We live in a crazy world, and it's getting crazier. For many women, it's not a world they want to bring a child into - and that's just ONE reason why women are having fewer and fewer children. In the 1970s, one in ten women reached menopause without giving birth to a child. But by 2010, it was one in five, according to data gathered by the Pew Research Center, and one in four for women with a bachelor’s degree. In Episode 19, we interview Chaele Davis, who has known she didn't want children since she found out that was an option. Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, Chaele is a Sarah Lawrence graduate and Institute of Culinary Education trained pastry chef and baker. She chats with us about the stigmas she has faced, how she handled those encounters, and why not having children is right for her. Please have a listen, and let us know what resonates with you! To learn more, check out the notes and resources below. Thanks!
NOTES + RESOURCES
Why Women Choose Not to Have Children
- But there’s one issue that can make even Cool Pope Francis himself sound a little, well, judgy. “A society with a greedy generation, that doesn’t want to surround itself with children, that considers them above all worrisome, a weight, a risk, is a depressed society,” the pontiff told an audience in St. Peter’s Square earlier this year. “The choice not to have children is selfish. Life rejuvenates and acquires energy when it multiplies: It is enriched, not impoverished.”
- “People who want children are all alike,” writes editor Meghan Daum in the book’s introduction, with apologies to Tolstoy. “People who don’t want children don’t want them in their own way.”
- “Shame,” writes the psychotherapist Jeanne Safer in one essay, “—for being selfish, unfeminine, or unable to nurture—is one of the hardest emotions to work through for women who are conflicted about having children.”
- In the 1970s, one in ten women reached menopause without giving birth to a child. But by 2010, it was one in five, according to data gathered by the Pew Research Center, and one in four for women with a bachelor’s degree.
- The concept of profound maternal affection, she argues, was invented in the 19th century after both birth and child mortality rates started to decline. Before that, women couldn’t afford to get attached to infants that had a 15 to 30 percent chance of not reaching their first birthday.
- Ditto the concept of mother-child bonding, which coincided with the rise of industrialization, “when wage labor first became an option for women” and it became important to impress upon them the significance of staying home.
- Interestingly, women with the most education are the ones having the fewest children, though even basic literacy has a negative effect on birthrates in the developing world—the higher the literacy rate, the lower the birthrate.
- a study conducted at Kansas State University, in which researchers found that “people’s desire to have children is most influenced by the positive and negative interactions, and the trade-offs.”
- an existential shift in the way educated humans approach living—a switch from living for the (possibly celestial) future to enjoying the present—has led humans to think much more carefully about having children, since the drawbacks tend to outweigh the benefits.
- That attitude might indeed be selfish, but is it any more selfish than bringing ever more humans into an overpopulated world? Is it more selfish than having a baby simply because you want to, which is often the case? Has anyone in recent memory declared that they were procreating out of a selfless desire to perpetuate the human race, when the human race has never, ever, been less in need of perpetuation?
- The sense that having children is the most worthy of human activities is questioned by the writer Tim Kreider, who argues that it’s “a pretty low-rent ultimate purpose that’s shared with viruses and bacteria.”
- Not having children isn’t selfish. Not having children is a perfectly rational and reasonable response given that humans are essentially parasites on the face of a perfectly lovely and well-balanced planet, ploughing through its natural resources, eradicating its endangered species, and ruining its most wonderful landscapes. This might sound misanthropic, and it is, but it is also true.
7 Reasons Why Women Aren't Having Children, And That's Fine
- The US Census Bureau reported in 2014, 47.6 percent of women ages 15 to 44 were childless.
- And the amount of childless 20- to 24-year-old women increased by almost 4 percent in two years – from 71.4 percent in 2012 to 75.2 percent in 2014.
- (1) Some women physically can't: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 6 percent of married women ages 15 to 44 are infertile
- (2) Because 2 is just enough (just the 2 of us)
- (3) Because there aren't enough social services to support mothers (or to support mother-workers) - plus in the US we don't get paid maternity leave
- (4) Because of intelligence (maybe) and education (definitely): Research from the London School of Economics suggests there’s a link between intelligence and desire to have children. According to Evolutionary Psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa, a woman’s urge to be a mother drops 25 percent for every 15 extra IQ points.
- (5) Because of negative interactions with kids
- (6) Because of increased use of emergency contraceptives and birth control (note: Plan B doesn't work on overweight women...)
- (7) Because they don't want to!
11 Brutally Honest Reasons Why Millennials Don't Want Kids
- According to data from the Urban Institute, birth rates among 20-something women declined 15% between 2007 and 2012.
- (1) Kids aren't always financially feasible - especially with student loans. There is also a much bigger incidence of millennials living in non-traditional partnership structures. If you are with a member of the same sex, the cost goes up significantly.
- (2) There is a strong fear of passing down mental health issues
- (3) The population is already out of control
- (4) Fertility issues give it a different perspective: In fact, according to 2002 data from the Centers for Disease Control, 11% of married women under 29 have dealt with fertility issues.
- (5) Pregnancy can take a serious physical toll, and some people don't want to be human incubators
- (6) With kids comes the pressure to make perfect choices: Although people who don't want to have kids are often called "selfish," our survey showed they're anything but. If nothing else, our respondents were well aware that the responsibility to be a good parent means consistently putting the child first and making healthy choices for them, and they didn't feel they were up to that challenge.
- (7) Not all women are pre-programmed with maternal instincts
- (8) The world isn't always a nice place
- (9) Sometimes career ambitions take priority: There is research suggesting that the idea of "having it all"—both a family and a kickass career—is something of an unattainable myth.
- (10) They don't fit into every lifestyle: sometimes your life is already fulfilling
- (11) Ultimately, a reason shouldn't even be necessary!
270 Reasons Women Choose Not to Have Children
- The number of childfree women is at a record high: 48 percent of women between the ages of 18 and 44 don’t have kids, according to 2014 Census numbers.
- The Huffington Post and YouGov asked 124 women why they choose to be childfree. Their motivations ranged from preferring their current lifestyles (64 percent) to prioritizing their careers (9 percent) — a.k.a. fairly universal things that have motivated men not to have children for centuries.
5 Comebacks to Common Criticisms Women Who Don't Want Kids Face
- Having kids is considered the default plan in our society. When I've spoken with friends about kids, they've asked questions like "How many kids do you want?" or "What do you want to name your kids?" — not "Do you want any kids?"
- (1) To: "You'll change your mind." Say: "It's possible, but not everyone does."
- (2) To: "Good luck finding a husband that way." Say: "I'd rather remain single than live a life I don't want."
- 91 percent of men 35 and under have kids or want them.
- (3) To: "It's selfish not to have children." Say: "It would be selfish for me TO have children."
- (4) To: "Life is less fulfilling without kids." Say: "Well, I don't know what I'm missing, so no harm done."
- (5) To: "But isn't reproduction a basic biological drive." Say: "Not for me."
One-third of Millennials Don't Want Kids
The Brutal Truth About Being Childless at Work
Challenging the Gender Stigma: Why Woman Isn't Synonymous with 'Mother'
100 Women of 2015: Desperate to Not Have Children