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Who will take care of you when you’re old? Why are you so selfish? Why wouldn’t you want children? (Ouch…)
These are common comments that child-free couples face regularly.
As a society (in Western cultures), there is an established flow to life that has been accepted as the norm. The natural progression for many couples is to get married, move in together and start a family. But not everyone follows this route. Some couples consciously make the decision not to have kids – either short-term or for the long haul.
Ultimately, the choice to have children is a personal one. Yet, many people accustomed to their traditional ways cannot fathom why anyone would choose not to have kids. This can lead to misunderstanding, ridicule, and frustration on the couple’s part.
Childfree couples have always been a thing, some by choice and some not. The trend appears to be growing for various reasons that we’ll explore below.
ChildFree vs. Childless: Your Word Choice Matters
To be sensitive to a couple’s situation, it’s important to distinguish between being child-free and being childless.
- Childfree couples are those that do not have children.
- Childlessness is a term used to describe couples who wanted children but, for various reasons, did not have them (e.g., infertility).
While it is often assumed that children couples make a conscious choice, sometimes other factors were involved. Childlessness has a negative connotation that emphasizes the struggles and pain of a couple that wanted kids.
Thus, it is always best to refer to couples without kids as “childfree” rather than “childless.” Or better yet, don’t define them by this one choice in their life; simply call them a couple.
Related read: Your Infertility Questions Answered
8 Reasons for Being Childfree
There are a variety of reasons that a couple might choose to remain Childfree, whether for the short-term or long-term.
1. Financial Considerations
Raising children can be expensive, and some couples feel that they would rather direct their money toward other pursuits or investments, such as travel or furthering their education. On the other hand, some couples may not feel financially stable enough to have children.
Couples with dual incomes and no kids have a lot more time and energy to invest in their hobbies and other activities that they love. This type of lucrative lifestyle (for some people) is referred to as a DINK lifestyle.
2. Time Commitment
Raising a child is a huge time commitment that some couples don’t feel they can make. Especially in the younger year of child-rearing, it requires almost constant attention. Some couples value their free time and don’t want to add raising children to their schedule.
3. Increased Freedom
For some, it’s about a desire for freedom; childfree couples can do as they please on any given day without worrying about ensuring their kids are taken care of.
4. Personal Relationships
Having a kid completely changes the dynamic of relationships – not only between parents but also with other couples and family members. Some couples feel that having children would hurt their relationship or make it difficult to maintain close relationships with extended family members.
5. Lack of Partner Support
In some cases, one partner may want to have children while the other does not. If a couple can’t come to an agreement on this matter, they may decide to stay child-free.
6. Life Goals
A couple might also choose to remain child-free if they want to pursue certain goals or ambitions in their life, such as getting an education, traveling the world, or advancing their careers. When they set their goals for life together, they likely realized that kids didn’t really fit in.
7. Health Concerns
In some cases, couples may decide to remain child-free due to health concerns. This could be physical or mental issues that either partner has and could make parenting difficult.
Additionally, some couples that originally wanted kids may have changed their minds after realizing they’d need to go through extensive medical care and costs to try to have kids (such as IVF, adoption, etc.).
8. Other Reasons
In addition to these common reasons, a couple may have other more nuanced motivations for remaining child-free. Ultimately, couples should make this decision based on what works best for them. Regardless of your opinion, it is important to be mindful and respectful of that choice.
Related read: Signs You’re Not Ready for a Baby
When Being Childfree Wasn’t a Choice
For some couples, the choice to be child-free was not a conscious decision. These couples may have faced infertility or other medical issues that made having kids impossible. Couples in this situation often go through a grieving period, which can be difficult and painful. In these cases, it is important to acknowledge the couple’s pain and honor their journey.
It’s also important to recognize that being child-free doesn’t mean couples can’t experience meaningful relationships. They can still create strong bonds with friends and family members; and be involved with the kids of their close friends, family, and community.
The Stigmas Around Being Childfree
Unfortunately, couples that have chosen to remain child-free have often faced stigmas and judgment from family, friends, and society in general. This is why using respectful language when talking about or referring to couples without kids is important – words like “childless” can carry negative connotations.
Often, childfree couples are referred to as selfish or are viewed as strange. People with children might have a hard time connecting with childfree couples due to their judgment. However, there’s no reason why couples with or without children can’t be friends – it’s simply a matter of understanding and acceptance. (My best friend is childfree, and my two girls love having her as an auntie.)
It is important to remember that, no matter what the circumstances are, remaining child-free should be respected as an individual choice, and couples should not feel ashamed or judged for their decisions. And they don’t need a barrage of judgemental questions about their future; you can be that they’ve thought it through pretty thoroughly.
Childfree Couples: FAQ
If you are considering a childfree lifestyle or have a friend or family member considering it, you may have some questions. Let’s review.
Are childfree couples happier?
The evidence is mixed for this question. Studies have found that raising kids can cause parents to “deprioritize” each other, which can lead to dissatisfaction. However, overall, it was found that couples with and without kids were equally happy. They are two different life decisions that can result in happiness when chosen and accepted as a life path.
What percentage of married couples are childless?
A 2021 survey shows 1 in 4 couples choose to be child-free.
How many couples are childless due to infertility rather than choice?
An older study conducted in 2009 found that there are tens of millions of couples around the globe that are infertile. This number has likely grown since then. The Mayo Clinic estimated 10 to 15% of couples in the US are infertile.
The research goes on to show that being childless despite wanting children can have major psychological consequences, particularly for women. It was also found that being childless can cause a strain on a couple’s friends and family that do have children.
Life Without Children
Not every couple will follow the same sequencing of events in life. While having kids is a logical step for some couples, it doesn’t have to be. And it shouldn’t be assumed.
Ultimately, a couple’s decision about starting a family should be respected. Having kids can be an incredibly rewarding and fulfilling experience, but it is also important for couples to understand that having a child-free life can also bring joy and happiness. Ultimately, it comes down to what works best for each individual couple.