No Kids for Me, Thanks

Whether you call it a “childless” life or going “child-free,” it represents a demographic shift.

Comments: 210

  1. It's kind of ironic that the bourgeois singles aren't having kids because of their disdain for bourgeois child-rearing. Whether one does or doesn't have kids, isn't the issue here the ambivalence well-off people feel about being well-off?

  2. It seems that, "well off," like everything else, is relative.

  3. It seems to me, anyway one speaks of it, the decision to have a child fundamentally relates to how one wishes to plan for a life with the resources at hand; thus, the decision has ultimately become an economical and/or financial one.

  4. In a word, no.

  5. That not having children is -first - seen as a decision to refuse a role; and second, is usually defended, or explained, shows how massive the pressures are - still - to have children. Women do have to think through the finality of their situation earlier than men. As Mr Dwyer points out, he can always change HIS mind at about the time he can start taking Social Security.

    The doubling of childless women from 1976 to 2006 most likely reflects the entrance of more highly educated women into higher end jobs and careers -- providing the wherewithal to make choicesIt also introduces pressures that don't mix well with traditional parenting - unless there is a "wife" figure able to absorb home duties.

    I really doubt that anyone opts out of parenthood because of obnoxiously competitive parenting practices. I also don't buy it is tougher today for most people to start families. Thre may be more reasons not to -- but the real reasons are personal.

  6. How can you say it's not tougher to start families today than it was 40 years ago, when many families could survive with only one parent working outside the home, when college tuition could be paid by summer-job earnings, and housing and health care costs for the family and were much less—adjusting for inflation—than they are today? Oh, and don't forget, how many new parents were still paying off their own student loans in the 1970s? Not many. Today it's standard.

  7. Kim, only a slice of American families were one-earner and very few people even went to college compared to today. Housing wasn't that much cheaper and interest rates were way higher.

    If you want to live in a 900 sq ft house with one bathroom, no A/C., only a couple of closets, bunk beds in the kids' room, one TV, one phone on the kitchen wall shared by all family members, maybe one car, very limited wardrobes for each family members, no vacations via plane, dining out maybe five times a year, no gadgets, etc. -- you still can easily support a family on one income. That is how most people lived in those halcyon days you hard back to. And 'career satisfaction' didn't play into it for most people, either.

  8. That is completely factually incorrect Bohemienne. People in fact lived very nice, cushy lives on one income prior to the 1980s. I mean, just tune into Mad Men tonight if you doubt that. Or read the book "Good Times".

    My mother bought a home in the 1980s as a single mother on a limited income that my husband and I, who earn much more than she ever did, cannot afford -because it has quadrupled in value (that's not inflation). Oh, and she was able to send us to private school on that income too, because it didn't cost the equivalent of $40,000 per child to do so.

  9. Again, those who are not parents have lives that are "responsibility-free." This idea is utterly insane. I have responsibilities in my career, to my partner, to my parents, and to my created family of choice (including dear friends). I have a mortgage and student loans. I am responsible to those I work with and work for. I am responsible to my community, so I volunteer at local organizations. I am responsible for the dogs I've adopted.

    Are those who parent absolved of all of these responsibilities? Raising children is hard work. But it's not the only kind of work, nor are children the only responsibilities that parents or non-parents have.

  10. You are being overly defensive.
    1. The term "responsibility-free" as used in this article pertained directly to the lives of a fictional couple in a play, not as a general term to describe child-free people - or you.
    2. There is a certain type of responsibility that parents have that does not apply to anything else in life other than being responsible full-time for a physically disabled person - a rare demand. If you are sick, your career waits - not your 2 year old. If you are too tired to play with your partner, he or she can defer that wish many more times and for longer than your child. Your parents, friends, and even your dogs can wait a couple days or more for anything they need from you. But kids - there are so many "now" demands, that it gives whole new meaning to the word responsibility.

    I sure am glad I decided to raise a child. And I sure am glad that the "child" part is almost over.

  11. Thank you. That "responsibility-free" phrase made my hair stand on end. Talk about stereotyping!

  12. Most parents I know do these things also.

  13. It's a shame that anyone, parent or non-parent, should feel compelled to defend their decision whether or not to procreate. Having or not having a child is a life altering and personal choice that should not have to be justified to anyone else.

    My husband and I chose to have four children in the late 70s and early 80s. We were very involved in all their activities and put less priority on our careers in order to do so. Thus, our children had to make do with less, from a material standpoint. But they have all become well educated, compassionate adults with uniquely different personalities and interests. We can not imagine our lives without any of them.

    Raising even one child is much more of a financial burden now than it was 30 or 40 years ago. That being said, if I was looking to start a family now, I would probably decide to have fewer children, given how the U.S. economy has decimated all but the upper class.

  14. Hmmm, don't we have enough that divides us without using children? I had two children in 1977 and 1980 respectively. My husband and I never thought about if, only when. They were a source of intense joy, intense heartsickness, humor, catastrophe, debt, responsibility, and fulfillment. I have one grandchild that spins my world with laughter, awe, and joy. I like to think that I have enough humanitarian interest in my world to be of help to those families who may need someone to sit with their child on a day they are home from school. I believe that the source of much of our alienation from one another is the way "individualism" has become defined as self absorption to the exclusion of the needs of our fellow humans. If we redefined the word to mean, "using one's individual talents, insights, and compassion to better help our fellow humans," then I think we would see a different attitude towards those with and without children. We do not to create an "us and them" scenario about everything.

  15. Often someone told me I would regret my decision not to have children when I got older. I'm older now, and instead of regretting, I'm celebrating. I look at my brother and his wife with their three adult children still living at home and causing constant tension or the friend I spent time with this week who lives with and supports her son's family, including the times when he is in jail. She had a good career and is so broke now she doesn't even own a car that can get to the end of the driveway. Or my elderly aunt, who has trapped herself in her unemployed daughter's house, using every last penny on her daughter and getting little to no attention in return. Or there are several acquaintances who have had to take in their grandchildren at the request of social services. Then there are the dozens of friends who are estranged from their adult children or see them infrequently and agonize about the situation constantly. There are a few pleasant, beautiful examples but not enough to convince me I would have lucked out.

    Parenthood lasts much longer than cute toys and organic cotton receiving blankets and good pre-schools.

  16. Parenthood certainly is a gamble. We have two self-supporting children between ages 24 and 26. We still pay public college tuition and dorm for the youngest who is 20 although last year she paid her own rent and food with her earnings. We are lucky our choldren are healthy and capable, but we also credit ourselves with teaching them the pride and value of responsibility, work, and sekf reliance. I see a lot if emotionally crippled ersatz adults whose parents "help" too much. All it dies is undermine confidence and make them whiny, entitled, and motionally immature. I'm glad our kids don't live with us. We are close with them but they are separate adults.

  17. Indeed. Some of my friends' adult children seem to me to be very large parasites.

  18. Sharper than a serpent's tooth...

  19. For potential parents, children are what marketers call "experience goods": you have to actually try them to know what it is all about.
    But more important, they are also little people. A lot of the points of view in the article seem to be treating them as property of the parents: e.g., now the parents are an ecological nightmare because they have a minivan (rather than saying, "what a low-impact way to transport 6 people") and that mother is encroaching on my tennis game (rather than, "that child's right to play is being negotiated with my right to play"). Before worrying about the commoditization of childhood--which appears to be an extension of the vacuousness of these parents before they had children, so the wheel turns--I am mostly concerned about the reification of children and the assumption that they are just an accessory of the parents, like Paris Hilton's lap dog.

  20. Case in point.

  21. As parent of four and grandma to four - soon to be five, as we happily "informally adopt" first granddaughter's husband and add him to the birthday list - I've had a great time with the parenthood side of this. On the other hand, I feel that the decision to be--or not to be--parents is a deeply personal one, and there aren't any rights or wrongs in making the decisions that attitude requires.

    When I became engaged (dinosaur-light-years ago) in 1951) we decided we wanted four children...and that's what we got. Now, as I prepare to move to assisted living near son #4 and his family, I am grateful for the kindness and welcoming I'm receiving from all four of the "original crew" who, though scattered across the US, have conveyed their approval and willingness to help me relocate, which also includes downsizing a 50-year-old, 50-years' inhabited by me house to essentially a one-bedroom apartment and a 1000-mile move. I wish my husband were alive to join me. I wish my partner of the past 16 years would choose to go where I'm going, though health conditions play a large part in HIS decision on that one. But we'll Skype to stay in touch, and with luck, manage a visit or two from each other in the coming years. The things we treasure and pack for taking with us (a left-over valentine from my husband after a good 46-year-marriage, before his 1997 death from Alzheimers, my soon-to-arrive new Parkinson's disease walker, a ring from Hong Kong, a New Zealand scarf, six boxes of photos.

  22. Something this article doesn't discuss at length (if at all) is the world children today will inherit tomorrow. I don't think human life on the planet Earth is improving, whether from environmental, economic, or political standpoints. And an increasing human population is the root cause for many problems.

    Future generations are also the source of solutions. But the decision to have children simply to "fit in" should bear in mind these more serious consequences, and the lesser quality of life for the child itself.

  23. This is the nearly verbatim explanation I gave for having a prolonged anxiety attack upon learning I was going to become a grandmother: because of financial, environmental, and political concerns, all of which are interrelated. That concern has not diminished not that the child has arrived, but has become more of a quiet resignation.

    The expectations of the upper-middle class parenting expectations in this country are of little concern in our downward socially mobile existence.

  24. Thanks for this comment. I have never wanted children, but when I see friends and relatives who have them, I think, "How can anyone want to bring children into a world that we are destroying, and a future that is so desperately uncertain?" I would never dare say that out loud--talking about Debbie Downer--but it's what I always think. Why do that to your (potential) children?

  25. Not enough attention was paid in this piece to the economic hardships of having children today, and how that is *the* factor for many when they decide not to have them. Daycare prices are skyrocketing, as is college tuition and health care costs. Maternity leave is a joke in this country. So having a kid today takes a much greater financial toll on parents than having a kid in the 1970s, when I was born. Although my husband and I would probably enjoy a having a child, we are terrified to think of what it would do to us financially, and worry that the stress of living paycheck to paycheck would affect our relationship. He's European and has told me that he'd be much more comfortable having a child in Europe. I have to say I completely understand. In this country, unless you're rich, having children is an enormous financial hardship and it's easy to see why many say "no thanks."

  26. And yet, Kim, this article was about relatively wealthy/privileged people saying "no thanks." In no way did address working and middle class people.

  27. In the United States, only affluent members of the 10% can afford children, medical care and aging. If you wish to participate in any of these things and you aren't rich then you are a "taker" and a leech on the rest of the upper class. According, at least, to one of the dominant political parties.

  28. And yet Europe has lower birth rates than the US.

  29. Isn't having a child an act of optimism. Isn't faith in the future and hope for happiness what drives a couple to commit to marriage or at least each other. Ultimately, strong parenting is a step into the unknown. Every parent out there at some point notes that the is no manual, and that is how it should be. We demonstrate our faith and optimism one day at a time, with every diaper change, skinned knee, fender bender and college loan repayment. I do not fault people for for choosing to not have kids. i get as irked as any adult at presumptive parents, that was hardly a consideration as to whether i should or sould not have kids. Lets not over analyze a personal decision. Kids and adults and society as a whole are better off where a life decision to have children is freely made, with joy and hope and a little natural uncertainty, and not forced and fearful.

  30. On a planet heading toward 11 billion, we need more people analyzing the choice to produce an additional resource-consuming human being, not less analysis and more knee-jerk procreation.

  31. welp, i was happily child-free into my 40s. got married and am now a late-in-life full-time stepmom.

    i love my kid and it's nice that i wound up being able to experience motherhood, buti'm still happy that i decided not to add to the world's overpopulation problem.

  32. Let's all please analyze this decision FAR more closely than we have in the past. We're not bunnies.

  33. As one who came late - and accidentally - to parenthood (after years of waffling and indecision about whether to procreate), I can see more than one side of this issue. Fortunately for me, I ended up with a kid - now teenager - who makes me laugh, and shares my taste in movies & music. The universe was kind. More than children, the insufferable thing is parents. Either smothering, obsessive ones, who make a child the center of any social situation, or neglectful ones, who care not whether their brat is annoying others. Self-centeredness can be found among parents and non-parents alike. My social circle includes both childless people, who can talk about nothing but themselves, and parents who can talk about nothing but their children. Even one mom who does both. Once an egomaniac, always an egomaniac.

  34. I don't have kids, prefer it that way, and have never wavered. But I think a lot of people remain childless not because of the commodification of childhood but because of the lack of control over their own lives. Society has a vital interest in children, yet we (collectively, not personally) prioritize work over children every time. People are expected to work at unpredictable hours, long hours, weekends, to move cities at the drop of a hat ....the list goes on. Meanwhile, the relentless march of atomisation/globalisation (two sides of the same coin) is making life outside the home more threatening to children.
    The most important thing missing now isn't the wooden bowl, it's the freedom to roam unfettered through our neighbourhoods. Who looks out for the kids now, besides the parents themselves? No wonder parenthood todayis causing so much social anxiety.
    Mind you, the human population of the earth needs to shrink a bit before we completely ruin the place, so there's a silver lining here.

  35. It was and is rather simple for me.

    -No desire to be responsible for a child;

    -No particular liking of children (although admittedly, over the last 2 decades, more and more adults have some of those irritating 'child-like' qualities, viz. , illogical and amazingly ignorant, which has made me more sympathetic towards children because due to their lack of age/experience, they have an excuse for being stupid; people holding PhDs do not, and there are scads of idiot PhDs out there);

    -Selfish, in that I have better things to do.

    -Loathing. As the article states, parents develop that attitude that they and their children are indeed entitled to anything and everything, that indeed their rights (which are made up as they go along) do trump everyone else's, and perhaps even worse, the idea that I should somehow not mind. It's beyond arrogance; it borders a sadistic-disiplinarian attitude, as if all others should happily bow down to the will and whim of tiny ignoramuses and their distracted, sexually immature (they learn to do it in silence and in mere minutes) neurotic minders. In a Mad Max world, parents and their children would be eaten first. Perhaps not the mothers, but I digress...

    It may not be the norm, but in all honesty, I just have never had the desire. Sex, yes; children, no. Perhaps it was just the attitude and lesson of the 70s?

    Children. Bah, humbug.

  36. Thank you....This sums up my reasons to be childless perfectly. And like you I was a teenager in the 70's who already felt human population increasing too quickly and the envirment degrading rapidly. Forty years later and I think we were correct.

  37. I have two children, now adults, and I am quite blunt in that I do not particularly like children.

    Or, rather, I do not like badly behaved children and since that is the vast majority of children nowadays, I feel free to make that blanket statement.

    I love my own children, but what ever patience I had, admittedly was not very much, was used up on them. I have none whatsoever for the ill-behaved little monsters at every Sunday brunch in every pub in NYC. If either of my two children had behaved so poorly, I would have never taken them to another restaurant again.

    Oh wait, I did not take my small children to a restaurant, because they were children and cannot be expected to sit quietly for hours at a time and I did not think the world should accommodate my every whim.

  38. What a tough time for women. It will be a woman’s prerogative to change her mind. Everything you say is true. But kids are a gift. I didn’t have mine until I was 45, so was a little more ready. We live in a time where women can do anything, or think that they can do anything. When it is all said and done there is going to be lots of regret when you don’t have kids(will hit you at 50) and chase that foolish job thinking that you made a difference. The beauty of it all with technology is that you don’t have to rush. “I am woman hear me roar” but keep the door open or the light on, having kids later in life is a gift!

  39. Please do not assume that deciding not to have children inevitably leads to regret because in many cases it will not. Just as some people, male and female, grow up knowing that they absolutely want to have children someday, others know with equal certainty that they do not. Both feelings can be visceral and absolute. The difference is that society understands and embraces the bone deep desire to have children but generally dismisses the desire to live child free as a phase.

  40. Almost everyone has regrets at 50, kids or not.

  41. You sound like a nice guy, and I'm truly glad to see you're so happy with your late-in-life children, but you're way off here. For one, not all jobs are foolish. Some really make a difference, or are creative, contribute to the greater good, whatever. And "chasing" after having kids and being rewarded with ingratitude and bratitude isn't any picnic, either. Disappointment isn't the inevitable result of either choice, nor is joy. Some women would love to be pregnant for the first time late in life, I'm sure, but for a lot of us, the thought is a nightmare (and menopause a blessing).

  42. Of all human activities, parenthood is unique in that the culture assumes that you are competent merely because of the expressed DESIRE to have kids. We don't assume that someone is capable of operating on a brain merely because of an expressed DESIRE to be a neurosurgeon; that someone is competent to pilot a 777 because they say they love to fly. But with parenthood, competence is to be assumed instead of demonstrated. Go figure ...

  43. I agree. I have seen this incompetence time and time again as a child and family therapist.

  44. I think a lot of people have kids because they have become bored with their own lives and need something new to focus their time on...

    AM

  45. Having kids out of boredom... I think that there may be some truth to this, but in a good way. A lot of the things that I did in my early 20s - travel, hiking, seeing new places, meeting new people - seemed infinitely stimulating at the time, but after a few years I started to get intellectually bored. I focused more on my career and the attendant intellectual rewards that come with focused work. This has been good and a continuing source of stimulation, but now in my 30s I am looking forward to the next phase of life - having a kid. I suppose each active step forward in life is motivated to a degree by boredom with the current phase, but perhaps this is just a way of describing maturation.

  46. I think a lot of people have kids because it's the "next" thing they are "supposed" to do. It doesn't even occur to them that they can just choose not to have them. Because they are so caught up in societal conformity.

  47. i am 48. no kids. ok career. never wanted kids. never regretted it either. yes people bring up the issue but thats ok. more people have kids then should. a world with less people in it isnt bad. i have some friends. life is good. i am happy. having kids is like eating fish to me. i dont like fish so i dont eat it but if you like fish great.

  48. I have one kid. By those who have kids, I am told how selfish I am that I denied my kid siblings. Yeah, right. Like so many of us have great relationships with our sibs.

    I tell people who don't have kids to understand they can DECIDE not have kids.

    Kids are complicated in a million ways. And that's if you have a healthy kid. You get a kid with off the grid issues and you have a billion complications.

    Subverting the dominant paradigm is difficult. But so worth it, especially when it comes to the life altering decision to become a parent.

  49. Lol, as a parent of one I get this "Have another" comment all the time. Have a child and you're guilty of overpopulating the world (Which people seem to think means overly long lines at Starbucks) or you're not having enough! You can't win!

  50. I'm an only child of parents who each have multiple siblings. I've never missed having a sibling. I learned early how to entertain myself through reading and imaginative play, and I've always had plenty of friends (and cousins) with whom to socialize, especially as I've gotten older and could pursue my own interests and meet like-minded people. From watching my parents' families, I also know that having siblings is not always a guarantee of close familial bonds and that sometimes, close familial bonds can be very destructive.

  51. Yes! It took me a long time to convince my little brother that he was an "only child" and I was just visiting. Though I think he still believes me.......

  52. Yikes ... let's hope this trend doesn't catch fire. I mean who's going to pay for our Social Security and Medicare?

  53. The immigrants will pay into SS and medicare once you get them signed on as citizens

  54. The rich must pay. They have all our money.

  55. I think about this often. Stated in the article is the fact childless people pay taxes on services that their children will never befit from. Will the future generation of Americans have to pay higher taxes?

    But as a childless person, I am able to save money so I don't have to rely on SS or Medicare. I'm more prepared for retirement.

  56. I decided not to have children because I had a horrible father and decided I didn't want to pass on the negativity he had doled out to me and my brothers for decades. My brothers both took a chance and became fathers, dedicating themselves to being far better ones than ours. Their style of parenting is different in some respects (one takes the affect of their children's behavior on others more seriously than the other, e.g.) but both are excellent dads. In hindsight I wish I'd had the same faith in myself they did. For all the headaches of parenting, it's obvious that it's been incredibly rewarding for them.

  57. These sorts of articles -- with an almost tongue-in-cheek tone -- have come to horrify and disturb me. I have been living in Germany for now more than 6 years and here the "me, me, me" so-called "child-free" culture is the strongest in the world, an incredibly low birthrate society where 30- and 40- (even 50-) somethings apparently believe that they can and should behave as 25 year olds for the rest of their lives. There are few children and a great number, sometimes a majority, of families have only one child - as society continues to age, inexorably, what you notice is older and even elderly people behaving, let's face it, like children. The narcissism, the egocentrism, the incredibly unattractive sight of older people dressed like teens, with their cats and dogs in place of opinionated, demanding human beings, their irritation when a baby cries or a child yells or a teen slices past them ... The Sunday TV movies with protagonist in their 60s and 70s finding romantic love, with tiny family units and often not a child in sight. And children, of course, sense that they are now, in effect, a "minority".

    On the other hand, I find Germans to be far more honest and direct than their US or UK counterparts when addressing the reasons for this anti-child attitude (which is what it is). There are no euphemisms (and no opportunistic marketing-savvy books to troll): nearly always, these people "choose" to not have children because they wish to continue, endlessly, their same lifestyle

  58. Parenthood is a vocation. Not everyone has it. Families are greatly enriched by members who are childless. Studies should be done on childlessness in this larger family context.

  59. Yep. This is me. More than ever, in today's world, there is so, so much to explore out there. Creativity, travel, enterprise, friends and the family you already have. I wanna live out my days exploring and doing good work. I would be a distracted, capricious, half-resentful mother. No kid deserves that, and frankly nor do I. (Note I am a professional creative. I think that is significant. It's something else that Dyer and Handler have in common. In a way, I already "reproduce" every time I create.)

  60. You neglected to add "selfishness" to the "creativity, travel, enterprise, friends" listing. Aren'y you glad your parents thought differently? But, then, I suppose they did not get to be creative or travel and all that crazy stuff.......

  61. Timing did it for me but I never wanted kids anyway. I didn't like baby sitting and my one summer as a camp counselor of 13 year olds might have cured me. I didn't meet my husband until I was 45 and he was only 31 and I was working overseas, something I couldn't do unless I was unencumbered. I told him when we were dating that there was not going to be $30,000 of in vitro fertilization in my future. He didn't even know what I meant. He never wanted children either and even has a hard time taking care of our cats who seem to have become my child substitutes. Even the cat who requires a lot of care is better than a child in my view. I just have no interest and have a very short attention span with my grand niece and nephew as cute as they are. Surprisingly, children really like me probably because I treat them more like adults. Sometimes I wonder theoretically if it would have been nice to have someone when I'm old and grey but my husband is 14 years younger and he'll have to do. I always had a group of friends that had no children or grown children so I could just avoid the whole universe of people and their kiddies. I think my friends with kids were jealous of me and my travels and freedom. We all make choices and I have no regrets.

  62. What's happened to common sense? No one mandates that you become a "helicopter" parent - generations of children survived - & thrived - without 17 kinds of lessons a week. Lost in all the round of activities is the fundamental need to teach your child values and self-reliance and resilience in adversity - & those lessons are often taught by example.

  63. Finally a comment that makes sense!

  64. If you are a woman, you are either wired for children or you aren't, and in either case, you know it instinctively. It's those who doubt their instincts who get into trouble, which usually means having children for the wrong reason.

  65. I think what's missing here is how expensive it is to have a child at this time, especially if you have middle class expectations. When my siblings and I went to college in the '70's you could have a summer job and some reasonable loans and pay for it yourself. Over the last 30 years, basic life goals that used to be reachable with hard work now have become out of reach. It used to be you'd have a Dad with a good union job and families of multiple children all making their way through the system to find good work, afford a home, have a car, etc. Now that scenario has become increasingly unreachable for most. There's lots of reasons people don't have kids, and I think it's wonderful that it's now a socially acceptable option, but the difficulty of maintaining a middle class life for yourself, not to mention a kid, has to be part of the mix.

  66. I personally don't look upon those who choose to go childless as selfish or shallow. Many parents covet the freedom of their peers in that sense. I think it's more a "take your vitamins" thing: parents try to convey to those without children how much more meaningful life becomes with a person to raise and care for. And the circle of life, as you pointed out in this article, requires that children will care for us later on. Lying on one's deathbed, I cannot help but feel that those without children must have a wistful regret for the legacy they did not leave behind.

  67. There are legacies that do not require offspring.

  68. Speaking as a father of 4 - anyone who wants to have children should be forced to borrow one for at least 2 weeks. Ask any friend with a child between the ages of 1 and 3 and you will have plenty of volunteers. Stay home - use up your vacation. Cancel all of your plans. At the end of the two weeks you must pay your good friends $10,000. They need it. And you need to learn what it's really like to have kids - it's insanely expensive. That money is just a love tap. If you would miss it - then you can't afford to have kids - especially in NYC.

    I have told my own children (now adults) that the freedom to choose whether or not to have kids is the defining question of their generation. There is no shortage of people.

    Have a great career. Travel. Pay off your student loans. Buy a house. Retire. Do all the things you will only be able to dream about if you have kids of your own.

  69. If you are really poor, I mean third world country poor, your only joy is to have children. Third world country poor doesn't exist in the US regardless of what people say. Third world poor is not missing a meal or meals but not knowing when you will eat again.

  70. The last few decades have been the first time - perhaps in all history! - when it was acceptable for a woman to say 'I am not marrying and/or having children' without following it with 'you may call me Sister Augustine from now on'. I'm a boomer; pretty much everyone of my parents' and earlier generations got married because if you didn't wed and procreate, people figured there was something wrong with you. Which made for many unhappy obligatory families. How much happier the world of my youth - and quite possibly, all of history - would have been if people who shouldn't have had children hadn't felt they 'had' to have them.
    And it's NOBODY's business why not.
    As it happens, there is something wrong with us. Psychological problems of a kind with possible genetic links (bipolar, borderline, autism, etc.) run in my family. Examples of such genetic issues (neither one is my family):
    http://www.nytimes.com/1999/03/14/magazine/what-the-jumans-didn-t-know-a...
    behind-jokes-life-pain-delusion-for-letterman-stalker-mental-illness-was-family.html
    Now and then I have someone tell me I was 'selfish' and should have 'taken [my] chances'. I answer honestly and conclude: 'If I'd rolled genetic snake eyes and had one with the family curse, would you have adopted it? Because I've paid those dues.' They're always sorry they asked; never ask a question unless you're sure you want the answer.

  71. The farcical materialism of it all aside, it's really about commitment; taking other people into your life who may enrich you or drag you down but to whom you are bound and obligated at least for a while. That's more daunting for some people than others and that's ok and I wish more people thought about it seriously before doing it.

  72. The world could do with many fewer people.

  73. Not everyone is fit to be a parent, including many parents. If you choose not to have children, that's your decision. Likewise, if you decide to have 8, that's also your decision. I don't understand why people feel so defensive about their own choices. I chose to have children; you didn't. I won't presume that you're selfish if you don't lecture me about how the world is overpopulated.

    I can't help but notice that a lot of the comments these child-free individuals had to do with their perception of the trappings of upper-class parenthood. The fact is, not every couple (or individual) with children has a $500 baby stroller, helicopter parents or spends every last cent on designer clothing for an infant.
    Likewise, what you see depicted in a movie or TV show is hardly representative of what a typical family experiences. (If you're basing a choice on whether to reproduce on not wanting to be seen toting a diaper bag or having to throw lavish birthday parties for 3 year olds, you may not be getting a full picture.)

  74. I think children represent hope in the future.

  75. Well, we were all children and I remember that being said about us.
    How did that pan out?

  76. Father of an 18, 16, and 14 year old here. Either they get it or don't! You can't convince people who don't have kids what they are missing. Is it hard, complicated, and all the other colloquialisms? Yes. When I asked my mother last week why she didn't tell me how hard raising kids is (she raised 4), she replied, "If I told you, you would not have done it!" Doesn't that apply to many of things we human's do in life. God does not put on our plate more than we can handle?, so the saying goes. If we grow and mature and elevate our lives beyond our own self centered indulgent existences don't we evolve? Children and actually being responsible for the life of another is a tremendous piece of that equation. Putting you self second and your child(ren) first is the key to that entire process. But, either you get it or you don't.

  77. I don't participate in the "sociality of the playground and day-care center" nor the "endless activities and lessons that are de riguer in today's codes of upper-middle-class parenting". That culture really puts me off. I do my own thing with my son. I say 'hi' to playground mom's if the occasion calls for it but I've never formed part of that cult nor do I think I'd be accepted into it.

    I think I would probably want to be child-free if I lived in Park Slope but it's a tiny corner of the world. There are other ways of being a mom.

  78. Well said, my kids are up and out, but I did not participate either. No one can force us to care about competitive parenting and all that nonsense. It was all around me and I ignored it. I also did not martyr myself and brag about how much I was sacrificing.

  79. Perhaps those who think they would not make good parents and thus prefer to remain childless are doing both themselves and any possible progeny a favor, since "know thyself" seems to be a reasonable way to look at the issue.

    Having or not having children is a very personal thing, and if one chooses to have a child or a large family it isn't anyone else's right or business to question their choice. Same goes for those with kids who wonder (not often nicely) about those they know who chose not to repopulate the earth.

    In today's world, if I were starting over, I know that I would not have the family I did have, although now that I have them and their progeny, I cannot say I wish I did not have them, as they have been the joys of my life.

    Some people aren't meant for parenthood but have children anyway, and that is true as we have all seen by the abuse and neglect and horror some people inflict upon their children. Thank god that they are in the minority overall.

  80. So, in other words, no stories from ordinary people who made ordinary decisions to not have kids of their own because it's really no big deal one way or the other.

  81. Over the years, I've noticed that those parents who have called me "selfish" for not having children have tended to be unhappy in their own lives. Their envy was obvious. Misery loves company, I guess. People who are content with the choices they have made don't feel a need to police and judge the lives of others.

  82. I have three children and I completely agree with you. I have childless friends who are phenomenal people making positive contributions to the world who know themselves. Children are not pets or hobbies and do not need to be born to women and men who don't want them. Same goes for family size, these decisions are private ones.

  83. Yes, I think that's true, and not just for having children. I've never understood the idea that it's selfish not to have kids. It's our luck in this time to have a choice that in the past no one had. Whether or not you and your partner wanted to have children it was nature that decided. Thanks to medical science we can make that decision ourselves. So much the better, don't you think? However, miserable people will just find some other thing to berate you with!

  84. Its not easy. What is easy is to realize how tough it is and be selfish and critical of parents. Sill I suspect most will someday regret this decision. Funny thing is they will regret it for selfish reasons I bet. They will never understand the real joy because they never really know what us parents know. Its hard for me to imagine that these loners really know how to love. The one thing I note from this story and what I have taken note of around me is that it is the progressive politically left leaning men and women who feel this way. I like that - the fewer the better.

  85. @miken: Smug, sanctimonious, nasty and delusional. My mother, who was a self-righteous child abuser, had the same attitudes. I pity your kids.

  86. I don't understand all the navel-gazing about not having children and the need to constantly explain one's decision. When my husband and I married over 35 years ago, we knew we didn't want children. We discussed it before we said, "I do". Neither of us particularly likes children. Neither of us feels the need to pass on our genes. So we just never had children. Over time, it became apparent to our families that we weren't going to have kids. We never felt the need to discuss or explain or rationalize and certainly not apologize for our decision. It was the right decision for us. If someone else's right decision was to have kids, then good for them. Meanwhile, we have been paying school taxes for over 30 years and not sending any children to school. Maybe parents should be grateful for those of us who help foot the societal school bill.

  87. Those children will be paying your medicare bills and any attendant nursing home obligations when the time comes too. It's a quid pro quo, don't you think?

  88. Or, as the article points out, the kids who will be helping to pay your Social Security benefits--because it is a pay as you go system. But, then again, if we pay taxes we pay for services we might or might not use:ambulances, buses, playgrounds, senior centers. That is the shape collective life takes.

    I absolutely agree with you--to each his own. But, just remember we are all in this together.

  89. I haven't had the need for a fireman or a policeman but I still pay taxes for them. We need to do SOME things as a society for the collective good. BTW, I send my kids to a private school but I am happy to support public schools as well.

  90. In 50 years, my grandchildren will be seeing the results of this. The intelligent, well educated people at the top end of the Bell Curve having zero - 2 children, and the people at the other end with IQ's in the 80's and below are having 3 - 5 or more. I believe it is an unsustainable situation. We no longer need a vast population of the unskilled who in the past were encouraged to have as many children as possible to feed the market with unlimited, cheap, expendable labor. There will be no place for them, we're reaching that point even now.

  91. Read up on the Flynn effect -- it's not as bad as you think.

  92. Living in Manhattan, I see the assumed privilege of modern moms pushing their baby carriages like chariots down the streets, oblivious to pedestrians. We must all make a yellow brick road for you and your baby, whether on the street or in a restaurant where baby shrieks at unmeasured decibels while mom or dad make little effort to quiet and soothe their charge or remove him from the premises so the childless can eat in peace.
    I often wonder how these coddled children will fare in the world after being told
    they can do no wrong by their parents. In the 60's and 70's kids didn't wear bike helmets or knee pads. We came home scraped and bruised but joyous for the experience. We got ourselves into trouble and somehow out of it, without our parents assistance. We negotiated our way thru the world, for better or worse.
    I'm talking about a certain type of upper children whose kids must have the best of everything and be protected from everything. I feel sorry for those children, as their life is overly insulated from the actual joys of childhood.
    Having said that I honor the brave women who decide to forego societal pressures to give birth and not forge their identity to motherhood. It's a choice not an obligation.

  93. It's funny how many times the article references that someone doesn't want a child because of how other peoples' kids act. What does that have to do with your kid? I swore that when I had kids, they would never act like that in public (at home they definitely drove me a little crazier) especially in restaurants. You think not having children is selfish? Wrong! Allowing your children to run around in a restaurant because you want to eat in peace and expect the patrons around you to quasi babysit is selfish! That whole 30 kids at a birthday party, another selfish act. It's not about the kid, it's just parents just trying to outdo each other. I guess the more kids you have at a party the more you love your kid. If that's the case, then I can't stand my kids. When their birthdays came around they tried the big party gig. Nope! When I was told, everyone else does it, guess what, I don't. Too fake for me. Fortunately, my boys are not followers. I'm not saying they're leaders, they just do their own thing too. The kicker here, I have three sons in their mid twenties, they're not sure if they want kids. And around we go...

  94. Can't argue with this - not everyone wants to be a parent; not everyone should be a parent. And go to any public place and you will see quite a few people who choose to have children and decidedly made the wrong decision.

  95. Sadly, educated, financially stable couples are disproportionately the folks who aren't having kids. Instead, a larger share of births are occurring to undereducated, impoverished (often single) mothers. This is not only a demographic quandry, it is also a social and economic one. Once Generation X heads into retirement, it will be up to the children of the poor to produceand provide for all -- how well will that work?

  96. Good point. And another good reason that gross inequality is a serious problem, not to be written off as the moral failing of the poor. We need to prepare everyone for the future that all of us look to, and that must include looking at poverty as an at least partially solvable problem.

  97. This is exactly why we need a social system that ensures equal access to education and opportunity for everyone. There is no objective justification for the kids of educated and wealthy parents to have a higher-quality education and better job opportunities than the kids of impoverished single mothers. Only in this country would people argue that income inequality is a reason for wealthier people to have more kids and for poorer people to have fewer kids. What next? Forced sterilization for the poor?

  98. What is interesting is that the people who could most afford children are not having them. And at a far lower rate when they do. They end up subsidizing their neighbors. I know this is unpopular but I think people who have children should be taxed more. They are negatively impacting the environment as well as burdening society.

  99. Um, the children will grow up to be the tax base when you are on Medicare and social security.

  100. Actually, I think that's the other way round. The children will grow up to be subsidizing the neighbors that never had kids. The old in this country get far more money than the young. We'd have to change the IRS code to get away from that. As for negatively impacting the environment, please, give it a rest, it's the silliest reason yet.

  101. Not really! There are multiple ways to finance your retirement; the pyramid type of funding that exists currently is not sustainable. Granted, in this country, older people get many benefits and children especially since the 1980 have seen their general welfare decline for several reasons (e.g. dysfunctional family, underfunded schools, as well as the older age people pursuing their interests aggressively in the ballot box).

    Under the current system that you are advocating, we need to keep multiplying MORE and MORE in each generation to support the one above it. This does not seem like a good plan. It is unfair to make the unborn and young to support the old generation, everyone should finance himself or herself.

    If we need people to pay into the system there are other ways to do so. For instance, we have immigrants coming in after having lived the net consumption years of their childhood in their country of origin and living their productive years in here. This is a good gain to the tax base and pension funds plus more of a win-win situation. And investment mechanism could also be devised to make productive use of payments into the pension system.

    So, my point being that there are multiple ways to achieve wealth and social welfare without hatching children.

  102. Having made the choice not to have children, and yet having many children in our lives - including paying for some of their schooling - I think it is important that not having children can be seen as a choice beyond judging. I am also mindful of the pain of friends who were unable to have children who are then subject to judging by parents. It would be good to have a few less sacred cows in this pasture.

  103. I have second thoughts about having the kids I do have. It's tough but on the other you couldn't have convinced me not to have kids before I had them. Many of the problems cited by the article-consumerism, private schools, constant activities for the kids and helicopter parenting are personal choices the parents made. Living far away from NYC I don't feel these pressures as much as I think New Yorkers do.

  104. As the ecosystem hurtles toward ecologic quagmire, it is surprising that resisting the biological urge to procreate still bears a stigma of selfishness. Who is the victim here? Military might is no longer dependent on having more soon-to-be carcasses to throw in front of the enemy. Factories and farms no longer run on sheer man-power. There is NO problem that will be solved by having more people. In the words of the great sociologic philosopher William Burr,"that's not a family photo, that's an environmental disaster...and you framed it".

  105. Early in my first marriage it was not wanting to have to compete with a child for my wife's love, a competition I knew I would lose. Now, many years later, it would be not wanting the loss of sleep, the noise, the chaotic mess, the loss of privacy, the monetary costs keeping me from a beautiful house, travel, and hobby toys, the becoming a hostage to fortune with all the bad things that could happen from disease to criminality to accidental death, and, finally, inability to tolerate seeing my daughter (if that's what I had) leave the house dressed like a prostitute (current fashion) instead of a young girl.

  106. Why is this anyone's business. Couples having children they can not afford to put clothes on, feed and educate is a bigger problem.

  107. That's fine, but everyone needs to understand that they will get old, senile, and physically unable to care for themselves at some point. who will come to visit them when they are old? who will look after their finances and make sure that they are ok? you reap what you sow in life. I hope that an advanced degree or a career will satisfy them that they have not lived in vain, but I doubt it. Parenting may be exhausting and financially challenging, but it gives your life a profound sense of meaning and value that no career or bank balance can match.

  108. 'they will get old, senile, and physically unable to care for themselves at some point. who will come to visit them when they are old? who will look after their finances and make sure that they are ok?'

    What an incredibly selfish reason to have kids - on the assumption that they will take care of you! An assumption that a great many older people have found, to their dismay, does not necessarily work out as planned. Many a nursing home is filled with old people staring at the wall, wondering where their kids are. My mother spent the last week or so of her life in such a home (until then, she lived in the family home, with me), and the staff there was astonished that I came every day after work to watch TV with her. One of them told me she wished there were more like me - most of the residents were pretty lonely (yes, I stopped to talk to them too). I'm not sure I could have kept up the visits, though, day after day, month in and month out, if my mother had lived on.

  109. Childless people will be supported throughout their golden years by younger people working (through Social Security). Yet they did nothing--invested nothing--to give rise to that succeeding generation. Sure, they paid school taxes but--so what? Everybody pays them. They haven't done the hard work, both emotionally and financially, to raise the next generation.

  110. I am childfree, and I work really hard to support children. I volunteer to tutor kids in the inner city. I mentor young people. And I am a great support to my friends who have kids on a weekly basis. I help raise other people's kids. Your comment is very small minded. There are many different ways to contribute to society, and raise our children. Often parents are too busy to contribute outside their own families, which I routinely do. What about that?

  111. So the 50 years worth of SS and Medicare contributions I'll have made is for naught, as well as 50 years of paying discriminatory levels of federal taxes that support myriad programs ONLY available to kids and the childed, from the child tax credit and EITC to WIC, SNAP, TANF, housing assistance, Medicaid, early-childhood education programs, USDA school nutrition programs, Social Security survivors benefits and disability benefits for minors, and on and on. All of the above and more without creating a single liability for any of those programs. Can you say the same?

    Nah, no contributions at all from the childfree, selfish lot that we are.

  112. I've always assumed that the great Ponzi scheme that is the American Social Security system would run out of money before I could collect anything from it. Or at least be forced to implement means testing. So I figured I was better off not having kids and saving money to fund my own retirement, rather than having children and not being able to save. I won't be a burden on your kids Al, trust me. The retirement of the Baby Boomers will "take care" of what's left of Social Security for all succeeding generations.

  113. This is absurd. The only reason to have kids is that you like them and think it would be thrilling to raise them. No one who doesn't really want them should be forced or pressured to have them. There are few things as damaging as being a child of a mother who gave birth out of a sense of duty or pressure from someone else, and who has no real interest in children and what goes into raising them (I speak from experience). In this world, where women have expanded opportunities for fulfilling work outside of home and family, no one should have to march to the beat of someone else's drum.

  114. Geoff Dyer hit the nail on the head, " the only thing I hate more than kids are their parents" , kids by virtue of their age don't know better, it's their job to be miserably selfish misanthropes. The self satisfied narcissistic people who foisted these cretins on society refuse to bear the burden of raising their brats in a responsible manner.

    I don't want to hear that my school taxes that educate today's kids will be balanced out when today's kids will be paying Social Security taxes that I will receive in retirement. First, my SS deductions don't come close to matching my property taxes where the overwhelming amount go to the schools, a significant portion of my state and federal taxes also support all manner of education in this country.

    Without equivocation I can state that NO PARENT bears the full cost of having children, not even Bill Gates or Warren Buffett who get preferential treatment, yet all we hear is how couples with kids need help. It's long past time to end the subsidies to families who choose to procreate if for no other reason that civilization has to start coming to grips with the endless increase in population

  115. At least where I live, school taxes have gone nuts, in part because costs that were once the responsibility of the family to pay for have been foisted on the taxpayer.
    A simple example. My sister is handicapped. Her timing was awful - it's almost as if they waited for her to age out of each benefit programme before inventing it. The amount of money our family paid out for therapy, educational programmes, transportation to same, etc. was stupendous. Now, of course, districts have to pony up in the high five figures a year - it's the law.
    Am I saying we should go back to the bad old days? Emphatically not. Though it does cheese me a little that the people who wouldn't lift a finger or kick in a penny to help US back in the day now expect us to go broke paying for THEIR grandchildren getting all the help they begrudged us. Our family got shellacked coming and going.
    But special ed is not the only issue. A few years back our district tried (unsuccessfully - one of the few times anyone's said 'no'!) to pass a referendum to build a swimming pool for the swim team. This, in a town that has not only a municipal pool, and is surrounded by towns with municipal pools, but a lavish Y with not one but two huge pools. Don't get me started on artificial turf for the multiple playing fields, the cost of maintenance and replacing it after flood damage ... and on and on.

  116. I appreciate that I'm part of a trend, but for me, while I like children and adore my nieces, it comes down to the fact that I never once really wanted to have children of my own -- when I was young, when I was married, or now. I think the point really should be that we are freer to do what we want with our lives, whether that means having children or not. This doesn't need to be a competition about who is more selfish.

  117. Either way it is a personal choice. Just out of college, our daughter does not want to have kids but may consider adopting down the road. I respect and understand. I wished for more children (love them) but financially did not. There are plenty of kids to adopt and if she remains child free, that is her choice also...

  118. When I've made important life decisions and am subsequently asked about them, I frequently refer back to television shows that have aired over the last few decades to explain me reasoning.
    I'd say the folks referenced in this article have made pretty sound decisions.

  119. Personally, I base my life philosophy on comic books and fortune cookies but that's just me.

  120. Generally in our younger years we know what it's like to be without children, and then we do what we need to do and have them. Rarely is it the opposite, in which we know (actually know, not assume based on the inability to play a comfortable game of table tennis) what it's like to have children and then decide not to have them.

  121. Thank you for the very interesting article. It is refreshing to say the least to read about adults making their own decisions about their own lives. It's a very grown up piece.

  122. From the perspective of grandparenthood, I don't think that I would choose to have children if I had the opportunity to do it again. The thought of bringing a child into a world where his or her every movement would be tracked through multiple surveillance modalities is totally repugnant to me. I realize that younger people realize this is the norm, which I find very sad.

  123. I have three grown children, so I cannot say I don't want to have children. But my children don't seem to want them, so I am happy with that. My case is people are always asking me when I am going to become a grandma. I cannot become a grandma on my own, I need my children to have children for that to happen, and they don't want to. So it is not my decision, and I am happy with how things are. But when I answer that I don't really want to become a grandma people look at me as if were a strange creature. It is supposed that at my age all I want is to become a grandmother, and I do not conform to that cliche. I am very happy with my life as it is, and I don't need to be worrying about babies. My children are happy as they are and it is all that counts. I have taken care of many children during my life, not only mine, so I know very well what having children is, and I don't want to force that on my own children. Not everyone wants to have grandchildren and that does not mean that they don't like children. So, to the people considered selfish because they don't want to have children, add the people considered selfish because they support their children in their decision of not having them.

  124. Not everyone is cut out to be a parent. That's fine.
    I just hope that the childless by choice crowd remembers that those of us bringing up children are raising the people who will run our world one day. And that they will accordingly stop griping about tax breaks for parents , and for having to pay their share of funding high quality schools. They may not benefit from these things in the short term, but in the long term the childless will depend on these children too!

  125. Sure, if they don't sap the system with special needs and grow up to be low-intelligence, unemployable, profoundly disabled, criminal/incarcerated, non-working by choice or otherwise a non-productive drain on the system. Any given child has about a 50-50 chance of being a net contributor. You are gambling that your progeny will be beneficial economically while for not acknowledging that there is a 100 percent certainty they will be a drain on society for at least 18 years and on the environment forever. Hard to find a nugget of benefit amid all that.

    I know with 100 percent certainty that I am not producing resource-sappers who will contribute to the degradation of the planet and other species, nor be a liability for WIC, SNAP, TANF, Medicaid, EITC, SSI and all of the myriad other programs created to pick up the slack for people who made bad, selfish choices about childbearing.

  126. When we had our first child I felt as though I had fulfilled my inherent responsibility as a human being; its instinctual to reproduce and survive. To assist in your own eventual extinction is unnatural; most people recognize that.

    Go ahead and have kids, they're a major pain for a while but it will eventually bring more happiness and satisfaction. Plus you can say you did it and people will get off your backs. Positive peer pressure :)

  127. I have two kids and the first say, 6 or so years were misery. Now I feel like I can breathe. I am a mom that works full time and I despise the culture of child-rearing today. It's actually beyond the canary in the coal mine for disappearing resources globally.

    The world is overpopulated. I actually celebrate the choices of those not having children. Thank you! I would have been happy without kids too. My husband really wanted them. I love my two so much - but I can see that i would have been happy without them too. Truly, I don't understand those who call the childless "selfish". Clearly, clearly, it is those who have children, who perpetuate overpopulation and require more resource use.

  128. This is a strangely static view on parenthood, as if one's offspring remains between birth and the age of eight in perpetuity. Aside from a throwaway gibe about college tuition costs, there is no mention of how having older or grown children changes ones life. Selfishly I delight in my childless friends who have been wonderful aunt and uncle-ish mentors for my two boys and who's bond with them becomes more meaningful with their maturation.

  129. We are reaping the seeds of the psychiatrists and psychologists who told us (and we listened in droves) that we should always tell our kids that they are the most important, most perfect people in the world. That's what we get for lying.

  130. For heaven's sake, don't have children if you don't want them. it is a tremendous responsibility, and children deserve love, not resentment. Live and let live.

  131. If children "deserve love and not resentment," I'd estimate that at least half of the people who have children should not have had them.

  132. Meanwhile in Japan, the lack of children is creating a demographic crisis. With a low birthrate that has continued for decades (and strict immigration laws), 26% of the population is currently aged 65 or older. This number is estimated to rise to nearly 40% in the next thirty years and will seriously undermine its social security and healthcare systems. Children cost a lot. But so does taking care of the elderly.

  133. Japan's lack of population growth is exacerbated by its unwillingness to allow substantial immigration and by its creation of a workplace and culture that is, if imaginable, perhaps even more hostile to working women that that of the United States.

  134. I have 2 kids and I will say this- people without kids seem developmentally different. Having kids changes your perspective in a way that I couldn't predict before it happened.

  135. I find it interesting that majority of posters with similar sentiments have male screen names. Yep, that's the word: interesting.

  136. Here's the thing: if you believe that you go around only once, have kids. Without that experience you can only know very little about your own humanity. You can't know, however, what you don't know. Hence this point is lost on those who choose not to have kids. I'll leave you with this: you can only know selflesness when you've wiped away another person's feces for three years and have never once been too grossed out to do it.

  137. Re: "you can only know selflessness when you've wiped away another person's feces for three years and have never once been too grossed out to do it."
    I think caregivers of an aging parent or a beloved spouse can know selflessness too.

  138. I guess if you have to tell yourself that.... whatever works to get you through the day, eh?

  139. Not true. Have wiped many a feces from my cats, dog, a few kids on my school bus, and as an elder human caregiver.

    Selflessness is NOT over-breeding when there is an easy means to prevent it.

  140. We made our choice before we were married in our early twenties almost fifty years ago. We don't judge others and others shouldn't judge us. We will say, however, that it's been a great fifty years for us and we have never regretted the choice we made.

  141. And what was that choice, exactly?

  142. yeh ... I realized that I was not clear just after posting.

    We made the childless choice.

  143. The existence of a lot of bad parents in Park Slope and elsewhere doesn't seem like a very compelling reason not to be a parent.

    There are lots of awful writers and comedians but that doesn't stop people from writing and trying to be funny.

    So you could decide to have children and make an effort not to be horrible about it. That is, raise the children to be modest, curious, and well-mannered, and not be brow-beaten by a lot of other parents with insane expectations.

    There are a lot of children and parents in the world who aren't horrible. You just notice the horrible ones more.

  144. No kids here, it just never happened. Six billion on the planet now, maybe that's enough. I just had one or two less than most parents. Remember that in a "natural" setting, families would have 8 or 10 kids. So we are all reducing the numbers. I just reduced it a little further! Not to sound curmudgeonly, but modern child rearing looks exhausting and so many of the little darlings are ill behaved monsters of ego. Not their fault, when the folks let them get away with murder. Also a peeve: martyr parents who natter on about the misery and sacrifice of having and raising kids; enough already.

  145. In a "natural setting", say in Bangladesh, where women have an average of six children, poverty and a lack of educational opportunity and accessible birth control basically guarantees that said woman will remain impoverished and uneducated. Its hard to imagine what a woman in such a society would make of this article on self absorption. In in this very same "natural setting", climate change, as a direct result of unchecked population growth, is going to raise water levels in such a way that Bangladesh will almost wholly disappear. Don't underestimate the value you lent to society by not procreating.

  146. "You can have it all" was the biggest bill of goods ever sold to anyone. NO ONE can "have it all"--what an idiotic notion. Women bought that at the dawn of modern-day so-called women's "liberation", worked full-time, had babies, did the housework, became exhausted, resentful, and completely overburdened; in many cases with precious little support from the male-dominated nuclear head of the household and the male-dominated governmental and corporate institutions that run this country. It's different in more enlightened societies overseas but not here.

  147. Exactly who told women they could "have it all"? This is one of those nasty mythis. It was rather that society expected them to continue to do all the traditional womanly things if they wanted to also participate in traditionally male realms.

  148. Yes, saw the results all around me in the workplace.

    Katherine Hepburn commented long ago that women needed to make a choice between children and career. Wise words.

  149. I am an aging baby-boomer, to locate my generation, and I never had or wanted to have children. It was just biological I guess, because I made my decision while I was in college, and dirt poor. It had nothing to do with economic status, but was simply a "life choice" I guess they would call it now. I knew it wasn't for me, and luckily did something about it, so as not to have any mistakes appear. I had to fight against a doctor's refusal to perform surgery two years in a row but prevailed by the time I was 24 years old. No I never regretted my decision, and seldom faced pressure to answer for my choice, thank goodness. I don't believe it was selfish, but liberating, and affirming, and spared some children whom we don't need. Now, the only downside is that I have no grandkids to talk about with my friends, or to move in with when I get senile. Such a choice is mostly about how you view your role as a potential parent, I hope; don't fault those people for their clear thinking.

  150. I am a 38 year old woman who has never wanted children. I feel neither guilty nor defensive about this. I feel that bringing a child into this world requires a starry-eyed optimism that I lack.

  151. To each their own. Each probably has its own joys and challenges at different times in each person's life.

  152. First - it's not too obvious but the fact is that the child chooses you and not the other way around.
    Two - resistance to children is resistance to life. Big egos are everywhere.
    Three - people who say such things as not wanting children have no idea what blessings they will be missing

    Let it be! Don't resist.

  153. People who choose not to have children are doing a good thing. They are not contributing to overpopulation. They are not going to abuse or neglect their children. They are not going to bore people to death bragging about their children. What could be better?

  154. Not too long from now, our planet will become uninhabitable, ironically because of people having children. I'm surprised so many educated people want to bring children into this ecological disaster, and even more-so that some couples choose to have large families in these fragile ecological times--more than just the two required to replace themselves.

  155. Some people have kids. Some don't.

  156. The doubling of childless women from 1976 to 2006 also reflects the rising availability of birth control, both to married and to unmarried women. It's something to consider that once women, particularly married women, had the choice to bear or not to bear children, a significant number of them chose not to.

  157. Parenting is a job with a very specific set of skills needed to do it well. Not everyone has those skills. As a former public-school teacher, I can tell you that, from the outside, it looked as if many didn't have the skills and did it anyway, leaving others to clean up their mess. I chose not to have children because, having observed friends with superb parenting skills, I knew I didn't have it in me. I also object to people who say one doesn't have a family until you have children. My husband and I are a family of two, which is expanded with friends with whom we have a closer bond than many blood relations.

  158. Maybe I should write a book titled "To Have or Have Not." I'm surprised no one has tried to piggyback off of Hemingway with a cheap shot like that. Surely a few sales would go to people buying in haste and thinking they'll read an old classic for the second time.

    Married twice, I have, in a sense, done both: two sons by my first wife, zero of either sex with my second. My second (and still) spouse and I discussed having children. She was 30 and I was 44. We decided against, and for insurance I had a vasectomy. Then a medically necessary hysterectomy made biological offspring a moot issue. Adoption was feasibly still on the table, but as the years slipped by, that, too, became a non-starter.

    Environmentally and politically, the world is going to hell in the proverbial handbasket, with near-zero chance of positive outcomes for either complication. Not much of a legacy to leave our offspring. Along with what little I can leave my sons financially (they won't be tooling around in new Beemers or Mercedes), I think I should leave them a written apology.

    The degradation of this planet didn't start with my or even our parents' generation. But they and we have done nothing to stop it. We just laid a concrete block on the gas pedal so our right foot wouldn't get tired while we have closed our eyes and swung the steering wheel left and right, while looking back over our shoulders, oblivious to where we are headed.

    I'm afraid, be it bang or whimper, the end is coming.

  159. And unfortunately not just for humans but for elephants, dolphins and many other more-worthy species. Thanks to our unfettered breeding.

  160. Just as well, they are too old at this point, anyway, unless you want to be the 80 year old at the college graduation that everybody thinks is the grandfather. My own opinion, as an at-the-time reluctant dad, is that they are missing out on the most rewarding experience in life. But they seem pretty happy, so good for them.

  161. 1. Unfortunately, many selfish people either accidentally or misguidedly have children and then do not properly educate (train, discipline, care for, etc.) them. Result: lots of little monsters who grow up to be ... big monsters.
    2. There is no moral or ethical reason for people who do not love and want children to have any; in fact there are many moral and ethical reasons for them to NOT do s, if only because, there are probably too many humans already. So good for you, not-parents!
    3. It is none of my business what folks choose; it is their business - except in case 1. Then I would dearly love to kick them in the britches.
    Oh, yes, I wanted to have maybe five kids, but was able to have only the one, and just because some of us would love more kids does not mean that everyone should have any at all.

  162. The societal pressure to have children is overwhelming. This is evidenced by the fact that the article never asks ask the obvious question. Why have children? To improve a relationship? To share your love with someone? To fit into your social group? Boredom?

    When you look at the issue through the question, I'm amazed anyone has children.

  163. Generally, I understand that there are so few selective pressures in modern society that we don't expect to see much evolution of the gene pool. Low drive to procreate might be an exception. I wonder if folks like this will be the exception, and will 'self-select' this trait out of the human gene pool.

  164. Our helicopter generation has made a mess of parenting, tuning it into a soul-crushing, all-consuming proposition. No wonder young people are opting out as they the observe the suffocating affair it has come to be. Ironically, our 50's parents had it right with benign neglect; they kept their intellectual, social, and professional lives intact as they set up orderly households with routines, expectations, and love—with their own friends, interests and marriages a high priority— then gently pushed us all out of the nest at age 18. I hope this generation learns from our mistakes and returns to a parenting approach of more relaxed oversight and enjoyment of their kids as autonomous human beings.

  165. I'd like to comment, but have to go tiger-dad the kid.

  166. I read this right after reading Gail Collin's excellent column on how US corporations refuse to stand idly by while anti-LGBT legislation rears its ugly head, but are perfectly content to stand back when anti-choice, anti-women's health legislation sprouts like mushrooms after a rain all around the country. The easy blinkered assumption by everyone quoted in this article that everyone has a choice on whether to parent or not sets my teeth on edge. Get real! Maybe childless adults could usefully spend some time lobbying for respect for women's lives and bodies...how about contributing to the defense fund for the woman just sentenced to 20 years for feticide after (allegedly) self-inducing an abortion?

  167. Interesting spin. A lot of confused feelings about whether or not it is selfish to have or not to have children. A lot of angst over the costs to career and leisure time vs. the bloodsport of mommy fast tracking. Sadly, very little mention about the environmental impact of starting a family, which should be the main consideration for anyone of childbearing age. The world has got too many people. Zero Population Growth used to be something that many of childbearing age in the 1970s took to heart. Having more than 2 children is not sustainable. If people don't want to procreate, they should pay less taxes and get to the front of any line that society forms. They are acting in the interests of us all, and of the planet, and its none of my business why they decide not to be breeders.

  168. First off, the term 'breeders' is offensive. Second, the old get the lion's share of the budget as it is, and where does the money come from? That's right, future citizens. As for over population, most industrialized countries are not having enough babies now, it's not us that's doing it.

  169. Good thing they don't want children since she is 40 and he is 56 the odds are against that happening anyway.

  170. I can relate to these folks who have chosen a child-free lifestyle. I too had a very fulfilling life with friends, laughter, travel, activities, a great career which of course I did not want interrupted.

    But as the years passed, my husband voiced his concern of one day possibly regretting our decision. Now 3 children later, we look back at those years with laughter. Our concerns were so unwarranted. Sure we gave up some things but what we have gotten back far exceeds anything we could have possibly imagined. All the clichés which made me cringe then (i.e "they bring such joy", "best thing I ever did") surprisingly rang true for us. For us having a child was like having our heart cut & a piece given away to them. Their joy, wonderment, happiness and yes, agony and heartbreak are ours too in a very deep & inexplicable way. Even the now boring activities can bring so much fun when our children excitedly do it for the first time. Our house and dinners are now filled with a lot of activity, stories and laughter. And the holidays have been totally reinvented for us, much to our pleasure.

    Our lives would have been wonderful without children but now after having them, I know it would have been wonderful in part out of ignorance. We could never go back & be completely happy knowing now how much our children has changed our lives for the better.

  171. You have perfectly stated what we feel also!

  172. I don't have children because I don't LIKE children. I get castigated a great deal for expressing that, but it's honest and better than saying I'd be overwhelmed with the responsibility. People are always telling me I really would like children if I had one. It's not worth finding out. I shall leave this world as a child-averse curmudgeon, regardless of others' opinions.

  173. You made almost no mention of one of the primary reason many people have decided to stop having children: Overpopulation.

    While some have claimed that overpopulation is not a problem, the evidence to the contrary is overwhelming and until our society is a sustainable one, every new person on the planet increases the burden.

    I have met many people who cite this as their primary reason for not having children, and I find it very curious that you only mention it once in passing.

  174. I never consciously decided not to have children, I simply had NO desire at all to have them. In fact, I never considered it. I loved my career in science and technology and have many varied interests. I am always amazed when I read that society regards this as selfish. On a planet overburdened with over 7 billion people, who are the selfish ones?

  175. I know that some of these concerns about helicopter parenting and kids running the agenda are true, but don't these folks know any "real" people with "real" families? Maybe it's because I don't live in New York, but despite having a fulfilling career and a lovely long term marriage, and other adult relatioships, having and raising kids has been the most fun I could possibly imagine. Different strokes for different folks. Hate all the "stuff"? Don't buy it. Hate all the fuss? don't buy in. Turn off the marketing machine and figure out what makes you happy.

    If having kids is not for you, fine, don't have any. But please stop sneering at the rest of us.

  176. People in NYC are real. Stop sneering at US!

  177. There was that moment in time, from the age of 35-40, that I had a very low-level anxiety questioning whether I should have kids. It passed.

    I am not especially wealthy. I am not career driven-- I enjoy my free time much more than my career. Kids just get on my nerves. All that screaming and banging makes me mad. And this was true even when I was a young woman; I was never a baby freak, never begged to hold other people's babies.

    My parents raised five daughters in the 60s and 70s- we had so much fun as kids- but of the five only two had kids of their own. Isn't that odd? Perhaps it was my father's zeal for the women's lib movement- he was constantly encouraging us to be independent women- depending on no one but ourselves, and although some of us are married, we are all extremely independent, madly in love with solitude as much as we've ever been with our men.

    Whatever the reasons, now in my 50s, I am still glad I didn't have kids, because they still get on my nerves, and I can't stand when I talk to my friends with kids, because they seem to have nothing else to talk about but those annoying, problematic 20-somethings. When I hear them complain of the costs of college - and here is perhaps that selfish part - I add up all the traveling they could have done with that money and breathe a large sigh of relief.

  178. Society may still have to catch up to the idea that some people choose not to have children. For me, it was a product of circumstance; I never met any men who wanted to get into a marriage or serious, long-term relationship, and I decided that I had neither the finances nor the temperament to have a child on my own. I don't pine away for children, so maybe it was meant to be. I can relate to the man who is appalled by the swarms of ill-behaved children and the parents who ignore their bad behavior. I see them all the time in my upscale Atlanta neighborhood. There is a local restaurant where the young, well-dressed parents drink margarita pitchers and ignore their screaming kids, who are running wild...even in the busy parking lot! My mother made us sit down and eat dinner, and we had to learn table manners and conversation skills.

  179. What a strange planet New York must be! This article is written for it's occupants, and I find the account strange indeed.

    Both my children have grown up to be well educated members of society. Neither of them resent me for buying their strollers and baby clothes second hand.

  180. Raising children in today's world is much different than even one generation ago. The financial demands, liberation of women, the extreme consumerist culture, a multitude of other options available to the adult community, societies acceptance of the gay and lesbian lifestyles, far less stigma when not participating in the typical "1950's family", lessening influence of raditional religion within today's society, all point to the acceptance of a wider array of lifestyle choices for the millenial generation. Makes perfect sense and is really OK.

  181. I really appreciate how this article normalizes and provides some relief for the decision to go childfree. I came from a community where having a child was like a right of passage, and my husband and I get many quizzical, quasi-concerned looks when we say we're not planning to have children. I think they just don't believe us. I'm sure the outright judgement will start in a few years when they realize we're serious.

  182. My husband and I have been married 25 years. We married young and you would think that by the time we reached our late 40s, the questions about when we were going to have children would have ended by now, but they haven't. Curiously (or maybe not so curiously) I am on the receiving end of microaggressive comments, primarily from women with children about my state of "childlessness." These comments are usually subtle, but the message is very clear, "You are lacking. You are selfish." We don't have children for a variety of economic, personal, and medical reasons. I don't think I have to explain that to every stranger I meet at a cocktail party. Still, there is an invisible wall that goes up in someone's eyes when I answer the question, "Do you have kids?"

  183. I've always thought the act of replicating one's self far more selfish than being childfree...

  184. The question "why do people choose TO NOT have kids?" is actually less interesting than the question "why do people choose TO have kids?"

  185. Many do not choose - it just happens and perhaps it should not have happened. Then the parent becomes either fit or unfit and life goes on from there. We had a child late after fertility issues delayed us. We wanted two, but had to be satisfied with one and are doing our best to help the population excesses by producing only one societal replacement of ourselves! My wife doesn't like kids, and never wanted kids until facing the infertility challenge which after many anxiety producing and expensive procedures she finally triumphed with our healthy daughter. Many of our current friends are childless by choice and now that we are retired and our daughter grown up, we have fun with them. No rush for grandchildren here and no desire to babysit.

  186. Thank you. I would love to know why people choose to have kids. The real reason, not the one they tell everyone.

  187. Social media has created a constant need to justify our lifestyles. Everyone feels they should have access to your life, it is always different than theirs, and we must defend. I am happy when couples who want children have them. I am just as happy when couples choose not to.

    As for the comment that the parents are hated more than their children, I would concur. I don't hate the dog who poops in my lawn. I don't hate the stereo that blares all night. Adults are accountable for ge actions of their charges

  188. The real question is, who cares? If you don't want to have kids that's fine, you shouldn't, only people who want to have kids should, is this worth a book, let alone a discussion? I think not.

  189. Have kids or not, but you don't have to justify the decision by knocking the other side. For my part, being a parent is one of the most fulfilling aspects of my life, and it's mainly because I really like my kids. I like being with them, and I like seeing what they become. Ditto for my friends and siblings. The suggestion that parents are inherently unhappy with their parental state is a lot of nonsense. Sure, it can be hard, and expensive, but it IS a pretty natural thing to do.

    And remaining childless is hardly a novel decision either. For centuries many people have chosen to remain single and childless, living in communities of like-minded adults. If that's what you want, go to it, and enjoy!

  190. '...For centuries many people have chosen to remain single and childless, living in communities of like-minded adults...'

    Which used to be NYC.

    But alas.

  191. Everyone is entitled to their own choice, but, I do feel a bit sad for those who decide against having children and then regret it years later. They usually end up getting a dog or a cat as a proxy.

  192. Perhaps the regret is due to not getting a pet earlier.

  193. No need to feel sad for me, pal. I'd rather have a cat than a brat any day.

  194. This is what one might call an "urban legend."

  195. '...it is these parents’ descendants who will be taking care of the childless adults — and keeping society operational — when they are elderly...'

    Have children if you want them, but you are not doing society any favors, as the US can simply import as many skilled educated adult workers as it needs, without taking a chance that all the years of educating American children comes to naught.

  196. I am old now, 85, and living with cancer. I find it a comfort to have sons and granchildren. Not many, but two and four respectively.

    But I come from a generation where I simply followed the white middle class canon: School, Service. Marriage, Family.

    This has worked for me; it has worked for many others of that particular era.

    Times change. Dramatically it seems. Each woman must decide what is right for her, irrespective of her marital state, which coincidentally seems not to matter much in these modern times.

    Whatever works.

    Naf

  197. Being childless of course is a deeply personal decision. Some prefer to not have children out of wedlock while not wanting to marry someone just to have a traditional family. They may also be averse to doing child rearing as a single parent which then would eliminate the chance of adopting while still unmarried. Whether by choice or not, people with children are wrong to judge them for their decision just as it is wrong to criticize those with kids, especially career women.
    Here are some observations on a related matter: We hear about career women with children facing unfriendly work place rules and uncooperative colleagues and bosses. However, childless women with careers some times are targeted by some of their own female colleagues who have children. The harassment sometimes is as vicious as what they themselves perhaps experienced even if not from childless coworkers. I have known childless women who understand and accommodate the work place needs of women colleagues with young children. Sometimes, those same mothers fail to understand the needs of their childless, single women colleagues to be with their extended families. In other words, understanding of special needs must be a two way street. I know some mothers ( generally selfless perhaps due to the demands of raising children) with careers behave in the most selfish way towards their childless co-workers. I do not mean to paint with a broad brush, just experience based observations not much written about.

  198. The key here is respect peoples choices. As a stay at home mum of 4 children I love my choice to dedicate my life to my children. I gave up a career so my husband could focus on his and I spend my days rearing our children. I discovered that for me this was even more rewarding and fulfilling than my previous career but that was just me. I respect the choice of others if they choose otherwise and do not try to enforce my beliefs of procreating or parenting. You never know the circumstances others may be faced with and in turn it would be appreciated if the childless gave me the same level of respect. I am often asked wouldn't I want to be doing something for myself ? I am. I am raising our children. I see that as a very important job. Again it comes back to respect. Not everyone with children wants you to have children too. We can talk about other topics aside from our kids.

  199. I made the decision not to have kids as a fairly young woman. Periodically revisited it, but the underlying reason never changed - nothing about it appeals to me. I simply prefer the joys of doing other things to the joys of having children.

    It's a very individual choice...and choice is the operative word. The only wrong decision on this topic is the one made mindlessly, without an appreciation for, and commitment to, what it takes to be a parent.

    I've always found it amusing that childless people are so often accused of being selfish. As if anyone - other than the religious - decides to have children for unselfish reasons. We need more mutual respect and less name-calling.

  200. I think the issue is less the pressure to have kids than the somewhat smug, condescending attitude of many of those who don't. See "The only think I hate more than children . . ." in the article.

  201. What struck me was the thoughts on selfishness and ego. Being a parent does make you selfish in regards to society, but it does lessen your selfishness in that you are forced to put your needs in check, constantly. But it is taken as a badge to be worn on a sleeve by many.

    I am a bit of rebel in that I refuse to wholly give myself over to the parent as martyr concept. Top notch schools but no weekend classes they hate. No peewee sports. Only the occasional weekend is dedicated to enrichment activities like museums. I have the occasional horrified reaction from over involved helicopter moms. Kids need to know you've got their back, not that you can cure every instance of boredom. If they want to, let them join sports or learn piano. But give them the space first to discover who they are, so they are playing and learning for themselves and not you the parent.

  202. I admire brave women who don't succumb to the pressure of having kids.
    It's not mandatory. Yet it often seems like kids are just another accessory, like the new handbag, new outfit, oh, new kid. Jane has one, I better get one too.
    So many couples seem ill equipped to raise them, the worst being a certain upper middle class family who let their kids know they're entitled to anything and everything. Manhattan children the most spoiled little brats on the planet, decked out in the most expensive bike helmet,with knee pads, lest junior learn the lessons of safety, without them. Yes, and their 24/7 nannies, lest mom actually raise her own kid and not pawn it off to someone else.
    Go to Europe and see how families raise their children to be respectful and put them in their place when they act out.

    Once they have them its like the rest of us without kids should part the red sea to make way for you and your charge as you furiously push your chariot down the street.
    Guess what? I don't care about your family drama playing out on the street, just get out of my way, and no I won't haul your chariot up the subway steps.
    You decided to have junior, you deal with it.
    God bless single/ childless women. My heroes.

  203. I was with you until your last sentiments. Not help a person struggling with a stroller in the subway? That actually is not only selfish, but also mean spirited. I would never refuse to help anyone physically struggling with any situation.

  204. The other subtle discrimination not mentioned -- how often have the child-free (and by extension, unmarried) employee been asked to work different hours, or be on-call on holidays because "the other person has more family obligations."

  205. I have to say that my personal experience has been more like, oh, it's your child's 3rd birthday? Sorry, we need you to come in. Both my husband and myself have seen no special treatment whatsoever despite the fact that we have a family. We have never been afraid of hard work (nor do we have the luxury), however the most difficult thing we face is disappointing our children because of our demanding and very unsympathetic work schedules.

  206. I adopted a toddler when I was 49--the last possible moment, I think. She's in college now and from the moment I met her until right now, it's the best thing I ever did. Layettes, fancy wooden toys, daycare even--they are all over in a flash. Yes there is plenty of dreary, boring stuff to do to raise a child. But that's looking at the trees, not the forest.

    I have no beef with those who decide not to become parents--I came thisclose to being one of them. And many of them are dear friends of mine and came to the rescue for me more than once. But to think of parenthood as all the stuff you have to buy is just not the big picture.

  207. Well, any man who hates children and dogs can't be all bad. Fascinating portraits by Teddy Wayne. One of the issues raised is the disdain, not for children, but for modern parenting. Parenting has always been tough, poor or wealthy. But modern parenting certainly has its dysfunction. A very young relative of mine recently had three parties for his birthday celebration. Modern parents have the dual fears of not being loved by their children, and worse, as Teddy Wayne exposes here, being rejected as insufficiently affluent.

    I know several people who were raised in large families who refuse to have children in their adult lives. This includes rejection of the religions that mandate this excessive procreative behavior. For them, the large family was a sham.

    Still, many parents develop their individual ways of raising, or coping, with their children. When you watch what the successful parents do, you see that parenting for them is neither a social mandate, nor an institution that overly adores the child. Parenting is one day at a time. There is some hope for parenting today.

    But a sobering corollary from Teddy Waynes's fine article is that, while some refuse to have children, there are many parents who never should have had children.

  208. People like to criticize others. Period. Mr. Dyer is one of those. When I didn't have a kid by 35, I was called selfish. When I then had just one, I was told my child would grow up selfish. It takes all kinds. I do agree that middle-class people tend to "over-parent" now, but that doesn't mean that all parents must do that. The thing I hated most was being called a "mom," as if I was everyone's mother. I didn't go to "moms" events. I survived.

  209. As a mom to a terrific 15 year-old I totally agree that dealing with other parents is the worst thing about child rearing. The level of entitlement and self-absorption that defines so much modern day parenting is pretty horrifying. Bad behavior has become a birthright.