How deciding not to have children has impacted couples lives

How deciding not to have children has impacted couples’ lives

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  • Author, Maddy Savage
  • Rolle, BBC Worklife
  • 2 hours ago

Credit, the childfree connection

The number of couples who deliberately do not want children is increasing and with them the negative reactions.

In one of her latest videos, Marcela Muñoz dances in a sunny park wearing a sports top and denim shorts.

This free and relaxed social media post is the fulfillment of her mission to celebrate her childless lifestyle.

Muñoz is 27 years old and maintains the Childfree Millennial profile on TikTok, Instagram and YouTube. She is among a growing number of influencers producing content targeting why they never wanted children.

“The first thing I always say when people ask me why I don’t have children is that I don’t want to have children,” says Muñoz, a small business owner from Kansas in the United States who would interfere with his passions. to travel freely, to practice football and to get up late frequently.

In one of her other recent posts, she jokes, “If you’re going to have a baby, take a nap; If you like the nap, stop.”

“I’ve lost count of the number of times my friends [que são pais] They said, ‘Oh my god, I only slept two hours last night, my kids threw up and I had to take care of them,'” says Muñoz. “It really doesn’t appeal to me!”

Choosing not to have children is nothing new, but there is a growing tendency to adopt the “kid free” label and discuss that choice more openly. Alongside the rise of individual influencers like Muñoz, online communities and support groups for adults who choose not to have children have grown rapidly over the past two years.

But as the kidfree movement grows, researchers argue that societal acceptance and understanding of the choice to live without children is not increasing at the same rate.

Choosing a childless life

Most childless online communities define their members as people who have made a conscious decision never to have children.

It differs from other adults who don’t currently have children but want children in the future, or adults who hoped to have children but don’t have any.

They may have faced fertility problems or other medical conditions, or be hampered by social circumstances such as not being able to find a suitable or willing partner in time.

In English, couples who decide not to have children are called “childfree”. This expression has existed since the early 1900s, but feminists only began to use it more broadly in the 1970s to designate women who chose not to have children as a distinct group of people.

The word “free” was chosen because it symbolizes the sense of freedom and freedom felt by many of those who have voluntarily chosen not to have children.

But most academic research “throws all people who don’t have children into the same group,” according to Elizabeth Hintz, a professor of communications at the University of Connecticut in the United States. She examined the perception of the identity of “childless” people.

According to Hintz, this methodology doesn’t reflect the vastly different experiences and feelings of people who chose not to have children and those who wanted to but couldn’t — and it means there is little longterm comparative data that does consider each group individually.

Credit, courtesy of Marcela Muñoz


Marcela Muñoz is 27 years old and manages “childfree” profiles on social networks to share her lifestyle

But in our age of social media and hashtags, the label “kidfree” is gaining attention, Hintz says, as more and more people who choose not to have children voice their choice.

This trend coincides with some survey data suggesting that more adults in the West may be actively choosing not to have children.

In the United States, a 2021 study by the think tank research and debate center Pew Research Center showed that about 44% of people ages 18 to 49 who are not parents believe they will not have children , up from 37% in 2018.

More than half of those surveyed gave “I don’t want children” as the main reason, rather than circumstances such as medical problems or not wanting to raise a child without a partner.

In England and Wales, a 2020 YouGov study found that more than half of Britons aged 35 to 44 who had not had children had never planned to become parents.

The reasons

Hintz states that there are many reasons why Millennials (born between 1981 and 1995) and Generation Z young people (born between 1995 and 2010) choose not to have children, but there are several common avenues.

“There are people who know from an early age that they don’t want children and never change their mind,” she says.

“There are people who make that decision later and proclaim it as part of their identity. And there are people who are unsure whether or not they should have children and may change their minds several times.”

Londonbased social media executive Ciara O’Neill, 31, clearly falls into the former category.

“I never really wanted to have kids, and I never really saw myself as an expectant mother,” she says. “I really don’t think I have that maternal desire to procreate.”

O’Neill has been together for three years and her boyfriend feels the same way, she says. The couple also believe that having children would make it more difficult for them to travel or work abroad in the future.

For Cristina Garcia Trapero, an English teacher who works in Spain, the decision to identify as “child free” was a rather gradual process.

“When I was a teenager until I was just over 20, I thought about having kids, but believing that’s what everyone needs to do,” she says.

The 32yearold and currently single woman began embracing the “childfree” identity two years ago after realizing she couldn’t see herself as a mother.

“I’m a person who likes to be quiet and spend time alone, and I couldn’t have that with kids,” she says.

Garcia Trapero also mentions “climate changes and the situation of the planet” as external factors that influenced his decision. It’s part of a small but growing trend identified by researchers like Hintz who study people who choose not to have children.

In the Pew Research Center 2021 study, 9% of those without children said “the state of the world” is the reason they are unlikely to become parents, while 5% reported environmental concerns.

Psychotherapist Margaret O’Connor, from Limerick, Ireland, works primarily with clients in Hertz’s ‘on the fence’ group. O’Connor hosts the podcast Are Kids for Me? (“Are children for me?”, in free translation).

She says that for many millennials, practical and financial issues like living in precarious rents, working in the informal economy and limited access to health care are also becoming more important when considering whether or not to have children.

“All of this can perhaps be eliminated or circumvented if the desire to have children is big enough,” she explains. “You can move or change jobs.”

But O’Connor says more and more young people, unsure whether they should have children, are wondering what exactly that kind of “sacrifice” can be, in contrast to previous generations who were more willing to make social sacrifices to follow norms and raise a family. despite the circumstances.

A greater awareness of the potential psychological and physical costs of starting a family also plays a role, according to O’Connor.

“Women I work with really think about the implications of pregnancy and childbirth and their ability to be as physically and mentally engaged as they want to be,” says O’Connor. “Living close to your family of origin or your circle of friends is definitely another factor.”

The increase in the number of supporters of “free children”.

For a generation that grew up sharing everything on social media, Muñoz says millennials who have decided not to have children were initially reluctant to announce and celebrate their decision online. But she says there has been a “big shift” in recent years.

Muñoz argues that it had a snowball effect, as more people began to feel comfortable sharing their experiences as they saw other people choosing not to become parents becoming “open and open.”

“When I started my Instagram account, there were maybe three or four other accounts by people who didn’t want kids… but now, two years later, there are hundreds and hundreds of ‘kid free’ accounts. “, she says. . “You can tell there’s some kind of movement going on right now.”

On Instagram, the hashtag #childfree has garnered more than 311,000 posts. And on TikTok, which Muñoz also participates in, the hashtags #childfree and #childfreebychoice have exploded over the past two years. They had 570 and 391 million views, respectively.

Muñoz’s account on TikTok follows a light and humorous line, but she says the topic still prompts many deeper discussions about some of the hardships faced by people who choose not to have children. For example, some of your followers know they don’t want children, but feel that if they choose not to become parents, they risk losing friendships or disappointing their parents.

“I’m not someone who gets into arguments or argues about issues that are close to my heart, so I see humor as my way of expressing my decision not to have children,” says Muñoz.

“I’ll just add that at the end of all my YouTube videos, I always say, ‘This is your life, these are your choices, live your life the way it’s best’… Don’t live the way your mom wants you to . Don’t do what your best friend wants you to do. Don’t do what your neighbor wants,” she advises.

Muñoz says content creators for people who don’t want children provide the kind of community she lacked when she first grappled with her own “kidfree” identity. She was almost 25 at the time and didn’t know there were other people in the same situation.

Credit, courtesy of Margaret O’Connor


Margaret O’Connor hosts the podcast “Are Kids for Me?”

“I really thought I was the only person in the world who didn’t want to have children,” she says. “The community kind of solidified my decision and also helped open other people’s eyes to the fact that, yeah, [não ter filhos] it’s an option.”

Another growing online community is We Are Childfree, managed by Brit Zoë Noble and her partner James Glazebrook. Both are in their early 40s and live in Berlin, Germany.

The group uses photojournalism, podcasts and meetups to explore the different ways people who don’t want to have children live fulfilling lives.

Since launching during the pandemic, they have already amassed 66,000 followers across their various social media platforms.

The Childfree subgroup on the social networking platform Reddit has also grown significantly. The community recently reached 1.5 million subscribers, up from less than half a million 10 years ago when Hintz began studying the posts.

In the group, people post stories about some of the unsolicited comments or aggressive demands they receive from family members and strangers — “You’re going to change your mind,” “You’re too focused on your career,” “You don’t want one.” little copy of you?”

Others use the space to discuss various issues related to childlessness, such as: B. access to sterilization, the “childfree” identity in the LGBTQIA+ community, or how to tell someone you don’t want to have children.

Expansion and negative reactions

Experts say the rise of influencers and online communities praising people who don’t want children is an indication that social norms are changing.

According to Hintz, the number of people finding likeminded people online is significant. “That’s my impression [algumas] People are expressing pride because it’s less and less taboo.”

For Hintz, the precise reason the taboos are being smashed is likely a confluence of factors. Crucially, people who don’t want to be parents are increasingly meeting others who don’t have children, either in their social circles or in online communities, simply because it’s become more common.

“Meeting someone in person who belongs to a stigmatized group can be one of the most powerful catalysts for changing a person’s own prejudices,” she explains. And in the meantime, “as more people decide not to have children, online communities become peaceful environments for them.”

Hintz suggests the pandemic may also have played a role as public discussions surfaced about many parents’ struggles.

As parents began to speak openly about their struggles with homeschooling, closing childcare facilities, or simply managing basic living expenses due to the economic impact of COVID19, a safer environment emerged to discuss the benefits of not having children.

But Hintz also points out that “childfree” content also generates “a lot of strong opinions” from outside the community, suggesting that there is still a lack of respect and understanding for “childfree” adults among some groups.

Muñoz’s content often draws hostile comments from people who deride her choices as “antikids” or “selfish,” or from followers who just don’t believe she can fulfill her lifestyle.

“A lot of parents just don’t understand that it was a decision. And that’s why they think it’s an attack on their decision to have children,” she says.

“They immediately get defensive and say, ‘Oh, but you’re going to be sorry,’ ‘You’re going to die alone,’ ‘Who’s going to take care of you when you’re older?’ and ‘you’ll never know true love,'” says Muñoz.

Muñoz is a Christian and says she has also faced criticism from people in her religious community, online and in her own community. These people believe that she rejects the Bible’s emphasis on procreation. Others accused her of turning her back on her Hispanic heritage.

“People say, ‘Your culture, your heritage, you have to pass it on from generation to generation what do you do?!'” she says.

For Hintz, much of the criticism of advocates of “childfree” people is heavily gendered.

“Making reproductive decisions has always been a burden for women more than for their partners,” she says. “Motherhood and femininity are so intertwined that I think that’s part of the problem, too.”

According to Hintz, women are therefore often under even more pressure than men to follow a traditional “life script” and start a family even in Western countries that have made great strides towards gender equality.

A new “life script”?

Helping Millennials and Gen Zers better manage their alternative “lifestyles” seems to be a key goal of many “child free” activists.

“It’s still not what most people do. So it’s different, it’s scary,” says O’Connor.

“There’s a bit of pressure that if you don’t have kids, you have to be willing to have a wonderful, glamorous, or philanthropic life, or you have to go out there and do something meaningful,” she says.

But she hopes her podcasts, social media channels and therapy sessions can help raise awareness that living childless can just be “your ordinary everyday life, just not having kids.”

“It can be volunteer work. It could be to meddle in the lives of your own family or friends as a support. But really, that’s what is or should be important to you,” advises O’Connor.

One couple hoping to be older models for a happy, childless life together are Veronica Prager, 46, and Rick Grimes, 51. They hail from Austin, Texas (USA) and run the online community Childfree Connection. In it, they share what they’ve learned about being childless in their 30s, 40s and beyond.

“There’s a lot of content on TikTok or elsewhere that says, ‘I’d rather be in the club than babysitting,'” says Prager. “Whatever is interesting, acceptable and meaningful to them right now. But then there comes a time when you’re not in the club.”

Today, the couple spends their free time kayaking, taking care of the dogs and working flexibly in different locations. They never wanted to have children of their own, but they love hanging out with their nephews. The content includes advice on how to maintain relationships with close friends and relatives who are parents.

Credit, the childfree connection


Veronica Prager is 46 and Rick Grimes is 51. The couple runs the online community Childfree Connection

“There are a lot of accounts that are very critical of kids and they’re like, ‘Oh, our lives are better,’ and stuff like that,” explains Grimes. “And we’re not like that. It’s more about what we think about this life, what it is like and what to expect from it.”

They also discuss practical and financial issues, including planning for childless retirement.

“There’s a lot of anxiety about getting older and ‘who’s going to take care of me?’ or ‘What will my future look like?’” says Prager. “And we’re doing it now so we can share it with our community.”

The couple even counsels members who still have doubts about not having children.

“There are days when you’re very sure of your decision and the next day you’re suddenly afraid of missing something,” says Grimes. “It’s important to face this internal battle that comes and goes and [muitas pessoas precisam] do you have a place to go to get that support.

Changing the stigma of society

What impact the kidfree movement may have on future generations’ decisions to have children, or on the broader perception of nonparenting, remains to be seen.

For Margaret O’Connor, it’s important to note that most “childfree” activists are “very prochoice [a favor do aborto] for all” and that their goal is not “to convince people not to have children” nor “to try to recruit [pessoas] for the community”.

But she hopes that as online groups grow and gain traction, they will help more people who are unsure about having children better understand their options, and those who have already made their decision will provide more tools to “facilitate” their choices. of life.

Elizabeth Hintz is confident that childfree life will become even more “normal” in the years to come, if only because of the increasing number of people not having children now.

She hopes this will help fight the stigma that “people who don’t have children are selfish and unhappy,” as those who have or want children will automatically meet more “childfree” singles or couples who are can help undermine this myth.

However, Hintz cautions that in terms of deeper shifts in public opinion, the outcomes of these actions are likely to be influenced by the political, religious, and media landscape in specific locations.

Residents in predominantly Christian or rightwing suburbs, for example, may be less willing to change their behavior toward those who choose not to have children than in larger, more liberal cities, even as deliberately “childfree” people emerge in the cities. their communities.

O’Connor strongly agrees that the media plays an important role in promoting progress.

“There is little positive evidence of what being childfree means to society,” she said. “We don’t have older people living happily without having children in the mainstream press, in TV shows, or in movies.”

Influencers like Marcela Muñoz believe they already have a lot to celebrate in terms of the growing visibility of the childfree movement over the past two years.

“More and more stories are coming out about people who don’t have kids… and seeing more accounts pop up, more channels created on YouTube is a huge boost,” she says.

“I have no prejudices against people who have children. I have many friends in my life who are parents,” says Muñoz. “But I just think it’s great that people are now thinking a little bit more deeply about parenting, instead of just thinking that’s what needs to be done.”