For many women today, having children is just not something they are prepared to do. Take for instance, Dyanna Volek who works in local government in San Francisco. Dyanna never had a dream of becoming a mother. In fact, she knew from a very young age that she just didn’t want to have children. Seeing her own mother work so hard and not fulfilling her dream of working as a flight attendant and having to juggle three different jobs in order to raise her two children by herself no doubt impacted her decision.
But she was also drawn to other things which interested her more. She says “I’m always looking forward to the next thing. Being a parent was never one of them.” Life today is so fast moving. Women can also do almost anything today and that means enjoying all that is available to them, including checking out some fun at a mobile casino if they want.
But the whole notion of not having children was something you just didn’t talk about so she didn’t spend too much time thinking about it. However, the years went by and she found herself in a serious relationship. It was now something that needed to be reckoned with. When she and her husband married last year, they had come to a decision and that was that they would not have children. Volek is now 37 and is happy with her decision and says she won’t change her mind. She still doesn’t want children.
She says that she experiences a sense of freedom that many of her friends who have children don’t experience. During the tail-end of the pandemic, not having children, allowed them, after receiving vaccinations to travel, visit restaurants and do other activities that with children would maybe not have been possible or would have been risky for the health of their children. They can make plans to travel, retire early and have plenty of time to enjoy their lives.
This trend of women opting not to have children has been growing over the last decade in the US. The birth rate has been in decline, approximately 2% each year, since 2007. It was predicted that during the pandemic we would see a baby boom occur but that has proved to be untrue. Births actually fell by 4% last year and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it was the biggest annual decline in births since 1973.
Experts say that there are a number of factors causing this: Economic insecurity, political instability, changes in gender norms and less societal pressure to have children. The pandemic highlighted the lack of government support for those with children in terms of child care and other government benefitsand may well have helped to cement the decision many women may have made with regard to not having children.
Below are some of the reasons women are choosing to be child free.
Wanting to be free of the responsibility
For a lot of women, pregnancy is scary. This was the case for Cecilia Sanders who is a 32- year- old project manager living in Chicago. She knew at an early age that she didn’t want to have children but she felt a lot of pressure to have children, as if not having them she would be a disappointment to her community of friends and family. She was concerned that she would have little time for herself and her needs even though friends insisted that they had time for themselves. She spent a good deal of time weighing up the pros and cons but ultimately didn’t change her mind.
The truth is that parents do put their children first. And Sanders knew that this would be difficult for her as it would mean sacrificing things that were important to her. She also struggles with anxiety and depression and this would make looking after children particularly difficult. Trying to raise children at the same time as maintaining her mental health felt too much of a challenge.
Concerns about the lack of support
The lack of support and resources given to women in the US is often cited as one of the main reasons for not having children. According to Amy Blackstone, author of “Childfree by Choice: The movement redefining family and creating a new age of independence” and a sociologist at the University of Maine “the lack of family friendly policies in the US is one explanation behind the declining birth rate in recent years, something that the pandemic made even more clear.”
During the pandemic, parents had to continue working, figuring out their own childcare and also helping their children at home while they learned remotely. This situation has left many parents feeling depleted and certainly impacted their decisions as to whether to have more children.
Blackstone says “The pandemic has really revealed to us how poorly we support parents in the US. We’ve come to see the truth that we’ve always known but never speak out loud, which is that parenting is really hard. And we don’t really support parents in that role.”
Lack of support was definitely a concern for Yana Grant. The 24-year-old decided last year not to have children. There is no national paid parental leave in the US and child care is very expensive and difficult to find. The responsibility for parenting falls mainly on the woman. Grant says “As soon as you find out you’re pregnant, you have to be a mother first and then a woman. Men get to be men and then a father, it seems like.”
They are enjoying their lives
Jordan Levey is now 35 and has been married for 4 years. She spent many years in law school and then focusing on her career. She thought that at some time she would perhaps have children but she and her husband have decided that they like their current lifestyle, being able to do what they like and don’t want to have children. Levey says “We are really happy in our life. We love to travel, we love to cook, we both really value our alone time and that self aware. I think we could be perfectly fine parents – I just don’t think we would enjoy it.”
Sanders also says the same “I definitely feel I probably wouldn’t be as far in my career as I am now and I wouldn’t be able to just live my normal life and pursue my hobbies and passions. I wouldn’t be living my fullest life.”
For Blackstone, the fact that these women opt for a lifestyle without children is very significant. We see that societal norms and attitudes are changing. She says “We’re having more conversations about the reality that parenthood is an option, not something that everybody has to do.”