“I’m always looking forward to the next thing. Being a mother was never one of them,” said Dyanna Volek, who works in local government in San Francisco. From a young age, she knew deep down that she did not want to have children. According to her experience, seeing her mother sacrifice her dream of becoming a stewardess by working in three places so she can raise two children on her own.
Still, the idea of not having children seemed taboo, so he didn’t stop to think much about it. It wasn’t until a few years ago when he started a serious relationship with his partner, it was there that he really recognized his feelings. When she and her husband got married last November, they had come to a conclusion: they didn’t want to have children.
Not having children gives you a sense of freedom compared to your friends who are parents, they don’t have it. Now that they are vaccinated against COVID-19, she and her husband have been able to eat in restaurants, attend concerts, and travel without worrying about putting their children’s safety at risk.
They can work to retire early, a goal that would otherwise be unattainable in a city as expensive as theirs. And in their daily lives, they have plenty of time to themselves.
Volek is part of a growing number of U.S. women who choose not to have children, part of a trend that has been underway for more than a decade.© Provided by Wapa
Since 2007, the nation’s birth rate has declined by about 2% each year on average. Despite early speculation about a pandemic baby boom, the coronavirus crisis further accelerated the decline, with births falling 4% last year.
It was the largest annual decline in the number of births since 1973, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Demographers point to a number of factors driving this phenomenon: economic insecurity, political uncertainty, changing gender norms, and a decrease in stigma around choosing not to have children. Although the pandemic highlighted how little support American families receive from the government when it comes to child care and other obligations, some women had made a decision before.
Here are some of the reasons why some women choose not to get pregnant.
They don’t want responsibility
Cecilia Sanders, a 32-year-old project manager in Chicago, had long been sure she didn’t want to have children. She felt motherhood was too big a responsibility and the idea of pregnancy took her away from desire.
Still, she says she felt pressured to feel different as if she disappointed others if she chose not to have children. For about a year, she tried to force herself to change her mind, talking to friends who were parents about her experiences and how they made time for themselves.© Provided by Wapa
Cecilia Sanders says she spent a year trying to convince herself to change her mind about getting pregnant, despite feeling otherwise.
It turns out that her friends often didn’t have time for themselves. His children, from his point of view, were the first thing.
Sanders realized that sacrificing her own needs to do her duty as a mother would be especially exhausting for her. She deals with anxiety and depression, and when those conditions explode, even taking care of herself becomes a sacrifice.
The idea of raising children without neglecting their mental health seemed almost impossible. “After a year of really thinking about it, I thought, ‘No. If I do this, I’m lying,'” he said.
Fear lack of support
For some, the way America treats mothers is reason enough not to have children.
Amy Blackstone, a sociologist at the University of Maine and author of ‘Childfree by Choice: The Movement Redefining Family and Creating a New Age of Independence’, points out that the lack of family-friendly policies in the US is an explanation for the decline in the birth rate in recent years, something that the pandemic made even clearer.
Over the past year, parents have had to keep working, often without daycare or while they have to help their children learn remotely. The situation has left people stressed and exhausted, and perhaps more likely to delay or reconsider having more children.© Provided by Wapa
“The pandemic has really revealed to us how poorly we support parents in America. We’ve come to see the truth we always knew, but we never spoke out loud, which is that parenting is really hard. And we don’t really support parents in that role,” Blackstone said.
They like their life as it is
While Jordan Levey concentrated on law school and building his career, he assumed that a “maternal instinct” would eventually kick in. Once he found a partner, he thought, they would settle down and maybe decide to have children.
Now 35 and married for four years, Levey explains that she and her husband have realized they prefer their current lifestyle. They own a condo and are loving parents for their dogs. Although they both earn a living comfortably, they prefer to spend their money on the things they love.
Jordan Levey says she and her husband decided that parenting wasn’t the right choice for them.
“We are very happy with our lives. We love to travel, we love to cook, we both really value our time alone and that self-care. I think we would be perfect parents, but I don’t think we enjoy it,” he said.© Provided by Wapa
For Sanders, not having children allows him to devote time to all of his interests: writing, playing guitar, hiking, traveling, and rescuing animals. It also means she can focus more on her career, which for her is “the most important thing.”
Helen Mirren says that not having children is her “contribution to ecology.” “I definitely feel like I probably wouldn’t be as far away in my career as I am now and couldn’t live my normal life and pursue my hobbies and passions. I wouldn’t be living my life to the fullest,” Sanders said.
That women like Levey and Sanders feel empowered to choose a childless lifestyle is significant, Blackstone notes.
In the past, women who might have been inclined to remain child-free might have given birth anyway because that’s what society expected of them. In recent years, however, these norms and attitudes have changed.
“We have more conversations about the reality that parenthood is an option, not something that everyone has to do,” he said.
They are still judged by their choice
It is perhaps more socially acceptable that women ever refuse not to have children. Still, women who choose not to have children say they still feel they have to constantly explain their choices to their environment, something that shouldn’t happen.
They have been called selfish, accused of hating children, and told that they will regret their decision later in life when they are alone.
The assumption that childless women don’t care about children is also not true, some say. They often love to play with their friends’ children. Others enjoy spending time with their nieces and nephews.
Blackstone, who has interviewed countless people about his decision not to have children, says the people he’s talked to acknowledge that they may one day regret making the decision they made.
But he said they would rather not have children and repent later than have children and repent.