Childfree: do or don’t, and why?


Have you read the Time’s cover page article “The Childfree Life: When having it all means not having children” by Lauren Sandler? I did, on the plane ride back from Miami, as I sat next to a thirty something dad rocking his not yet toddler to sleep, while he intermittently cried and fought going down. You’ve seen it, right? Right. His wife was on the other side of the isle with their three year old daughter, singing soft lullabies to keep her entertained while she dozed off too. All while Mike and I listened to music, and had a few drinks, while fun-reading our flight away. There was irony in the situation, for sure.

The article quotes different women and couples who have decided not to have kids. These are not people who could not have kids, who tried and for whatever biological reasons couldn’t. These people made a conscious decision to not have kids. They explain in the article, how they love the freedom of doing whatever they want, spend their hard earned money on art, travel, and leisure, sleep in, and just enjoy life. Some even say they knew as early as age 14 that they did not want to have kids. These childless women, also explain though how difficult it is to go about this decision in a society that portrays childbearing as a cultural, or even subcultural, imperative.

Sandler also reports on different research on the matter, and some more commercial books out there analyzing the fact that in the US 1 of every 5 women in her 40s doesn’t have children, and what that means for society. She also offers a list of famous and very successful women who are childless, and posts quotes on what they have to say about it.

In the article, there’s mention of an interesting research study done in the UK, by Satoshi Kanazawa, that asserts that the more intelligent women are, the less likely they are to become mothers. The findings from the analysis of data collected over 50 years, correlates high IQ with adoption of childlessness. Kanazawa found, that an increase of 15 IQ points in women decreased the odds of becoming a mother by 25%.

Other studies report that highly educated white women are leading the childless numbers, but other ethnic groups are rapidly catching up. I particularly liked the woman (Laura Carroll, The Baby Matrix) who explained that she preferred to call herself child-free instead of childless. Childless definitely has a negative connotation, as if women who do not have children are somehow lacking something, are incomplete or less-than those who do.

This all resonates with me, not only because I am exactly the type of woman they are talking about: 40, highly educated, career oriented, and child-free. But because, even though when I was a little girl, different from the women interviewed in the article, I pretend-played house and had tons of dolls and fantasizes with being a mom, I grew up to not be sure if I wanted kids or not, and articles like this, as well as those offering the pro-kid side, are always interesting to me.

I have to say, if you asked me if I want kids, my answer would depend on the day you asked. You see, some days I do, and some I don’t. I like my life. No, let me rephrase that: I absolutely love my life. I have done whatever I wanted to do, and I am truly grateful for that. But I know, the little-girl-me really wanted a baby, so when I think about continuing as is, kid-less, I start to think I might regret it some day, and we all know that regrets are some of the worst things to have. So, I sit on the fence.

Mike says he could do either. He loves his carefree life too, but could also have a kid, if it comes to it. I think he would be a great dad, and I know if it does come to it, we would both be fine (eventually) giving up all we would have to give up for the joys of having a kid.

I love children. I have dedicated my entire adult life to studying kids, writing about kids, working with and for kids. So that’s not the issue. The question is, if I want to have one of my own, with all the responsabilities that that implies. Their lies the conundrum.

The age factor also worries me when I think of having a child. Because no matter what Mike says, that every kid needs a sibling, if we ever decide and are lucky enough to have a child, it’s going to be just the one. Anyway, back to the age factor, it’s an issue. We are on the older side of life, and conceiving naturally might be hard, if not impossible. Once we started to seriously think about this and realizing my biological clock is about to stop ticking in the child-baring way soon, I went to my doctor and had some tests done. Apparently, everything looks good, so, initially there should be no problem if we tried.

The age factor has other drawbacks, aside from fertility. There’s higher risk of having a special needs child once the age starts hacking up, like ours. Also, the fact that when the kid begins college we will be near our 60s (me) and 70s Mike, is a bit daunting. Can you imagine dealing with a teenager in your late 50s? I can clearly envision it, and it looks a little bit like a nightmare.

So the’s the thing. Are we ready for a child in our lives? Are we willing to try? Like I said before, some days I am, and others not so much. I think I’m driving Mike mad with the indecision. Thankfully he seems un-phased by it, or as we say in Venezuela antiparabólico.

Do you have kids? Why did/did not you decide to have them? How did you decide to have them or not? And if you’re interested, read the Time article, it’s a good one.


9 responses to “Childfree: do or don’t, and why?

  1. I’m in a similar boat age-wise. There is a lot of negative stuff said about having children after 40. But it only took my husband and I 2 tries before we got pregnant. Some women remain fertile for longer. Granted, I have a whole host of medical issues making it complicated for me to carry a baby but I like to think there is hope in the fact that at least we have that going for us (being fertile). My doctor (a previous one, not the bad one I recently had) told me that one of the main problems with having a baby when you’re older is that you’re tired. That 20 year olds can function on a lot less sleep – which for me is so true! And yes, I think about if we have a child that we’ll be 60 when s/he is in college but I don’t feel 40 that much now so I doubt I’ll feel 60 either. 🙂

    • You know I read an article on myths about fertility, and the author explained that the data used to assert women begin to have fertility problems in their early 30s is from the 1800s! For some reason (mainly because gathering that kind of data is difficult) they haven’t updated it. Women can easily get pregnant until 44 or so, the problem isn’t getting pregnant (for those who do not have fertility issues regardless of their age), it seems to be more staying pregnant and carrying the baby to term.
      Yeah, the tired issue (!). That’s a BIG one. I might not look 40, but sure as hell feel it! I’m constantly physically tired, I can’t imagine how I would feel if I were sleep deprived on top of it. But I guess we prevail, specially if we truly want something, and you really want to have a kid, so keep fighting for it. I’m keeping all my fingers crossed for you guys!

  2. I have wavered back and forth on the desire to have children. I wanted to as a kid, but the responsibility and practicalities made me second guess. I’ve decided to pursue adoption of an older child (or sibling group), for a few reasons. Mostly, growing up I always envisioned adopting, as well as having biological children. I wanted a huge family, as well as a husband, and I wanted to be a stay at home mom. But, I followed a career & I’m single instead. I’m also only 27, so I still have plenty of time for biological children if I decide to have them one day. Back to my reasons for pursuing adoption: Older children means I won’t be as old when they’re in their teens, it means they’ll be in school and I don’t have to worry about daycare or giving up my career. These are also children who are already out there, who need someone to love them. I’m not trying to push adoption, but I think it’s a good choice for me. There are other options out there for those of us who sit on the fence.

    • You know I never thought about adopting and older child. It’s a very interesting idea. For some reason, it never occur to me that it was something that could be done. I realize most people want to raise the child they adopt as their own, with their customs, principles, and values, and that’s difficult to achieve if you begin when the child already has their own. But if the main worry is age (being old in their teens) and career (having to give it up to take care of a baby), then wow, it sounds like a great option.

      • Adoption definitely comes with it’s own mix of concerns, as older children in the foster care system have typically been either abused or neglected in the past, but if you can deal with that stuff then maybe it could be an option for you to think more about. I’m not sure where you live, but in Canada it is actually very inexpensive to adopt an older child as well. I have only paid for a criminal record check ($30) and will pay for a medical (~$100). Most people rule adoption out because they assume it is very expensive. And it is, if you want an infant, but older children are adopted from the government systems so it’s not the same at all. 🙂 Hope I’ve given you something to think about, anyway!! Best of luck in whatever road you take!

      • It is something to think about. I doubt that things work the same way in the US, but it would be worth looking into for someone who really wants to adopt. Now I’m intrigued to see what you will decide come your time. I wish you the best either way you decide to go.

  3. Oh God. O can so relate to you.
    The only thing is I never wanted kids until I turned about 27, 28. As a teenager I didn’t want to have to do anything with babies. I didn’t want to hold them, feed them, play with them,… When someone on the family got a baby I was the only one not cooing over the baby. I was happy to just stay in the background.
    Then my friend got her first child and somehow I agreed to babysit an only 4 weeks old baby boy for two hours while she quickly went riding her horse. It wasn’t that bad. And I got a little used to babies. But still, not for me.
    I had the first thoughts again after my Mom turned ill. She always loved kids and I know she would have been the best grandmother ever! I wanted to give her that. But firstly it’s the wrong motivation for a baby and secondly she was already in a stage of her illness that I think she wouldn’t have recognized it.
    So the thought was pushed back again. It came up again after I felt unhappy in my old job but it was quickly dismissed again as I found myself a new one. For the new job I had to do a one year education with some heavy exams in January this year so there was no point in thinking about kids again. Now I am a civil servant which in Germany means a secure job for ever. I need 1,5 years to prove myself and then I have my job for as long as I life or want to have it. And one bonus in Germany is that if I get kids I can stay home with them as long as I want to, up to 16 years and still have my job guaranteed. So we talked about it and decided to wait the 1,5 years and the think about it again. M is 40, I am 31, so we are not that old, but not that young either.
    Now I had my check up at the gyn and he found two little myoma. Which can cause trouble during a pregnancy. And he advised if we want to have kids to do in the next 2 to 3 years, the sooner the better.
    So here we are. Not sure what to do.
    And I am thinking the same like you. I love my independence, my life, my horses and riding, to travel whenever I want to, spontaneously to wherever I want to.
    And I don’t know if we are up for the challenge.
    I have a check-up again in October and until then we decided to just let it go. We both think about it and what we want and after my next check-up, when we know if they grew, or stayed the same or whatever they did, we have to make a decision.
    And I really can’t see how we should do that. So, I will for sure try to find that article and read it. 🙂

    • It Sounds like Germany has figured out how to make it easier for women to have kids and nurture them in their first years. Also, you seem to have a very comfy job situation, so either way, kids or not, it sounds like you’re pretty set to do with the rest of your life whatever you like. That’s great! I really hope you get the chance to make the decision, and it’s not made for you. Keeping you in my thoughts for the October check-up, hope everything turns out in your favor.

  4. This is my opinion on the matter… – love ya jen.

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