I love being a mother. There are good times and bad, yes, but I’ll take the messes, temper tantrums, sleepless nights, extra bills, doctor’s visits, endless laundry and daycare hassles any day of the week in exchange for adorable baby smiles, fun days in the park, hugs and kisses, family outings, tea parties, shared meals and hearing my daughter say, “I love you, Mommy,” in her perfectly sweet little voice.
I wouldn’t have it any other way. But I do acknowledge that motherhood is not for everyone, and that’s certainly OK. According to a Pew Research study on social and demographic trends, nearly one in five American women — that’s almost 20 percent — never have a child, whereas, in the 1970s, that statistic was closer to one in 10.
More women are choosing to live a child-free lifestyle for a variety of reasons — money, freedom and career demands, just to name a few. Two close friends of mine happen to be among that subset.
My best friend of 13 years lives in Colorado with her partner of five years. They’re not married, but they do own a home, two cars, a dog and a cat — no kids, though, and they plan to keep it that way. My friend has a demanding job, as does her partner, who, as an engineer, spends most of his waking hours at work. They have hobbies, interests and extended families. They live a happy, well-rounded life and are two of the kindest, most entertaining people I’ve ever met.
I have another close friend who lives nearby. She is happily married, has a thriving career, loves physical fitness and is artistically gifted. She and her husband own a beautiful, large home on the coast and are comfortable occupying it by themselves. This friend, too, is child-free by choice, and appears to be quite satisfied with her decision.
I enjoy the company of these two friends immensely. They’re intelligent, open-minded, funny and engaging. And, oddly enough, they both call themselves “selfish.” I don’t think anything could be further from the truth.
This supposed selfishness stems, according to my friends, from their desire to remain child-free. I actually think their choice to opt out of motherhood is selfless. Society most often expects girls to grow up, get married, have babies and be content raising their families. It’s basically an ingrained part of our culture.
Selfish, in my book, would be having children to conform to those “norms” when you know you’re not cut out to be a parent. I’ve known many women who shouldn’t have had children — women who didn’t have committed partners, women who weren’t financially stable and women who just plain weren’t responsible enough to take care of another human life. Those women had children, and I think they’re selfish. They brought helpless babies into the world without considering the fact they couldn’t provide the children the lives they deserved.
My friends, on the other hand, carefully weighed the pros and cons of motherhood, considered their life goals and financial situations, and took into consideration their personal preferences and abilities. After thinking long and hard about their options, my friends made decisions that they knew, in their hearts, were right for them. Now, that’s what I call responsible.