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.

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


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Replies to This Discussion

Yes, it is senseless to add more children when so many have no parents. Why add more to the population. I could never understand people like the Octomom. Why the need for 14 kids? The Octomom already had 6 kids when she added the other 8.

Why would anyone want kids?  Seriously though, I never wanted kids for several reasons.  I don't want to go through pregnancy and I don't want to be responsible for another human.  And if I hear about another celebrity showing off her baby bump, I am going to scream.  Yes, Beyonce.  I'm talking to you.

Yes, I agree here. I'm also tired of the celebrities too.
I personally just never wanted kids. I guess I never had a maternal instinct for it.
I'm not completely against having kids myself, but i really dont want to. I've always been a loner, few friends, and the ones i did have were always kept very distant emotionally. I just dont like knowing people for a long period of time, and the thought of someone in my life for the rest of it, isnt too appealing.
I am an Aromantic Asexual.

I've never wanted children either.  I've had those remarks said to me to.  Like "you're at the right age for children", or "you are very nurturing", "you would make a great mother", and so on. 

I think some of those mothers want the children so they can get more tax credits and government assistance, like you stated.

No kids for me either! : )

The article describes me to a T. Never had a mothering instinct, not even a little bit. I loved animals more than children, and it's still that way. While other women are drawn to babies like iron shavings to a magnet, I couldn't care less about them. Yeah, I get that they're cute, but is that any reason to go out of my way to coo over some stranger's baby in a stroller? Besides, maybe the kid doesn't want to be bothered.


I had very few dolls as a little girl, and my mom gave them away because I soon lost interest in them. I preferred stuffed animals, plastic dinosaurs, toy cars, and Legos. I liked collecting seashells and rocks, examining bugs, reading, and drawing, but I didn't like babies. As I grew older, I couldn't even stand to babysit kids of any age. I still don't.


Whatever it is that gives most women the desire to procreate and care for a baby, evidently skipped me--and I am perfectly happy with that!

Same here Lois. I just never had the desire for kids. No maternal instinct.

I always wanted kids from the time I was very young, and I did have one son. But I think that was enough. I AM aware of the need to reduce world population, and not having them is a better solution than killing them off though starvation and disease.

But if we allow, not even encourage, women not to have kids, we need to have a better safety net for when the women get older, and there are no family members who are "obligated" to take care of them. Nursing-home or assisted living care is EXPENSIVE, and I know *I* can't afford it. Historically, children have been the key to unlock govt. assistance, and have provided care to old parents when there was no one else to do it. Even the per-child tax credit is unfair -- it goes to rich families with children who don't need it, while leaving poor single or childless people (especially men) in the gutter.

So, without some radical changes to public attitudes and govt. policy, the childless are going to continue as a discriminated-against class. And I'm not even going to talk about the loonies who are trying to overpopulate the world (Mormon friend: It's in God's hands -- he will take care of us) and the rest of the world who are having a lot of children because they have no other choice or their religion tells them to. (Bush gag order).

That is a very relevant point Natalie. My friends often bring it up in conversation about society and nuclear families. As a Canadian, seniors' living conditions are quite possibly different from the USA. In Canada, once you arrive at that age, there is assistance which trickles in from government. My mother who lives in Montreal is a very typical example. My mother had me, then got married and had two other kids, then soon after there was divorce. Neither of the three kids were ever aligned with the types of careers that could come to aid for her in her senior years. Neither of these kids are having children of our own. As a resident of the province of Québec, she gets three forms of monetary assistance which total up to approximately 1100$/m (if I'm not mistaken). Though this would not be sufficient for a non senior, as a senior she has been lucky enough to access subsidised housing, which costs her 1/4 of her income. Of course, many social costs are half-priced or free, such as public transit. Recently, the government has created a drub plan for seniors as well. So of course she is not rich. My parents never contributed money to our higher education, nor are contributing any inheritance or long term financial advantage such as a family home. She's not rich, but in Québec, 875/m of disposable income is sufficient to get by with.


But this conversation begs not one but two questions:

-Is it ethical to create progeny for our own selfish reasons?

-Has Western civilisation not created our own entrapment through our obsession with living longer and longer and longer... a vast majority of those living longer are NOT doing so healthily, they are medical wards, all on longterm meds and constant hospital interventions. Our very recent obsession with the concept of nuclear families is completely contrary to any reasonable care structure for our ageing.


Frankly, personally, I have zero interest in promulgating longevity for humans. Typical longevity in nature generally does not reach menopause age, for two reasons: violent death and natural death. Western civilisation doesn't "like death", we seem to always call it "premature". WTF is premature death???? :)

Most women are finished with menopause by age 55-60, just about when social services kick in. What if our obsession with constantly extending our lives is not actually healthy, not actually a good idea for anyone, except our own selfishness? Our elderly are generally scared, extremely conservative people, traumatised by long years of hurt, seeing loved ones departed. Then there is the religious stigma about suicide. In the wild, elephants which have surprisingly staved off violent death up until that point, which are no longer contributing to the herd, walk away from the herd to die quietly.


Of course, some people "naturally" live long (as opposed to medically), some have great support communities, some have tremendous genes, some were just lucky. In tribal communities, the tribe cares for its very low number of elders.


I don't think we'd be in this situation were it not for our Christian heritage, which has now imposed these value systems onto the world at large, no matter their religion, through cultural imperialism.


Your quandary is a good one... it begs important questions about how we define this Western civilisation of ours. I think it's a big enough subject to require a discussion thread of its own :)



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