The birthrate in the U.S. is at its lowest point ever in American history, and Time Magazine takes a look at the childfree lifestyle in its Aug. 12 issue. Many other publications are examining issues related to it as well: Are the childfree being selfish to society as far as not producing taxpayers for later? Do moms judge the childfree and not want to associate with them? What will happen to the childfree when they are old? Who will care for them? So here are some samplings from the different articles.
“One evening when she was 14 years old, Laura Scott was washing dishes in the kitchen with her mother when she decided she didn’t want to have a child. At 26, Scott got married and waited for her mind to change. “It never happened,” she says. “And I realized I was going to be fine.” Now 50, Scott is more than fine: she’s fulfilled. And she’s not alone. The birthrate in the U.S. is the lowest in recorded American history. From 2007 to 2011, the most recent year for which there’s data, the fertility rate declined 9%. A 2010 Pew Research report showed that childlessness has risen across all racial and ethnic groups, adding up to about 1 in 5 American women who end their childbearing years maternity-free, compared with 1 in 10 in the 1970s.”
“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. But being sidelined doesn’t exempt childless women from being scolded. The Weekly Standard’s Jonathan V. Last has made the case in his controversial book What to Expect When No One’s Expecting that the selfishness of the childless American endangers our economic future by reducing the number of consumers and taxpayers. With fertility treatment widely available, not to mention adoption, even clinically infertile women have more options than ever to become mothers, which increases the possibility that any woman who doesn’t will be judged for her choice.”
“Instead, I’ll just say the following: We love our son very much, and we are very, very tired. Anybody who chooses to skip the expense, the health risks, the sleep deprivation, the work-life-child balance discussions and the general anxiety of having a child strikes me as eminently rational. I’m feeling a lot of things right now: joy, love, stressed, tired, exhausted, proud, spent, knackered, and fatigued – but “rational” is not one of them.”
“But of course, on some level, reason did play a role. Back when we decided to have a kid, we made the (arguably) rational choice that we’d like to have kids grow up and explore the world so that when we’re older, we have family around us and connections to younger generations. Naturally, having kids isn’t the only way to accomplish these things, but it’s a classic option.”
“We have chosen to live our lives with the difficulty setting changed from “Novice” to “Expert,” and now even simple things are complicated – having breakfast, or mowing the lawn, for example. The flip side is that when something goes right – and sometimes it does – it feels amazing. An efficient trip to the grocery store with everyone in good spirits is exhilarating – really, it is – and watching our son smile and coo is, thankfully, inexhaustibly rewarding.”
“As a parent myself, I don’t read my tendency to gravitate toward fellow mothers as judgment — I read it as practical. Fellow parents are more likely to understand if I bail on dinner because of a sudden teacher conference, and their eyes are less likely to glaze over if my preoccupation at that dinner is more temper tantrums than, say, the right way to temper chocolate (which might once have held my interest for hours). In fact, I’d argue that it’s win-win.”
I have a close friend and her husband who are choosing to be childfree, and I am completely jealous of their lifestyle. They are traveling the world, They eat at fantastic restaurants. They get plenty of exercise. They go out with friends. They love up on nieces and nephews but then are able to go home to their clean house and have a glass on wine. They don’t have to worry about schools or teachers. They don’t have to plan their lives around school breaks. I think they are extremely fulfilled and happy.
Also I am happy hanging with the childfree because then we talk about things other than kids. I think when parents talk it’s frequently about their children. It’s also often easier to go out with the childfree because they often have less restrictions on their time and they don’t have to find a babysitter. (I also like parents with older kids for these same reasons. They are easy to work with.)
Overall I think either you have that feeling in the pit of your stomach that you have to have kids or you don’t, and I think it’s a personal feeling that shouldn’t be judged either way. I knew I wasn’t done at two. I was in the hospital with my second and I knew I wanted at third. At three I knew I was done. Just like some people don’t feel the need for any.
Are you friends with the childfree? Do you care if they are childfree? Is it better or worse for your friendship?
Is there any selfishness to being childfree? Do you think moms shun them from their circle?