I’m choosing to go childless
April 12, 2017
Filed under Opinions
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Sabine Heinlein, in an April 2015 Longreads essay, explained with sharp articulation and sublime eloquence why she chose not to have children. She told the stories similar women have probably heard: wanting to not be a mother is just a stage and everyone grows out of stages or, “You young women want it all, but you can’t have it all.” Some women, Heinlein writes, don’t want it all.
The choice to be childless is one usually associated with women. Pew Research Center has published a slew of studies and reports explaining, or attempting to explain, the demographics and their respective choices of childlessness. There is usually one key demographic missing, however: men. Only in 2015 did Pew publish a report showing why men with college degrees take their time becoming fathers.
The majority of opinion and think pieces about “choosing to be childless” are written by women, Heinlein claims. Though there aren’t any hard and fast statistics to support the claim, a quick Google search shows various outlets and headlines — from The Huffington Post to The Atlantic, from “Childless by choice” to “The real reasons more women are remaining childless” — most written by women or for women.
The five most common reasons women choose not to have children, according to data aggregated by The Huffington Post, center on career goals, not liking children, having a bad relationship with their parents, financial responsibility and simply enjoying life as it currently is.
My decision to not have children rests not on a lack of maternal instincts — a hopefully obvious observation — or not liking children. I used to be a child, and according to my mother, sometimes I still act like one. Rather, my decision not to have children lies in both in the financial and the ecological reasoning.
The cost of raising a child — in a suburban area in the Midwest — according to Baby Center, can total up to over $300,000, or over $10,000 per year. This isn’t surprising when factoring healthcare, childcare, education, food and housing. The total figure soars to nearly $500,000 if a parent were to send their child to a private college.
Kerri Anne Renzulli, writing for Money Magazine, argues that the benefits of having a child greatly outweigh the costs. She even lists a handy five-step checklist to ensure a married couple making less than $100,000 per year can afford having a child.
That checklist may be handy for some, but compounded with the fact that wealth and income inequality, according to multiple reports from the Economic Policy Institute, is rising at a rate not seen since the Great Depression, creating more of a burden on the middle and lower classes, the checklist ends up not helping much.
Although the financial burden of a child doesn’t stop most couples from having them — data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that women and couples making less than $75,000 per year have higher birth rates than their higher-income counterparts — the ecological impact and the prospect of overpopulation should.
According to several studies from, among other outlets, Harvard, Yale and Scientific American, overpopulation is one of, if not, the greatest threat to our planet. One study, from the Center for Biological Diversity, noted the connection between habitat loss, climate change and overpopulation with an almost unanimous conclusion: human activity, humans’ growing population and overconsumption are causing the Earth more harm than the last 100 million years combined. According to Species Alliance, a non-profit organization whose goal is to “raise public awareness of the impending mass extinction,” human beings are to blame for the greatest mass extinction since the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. We’re more detrimental to our planet than an asteroid six miles in diameter.
The reasons to not have a child are as diverse as the reasons to have one. Some women cite a lack of maternal feeling. Some men may never want to be a father out due to bad experiences. For me, I know that our planet is dying and that we are the cause. The next generations will have to suffer the consequences. I’d much rather be like Uncle Buck to my nieces and nephews.