With the rise in articles and posts about being childfree these days, I especially appreciate those that give good summaries of the childfree decision. Take the recent post, “Why Many Millennials Have Decided To Be Childfree (And That’s Okay)” by Liz Greene on peacefuldumpling.com.
Greene speaks to these reasons many Millennials are making the childfree decision: financial instability, health woes, social and environmental concerns, and personal choice. In the Health Woes section, I especially like how she comments that increased openness about pregnancy risks, maternal deaths, and fear (terror and disgust) of carrying a child and giving birth help tear down “the social constructs that insist that all women want to have children.”
Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about! We can’t talk enough about how the idea that all “normal” women are supposed to want children reflects construct – a concept, an idea. Most importantly, construct does not mean truth.
What’s the truth? That it is just as normal to not want children as it is to want them.
The Heart of it: Desire
Greene’s piece includes “personal choice” as one of the reasons Millennials make the childfree decision. My interview research and grounded theory qualitative data gathering since the year 2000 point toward a different way to understand these reasons. Financial, health, social and environmental concerns constitute reasons, to be sure. As Greene mentions, so does not wanting to give up one’s freedom and independence. And, “Many choose to focus on their relationships with their partner, friends, and family members. They feel complete without children.”
But this truly gets to the crux of it: “Finally, some have no desire to be a parent — and they’re not willing to subject a child to an environment where they are not wanted.” I have found that at its core, the lack of desire ultimately drives the decision. When people have enough desire, they commonly adopt the mindset that financially they will be able to make it work. When they have enough desire, they are more to justify bringing only one child (or two, depending on which expert you believe) into the world. Mental and physical health issues impact desire levels depending on the nature of the issue. Those who have the desire to become parents but face physical health concerns or issues often seriously look at adoption.
It works the other way as well. A lack of desire can make financial concerns feel even weightier. With a lack of desire, we can more easily see the value of not bringing another human into today’s overpopulated world faced with climate change. And not being drawn to parenthood in the first place supports averting mental and physical health woes. In other words, we don’t want children enough to face the financial realities; to justify bringing another person into the world; or to be willing to face mental or physical woes.
Greene is right. The decision is a “highly personal one.” At its core, beyond other reasons, the parenthood and childfree decision comes from our hearts.