Decisions about parenting are deeply personal. We have many influences—our partners, families and friends, our communities, and very often our own experiences as children. You might feel a strong urge to have children of your own, but not everyone feels maternal or paternal.
You might want children but feel concerned about the future of our world and about the lives your children may lead if you do decide to have them. Because of this, you may choose to reduce your impact by having a smaller family. Smaller families can bring benefits to yourself and your family, including more quality time for you to spend together, and more resources to support your family’s lifestyle and educational needs:
“We were able to give a lot of time and resources to our two children. We played with them, read to them, gave them an appreciation of music. We took them out to our beautiful countryside and the seaside. With a larger family we would not have been able to give the experiences which our children now value so much.” - Joan and Ivan, UK
Having two or fewer children can also lessen the pressure on the earth, its ecosystems and its finite resources:
“From a young age I knew that we had an impact on the environment, because of our numbers, consumption and lifestyles. For these reasons, I decided to keep to two children. It’s great having two also because our time and finances haven’t been stretched by the demands of more children.” - Laura, UK
Becoming a parent doesn’t always involve bringing more people into the world. You might choose fostering and adoption, providing a loving home to children who might otherwise go without.
“We plan on adopting one day if we can, there’s plenty of children out there in need of love and a family.” - Harri, UK
If you choose childfree, you might go on to become a step-parent. Other types of families include same-sex parents, and families filled with pets and love.
“I am childfree. A family is what you make it. My passion is protecting wildlife, and not having children is allowing me to follow my dreams.” - Laura, Scotland
You may choose not to have children because of health or financial concerns, the desire to focus on your career or other activities that can be beneficial to yourself or the community, such as volunteering, or simply because you don’t fancy becoming a parent. If you decide to remain childfree but you enjoy spending time with children, or you're worried that you might miss out, there are other ways to enjoy the company of children including volunteering, mentoring, and teaching - or being the fun aunt or uncle!
“I have chosen to have no children for the environment. However, I do have nieces. I am proud of my nieces and feel like I have had a positive impact on them, while they certainly have on me. In the future, I may decide to adopt or foster, if possible.” - Lori, USA
Nearly half of all women aged 30 in the UK are childfree. Source: ONS, 2019
“We have no children but we adopted Misty our crazy little dog a year and a half ago. A small family is great for a lot of reasons - it gives us freedom - financial and timewise - to do things that we love like going to the beach for a surf after work.” - Katie, UK
“When I was 23, I got a vasectomy. I’ve never regretted it for a moment. My reasoning was that there were too many people on the planet, and plenty of babies if I wanted to adopt. Eventually I married and thereby acquired stepchildren AND a foster child.”
- Kevin, UK
Read more from those that have chosen childfree
“I absolutely adore the freedom I have. I have a lot of free time and can pursue my passions and also volunteer at local grassroot charities (one in particular is helping homeless children stay safe and find jobs). My choice to love all is benefiting me and, I hope, benefiting my local community too.”
- Kate, UK
You might face pressure to have the kind of family you don’t want. After having one child, you may be undecided about having another, or feel rushed to have a second child straightaway. It’s up to you, and your partner, if you choose to have children and how many.
“I have two children. As an adult, I wanted to be able to give my children more of my time than would be possible if I had more children.” - Catlin, USA
In most societies, it’s still considered normal and desirable to have children, even though millions of single people and couples lead satisfying and fulfilled lives without having children of their own.
“My husband and I have never had children. We were pressured from our parents and friends. We have been asked who is going to look after us in our old age. We have been called selfish. Despite all of the pressures we remained childfree. We know as individuals that we have fulfilled our potential, by living and learning every single day. Each new day is still an adventure to us with its own joys and challenges to be met. We as a couple have lived a full life. We have absolutely no regrets about our decision.” - Anne, UK
Pressure to conform regarding family size can be intense anywhere, and is still common in many places. Religious, social and even political pressure can extend to promote very large families, or condemn the use of contraception.
“I am having not children because of environmental reasons. This is going against Asian (Muslim ) culture - so it can be difficult to explain to other members of the community that you don't need to have a wife or children.” - Dr Shah, UK
The decision to have or not to have children and how many is a human right that everyone should be free to exercise without judgment or criticism, and remember, that decision is up to you and your partner.
Women now in their late forties in the UK are as likely to have either no children or one child, as they are to have a two-child family. Source: ONS, 2019
“I wish for a world where every birth was a planned birth and where no one was ever pressured into having children (or having more children) by loved ones, by their community, or by marketers; a world where we would celebrate the childfree and single-child families equally.” - Catlin, USA
Some women choose to have children, and some women choose to remain childfree. We spoke to women around the world about their family choices.
Sign up to our newsletter to keep up to date with our work.