Country-wide fertility rates are relatively low, according to recent data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). In fact, women in the United States are having fewer babies for a multitude of reasons, according to a burgeoning body of research.
Some women are choosing to focus on building their careers or starting businesses, while others are forgoing having children for financial reasons. Meanwhile, some women decide not to have kids because they want to travel independently, and others don't want kids for a whole host of other reasons.
We asked women to share the different paths they've chosen for themselves instead of parenting. Here's what they had to say.
1. She pursued entrepreneurship.
"I started a global branding and marketing firm 18 years ago," says, Paige Arnof-Fenn, founder and CEO of Mavens & Moguls. "I never wanted children. I love being an aunt and godmother, spending time together and then sending them home. I feel I get all the benefits of parenthood with none of the drama and baggage. We have taken our nieces, nephews and god kids to Europe, hosted a wedding, attended many graduations, even paid a few tuitions over the years. I have had an interesting career, traveled extensively and moved many times over the years. I have never woken up one day wishing I had a child so I know I made the right decision for me... I love children and had as very happy childhood; I just never wanted to be a mom. We are a two entrepreneurs with no pets, no plants and no kids, and I have no regrets!"
2. She chased her career.
"I'm a communications and public relations consultant working on building my business; while my career has certainly taken precedence over having children, a stronger reason for this choice is simply that I know myself and value my present life more than a hypothetical one that includes children," says Jennifer Johnson.
Johnson says that there have been times that she wasn't always as confident in her decision to not have children. She met her husband when she was 16 years old and, now at 32, they've been married for over 12 years. Neither of them had ever considered children as part their life plan, but when she was 28, she was diagnosed with PCOS (a hormone disorder that has a detrimental impact on fertility), and she was told that she cannot have children.
"I was faced with the realization that if I ever wanted children, it would have to be a very deliberate and likely costly decision that would come with a lot of heartache," she says. "I always thought that I should be the person with these issues, over women who desperately want to have their own children, because it wouldn't affect me. But I was wrong. The doctors I saw were fairly flippant about this revelation, and I was left on my own to handle the psychological effects of the news. It was one thing not to want something and another thing entirely to be told you can't have it."
After several weeks of grappling with the news on her own, Johnson had a serious conversation with her husband. She needed him to agree that, "if a strange and unforeseen future existed" and they wanted children, adoption was an option.
"I still don't want children and very likely never will," she says. "Our lifestyle and my own physical and mental health issues would make it nearly impossible and extremely difficult. But it took knowing that I can have children through adoption to once again live confidently and happily child-free. It's my choice to value my relationship, my career, my lifestyle and my own well being more than the life I could have with children. And because it's my choice, I'm happy with it."
3. She seeks several forms of further education.
4. She travels all over.
"I chose my career and travel instead of having children," says Chloe of Couple Gift. "I owe a digital marketing agency and an online store. I chose these businesses because what I enjoy the most is to travel and, with these, I can work and travel at the same time. Moreover, I am not really comfortable with kids. It is important to say that not to have children is a choice and not an obligation for me."
5. She started a nonprofit.
"I lost my first and only daughter to a genetic disease called Spinal Muscular Atrophy; my husband and I are both carriers (one in 40 people are, most unknowingly) and have chosen to tie our tubes," says Ashley Jones. "Instead of having more children, I have birthed a nonprofit into the world and am focused on our mission to revolutionize the way we grieve. It’s called Love Not Lost, and we have a photography program that provides professional portrait sessions and photo albums to families facing a terminal illness at no charge to them. We have a community support program to provide tools like www.HowCanILoveYouBetter.com, and we have a corporate care program to bring grief and empathy training to the workplace. I loved every minute of being a mom and can also say I love every minute of being able to focus on my career and mission with Love Not Lost. My husband and I may consider adopting in the future, but right now we are extremely grateful for the time we have to deepen our relationship and enjoy our undivided attention with one another."
6. She empowers others as a mentor.
"I didn't intentionally choose not to have children; rather, after a miscarriage during my first year of marriage, I found myself unable to conceive again, it was chosen for me," says Carol Gee. "A creative. warm, nurturing individual with a lot to offer, I poured this into my career as a college/university instructor and administrator. Through the years, all my departments hired student workers to work on research grants or assist in the office. And every year one ore more students needed some extra assistance in some area. Be it ways to earn more funds, an internship, letters of recommendation or simply someone to talk to about job options and other issues, my mentoring, my interaction and genuine affection earned me such terms as 'mother figure', 'second mom', 'god-mommy', 'play mom.' This, as well as my 'girlfriend' books that empower girls and women to embrace their humanity, 10 years ago earned me the UnSung Heroine Award presented by The Center of Women at Atlanta's Emory University, where I was employed for close to 22 years. Through the years, I have made empowering others my focus. While I wasn't lucky enough to birth any children, through the years, I have 'mothered' a ton of them."
AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreport and Facebook.