The pressure in our society to reproduce has had a long history as well as the aversion towards those who choose to be child free. Over the generations it was not even a thought but almost an unconscious expectation that fell into your life plans. A natural progression or stage in your short period on earth and now that you take a breath, back up a bit and ask yourself do I have to?
You shatter the normalcy that others never thought could be more diversified. By making a simple choice to dedicate your time and effort to yourself without having children, you stir uncomfortable feelings others weren’t willing to pursue. There are many women who came before you who never wanted children but succumbed to the pressure to have them. Those who stuck to their decisions were often viewed as outcasts in society.
A Brief History About Child Free Women
With modern developments in contraceptives such as the pill, the desire to stay child free has been made easier. The contraception methods used before that involved inserting lily root and rue into the vagina, women used homemade herbal douches, Abortion done both mechanically and herbally and the contraceptive tampon (mix grated Acacia leaves and honey and soak a lint gauze bandage to be inserted into the vagina).
Historically being single was not viewed favorably and was undesirable. Until the twentieth century societal expectations were for marriage and have families so being a single woman you were viewed in a vulnerable way, incapable of sustaining yourself. Despite this in the 1500s women got married in the early teens but those who had no desire for the arrangement pushed their marriage to when they were in their twenties or even further especially in Northwestern Europe.
Historians uncovered that even though there were legal prohibitions women found ways to support themselves such as being seamstresses, moneylenders, laundresses, traders and many more trades.
In pre-revolutionary France 15 to 22 per cent of the adult population remained single and, probably, without children. – Rachel Chrastil, professor of history at Xavier University.
1970s, the golden age of bell-bottoms and disco. There was the birth of the infamous streaking phenomenon in 1973, which still has a seat in dare filled games. Elvis Presley passed away on 1977 of cardiac arrhythmia at the age of 42.
This was all accompanied by economic struggle, cultural changes and innovation in the tech sector. Women claimed their bodies as they shed their fear and embraced childlessness as in the market there was reliable birth control and open discussions on sexuality.
Even though the term child free was coined before 1901, its popularity in the media and social circles has continued to grow. The decision for voluntary childlessness has brought about mass skepticism as the norm is being challenged.
In 2020 the ministry of interior in Taiwan revealed than the population of pets has outgrown that of kids age 14 or younger.
The Tang ping or Lying flat movement in China begun in April 2021. It was a protest over the lifestyle and societal pressures the citizens face. This pressure is not only with the overworking in the 996 working hour system but extends into marriage and child rearing.
Raising a child in China has become too expensive as the women invest their time in their work in order to be financially stable. This has resulted in an aging population that the government is trying to solve by offering incentives that the women have decided are not worth it.
In the Netherlands about 14% of women aged 53 to 62 chose to remain childless. 17% of women aged 38 to 45 are voluntarily childless and 20 % of women aged 28 to 32 do not expect to have children.
According to Statista in USA, 2018, 96.9 per cent of women between the ages of 15 and 19 years old in the United States were childless — the most out of any age group. In the same year, 15 per cent of women between the ages of 40 and 44 years old were childless.
Your reasons for choosing to be voluntarily childless could be
Why Does It Bother People That You Are Child Free?
- It is unconventional
Most of society has approved what is to be regarded as the norm. For generations we have been told a family is not complete without kids. You are supposed to find meaning in having and raising children especially as a woman. Your womb is all they see when you get older and more stable but don’t have children.
The deviation from the norm makes people very uncomfortable so you have to pull reasons from everywhere to soften the news to them. Your other option is to divert from the topic whenever it comes up.
The lifestyle many people have flows in almost the same pattern. When you branch out the culture is shaken as you have proven that going out of the path still leaves you happy. This is the same with other life choices such as veganism and religion. People expect your values and life plans to go along with the culture that surrounds you.
Go to school, get a job, get married have kids and die. These norms do not consider the people who lack resources and skills to be parents as long as they go with the flow and simply saying no is unacceptable.
- It brings up questions they don’t want to answer
When you have made a different decision it makes them question if the choice they made was the right one. If they think it is then does that make you wrong? Many have never asked themselves why they want children they just saw it as a natural progression. By you not wanting children you bring up uncomfortable questions they have to confront.
Should I have had children?
Did I even want children?
If I did not have children would my life be better?
These are questions they never thought of and by saying yes their view of their life as it is would drastically change. The negative feelings they get are let out on you because it’s easier than to say ‘I didn’t look at the whole board before I made a move’. It is easier to put you down than confront their life.
- Your identity is tied to you
There are parents whose children are the center of their life. Their identity is wrapped up in being a mom or dad that they don’t see they have forgotten who they were before. This is a toxic way of life as they don’t see their children as independent beings but extensions of themselves. When you say you don’t want children you question their entire idea of life. You maintaining who you are and doing what you want is seen as an affront to them and their decisions.
While you see it as living they see it as running from responsibilities that come with children. It’s the same thing with people being mad at the rich for making different choices that gave them money now they don’t have to work.
- You broke the system they couldn’t
Humans are beings of free will but are hardwired to reproduce to keep the species going. Society acts a reinforcement of this need by pushing it to the masses. The statement ‘that’s how life is’ goes out the door when you step out of the cultural system they stuck in. You looked at the construct and changed it to suit your needs.
Many never saw beyond the societal expectations so never considered never having kids as an option. They have given up a lot and in some cases everything they wanted in life to have children which they would have chosen not to had they seen it earlier.
‘If you don’t want kids don’t have them,’ is not something you hear often. They never knew you could simply not choose to produce offspring and it makes them angry that you did. Your one simple choice makes them feel their sacrifices have been in vain.
In culture and religions you find that there is a lot of encouragement to have children. They push the idea as a way to keep their culture alive and you threaten the survival of the group. When you get married the constant topic is when you are going to have kids.
If you are single you are asked when you will get a partner, get married and have kids. This is done to increase the numbers of people who are in your group. Children raised following the group culture often grow up to be similar to those who raised them so the culture continues. Saying you will never have children to them feels like you are robbing them of new members so they attack you for your decision.
When people decide to have children they have to spend their resources on raising them. They often cannot afford luxuries a childless person has. The luxuries are not only financial; time and added choices are also added in. Being childless means you have the freedom to move around for work without issues like looking for a good school district and an affordable place for rent with enough space for kids. You can also leave work that leaves you unfulfilled with ease as compared to those who have children.
How you spend your money is also a source of envy. While they spend their money on their children to keep them comfortable and happy, you spend it all on yourself. You get to take trips and spend your time however you want which brings up a lot of negative feelings in them. The things you experience and post online are the things they wanted but can only live vicariously through you.
- Crossed wires/ miscommunication
Sitting down to talk to people about choosing to be child free can end up with a lot of miscommunication due to emotions involved. When you say you don’t want children they take it as you questioning their choices and attacking them for it. They could also see it as a criticism because you spend time in their company and their children and perhaps you saw something you dislike in their children. Your reasonable actions could spark insecurities in them and how they raise their children leading to thoughts of your child free lifestyle somehow being their fault.
Others think that by choosing not to have children you are looking down on them. The fact that you acknowledge parenting is hard and not what you want is not taken as simple as it is. They choose to let irrational thoughts they constructed in their brains attack them because your simple reason is not enough. I don’t want kids cannot be that simple to them.
- They see you as a selfish person
Using your time and resources on yourself instead of bringing up the next generation is self-centered to them. The vision board they look to for the future doesn’t look the same when you spend frivolously on yourself. Your ability to find fulfillment on your own and not your children as they do is unfathomable. Raising the next generation to lead the world in a better direction is more important than your wants and needs to them. Children are the greatest achievement and gift to mankind so how dare you not want any.
People always have something to say about your decisions. What matters most is yourself. Letting other people’s voices shape your life is a sure way to lose yourself. Many women who came before you and stood their ground learnt not to invest their energy where it doesn’t matter and so should you. Choosing to be child free is your decision that you made for a reason not a spur of the moment thing. Let those who chose to get mad over your decisions, get mad at the end of the day it won’t change anything.