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A road more often being travelled: The choice to remain childfree

With the birth rate in America at an all-time low, TIME Magazine’s recent profile of “The Childfree Life” has refueled discussions about the choice not to have children. The latest figures across ethnic groups show that approximately 1 in 5 American women will remain childless – by choice or circumstances – up from 1 in 10 in 1970.

The increase in permanent childlessness is occurring despite ongoing societal pressure for women to become mothers. Our current social norms connect women’s value with motherhood, which excludes women who do not have children. Author Lauren Sandler suggests that women who don’t become mothers, whether by choice or life circumstances such as infertility, are often judged for their choices. They are assumed to be “selfish” women who don’t like children. Despite the fact that the choice to remain childfree is often made by both members of a couple, Sandler argues that the burden of justification – answering the “why don’t you have kids question” –  primarily falls on the shoulders of women rather than men.

However, despite this negative social backlash, more women are finding ways of leading fulfilled lives without having children. For these women, “having it all” doesn’t mean having a baby. These days, women put off motherhood to pursue education, careers, and financial stability. Then, many find themselves content with their childfree lives.

Laura Scott, who runs the “Childless by Choice” documentary project – which gathers stories of adults who choose to remain childfree – sums up the experience: “To make this choice, you really have to be able to manage and navigate all assumptions that are going to be made about you. You have to be able to challenge the status quo.” Clearly, more women (and their partners) are making the childfree choice.

Read the TIME Magazine article here.

Read more about being child-free here, here, here, and here.

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