When, I was 15, I made a dinner time announcement to my family: “I will never have kids.”
It was, in my teenage opinion, an utterly blockheaded idea.
Up to fifteen, I spent a decent chunk of time babysitting – giving me crystal clear insight into approximately .3% of what raising a child entailed. And although I knew enough to know I didn’t know enough – what I did understand was sufficient – I did not need a social life imploding, spontaneous projectile vomiting, thankless money sucking – anchor in my life. Ever.
Hopefully, dear God in heaven, hopefully, I am now at the age where having children would involve an expensive science project of which I have no interest in participation.
I am also at an age where people with kids make comments to me and other childless-by-choice friends such as, “You will regret it.” (You may too.) “You are not fulfilling your womanly duties.” (Knowing there are people who say this is reason alone not to have kids.) “Must be nice to have time.” (Sure is.) “Must be nice to travel.” (You got that one right.) “Must be nice to sleep in.” (Yep.) “You will live your whole life without ever knowing what it is like to be a mom.” (I can live with that.) “But you would have such a cute kid.” (I have a cute husband – he fulfills my cute needs.) “But you would be such a good mom.” (I might be a good cliff diver too – doesn’t mean I need to be one.) “Who will take care of you when you are old?” (Your kids!)
My age also means I hear another side of the story. Moms who say, “If I had to do it all over again – I wouldn’t have kids.” “Kids are a pain in the ass.” “What’s it like to go out at night?” “What’s it like to have a quiet dinner?” “What’s it like to have sex?” “My life is no longer my own.” Or even, “I didn’t know I could make the decision not to have kids.”
And this last comment – above all others – strikes me the most.
Research proves, and common sense confirms, kids will change your emotional, physical, spiritual, financial, social, romantic and professional life – and as research also tells us – these changes are not necessarily for the better.
I know people, as those research types do too, who are ecstatic about parenthood. It is obvious their life is better, more full and more worthwhile with kiddos. I also know people where, much to their own surprise, kids decimated their relationship and came pretty darn close to destroying them, as individuals, too.
Regardless of the choice to-have or not-to-have kids, we must start to openly discuss the outcomes of this decision. We must stop thinking the choreographed family Christmas card and playground pictures are what being a parent is all about and start talking about what is happening the other 99.7% of the year. And it is from this reality, we can all make a thoughtful decision on what is best for us.
My dad would always tell me, “It is not supposed to be easy, it is supposed to be worth it.” Here are a few ways research shows us it will not be easy – may it help you decide if it is worth it:
Parents suffer from depression more than people without kids
A study conducted by Vanderbilt University of 13,000 parents with kids living in their homes, as well as empty nesters, suffer from depression at much higher levels than people who were childless. It also indicated mothers and fathers both, across many different different racial and ethnic populations, suffer depression at the same level.
Women without kids get paid (and hired) more
Women regardless of mother status still get paid less than men but women with kids get paid 73 cents to the men’s almighty dollar whereas women without kids make 90 cents. To make matters worse, even getting that 73 measly cents is harder for mother’s, the Cornell study also indicates women without kids are 2X more likely to get hired than mom’s. Last insult to injury? Childless women are paid $11,000 more, to start, than mamas.
People without kids can retire at 50
The average cost to raise a kid until they are 18 and put them through a four-year college (assuming they are starting college, like, today) is $684,680 per kiddo assuming no student loans. With student loans the total cost from birth through college graduation day is $890,680.
If you are going to have the average 1.87 kids per U.S. household that is $1,280,000 in kid costs without student loans and $1,665,571 with student loans.
The average age in the U.S to have a child is 26, if they graduate from college when you are 48, well – I guess you have two choices – spend that money on kids to get them well on their way or save that money and get you well on your way.
Couples without kids are happier
The UK’s Open University did a bit of sniffing around with 5,000 long-term couples of all ages and sexual orientation to find which, if any type of couple, was happier than the other. Their findings? The childless couples (married or not) were the happiest. It also found parents who weren’t married were happier than those who were.
The quality of a marriage drops after a couple has kids
A New York Times article highlights research indicating the quality of a couple’s relations decreases when kids are in the house and improves when kids leave. So good news – if you can wait 18+ years to re-live your relationship of yesteryear – you might be all set. Bad news – kids are becoming more and more unlikely to actually leave their parents house.
Choosing to have kids means choosing to put 17,655 tons of carbon dioxide into our air
One American child born today will contribute 9,441 metrics tons of carbon dioxide to our planet. If the average US household has 1.87 children not having kids means not contributing 17,655 metrics tons of CO2 when couples choose to be childless.
People without kids eat better
The British Government wanted to do a little study on diet. They lassooed some research participants and took a look at what they ate. What they found? People without kids eat healthier. In fact, they found the childless eat 4.4 pounds more fruits and veggies over a two week period than people with kiddos.
Almost half of all women in the U.S are choosing NOT to have kids
The argument of “everyone is doing it” is no longer true. The 2014 U.S. census showed a little less than 50% of women in the U.S. between the ages of 18 – 44 are choosing to remain childless – by choice. (An excellent book, written by a mother, “Why Have Kids?” might be something you want to check out – if interested in more on this topic.
Not having kids freaks the right wing out (#haha)
True story – women who have no desire to have kids wigs the right wing out. (#Awesome.) Who will consume all their corporations’ goods if no one is having kids? A fascinating book on governments around the world incentive programs (and at times even paying people) to have kids to counteract this decreasing desire – and to keep the consumerism machine going is What to Expect When No One is Expecting. Well, worth a read and perhaps further insight into whether or not kids are or are not for you.