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Misconceptions About Childfree Women

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Misconceptions About Childfree Women

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.

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157 comments

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2:53AM PDT on Aug 26, 2011

Thanks for the article.

10:44AM PDT on Aug 20, 2011

Thank you for writing this.

10:32AM PDT on Aug 20, 2011

I really loved reading this opinion piece, it's just kinda sad folks have to write them. It should be we accept other people's choices without judgment. My choice to not have kids in not illegal nor does it affect anyone else. Therefore, why does anyone give it a second thought?

People can't tell by looking at me my health issues nor my family background. I don't need to put someone else with my genetic code on the planet. Not to mention, I don't have a desire to be a parent. I feel like I am making a great moral choice to make sure I don't get pregnant.

5:43AM PDT on Aug 20, 2011

Great article, thank you very much for writing it.

6:06PM PDT on Aug 19, 2011

While I agree with many points in this article, the claim that "ask any mother if she’s ever had days when she envied a friend who is childfree, and if she’s honest, she’ll say yes" is FALSE. I have 3 children. I enjoy time away from them, but I have never, not even for ONE SECOND, envied any one of my many childfree freinds. Honest.

5:07PM PDT on Aug 19, 2011

"Reproduction has been described as a fundamental human need." Yes, it has been described so to rationalize (or even 'sanctify') human sex drive. The reasons listed as 'fundamental needs' are in no way fundamental (prosperity is a man-made idea which didn't exist before agricultural era).

Our fundamental needs are the ones that evolution wired into our basic psychology, long before people realized that sexual act and childbirth are somehow connected. On a conscious level, people were breeding for thousands of years just because they had sex, not other way round. Some fundamental needs include giving and receiving love, a need to be accepted and recognized in a group, need for physical (food and shelter) and emotional security, a need to learn and enjoy the world, need to relate to something/someone greater than ourselves... All these can be (and are better) met without kids. Kids have been factored into human existence as an unavoidable fact - only recently humans dared to question its necessity.

4:10PM PDT on Aug 16, 2011

Let's not forget that there are plenty of kids in this country and around the world who have insufficient or no adult nurturing. Childfree adults can be mentors, tutors, coaches, foster parents, and hospital volunteers. There are many babies in hospitals whose parents are unavailable due to a variety of problems from disease to addiction to poverty, and volunteers are needed to simply come and hold them and give them human affection. Sick children and those from disadvantaged backgrounds need adult role models, who could become a defining influence in their lives. People who don't have children of their own are in the best positions regarding time and energy to help children most in need.

6:09AM PDT on Jul 25, 2011

Great post!I only had a different perception at one point:since i have no kids and currently no commited relationship,women around me(those who don't know me well)see me as a threat,as i spend my life getting laid and party all the time,and i'd seduce their husbands.

6:05PM PDT on Jun 12, 2011

The woman at the party, portrayed in the article as the one with kids, is the one who comes across as egotistical, non-emphatic, social unintelligent, prejudiced and the lot! Very civil of you to even want to stand next to her, being so rude!

6:06PM PDT on May 14, 2011

Love this article. Thank you for writing it. I am one of those women who doesn't want to have children, and who devotes my time and love to my career, working in impoverished areas of the world. I have plenty of love and affection for my family members, and hate that people assume I am a cold, horrible person when they discover I don't want children. I also teach and tutor children part time, and am not a child-hating monster. I just don't want my own for many of the reasons listed above.

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