Birth rates in the United States are on the decline, and experts believe part of this could be because of cis women's decision to go childfree.
Any cis woman who has stated out loud that she does not want to have children has probably been met with invalidation. "You will change your mind once you get older," some folks say in response. "It is a woman's natural instinct to want to be a mom." However, more and more cis women are choosing not to have children, it appears. Although early speculations of a pandemic baby boom were made, the public health crisis has only propelled a decline in the national birth rate. Since 2007, the birth rate in the United States has been declining by about two percent each year on average. Part of this could be owing to women's decision to not have any children, CNN reports.
Dyanna Volek, a local government worker in San Francisco, always knew she did not want to have children. "I'm always looking forward to the next thing," she said in an interview with the news outlet. "Being a parent was never one of them." The 37-year-old was discouraged from being open about her choice to go childfree due to the taboo of such a decision but became more open about it when things started getting serious with her partner. By the time they got married last November, the couple had decided they did not want any children. Volek does not see herself changing her mind any time soon, much like dozens of other cis women across the country. But why is this so?
Some women simply do not want the responsibility of carrying and raising a child. Cecilia Sanders, aged 32, is a project manager based in Chicago. Like Volek, she knew early on that she did not wish to have children of her own. This is mostly because she does not want to sacrifice her own needs and desires in order to fulfill her duty as a parent. As someone who struggles with anxiety and depression, she knows how difficult it is to take care of herself when her symptoms flare up. She cannot imagine having to take care of a child during such periods of time. She affirmed, "After a year of really thinking about it, I was like, 'No. If I do this, I'm lying to myself.'"
Others fear a lack of institutional and interpersonal support. If the pandemic has proven one thing, it is that the burden of childcare falls first and foremost on mothers; mixed-gender couples rarely distribute the responsibility of childcare equitably and state mechanisms of support are severely broken. Amy Blackstone, a sociologist at the University of Maine and the author of Childfree by Choice: The Movement Redefining Family and Creating a New Age of Independence, points to the country's lack of family-friendly policies as a reason why many women choose to go childfree. "The pandemic has really revealed to us how poorly we support parents in the US," she explained. "We've come to see the truth that we've always known but never speak out loud, which is that parenting is really hard. And we don't really support parents in that role."
Finally, certain cis women simply like their lives as they are now. Jordan Levey, a 35-year-old lawyer who has been married to her husband for four years, believed a "maternal instinct" would kick in eventually. However, after almost half a decade of living with her partner, the couple has realized that they quite enjoy their lifestyles as they are now. She shared, We are really happy in our life. We love to travel, we love to cook, we both really value our alone time and that self-care. I think we would be perfectly fine parents, I just don't think we would enjoy it." Despite these perfectly valid reasons, women are still judged for the decision to not have kids. It's time to change our preconceived notions of what women "should" do, and listen to what they want to do instead.