One study titled “Social Exclusion of Australian Childless Women in Their Reproductive Years” by Beth Turnbull, Melissa Graham, and Ann Taket surveyed 776 Australian women with no children and found:
…societal-level pronatalism drives exclusion of Australian childless women. While exclusion occurs in all domains of life, childless women experience more exclusion, and perceive more exclusion due to being childless, in the social and civic domains than the service and economic domains.
As Krupka remarks, “It is the very act of making a conscious and public choice to reject the role of mother that is overtly or tacitly criticised.”
Reasons for being Childfree
Another “mixed methods exploratory study” titled, “Why are childless women childless?” by Melissa Graham, Erin Hill, Julia Shelly and Ann Taket had the aim of describing women’s reasons for childlessness (this is the term many studies use for the more popular term, childfree). Krupka summarizes it nicely:
It’s not children childless women hate, or even the terrible cost of having children, the lack of available childcare, parental leave or the loss of superannuation that’s taking up the lion’s share of their decision. Instead, it’s the degraded state and overinflated expectations of motherhood most are not keen on. And, of course, some women simply want a different kind of life.
In a similar vein, in-depth conjoint interviews with 20 married couples for the study, “Journeys to remain childless: A grounded theory examination of decision-making processes among voluntarily childless couples,” looked at the process couples go through to decide to have no children. Findings included:
3 decision-making types were identified: mutual early articulator couples, mutual postponer couples, and nonmutual couples. The decision-making processes of voluntarily childless couples included three phases, agreement, acceptance, and closing of the door as well as two driving forces of the process, the strength of conviction and the importance of the relationship.
Stretching the Idea of Womanhood
Krupka also speaks to how “Several recent studies point to an increased social acceptance of women who choose to remain childfree in societies with greater gender parity.” I am encouraged by this, as well as studies actually discussing pronatalism directly in the findings. We are seeing more research on the childfree than ever before these days, but we need to see more of this.
Krupka also articulately expresses how important the childfree choice is to expanding women’s identities. She writes, “Women who use their freedom of choice to not have children are among those who stretch the idea of womanhood to its furthest edges, challenging the age-old assumption that woman and mother are synonymous…” Amen to that.
But she continues on to end that sentence – the last sentence in her piece – with “…and spotlighting the current high cost of mothering.” Now this throws me. Is she saying the choice not to have children puts a spotlight on the high cost of mothering? Earlier she states the costs are not the thing that women in Australia are most keen on when it comes to their reasons for not having children. This interesting piece that summarizes some recent research on the childfree in Australia ends on a head scratch of a note…