Why Are We Still Judging Women Without Children?

According to a recent poll conducted by the Pew Research Center, one in five women end their childbearing years without having children. Just a few decades ago, in the 1970s, the statistic read one in ten. With the population of women without children reaching new heights, it should be no surprise to us that many women and men decide not to have children. However, according to Katie Roiphe, not having children is still seen as taboo for both women and men. When we see a childless woman, Roiphe says, we assume she is deeply saddened by her lack of children, and when we see a childless man, we assume that he suffers from a serious Peter Pan syndrome and refuses to grow up.

In a response to Roiphe’s article, Adaya Adler reminds us that there are many reasons why women and men remain childless, and that there is a difference between childless and childfree. Childless women are women who desperately want a baby but, due to medical, financial or emotional complications, cannot have one. Childfree women, on the other hand, have chosen not to have children. The key difference, according to Adler, is that childless women are deeply saddened about their inability to have a child, and childfree women are happy with their decisions.

The problem remains, though, that many people do not believe that lives can be complete without children. For many, the problem is that they cannot even conceive of a life without children. Adler’s partner and her had this discussion, and he said to her: “Think about it; with a few rare exceptions, we are all brought up in families where having and raising children is the norm. You have to be willing to think outside of how you were raised just to conceive of a life without children.” Since we are all someone’s child, the very thought of not having children for any reason breaks the mold. This can put childfree and childless women at odds with their peers who are having children and enjoying every minute.

Of course, it is not just peers that vilify the decision not to have children. Employers do it too. We know that working mothers are penalized for taking time off to raise their children, but women who decide not to have children are often seen as cold, uncaring and odd and are sometimes passed up for promotions and raises because of it, according to Dr. Caroline Gatrell. As women, we just can’t win.

The decision whether or not to have children is a highly personal one, and one that I’ve been wrestling with for a long time. As a 27-year-old married woman, I am officially in the age group where many of my friends are starting to have children of their own. I have been asked more times than I can count when (not if) I am going to have a baby, and when I say I’m not sure if that’s in the cards, I’m usually told that I’ll change my mind. Of course, this usually makes me hold on even stronger, telling them that I might not change my mind and there’s nothing wrong with that. Most often, I get a condescending smile and a patronizing “OK, sure.” Most of my good friends are supportive of my decision making process, but sometimes it isn’t easy. Some feel I am judging them for having children, and some don’t want to hang out with me as much because they feel we don’t have much in common anymore. Unfortunately, if I do have a child, these clashes won’t end there, either.

The bottom line is, no matter how a woman comes to her decision about having or not having a child, it isn’t any of our business. Women are unique, complex, interesting people with or without children. They do not need a child to make them whole, nor are they defined entirely by their children if they have them. In a society where families take on all shapes and sizes, this should not shock us, nor should it change the way we view each other as human beings.


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Photo Credit: photon_de


Natasha Salgado
Past Member 6 years ago

Who is Judging??? Just because we can...says who??? Ignorant sexist baffoons that's who...and who cares...not me!!!

Cathy C.
Cathy C6 years ago

If you have a uterus, other people just assume you want to use it. Men want to use their penises, don't they (Hell, yeah! says about a billion men in unison!!)? Sex is just another battle ground, with too many people telling us what we should do.

Heather McGuirk
Heather McGuirk6 years ago

I wish everyone would stop judging each other. Child free is a great choice... and so is having kids. No need to argue about it, just live and let live. ^_^

Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson6 years ago

I never wanted a baby of my own, then I got pregnant by accident. I was nervous, but my son ended up being the best thing that ever happened to me. Now I want a million kids (or maybe 3 kids). However, that was my PERSONAL experience. Every person experiences life in a different way. Some people SHOULDN'T have kids. Others are stable and good and simply don't want to be parents. That is a very big and personal decision, and as a society we should respect people's choices. I have friends who never want babies, and I love them and who they are without kids. Furthermore, some days I can see the reasons that not having a child could be ideal.

Robert Sloan
Robert Sloan7 years ago

Conformity creates some bitter situations for those that go along with the pressure to have kids if they don't actually like and want children. The most taboo response for any childfree woman to give is to say "I don't like children." Since when does everyone have to like or feel the same things? I've known many childfree women who were happy with their lives and didn't miss out on any of it. Parental ties are not the only intimate personal ties a human being can have.

Ms. JL M7 years ago

Thank you. There are a lot of reasons NOT to have children, all of them as valid (some would say more so) as the reasons people DO have children.

Norma V.
Norma Villarreal7 years ago

Due to health reasons, childbearing days for me are past...I am the aunt that shows the children tough love and reminds them they are responsible for their choices.

Eternal Gardener
Eternal G7 years ago

That judgement roots in religion...

Melania Padilla
Melania P7 years ago

I don´t know what the problem with society is. Really, having children is only one´s decision, no one else´s. We don´t need any children to be happy of to feel "complete".
People should respect women decisions not to have any kids.
With so many people on the globe, why not adopting? I think it is a great act of love.

mari s.
Mari S7 years ago

I've read some of the comments here -- everyone has their opinions -- yet even though my response is different from others, i do not think any less, nor more, of you -- i don't KNOW personally any one person here, but if i were to like and respect you or not, it would have absolutely nothing to do with whether or not you have children -- you see, this is my point! You could all be great people, and you probably are, but that has nothing to do with not having or having children.