By Ty Wenger
Fifteen years ago, I found myself in a romantic pickle: Cheryl, a woman I
had been dating for about three months, was nearing her 25th birthday. The
birthday gift in any three-month-old relationship is a dicey one, and I
deliberated over it for weeks. Too big too soon and it could look like I was
trying too hard. Too little and I might appear indifferent. Too romantic and
I'd run the risk of setting the bar too high.
And so it was with great enthusiasm that I finally unveiled...
As a response to societal pressures to procreate, she launched the web site
Kid Free & Lovin' It in August 2007. She's also writing a book on
"My motivation to start the site was the same for starting my book: I
got tired of everyone assuming I would have kids or constantly asking me
when I was going to have them," says Walters, now 46. "Knowing
that I may never have kids, I didn't quite know how to answer them without
disappointing them or making them defensive. So I googled the subject matter,
and found there were many groups of child-free people in my same boat, dealing
with a myriad of child-free issues."
What It Means to Be Child-Free by Choice
In her book The Childless Revolution, author Madelyn Cain echoes
Walters' sentiments. She writes that those who are childless by choice don't
see themselves as lacking anything. She notes that their preference is to be
referred to as 'child-free,' which reflects a considered lifestyle choice.
Whether more people are adopting this lifestyle choice is harder to quantify
-- there just isn't that much data on the subject -- but Americans' views on
the importance of children to a relationship do appear to be changing. A 2007
Pew Research Center survey showed that attitudes on whether children are
integral to a relationship are changing. Just 41% of Americans said children
are "very important" to a successful marriage. That's down from 65% in
Today, resources for the voluntarily child-free abound. Support sources
include social networking groups, like Childfree Meetup; web sites, such as
nokidding.net; and books, including Families of Two: Interviews With Happily
Married Couples Without Children by Choice.
Laura Scott of Roanoke, Va., was motivated to create the Childless by Choice
project to test commonly held assumptions about the child-free. Her
self-described "research project" has ballooned into a book and
documentary based on a survey of North American child-free couples, historians,
and social scientists.
"One of my interviewees called parenthood a 'checklist' item," Scott
tells WebMD. "You graduate high school: check. Go to college: check. Marry:
check. Buy a house: check. Have a kid: check. Most people, like myself, who
decided early not to have kids, acknowledged an absence of desire. Speaking for
myself, parenthood seemed too important or daunting an endeavor to go into
without enthusiasm or desire."
The Many Reasons for Remaining Child-Free
The reasons child-free couples give for not having children are as varied as
the couples themselves.
For many, the biological clock never ticked and they lack a strong urge to
parent. Numerous couples cite the financial restrictions, the childcare
challenges, and the time constraints of parenting. Some opt out of child rearing due to
environmental, political, and overpopulation concerns. Others endured abusive
childhoods and are too bruised to parent. Some reject the career limitations
that parenting imposes. Some admit to disliking children or lacking the
patience to parent. Still others are caretakers to aging parents and feel
children would further deplete their energy. Some are dismayed with the
direction parenting has taken today.