Childless by Choice

October 13, 2011

by Kim Childs, CPPC

I love children. I just never felt the desire to have any of my own. Well, maybe for a fleeting moment. There is, after all, a certain sweetness in thinking about creating another person with someone you love and seeing the two of you reflected in that child. But I didn’t marry until my mid-40s, and I know that I currently do not have the patience, selflessness, or energy that it takes to raise a child well.

Case in point: I get so annoyed when our cat wants to play at 4am that I hustle her outside and leave her there (with food…I’m not heartless) until we’re ready to rise. Pretty sure you can’t do that with a kid.

I do feel rather maternal toward the adult students I’ve guided in my yoga classes and creativity workshops, where I coax many inner children to come out and play. When I later run into my “grads” around town and hear about the positive changes that took root during my classes, I beam and coo. My teaching and coaching work feels like my life’s calling, my legacy, and the best use of my nurturing skills.

I do have some actual kids in my life, too, and they are fabulous. The list includes three delightful nieces, a brilliant nephew, the four precious children of my Sudanese “little sister,” and my delightful neighbor Sophia. I get my kid fix spending time with these honest, observant, funny and amazing little people, and I enjoy them immensely.

All this, and no diapers to change!

In truth, I have occasionally wondered what I’ve missed by not having a special wee someone to love and call my own, but the thought usually passes quickly. A wry girlfriend of mine put it this way, “You can’t miss something you never had. I’m at peace with the fact that I’m childless, and happy being ‘married with dog.’”

I wanted to know what my other childless friends had to say on the subject, and so I asked. I was happy to learn that none of them felt criticized for their choice, even if they may have felt the “unasked question” coming from friends and relatives, including their mothers. A few of them shared the experience of being a so-called “parentified” child, meaning they took on too much responsibility for themselves and others as kids. Some believed that this was enough to put them off becoming a mom.

One friend reports that she wanted to have kids until she moved to a yoga ashram at age 30.  “Living a celibate lifestyle as my biological clock ticked faster and faster helped me get clear that I was fine not having babies and preferred to work with the child in myself and the adults around me,” she recalls. “This led me to my career as a life coach, helping others to birth their own evolving consciousness. While I would never claim that my choice was more rewarding than being a mother, I feel truly honored and gifted by all those who allow me to assist, serve, and mentor them. I often silently thank their parents for birthing them so that I might also be part of their lives.”

A colleague admits that, when her younger sister got pregnant, she thought “for about 12 seconds” that it would have been fun to go through pregnancy together. “Today I am so clear that the decision to be ‘childless by choice’ was absolutely right for me,” she reports. “My work as a coach, helping women to have their dream relationships, is incredibly gratifying for me. While I never felt pressured to be a mother, I do think there are plenty of women who have kids because, ‘It’s what women do.’ I’d love to see more women opt out of those ‘shoulds.’”

“I don’t remember making a conscious decision to not have children,” says one friend in her late 40s, “but I never felt a strong pull towards having them. I do think I’ve turned some judgment on myself with thoughts like, ‘I’m not really a full woman if I haven’t labored through the physical birthing process.’” What I’m birthing now is a more authentic and whole expression of myself…seeking to know how the feminine shines through me, and what kind of mothering really feels like my calling.”

Another dear friend says that even though children “just didn’t happen” for her, she’s enjoyed being there for her nieces and her friends’ children. “I love spending one-on-one time with them,” she says. “I’ve taken them on adventures to glamorous cities, river rafting and coast exploring, and day trips to old-time amusement parks and science museums.” Having now developed close relationships with two stepsons and a daughter-in-law, my friend adds, “I know I missed something special in not experiencing a child’s development from infancy, and I suspect I missed a personal development opportunity in not knowing the compromises that come with child-rearing, but I feel fortunate now to be essentially free of child worries, yet enriched by the love I feel for the young people in my life.”

“I feel like I never got to be a kid,” says a former colleague who’s worked to heal from her abusive mother. “At 48, I love being single and having only myself to care for. It’s fun that my life belongs to only me! I get to check in and see what parts of my child or immature self need some attention. My mature self supports, nurtures, and cares for my kid self, and my kid self gives my mature self joy, laughter, and adventures of all kinds.”

A relative of mine says that even though her parents were loving and devoted, she never wanted a family of her own outside of a husband and pets. One deterrent, she says, is the idea of bearing a child. “My uterus has been nothing but trouble for me since I was 12 years old, so the idea of being pregnant does not appeal to me at all. The care and attention for a child that follows is something I also have no desire to experience, and I simply do not have the patience to deal with a teenager. After spending time with my friends’ children, who are great, I know my decision is the right one. The joyful chaos I’ve witnessed is an experience I’m more than happy to forgo—preferring structure, order, tidiness and a fixed schedule.”

And sometimes it takes other pioneering women to show us that it’s okay to blaze unconventional trials. My former roommate is a storyteller and maker of whimsical jewelry who once thought she was flawed because she never caught “baby fever,” even as her biological clock was winding down. “But then I read Gloria Steinem’s Revolution from Within: A Book of Self-Esteem,” she recalls. “It made me realize that there is no wrong way to be a woman.  This simple truth lifted a great weight off of my shoulders and I became something I was far more qualified to be:  A fairy godmother.”

And so I raise my glass to all the special moms, stepmoms, aunties, mentors, grandmas, teachers, coaches, counselors, godmothers, fairy godmothers and childless women out there. Honor your choices. Celebrate your life.

Be yourself, as Oscar Wilde said, because everyone else is already taken.

Kim Childs, CPPC, is a Certified Life and Career Coach specializing in Positive Psychology, Creativity, and Midlife Transitions. Visit to learn more and schedule an initial consultation.


  • Dina

    I like the idea of nurturing the child within. The world does its best to kill that joyful being at an early age and nurturing is necessary in order to create and give back to the world. Hopefully, those with children, myself included, are using their creative powers to raise aware beings that learn to protect this inner joy. Your friend is correct. You can’t miss something you never had and if you had children, you’d be missing sleep.

  • Anna Dunwell

    Dear Kim,
    Great to hear your voice speaking your truth. I really enjoyed this post, so much authenticity and truth around the many miracles of existence.

  • Ellen

    I am glad you enjoy that little toddler next door as much as she does you (and Sweet Pea). I enjoy spending time with both of you! If anyone seems content in their skin, it is you, my friend. Thanks for inspiring others to be happy with where we are and not where we might have been…

  • Judy

    Kim – Good subject/theme. It’s always been of interest to me that many/most of my closest friends over my adult life time are childless (by choice). It was great for me because, although I have three (now adult) children, I never felt the need—ever, nor did I want to talk about who got a tooth, learned to sit up, had a fever, a good/bad report card, accepted into a college or other things that were not about my own self development. There were so many other stimulating conversations to have! Never understood the women who defined themselves by being a mother. Oh well, I guess I fall somewhere between—having kids and still having a life that ran parallel. I think we all (the three of them and me) are all the better for it : )

  • Joan

    So true. There are many ways to be a woman. My husband and I were on the fence about kids. We ended up having two later in life. They changed our lives in ways I never imagined, and we wouldn’t change our decision, given the opportunity. But I do remember we weren’t convinced it was for us. And so I say there are many roads to travel and there are many ways to be a woman. And I feel so blessed for our friends (childless or not) who support our kids as if they were their own. It really does take a village.

  • bruce childs

    Well, then. As usual, this feminist male/uncle/gay son responds positively to the notion that bringing children into the world as we know it is a miracle in the making, But, as a frustrated, recovering Gynecologist friend of mine once opined…”Bruce, I believe that far too many parents would be better off not bringing children into the world”. To admit that starting and maintaining families/kids is not necessarily the way to fulfillment is to be outside of conventional thinking, I think. You and I come from large clans. You are my child. Last week I renewed a friendship of family and the personal kind with Emma and Maddy. Emma and I struck it off, talking photography. Now we are FB-ing on the topic. My many college students have been and are my sons and daughters. I am blessed. Mary, my partner of ten years in a legal relationship, gave birth to Maya, in a second relationship. Maya is my child of the mind and emotions, I’ve watched her grow into a woman. I don’t regret having not fathered a child. I am still a child at 72. Working on it.

  • Tara

    Excellent theme. But, I beg to disagree on one point. I don’t think becoming a mother (parent) has anything to do with being selfless or patient. Clearly the US divorce rate isn’t at 50% because only childless couples lose their cool with each other. There are plenty of difficult people who become parents. We all adapt to life whether we have or don’t have children. The misconception that those who don’t are somehow lacking skills, instincts, or missing out on womanhood sells women short. Like your friend who read Gloria Steinem wrote, “There is no wrong way to be a woman.”

  • Herb Pearce

    I thought I would respond from a man’s point of view. I could have gone either way, as I love kids and would especially like having a girl. I love the tendency of girls to be more sweet, innocent, kind and relational, like myself (of course there are many exceptions to that). A main reason I haven’t had a child is not finding a partner that made sense for me to have that experience with, plus my own tendency to explore my own life, more than the sacrifice it would take to raise a kid. I make it up by singing in a family choir, being in relationship with women who have kids, and enjoying kids when I see them, which is often the case in attending events and workshops. I had 4 adopted kids that I sponsored in El Salvador for many years. I am very pro kids and have the greatest respect for parents and the joys and sorrows they go through. As a couples and family therapist I work with parents and children often and love to help in that capacity.

  • Nita

    I went through a great deal of angst in my 20s when I got pregnant, then miscarried repeatedly. Now in my mid-50s I can see that this was in many ways a blessing. my first marriage ended badly. Then I developed multiple sclerosis which has resulted in significant disability. My sisters’ children are more than willing to enjoy the benefits of a “fairy godmother” – a role I love to play. Although it was not my original choice, childless has turned out to be the best choice for me.

  • kimchildsyoga

    This essay also received many comments on Open Salon, in case those of you who resonate with the choice to be childless/childfree want to hear from others:

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