Is Volunteer Childlessness Becoming Commonly Accepted

Women with No Children by Race and Ethnicity Pew Research CenterMillennials are waiting longer to get married and start a family.  In the meantime, they are more educated than any other generation and making more conscious lifestyle decisions.  Cameron Diaz recent announcement opens the doorway for an important discussion on the implications of choosing to have children or not.

Diaz recently declared she is not having children

Cameron Diaz announced that she has decided not to have children.  It stirred a huge public debate regarding the issue and how her life is easier without children.  She claimed, “To have lives besides your own that you are responsible for — I didn’t take that on. A baby, that’s all day, every day for 18 years. Not having a baby might really make things easier, but that doesn’t make it an easy decision. I like protecting people, but I was never drawn to being a mother.”

Cultural norms redefining femininity

Diaz’s comments generated a lot of buzz around a bigger and very complex cultural question about how we view women, what their purpose is, and the larger issue of making a conscious choice whether to have children or not.  It is no longer the default and women like Cameron Diaz are not only giving us the opportunity to discuss the topic but be a role model for being confident in a choice of not having children.

Diaz says, “I think (the reaction) comes from people wanting to feel good about their own decisions. Just because I don’t have children now, they might look at their life and think, ‘Oh, you have a choice? I didn’t have to do this yet?’

It’s about choice and choosing happiness

The most important thing is being happy in the moment and in our choices.  According to a 2007 University of Michigan study, women’s happiness later in life is more correlated to being married or having a partner than whether or not she has children (Science Daily, 2007).

Society is evolving.  In 1988, sixty-one percent of Americans agreed with the notion that being childless is means an unhappy life. Times have changed.  In 2010, forty-one percent say childlessness implies you’re unfulfilled (Slate, 2010).

Testing those norms

Diaz isn’t setting the trend.  She is just one of the first to make a public declaration.  Decline in births have been steadily going down and are at the lowest in recorded American history.  From 2007 to 2011, birthrates have declined nine percent and have spawned across all racial and ethnic populations.  Today one in five American women remains childless versus one in ten in the 70s (Time Magazine, 2013).

Choosing personal femininity

Even though Diaz chose to speak out about her decision, it is a private choice.  In a culture where womanhood is defined by motherhood, Diaz is offering an opportunity to redefine womanhood in the modern world.  Women are often scolded by American culture for being childless as was Diaz.  There is more to femininity than paternity.   Just as women have a choice in deciding to have children or not, women have a choice in deciding how to define their femininity.

Choosing reasons to have or not have children

It is still expected to provide a good reason why not to have children.  On the other hand, it is not required to have a reason good or bad when having kids.  Upon the decision not to have children, it is automatically assumed, she is infertile, she must be lesbian, she is selfish, or she is too career-oriented.  Whatever the reasoning, an explanation is owed.

The rules change upon parents of a newborn.  They are not asked, “Why did you give birth” or “What were your reasons behind having a child?”   Double standards permeate the choice to procreate.  No thought or justification is needed for having children but there better be a good reason why you chose against birth (New York Times June 2012).

It is time for a discussion

People are changing societal norms.  Gen Y is of childbearing years but deciding not to have children at least for now.  Americans are becoming more educated, self aware, and consciously thinking about the pros and cons of lifestyle choices.  Either way a discussion is necessary.   It’s not a matter of right or wrong.  It’s a matter of being happy in our choices and in our lives.

I would love to hear from you.  What are your thoughts on childlessness?