There’s been a very personal and thought provoking discussion taking place in the bowels of a closed Facebook group over the past week. And when we dig a little deeper into the depths of the internet, we can see that these discussion are going on amongst other women around the world.
The fact is, more women (couples) are choosing not to have children. In Australia in 1976 28% of couples (families) didn’t have children. This increased to 38% in 2011 and is predicted to increase to 41% by 2036*.
On a global perspective, if we stop having kids, the human race would disappear. (No need to panic just yet, 60% are still procreating) On an individual level, the decision for a woman (or couple) not to have children can be really tough. Will they regret it? Will they be judged? How will they respond to the questions of why not? How will they feel when they’re in their old age and have no grandchildren to cluck over?
Let’s face it, for those who have had children, a lot of sacrifices have been made. Having kids changes everything. Your relationships, your financial situation, your status, your social life and for those who carry and bear a child, your body.
Let’s dig a little deeper on these.
These change a lot. You develop new relationships with people who are at the same stage of parenting as you. Mother’s groups, daycare, school, dance, band and all of the other activities that kids are involved with.
If your pre kid friends are not at the same stage, you see them less. They don’t really want to hang out with a crying baby in a restaurant and you don’t want to go out drinking until 3am. Maybe you do, but you don’t because you have to feed at 3am or face your kids at 6am.
Your relationship with your parents and siblings will change. It may get stronger or you may drift apart.
Your relationship with your partner also changes. It can become quite functional, focusing on the needs of your kids. Or you might become closer. There can also be a lot of angst with who does what around the house, with some women feeling that the balance isn’t right.
The cost of raising a child from birth to adulthood is estimated to be over $400,000^. Given the average number of children is 2, that equates to over $800,000 less in the pockets of families with kids versus those without. That’s a much better house, further education and a great overseas trip every year!
Now for some crazy reason, if you are a woman your identity changes when you have a child. If you have a job you’re now a working mum. If you don’t work you are a stay-at-home mum. If you start your own business you’re a mumpreneur and if you go out and get drunk you’re bad mum! When you move from the corporate world to motherhood, your career path can be stunted thanks to the unconscious bias that still exists for women with children.
Even the most social parents struggle to keep up with their friends with no children. In the early days, by the time the weekend rolls around you’re so tired that an awesome Saturday is take away, a DVD and bed by 9! A night out with friends (without the kids) is a costly affair. Let’s face it, you’re going to get a cab because you want to drink, then there’s the restaurant bill and the baby sitter. So a night out (read 4 hours) could end up costing anything from $300!
Yep this certainly changes when you carry a child and give birth. You gain weight during pregnancy, your boobs and nipples change, your skin stretches like a balloon (but doesn’t go back into shape very easily) and you either end up with a scar from a caesarian or an under carriage that might need major repairs.
But in my experience there are some enormous upsides to having kids. The love you have for children kids can be stronger than any other love experienced. The amount of pride I have with my children is greater than even the pride I have for myself. To have a great belly laugh with my own kids is like no other belly laugh I have experienced.
I am very fortunate that I have two very healthy kids who are carving their own way through life. It was my choice to have them and while I have scarified a lot, I’m grateful that my choice is respected.
I respect the women and couples who choose not to have children. There are plenty of upsides!
At then end of the day, I don’t think there’s one size that fits all. It’s up to the individual what’s right for them, and no on should question this. There are pros and cons for choosing to have children or not. And we’re they lucky ones, as we have a choice.
*Source: Australian Institute of Family Studies https://aifs.gov.au/facts-and-figures/types-families-australia
Melissa is the Founder of The LightBulb Lounge and is an active member of Australia's startup community. She runs events and coaches teens and adults on how to get their ideas out of their head and pitch them.