Motherhood is, no doubt, one of the most rewarding life experiences. Some women feel the undeniable urge to have a family, and it’s a beautiful thing. Other women, however, simply don’t feel that urge, and yearn for total freedom instead. What used to be such an odd decision is no longer such a big deal. Besides, we aren’t in any danger of the world running out of people!
Yet still, women are often questioned about their choices. We’re told we’ll change our minds or asked why we haven’t settled down. The point is, it’s up to each woman what she chooses, and up to her alone, and yet, so often women who don’t want children are made to feel like they’ve made an odd choice.
But it’s not an odd choice, and there’s always a good reason. Here are 9 women who have chosen, at least for now, not to have children. Here’s why, and what they choose instead:
“Some of my travel experiences I would never have been able to do if I had kids.” – Shae, 42, Australia
I always knew I wasn’t going to have children.
For me, travel is a part of who I am. It is liberating and stands out as being the best thing I have done with my life. Some of my travel experiences I would never have been able to do if I had kids. Like standing on top of a glacier in New Zealand mid-way through a helicopter ride, or jumping off a plane in Tromso, after 26 hours of flying to stay up until 4am to see the Northern Lights. Having food fights in a Tapas bar while drunk in Barcelona also comes to mind. And having the most profound healing experience at Kata Tjuta (Uluru) not long after my mum died. There have even been some steamy holiday romances.
I simply don’t care what people think of me. Solo child-free travel has benefited and changed my life in such profound ways. I am now stronger, more independent, adventurous, liberated, open-minded and a hell of a lot more fun than I ever was. I get that it’s somewhat an unconventional way of life but I am not bothered if it bothers someone else. It’s their issue, not mine.
I wish that women were not judged for making the decision to not have children and live this kind of life. I do not take for granted that it is not an option for some. My advice for any ladies feeling the pressure to settle down is to just do what is right for you! We are only on this planet for such a short time. Live it the way YOU want to.
“This lifestyle has given me an opportunity to see the world outside of myself and grow as a person in a way that works for me. ” – Alicia, 23, South Georgia
When it came to the unspoken expectation that able-bodied women are to have children, I never accepted that growing up. From a very young age, I remember telling people where my personal interests were and of course, their response was “you’ll change your mind”. Today I am married and still believe I have much more to do before the time ever comes to consider a child. And what if that time never comes?
Then it won’t.
As a person who has chosen this lifestyle for the foreseeable future, I want to add that it is not lost on me how absolutely empowering it is that we possess the ability to make a human life! The fact remains however that once you have a child all of your investment goes into them, and while children are wonderful investments, I have chosen to invest in the world another way. Where others have interests and find peace in things like hiking, sports, and even video games, I have found mine in traveling, learning and teaching others about the world around us.
As I pursue a career in anthropology, my field will often require months of field research and being childless makes it possible to fully dedicate myself to work. I believe that for now, I would not be able to offer the stability a child deserves. This lifestyle has given me an opportunity to see the world outside of myself and grow as a person in a way that works for me.
I say to any woman that feels pressure to ‘settle down’ instead of traveling or anything else you’re passionate about- it isn’t their life. How wonderful is that? This life is one hundred percent yours! Our abilities do not equal obligation. We as humans have the ability to do many things, but that does not mean we should. You are the guardian of your goals, dreams and aspirations and the only one who can make them happen.
“Women aren’t here just to raise children anymore, those days are long gone.” – Sarah, 37, the UK
I was in a relationship for the best part of 7 years, finishing in my mid-20s. And since that relationship ended, I’ve not had what I would consider a serious relationship and the longer that’s gone on, the more selfish I’ve gotten when it comes to myself. I have a life that (in the majority) I enjoy, and I know that having a child would change that completely and it’s not something I want to compromise on.
Most people I know have no judgment on my decision not to have children. I have purposefully chosen friendships with people who don’t judge people for their life choices. I wish that society would understand that there is a CHOICE for women to either want or not want children. Women aren’t here just to raise children anymore, those days are long gone! And you don’t know why women don’t have children – sometimes it’s because they/their partner can’t have them, or have had medical issues when they do fall pregnant.
Currently, I am 5 and a half months through a 6-month trip traveling around Southeast Asia. This is something I would never be able to do if I had a child/ren. I firstly wouldn’t have been able to save the money needed, I wouldn’t have the ability to stay in cheaper places like dorms, or make snap decisions on moving somewhere completely different. Now I know you can travel with children, I’ve seen plenty of that on this trip, but the spontaneity disappears which a lot of my favorite times have come from – you have to be a lot more organized.
I feel very sorry for women who feel pressured to have children. No one should be felt to do something that they are not happy or comfortable to do. My personal feeling is that if you’re asked if you want children, and your immediate response isn’t yes, then either you’re not ready, or don’t want them. And there is nothing wrong with that.
“We can afford all of these things because we aren’t paying for a child” – Mackenzie, 34, Chicago
Once I hit 30, it dawned on me that I do NOT want children (I also wanted a divorce, but that’s a different story for a different day). My family is not thrilled with the choice. My mom is heartbroken and has made little attempt to understand my decision, even telling me this memorable line: “don’t you think you’re going against nature by not having kids?”
My friends support my decision, and I have a wonderful boyfriend that is on the same page with me regarding our lifestyle choices. He certainly doesn’t face as much pressure or comment as I do, and that makes it difficult sometimes. It seems like his choice to be childfree is easier to accept.
Travel, in general, is possible because of this childfree lifestyle. We can pick up and go, we can stay out late wherever we are, and we can afford all of these things because we aren’t paying for a child. It’s also possible for me to solo travel whenever I’d like. I recently went to Bali for 2.5 weeks, did a wonderful retreat and bounced around a bit on my own. The entire experience enriched my soul more than I can describe. I noticed that very few women on the retreat were mothers, and if they were, they have much older children. I would never be able to experience something like this if I had a 2-year-old at home.
The one thing I wish people would understand about childfree lifestyle: even if I wanted to have kids, there is no guarantee that it would even be possible. Over 50% of my friends or family have had fertility issues. No one would judge me for not having kids if I couldn’t have kids – but the fact that I’m making that choice on my own makes me a selfish woman.
“I don’t need children or try and fit into what society expects of me anymore.” – Linda, 46, Australia
I think as early back as high school I knew that children were not for me. I never had that maternal instinct the other girls around me seemed to inherit. I grew up reading books from two of my favorite role models Freya Stark and Gertrude Bell. Two feisty, independent women who defied society’s expectations of marriage and children to set off traveling solo into countries like Syria, Africa, Persia, and the Middle East. Their stories got me interested in wanting to explore the world and do something more than what family and society expected.
Aside from freedom and independence, you learn what people really think of you for taking off to travel instead of having children. You learn who your tribe really are and you form a bond strong enough to share your stories. I have met many women on my travels who have embraced a child-free lifestyle. I have learned that you can achieve the same loving satisfaction from the friends and family you choose to let into your life. My quality of friendships with likeminded people has improved and I realise that I don’t need children or try and fit into what society expects of me anymore.
It is okay to be different and step outside of the norm. Choosing not to have children and traveling has given me insight into learning about myself, who I am and what I really want in life. I have seen some amazing places and had some of my best experiences childfree.
Society does let men off the hook when it comes to living childfree. This stems back to the history of what was expected of women growing up over the century. If a woman did anything outside of society expectations she was frowned upon. Society viewed men as having more freedom to go out into the world, hence why many of our explorers were men. Women were left at home in their traditional roles.
For women who are under pressure from family and friends to settle down, I would tell them that if it doesn’t feel right for you then you don’t have to do it. Instead, listen to your instincts and follow your passion. Do what makes you happy and don’t feel guilty for making that choice.
“I wish people realize it’s a valid lifestyle and also, none of their business.” – Lorena, 24, Mexico
I’m from Mexico, a place where it is uncommon to live a childfree life as well as traveling on my own. I’ve known I didn’t want kids since I can remember. I’ve never been good with kids, it doesn’t come naturally to me, the world doesn’t need new people and although sometimes I feel like my uterus tries to make me want babies when I see them, I try to remind myself the benefits of not having kids.
Without a child, I can continue with my lifestyle, one that is completely mine, where I make my decisions, where I travel a lot for work and for fun. Most people tell me I will change my mind, and although I can’t be certain of the future, I hope I don’t. Traveling without kids allows me to do it with the lowest budget, stay in hostels, travel light, walk for miles and change plans last minute. I feel like being childless also opens you up to meet new people and improvise while traveling. I couldn’t have spontaneously travelled to the Amazon where I did hikes in the wild if I had kids. It is absolute freedom. People have said it is too much, as if that was a bad thing. They say I should have kids or else I’ll be lonely when I’m old. But if I feel lonely I’ll get puppies, not new human beings!
I wish people realize it’s a valid lifestyle and also, none of their business. My message to women who feel pressured is: eventually people value more those who are authentic. Be true to yourself even if it takes others a bit longer do accept you. There is definitely more pressure on women to have kids as it’s perceived to be more natural to us. But just like other inequalities, it’s time to put a stop to it.I’d rather be the cool aunt that travels a lot.
“Having children is a significant responsibility that I now understand is not relevant or necessary for me.” – Helen Lee, 41, Chicago
My parents immigrated to Chicago from South Korea. My family and society have long imposed many ideals onto me that I have been in process of understanding, trying to truly listen to the truth inside me, to honor myself. For a very long time, I romanticized the notion of being pregnant and egoistically wanted to have a baby as a symbol of a love union with a partner. After a break up from an abusive relationship and an abortion, I started to travel solo to heal.
First stop was Thailand and then traveled to India to get my advanced Yoga Teacher Training certification. This brought yoga teaching opportunities to Mexico, Belize, Finland, Italy, India, China and South Korea. This longing to have a child was still in me but with a lot of conflict. Then after 14 years out of school, I went to grad school for art. I started to investigate family histories, identities and ancestral/generational healing. Between semesters, I was invited to South Korea, Finland, Iceland and Germany for artist residencies or solo exhibitions. While in Finland, as I was writing mom in Korean repeatedly, I started to think of the histories of all moms and realized how complicated relationships with mothers are. My mom has a complicated relationship with her mother and started to understand and accept I didn’t want this for myself.
Having children is a significant responsibility that I now understand is not relevant or necessary for me to continue my work while I am here. I also understand that lineage does not have to continue, it is okay for things to have an ending. Through the sharing of my art and teaching of yoga, I hope others will explore their own journey of joys, pain, healing, accomplishments and failures to continually gain insight and flourish.
“If I spent all my money on a kid, I definitely wouldn’t have been to half the places I have been.” – Victoria, 35, Wales
I was in a relationship with someone who enjoyed traveling with me, we ended up getting engaged. As soon as that engagement ring was on my finger, something changed. All of a sudden he was asking when we would get a house and start having babies. Meanwhile, I was planning a round-the-world trip as an idea for our honeymoon. Needless to say, we were on different pages. I wasn’t ready for kids, I wanted to see the world and to have experiences before I make the decision to start a family, not feel pressured by someone else reminding me I’m in my ’30s and don’t have much time!
To other women who are in a sticky situation about having kids, remember it’s YOUR life, YOU get to make the decisions. Just because you want to travel doesn’t mean the option of kids is taken away completely. Live your life. You can do both, and I would think you would make a far better parent as a result of seeing the world, meeting people of different backgrounds, being open-minded, knowing that one day if your kid wants to travel themselves, you know what’s out there because you’ve been there and done that and have raised them to understand the dangers and the thrill of travel.
I have been traveling solo for over 10years and I believe I wouldn’t have done any of it had I made the decision to have children. Firstly, there are finances, children are expensive! If I spent all my money on a kid, I definitely wouldn’t have been to half the places I have been. Secondly, there’s the type of travel, I think it CAN be limited (not completely, I know there are traveling families out there!) maybe you couldn’t enjoy a few days in Ibiza partying every night until the early hours of the morning if there was a child to think about. Thirdly, responsibility, I’m not a fan, which is part of the reason I live my life on the move, volunteer where I can, and enjoy my free time.
“Having no children is actually the best
thing you can do for the environment.” – Eva, 40, Germany
Growing up I always just assumed that one day I would have children. When I was still in school, I wanted to be a young mom, as some of my friends had young parents that were so much fun. Then I went to the US for a year as an Aupair, on to university to study Medicine, to Australia for a working holiday and then I turned 30 and I still didn’t have kids. Also, by that time I had been single for more than 5 years and fairly happy like that.
So, I made a pact with myself, if by the time I turn 36, I was still single, I would not have children. Because I didn’t want kids after I turned 40 and I would want to be with the potential father for at least a year or 2 before even considering this.
36 came and went, almost all of my friends had children (and quite a few told me how very exhausting it was and how it changed their life more than they had anticipated), and I was still happily single. Also, I was working as a hospital consultant at the time which involved frequent, sometimes fairly long-term, travel. It’s a job that is almost impossible for women with children (but men apparently can do it).
At the beginning of this year, I decided to quit my job and go travel indefinitely. Right now, I live I Merzouga, Morocco and I travel as much as I want, whenever I want. Of course, I know long-term travel is possible with kids, but it is much easier without them. And trips like 16 days desert hikes would not be possible.
When I was younger, my aunt said to me, watch out, once your friends have kids and you don’t, those friendships will fall apart. Because that was her experience. But I love my friends’ kids a lot and enjoy hanging out with them. So far, all friendships have survived, even with my crazy travel lifestyle.
One thing I recently learned is, having no children is actually the best thing you can do for the environment. So now, I feel a little less bad about all that traveling (on top I do carbon offset, haven’t owned a car in more than 10 years, use a refillable bottle with water filter and try to live as plastic-free as possible).
Thanks to all of the women who contributed to this article. These shares were brave and vulnerable, especially in a world where women who choose not to have children are still sometimes treated oddly for their choices.
None of this is to say that traveling and having children are mutually exclusive, it’s just to show that there are many different paths one can take in life.
To those who always want to know when I will ‘settle down’ I urge you to get out of my ovaries. Maybe I will! Maybe I won’t! Truthfully, I don’t even know.