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

The per child tax credit is an attempt to more closely match tax rates to disposable income, which is lower for persons with child care expenses.  And contrary to your statement, it is only available to families whose combined income is less than $110K per year, so it does NOT go to " rich families with children who don't need it".  Get your facts straight.

As TNT666 pointed out, the elderly receive many tax and expense benefits.  Does that make me a discriminated class because I am under 65?  Am I an oppressed non-retired person?  Should I start a forum for us so we can wallow in our self pity together?


You people that are whining about being a discriminated class because of your childlessness are embarrasing.(Dear Muslima.  Stop whining, will you...)

I never made even half of 110K. So that seems pretty upscale to me. I was a single mother before the per child tax credit came into being and by the time it did, my son was too old to be eligible for it. So I paid for child care out of an 11K salary.

I really don't think increasing disposable income on the basis of having children is a good reason for giving tax breaks to some who are richer and not to others who are poorer. Having children is a choice -- families with children use MORE government resources, not less. A single person making 15 - 20K a year will NEVER have anywhere near the disposable income that a family with 110K has, even without the per child tax credit. Why are we subsidizing children for those who don't need the subsidies? Why aren't we subsidizing the working poor, regardless of marital status or having children, instead?

You can tell I don't buy your argument.

I can tell you're not capable of understanding my argument.First, the 110K is COMBINED family income, so even if you never mad half of 110K, with a spouse you would have approached that level.  In any case, 110K is NOT considered wealthy for a couple by any standard.  It is a best upper middle class.Second, I did NOT say the purpose of child tax credits was to increase disposable income.  It is truly frustrating to come across people such as yourself who absolutey refuse to carefully read a post before their fingers hit the keyboard in response.  Please go back and read the sentence of my post more carefully.

Never thought about something like this. Social order is part of our unconscious programming. It might scare some one not to do what every one is doing. In some societies, children were a social security, but no more. Children are not yours, they are part of the society. 

Here, at Kerala, in India, some political parties argue: "marriage is a prison created by men". It is a prison created by society. only society benefits! Neither men nor women.

Yep, society shifted the burden of the ageing and the burden of rearing to individuals... but is it ultimately good for society? Did "society" shoot itself in the foot? Now society is stuck with excess load and governments all over the world are debating how much "government" - place holder of society - has to 'pay' for the mega mess we created? That I think is the point we debate. Certainly if only quantities of humans available for labour are the gauge by which we assess our society's success... then maybe yes... but I don't think quantity of humans is the end all of end all.
Thanks everyone! I appreciate hearing your views on this matter. I appreciate you all participating in my discussion.
Overpopulation, the responsibility, money and energy required to raise a child...and of course pregnancy and labor. I have no desire to experience that. My closest friends and I don't have kids (and we are now in our late 20s) while our acquaintances are getting married and starting families. While other people enjoy seeing the baby pics and getting updates on what the precious children have been doing, I could not be less interested. I'm more of a dog person, but also an introvert and a loner.

You sound a lot like me.  I'm a introvert and a loner and a cat person.  I don't have a cat right now.  I hope to get a new pet soon though.



Dogs are very much like babies, I'd say your parenting instincts are intact :)

I was one of the children of a no-choice mother, who said that children were the gifts of her god - but she would have liked another gift!  I hated to be a child, and decided  at a very early age that I would never force another person to be a child. The biological clock never ticked for me.

Now that I am over 50, I can look back and continue to be happy with my choices - I 've got meaningful relationships, not just with my husband who has been my lover and best friend for 34 years, but also with friends, neighbours and the people I teach. Over the years I've shared my home with homeless cats who reward me with their livelong friendship. The unfulfilled lonely life my xtian parents threatened me with never came.

When I talk to people of my age who did have children they are always worrying, so I don´t think I missed anything.


My answer:

Who in her or his right mind would choose to
  • change stinking napkins, when the alternative is reading a good book?
  • listen to a screaming kid, when the alternative is listening to good music?
  • spend money on kids, when the alternative is buying the music and the books?
  • cook and clean regularly after kids, when the alternative is a hike in the mountains?

Certainly not me!!!

I don't have kids because it's really the one thing I CAN do of benefit to the world: not consume any more resources than I already am, not contribute a great deal of waste to the planet by replicating myself.  I'm not forcing my beliefs on anyone. It's an unselfish thing I can do.




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