Child-free by choice: why it’s OK to not want kids

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More of us than ever before are opting not to have children, but it’s still a decision that can draw judgement and criticism. Here, Brummie-turned-London writer and producer Tracy King, 42, explains why she’s child-free by choice

Now and again someone asks if I have kids, and they can usually tell by the enthusiasm of my answer that I’m one of those people who heartily endorses the no-kids lifestyle.

There have historically been various names for people who don’t have children (often derogatory), including the marketing term “Dinks”, meaning “double income no kids”, which have contributed to a strange taboo.

A 2017 study showed that both men and women are judged harshly for choosing not to have children, considered to be “psychologically unfulfilled” compared to those who have kids.

Basically, people who choose not to have children are seen as missing something essential to the human experience. This is unfair on everyone, and it’s time it stopped.

Choice is exactly that – a conscious decision having weighed up the pros and cons, and going with whichever decision is most appropriate for the individual.

Although I “always knew” I didn’t want to have children, it’s still something I’ve had to seriously think about as I age out of fertility. Am I absolutely sure? (yes). Might I regret it later? (impossible to know but I’d rather risk that regret than risk having kids I definitely don’t want).

Read more: The truth about being single in your 40s

My partner is also very sure, although technically he could still have children at any age. But while I know that my fertility window is smaller than his, neither of us feel any ticking of a biological clock.

We love our nephews and the children of our friends, but we choose to value something else for our own lives. Our lifestyle is exactly what we want it to be.

Now and again, someone will suggest that it’s ‘selfish’ to deliberately not have children. I always counter that with the suggestion that it’s somewhat more selfish to bring children into the world if you really don’t want them.

No shade on kids, I don’t have anything against them, but that’s no justification for creating a life against your own will. I have other things I’d rather do.

Some people think it’s about money, and while it isn’t about wanting more money, it’s definitely a perk to have fewer financial commitments.

The £230,000 per child I’ve saved (average UK cost of raising a child to 21) has enabled some lifestyle choices that I wouldn’t otherwise have been able to make.

The first of these is career. I grew up working class, in a council house in the Midlands. People like me didn’t often move to London to become writers.

But having the freedom and flexibility to move wherever the work and networking is, and – crucially – to not worry about feeding and clothing kids, has meant I’ve been able to take up the luxury of a freelance career.

Read more: Solo travel fuels this major happiness habit

I can work the hours I choose (handy, as I’m a night owl), take up a last-minute commission the other side of the country, and attend events without needing to consider anyone else. Being child-free hasn’t made me wealthier, but it has made me free to take career risks.

I’m not much of a partier these days, but I love the freedom of spending an entire weekend on the Playstation, or heading to the cinema at the last minute.

My friends with kids sometimes say “you’re so lucky, you can have a lie-in!” and I always think, it’s not luck, it’s a choice. But of course, they wouldn’t swap their kids for any number of lie-ins, and I respect them for that even though it’s not something I want for myself.

Increasing numbers of people are making the choice to be child-free, though. Birth rates are declining in Western countries, and those who choose not to have children tend to be be employed in professional/managerial roles, and have higher incomes. We also tend to find each other.

Many of my friends are also child-free, answering the old question “won’t you be lonely when you’re old” with a sort of Golden Girls-style vision, all of us living together as grumpy or glamorous old ladies, gathered round the Playstation, reminiscing about the time when our lifestyles changed from taboo to acceptable.

I really hope that time is now.

Images: Shutterstock, Tracy King

This article is part of a series called ‘Don’t Believe The Narrative’ – we’re rewriting the script for the over thirties; turning the spotlight on those who CHOOSE a different path; celebrating the adventurers and won’t settle-downers. Because this life stage doesn’t have to be all about babies, weddings and work promotions, just because the script says it should. You write your script, you choose your best moments. Share them with us on Instagram using #DontBelieveTheNarrative.


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