The “Price” of Childfreedom

The "Price" of Childfreedom

In countless areas of our lives, we are expected to calculate the risk/reward ratio. Starting a business is risky, but what of the rewards? Investing your hard-earned money in the stock market carries different levels of risk but the potential for amazing rewards are abundant. Getting married? That’s another area of weighing rewards against risks. It makes sense, then, that having, or not having, children would also be chock-full of rewards…and risks. I have already thoughtfully considered both parenthood and non-parenthood: the risks and rewards. Still, some people think I should reconsider my choice and recognize the “price” of childfreedom.

A man by the name of John left a comment on this site a few days ago. I read his comment a few times and then boiled over with anger. I posted it on Twitter, commiserated with fellow Twitterers, and explained to my husband what ‘mansplaining’ is (the irony is not lost on me). Although I ultimately sent John’s comment to the ‘trash’ folder, I did screenshot it in its entirety. Despite his cringe-worthy remarks, I did learn a thing or two. I’ve decided to post his comment here, in pieces, to make it a little easier to digest:"I am 70 yr old male. Was a happy bachelor… so I thought…until I married and had one child. Was so happy now with that child that I fathered a second child 2-1/2 yrs later (same wife). From my experience, having my own children has given my life a whole new dimension. Bachelorhood was great but in retrospect…unnatural."

John knows what life is like as a childless person, a bachelor, and as a parent, but he makes a mistake at outset of his comment—one that made it very difficult for me to read what he had to say objectively—John conflates being childfree with childlessness. In some cases, childfreedom and childlessness are the same, yes, but in this situation, they are vastly different. Mainly because John was always a man without children (childless) and never a person who made the conscious decision to never have children (childfree).

His happiness as a bachelor goes on to evolve as he gets married and has a child. He looks back on his fulfillment as a bachelor differently now. He was happy then, sure, but he feels he was happy within a limited capacity. Marriage and children added more depth to his love, as his comment explains.

The ‘Who’s Happier?’ Debate

And here we could go on to play the ‘Who’s Happier?’ game—a favorite past-time of parents and non-parents, myself included. I have my opinion that, as a rule, the childfree are a happier bunch. I also look to the research of Professor Dan Gilbert of Harvard University to back me up 🙂

That being said, I can’t truly know what would make me nor you happier. I can’t split my life in two. I can’t operate in different dimensions, trying out parenthood in one and childfreedom in another.

John, the commenter above, makes the mistake of thinking he’s done that. He was childless so he knows what it’s like to be me, right? Wrong! He knows what it’s like to be a childless man named John. And that’s really all he knows. That’s all any of us know. He couldn’t know what its like to be a childfree woman named Brittany. I had to make an educated guess as to what decision would make the most sense for me, as did John. That being said, I can’t advise John to be childfree just as he really can’t advise me to have kids.

What’s Love Got to Do With Biology?

Many parents (and I include my own in this) talk about a type of love they experience after having a child. I’m not here to challenge that. I believe that parental (and perhaps mostly maternal) love is different—one that, in an ideal world, would prevent all mothers from harming their young. I am, however, here to knock John down a beg, or two, or three, for his comments on adoption.

As a woman who has always supported adoption over biological children, this makes me both sad and angry. It’s commendable that John stepped up and raised his nephew and took in other children. However, it’s asinine to propose that having biological children would make you a better adoptive parent. It totally disregards adoptive parents who tried and were unable to have biological children. It also disregards all of the men and women who don’t want to add more people to an already overpopulated planet.

Carrying a child in the womb or sharing biological data with them is not always the foundation of a close, loving relationship. In fact, the love that is shared between a parent and child comes from the mutual care, respect, and nurturing the parent bestows upon the child.

The Psychological and Physical Price

While I do have what some would call “childbearing hips” ;), I’m not even going to get into what my purpose (as a woman, as a person, or otherwise) is for being on this planet. I will just say that it’s absolutely absurd to suggest I’ll get cancer because that’s the “price” of childfreedom— the price of going against “nature.” That’s not how cancer works. That’s not how any of this works.

I weighed the risks and rewards of pregnancy and instead chose the risks and rewards of being childfree. John weighed the risks and rewards of parenthood and decided he was for it. So, here’s what I’ve learned from all this:

  1. My husband Colin has since decided he hates the term ‘mansplaining’
  2. John’s opinion was ill-informed (and a BINGO!) but I can still recognize how he feels
  3. John did what was right for him
  4. I did what was right for me
  5. We both have the right to talk about our experiences, but it has to be done without the aim of changing the other person’s mind.
  6. Except about adoption…and cancer. Because John was just wrong 🙂

I cannot convince anyone not to have children. I don’t think I’d want that power even if I could have it. Therefore, I shouldn’t try. There are risks and rewards of this lifestyle that I have chosen, just as there are to any other major life decisions. It’s not going to be the right course for everyone and our reasons for choosing, or abstaining from, parenthood will vary. My risks may be your rewards and vice versa.

So, what are your thoughts on all of this? Let me know by commenting below!

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  1. Reply

    His entire comment was so ridiculous. But the last part about our biological purpose gets under my skin the most. You don’t get to tell me what my body was built for. The insinuation of that is that if I can’t have children (which I can’t), then my body is broken and I’ve failed as a woman.

    Good on you Brittany for writing a thoughtful, measured and awesome response. I’d probably still be seething at this point.

    1. Thanks Britt! I’m certainly not a fan of my ‘purpose’ being explained to me by some random person, grrr.

    • Alyssa
    • November 30, 2017


    1. 🙂

    • Michaela
    • November 30, 2017

    John is frankly a fool. His entire opinion is based on the man’s side of child rearing. Let’s face it men do considerably less than women in this process and did even less when John was young enough to do it. So yes his experience was probably very rewarding and happy because he probably didn’t do any of the hard work. He can advice other men on this subject but his opinion in regards to woman is completely useless.

    1. Very true, Michaela! Thank you for your comment.

    • Jessica Gonzalez
    • November 30, 2017

    Ohhhh where do I begin. Setting aside the “creeper in a 90s chatroom” feeling John gave me, I am also heavily incensed by his entitled comments.

    I fight the “purpose” battle ceaselessly, feeling that my biological design contains a flaw, (childless by chance), and therefore I am clearly broken and purposeless. I tell myself things like “I must have some Other Grand Purpose that the world needs!” and “I am here to share my ideas and build upon my passions, not for my reproductive obligation!” At times I even feel that these exclamations are a shameless attempt to convince myself of my worth as a result of some narcissistic need to comfort and explain my less-than-efficient design. My biology is flawed, it’s true, and I would not be viewed as valuable in the origin-of-man scenario John vaguely references.

    But the truth is, evolutionarily speaking, we completely overpopulated this earth, demolishing everything in our paths. We cast garbage into the streets, oceans, wildlife areas, we point missiles at each other, we work ourselves to the bone in pursuit of money and power. I don’t want to have a baby. I’m not sure the earth wants us ALL to continue to have babies. Offspring are no longer needed at the rate with which we currently reproduce to ensure the future of our species (should we survive the atrocities we inflict upon ourselves, that is).

    I may get cancer because I didn’t breast feed, and it’s likely that at some point darling John will be diagnosed with some form of cancer as well. Just as he is certain our biology was not “meant” to go childless, I am certain our biology was not meant breathe toxic car and industrial outputs, consume high fructose corn syrup and factory farmed and tortured animals, and live amongst automatic and semi-automatic weapons. And frankly, if we are going to break child-bearing down to simple reproduction and biology, then we won’t be needing our fancy cars, technology, travel, etc. either because hey, we’re just animals – right John?

    MY purpose on this earth is to experience the glory of travel, nature, eating food I grow myself, living a long and healthy life, and reminding women everywhere that reproducing may be biologically necessary on a broad scale, but rearing children is only one facet of our existences, and we may take or leave it in this modern world.

    I’m so happy that John enjoyed his first 70 years, and now he has babies to make him feel warm and fuzzy (that he likely won’t be here to watch graduate from college). But at least he discovered his true purpose! Guess I’ll go home and tell my husband that I don’t love him as deeply as I should because I’m incapable of real love…

    ~ XOXO to you Brittany, your voice is deeply appreciated! ~

    1. Jessica, this comment is GOLD! I’ve read it several times (and also read it to my husband) and it’s just amazing. Your voice is deeply appreciated too!

        • Jessica
        • December 7, 2017

        Thanks so much Brittany, your blog truly gives me a thoughtful and guided path through this often difficult subject. This year has been the first time I have faced and explored how I actually feel about my reality, and I truly appreciate the multi-faceted conversation you lead. I am sure I’m not alone when I say that your platform makes me feel supported in my journey!

        1. You’re the best, Jessica! I don’t think I would have been able to come this far without the support of readers like you. Thank you 🙂

      • Scott
      • June 6, 2018

      Let’s say just for the sake of argument that humans are “designed” to have children. So what if we are? We do all sorts of things that were never “designed” to happen. Viagra was originally developed to be a heart medication, but that ain’t how it’s used today. Not a lot of men John’s age complaining about how Viagra users aren’t following the design….

      1. Ha, true that!

  2. Reply

    Wow … that was my initial reaction aside from rage.

    I don’t know what my purpose in live IS but I do not that it is NOT to be a mother. I would not be a good one. That, among other reasons, is why I’m not going to be one.

    Regarding his point about adoption. My cousin and his wife tried for many years to conceive both naturally and with medical intervention. Nothing worked. They held off on adoption because my cousin was concerned that he would not love an adopted child as much as a biological one. His daughter is now twelve and his earlier view has been proven completely wrong!

    1. Thanks for your comment, Brink. That was my initial reaction too. John’s opinion is born out of ignorance, for sure!

    • alexis
    • December 6, 2017

    I think the biggest thing that resonated with me and I don’t think many people understand, is that childless and childfree carry very different meanings. For many it is a conscious choice. That means there is significant thought behind it.

    1. Alexis, thanks for your comment. That’s how I feel as well. John has experience being childless but he has no experience being childfree. There is a difference, I truly believe.

  3. That sentence about the “price” women pay for not experiencing what they were apparently designed to do really makes my skin crawl. So. Much. Rage. It really infuriates me when men decide they know what a woman’s “purpose” in life is. I’ll decide that for myself, thank you very much. Good on you for dissecting John’s comment in such a considered and constructive way, Brittany.

    I think the “who’s happier” debate is a really interesting one, and one that seems bound to go around in circles. I watched the video with Prof Dan Gilbert’s presentation and thought that was an interesting take on it. There seems to be no straightforward answer; all we can do is, as you say, do what makes the most sense to us.

    1. That part gets me too, Lisa! I don’t like his ominous warning about having to pay the “price” for this decision. I’ve been wanting to write about the “who’s happier” debate for some time so perhaps I will finally do so! Thanks for your kind words 🙂

      1. Awesome! I hope you do. Would love to read more of your thoughts on the “who’s happier” debate 🙂 Definitely an interesting topic!

        1. It really interests me too! Time to get writing! 🙂

    • Penny
    • December 27, 2017

    John doesn’t seem to be very good at thinking things through rationally. First off, I’m a bit confused by his suggestion (because he doesn’t seem to have based it on any kind of fact) that ‘evolutionary necessity’ has given us a physical need of some kind to procreate. The number of humans way back whenever he thinks this happened is completely irrelivent and would not cause us to get sick and die if we didn’t have babies. Yes breast feeding and pregnancy releases certain hormones, but this in no way links to an evolutionary necessity to have children to keep the species going. He pulled that out of his ass. There are also articles and studies on the myth of women being biologically wired to want children, and this started to be seen as fact during the industrial revolution when men went from working at home and on farms, spending much time raising children alongside their wives, to working in factories away from the home. Women became the primary caregivers and some such nonsense was pushed to keep the wheels of industry turning and keep the population growing.
    Secondly, I think when he said that having your own children makes you able to love adopted children on a deeper level, what he ment to say was ” I didn’t feel a deep connection with my adopted children.” He is assuming that his experiences are a yard stick by which to measure all of the experiences of all mankind.
    Thirdly, he was a bachelor and he did not have kids. This is not the same as not being interested in a relationship at all, or not wanting children. A person who wants children is bound to have a completely different experience of parenthood than someone who never wanted that for themselves.
    Sorry for the rant, but John seems like he makes crap up on the fly to try and impress people with his life choices. Good for you John, now bugger off and let everyone decide for themselves what’s best for them.

    1. Well said, Penny! I couldn’t agree more. Especially this: “He is assuming that his experiences are a yard stick by which to measure all of the experiences of all mankind.” ROAR!

  4. Pingback: Choosing to be Childfree to Live a More Sustainable Lifestyle

    • Scott
    • June 5, 2018

    John: “I don’t mean to [k]nock your lifestyle choice” but also “it’s totally unnatural what you’re doing.” So, telling a woman she is doing something completely against God, nature, intelligence, common sense, and her own health isn’t challenging her choices? Give me a break. That’s the usual lame disclaimer like “I’m not sexist, but….”

    Choosing not to have children is a different *kind* of decision that’s not exactly like an A vs. B choice, do I turn left at the intersection or do I turn right, do I eat this for dinner or that for dinner. The difference is that everyone starts life without children. Not having children is already the default setting. (We aren’t tribbles. No one is born pregnant.) Choosing not to have children is choosing a kind of continuity, it’s not veering off in different direction. John’s letter suggests that having kids is the main road and being childfree/childless is the exit, but it’s really the other way around.

    Maybe I’m too literal, but I don’t see how anything people do is actually “unnatural.” (Leaving aside John’s assumptions that humans are actually “designed” in the first place.) If people do something, then nature is cool with it. No one can actually defy nature. The fact that we are all born childless/childfree suggests that my childfreedom is perfectly natural.

    1. Thanks so much for your comment, Scott. I apologize it’s taken me SO long to get back to you. I’ve been on a blogging hiatus for several months.

      I agree with you — choosing not to have children is indeed just a different kind of decision. “Not having children is already the default setting.” Well said!

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