Museum of the Rockies at Montana State University in Bozeman, Mont. (AP)

As a new Tyrannosaurus Rex arrives at the Smithsonian, we’ll look at its home – pre-historic Montana – and the age when dinosaurs ruled the Earth.

 
Apr 22, 2014
Security forces inspect the site of a suicide attack in the town of Suwayrah, 25 miles (40 kilometers) south of Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, April 21, 2014. Suicide bombings and other attacks across Iraq killed and wounded dozens on Monday, officials said, the latest in an uptick in violence as the country counts down to crucial parliament elections later this month. (AP)

We look at Iraq now, two years after Americans boots marched out. New elections next week, and the country on the verge of all-out civil war.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
The Week In Seven Soundbites: April 18, 2014
Friday, Apr 18, 2014

Holy week with an unholy shooter. South Koreans scramble to save hundreds. Putin plays to the crowd in questioning. Seven days gave us seven sounds.

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Our Week In The Web: April 18, 2014
Friday, Apr 18, 2014

Space moon oceans, Gabriel García Márquez and the problems with depressing weeks in the news. Also: important / unnecessary infographics that help explain everyone’s favorite 1980′s power ballad.

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Some Tools And Tricks For College Financial Aid
Thursday, Apr 17, 2014

Some helpful links and tools for navigating FAFSA and other college financial aid tools.

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