Birthing Pains: Childree Day is August 1st

Yes, I’m late to the party.  Life got in the way.

August 1st is International Childfree Day.  It was started in 1973 by the National Alliance for Optional Parenthood, which recognized that having kids is an option, not an obligation and that birthing people who have the capability don’t have to capitulate.  As you might suspect, Childfree people are very much on the side of bodily autonomy and birth control like legal abortion.

The strongest opposition to the Childfree movement and lifestyle has usually come from religion. They depend on brainwashing of adults to have kids and increase numbers of cult members.  Not only for the $$$ on the plate and future sucker “donors”), but also proselytizing and outnumbering the competition.

Another opponent of the right to be Childfree are “traditionalists” and sexists, those who want “only two genders!” and specific roles.  It’s “families” demanding grandchildren, cousins, nieces, and nephews while they contribute nothing to the upbringing or upkeep of having kids.  Guilt, control, and narcissism are a big part of this, as is “I suffered, so you have to suffer too!”

Corporatists and capitalists have become just as loud in recent years as they realize that fewer “consumers” mean smaller profits, fewer workers mean they can demand higher wages, and the ponzi scheme of pensions has no contributors to pay the previous generation.  And yet capitalists are doing exactly the things that make young people choose to be Childfree: they pay low wages, and there is no health care (or it’s overpriced).  Life is barely affordable or unaffordable for a single person.  How can people afford a kid on top of that?

Contrary to those three groups’ propaganda, being Childfree is NOT “selfish”; rather, selfish is having kids you can’t afford to feed and house.  Being Childfree is NOT “laziness”; a person who chooses never to breed has put a LOT of thought into it.  Being Childfree is NOT “immature”, an insult hurled by those who want 10 year old girls to give birth.  And being Childfree does NOT “destroy the fabric of society”; overpopulation is destroying the environment, and every fewer consumer of resources makes environmental collapse less likely.

Being Childfree is a carefully thought out decision made by people who have thoroughly considered the personal, economic, social, and environmental burdens of having a child.  Below the fold, a collection of studies, articles and references on the subject.

A study from Michigan State University was published in Nature, July 2022, on societal attitudes and animosity towards Childfree people.  The animosity is based on assumptions and stereotypes, certainly not on personal experience:

Prevalence, age of decision, and interpersonal warmth judgements of childfree adults


In the United States and other Western industrialized countries, the majority of adults eventually become parents. However, fertility rates have declined and fewer adults expect to have children during their lifetime than in the past. Many of these adults simply do not want children and are characterized as childfree in the popular press and academic literature. Childfree adults are distinct from childless adults who wanted children but were unable to have them, and from not-yet-parents who are planning to have children in the future. Because childfree adults explicitly do not want children, they are also different from adults who are undecided about whether they plan to have children, and from adults who do not plan to have children but are ambivalent or indifferent about whether they wanted children.

Understanding childfree adults is important because they may make up a sizeable portion of the population, and because declining fertility rates suggest that the number of childfree adults may be growing. Members of this large population experience unique barriers in the workplace and healthcare. For example, childfree adults are often neglected in discussions of work-life balance and are commonly denied access to voluntary sterilization by their physicians. Childfree adults also experience stigmatization and are the recipients of negative stereotypes from parents and other adults without children.

[. . .]

A life-course perspective implies that individuals may change from planning to have children or being ambivalent about having children to childfree over time. Recognizing that many individuals decide not to have children, some research has sought to understand when they reach this decision. The existing literature suggests that people fall into two camps with respect to when they decide to become childfree11. Early articulators decide to become childfree when they are quite young, often before marriage or partnership, and were estimated to account for only one-third of childfree adults in the 1970s. In contrast, most childfree adults were estimated to be postponers, who come to the decision to be childfree later in life.

How much of that animosity towards and stigmatization and stereotypes of Childfree people is jealousy over our decision to have kids (free time, sleep, responsibilities, money, refusing to follow “socital norms”, etc.)?  It’s certainly not because the lives of Childfree people in any way impinge upon those who have kids.

The same study was mentioned in StudyFinds:

Living a ‘childfree’ life: 1 in 5 adults don’t want to have kids

EAST LANSING, Mich. — Are families about to find themselves on the endangered species list? Researchers from Michigan State University find that over one in five adults don’t want children. Interestingly, the survey also indicates that Americans are deciding against being a parent quite early in life, most often in their teens or early twenties.

“We found that 21.6% of adults, or about 1.7 million people, in Michigan do not want children and therefore are ‘childfree.’ That’s more than the population of Michigan’s nine largest cities,” says study co-author Zachary Neal, an associate professor in MSU’s psychology department, in a university release.

[. . .]

While this study only included Michigan residents, researchers point out that Michigan is actually quite demographically similar to the United States as a whole — according to the 2021 U.S. census. If the trend in this survey holds up across the entire nation, that would mean roughly 50 to 60 million Americans want to stay childfree.

“Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, a large number of Americans are now at risk of being forced to have children despite not wanting them,” Prof. Watling Neal concludes.

Study authors add that if the courts overturn further precedents and birth control measures become harder to access across the U.S. it could result in more hurdles for many young women deciding to be childfree.

The Pew Research Centre published a study on Childfree people in November 2021, covering both Childfree people (whom they wrongly mislabel as “childless”) and those who have children but plan not to have any more:

Growing share of childless adults in U.S. don’t expect to ever have children

Birth rates in the United States dropped during the COVID-19 pandemic amid the twin public health and economic crises, lending evidence to predictions from early on in the outbreak that economic uncertainty might trigger a baby bust. This continued the downward trend in U.S. fertility rates, which were already at a record low before the pandemic began.

A new Pew Research Center survey finds that a rising share of U.S. adults who are not already parents say they are unlikely to ever have children, and their reasons range from just not wanting to have kids to concerns about climate change and the environment.

Some 44% of non-parents ages 18 to 49 say it is not too or not at all likely that they will have children someday, an increase of 7 percentage points from the 37% who said the same in a 2018 survey. Meanwhile, 74% of adults younger than 50 who are already parents say they are unlikely to have more kids, virtually unchanged since 2018.

Among childless adults who say they have some other reason for thinking they won’t have kids in the future, no single reason stands out. About two-in-ten (19%) say it’s due to medical reasons, 17% say it’s for financial reasons and 15% say it’s because they do not have a partner. Roughly one-in-ten say their age or their partner’s age (10%) or the state of the world (9%) is a reason they don’t plan to have kids. An additional 5% cite environmental reasons, including climate change, and 2% say their partner doesn’t want children.

Talk of a “lockdown baby boom” during the pandemic was a male rape fantasy.  In reality, people saw (either through their own kids or other people’s) how much of a burden children really are.  They had time to watch, read others’ opinions.  Many couples actively chose to avoid sex or pregnancy during their time trapped alone in their homes.

The Society for Human Resource Management recently published an article (June 2022) discussing the concerns of Childfree people in the workplace.  Having no kids does not mean people have no obligations.  And even if they have none, it is NOT the “obligation” of Childfree people to do extra unpaid work so that those with kids can do less.

What’s It Like Being Childfree at Work?

The voices of childless workers regarding unfair treatment by employers are growing louder. In this recent study, employees told ResumeLab about how managers treat parents vs. non-parents at work.

“Come on, if you had kids, we would let you take the extra time you needed.”

“What personal reason? You don’t have kids to pick up from school.”

“Parents need that day off more.”

Raise your hand if you’re a childfree employee who has never heard some version of the sentences above. No volunteers? Well, not surprising.

[. . .]

These people are both men and women, college graduates, and people without a degree. And above all, these are employees. So it’s a logical assumption that as the number of childless people increases, the number of childless workers also rises. And some researchers believe that soon the number of non-parents may overtake the number of parents in the workplace.

And here come the problems. Unfair treatment of the growing childfree community is becoming more and more visible. And with increasing awareness of our rights and condemnation of discrimination and unequal treatment, the voices of unsatisfied childless employees are growing stronger.

Parents vs. Childfree Employees

Bigfoot. Yeti. Childfree by choice. Unicorns. The Loch Ness Monster. 

Does any element of this list stand out? Once, it probably wouldn’t, but now it does. 

Childfree by choice. 

[. . .]

But as research shows, like fantastic beasts, they are misunderstood, their needs are marginalized, and their activities and responsibilities outside of work are baffling. Why? Because they don’t have children. So it’s clear that they have nothing to do after work, true? Well … no. 

Childfree employees have hobbies, a second job, or sick parents they need to take care of. They participate in courses and postgraduate studies or go for physiotherapy. Whatever. But they still know how to spend their personal time after work.

So why are we willing to increase their workload, make them do overtime, or deny them a day off? Do parents need it more?

Their kids, their responsibility. If businesses want Childfree people to cover for parents cutting out of work, pay them for their work and compensate for their lost time off.  Being Childfree doesn’t mean we work for free.

From CNN, September 2020:

Child-free workers aren’t selfish. They’re being exploited

Six months into the Covid-19 pandemic that has shut down schools and day care centers and forced millions of Americans to work from home, the stressors of our no longer new normal are only growing. As it dawns on many of us that this situation is not an acute emergency but rather a protracted disaster with no end in sight, our collective patience is thinning. Which is perhaps why workplace tensions between people with children at home and those without seem higher than ever.

The latest example came from The New York Times this past weekend, in a story about some of the highly paid employees of Big Tech in Silicon Valley squabbling over Covid-related benefits and dispensations for parents. At various big tech companies, parents dealing with child care were given more time off and bonuses that were once tied to performance now given to everyone. The Times reported that some employees without children complained that the new benefits based on caregiving status were unfair, and that the childless were expected to pick up the slack from parents who were no longer pulling their own weight at work.

[. . .]

But while it’s easy to accuse the childless of acting entitled for objecting to these changes, that reaction misses the point — and frankly buys into some very toxic ideas about work itself. Work is not your family and it is not your friend; the only way your employer shows how much they value you is in how they compensate you.

Right now, a great many parents say that workplace expectations are simply too high to be met while also trying to do things like oversee a Zoom calculus class or make sure your toddler doesn’t drink bleach or flush his gerbil when you’re on a client call. Non-parents meanwhile report that assumptions about their free time and the total obliteration of boundaries between work and life means they are being asked to do much more at work without an attendant increase in compensation; complain, though, and you’re accused of lacking empathy — even if the complaint isn’t about parents getting some necessary breathing room, but about the childless being asked to shoulder more work indefinitely. No one is happy, and as the Times piece shows, many workers are sniping about each other.

Bodily autonomy of XX people isn’t limited to abortion access.  Many want sterilization (hysterectomy or a bi-salp), many have a physical medical need (e.g. endometriosis, fibromyalgia, genetic conditions or disabilities) or mental health concerns (e.g. depression) but are denied because of patriarchal and misogynistic attitudes, that women “will change their mind”.

Saying that a woman 30 year old cisgender woman “will change her mind” is as patronizing and insulting as saying that a 10 years old child “will change her mind” after a rape.  Even if a person later “regrets” having sterilization, that’s not the quack’s concern.  The quack should respect the person’s decision now and provide the non-harmful medical care requested.

From the New York Timid, May 2021:

Women Who Said No to Motherhood

Zoë Noble was 32 when her doctor told her “the clock is ticking.”

The hysterectomy Ms. Noble needed to remove a fibroid was not up for discussion so far as her doctor was concerned, despite the fact that she didn’t want children. It took years of pain and an emergency room visit before she was finally granted the surgery at 37.

The practice of a physician denying a patient surgery on the assumption that a woman will change her mind about wanting children is common.

“It’s as though a woman’s purpose in life is to have children,” Ms. Noble, a British photographer who lives in Berlin, said, recounting a 2016 encounter with a taxi driver in Berlin — a haven for alternative family structures — when the driver nearly drove off the road after he discovered that she was married without children. “Have one and by the second or third, you’ll like it,” he told her.

[. . .]

“Until very recently, it was assumed that if you didn’t have children it was a tragedy, because you were unable to,” Meghan Daum, editor of “Selfish, Shallow and Self-Absorbed,” a book that reframes the idea of mandatory motherhood, said. “Or there was something wrong with you psychologically — you were selfish.”

Rhetoric about motherhood as an essential part of women’s lives can be found across the political spectrum. Some examples: “The most important job any woman can have is being a mother,” Ivanka Trump said in a 2016 campaign video, echoing Michelle Obama’s 2015 Tuskegee University commencement address. “Being mom in chief is, and always will be, Job No. 1,” the first lady said.

This political framing is certainly not new. In 1817, Napoleon Bonaparte told the French soldier Gaspard Gourgaud that women are “mere machines to make children.”

[. . .]

Perhaps part of this social unacceptability is that with an admission to never having children comes an underlying acknowledgment that women have sex for pleasure. When many are still threatened by women’s sexual agency, some experts have argued that having sex for fun, rather than reproduction, is an affront to the long political and religious history of policing female sexuality and reproductive rights.

Childfree people have thought long and hard about the economic impact of having a child.  Buying a car requires monthly payments for a few years, but eventually you either pay it off and own it, or you get rid of it.  Neither is an option if you have a kid.  The first year alone raising a child (not counting the US’s onerous and thieving “medical system”) can cost upwards of US$15,000.  Who can afford that if your income is $25,000 or less, and you still have to eat and pay rent?

From Business Insider, April 2022:

Babies are becoming a status symbol of the wealthy.

The US birth rate has been falling since 2008, dipping even further when the pandemic hit. CDC data found that from 2019 to 2020, the US birth rate fell by 4% from 2019 to 2020, the sharpest single-year decline in nearly 50 years and the lowest number of births since 1979. While the baby bust wasn’t as vast as predicted and more Americans are getting back to baby making, America still has 60,000 fewer babies because of the pandemic.

The reasons are plenty: Women have better access to contraception than they used to. They also now have the opportunity to prioritize education and careers. Some don’t want to bring a child into a world facing a climate crisis. Others simply aren’t interested in having kids because they love their life the way it is. But there’s also the glaringly obvious: Kids are really, really expensive in an economy that’s only getting more and more costly.

The economics of raising a family in today’s society has made having kids a privilege, Karen Guzzo, Professor of Sociology and Director for Family & Demographic Research Bowling Green State University, told Insider. “It’s almost like the haves and have-nots in terms of who gets to have children, because it’s so expensive,” she said.

[. . .]

Finances have been one of the top reasons Americans aren’t having kids or are having fewer kids than they considered ideal, even before the pandemic. Millennials, the generation that covers most women of childbearing age, have dealt with two recessions before the age of 40 while juggling student debt and a soaring cost of living. Now, they’re dealing with inflation for the first time after it hit a 41-year-high. While high prices are hitting everyone, they’re hurting millennials the most since they’re in a life stage that involves buying big ticket items like cars and houses.

It doesn’t help that America is in the midst of a childcare affordability crisis. Raising a child to age 18 in America will cost parents an average of $230,000, with most of those costs in the first few years of the child’s life. National childcare costs average between $9,000 and $9,600 annually, per advocacy organization Child Care Aware. That’s unaffordable for 63% of full-time working parents in the US. 

And yet it’s the wealthiest who are demanding the poorest breed, who deny them health care and a living wage, then complain because the poor are not pumping out “consumers” for their overpriced corporate garbage.

And finally, there’s the environmental aspect of being Childfree.  All the talk in the world about “renewables”, about “green energy”, about “eat plants”, etc. means nothing without addressing the stork in the room.  The biggest stress on the environment is the number of human beings consuming natural resources and fossil fuels.  Fewer people, less damage.  If the human population in 2022 were the same as in 1922, there would not be the same damage to the environment.

From the Globe and Mail, October 2019:

The new ‘childfree’: Fearful amid climate change, some young Canadians abandon plans to have children

Food security, melting permafrost, mass extinction – they’re just a few of the environmental issues keeping Deraek Menard and Alysia Boudreau up at night.

So this fall the Nanaimo, B.C., couple made a heavy decision: The two signed up on #NoFutureNoChildren, an online initiative that’s seeing thousands of young people pledge not to have children unless governments take action on climate change.

“I can’t consciously bring a child into the world knowing that their future is so unsure,” said Ms. Boudreau, 26. “It’s hard because I have strong maternal instincts.”

After student climate rallies swelled worldwide last month and environmentalists blocked bridges in cities across Canada as part of “Extinction Rebellion” protests this week, a quieter movement is now playing out between couples and families at home about whether or not to have children.

For many pledge takers who spoke to The Globe and Mail, the idea of bringing a child into a world facing melting polar ice caps, flooding, drought and forced mass migration seems unfathomable. For them, this is not about population control or the carbon footprint of individual babies, but an attempt to make governments listen and move on climate change. While these young adults are certainly not the first to choose lives without children, this may be the first generation doing it out of a sense of civic duty.

A sense of civic duty, of seeing the facts with their own eyes.  Other people such as Emma Vigeland (of The Majority Report, appearing on The Young Turks) who wanted kids and still do but are saying the same thing, changing their minds because of environmental reality.

I’ve heard the claim that “having fewer kids won’t save the planet!”  So what?  Even if it doesn’t, does NOT having children cause harm to the environment?  Because that’s the corollary of that binary question.

The odd thing is that many who say that are the ones who advocate driving and flying less, who ask, “Even if these things don’t affect climate change, shouldn’t we do them anyway?”  They’re applying that argument to reducing fossil fuel and resource consumption, but not to reducing the number of consumers of fossil fuels and resources.

We.  Are.  Not.  Exempt. 

Whatever happens to the environment will be caused by us, and will happen to us.  Not voluntarily causing more damage is not a form of “damage”.