Melissa enjoys exploring human behavior and different lifestyles through research and writing, and zooms through books like a NASCAR driver.
Deciding whether or not to have kids is one of the most important decisions a person can make. It affects your family, your finances, your health, and how you will spend your time for the rest of your life. Increasing numbers of people are choosing to not have children. The childfree subreddit has over 418,000 subscribers, and voluntary childlessness has been discussed on BBC and The View. Many men and women have decided to get sterilized so there is no chance that they will ever have to deal with having kids.
"But why?" you may ask. Our society treats having children as a default, and people who don't want kids are often vilified, pressured, and made into outcasts. However, it should be remembered that having children is a choice, and there are many people who are childfree by choice, not only by circumstance. There are many factors that can contribute to a person's decision to have or not have children, and those factors should definitely be considered before making a decision that can affect your whole life. This is an exploration of the reasons why people decide not to become parents.
Living A Child-Free Life?
Children are Expensive
Raising a child is very expensive, and is a difficult task in today's economy. According to the US Department of Agriculture, raising one child from birth to the age of 17 costs an average of $233,610. With each kid you add, it will become a little more expensive.
Kids have a lot of needs that cost money. Kids need food, and a room to sleep in (which can mean needing a bigger house, depending on the place you are currently living in), and toys ("I want that, Mommy!"), and eventually they will need a car and possibly a college fund. If your kid tends to get into misadventures where they break bones and eat all of the gummy vitamins at once because they're yummy, it can also mean a lot of big hospital bills.
Even taking home your baby from the hospital can hurt your wallet. How much does it cost to have a baby? It averages out to $10,808, assuming that there are no complications and the delivery goes fine. If you factor in the care required before and after pregnancy, that amount jumps to around $30,000. Many millennials could pay off their student loans with that kind of money.
When you don't have kids, you have a lot of extra money that can go into savings, or be used for early retirement, or to pay off your debts. You can afford to put money into your hobbies, or traveling. Having that extra money around can arguably lead to a better quality of life, and less stress overall.
You Have More Free Time When You Don’t Have Kids
In addition to money, children require a large time investment. They will be living in your home for 18+ years, and need a lot of attention and care to grow up well adjusted and happy. Some people don't want to come home after work when they're exhausted to then make dinner for the kids and help them with their homework and play with them, including some who have already had children.
People who don't have kids have more time to rest and more time to enjoy hobbies. Being able to do what you want with your free time is an underestimated luxury. You could learn new skills and travel the world, and devote more time to parents, siblings, and friends. Many famous philanthropists, scientists, actors, and inventors did not have children, and were able to use their time to make an impact on the world; for example, Betty White has said she would not have been able to focus on her acting career if she had had children. Without kids, there are less things to worry about, so you can live life at leisure, and pursue the things that truly make you happy.
Some may say that this is selfish, but it would be worse to have kids due to societal pressure and then regret having them. The parents wouldn't be happy because they wouldn't have time to do things they enjoy, and the kids wouldn't be happy either, because their parents wouldn't be as enthusiastic or invested in them as someone who actually wanted kids. Some may also argue that having children is what makes your life meaningful, but different people find meaning in different things. Everyone, kids or no kids, should be allowed to find their own purpose, and should not be criticized for it.
Childbirth Hurts And Can Cause Health Problems
Most women say childbirth is the most painful thing that they ever endured. It's not unusual for women to be afraid of that amount of pain (a pathological and extreme fear of pregnancy and labor is called tokophobia), so it's no surprise that many women decide not to have children, or choose to adopt and skip the painful parts.
Giving birth is a major medical procedure, that can be invasive in the case of a c-section. It takes a large toll on the body, and the pain during the procedure is not always manageable. IV medication can only do so much, and they will not be able to give you an epidural until you are 4 centimeters dilated, which can take hours, or even days in some cases, of contractions. It's an endurance marathon, and not every woman is physically equipped to handle that.
Complications during pregnancy and birth can be dangerous and potentially life-threatening to both you and the baby. Some complications that cause serious consequences for women include gestational diabetes, high blood pressure that can lead to strokes, excessive bleeding during labor, epilepsy, breeching (this is where the baby is being born feet first, and this can make it difficult for the baby to breathe), ectopic pregnancy (the baby is forming outside of the uterus), and numerous other conditions.
The US has a maternal mortality rate of 26.4 deaths per 100,000 births, and the number is rising due to medical malpractice, which is yet another risk that comes with childbirth. It may be safer (and cheaper!) for American mothers-to-be to cross the border to Canada, which has a rate of 7 deaths per 100,000 births.
The World's Population Is Already Outpacing Our Resources
Many people have made a choice to not have children due to environmental reasons. The world population is constantly growing, and there is only so much the planet can support. Our food is not infinite. Our clean water is not infinite. There is only so much space for housing, and we're tearing down the natural world to make more.
Currently, we have 7.6 billion people in the world as of 2018, and that number is increasing with every second. 2 billion people are struggling without access to clean water. If more people abstain from reproducing, things may level out, but if we continue to have children at the rate we are now, those children are going to starve and suffer. There will be little left for them to inherit.
I'm Not Having Children Because I Want To Save The Planet
Raising A Child Is A Huge, Terrifying Responsibility
When choosing to have children, many people do not realize the magnitude of their undertaking. Raising a child is a huge responsibility with many ethical concerns that are often overlooked.
The world we live in today is a violent, scary place, with children getting kidnapped and murdered, abused by adults that they should be able to trust, and exposed to gun violence in schools and terrorism at concerts. Is it right, and ethical, to raise children in an environment where these things are likely happen to them? Where does the reward outweigh the risk? For some people, it is not worth it to have children only to risk losing them painfully.
Also, guiding kids on right and wrong is more difficult than you might think. Even if you are the perfect parent and give your kid all the love and care in the world, you do not have complete control of how that child turns out. The kid could end up having friends that pressure them to do bad things, or could have mental health issues that affect their personality. You don't know if your kid is going to become the next Winston Churchill or the next Adolf Hitler. Some kids even kill their parents. It's a risk that some are not willing to take.
Raising children is an intimidating task, because at the start, their every need depends on you. They have no one but you for food and water and shelter and affection. If something happens to them, you will take the blame and feel the shame, for the rest of your life. The level of responsibility that parenting requires is not for everyone, and is not something that everyone realizes before they have kids. If you are on the fence about whether you want kids, think carefully about how you handle things and plan ahead.
Children Will Not Necessarily Take Care of You When You’re Old
When you say you don't want children, an older relative of yours might say "Who will take care of you when you're old?". Grown children, however, don't always take their parents in when they retire. Adult children may go off and live their own lives, maybe having children of their own, and they may not be able to care for their aging parents due to their parents' medical issues or their own financial struggles. Most will try to take care of their parents, but sometimes the situation is sadly out of their control. So some send their parents to nursing homes or assisted living facilities; 1.3 million elderly Americans now live in nursing homes, and the number will grow with an aging group of Baby Boomers.
Honestly, children should not be treated as an insurance policy to have someone to care for you when you are old. They should be treated as individuals with their own hopes, dreams, and lives, so if you do decide to have children this should not be your only reason for having them. Children are people, and people come in all varieties, and you cannot guarantee how they will approach this situation. If you do not have kids, you could spend the money you would have spent on a child on top-of-the-line care and boarding, so you will have an easier time when you are older.
Parents Open Up About Regretting Having Kids
45% of pregnancies in the US were unplanned. A lot of people get pregnant and feel like they need to keep the baby. It is often these people who later regret their decision. If you are against abortion, consider giving the child up for adoption. It is possible to do so anonymously, if you don't want the child to hunt you down when you are older.
Whatever decision you make on whether or not to have children, evaluate your personal situation and make sure you have thought everything through before committing to having children. Once you have them, you can't take it back, so make sure that you won't regret your choice years down the line. Childfree people make their choice because they would rather potentially regret not having kids than regret having them.
Some People Simply Do Not Like Children
Kids can be messy, loud, and have a tendency to sing the Peppa Pig song on repeat for your entire 30-minute bus ride. Some people just don't like kids, and that's perfectly fine. If you know your friend doesn't like kids, just don't ask them to babysit and everything will be okay. When you're hanging out with them, talk about other things you both enjoy. Many childfree people have problems with friends forgetting their lives outside of parenting, so make time to hang out with them and include them.
In today's society, it is just assumed that everyone wants children and should have them. Children are better off being raised in a family that wants them and loves them and can afford to support them. People in general should think carefully about having children before they jump into the deep end, and be more diligent in raising them to be a wonderful part of society as adults.
We shouldn't belittle other people for their perceived "lack of fulfillment in life". Let them decide for themselves what makes their lives fulfilling. Don't criticize someone for their reasons to not have children, because those are their reasons and they are not likely to change their mind, especially not when you push them to. It's not your business to try to change their mind, and it may offend them (read page 7). Instead of being critical, try to treat them with compassion and understanding. Just live and let live.
Play Bingo With Arguments For Having Children
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2018 Melissa Clason
Leila on June 25, 2020:
My daughter says she will never have kids because of the internet and the vicious judgment and parent shaming that goes on today. She also feels that CPS agencies need major reform because anyone who doesn't like you can make an anonymous call and wreak havoc on your life and your kids lives. If it is a lie there is no recourse and no way to protect yourself. It makes me sad but I understand her point. Its a completely different world raising children today
M S Beltran from USA on December 11, 2019:
I wanted children, I had them. No regrets. My daughter doesn't want children, hasn't had them. She's 29 so I can't say she'll never change her mind or regret it (people who do regret not having kids tend to do so when they get older), but thus far she's happy with her decision.
I don't know why people make a big deal out of other people's choices on whether or not to have kids. It' such a personal decision.
Grace Ade on May 04, 2019:
I do not have children & i want to be a mother before i die,it's so painful that people do mock those childless women, thank you for this explanations & i really got relief after reading it,thanks & God bless you.
Melissa Clason (author) from Fayetteville, NC on December 11, 2018:
Thank you for your comment, Liz. I wanted to present the "road less taken", to make people think more about their decision to have children, and to advocate for the people who choose not to have children. It's a great thing that you made the right choice for you, and I think everyone should feel free to make their own choices so they can be happy.
Liz Westwood from UK on December 10, 2018:
You give a thorough analysis of the reasons not to have children, which I respect. As a parent of 4 children and grandmother of 2,with another due in the spring, I consider myself very fortunate. Yes it was hard work and there have been plenty of challenges along the way, but for me the privileges have outweighed these by far.