20-Somethings on the Childfree Movement

I came across an interesting utube video by “ochinaocatosunflower”  on the childfree movement. She wanted to do her utube video because while she see news stories on childfree, but not on youtube.  She describes some myths with the childfree.  One is: “You are incomplete as a woman if  you don’t have kids.”  She says their is a religious component to this, namely, the idea that “you have a god given right to have children.”  For her she has no god given right, as she is an atheist.

That got me thinking–are childfree more likely to be atheist than those who have children?  Past research does indicate trends that the childfree are less religious, but I have not seen current research on this, and no research on childfree 20 somethings in this regard. In my interviews for Families of  Two, religious affiliation ran the gamut; some described themselves as religious, others less so, but I did not meet any that described them selves as atheists.

Ochinaocatosunflower also makes a great point about the myth of childfree being selfish. She says it is a selfish decision not to have children just like having children is a selfish decision–we do it for ourselves.  So true!  She is also right on when she says if you are not doing it for you and are doing it for someone else (e.g., your spouse, parents, etc.)–this is not a good decision.  She also mentions how having children has become a kind of status symbol, especially for young women I believe–that “babies are the new handbag.”  Do you agree?

Ochinaocatosunflower talks about her reasons why she does not want children, but does say she might be open to changing her mind when she is older, in her 40s or 50s, and even at that time she would only consider adoption.  Based on fertility stats, even if 20 somethings think they do not want children, they will change minds at some point as they get older.  But is this the case now with this generation of 20 somethings?

What do you see out there:

Are 20 somethings who don’t want kids more likely to be atheists?

Are they more  likely than generations past to stick to their decision not to have kids?

If they do change their mind, will they be less fixated on having their own biological children and adopt instead?

I am so curious about how the childfree movement is evolving in relation to younger adults…Please share your thoughts!

13 thoughts on “20-Somethings on the Childfree Movement

  1. I am an atheist, too. I have been an atheist for a few years more than I have been childfree. I was 13 when I became an atheist, successfully fighting my parents to not be Bar Mitzvahed. I was 20 when I knew I did not want to ever have children.

    Being an atheist makes it very easy to dismiss any religious arguments from those who blurt out the “Life Script” that “children are a gift from god”. That makes as much sense as saying that “children are a gift from the Flying Spaghetti Monster.”

    1. Hi Deegee, How did you decide to become an atheist, e.g., what about the faith you were broughtup did not resonate, or others, or…? Atheists do seem to be coming out of the “closet” more these days..The book the God Delusion has been very popular. There was also a segment on 60 minutes…I will go after the link as it was an interesting piece about how atheists are wanting to form “communities” like churches but not to be with those of like minds…~L

  2. My family was not very religious, as they disliked the idea of sending me to a Hebrew school 2 or 3 days a week after my regular school. So a friend of mine and I went to an Orthodox rabbi once a week when I was 11 or 12 so I could learn the language (Hebrew) and receive Bar Mitzvah training.

    I was also being told Old Testament bible stories but after about a year of all of that, I just decided one day I did not believe in god or any of that stuff and refused to do any more studying. I went on strike and, if my parents made me go through with it, would have made a total fool of myself at the Bar Mitzvah. But I did not care, and my parents knew it. So they had to call off the Bar Mitzvah so THEY would not become embarrassed. Pretty big achievement at age 12-13. I have no regrets about it. In fact, I am very pleased.

    My younger brother, however, was sent to Hebrew school and went through with his Bar Mitzvah. But he later married a devout Catholic girl in a church (he did not convert) so his Jewish religion is hardly a big part of his life.

    Only in the last 5-10 years have I become more outspoken about my atheism (out of the closet, perhaps?).

    I did read “God Delusion” a few years ago. Great book. I also visit a website called atheism.about.com by Austin Cline. A great resource center.

    1. You were brave! Lots of kids probably just suffer through stuff like Bar Mitzvah, confirmations, and the like..

      The book I was thinking of is Good Without God by Epstein-

      Have you read it? Epstein appeared 60 minutes and like the book review on amazon presents, he talked about atheism in a “more balanced and inclusive” way: “Humanism. With a focus on the positive, he highlights humanity’s potential for goodness and the ways in which Humanists lead lives of purpose and compassion. Humanism can offer the sense of community we want and often need in good times and bad, as we celebrate marriages and the birth of our children, and as we care for those who are elderly or sick. In short, Humanism teaches us that we can lead good and moral lives without supernaturalism, without higher powers . . . without God. ”
      Makes sense to me….
      ~L

  3. I’m not technically a 20-something anymore; I’m 31. But my DH and I have been together since we were 17 (married at 24). I think we decided at 18 or 19 that we never wanted kids, and we’ve stuck to it firmly.

    He was raised Lutheran, I was raised Catholic. I think we had both been agnostic since our teens, and since our mid-20’s we’ve held an atheistic view (funny how I still feel like I should duck and cover before saying I’m an atheist).

    We will not change our minds. I am confident that we have spent many more hours discussing our decision than 99.9% of parents did before choosing to have kids. This is the right choice for us, and we get kind of offended when people still imply that we will “come around” one day. To your question re: biological vs. adopted, though, I’m afraid people still cling to this idea that they have to make little replicas of themselves. I’ve tried to convince a friend (who I believe has been undergoing $30,000 of painful IVF treatments for the past two years) that she and her DH could be the world to an adoptee, and love it every bit as much as the one they’re hoping to make in the test tube (only I said “their own” instead of the test tube bit, I’m sure), but alas…she insists there’s just something special about having “your own.” I don’t get it.

    Here’s one more factor you might be able to work into your research: I’m an only child. I’ve often wondered if my fear of kids (and they do scare the pants off me until they reach their teens) is a result of a childhood spent interacting primarily with adults, and never living with a younger sibling or witnessing the parenting process. My DH has one older brother (about 2.5 years apart). We both have religious, loving, attentive, family-driven parents who are still married.

    Good luck with your updated research – I hope you decide to publish Part Two! I have the first book and I tracked down copies for two of my CF friends this year, too. Such an important message – thank you for your work!

    1. Liz, Thanks for the comment and good words! Although it seems that more atheists are “coming out of the closet” as it were, and more books are being written about it, I can undertand why you feel you should duck and cover before saying you are an atheist~!

      Regarding being the only child, there is some trend research that indicates childfree tend to be either only children or first born. Other research has indicated the childfree tended as kids to be characterized as the “responsible” child or the “rebellious” child. Women tend to have a strong female role model who did not have children. From interviews with lots of childfree couples, I also heard lots of comments that they did their share of babysitting in their lives and found they did not like it. I am in the process of researching Part Two so stay tuned–And keep joining the conversation! ~L

  4. I’m *almost* in your group, being a few mouths short of turning 20 years old. I’m a Lutheran who has been confirmed and my fiancee is an agnostic. We (currently) plan to be childfree.

    I have one younger brother, and did have a big part in helping to raise him (although I took this upon myself, not my parents pushing it on me). My original plans were that if I changed my mind I would adopt. Now I’m considering that I could give birth- if I change my mind in the first place!

    In terms of religious beliefs- yes, I do believe that children are a gift from God. That does not mean, however, that *I* have to have kids. I’m more than happy to enjoy the fruits of OTHER people’s labor, literally. =D

    1. Hi Linda, Thanks for writing–re being more than happy to enjoy the fruit of other people’s labor–that’s funny! I am curious–while you currently plan to be childfree, you sound like the door to having children (biological or adopted) is still open. Can you tell us a bit more about why you are currently childfree and why you might change your mind? What about your fiancee–does he feel the same, or…? ~Thanks, L

  5. Both of us came to the relationship claiming to be childfree. Between the two of us is a number of mental and physical illnesses which I would not want to risk putting together in one child (probably unlikely, but still not something I’d be fond of). Besides that, neither of us relish the idea of ‘raising the next generation’ as the idea goes, or dealing with a child on a 24/7 basis. We’d rather have the financial ability and time ability to take random vacations or make donations to non-profit groups.

    I’m more open to a change of mind than he is. I think a lot of it right now is that I am so young, and I understand that people can and do change their mind about such things. I don’t want to be so rash as to say that I know exactly what I’ll want at the age of 19. I think some of it also has to do with my interest in the birthing community, and helping other women obtain the birth they want. Of course, certain parts of birth reinforce my childfree beliefs!

    1. Re your illness point, if you have not read it already you might enjoy the post form Dec 22nd that talks about a piece in Newsweek written by Jessica Handler. She decided not to have kids because of genetic illness in her family–like the title of the article, she decided she did not want to “roll the biological dice.”

      It is totally reasonable to stay open to changing your mind — lots of couples leave the door open (e.g., not getting a vasectomy right away) for awhile, and come to know if/when the time to close that door has come. Couples I have talked with say that the key is to keep the lines of communication open about it over time with your partner…

      Very cool you are interested in the birthing community–there are many women in the birthing community who do not have kids of their own — it’s another example of how lots of women have babies and children in their lives–they just aren’t parents! ~L

  6. I’m a 16 year old, happily childfree, agnostic-borderline-atheist woman. I am firm in my choice. Honestly, I don’t think religion plays too much of a role in whether one decides to be CF. It could be a host of things. For me, the deciding factor was watching my sister struggle in having her daughter and the things that followed, not to mention several experiences in my childhood.

  7. I’m not sure if I would identify with ‘atheist’ but my lack of religious affiliation does affect my decision to not have children. Many of my peers who are getting married and having children are doing so in defense of their religious beliefs, whereas, I am not doing those things because I feel no religious reason to do so, among many other reasons. If people ask me why I have choosen to not get married or have kids, I usually list off a whole bunch of things including the fact that I feel it’s unnecessary because I’m not bound by religion or traditional values to do so. I think it allows me to make my decisions on my own terms, not by anyone else’s standards.

    In response to “babies are the new handbag” with young women, I would absolutely agree. I don’t understand what’s going on…. pronatalism at it’s core?

    1. Jasmine, Thanks for writing. Marrying and having kids as a wau to defend religious beliefs – that tells you how powerful religion is – people give over their lives to it. On the other hand, it gives people structure and a way to understand themselves, why they are here, what they are “supposed” to be and do in life. Bravo to you for cutting your own path. Babies as the new handbag, pronatalism in action indeed. Making baby status symbol and commodity = babies mean big business, which is one reason why pronatalism remains so pervasive.

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