Childless by Choice

Maybe you have kids; maybe you don’t. Maybe you plan to become a parent; maybe not. That decision is a highly personal one. But it’s also one of those choices that a lot of other people tend to have opinions about. So here, we unpack the reasons that an increasing number of people are choosing not to have children, and why judging any other person’s choice is probably not a great use of your energy, emotion, or time.

This week we’re talking about being Childless by Choice. That’s a decision that an increasing number of people are making these days, so the assumption that any given person is hoping to someday “get married and have babies” is increasingly a questionable one.

And yet, those who consciously decide not to have kids are often confronted by the judgment of others. From opinion leaders who argue that not having children is “selfish,” to relatives who are counting on you to carry on the family line, there’s no shortage of reasons you might feel pressure — or peevishness — as the result of other people’s investment in your reproductive capacity.

So here, we talk about the many reasons a person might choose not to have kids, and how to cope with the reactions that choice might provoke. We also offer you some experiments to help you get more comfortable and compassionate with your own decision, and others’.

“Childless by Choice” Episode Highlights

  • The statistical reality that choosing not to have kids is becoming an increasingly popular choice
  • Pope Francis’s declaration that being able to reproduce but choosing not to is selfish and sinful
  • The surprising environmental impacts of having fewer children (or not having them at all)
  • The ethical dilemma of bringing kids into our overpopulated, unpredictable world
  • How holdover biological, religious and cultural motivations to have kids still drive the decisions of many
  • Pilar shares her story of — and reasons for — being childless, and Dallas’s shares his perspective
  • The judgments passed both on people without children and on certain people who have lots of kids
  • The personal values that can guide individuals toward not having kids
  • The myriad ways people can make the world a better place without having children

Imagine a future that’s different from the one you envision. If you want kids but don’t have them, think about how that might play out. If you have children, envision your life without them. Whatever your situation, imagine how you’d achieve a life of purpose and meaning without kids. Are there aspects of that imagined life that you can apply to the life you have?

Consider the messages you got from your family of origin and what you’ve taken away from other social programming about the choice to have or not have kids, the responsibility you have to reproduce (or not), and how you might be judged about the choice you make. Then reflect: How much is this decision driven by someone else’s opinion or beliefs about what you should or shouldn’t do? How have those messages influenced how you judge other people’s choices, and can you soften those judgments and assumptions? How does having a judgment about someone else’s decision on such a personal matter really serve you?

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