Less pressure for women to have kids?

According to new data from the Pew Research Center, more and more women are choosing not to have kids in their lifetime.

From the AP story:

“The figures show that among all women ages 40-44, about 18 percent, or 1.9 million, were childless in 2008. That’s up from 10 percent, or nearly 580,000 in 1976.”

“Broken down by race, roughly 20 percent of white women are childless, compared with 17 percent of blacks and of Hispanics and 16 percent of Asians. Still that gap has been narrowing: Since 1994, childlessness for blacks and Hispanics has grown by 30 percent, about three times the rate for whites.”

The study offers a variety of reasons for more women choosing never to have kids, including:

  • More education for women,
  • More job opportunities for women,
  • Delayed marriage,
  • Better contraceptive options,
  • Feeling that children are less important to a happy marriage.

The most interesting quote to for me out of the whole story is this:

“Social pressure to bear children appears to have diminished for women and that today, the decision to have a child is seen as an individual choice,” according to the report by Pew researchers Gretchen Livingston and D’Vera Cohn.

I’m not sure if it’s because I grew up in the South or because it was true for all the girls in my generation, but I feel like the prevailing message when I was little was that having babies was an important role for women and to choose not to have kids was out of the norm.

I’m fascinated that these researchers feel that is changing.

What do you think: Is it more socially acceptable never to have kids? Do you think it’s as true in the South as it is in other parts of the country? Why do you feel that societal role for women is changing?

48 comments Add your comment


June 25th, 2010
12:26 pm

I made up my mind as a teenager not to have children after I read “The Population Bomb” by Paul Ehrlich, c.1968. I never felt pressured by either family, or society about my decision; in fact, the issue never came up for discussion.


June 25th, 2010
12:37 pm

I have never felt that all women should have children. I have felt that some DO NOT need to be mothers but that is another story.

That being said, I love my children dearly and ( most days) cannot imagine life without them.
The moment of birth, is an awesome moment…welcoming a new little person into the world that you created and GASP will be responsible for from now on is humbling.

My sister does not have children. She is wonderful with my children and I cannot thank her enough. She is a godsend to our family. The kids adore her and she even came out here last week when we were out west. She is a wonderful person but she simply is not a mother to her own.
She is a mother to mine and that ( to me) is wonderful.


June 25th, 2010
1:12 pm

I think it’s fantastic that childless couples and women are no longer being viewed as strange or abnormal. Not only is it good news for those who don’t want them, but for couples who cannot have kids and don’t want to adopt, they’re no longer viewed as society’s sad sacks. I am actually the anomaly in my friend circle -several of us have kids, but far more of us do not (and most are married) -AND with the exception of one couple -the ones who don’t aren’t going to. Given the over population of this planet -this news can only help!

I consider myself incredibly lucky that growing up I was never taught or told that I needed to have kids. My mother made it very clear that, while having children is the best thing ever if you want it, that not everyone wants it or needs it to have a complete life. I didn’t even want kids until I got into my 30s. I thought I might eventually want them if I got married and my life went in a certain direction (which it did), but I also knew that I could be completely happy on my own or if it was just my husband and me. I’m so happy more women are getting this message!


June 25th, 2010
1:52 pm

I’m going to go with d.) because they are more responsible?


June 25th, 2010
2:02 pm

OF COURSE IT IS CHANGING. These things are cyclical. TWG you and I roughly the same age (I am actually 2 years older). Our generation was raised by women who primarily were WWII babies of the 50’s and early 60’s. They were largely taught that they should go to school, get married, produce babies, stay wed forever. Joe came home from war and Rosie went back to the kitchen–or at least that is what history says…some women wanted to stay in the workforce. However it was still largely looked down on.

We being raised by these women in the 80’s were taught these same values. We discuss everyday how parent’s are a primary force in children.

The women who came of age in the late 60’s and 70’s were caught up in the counter culture of Vietnam and it’s hideous aftermath. They were told they could have it all. Some did. They way I understand it most didn’t. Divorce lost it’s stigma. Latch Key kids became the norm. More and more daycares opened. What did those children learn? That traditional values were meaningless (thank you Gloria Steinheim!). That two parents were not needed–the devaluation of father’s was rampant. Many of those kids decided to wait and it became too late. Others refused to subject a child to what they remembered.

The other thing that occurred is that some of this rubbed into our generation…I could have a career. I can be divorced with no stigma (granted greatful for that).

All of these reasons play sociologically into what we are becoming. One thing you see now is not so much a “movement back to traditional values” tempered with “tolerance” but that our generation–yours and mine–is emerging to shape a generation of kids as they head into their coming of age. Of course we are giving them our values! That is what parents do!

Shoot I bought into it. Go to college and you will get a good job, get married, stay home and raise kids, go back to work. Get the house, 2 car etc…and the NICE house to boot. Go look at my HS Yearbook…it even says that! That was not my reality though. 6 years past the divorce and 14 months since my last date, I do have a house that I got on my own (1st I ever had) and the pleasure of raising 2 children virtually by myself. Owww that sounded bitter, surprisingly I am happy with my life. The only bitter part is like most humans I would love to have someone to share it with…but that is a different tanget.

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June 25th, 2010
2:28 pm

There are a lot of different reasons why women are choosing not to have children. Speaking for myself, I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s and was raised by parents who came of age in the 50’s. I got two messages. I could be whoever I wanted to be, that I had just as many as choices any man. I was also raised, and firmly adhered to, that you have children while you are married. Guess what? I choose to live single and to pursue multiple careers, which included going to college in my 30’s. What that meant was I didn’t get married, didn’t have children outside of marriage because it wasn’t for me, and not once did I hear the ticking of the biological clock. I never wanted to have children, so I didn’t. I have choices and I don’t have the stigma my mother had.


June 25th, 2010
2:49 pm

Being in the military and having lived in 3 of the four corners of our country, I can say that the constant questioning about kids from friends and family in the south is only surpassed by those from Hawaii.

After age thirty, I was asked about my plans for children every month. Now at age 34, it is every week. People seemed more and more amazed that I and my wife of 13 years have not had children. Small groups of parents form around us when they find out. The defining question is always: “Why not”? I have always been of the mindset that being able to should not equate to must do.

The thought of loneliness in late life does creep into my mind on random nights. When the career is over and the body is no longer able to pick up and go in a flash, and the latest gadget just lies there on your lap; then what? I know having children won’t guarantee I will be free from that, but I wonder if that is not the point. What if I am missing something truly remarkable? What if I am ensuring my nephews and niece they will have a better future by not having children of my own?

Children are still not out of the question for us, but increasingly it is harder to answer the question: “Why?”.


June 25th, 2010
2:52 pm

I don’t seem to hear this “ticking” that I’ve been socialized to believe my uterus would have as I neared 30. Oh well, leave me more time to “play” and what not :-)


June 25th, 2010
2:59 pm

I think many women are not having any children or not having additional children because they cannot afford them. It has nothing to do with education level, better contraceptives, the change of marriage in our society, or what our mothers taught us. Have you seen the price of daycare recently? I don’t know how people afford it along with housing, utilities, food, and decent transportation.


June 25th, 2010
3:02 pm

Heck, I get questions and comments for only having one child, so I know there is still a stigma out there for anyone who doesn’t have the obligatory 2.5 kids. But it’s great to see those attitudes are changing. We should respect the choices of others, whether they choose (or are unable to for whatever reason) to have kids or not!


June 25th, 2010
3:13 pm

Don’t believe for a minute that there is less pressure for women to have kids. I’m 46, single, never married, no children and everyone gives you the “what’s wrong with you” look. Your friends think you have no life – or either a very easy life because you don’t have kids. I love children; would love to have had my own. But that is not part of God’s plan for me at this time. Having a family is the ‘norm’ in society. I wish just accepting people as they are would become the ‘norm’ instead.


June 25th, 2010
3:15 pm

I understand some folks not wanting to have children. But I can tell you that my sons me more to me than anything else on this earth. I thank the Lord every day I’m with the woman I am with now, my wife of (coming up in July) 9 years. She’s the best mother to our children and my love for her grew exponentially when we had children.

Now, my ex-wife, we were married for barely 3 years – when she turned 23, somehow she felt that she had “missed out” on something. That somehow the idea of family was trapping her and keeping her from “something” (always undefined). I can say that looking back, if we had kids, it would have been an unmitigated disaster. That woman could never, ever, ever care about anyone more than herself.

I hear about her from time to time, still chasing some etheral “thing” to fulfill her. I feel sorry she’ll never experience the joy that I do every minute of every day. But I can also see how she would look at my life now and feel sorry for me, being “tied down” by two kids. Oh well, I guess in honor of Gary Coleman I’ll just leave it with “Different Strokes”.


June 25th, 2010
3:23 pm

It’s funny, but the message I always heard growing up was that having no children was “selfish”, because those that didn’t have kids simply couldn’t be bothered to be inconvenienced. Now, the ones that were “barren” were looked upon with sympathy (I wonder how many “barren” women were actually just really, really good with their contraceptives? :-), but the ones that were honest and said, “Kids — nope, not for me, too much to do in my life” were the ones that were looked at askance.

I didn’t have my first child until I was almost 32, and we were married for almost seven years. You better believe I got a LOT of questions — they gradually died off, but I remember telling my grandmother that I was pregnant and encountered total silence. I was somewhat miffed, and said, “Well, goodness, I thought you’d be more excited!” and she said, “Well, I just thought you couldn’t be bothered!” I reminded her that children were never out of the question, but my husband and I definitely enjoyed the freedom of traveling at the spur of the moment and being able to put money aside for a home, etc., that would have been much more difficult with children. Long lazy Sundays in bed with the Sunday paper, tea and a chocolate croissant . . . those disappeared with the arrival of little ones (but are, happily, making a comeback now that they are in college!)

Whenever anyone tells me that they don’t want to be a parent, I have to admit, I feel a small flicker of sympathy for them, because I can honestly say that being a parent has been one of the most challenging and most gratifying jobs I ever had, albeit the worst-paying! There is something about putting yourself out there in the world in the form of another human being, and raising that person to be an asset to humanity. Not for the faint of heart, to be sure!


June 25th, 2010
3:23 pm

Oh, yes, there is still pressure. It’s a taboo subject with my Catholic in-laws and we’ve gotten many, many judgemental comments about our choice from strangers. I don’t let it get to me, though. I’m too busy being blissfully happy with the peaceful life we’ve created together.

Biology Instructor

June 25th, 2010
3:49 pm

It is fine for women to not want to have kids, as there are plenty of women in this world who do want to have children. But don’t think for a minute that is normal. It is the single biological imperative of any species to continue to exist. It might be normal for a species to have aberrant individuals, but it is not normal for the individual.


June 25th, 2010
4:03 pm

I don’t know that it’s more or less acceptable to not have children, but we in the United States have some of the least parentally supportive policies in the industrialized Western world.


June 25th, 2010
4:05 pm


Ever had to explain that no you are NOT a lesbian?


June 25th, 2010
4:10 pm

Assuming you are not.

I am 44 deeply religious but never married and no children. I never met Mr Right and having kids with Mr For-Now only to divorce later seems like a colossal waste.

I am not bashing all men, just the ones I attract

Amy in the ATL

June 25th, 2010
4:14 pm

I am happily married with 2 beautiful daughters. We spent 10 years as a married couple with no kids and had a great time, and decided to have kids only when we felt we were ready and willing to make the sacrifices we needed to take care of them.

We also have very happily married friends who never really did get that urge to procreate. They enjoy the freedom of being able to do things on a whim that would be logistically impossible for us, and they are having a great time. And is there anything wrong with that? No.

Having kids, ideally, should be a conscious decision. Being a parent IS tough, and though it’s incredibly rewarding, it’s not for everyone. I definitely think there is still a good amount of pressure for people to have kids, and that is unfortunate. Being a parent is the most important job one can have, and no one should feel pressured to take on that role if they don’t want to do so.


June 25th, 2010
4:15 pm

First of all…thank you & God bless all the (good) Moms out there. Being a Mom is grossly under-appreciated (unfortunately). I’m very old fashioned/old school about marriage & children. My wife & I agree that marriage is until “death do us part” (thru the good & bad), & the Lord’s blessed us with 4 beautiful children. IF we could afford it, I’d love a few more, but that’s probably a “pipe dream” in the current economic depression the country’s in. :( I agree “to each their own”, but object to “Hollyweird” & “Madiscum Avenue” constantly trashing traditional American, Christian values & pitching immorality as “en vogue”. But…I’ll get off my soapbox for now. ;)


June 25th, 2010
4:20 pm

I wasn’t ever pressured to have children..I guess with there being 10 kids in my family and five of those having children, it wasn’t a big deal..I also had medical issues that caused me not to have children..Trust me, I wanted bunches..

My oldest sister was married for 14 years before they (she) decided to have children..Of course what she now regrets about that is that shes 65 and just now has her first (only) grandchild..

I think Allie is right..The cost of having or doing anything with more than 1 or 2 children is out of this world…Also, as MJG pointed out, some people should just not have kids..

@lovelyliz..Why would Teresa have to explain that? Or am I mistaken in your question..My oldest brother is 62 and has never been married..No, he’s not gay..He has dated many women over the years, just never wanted to be married..In fact, I have 4 brothers and only one has been married..None of them are gay..


June 25th, 2010
4:40 pm

Fewer intelligent people are procreating nowadays. Sadly, stupid people continue to breed like rabbits.


June 25th, 2010
4:57 pm

I can assure you the PRESSURE to procreate is still there. I’ve been married less than a month and every day someone asks when the babies are coming. I’m in my mid-30s as is my husband (this is my second marriage). We have 5 degrees between us. We’re quite sure we don’t wish to be parents (and should be smart enough to figure that out). Every day, people second guess our decision. It’s quite insulting.

The societal pressure is still there. Thank goodness, I have the right to control my own destiny in that regard.


June 25th, 2010
5:12 pm

Becky as someone who has been asked point blank if I was, and never by a lesbian, it’s something that women over 40 who have no children and have never married are inevitably asked. Especially in the South.


June 25th, 2010
5:13 pm


Ever seen “Idiocracy”?

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June 25th, 2010
11:05 pm

To the biology instructor above:
I find it far more aberrant, and abhorrent, for couples ill-suited, immature, irresponsible, and selfish, to bring forth offspring and then to neglect, abuse, molest, and even KILL them. But you probably have some biological justification for that as well. I forgot, Nature really doesn’t give a damn about the individual, just that the job is done.
Humans are subject to essential biological needs, but we also have choices, which most other animals do not, and we can choose not to be governed by our instincts, or to modify them if they could cause harm. This is, or should be, considered just as much a part of our natural function as mindless (and excessive) reproduction.
Humans also know that the traditional formula of society— raise the next generation so that they might have genetic immortality, and may be cared for in old age, often does not work out that way.
Women, who can form intimate (non-sexual, familial) relationships with friends more readily than males, also don’t seem to require childbearing to “steady” them or whatever.
And there are 6-7 billion humans on the planet at any given time, so the likelihood of extinction is small. Indeed, it would probably be helpful if the trend towards childlessness was expanded, with educational and employment opportunities, mostly for women.
Perhaps the misfortune is that many of those who chose to forgo parenthood, or are infertile, or for some reason cannot find a good steady mate to help, are those probably least likely to injure their offspring and have the best capacity to raise them into good adults.


June 26th, 2010
10:00 am

The pressure is still there. You see it everyday. Whoever says it there is no pressure isn’t being telling the truth. My goodness, I get asked by grandmothers, “Just wait til you’re a grandmother. You are really missing out on the best part of life” I then look them in the eyes and say, My oldest can’t have children, my middle is legally blind in one eye and is afraid to pass on the gene, and my youngest isn’t married. They then and only then shut up


June 26th, 2010
8:01 pm

Well, I did not feel pressure. Of course, I was 23 when I got pregnant, so maybe it did not have time to build. In fact, my mother was horrified that I was pregnant “so young.”

My elder daughter was pregnant within 2 weeks after getting married. She and her husband were older (30s) and wanted it that way. Now they have two children, would like to have more, but cannot afford it.

My son’s wife got pregnant “accidently” and my son has turned out to be good with the boy. He keeps him while his wife works part time. He was 28, she was 22; I don’t think anyone bugged them with the “when” question, but might have if she had been 30.

My younger daughter has made it clear all her life that she doesn’t want children. That is fine; only the truly committed should have kids (after you have them you might be ready to be “committed!”) Her husband says he is in agreement, but he looks longingly at his sister and brother in law’s children. He says that is enough to enjoy; I hope so. I think his mother would really like ONE of her three married sons to produce. My daughter has made it clear it won’t be by her, and I think they thought she was kidding. She can hold her own.

In my daughter’s case, I think she has been profoundly influenced by all the terribly bratty children she has had to be around in school, teaching in college, and in public generally. Her niece and nephews are (luckily) very good kids (so far).

I was fairly cool to the idea of becoming a grandmother UNTIL I BECAME ONE (at 55). I thought all my friends who were gaga over grandchildren were nuts. Then, it happened, and I fell in love again. It really is “all that!”


June 26th, 2010
8:07 pm

BTW, that younger daughter is totally into the 3 babies of her siblings! Still cannot believe it. She all but climbed in the labor bed with her big sister, and for some reason all the things she cannot stand (drool, etc) are not so bad if they come from one of those 3. I take her profound difference around them as a sign of the imminent Second Coming.


June 26th, 2010
9:09 pm

@1911A1 -Unfortunately, you are SO right! The dummies can’t seem to breed enough and the intelligent people either want none or only have a few. I also know a number of really intelligent couples who make good money and have a great lifestyle who would LOVE to have children, but cannot conceive. Some have adopted, but it seems people who really want kids often have a hard time getting pregnant and the dregs of society seem to look at each other and become pregnant.


June 27th, 2010
8:04 am

FCM has psychich powers because she just read my mind.

In my experience, women derive pressure to have kids from their circle of female friends and family memebers. The pressure rarely comes from the husband. That’s sad for the state of relationships.


June 27th, 2010
9:01 am

@ catlady…LOL….your last line made me laugh this morning…shall I share it at church?


June 27th, 2010
11:42 am

MJG–if they aren’t preaching it, they should be! ‘Cause her wiping “nose drippings” is a sign! Maybe even more than the earthquakes, wars, etc.

(This same daughter, 4 years ago, actually shuddered when a very nice, very clean 6 year old girl reached out and took her hand).


June 27th, 2010
6:18 pm

@catlady, I found it funny ’cause I got your humor. Sometimes, other posters do not seem to get my humor or sarcasm and I know this is a downfall of print vs. actual conversation. Voice inflections and facial cues are missing.

I raised the idea that T may be trying to lure us in with attention grabbing titles…could she be purposely misleading us ( NOT) and I am not sure that was understood.

I would like to meet your for lunch….I am home for the next 5 weeks. Let me know if you are interested by e-mailing T. If you are too busy, I understand!

My husband, once had a strange 3 year old take his hand at the mall. The child assumed he was his Daddy. He looked and me and point to the kid, mouthing, “whose kid is this?’ He did not want to scare the kid. We saw the real Daddy quickly and returned his child. We still laugh about it .


June 27th, 2010
8:07 pm

I am with Teresa. I’m 37, single, never married, have no kids…and get the “when are you getting married?” “when are you having kids?” “you must not want any kids” on a regular basis. So, no, the pressure is not off at all. It ticks me off. A whole lot. I WANT children. I WANT to get married…to the right guy who will be a good husband and a good father to my hypothetical kids. :-) I also, when in moments of not wanting to act with Southern hospitality and kindess, I want to tell some of the folks that ask “I hope when God finally gives me some kids I’m a better parent than you.”…just out of meanness! I joke but people don’t understand that all the “jokes” about not being married YET and not having kids YET and “must not want kids”, etc. are not funny and can be hurtful.


June 28th, 2010
7:19 am

Just because people ask questions about your impending parenthood (or lack thereof) in no way obligates you to address their questions. It’s nobody’s business but your own, and pushing for an answer is just rude. My own mother stated that after my husband and I had been married for a while. A friend asked when when we were planning on having children and she answered “That’s up to them, and absolutely none of my business.”


June 28th, 2010
8:18 am

There is a movie that everyone should see: Idiocracy – it’s what happens when the intelligent members of society stop contributing to the gene pool.


June 28th, 2010
8:23 am

@lovelyliz..OK, I’m 48, have lived in GA. all of my life and have never once thought to ask anyone that..Maybe I’m that naive, don’t know..:) I do know that if I had of ever thought to ask someone if they were a lesbian, my Mother would probably have knocked my teeth out of my mouth..

I have a really good friend that is 62, he and his wife don’t have children..He said that when they first got married, they weren’t mature enough to have children, when they finally thought that they were mature enough to have kids, they were to old..

I’m like MJG, there are a lot of people that should not have children, yet they keep having them..So if you want children and for whatever reason(s) you don’t have any, best of luck..If you don’t want to have children, try to not let others grate on yor nerves about when you will have them..


June 28th, 2010
8:51 am

id rather see women who dont want children not have them that have them and not want them. i know several women who have been childless by choice and i have no problem with that….never did…i can even understand it!!!! lol….sometimes i envy them.,..as much as i love my children and have devoted my life to them(mostly) i sometimes wonder what my life would be like if i had never had any….i never wanted to have children when i was growing up…just wasnt a driving need….i ended up having 4 and a step….and i love them all dearly and completely….but still…..


June 28th, 2010
9:17 am

@Becky…I, too, would have been picking my teeth up off the floor if I had dared to ask that question. Even if my mom was nowhere around-she would have found out somehow and shown up just to do it! I find myself repeating this alot, but, why can’t people mind their own business? Seriously! When you are single and over 21-when are you getting married? Newly married-when are you having kids? One child-when are you having more? Grown children-when are you having grandchildren? Dear God! Nosey people get a life! Don’t know if I was raised to mind my own business or what, but it never occurs to me to ask such questions. I’m an only child and I saw how hurtful it was to my mom (who couldn’t have more but would have loved to) for noseybodies to ask when and why she didn’t have more and how sad it was for me to be raised as an only child. And some of the people who would say this to her didn’t even know her well!


June 28th, 2010
11:05 am

@newblogger..Welcome..There are very few people that should be asking others such personal questions..Sorry that your Mom was only able ot have one child, I come from a family of 10 children and at times wished that I was the only child..:) So, I’d be happy to “give” you a brother or sister..Of course, the ones that I would be williing to give away, you would not want..

My Mother was from the old school way of doing things, so there were a lot of things that we knew better than to say or do..It’s a shame that kids (some) nowadays don’t learn the same thing..

Hope that you stay with us for a while, it’s always nice to have new views on here..


June 30th, 2010
11:08 am

I wouldn’t say I was ever pressured to have kids. The few people who were so insistent that they knew my plans better than I did were quickly excised from my life. ;) Of course, that’s not an option with family members.

But now that my sister has kids and I don’t, it’s very much a second-class-daughter kind of thing.


June 30th, 2010
1:53 pm

I’m glad to have had the opportunity to be a parent to my one child, who is now a young adult. In my opinion, having kids is a key factor in being able to grow up and be a better human being (the emphasis is taken off you and your ego). But if I were that young age again now, I’d probably have second thoughts. The world has gotten tougher and more complicated even in the last 2 decades. Everyone seems to be under huge amounts of stress. Our schools are going nuts. And just a daily perusal of any medium demonstrates a bad combination: Parents are less willing or able to discipline their children and other people are much less willing to overlook the behavioral results. Another disturbing trend is the near-eradication of privacy. Not long ago, a kid (all the way through high school, even college) could make a bad decision and be able to rectify it without the whole world knowing. Now even the youngest children run the risk of having their mistake show up in public records online, or on YouTube. It’s a scary, scary world — I worry about my son and for all the other younger people growing up in these times.


July 5th, 2010
3:34 am

I just want to know, why is it anyone’s business if you have kids or not, to begin with? If you’re happy with you life decision, do you really need to peck at someone else’s life?
From my experience, those that look down their noses at others lives, generally are not happy with their own decision.
So, if you don’t want kids, and there are those that heckle you for that, keep your chin up because, chances are, those that heckle you are not happy with their own decision.


July 17th, 2010
5:40 pm

I’m not having kids because I enjoy the easy life. I’m in the middle of taking a year off of work at the age of 30 to do everything I want to do. Life is a playground for me. I could never do that if I had mouths to feed. I am so grateful I didn’t succumb to that pressure. Life is really, really good for me right now.


July 17th, 2010
5:40 pm

I’m not having kids because I enjoy the easy life. I’m in the middle of taking a year off of work at the age of 30 to do everything I want to do. Life is a playground for me. I could never do that if I had mouths to feed. I am so grateful I didn’t succumb to that pressure. Life is really, really good for me right now. When you are 30, single, and childless, there are no consequences to anything you do.