“I love children. I just don’t need to own one”. This is one of my favorite quotes from this week’s Time Magazine’s (August 12 issue) excellent article by Lauren Sandler on the rise in women choosing not to have children. The article cites a 2010 Pew Research report that showed that childlessness has risen across all racial and ethnic groups, adding up to about 1 in 5 American women who end their childbearing years maternity-free, compared with 1 in 10 in the 1970s.
As a woman who has chosen not to have children, I am often astounded at how strong the sentiments are against women who decide –for whatever reason—not to procreate. However, in The Childfree Life, Lauren finds that “women who choose not to become mothers are finding new paths of acceptance. As their ranks rise — and as the community of adults without kids diversifies in terms of race, education levels and political affiliations — so do positive attitudes about being able to lead a fulfilling, childless life. Along the way, these women are inventing a new female archetype, one for whom having it all doesn’t mean having a baby.”
It’s baby steps, though (pun intended), regarding this acceptance. Lots of people still think that there’s something wrong with a woman who doesn’t want kids. Something unnatural… I was slightly taken aback a few months ago when talk show host Wendy Williams expressed almost that exact sentiment.
The pushback can be pretty strong. If you take the time to read the article’s comments section, a man named Gus feels so strongly against a woman who wrote about her decision to stay childfree that he sounds a little nutty to me. He wrote: “Face it, you have little character, unlike your parents who were willing to sacrifice, knowing their love would in fact be shown by their children. Your stay on this planet cannot end quick enough.” And to think this is probably someone’s father. Yikes.
Anyway, the article is very insightful with lots of points-of-view on both sides. There’s even a quote from me:
“Eleanore Wells, a market researcher in New York City, says that even in her mid-50s, she finds judgment at every turn. “So many women take my choice personally,” she says. Recently, she told me, a woman on the subway inquired if she had children and then asked, aghast, “Who is going to take care of you when you’re old?” Wells wanted to reply that nursing homes are filled with parents, but she says she just smiled, went home and packed her bags for an annual trip to Martha’s Vineyard with friends. “When I was younger I found it more exhausting,” she says. “Now I don’t give a s — – what anyone thinks. It gets easier.”
(I don’t think I actually said the S-word. I don’t use that kind of language) :-)
One part of the article that made me smile is about a researcher at the London School of Economics who believes that childless women are just smarter. It’s probably not true, but I love it anyway. I may need to quote him someday.
The article, 4+ pages long, is a good read, although I could have written it in just one sentence. “Having kids isn’t for everybody.” Done.