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The child-free choice: A road taken by an increasing number of women

A recent article in BBC News Magazine profiled women who choose not to be become mothers. The article stresses that once considered an “unnatural” choice, for a variety of reasons, more and more women are remaining child-free. Sociologist Dr. Catherine Hakim, from the London School of Economics, has studied voluntary childlessness in Europe and the UK. She suggests that this is still a relatively “new social phenomenon.” In the past, women who did not have children often hid this fact particularly if their childlessness was a deliberate choice, because of the social pressure and judgment they would receive. However, more women are now open about what they feel is a very positive lifestyle.

Still, women who do not become mothers face awkward questions, judgments, and disapproval from others. Despite increases in the number of women and men who choose to remain child-free, as well as those who are faced with childlessness as a result of infertility, childless women in particular find they often face the judgment and suspicion of others. For instance, one woman said people question why she doesn’t have a baby of her own.

“They say, ‘you don’t know what you’re missing, you won’t know until you’ve had a child that that’s what you wanted to do’. That’s a hypothetical question – if you’ve got no motivation to have a child in the first place, why would you do it? I wouldn’t chose to become a nurse on the chance I might love the career once I get there.”

Some come to the decision to remain child-free more easily than others. Beth Follini counsels women agonizing over whether or not to have children. She says many of her clients don’t want to have kids, but they feel pressure to do so.

“A woman’s fertility status is still very much considered public property. There are still assumptions about women’s role in society, about families and about family size”.

Others make peace with their childlessness and go on to live fulfilled and satisfying lives, after dealing with infertility. Child-free women often include nurturing roles in their lives in different ways. They may be aunts or godmothers. Frequently, they are caregivers to their pets. Melanie Notkin, founder of the Savvy Auntie website (http://savvyauntie.com) suggests that there should be a national day to celebrate child-free women.

“It would be a chance for these women to feel whole, for everything that they are, instead of having to focus on all the things they’re not – ie mothers.”

Whatever the reason or path, more women and men are building meaningful lives and relationships without becoming parents.

Read the BBC article here:

The women who choose not to be mothers [BBC News Magazine]

Read our section on Child-free Living here for more information and resources.

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