On July 1, the Huffington Post released a compilation of 270 women’s responses regarding why they chose not to have children. According to the report, nearly half of U.S. women of childbearing age are childless –many, apparently, by choice. For many of the childless women who chimed in on their decision to forego parenthood, children represent only negative associations: snot, poop, noise, demands on time, demands on the body, demands on finances. These negatives, they believe, could not be outweighed by the presence of a child in their lives.
Fierce devotion to control over their physique, bank account, and schedule, in fact, induce a downright fearful attitude toward the children who would strain all three.
Children are obnoxious, smelly, annoying and loud, they ruin your sleep, body, marriage and life. You don’t have any more time or money for yourself.
Many women reported lacking any attraction to motherhood and children. Others recalled tumultuous childhoods and being subjected to dysfunctional parenting themselves, convinced that “breaking the cycle” of dysfunction and bad parenting required that they forego the role of parents themselves. One respondent stated that she actually does want children, but views herself as too great a liability to a child’s wellbeing:
I fear that I’ll be emotionally and physically abusive like my parents were to me. I want children more than anything, but I’m choosing to break the cycle by not having any children. I understand that abuse is a choice, but I’m not willing to risk making that choice — not at the expense of an innocent child who deserves the best.
Some women were fulfilled by their careers and felt the drive to succeed would be mitigated by attention being diverted to a child. A significant portion of women reported that they just don’t like children. Dedicating themselves to other aspects of Life – a pet or a business, for example – as their “child” was preferred by some women who chose childlessness.
One reason cited by women across the spectrum of overarching categories for childlessness was overpopulation. The express purpose of the report was to purportedly show how “unselfish” the choice not to have children is (a thesis the actual data largely failed to support), and a large number of respondents cited overpopulation as a reason to forego reproducing precisely because they believe that adding to the world’s population is selfish. Said one such respondent: “The world is already overpopulated. Having a child so that I can carry on my legacy is selfish.” Another likeminded woman said, “I’m all for sterilisation at birth and then BUYING the right to have children.”
Of the respondents who cited overpopulation as a reason they chose not to have children, most echoed some variation of the idea that having children was selfish or exacerbating environmental problems. But, according to the Population Research Institute, countries with skewed sex ratios (due to male child preference and the sex-selective abortions and infanticides of daughters), and below-replacement fertility rates are a greater threat to the wellbeing of the Earth than doomsday predictions that the Earth’s current population will lead to the world’s demise.
For many women who are childless by choice, the Judeo-Christian understanding of children as a good in themselves is devoid of meaning. Today, in a culture where children are treated as disposable, should we be surprised that a growing number of women see no value in children aside from their potential to contribute to or take away from the parents’ happiness? Perhaps this increasingly popular idea of not parenting because I don’t want to stemmed from the converse but very similar notion that children are a “right” to individuals who do want them. Children have gradually become commodities at the mercy of their parents and handlers, especially in the world of reproductive technology, wherein they are created only to be thrown away or labeled “genetic material” never to have a chance at Life outside of a test tube, petri dish, or cryogenic freezer.
In these conversations about family planning and wanting or not wanting children, let us never abandon our commitment, as a Pro-Life community, to acknowledging and defending the goodness of every child who enters this world, planned or unplanned.