Although the majority of Americans have or want children, some 44% of non-parents ages 18 to 49 say it is not too or not at all likely that they will have children someday, according to a Pew Research Center Study.
There are plenty of reasons why folks don’t have kids, and no one really owes anyone else an explanation for making that choice. There are always certain things that are off-limits to talk about at work, and while people might be open to talking about their family, there’s no reason to discuss why others don’t want to start one while you’re in the office or on a Zoom call.
That said, it’s natural to wonder why people are opting to make different choices than what appears to be the "norm," so here are 11 reasons some people choose not to have kids. Read on for the info, and remember — resist the temptation to bug your childless colleagues about it.
Not everyone wants to be a parent. While lots of people adore their children and can’t imagine life without them, other people are perfectly content and fulfilled without a child. Just because someone doesn’t want a child, that doesn’t automatically make them the evil Miss Trunchbull from Matilda. On the contrary, someone doing what’s right for themselves is best for everyone.
Jobs take up a lot of time, and satisfying careers are hardwon. Building a career can take years or even decades, and plenty of folks simply don’t want to give that up after working so hard to build it for themselves. Instead, they choose to invest their time and attention in their jobs rather than in having little ones.
Putting more people on the planet requires more resources, creates more pollution and results in more waste. For people who are concerned about everything from overpopulation to climate change, choosing not to have kids is one way they can positively impact the environment. The study "The climate mitigation gap: education and government recommendations miss the most effective individual actions" revealed that having one less child could make as much impact in reducing carbon emissions as 684 teenagers who recycle for the rest of their lives. That’s a lot of positive impact, and it’s important enough to many activists that they’re choosing to have fewer kids or no kids at all.
Simply having a baby can cost a small fortune. The average cost to give birth in the United States is about $10,000, according to the International Federation of Health Plans. That’s assuming there are no complications, and that figure doesn’t include prenatal or postpartum care. Once the baby is born, the expenses continue to soar. According to the US Department of Agriculture, it costs over $233,000 to raise a kid from birth to the age of 17. This doesn’t include the cost of college tuition, much less private school. That’s a lot of money that some folks simply can’t afford or don’t want to shell out.
Even if some people can theoretically reproduce, having a child can be detrimental to a parent’s health. That might mean it would be a danger to carry a child through pregnancy or that having a kid could impact someone’s mental health. Some adults make a choice to protect their own well-being by not having kids. Additionally, some potential parents recognize that their own health is fragile and that it might not be fair to put a child through losing a parent or coping with a chronically-sick parent. Likewise, genetic testing allows couples to know if they run the risk of passing on a disease or condition to their children, and many folks chose not to take that risk if something comes up.
People might not have kids because they are already taking care of other folks in their lives. That could be an aging parent, a younger relative or a spouse who is having health challenges. Investing time and energy into caring for others might discourage people from adding the responsibilities that go along with children, too.
Lots of people who don’t have kids really love nurturing them in ways besides parenting. Classroom teachers, nannies and coaches leading extracurricular activities spend a lot of time with young people all day long. The educators and mentors who are especially good with kids give plenty of love and energy to their students, and they may feel completely fulfilled by working with children in that capacity. While many teachers do have their own children, others are content to go home to peace and quiet after a day filled with kids.
There’s a lot of adventure to be had, and not all adventures are kid-appropriate. Some people simply want to see the world, experience new cultures and challenge themselves to live as freely as possible. Doing that with kids in tow isn’t appealing to everyone, and the expense of having kids (see #4 above) can prevent living out that dream. Also, many people appreciate that their own wanderlust might not be the best situation for a child.
A quiet household, a night out on the town whenever you like, spending time on your hobbies, focusing lots of attention on your pets — these are just a few of the things that people might not want to give up in exchange for the pitter-patter of little feet. That’s not to say that hobbies and kids can’t coexist, but the reality is that life changes after having children whether we want it to or not. If life is great exactly as it is, opting not to have a kid is a perfectly reasonable choice.
The truth is that some people might have wanted kids and just didn’t get around to it for any number of reasons. Perhaps they weren’t in a position to care for a child when they were younger, didn’t meet their partner until later in life or went through a divorce during the time they thought they’d be creating a family. Sometimes it just doesn’t happen even when we want it to.
People who have had traumatic childhoods sometimes choose not to have kids for fear of repeating their own histories. They might feel they didn’t learn good parenting skills from their own parents, or they simply might have a different idea of what their family should look like after working through the challenges their lives have brought. Making a family without making babies is a completely valid choice.
If you're wondering why someone close to you doesn't have kids, please don't ask. It's not any of your business, and you might be opening up a discussion your friend, relative or coworker simply doesn't want to have with you. If, however, someone close to you offers to share the reason they don't have children, listen. Be compassionate. Maybe you'll learn something about them. No matter what happens, your friend will be grateful that at least one person in their lives isn't so nosy!
This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of Fairygodboss.