Reasons for remaining childfree by choice and problems it can cause
For most people, the idea that they will one day have kids is built-in and rarely questioned. For the "Childfree by Choice" minority, it's equally clear from a young age that this isn't the life for them. Unfortunately it seems that the majority of people still consider wanting children to be "normal" and anything else to be a bit weird, and as with most things the two opposing opinions seem to clash in a particularly violent manner on the internet.
As a childfree person myself, and one half of a happily childfree relationship, I wanted to take some time to show that there are normal people in our ranks and we don't hate every parent in the world. All we ask is to have our choices respected.
Childfree by choice vs Childless
This is an important distinction, for both groups involved.
Childless women/couples are those who would dearly love to have children, but for one reason or another are unable. The word itself, "childless" suggests that something is lacking, and in this case it is appropriate.
For a while, childfree people were commonly referred to as childless but this was seen as inaccurate at best, insulting at worst. If someone does not desire children, then not having them isn't an unfortunate "lack" of anything. This was the origin of the movement to recognize childfree as a term.
So why would someone want to be childfree by choice?
There are a few reasons not to desire children, some childfree people would cite a combination of factors and others will stick to one. Just like the desire to parent, there are multiple sources and not all of them can be covered in one simple list.
Missing the "maternal gene"
This is a pretty common one, and is the most prominent of my own reasons. When other little girls were playing with dolls, we were uninterested. When people condescendingly told us one day we would definitely grow up to have kids, we thought "not likely".
Kids are annoying
Whether or not you love them, nobody can deny that children can be extremely annoying at times. Whether it's making too much noise, breaking possessions or embarrassing you in a restaurant, it's something everyone on both sides of the childfree fence has experienced at some point.
Freedom to choose your own lifestyle
Having children may very well be rewarding, but it does impose limitations. Some of us prefer a life where our time is our own, and we're able to spend more of it learning new things, improving our career, or just plain partying. This is also one of my own reasons for remaining childfree, and is the part that many parents refer to as "selfish", but I'm ok with that!
Environmental issues and overpopulation
It's no secret that the Earth is seriously strained beneath the weight of so many people, and having more and more babies while living longer and longer lives is a major culprit. A couple who have three children while living into their 90s themselves are doing a huge amount of damage to the planet, and it is up to them to decide whether it's worth it. For many childfree people, it is not.
There's also the enviromental impact resulting from the physical products a child needs, from clothes to toys to nappies it all adds up to a serious problem for the environmentally-minded.
Problems faced by childfree by choice folk
As with most choices in life, there are downsides as well as upsides. Some of these problems are caused by parents or people who don't quite "get" the childfree point of view, others by society as a whole, and yet others by childfree folk themselves.
Lack of respect
The number one issue that infuriates childfree people and leads to all sorts of ridiculous internet arguments is a lack of respect for their choice to not have children. From an early age, the standard response is "you'll change your mind". Just think about that for a moment. If you have children, or grew up wanting them do you remember your parents and friends ever telling you "oh don't be silly, you'll change your mind" about that? It just doesn't happen.
This might seem like more of an annoyance than anything, but just imagine having a huge choice like that completely disbelieved by the people who supposedly care about you, for years. It feels like they must think you incapable of making your own decisions, which is very insulting.
This can even turn into what at a younger age would be called bullying, with some parents going so far as to call childfree folk "selfish", "evil", "kid haters" and much worse.
Personal experience: I've had friends (and a younger brother) who all had children around age 20 while unemployed. Unquestionably, their lives are now more difficult, but nobody made a fuss over their choice to make this change to their lives. However, these same people still, years later, tell me I will change my mind and will never be happy unless I have kids. My family have also never quite believed my choice, despite explaining it to them over and over for the last 20 years.
Perceived unfair work regulations
Obviously work situations vary from country to country, workplace to workplace, but a common thread is that parents have more freedom than non-parents. This applies to holiday allocation, "sick" days (when the child is actually sick but needs taking care of) and overtime schedules, as well as probably some less major aspects of our working lives.
It's common for the "best" holiday windows to be booked up by parents due to the school holiday timetable, and believe me it does not go well for a non-parent who might want those same holidays for equally valid reasons.
It's also common to see parents "unable" to take on overtime, which is then assigned to non-parents instead as if they have no important reason to go home.
I'm not trying to imply that every workplace treats childfree people this way, but it is unfortunately very common. There are disadvantages for working parents too, so perhaps if both groups spent more time trying to understand the other's frustrations the workplace would be a better place.
Outdated medical advice
Whereas a man of almost any age, parent or not, can have a vasectomy (even if they have to argue their case a bit first) it is relatively rare for childfree women under 30 to be "allowed" the equivalent sterilization. Doctors often outright refuse to perform these procedures because they, as so many others, assume the childfree woman will change her mind. However in this case, the doctors are presumably afraid of being sued when the "inevitable" happens and regrets come into play.
Again, this is a lack of respect for our ability to decide things on our own. Not too long ago a woman who decided to forge a proper career for herself was seen as abnormal, and now this is the norm. Women, how would you feel if your friends, loved ones and doctors said to you tomorrow "women just aren't suited to having careers, you'll change your mind" as if you have no mind of your own? Not happy, I'm guessing.
Stereotyping of childfree people
Some childfree people, faced with the constant pressure to change their minds and conform, become somewhat militant in their beliefs. This is understandable to a point, but of course there are those who take things too far. These are the people most parents think of when they hear the term "childfree", which is unfair to those of us who are much more restrained and respectful.
Society's attitude to children and parents
This is not intended to cause any offense, but objectively speaking I'm sure most parents can see that the emphasis placed on the "innocence" and "perfection" of children can be a bit much. This is especially hard to put up with for those who choose the childfree life not because of any biological lack of maternal or paternal instinct, but because of environmental issues.
We're taught as children ourselves that the greatest thing a woman can achieve in her life is motherhood. When you have no interest in such things, it's hard to deal with the constant messages telling you you're not living up to your potential as a woman.
Childfree by choice people on the internet
Believe it or not, there are actually pleasant, normal childfree communities online where childfree folk can escape the inevitable chatter from friends about babies and parenting that happens more and more the older you get.
Of course, there are also the crazies, but you get that with most groups or beliefs. Don't tar us all with the same brush.
If you take one thing away from this article let it be the following: Some of us don't like kids, this doesn't make us evil incarnate.