Some women who prefer to remain child-free have a desire to raise children, and some of them have no desire to raise children, but all of them have a stronger desire to experience other things than to experience raising children, and thus, they have chosen not to. Imagine you are out for drinks with your sister and she casually drops into the conversation that she doesn’t plan to have children. Your heart just sinks. Every night when you tuck your children into bed, you feel fulfilled, happy, and loved, and you want her to feel those emotions that you’ve been so lucky to experience. You start to imagine her future devoid of the best feelings a life can offer. Unable to imagine why anyone would choose not to be happy, you open your mouth to exclaim, “What? Why NOT?!” But what if you stop yourself. What if, instead of demanding that your sister justifies her seemingly incorrect choice to you to avoid your judgment, you changed your approach to one of curiosity? What if you asked her, “What do you want more?”
Perhaps a woman who is child-free by choice wants to travel, own many pets, volunteer with needy children that aren’t her own, or donate her money to charity instead of to her own child — a child who would grow up with privileges that less fortunate children would not have. Perhaps she simply wants free time and uninterrupted sleep. Similarly, all people who prefer to raise children have decided that they want them more than all the experiences they will have to cease or forgo in order to do so. We all assign different weights to our options and choose to pursue that which we desire the most.
Like parents, many people who prefer to remain child-free want to leave a legacy and be remembered long after they die. But those who are child-free by choice have realized there are as many ways for a person to leave a legacy as there are people who can remember them after they are gone. A person can create art, music, a building for people to live in, articles for people to read, a movie that makes people laugh, an inspirational speech, or lasting impressions of kindness on nieces, nephews, or unrelated children in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. Thanks to the internet and social media, all of our creations, no matter how small or large, can be documented and remembered in perpetuity. And all creations, no matter what kind, can make a person feel as though she has left her mark on this earth and that her life meant something. Likewise, all types of relationships — be they romantic, friendship, professional, or pet/owner — can make a person feel loved. Love is available outside of parent-child relationships.
Both parents and people who prefer not to be parents want to be happy, but each person has a unique approach — none less valid than the rest — to cultivating that feeling. If you meet or know a woman who is child-free by choice, seek to understand where and how she finds happiness. Perhaps she has found it in places you never thought to look.