Step one: Don’t have kids. There is no second step. It’s that easy.
Of course, not everyone would need such a guide. Plenty of people want and will have children, which is wonderful. But we live in a culture of assumed parenthood, which isn’t always kind to those who choose not to be parents.
A child is born. That child will grow up, likely find a partner and raise his or her own children. Sometimes biologically having children is difficult, but with modern fertility treatments and adoption, there are usually other options.
Parenthood, though, should not be assumed for every person or for every couple. You can choose to not have children. The choice to have children is, above all else, intensely personal and often missing from both sides of the argument.
Choosing not to have children can be just as admirable as choosing to have children. A woman who actively chooses to not have children steps outside of what society tells her a successful woman should be: a nurturing mother. She chooses to define what makes her satisfied and happy.
Isn’t that the kind of freedom that we, as both women and men, want, as both women and men?
The number of people who choose not to have children is on the rise, especially for women in the United States.
A 2010 Pew Research study shows that nearly one in five women end their childbearing years without having borne a child, up from one in 10 in the 1970s.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Yes, birth rates have declined, but data compiled by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development shows that America is still on par with most European countries.
A slowing birth rate and its implications may be the price of personal choice in whether to have children. It’s a price that many are willing to pay.
Some who choose not to have children have taken on the label “childfree,” distinguishing themselves from those who are “childless” — those who want children but cannot have any.
The childfree lifestyle has recently gained prominence with TIME Magazine’s new cover story, titled “The Childfree Life: When Having It All Means Not Having Children.” The accompanying cover photo portrays a couple laying on white sands, relaxed, smiling and alone, without children nearby to disturb the calm.
The online comments on Time Magazine’s opinion columnist Carolina A. Miranda’s column, “Childfree Adults Are Not ‘Selfish’” show the constant bickering between the different sides, with most of the commenters focusing on whether it is more selfish to have children or not have children.
It doesn’t matter if it’s selfish. It’s a personal decision. Buying a new car can be selfish and donating to a charity can also be selfish. While having children might have more of a long-term effect on both individuals and a society, it’s still a personal choice.
Some people want children and some people don’t. Words like “selfish” shouldn’t be part of the discussion. Being childfree isn’t inherently more selfish than having children and vice versa.
And yes, if you choose one or the other at our age, you might change your mind.
But is it really anyone else’s business?
Send your thoughts on “being childfree” to firstname.lastname@example.org or follow the columnist @jentrylanza