Childless and Loving It

A relatively small number of women feel no desire to have children—but why? Danielle Friedman on how a lack of maternal instinct can be seen in some girls as young as 6.

As baby fever swept her friends, and bumps and booties became staples of their conversations, Kristen Bossert stayed cool and distant. She felt a burning desire to pursue graphic design, to marry her high school sweetheart. But kids? Meh.

In her early 20s, she told her then-boyfriend plainly that she had no interest in being a mom. As a little girl, she’d never played with dolls, preferring to paint instead. She liked kids, but couldn’t imagine herself birthing one. She valued the freedom to spontaneously travel the world or sleep in on Saturdays, to hone her skills as an artist. Twenty-three years later, the happily married couple has no regrets about their family of two.

One childless 48-year-old shunned dolls when she was little, “except for Barbie, who had a glamorous life with fabulous clothes, a cute boyfriend, and no kids.”

“It’s the best decision we ever made,” says the New Jersey native.

Since the dawn of birth control, more women have opted against having kids. Nearly one-in-five American women now ends her childbearing years without giving birth, up from one-in-10 in the 1970s, according to a recent Pew study. The percentage has risen for all racial and ethnic groups.

The top reason women give for not wanting kids is simply loving their life as it is, says Laura Scott, author of Two Is Enough: A Couple's Guide to Living Childless by Choice. From 2004 to 2006, Scott conducted a survey of 121 self-selected childfree women. Other leading reasons included valuing freedom and independence and not wanting to take on the responsibility. And 74 percent said they “had no desire to have a child, no maternal/paternal instinct.”

This growing community—which refers to itself as “childfree” (emphasis free) or “childless by choice” (emphasis choice)—raises a compelling question for women on both sides of the maternal divide: Why do some feel a seemingly innate, almost primal desire to procreate, while others don’t?

While we know that 1.9 million American women ages 40 to 44 were childless in 2008, it’s tough to quantify the number of childfree, Scott points out, since most studies don’t distinguish between being childless by choice and by circumstance. But in a recent study, Kristin Park, a sociologist at Westminster College, found that childfree women (and men) are more educated, more likely to work in professional occupations, more likely to live in urban areas, less religious, and less conventional.

Read the rest here:


Do you have a particular reason that you don't want kids? 


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Replies to This Discussion

I think a lot of people are threatened with the idea of the inevitable biological clock that will suddenly give them an overwhelming urge to procreate. Having talked to some people who are at the alleged "biological clock" age or have passed it, they have told me it never ticked for them.


The response for "who's going to take care of you when you're old"? are basically the responses I came up with too. I am a caregiver now for an old lady who was unable to have kids. She says she doesn't blame me for not wanting to. (I worked for an old man who said I better have kids so I don't end up like him...but everyone has their own advice.) My worry is that with so many people not having kids, there won't be enough caregivers to go around, but also with many more people being childless, the structure of society and family will probably change too. If people don't have kids, it's likely they'll spend time with others who don't.


I'm not blissfully happy in my life right now, but I think I will be a lot more unhappy with kids around, also more poor, and more trapped. There are some things I like about kids (their curiosity and learning new things) but I don't have the patience to deal with them day in, day out. I can't stand going into a store full of screaming kids and I would probably lose my temper if I was a parent.


My biggest reason for not having kids is overpopulation. It goes against my personal morality to create another person who will have the same impact on the environment that I do by existing. The future is looking hopeless. (Sometimes I picture having grandchildren and telling them about how elephants and tigers existed while I was alive, until we killed them all.) My mom told me that in the '60s everyone was just as convinced of nuclear apocalypse as we are now of overpopulation destroying the environment, outgrowing food supply, etc. My response is "just because a terrible catastrophe didn't happen when you thought it would, doesn't mean that it won't happen".

The Japanese are certainly not enjoying their ongoing romp in their radioactive environment 6 months after the tsunami. It's not even that these catastrophes "don't happen"... they're continuously happening, and extremists simply choose to sweep things under the carpet. The nuclear and power mongers lied to the Japanese, and the rest of the world, continuously, and are continuing to do so. The Japanese are confused and depressed right now because the government has changed the levels of acceptability to levels that were previously considered unhealthy. What are we to think? They have not yet completed their inventories of contaminated areas, different locals were affected by different isotopes, each with different half-lives.


Chernobyl is still ongoing... there are many many towns in the USA suffering from polluted water due to disgusting mining practices. It's not about "suddenly tigers will be extinct" it's about the continuing extinction trend, not only of tigers, but of a majority of large mammals other than humans and our livestock.


So indeed, I hold breeders in very low esteem. I have friends who have bred, and they know my opinion on the matter, but they don't believe me, they all think: "you'd be such a good mother". Sigh. One more proof that just because something is possible, that doesn't mean it should be acted upon.

Speaking for parents, TNT666, we couldn't care less about your opinion of us.  As a matter of fact, people such as yourself who routinely use sweeping derogatory generalizations to describe those who have chosen life paths alternate to your own are generally dismissed as the small-minded bigots that they are, and their opinions receive support only from other prejudiced individuals.  We liberals lump the likes of you in with those who routinely use the words faggot or nigger, and generally turn our our heads in disgust.
The term "breeders" is rejected by parents.  It makes people sound like animals.  Oh, I forgot, we who believe in evolution know we ARE animals.  Homo-Sapiens.  Still, there are 7 billion + of us now.  Having children IS irresponsible and destructive to the rest of nature.  It is responding to the instinct to procreate, just like all the other animals do.

Don't worry, he wasn't childless so had no reason to be here except to diss people, and he's no longer A|N.

My issue is so many Humanists and a few non-denominational atheists claim to be "better" than animals, with all our fancy technology and know-how, woohoo us right? Yet, claim that procreating during overpopulation remains "normal", the base instinct... bla bla :) If we're so 'knowledgeable', we really should know better.

Makes no sense to me. Like in the 6-million dollar man... We have the know-how, there is simply not a single good reason to continue adding people to the planet.

Reducing the population certainly poses economic challenges, no doubt about it. But it's up to us intelligent apes to solve the economic issues arising from sensible life issues. Life must dictate economic principles, not the opposite :)


I actually got into a VERY HEATED argument where I was told by the atheist group I got kicked out of(in the argument that got me kicked out...) that I was denying my function by not finding a guy and raising atheist children--because clearly that's the only way we'll ever make more atheists....


I had to point out that that's the exact same tactic that FLDS churches and cults often use, and unfortunately it doesn't seem to work so well for them. Instead, I'd rather overall reduce the population and create a better quality of life for EVERYONE instead of trying to out-populate other groups. That's such an idiotic idea and it ends with everyone poor, unhappy, and overextended.

You should contact miss elevator scandal about this. Seems like a similar situation she might want to address.


Patriarchy is alive and kicking, and I'm sad that there is so much of it which is vitriolic right here in atheist circles.


This is an example of atheist "mentality" simply replicating conventional society's "mentality" and why I often state... what's the point of denying god if you're not also going to deny the crap imposed on our society in HIS name... SIGH. From my perspective, only persons NOT using their so-called intelligence say having babies is cool.

I know, and when I pointed this out they replied with 'well it's a system that WORKS!' and I also got called a nazi-anarcho-feminist--and compared to the Boobquake woman--whom they hate.


It certainly explains why there was only 1 girl in the atheist club besides myself. They also tended to chase away any minorities--one guy came in and he was agnostic, and during the debate portion, several of the guys chose to attack him for his beliefs--on his first meeting!


I also brought up male privilege once--and I was told at the time of the argument that privilege doesn't matter because it has nothing to do with religion(it has everything to do with religion), and then later when I recounted the argument on reddit I had a random guy "theamazingatheistlover'--tell me that I was a bitch for bringing it up and talking--and that he loved women but hated fat ugly bitches like me, blah blah blah, I need to know to shut my mouth and be a good girl. Just a taste of how many many atheists I've met treat me.

Might be an interesting puzzle - how to change the world with the people you describe! That sort is everywhere. I was kicked out of a feminist group because I saw no reason to get rid of my partner and turn lesbian..

It makes me mad to hear how they treated you. Don't believe what they say. They all sound like horrid people.
I somehow never got the urge to procreate. I also think overpopulation is a concern.

Always to remember... it's not just a matter of mothering instinct. In all my friends' opinions I have amazing above average mothering instincts... Personally, it's not about instincts, it's always been, from around ages 5-6, a matter of not wanting to add humans to the planet, not just on a global scale, but on a local scale. I was always acutely aware of the impact of agriculture, cities, land use, hunting, etc, on wildlife populations and these are in direct proportion to the number of humans occupying any given location.


Later on I added on other reasons, but that was always the main one: why add more when there are tons of children who are parentless? it's just senseless.




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