If you actively choose not to have children — as opposed to being infertile or never meeting the person you'd like to start a family with — you may refer to yourself as voluntarily childless, or as childfree.
It's a choice that's considered controversial by many. You may be told that you're going to regret it, that you'll feel differently when you're older (if you're young), and even that your choice is unnatural or selfish. When you dig a little deeper, it's not that hard to see why. In the not-too-distant past, before the advent of reliable contraceptive options and before staying single was a viable financial and social choice for most people, it was simply really hard to avoid having children. As such, having children is simply what happened.
In today's society, in the western world, you have more choices. You may choose to be childfree for a multitude of different reasons; because you simply don't want children, because you don't think you'd be a good parent, because you are fulfilled in your life as it is, because you are concerned about overpopulation and climate change, and for many other reasons.
Is it selfish not to have kids? Hardly! While your relatives may be disappointed that they're not going to be grandparents, aunts, uncles, and so on, at least through your children, you're clearly not doing your children-that-never-were a disservice by raising them even though you don't want to, and it's also not like humankind is about to go extinct.
Will you regret not having children, or change your mind? Maybe so, maybe not. A child is certainly not akin to that too-expensive once-in-a-lifetime vacation you book at great expense just in case you regret not doing it later, though.
If you do change your mind and you're still young enough to try to conceive, well, then that's OK too! Having kids or not is a very personal decision that's got absolutely nothing to do with anyone but you and your partner, if you have one. (And should you be motivated in large part by the Earth's overstretched resources due to overpopulation, adoption, in which you do not add another person to the world, may be an option to consider if you are surprised by family-rearing instincts at some point.)
Those folks who aren't sure whether they do or don't want kids can try to explore the issue with a therapist.
Now, if you're absolutely sure, you may consider permanent or at least long-term birth control options. These include:
- The copper IUD, called Paragard in the US (10 years), the Mirena hormonal IUD (five years), birth control implants (three years), and a tubal ligation (permanent) for women.
- A vasectomy for men.
Precisely because many people do think you'll change your mind and want kids, especially if you are young, you may have trouble obtaining a vasectomy or tubal ligation if you haven't already had any children. If you're desperate to have the peace of mind that you will not get pregnant or get someone pregnant now, some doctor-shopping may be required. If you're a woman, opting for one of the long-term but reversible birth control options first is also an excellent choice.
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