Remaining childless – selfish or noble?

Reasons not to have children

Forget the old feud between working moms and stay-at-home moms. The latest chasm to open among women is those who want kids, and those who don’t.

The reason for wanting children is as old as humanity. It is so biologically innate it seldom requires explanation. But when women not only consciously choose not to have children, but justify this choice with excuses ranging from the generous to the snarky, the debate can become fiery.

A recent Huffington Post piece encapsulated and justified the decision not to become mothers with the article 270 Reasons Women Choose Not To Have Children.

“Far too often,” begins the article, “women who choose to be childfree are asked to defend their ‘immature,’ ‘selfish’ lifestyles. They’re told that motherhood is the ‘most important job in the world’ and face accusations of living ‘meaningless’ lives.”

HuffPost asked child-free readers to discuss the reasons they chose not to have kids and gathered 270 responses. These were divvied into five categories, and women could choose more than one category:

  • I want to prioritize my career
  • I don’t like children
  • I have a bad relationship with my parents
  • I don’t want the financial responsibilities
  • I like my life as it is

The vast majority of responses were career-driven:

  • “I am a flight attendant on a private aircraft. I have been flying for 16 years. For me, flying and having children are just not compatible.”
  • “I have been working my entire life toward my career. I am driven and always working toward my next goal. I can’t imagine getting to a point where I feel I can “tap out” of my career aspirations.”
  • “I enjoy my life and my career. Being on active duty in the U.S. Navy would make it hard to prioritize my career while prioritizing my child. It’s not easy to do both. I love my job and things are great just the way they are.”
  • “Being a performer and instructor in the circus means I prioritize training my body over a LOT of things. Children included. Just thinking of taking 9 months off the trapeze makes me cringe, let alone it would potentially be career-ending.”
  • “I am very career driven and know I would resent them if they got in the way. I enjoy being able to live how I want and not worry about little people’s needs.”

Some of the reasons involved a lack of maternal instinct:

  • “I’ve just never felt the need for children. There are plenty of kids in the world that don’t have loving parents, and I’ve surrounded my career around this need. I also have plenty of kids to love in my life; I don’t have the need for my own.”
  • “I want to focus on my career. As a young child I knew I did not want to be a mother. I never played house, or played with baby dolls, I was too busy playing nurse!”
  • “I’ve never had a motherly instinct, whenever I see kids, I just feel ambivalence.”
  • “My husband and I have been together since high school and knew from the beginning that neither of us wanted children. We were both determined to get as many degrees as possible and have successful careers.”
  • “I’ve never really felt that pull to have children. When my parents divorced I became very protective of my two younger brothers. I guess that was enough parenting for me.”
  • “I never saw myself as a mother and don’t really have that natural maternal instinct. I also wanted to have freedom in my life to choose how to spend my time.”
  • “Apart from never having the “maternal instinct,” I feel happy and fulfilled in my life as it is. My career and social life give me more happiness than a child could. Neither me nor my partner want children, so it seems like the logical conclusion.”

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Some of the reasons were environmental:

  • “I do not like what the world has become. I would feel guilty bringing another human being into this world.”
  • “The environmental issues, the state of the economy, the cost of education, and other cultural /social factors lead me to believe it would be highly difficult, at best, to raise a child.”
  • “I have a hard time ever imagining raising a child in this world. I certainly would never spawn my own with all the overpopulation issues.”
  • “The world is already overpopulated. Having a child so that I can carry on my legacy is selfish.”
  • “Overpopulation and vulgar consumption of goods and products is not lessening. I do not want to contribute another individual into that cycle. I feel that taking a stand and refusing to buy into breeding is entirely unselfish, and I have given it a lot of thought.”

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Some of the reasons behind not having children are sad:

  • “My childhood was horrendous, and children trigger my trauma.”
  • “I had a horrible childhood living in poverty with two very dysfunctional parents. They taught me how to be the worst kind of parents. I wanted school, career and financial independence. I can not and will not hurt a child. The cycle stops with me.”
  • “Being forced by my mother into undergoing an instillation abortion at the age of 16 probably contributed to my aversion to childbirth, as I had to endure a night of labor pains in the hospital.”
  • “I’m afraid I would screw the child up. I didn’t come from a very stable background. I also have an illness that has no cure and it can be passed on to my kids. I wouldn’t want them to have this illness. It is not easy, at all.”
  • “I’m working in the social work field where you see child after child abused. It is not only heartbreaking, but it really makes you question whether or not you’re fit to raise someone else’s life.”
  • “I was raised by people that never wanted to have children and really had no right to procreate. I was a clear burden and suffered various forms of abuse. I have aggressive tendencies due to being raised in that environment.”
  • “I was sexually abused as a child. My mother beat me and told me the abuse was my fault. I will never ever bring a child into this messed up world.”

Some of the reasons have to do with an honest dislike of children:

  • “Big pregnant bellies, continuous snot and poop mixed with urine and tears, no sleep, no money… I don’t get the appeal.”
  • “I don’t like the thought of being around small people I have to raise to be productive citizens of the world while cleaning their boogers and snot and poop. No thanks.”
  • “They are gross, destroy your free time, drain your money, and are generally selfish and egotistical through most life stages. Plus, there are 7 billion people on this planet. It’s time we stopped breeding like wild rabbits, the planet is ruined enough as it is.”

Some of the reasons were blunt:

  • “Because I don’t want them.”
  • “There are enough of us already, don’t you think?”
  • “I don’t want children, because I don’t want them.”
  • “Why do I need to explain ‘I don’t like children’? What part of that comment is unclear?”
  • I like to take naps.

And some of the reasons border on bizarre:

  • “You can’t reason with them. They are not rational.”
  • “I could never love something that caused me that much pain. I love plenty of other people and animals in my life who have not violated my body.”

In the end – selfish or not – it’s a personal choice for a woman whether or not to become a mother. The general hope is she doesn’t achieve this status by killing any babies she “accidentally” conceives.