I’m approaching 40, I don’t have children, and to be perfectly honest I’ve never really wanted them either.
Is it normal to not want a child? Maybe, for the first time in my life, I’m actually on trend, as childfree lifestyles are apparently growing in popularity.
A 2021 US census shows 15.2 million people, that’s nearly 1 in 6 adults, age 55 and older don’t have kids, and that’s expected to increase.
Meanwhile, in the UK a 2020 YouGov poll revealed that 37% of people said they never want to have children. And in New Zealand, the share of childfree women grew from under 10% in 1996 to around 15% in 2013.
So, what’s with all the women suddenly deciding motherhood isn’t for them? Here are the many varied reasons women give for not wanting children.
50 reasons women decide not to have a kid
1) I don’t have a strong maternal desire
Whilst some women feel like they’ve always known they want to become a mother, many others feel no desire towards it at all.
Whilst mother nature builds into us certain features that favor reproduction (sexual urges) biology doesn’t bestow on us an inherent preference to have children. That is more of a cultural construct than a biological one.
“I believe at the root of it all, I just don’t want to be a mother, I don’t have the want or the desire to hold that title.”
- Sarah T, Toronto, Canada
2) I know myself really well
‘It is every bit as important in life to understand who you are NOT, as to understand who you ARE. Me, I’m just not a mom”
— Author, Elizabeth Gilbert
3) The cost of having children is astronomical
The high costs of living and raising children are very practical considerations that many women take into account when making their decision.
The cost of raising a child depends on where you live. In the US it has been calculated to total anywhere from $157,410 up to $389,670 to take care of your kid up until the age of 17.
And that’s assuming the financial burden stops at 18. Realistically, a lot of parents find themselves financially responsible for their children long into adulthood too.
“It leaves your body and it costs $20-30K. I’ve $40K in student loans already taking up the rest of my life. And that’s best-case scenario. If anything goes wrong, double it.”
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— Anonymous, via Mic.com
4) It’s too much work
“It’s so much more work to have children. To have lives besides your own that you are responsible for, I didn’t take that on. That did make things easier for me.”
— Actor, Cameron Diaz
5) I haven’t met the right person
Modern families take many different forms, and whether it is by necessity or design, some women do choose to have a child alone. But for many women, single parenting is not an appealing thought.
If you want to be in a loving and committed relationship before even contemplating having a baby, then whether you meet the right person becomes a huge factor in deciding whether to have kids.
In one Australian research study looking at women’s reasons for childlessness, they found 46 % of women said they had ‘never been in the ‘right’ relationship’.
Let’s also not forget that even if you are in a couple, having a child is not a solo choice. 36% of women said that ‘being in a relationship where their partner did not want to have children also played a part in their decision.
6) I don’t think I’d be a good mother
“I don’t think I would have been a good mother for baby children, because I need you to talk to me, and I need you to tell me what’s wrong,”
7) I want an alternative lifestyle
‘I don’t have a lifestyle that’s conducive to having kids the way I want to have kids. And I just made that choice.’
— Comedian, Sarah Kate Silverman
8) The planet doesn’t need more people
More of us are becoming conscious of the environmental impact that overpopulation is having on the planet.
9% of people in the UK in a YouGov poll said that this was the reason they consciously choose not to have children.
The environmental toll of having even one child is huge. In fact, it’s the worst thing you can do if you are concerned about your carbon footprint, emitting an extra 58.6 tonnes of carbon each year.
Gwynn Mackellen says that she was 26 when she decided to get sterilized as she always knew she didn’t want kids for environmental reasons.
“I work in the waste industry, and our waste is the downstream of people. It’s not people being bad; it’s just the effects of people…The trees are being cut down on our behalf. Plastic waste is being dumped and minerals are being mined not because of bad people, but because of people. Having fewer of us, there will be less of those effects.”
9) I didn’t want to give up my passions in life
“It’s like, do you want to be an artist and a writer, or a wife and a lover? With kids, your focus changes. I don’t want to go to PTA meetings.”
— Fleetwood Mac singer, Stevie Nicks
10) I didn’t want to try out motherhood for the sake of it
“Nothing prompted a decision, it was just not something I wanted, same as I didn’t want to eat liver and I didn’t want to play dodgeball. Making me eat liver wouldn’t make me like it, and having my own kid wouldn’t make me like the idea anymore.”
11) I don’t like children
One anonymous woman tentatively confessed on Quora:
“I’m a woman and I don’t like children. Why can’t I say it freely without being considered a monster by most people?”
The reality is she is far from being alone. One poll discovered that 8% of people cited not liking children as their main reason to not have one.
12) I don’t want to sacrifice my body
“I’ve always been grossed out by pregnancy. It freaks me out so much. I already have body image issues; I don’t need to add the whole pregnancy trauma to that.”
—mlopezochoa0711 via Buzzfeed.com
13) I’ve decided not to have children for career reasons
Plenty of women feel like having a child will interfere with their career advancement and job security.
It’s not an unfounded fear either, as one study found that becoming a parent did seem to result in lower productivity while the children were 12 and younger. It also concluded mothers averaged a 17.4% loss.
The findings discovered that a woman with three children, working in the field of economics, will lose around four years of research output by the time her children become teenagers.
14) Motherhood doesn’t look that fun
“Honestly, whenever I see someone with children, their life just looks miserable to me. I’m not saying their life is actually miserable, but I just know it probably isn’t for me. My biggest nightmare would be ending up in a marriage that loses its spark, and having to put all of my energy into a child.”
— Runrunrun, via Buzzfeed.com
15) I am already complete
“We don’t need to be married or mothers to be complete. We get to determine our own ‘happily ever after’ for ourselves.”
— Actor, Jenifer Aniston
16) I can’t be bothered
This addition to the list may, admittedly, be slightly more for comical reasons, but I think it highlights the absurdity that many childless women feel over even having to justify themselves.
I had a hearty laugh several years ago when I stumbled upon a satire article from the Daily Mash titled “Woman cannot be arsed to have a baby”.
It pretty much concisely summed up everything I’d ever felt about the prospect of having children.
“A woman has decided against having children because it is loads of hassle. Eleanor Shaw, 31, thinks the world has enough people without her adding more and wants to do fun stuff instead.
“Shaw said: “I’ve just never been that arsed about having a kid, in the same way I’ve never been that bothered about stamp collecting. I’m not against it, I’m just not into it.
“I’m not obsessed with my career, I haven’t got some dark secret and I’m not interested in writing a blog about my difficult choices. It really just comes down to the fact that I just can’t be bothered.”
17) I’m too selfish
“I would have been a terrible mother because I’m basically a very selfish human being. Not that that has stopped most people going off and having children.”
— Actor, Katharine Hepburn
18) I don’t want to bring a child into a dysfunctional world
“I honestly don’t like the type of world we live in. Yes, there are good people in this world, but there is a lot of bad, and no matter what, you can’t protect your children from everything. So I wouldn’t want to bring a child into this world because it’s not ideal.”
-— “Jannell00” via Buzzfeed.com
19) I like sleep
If it sounds trivial to not want to have children because you value your lie-ins, what if I told you that new parents face up to six years of sleep deprivation.
Research published in the journal Sleep found women stayed relatively sleep deprived, both in terms of quality and quantity, four to six years after their first child’s birth.
When you think about it, the exhaustion that plenty of parents experience is far from trivial to overall life quality. With sleep deprivation impacting on your emotional health, learning, and memory.
20) Kids are annoying
“Have you seen the way kids act these days?! I don’t think I could handle that,”
— anonymously admitted to Women’s Health
21) I have pets instead
We all know that love and intimacy appear in life in many forms.
For some women, any urge they have to fulfill a nurturing role can be adequately lived out with a “fur baby” instead of the human version.
It could be argued that dogs are the new kids, and plenty of couples lavish love and attention on these honorary members of the family.
“One way that child-free families express their nurturing side is through their connection with pets,” says Dr Amy Blackstone, a sociology professor at the University of Maine and the author of Childfree by Choice.
22) I might regret it later
“I love kids but I’m very impulsive and I was afraid that I would have children and then regret it.”
— American actor, Sarah Paulson
23) I’m concerned about the impact having a baby would have on my relationship
Anecdotally you may hear from parents how their relationship with one another significantly altered as soon as the pitter-patter of tiny feet appeared in their home.
Research also backs up that having a child can indeed negatively impact your relationship with a partner.
One study found that couples without children are more content with their relationship and partner than married parents are.
It also seems to be women who fare the worst, as another finding was that mothers were less satisfied with their relationships with their partners than fathers or childfree women.
24) The responsibility still falls disproportionately on mothers
“As soon as you find out that you’re pregnant, you have to be a mother first and then a woman. Men get to be men and then a father, it seems like.”
— Yana Grant, Oklahoma, US
25) I like my life how it is
Whilst some women didn’t grow up particularly adverse to the idea of having children, they just reach a stage where they do not feel like anything is missing in life.
Jordan Levey told CNN that at the age of 35 and having been married for four years, she and her husband realized they preferred their current lifestyle.
Owning their own condo, having a dog, and both earning a comfortable living, they decided they would rather spend their money on the things they love.
”We are really happy in our life. We love to travel, we love to cook, we both really value our alone time and that self-care. I think we would be perfectly fine parents — I just don’t think we would enjoy it.”
26) It’s too stressful
“It would be nice, but I think of all the things that would be so stressful. I think about how much we’re involved in our cats’ lives. Oh my God, if it was a child!”
— ‘Glow’ star Alison Brie
27) There’s less pressure these days to have kids
Whilst there are still those nosey people at dinner parties who think they’re perfectly within their rights to ask rude questions about what you do with your own womb, attitudes are slowly changing towards women who don’t have children.
28) I feel surrounded by children without needing my own
“We feel that we don’t miss out. I have nieces and nephews. My friends’ kids call me Auntie Tara because I’m there and I’m always there,”
— Tara Mundow, Ireland
29) I’m a woman and I don’t like babies
Beyond the female stereotypes, the reality is that every single woman in this world is an individual.
That means girls don’t all love kittens and are made up of sugar and spice and all things nice.
For every woman who coos over the babies, there is another who finds them pretty annoying and doesn’t see what all the fuss is about. Both are perfectly valid.
30) I value my independence and freedom
“You have to give some stuff up when you have children, life has to change. “We travel a lot … [and] we’ve always been really happy with our marriage and our partnership and the life that we lead.”
— Caroline Epskamp, Australia
31) I don’t want a lifetime commitment
Children are not like an impulse buy you make on Amazon, only for it to arrive and you find yourself saying, “what on earth was I thinking?!”
Most online returns policies give you a handy two weeks grace period to come to your senses. Once you decide that it’s not for you after all you can return your purchase, no harm done.
Kids on the other hand are an “all sales are final” kind of thing. There is no going back, and there is no trial period. Once you sign up, you are committed for life.
It’s possibly the only area of life where this is the case. You could argue that marriage is for life, but let’s face it divorce rates would disagree with that notion.
Having a child is undeniably the biggest commitment you will ever make, so you better be sure that you want to make it.
32) I refuse to follow patriarchal expectations
“I’m constantly asking myself questions, reminding myself, ‘Are you making that decision for you or someone else? The husband and the babies are the expectation of what’s supposed to happen at a certain point, and people fall back on.”
— Star of ‘Black-ish’, Tracee Ellis Ross
33) My friends with children have put me off
I am lucky enough to have some wonderfully honest friends who have left me under zero illusion about the real strain of motherhood.
Hearing the brutally honest voices of women who don’t gush about the joys of motherhood helps to reassure the childless amongst us that we haven’t made a mistake.
As one woman admitted on an online Secret Confessions board about hating parenthood:
“My pregnancy was totally planned and I thought it was a good idea at the time. Nobody tells you the negatives before you get pregnant—they convince you it’s a wonderful idea and you will love it. I think it’s a secret shared among parents … they’re miserable so they want you to be too.”
34) Being a woman shouldn’t automatically mean I want a child
‘’Everybody with a womb doesn’t have to have a child any more than everybody with vocal cords has to be an opera singer.”
— Feminist journalist and activitst, Gloria Marie Steinem
35) It wasn’t meant to be
“I’m very religious and I at some very deep level believe that things are going to work out as they’re supposed to. The key is to be open to that and to appreciate the life that you’ve been given.”
— American diplomat, Condoleezza Rice
36) There are so many benefits of not having kids
When deciding not to have children, it’s not just the downsides of having children, it’s about the many plus sides that come with not having them.
Your life is your own, you have more money, you have less stress, greater freedom, and more.
37) I don’t want to put my body through labor
“I have known since I was a preteen that I would never, ever want to be pregnant and give birth. The reasons I don’t want to be pregnant and give birth are fear and selfishness. Fear of the whole thing (and I mean heart-stopping, suicide-thought-provoking fear). And selfishness because I don’t want another creature taking over my body for nine months, causing me pain and altering my body forever.”
- Anonymous, via salon.com
38) The emotional toll
“(It’s) the “emotional toll” of having children, too. I’m a social worker. I know what it’s like for humans out there. And being able to give a child all of what it needs – I really feel like I can’t do that.”
- Lisa Rochow, 24-year-old graduate student in social work, Michigan, US
39) I haven’t been convinced why I should want kids
The burden of proof is not on childfree people to justify why they do not want to have children, but rather on the others to justify why anyone should.
40) I never made a plan to have children
“I’ve never really thought like that about anything in my life, really…I’ve always been kind of open to whatever may be, curious to see what’s next. I’ve never been that deliberate about my life and the things that I would require in order to be happy.”
— Actor Renée Zellweger
41) I’d be doing it for the wrong reasons
Personally, I know that the only times I’ve ever really contemplated having a child haven’t been for the right reasons.
There was a time in my late 20’s when I was bored with my career and I thought maybe having a baby would make a nice change.
There was the time in my early 30’s when I felt like everyone was getting married and settling down and so maybe I should follow the same path.
There was that time in my late 30’s when I started to panic that soon I wouldn’t even have a choice and what if I regret it.
Being scared of changing my mind, feeling like I’m missing out, or wanting to have someone there for me when I’m old are not legitimate enough reasons if you don’t have a strong desire for motherhood.
Any choice in life that is motivated by fear rather than love is probably not a great idea. Some women realize that any reasons for having a child they can find, are ultimately not the right reasons.
42) love like that scares me
“My fear of having children is that frankly, I just don’t want to love anyone that much.I don’t know if I could stand that kind of commitment, or if I am really honest, I don’t think that I could handle being that vulnerable to someone else. ”
— Comedian, Margaret Cho
43) I don’t think motherhood would be one of my strengths
“I think you have to be honest about what your strengths are in life — because I don’t have patience, and I wouldn’t be good at it,”
— Comedian, Chelsea Handler
44) It won’t make me happier
Let’s face it, plenty of us seek our happiness in external things, and that goes for having children too.
Even though you’ll no doubt find parents across the world who will swear that having children has made them happier, that’s not what the research shows.
It says that although there is a “happiness bump” for new parents straight after birth, that tends to have gone after one year. After which, the levels of happiness of parents and non-parents become the same, with non-parents generally growing happier over time.
45) I kept putting off the decision for another day
“It was never an absolute conscious decision, it was just, ‘Oh, maybe next year, maybe next year,’ until really there was no next year.”
— Oscar-winning actor, Helen Mirren
46) Health reasons
“At one point, I was the most maternal person ever. I thought there was no chance I could ever consider not having children, and then I had a life-changing head injury. All the extra stuff I have to constantly do that just came naturally before made me realize that I need far too much of my own attention to share it with anyone else. I find it SO difficult to look after myself that I can’t imagine how much harder it would be raising a child. Not to mention the pregnancy and how I would have to come off my pain meds to have a healthy pregnancy. The fact that I’m disabled and on benefits means that if I ever had children, they would not have the same opportunities that I did and their lives would be infinitely harder.”
— “Dragonbunny”, via Buzzfeed.com
47) I feel responsible for all children in the world, not just those who would be biologically mine
“The fact is that I have chosen not to have children because I believe the children who are already here are really mine, too. I do not need to go making ‘my own’ babies when there are so many orphaned or abandoned children who need love, attention, time, and care.
— Actor, Ashley Judd
48) My partner is my family
“I don’t understand why society places so much pressure on women to have children. My partner is my family.”
— Dawn-Maria, 43-year-old broadcaster and journalist, England.
49) I wouldn’t want my children to inherit my genetic condition
“I have a chronic health condition and I think it’s irresponsible to keep passing down those family genes. It not only burdens the families and parents of those children, but it also continues to place a strain on the medical system.”
— Erika, 28, business strategist, Montreal
50) It’s nobody’s damn business
“Do I even need a reason to not want to have children? Is it really anybody’s business but mine? Should I have to justify my own life choices and body choices to complete strangers? I don’t want children and it’s nobody’s business why but my own.”
Will I regret not having children?
Like most childless women, it’s not that the thought has never crossed my mind. I’ve felt the societal pressure over having kids and whether life is really “complete” without taking this momentous step.
I’ve felt the uncertainty and apprehension over whether I will one day regret my choice, when it’s “too late”. The burden of the “biological ticking clock” still hangs heavy over many of us.
But ultimately, I figure that FOMO is never a good reason to do anything, least of all such a significant and life-changing thing as having kids.
Yes, there will be consequences of not having children, but I believe that there are just as many positive consequences as potential negative ones.
To conclude: What to do if you don’t want a child
There is no “bad reason” to not want to have children, there are only your own personal reasons.
On the other hand, I would argue the same cannot be said for deciding to have a baby, where you can enter into this lifelong journey for entirely the wrong reasons.
Times are changing, and it all comes down to freedom of choice. This is a choice women did not always have.
Not so long ago it was seen as the natural destiny of every woman to rear a child, and she hadn’t fulfilled her social contract if she failed to do so.
Luckily for many women today, we now live in an era where a woman’s destiny is what she decides it should be.
Decide to have a child, or decide to not have a child, the only opinion that counts on the matter is your own.