I remember when I told people around me that I did not want to have children, they all laughed and insisted that I would change my mind. Fast forward to the present, I still do not want to have kids. Look who is laughing now haha!
Do not get me wrong, I love children. They are so precious and adorable but they are just not for me, or for many other women. In fact, it is a rising trend that women voluntarily choose not to give birth. Between 2007 and 2012, the birth rates among women in their twenties declined by 15%. In Australia, one in five women who are currently in their fertile age will not have children. It is evident that there is an increasing number of women who decide to be childless by choice. So, what are the reasons behind this decision?
Potential Damage to Career
‘Motherhood penalty’ or ‘pregnancy penalty’ is a familiar term that all women know too well. It is an open secret that women face difficulties in career advancement after they get pregnant. It is not uncommon for women to be taken off projects that they have been working on for months or years after announcing that they are expecting. This is because employers believe that mothers are perpetually pre-occupied with their babies and cannot possibly be productive.
The president of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, Heidi Hartmann, stated that “employers probably don’t think they’re safe until that woman is [around] 49” because it is a difficult age to conceive. A study shows women lose about 4% in lifetime earnings per child. Taking a year of parental leave reduces 20% of a woman’s salary over the course of her career. With statistics like these, women are literally being asked to choose between having a career or having a child. It is a no wonder that more and more women are not having children to focus on their careers. In fact, women today rank their careers as more important than having a kid. Additionally, by not giving birth, women can largely avoid the gender wage gap caused by the ‘motherhood penalty’.
Changes in Traditional Family Values
Long gone were the days that having a child is a prerequisite for a fulfilling family. In recent years, there is an emerging trend of childless couples and they are predicted to be Australia’s most common family type. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, between 2023 and 2029, childless couples will outnumber families with kids. Having a child is a huge responsibility and commitment, some couples are simply not ready or prepare for that. A study shows people are concerned about their ability to cope with the responsibilities of parenting or simply felt that they would not be suitable parents. As traditional family values change, women are not under the social stress of having a kid to maintain family values. This enables women more freedom in choosing whether to give birth or not. Hence, the increased number of childless women.
Australia is known to be a nation of spenders with one in two Australians spending all of their income each month, leaving them penniless by payday. Motherhood has become more expensive for young adults as we have student loan debt, many of us graduated in a recession and many cannot afford houses. If you are not financially stable, taking care of yourself is proving to be difficult, not to mention another human being.
As everything is increasing in cost, having a child is getting more and more expensive. According to a study, financial risks is the third most common reason why people choose to be childless. This also links to a general desire to maintain the freedom allowed by their current financial statuses. Just think about all the money you need to spend on a baby – milk powder, diapers, daycare and more. When they grow older – phones, computers, tuition fees, etc. Dare I say, children are one of the most expensive things to have. Do you know how much does it cost to raise a child? A lot. Like $300,000 a lot.
Now, think about what you can do with all that money. You can go on a nice vacation with your family and friends. You can buy a fancy car. You can save the money and hire someone to take care of you in old age. Who needs children for that? Also, who guarantees that children would take care of you when you get old?
At the end of the day, there are many factors as to why women decide to be childless. But ultimately, whatever reason does not matter because it is our womb so it is our choice. Whether we choose to give birth or not, it is for us to decide. As society progresses, we are able to practise our freedom of choice, challenging the long-held belief that woman and mother are synonymous and spotlighting the high cost of motherhood.