By Ellen Walker, PhD.
Last Saturday night, my husband and I were at a party with a whole new crowd. I started up a conversation with a woman around my age, and as soon as I introduced myself, she asked, “So, do you have kids?” I smiled, and replied, “No, I don’t have children,” and we stood there in an awkward silence until I asked her if she was a mother. She then told me all about her three adult children, as well as the grandkids, before excusing herself from the conversation.
I couldn’t help but wonder what she must be thinking about me, as she contemplated why I didn’t have children of my own. Am I barren? Do I hate kids? Did I have a miscarriage or another tragedy with a child? How do I fill the emptiness I must experience as a result of not having children? Let’s take a look at some common misconceptions about childfree women, and then delve deeper to examine why these conclusions are often wrong.
Childfree women are cold and not nurturing.
After all, if a woman chooses to not have babies, it’s because she lacks the nurturing gene and is cold and unaffectionate, right? The reality is that most humans have a strong need for affection and many of us, especially women, are naturally nurturing or are socialized to be so. Women nurture in a variety of ways, and this extends far beyond what they give to their children.
Many of the childfree women I know are loving and generous in their friendships, and they give of their time to the community in a way that my friends with children simply cannot (due to being too busy with parenting tasks). Some childfree women enjoy baking treats for friends, neighbors, and coworkers, while others reach out to help people in time of need. Other childfree women enjoy nurturing pets, and many of these pet owners treat their dogs and cats far better than some parents treat their children. Childfree women also have more time and emotional energy to nurture their partners.
Childfree women are freaks of nature.
Reproduction has been described as a fundamental human need. So what does this say about a woman who doesn’t appear to have this drive? Is she indeed a freak of nature? As humans have shifted from an agricultural to an industrial society, the need to have many children to work the farm has diminished.
Women’s role in financially supporting themselves and their family has increased, and as a result, many more women are finding fulfillment in their careers. More and more are recognizing that they do not feel a strong need to bear children, and they’re listening to and trusting themselves on this.