Cheeky Daddy

Voluntary Childlessness: Is it For You?

Let’s talk about a question that’s popping up more and more these days: What if you don’t want to have kids?

Recent research suggests that around 30% of couples are at least considering voluntary childlessness. That’s a significant uptick in this trend from 20 or 30 years ago. So, what’s behind the urge to remain childless?

First, though, a note on the headline here: It’s perfectly okay to not want kids.

However, it’s worth exploring the various factors influencing such a choice. This can help you determine whether voluntary childlessness is right for you and your partner.

Raising Children: The Context

A standard family photo with parents and kids

In a society where the traditional milestones of adulthood often include marriage and parenthood, choosing not to have children is a path less traveled. This choice, deeply personal and complex, is explored with insight in the popular book, “Childfree by Choice“, by Dr. Amy Blackstone.

In her book, she outlines the many reasons why couples may choose to avoid having children:

  • Personal reasons, including not feeling the innate desire to be a parent, or simply a preference for personal freedom
  • Professional reasons, including choosing a career over parenthood
  • Environmental reasons, including concerns about overpopulation or your carbon footprint
  • Financial reasons, including concerns of child care costs

Books like Blackstone’s have contributed to a conversation in which childlessness is increasingly more understood as a life choice. Yet, on the other side of the coin, you’ll still encounter plenty of critics of deliberately childless parents. You may encounter:

  • Pressure from family members
  • Critics who suggest voluntary childless couples are going against human nature to procreate (a charge particularly aimed at childless women)
  • The notion you’re missing out on the joys of parenthood
  • The idea that you won’t have somebody to take care of you in your old age

These lists are by no means exhaustive – the briefest of searches online will see you wading into a hot topic with plenty of people willing to share their opinions, controversial or otherwise!

Of course, there are also situations in which a woman can’t bear children, or a man is impotent; many couples are involuntarily childless due to a range of potential circumstances.

As we navigate the intricacies of such a life decision, it’s essential to recognize the diversity of experiences and perspectives that inform it.

The Role of a Father in Deciding Not to Have Kids

Young couple sitting on the stairs talking

For men, this decision can come with its unique set of considerations. That’s thanks to those nagging societal pressures once more.

The role of a father — often idealized as the provider, protector, and patriarch — is deeply ingrained.

Yet, when faced with the choice not to pursue parenthood, communicating this decision with a partner becomes a critical step. It requires openness, honesty, and, above all, mutual respect and understanding.

The headline for you as a prospective father is that it’s not your decision alone. It’s something you must arrive at together with your partner.

Discuss your various concerns and thoughts related to parenthood and outline your priorities. Listen to your partner’s perspective. Either you’ll be on the same page, or there’ll be a divergence. At that point, you’ll both have tough decisions to make.

Fear of Missing Out

A prominent reason many dads are afraid of choosing childlessness is the risk of missing out on the joys of family life. We are often told that having a child is the ultimate fulfillment. Wanting children is the standard position in most cultures because raising children brings unrivaled happiness to parents worldwide.

Children enjoying a water fight with their dad

 This, of course, can be true. But FOMO shouldn’t lead you to do something that doesn’t feel right for you. Fulfillment also comes in many forms, and for those who choose not to have children, the world is ripe with opportunities to lead a meaningful, impactful life. Voluntarily childless dads may find fulfillment through their careers. They may pursue adventurous travel, creative endeavors, or volunteering opportunities. There are endless ways to contribute to the world and forge lasting connections without having to have children.

Building Support and Community

Finding a community of like-minded individuals or those who respect your choice can provide a valuable source of support and understanding. Whether through online forums, local groups, or with friends and family who celebrate your decision, building a supportive network is crucial to having confidence in your decision to remain child free.

This is especially true for those young couples who feel particularly pressured by family relations to conform to standard gender roles. Young women must be mothers, and a man’s role is defined by fatherly support. These old-fashioned ideas are still prevalent in many households. To counteract this, it’s invaluable to know there are plenty of others who, like you, don’t want to have children anymore for whatever reason. Take inspiration from others and understand you don’t have to bow to familial pressure.

Fear of Messing Up

However, at Cheeky Daddy, we’re also particularly attuned to the fears associated with parenthood. We wouldn’t want to see would-be dads remain childless due to any irrational fears that they would make bad fathers.

From an early age, as men, we’re told that being a good dad at the head of a loving family is the ultimate goal. This can be intimidating. Many guys may make a conscious decision to remain childfree out of fear they won’t live up to this fatherly ideal. This is the wrong reason for voluntary childlessness. 

Young man looking stressed

By all means, make the voluntary choice to explore other countries, reject traditional views and the social pressure to raise kids, or prioritize a demanding job, but avoiding parenthood due to a fear of inadequacy is misguided.

Why? Let’s share a secret – nobody is ever ready!

Young people tend to be afraid of becoming parents for many valid reasons: it is scary, it is a lot of hard work, and it is a sacrifice. But, no matter your circumstances, there is always support out there for those who want to have children. Even if you feel that you’re lacking in the fundamental skills, knowledge, or compassion needed to raise children, you can find support through friends, family, or other groups to guide you through the process of becoming a father.

The key message here- don’t let fear be an obstacle to parenthood.

So, Is Voluntary Childlessness Right For You and Your Partner?

The cop-out answer for me is to say, “It depends!”

But, to avoid my overt fence-sitting, I’ve come up with a list of questions you can ask yourself to determine whether remaining childless is right for you.

  1. Do you feel a deep, personal desire to raise children, or is it more about societal or familial expectations?
  2. How do you envision your future in terms of personal and professional growth without children?
  3. Have you and your partner discussed how not having children might affect your relationship in the long term?
  4. What are your main concerns about deciding not to have children, and how might you address them?
  5. How would you plan to find fulfillment outside of parenthood?
  6. If fear of inadequacy is a factor, what resources or support could help alleviate these concerns? Would you want to have children if you were more confident?
  7. How would you respond to societal and familial pressures or criticisms about being childfree?

Thoughtful and honest considerations of these questions can help you better understand your feelings on whether to have children. Of course, choosing to be voluntarily childless or opting to have children are both significant life choices, and should never be taken lightly. So, don’t be afraid if you need time to arrive at a conclusive decision that sits right with you and your partner.

Choosing not to have kids is a personal journey, one that’s all about living true to yourself. And whether you’re firmly on this path or still figuring things out, know that you’re not alone.

So, what’s your take? Have you decided not to have kids, or are you still on the fence? Maybe you’ve got some wisdom to share or questions to ask. Drop them in the comments below. Let’s keep this conversation going and support each other.

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