Skip to comments.Women Without Children Stand By Choices
Posted on 07/18/2007 10:22:37 AM PDT by Millee
Most little girls play with dolls when they're young, miming the age-old role for women: marrying and building a family.
And, for some, there is a stigma around women who don't want to have children. Old stories and fairy tales paint single women without children poorly -- as spinsters or witches.
It seems odd that these stereotypes would continue to live today, suggests Madelyn Cain, author of "The Childless Revolution: What It Means To Be Childless Today."
Making The Decision
Despite the potential negative reaction from friends and families, many women, such as teacher Samantha Henderson, make the decision to live without raising children of their own.
"Every woman's dream is supposedly to have children. Does this mean I am not a woman, because I have chosen not to have any? No," said Henderson. "Instead, it makes me responsible for my actions."
Statistics show that more women are choosing to remain childless as they pursue careers and lives that don't focus on raising children. The U.S. Census found that the percentage of women in their 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s who don't have children has been growing over the past decade. According to The Social Health of Marriage in America, a report from the National Marriage Project at Rutgers University, in 2004 almost one out of five women in their early 40s was childless. In 1976, it was one out of 10.
Visions Of Life Change
"Childlessness is growing in the U.S., and the reason is that more and more women are becoming educated and entering the work world," said Cain. "They're in a position to make some powerful decisions in their lives."
And, she said, sometimes they didn't know that they would decide not to start a family.
"(Childless women) didn't think they'd be childless. They always thought they'd have children," said Cain. "Often, their jobs took up a lot of energy, and they decided life was too frantic, or they didn't feel that being a working woman and a mother blended in a way they thought was right."
Cain said that these are not the "tragically childless" or those who made the decision when they were young.
"One thing that surprised me was how many childless people were in the service field as nurses, teachers or therapists," she said. "They are very nurturing people, by nature."
How Society Reacts
"We are a hypocritical society," said Cain. "On one hand, we tell women that they have the right to have an abortion, but we expect them to have children at some point in their lives."
If we're going to champion women's rights, we can't pass judgment onto those who choose to live their lives without having children, Cain said.
"Many believe that you're not whole if you don't have children," said Cain. "The expectation is that if you marry, the next step is to have a child. For some people, that is the right choice, but for others, it isn't correct."
It's apparent, when viewing census statistics, that more adults feel that a childfree lifestyle is correct for them. According to the U.S. Census Bureau report on Fertility in American Women, in 2004, 44 percent of American women of childbearing ages were childless. That's an increase from 35 percent of women in 1976.
"I stand by my decision (not to have children)," said Henderson. "I get asked from time to time whether or not I plan on having children. I simply tell them, 'No,' and leave it at that."
"I shouldn't have to justify myself to anyone," she said.
Children may bring joy to people's lives, but Cain said studies have suggested that childless families are happiest.
"There isn't a division of energies or financial drain; you have the chance to follow your choices, develop yourself and go further in business," she said.
Choosing to be childless isn't all about self-development. Often, friends and family members are perplexed by the decision to not have children. It can be stressful for adults to deal with those close to them asking when they are going to have a child. It is understandable if a woman's mother wants a grandchild, but that woman doesn't need to take that stress and pressure on herself, simply because her mother has a desire to be a grandparent, Cain said.
"No woman should have children to fulfill someone else's needs," said Cain.
When a woman is approached with the question of why she is are childless, Cain suggests a few responses.
"You can be upfront and tell them, 'We have made the decision to not have children,'" she said. "Or tell them, 'We're thinking about it' and let it unfold."
Don't All Women Love Children?
"Just because people tell you that you'd make a great mother doesn't mean you have to have children," said Cain. "There's a big difference between appreciating children and wanting to have them."
Some may argue that choosing to be childless is a selfish decision. Others counter that choosing to have children because you want them is also a selfish decision.
"My dream was to have a positive impact on people's lives," said Henderson. "As a teacher, I have accomplished that goal."
Despite other ways of giving, sometimes women without kids do feel like they did something wrong.
"Childless women in their 50s, who were raised in a more traditional society, have a sense of guilt about not having children," said Cain. "Younger women are determining what they want for themselves."
But the judgment of others comes naturally.
"It's upsetting to walk into a meeting with someone whose child is sick at home with a 103-degree temperature," said Cain. "You wonder about priorities. 'Why isn't she at home with them?'"
Later In Life
Some people also wonder what will happen to women without a brood when they age.
But parents who have children without the expectation that their children will care for them in their older years can be disappointed. Often, children offer little more than a few visits a year.
"Having children to take care of you as you get older is selfish," said Cain. "If you were a good parent, you would nurture your children and raise them to take care of their dreams, not care for their parents."
It is understandable to be concerned about the older years, but those choose to be childless seem unconcerned -- emotionally and financially. According to TheSeniorJournal.com, Baby Boomers without children fare just as well during their retirement years as their peers with children.
Many communities developed for retirees focus on active lifestyles and self-sufficiency. Individuals find that these communities offer something far different from the nursing homes from years past.
"Now that things are changing, it will be interesting to see the power and influence these women have in the future," said Cain.
Oh, I’m suppose to read the article....
This is not going to devolve into an "I am evil for not having kids thread" is it????
Yes, but I was waiting until you showed up to push it in that direction. ;o)
You don't. Please stop it and go get a life.
Many individual "choices" add up to national suicide.
Sometimes, the gene-pool chlorinates itself...
Iirc, this study defined “childbearing age” as 13 and up. I’m personally very happy that my 16-year-old daughter is childless.
I don’t care whether or not a woman has kids. If you pushed me, I’d probably lean towards the side of selfishness for not choosing but honestly, I really don’t care.
I do take offense at this statement, thought. “...the reason is that more and more women are becoming educated.” Am I ignorant for having children?
You don't. Please stop it and go get a life.
She has no life because she has no kids, or because she is talking about it????????
I’m going out and buying stock in PetsMart.
Since the few who have husbands will generally outlive them, they are more or less guaranteed to die alone.
But parents who have children without the expectation that their children will care for them in their older years can be disappointed.
I'll take care of my folks for as long as they live.
Some parents may not have kids who will do that: life is a gamble.
Those who have no children are guaranteeing that no one will be left to look after them.
A few years from now there will be a ton of childless women in their 80s warehoused in long-term care facilities whose only visitors will be paid caregivers who aren't particularly fluent in English.
Still I wouldn't trade having my daughter for all the money in the world. Guess I'm ignorant too. :o)
Of course, but given demographics, there are more childless 35 year olds in that study than there are childless 13 year olds or 13 year old mothers.
I know I am not meant to have kids and I am not going to!!!
Huh. Must be talking about hypocritical Liberals. She's certainly not describing me.
Everybody dies alone.
Somewhere around 1955 there were 150 million in the USA. Now there are 300 million. It does not appear there is any shortage of people.
Has RR met her?
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