The Student Movement


Do I Have to Be a Parent?

Angelina Nesmith

Photo by Julian Hochgesang (Unsplash)

Some people just want kids. Why, I’ll never know. Nothing against children or anything like that; I love playing with my baby cousins, or being a girls counselor at camp. I just don’t want to have kids. Some people like the idea of a whole family with a mom, dad, sons, daughters, dogs, cats, fish, and whatever. I’ve talked to multiple people who already have an ideal number of kids, what genders they’d rather they be, a list of names to choose from, and what college they’ll attend–a surprising number say AU. When people talk about their future families and hopes for children, we as a culture normalize it and kind of just go with the flow of it. But what happens when someone says they don’t want to have kids? Are they met with the same amount of societal warmth and acceptance? Sadly, no. Sometimes, even the most well-meaning questions can often lead to a gruesome interrogation.

The stats tell a different story. In 1992, research conducted by the University of Pennsylvania found that 79 percent of the graduating population wanted or planned to have children. However, when the study was re-run in 2012, only 41 percent answered yes to the same question. That is a shift of 38 percent in just two decades. Many will ask the same question, why such a big shift? What has changed? There is no one-size-fits-all answer; it is complicated and differs from person to person. However, here are some of the reasons why some individuals choose not to have children.

One reason is that society’s perception of womanhood has developed to be more than motherhood over a long period of time. In fact, according to a part of an article in TIME Magazine by University of Minnesota Professor Elaine Tyler May, women have opted out of motherhood all throughout history. In fact, there has been a downward trend of women having children since the 19th century. Ladies, back then the average number of births per woman was eight. (Wow, just try and imagine that! Makes my head spin.) In fact, the rate of childless women was at an all time high in the mid-20th century, right before the Baby Boom. Right now, more and more women are choosing not to have kids for a plethora of reasons. Now, many, many women still choose to either have their own children or adopt. However, it is important to recognize that it is fully their choice (or in collaboration with a partner) for how many children they want to have, and when they want to have them. Now, women are allowed to choose to either be a stay-at-home mother or a career-driven business woman or both; what’s beautiful about that is that it is fully their choice.

Another common reason that people choose to not have children is because they don’t want their attention divided between two things. More than ever, individuals are focusing on their careers and advancement in doing the things that they love. Many people feel that if they only put 50 percent of themselves into their dream and 50 percent of themselves into their children it will be unfair to both themselves and the kids. They do not want their kids to ever feel like an afterthought, or the second option; at the same time they don’t want to risk the unfortunate event of resenting having children and being forced to possibly abandon their dream.
Another reason is that many individuals are coming to the conclusion that there is more than one way to be remembered. More than ever, there is an ability to carry out a legacy and accomplishments without copying and pasting your genetic map. I mean, Isaac Newton never had any kids, and my amazing high school physics teacher wouldn’t stop talking about his laws. Many people can and do make bold strokes that write out history, and that’s how they’re remembered.

Lastly, something that may need to be cleared up is this. People who don’t want to have kids are not child-haters. Many, many people feel that they’d absolutely rock at being an uncle, aunt, teacher, youth pastor, or any other job that is a positive influence on children; they just realize that they themselves are not cut out to be a parent.  They still love, support, influence, and care for children. As a favorite teacher of mine once said,”I am not childless! In all of my years I’ve loved over 500 kids.”

There is still a stigma surrounding people who choose to not have children, and unfortunately that may not be going away anytime soon. However, asking questions, reading, researching, and having simple conversations with people about this can and will slowly change the way we see and interact with the world. This is an ongoing dialogue that has developed and grown into something incredible, and I am here to reiterate and celebrate these points. The world has realized that womanhood is bigger than motherhood, as is manhood bigger than fatherhood. Look again, and see that some are doing the most selfless thing they can do. Turn again, and you’ll see the accomplishments that many of them will make, whether that be influencing the lives of young people or not.

The Student Movement is the official student newspaper of Andrews University. Opinions expressed in the Student Movement are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editors, Andrews University or the Seventh-day Adventist church.