Whenever someone says they don’t want children, there’s often that familiar parental scoff.
Someone, often a person with children, pipes up with an “Oh, but it’s the most amazing experience you will ever have,” or “Don’t rule anything out just yet — you might want kids down the track.”
Karol Markowicz wrote a piece on the subject for Time magazine recently, saying that young people don’t know what their future selves are going to want or not want, so it’s best to avoid ruling out having kids altogether. You know, just in case. Just like the time you decided that, wait, actually you do really like anchovies on your pizza now. Aren’t you glad you never ruled out never eating them?
Drawing from personal experience, Markowicz reminisces about being a 20-year-old serial dater who thought her destiny was more aligned to being a fabulous spinster for the rest of her life, than a mother and having a family.
“I pictured myself at 80, alone and fabulous in sequins and false eyelashes, smoking cigarettes at a hotel bar,” Markowicz said.
But after falling for one of her closest friends, Markowicz threw her spinster dreams out the window with the false eyelashes, and within two weeks of their relationship they were talking babies and nuptials.
While Markowicz admits that not everyone will change their mind when faced with the love of their life, we humans are adaptable and changeable — even our values, beliefs and desire to eat anchovies, I mean, have kids.
Interestingly, though, a study out of Perth has been released about people without children and their experiences.
Brownyn Harman, a lecturer from the School of Psychology and Social Science, surveyed 559 Australians over the age of 35 who did not have children.
75 per cent of people over 50 who are child-free, people who willingly chose not to have children rather than not succeeding in attempts to have a child, said they have not regretted their decision.
So, can we just give the child-free people a break and stop asking those prying questions like: “So, when are you having children?” or “Don’t you think you’ll change your mind?” or, more horrendous still, “The clock is ticking. When are you having kids?”
Research out of the United States suggests that judgment of people without children could actually affect their mental health, too, making them feel excluded, lonely and depressed, which is something to worry about since Australian society puts a lot of pressure on people to make babies.
“Australia is one of the biggest pro-natal countries in the world,” Dr Harman said. “We believe the natural progression in life is to grow up, meet the right person, marry and have a child — that’s what life is.”
After Italy, Australia has the second-highest rate of people not having children and the reasons are many — from worrying about passing down mental health conditions, to financial instability, to the physical toll pregnancy has on the human body — but, interestingly, in the Perth study, most people couldn’t pinpoint exactly why they didn’t want to have kids.
“Some decided they weren’t maternal or paternal, some said children were too expensive, some said they actively disliked children,” Dr. Harman said. “But the most common answer I got was that there was no reason — they just didn’t think about having children or see it as an option for them.”