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10 Unselfish Reasons To Not Have Children

Updated on April 15, 2016
The choice to avoid parenthood should be just as respected as the choice to reproduce.
The choice to avoid parenthood should be just as respected as the choice to reproduce. | Source

Strangely, the Choice to Remain Childfree is Still Controversial to Some

People who don't have children seem to get a lot of unsolicited criticism in the United States. Many childless and childfree people experience frequent negative comments about their reproductive health or choices. The criticism comes from parents, grandparents, siblings, co-workers, people who belong to the same congregation, and even people who barely know them.

Women are told they aren't really women if they don't have children, men are told they aren't manly. They are all told they can have no opinions on child-rearing or child welfare even if the issues being discussed are pretty straightforward ethical or safety issues. Many of them work the most unpredictable and least desired shifts, get lower priority on requests for days off, and get far less flexibility for scheduling around appointments and family activities. Parents are just valued more as human beings by some portions of society.

But that's OK, it's considered selfish if you don't have kids and selfish if you object to picking up the slack from busy, valued parents at work.

Selfishness is often the topic as well as the first and last word from people who believe judgment of other peoples' reproductive deficits or reproductive choices is their right.

I think having or not having offspring is a deeply personal choice. I think it's possible to make far greater mistakes and cause far greater harm by choosing to reproduce for the wrong reasons than by choosing not to reproduce for any reason whatsoever. But many people seem to believe that foregoing reproduction is horribly selfish so I've come up with a list of unselfish reasons all you childless and childfree readers out there can use next time someone gets on your case about not giving birth to dependent people who share your genes.

Here is a list of what I think are ten of the most unselfish reasons people choose to not have or adopt children.

10. They Are Infertile

This reason isn't bulletproof because even if you are infertile, you can expect to be judged for "not trying hard enough" to get pregnant or impregnate your partner. That is a horrible, horrible thing to say to an infertile person or couple, considering that many of them actually want babies. It really seems like the folks up in their business don't care how much they hurt them.

9. They Are Infertile and Can't Adopt

Once the busybodies have finally gotten it through their heads that, no, Mrs. Smith cannot donate an egg for a surrogate pregnancy because her cancerous ovaries were removed and that Mr. Smith absolutely doesn't want to impregnate someone else, they move on to adoption.

Hmmm, the funny thing is that people who aren't healthy aren't allowed to adopt by many agencies and ill health causes a lot of infertility.

But even that won't slow a lot of judgmental relatives down and you can expect a recycling of the "not trying hard enough" BS that came with the infertility.

It still takes two to make a baby and it's nice to have two to raise it, too.
It still takes two to make a baby and it's nice to have two to raise it, too. | Source

8. They Are Single

Rave as they may against single mothers in the rest of their lives, many people who have opinions about others' family and reproductive choices still bug childless and childfree singles about having a few kids. Ah, the marvelous cognitive dissonance that comes from the mouths of aging parents vehemently against single motherhood but rabidly desiring grandchildren!

However, I've found that they don't seem to understand why it should apply to the grandchild factory they want their daughter or son to be.

7. They Have Demanding Jobs

Again, the busybodies will turn this into greed of some kind, but it's worth a try. Many people choose not to breed because they could not have the jobs they do and give a child the degree of attention he or she needs and deserves.

Frankly, I believe it would be a poor decision to give up a successful career to care for a child one doesn't want for one with a lower income than one would ideally have to pay for that child's care.

Our elders need care, too.
Our elders need care, too. | Source

6. Other People Depend On Them

The world has changed. Many adults living with aging parents are caring for them. I know a number of couples who have chosen to give their parents the higher level of support and care that they can manage by not having children. Their parents loved them enough to make them their first priorities and now they are returning that care.

Yes, even this loving reason for not breeding will get criticism and it's often particularly nasty because the vicious words tend to be aimed at the elderly or ill dependent parent as if they should just die or go into a home.

5. They Have Mental Health Issues

Why, oh why, do people pressure mentally ill people to have children if those pressured to have kids think they can't handle it?!? While people with mental health issues can be great parents, they, themselves get to make that choice, just like everyone else. If they choose to not have children it harms absolutely no one and it is a loving and unselfish choice.

4. They Have a Genetic Disease

I once blew up at my dad and said, "What's so damned special about your genes that they're more important than my child's well-being?"

I have Hashimoto's thyroiditis, lupus, and high-functioning autism, all of which are believed to be genetic, seeing as it looks like I got the first two from mom and the last from dad. My first ligament to spontaneously come loose of its own accord did so before I hit thirty and I was functionally disabled by chronic pain, fevers, seizures, tremors, and weakness before age forty. Why would it be desirable to pass any of that on to someone I know I will love? I wouldn't give these disorders and illnesses to someone I hate, much less to an innocent person.

Source

3. They Have Ill Health and Feel They Can't Properly Care for Children

Many people struggling with chronic illness are lucky to be able to care for themselves and adding children to the problem would harm rather than help everyone involved.

The same people who seem to judge every non-reproducing member of our society harshly are often quick to list off the sacrifices they've made to care for their children. I don't understand how they can realize how much work goes into raising children yet they can't see not everyone has the physical ability to work full time and care for children.

Every single disabled parent I know developed their disabilities after they had children already. At least three of them have stated they would have chosen not to have children if they had known they'd later develop disabilities. They love their children dearly and that's why they feel guilty they can't provide them with the same level of care they could before.

It takes money to raise a human being to adulthood.
It takes money to raise a human being to adulthood. | Source

2. They Don't Make Enough Money

Again, sacrifices are often brought up in response to childfree and childless people who have opted not to bring new lives into poverty. The thing is, many people have no extras to give up, nothing they can sacrifice to pay for the care of those precious little humans. They cook their own meals, buy no entertainment, and still have to live paycheck to paycheck.

Even people not living paycheck to paycheck run the risk of a drop into poverty with the addition of a child. While it's perfectly OK for adults to make decisions that lead to their own poverty, I don't think it's OK to purposely choose poverty for other people before they even exist. Many people find themselves parents living in poverty without choosing to and society judges them very unfairly and harshly. Why would anyone encourage anyone to do so voluntarily?

Isn't just going ahead and planning a pregnancy when you know you can't give the resultant person a decent standard of living an extremely selfish choice? How is it a bad thing to refrain from creating a new life when already stretched to your financial limits?

They Don't Want To Have Children

1. They Don't Want To Have Children

I don't know about you, but I'm no good at changing things I don't like into things that I do. I certainly wouldn't risk the happiness and emotional development of an innocent child on it.

People who don't want children who have them to please people standing in judgment or because they think it's what they should do are doing something pretty awful; they are purposely choosing to have unwanted children. There are plenty of unwanted children on earth and many people choosing not to have children know all too intimately what being unwanted feels like to ever do it to another human being.

Preventing the conception of an unwanted child is, in my opinion, an unselfish act.

© 2015 Kylyssa Shay

Are these reasons for deciding not to have children selfish in your opinion? Can you think of any other unselfish reasons people refrain from reproducing?

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      SanXuary 2 years ago

      If you our a man I can list a lot of reasons. If your marriage fails 95 percent of all custody is given to women. You will pay more then half of your salary until the child is 18. It does not matter what your salary ever becomes there is no limit on insuring you remain an indentured servant or a prisoner to the state if you do not pay. 30 percent of all non-custodial parents see a decrease in their cost of living. Depending on the meanness factor you will be legally harassed continuously unless you abandon this country. Male suicide increases by 4,000 men each year since the institution of child support began. It is the leading cause of suicide in the military and 75 percent of all men deployed will be divorced within 5 years after being deployed. 50 percent of men never see their children and non-custodial parents are so low that the numbers for visitation is not even counted. This is the greatest humanitarian crisis in America and the worst reported story. If you our a young man its best to never have children. The divorce rate is greater then 50 percent what's your odds that you will ever get to enjoy your children. Most of all the greatest lie ever told is that men have rights. You will not even be able to afford any legal representation. This is tyranny.

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 2 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      I agree that sometimes it is beyond the limit

    • Kylyssa profile image
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      Kylyssa Shay 2 years ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

      @Darcie

      It's a good thing birth control works very well for most people! It would truly suck to have such issues if one did not want children.

    • darciefrench profile image

      Darcie French 2 years ago from BC Canada

      Good points! It seems the best way to choose not to have children is to abstain from sex; sure, there are ways to try to prevent pregnancy but they are not foolproof and they all have consequences of one form or another. I got pregnant three times on one form of birth control or another (the last child was conceived post-vasectomy). So to me, choosing to be childless would have to entail being celibate. I am now 44, a grandmother, my hubby has had a vasectomy and I got my tubes tied after the vasectomy failed- after my experience I feel it's actually up to Divinity whether or not we have another child.

    • gmwilliams profile image

      Grace Marguerite Williams 2 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

      @Kylyssa, I totally agree with your premise that children should be raised in conditions where the parents are constantly financially struggling. Living at a low socioeconomic level is not good for children at all. I staunchly believe that children should be brought up in an environment where there are myriad opportunities and advantages.

      So many parents unthinkingly, selfishly, & mindlessly have children without considering if they are financially able to do so. There is nothing glorious in raising children in financial struggle, it is PLAIN STUPID if you ask me. So many people DON'T/WON'T think & look at the results-impoverished children who are LOCKED out of society in terms of opportunities denied them & a POOR quality of education which locks them into low wage, dead end jobs or even generational welfare because of their parents' ineptitude and total irresponsibility.

      I feel that if a parents is not able to provide myriad advantages & opportunities for their children, then DON'T have them. Having children ISN'T for everybody now! What some people elect not to acknowledge that raising a child in financial struggle is poverty & again, being poor &/or impoverished is NO WAY to raise a child. However, there are some who are embedded with a poverty mindset & consciousness. Thoughtful parents have children when they quite financially prepared to provide their children with things beyond the bare rudiments while unthinking parents just reproduce willy nilly without being concerned about if their children will go without or just exist at a very low, basic socioeconomic level.

    • Chriswillman90 profile image

      Krzysztof Willman 2 years ago from Parlin, New Jersey

      A good list of reasons why it's okay not to have children. I've made a similar case about marriage in one of my articles and indicated that it's your choice regarding what you want to do. The same applies in this situation that if people judge that you're 40, 50, etc. and don't have children that it's not up to them..

      There are plenty of reasons why people don't have children, many of which you highlighted, and a big one can also be because they don't want to bring a child into this chaotic, dangerous world we live in. Very interesting read.

    • Kylyssa profile image
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      Kylyssa Shay 2 years ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

      Isn't it fortunate then that there are others who have chosen not to have children so there's room and resources for the children, grandchildren, and further descendants of people who have them?

      I'm just guessing but I think it's likely you wouldn't have chosen to have five children if you were single, barely scraping together each month's rent, or battling cancer when you started. So I think you actually can relate to those reasons.

    • Melissa Orourke profile image

      Melissa Orourke 2 years ago from Roatán, Islas De La Bahia, Honduras

      I had a hard time relating to this , for as long as I can remember I wanted 6 children. I gave birth to 5. Have we struggled financially, yes!

      Are most of them college educated, Yes? We have 1 finishing college this year, another 1 just starting, and another one who will go in a couple of years. They have brought so much joy in my life, even with the struggles, and the fact I'm not where I'd like us to be financially.. I can't imagine life without them in it. They contribute positively to this world as well! I am Blessed.

    • Jennifer Mugrage profile image

      Jennifer Mugrage 2 years ago from Columbus, Ohio

      You're right, Kylyssa. Of course it's not smart to conceive if you don't know where your next rent or grocery cheque is coming from, or if poverty has you trapped in an abusive relationship, for example.

      That said, there is a LOT of room between "completely financially ready to have kids" and "living in your car." I think a lot of people (not necessarily you) do not get this point.

      An "ideal" income for a parent would include, let's see ...

      -Nice home, not living with relatives, fully paid for

      -(some would add, each kid has his/her own room)

      -emergency fund, retirement fund, college fund(s) for kid(s)

      -full medical, dental, vision insurance for every family member. Probably money for braces as well!

      -1+ vehicles so no family member is ever "trapped" in the house during the day. Vehicle(s) must be large enough to accommodate a car seat for each child 8 and under (it's the law!).

      -enough money to ensure your kids a good education, whether through living in a "good" public school district, or being able to afford to home school or a good private school

      -money for enrichment activities like museum memberships, zoo trips, swim lessons, karate lessons, music lessons. (Dance? Horse riding? Competitive sports?)

      It is possible to be missing one or all of these items and yet have a stable home, where kids are well nourished, well-clothed, and well loved.

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      Mara Alexander 2 years ago from Los Angeles, California

      Great hub. I'm twenty-two years old, and in the process of getting my education, and working toward my career. I have decided that I don't want to bring a child into the world. I think having children, a lot of times, is selfish. Not knowing what will really happen to any child I might have, is a frightening thought. We can do our best to raise them well, but it doesn't ensure that their life will be without trouble, so I opt out, the world is full of enough people.

      If I ever do change my mind, I would adopt

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 2 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Kylyssa....I can't help but remark that your last sentence is so very profound. As a parent, this has been blatant evidence of this genuine "uniqueness" you mention. When I focus on each of my sons now as adults, their truly specific traits, beliefs & the individual persons they are, even to their very core, can take my breath away.

    • Kylyssa profile image
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      Kylyssa Shay 2 years ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

      Unfortunately, many people have the same faulty grasp of math.

      Having a single child per person would still result in population GROWTH. Generations can be shorter than twenty years and humans live much longer than that. If the human lifespan were much shorter and parents really did drop dead the second their children reached adulthood, 1.5 children per person would STILL result in population growth over time. Three children produced for every two people definitely equals population growth because their parents are likely to still be alive when their children have children and those children have children, possibly even to yet another generation.

      Don't the still living parents, grandparents, great grandparents, and great great grandparents still alive count as people? Will you still count as a person after your children are grown? You'll be here breathing and eating and living your life. You don't stop being a person, even if you're a great-great-grandparent.

      If your child has one "replacement" child for himself or herself (and one for the spouse but we're only counting your "replacements") and that child does the same and so on, if you have your child at age twenty and your descendants do the same you could have four "replacement" people for yourself alive if you die at age eighty. That's a population increase and a big one.

      You can't replace any human being; every human being born is his or her own person and unique.

    • Ammon Beardmore profile image

      Ammon Beardmore 2 years ago

      If you don't want to have kids don't. It's a lifelong commitment - a job you have to love. The statics for birthrates are dropping. I believe its down to an average of one and half kids per person which is not enough to replace yourself thus leading to a decline in population after the mid century mark. I think this is mostly due to finances, which is an unfortunate reason not to have kids. However, for those who don't have the drive to be parents then it's a wise choice that is becoming more and more socially acceptable.

    • Kylyssa profile image
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      Kylyssa Shay 2 years ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

      @Jennifer Mugrage

      There"s a difference between a less than ideal financial situation and poverty. If you think having a child will at some point have you living in your car with him, maybe it's not a good idea to have him in the first place. Even if it happens unintentionally it sucks.

      Poverty isn't good for children. It shortens their lifespans, limits their opportunities, and makes them more susceptble to illness. I don't think going to bed hungry is something you should ever choose for someone else.

      Most people living in poverty with children did not plan to have children after they were poor; either they accidentally got pregnant or they weren't pooor when they planned to have the kids they did.

      No responsible person says, "Hey, honey, we're short fifty bucks on rent money let's make a baby." Yet plenty of people don't see living in poverty as an unselfish reason to choose to not have children.

    • Jennifer Mugrage profile image

      Jennifer Mugrage 2 years ago from Columbus, Ohio

      Wow. Great article.

      I agree that many of these reasons are good ones.

      Regarding having other responsibilities, I know that in some traditional cultures there are those who postpone or forgo marriage and children so they can put their younger siblings through school.

      I also agree that if you have severe chronic health problems, it might be smart not to inflict that on a child. Even if they don't inherit your bad health, they will have a parent who is hampered in caring for them.

      It's also true that many people have no idea how difficult it can be to adopt.

      Having said that ... the critical busybodies do not stop when you become a parent. Now, EVERY decision you make relating to your kids is a pressing moral issue worthy of the TV show What Would You Do?. Did you let 'em climb on something? Unsafe. Didn't let 'em climb? Not enough exercise. Gave 'em candy? Unhealthy. Stay at home mom? Enforcing stereotypes. Work outside the home? Depriving them of attention.

      Society's standards for what constitutes good care of children have risen to the point where they are almost impossible to meet. Witness your point #s 7 and 2 above. Is it really so terrible if you can't provide for your children at the financial level that would be "ideal"? Or that your demanding job wouldn't allow you to spend the ideal amount of time with them? Very few of us are ever going to have a lifestyle that matches the ideal that is now required for every kid.

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      Tami Rogers 2 years ago from Seattle, Washington

      I think knowing yourself well enough to make the choice to be child free is brave and should be applauded. There are enough unwanted children in this world. Bravo!

    • Kylyssa profile image
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      Kylyssa Shay 2 years ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

      @Christy Kirwan

      I tend to end up playing with any kids present at the gatherings my chosen family's extended families have. I love kids but it doesn't mean I have to raise any of them. I used to fulfill my nurturing urges taking in homeless teens and young adults and now I fulfill them by caring for members of my intentional family who are ill or who just need a little mothering. I'm thinking some of the younger people of both groups will be around to keep me from being lonely when I'm old and I just keep adding to my intentional family all the time.

      The criticism my sister-by-choice and I get for not having kids is sometimes beyond ridiculous.

    • Christy Kirwan profile image

      Christy Kirwan 2 years ago from San Francisco

      Great Hub, Kylyssa. As a grown woman who chooses to be childless, I've heard a lot of these. I think the most common prejudice I experience is the assumption that I must hate (or at least dislike) children. Even people who support my decision tend to assume it, which is hurtful because I really love kids. I just don't want my own.

    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 2 years ago from Oakley, CA

      Awesomely put! Well said!

      People should just mind their own damned business, and that's the long and short of it. The same thing applies to people with a different sexual orientation. It's just plain no one else's business.

      I am so weary of the judgmental people of this Earth!

      Frankly, if someone is in poor financial circumstances, the appropriate answer to such a busybody is, "So, are you going to pay (from birth through age 18), for raising the child you think I should have?" That would probably shut them up in a hurry.

      Voted up, useful, awesome and interesting.

    • Marisa Wright profile image

      Marisa Wright 2 years ago from Sydney

      @Colin323 - to have children "for legacy related reasons" seems a breathtakingly egostical reason - why is anyone so important that they need to leave a record of their existence? That, to me, is far more selfish than choosing not to have children.

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      Girish puri 2 years ago from NCR , INDIA

      Very much useful and informative hub.

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      Mary Hyatt 2 years ago from Florida

      I have one daughter who is happily married, but she and her hubby have decided not to have children. She never apologizes for her decision, even though she is asked from time to time why no children??

      Not everyone in the world wants to procreate!

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      TSAD 2 years ago from maybe (the guy or girl) next door

      These are all great and legitimate reasons not to choose to have children. Well written and I suppose for people who think you need to justify that choice it is an excellent primer.

      But I agree with Paula, who are they to judge, to even venture an opinion on your choice as long as it harms no one and very well may be saving a child from harm.

      Personally I have never encountered a person who criticised someone for choosing not to have children. To the contrary as a child growing up we were told regularly by my mother to never have children, which was so comforting to my brother and I. At my wedding I didn't hear congratulations, instead, don't have any children. After the first, "Don't have anymore or you'll be sorry".

      Guess what, to this day I'm not sure why I had 4, could it have been rebellion? (I'll rent my mother (she's 97) out to visit with that congregation for a reasonable price and time, but if they send her back early you'll have to provide to end of contract).

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 2 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Someone ignorant enough to make such a statement to a woman battling cancer, deserves no answer, no attention whatsoever.....How about if we simply support this woman in her journey to get well and have some quality of life despite a catastrophic disease? Never mind children!

      Or...shall we suggest she reproduce her own future "motherless" children??..........Some people are beyond belief!

    • Kylyssa profile image
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      Kylyssa Shay 2 years ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

      @fpherj48

      Thank you! That's why I listed not wanting to have children as the number one most unselfish reason to remain childfree. I thought pointing out some of the really, really obviously unselfish reasons people have that others still don't accept would help highlight how bizarre and ridiculous it is for others to negatively judge people for choosing to not reproduce.

      I've dealt with people judging me for not reproducing for decades even though it's been a biological unlikelihood since I was a young adult due to injuries sustained during homelessness. My father actually labeled me "The Failure" and called me such instead of my name for several years because I was the only one of his surviving children to not "give" him any grandchildren.

      My sister-by-choice is battling ovarian cancer and someone still had the gall to ask about if there was any way for her to still have children before they removed the stage IV cancerous ovaries and uterus. Survival rates for women who try to preserve their fertility with even lower staged ovarian cancer tend to be less than abysmal.

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 2 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Kylyssa...While this is an excellent hub with perfectly reasonable explanations for not having children....I believe just simply choosing not to bring children into the world is all the reason anyone needs.

      It's not selfish in the least for a couple to be childless. This is a personal, private choice and everyone is free to determine their own path in life. If being a parent is not included, so be it.

      Actually, it may be quite selfish to have a child for any reason that is not your own choice!!

      This is a wonderful reference for people who may be facing this decision. ...UP+++ pinned & tweeted

    • profile image

      Sanxuary 2 years ago

      If I was younger and new what I know now, I could add a few more reasons to never have children. If you our a male in America you have no rights. Your significant other is highly unlikely to ever last in a relationship until your children have grown up. The future of the World is so bleak that committing yourself to your own personal apocalypse will only save the pain for your children in the future. Regardless of the apocalypse you will at the very least spare them a wasted life of economic slavery.

    • CatherineGiordano profile image

      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      I love number 1. They don't want children. It's a big commitment and a big responsibility. I don't think anyone should have to apologize for not wanting children.

      The point about genetics is a little heart breaking. fortunately medical science is making good progress on this one.

    • Kylyssa profile image
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      Kylyssa Shay 2 years ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

      I think it's an evolutionary leftover but that we can be so much more than what our biology dictates. I also think people see children as some kind of immortality even though successful reproduction is only a sort of semi-immortality for their unthinking, unfeeling DNA.

      Children are legacies that their parents are destined to lose control of. Their accomplishments are their own even though their parents may take pride in them. Children are also perfectly capable of leaving marks on the world that their parents would view with horror. I think people who feel they must biologically reproduce no matter the cost or the effects fail to realize they are actually bringing a separate and individual person into the world. They don't necessarily get to choose what they pass on to their children and those new people might not even want what they'd choose anyway.

      I'm fine with leaving only intangible marks on the world. I don't value people by what genes they have, but by who they are and what they do.

    • gmwilliams profile image

      Grace Marguerite Williams 2 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

      @Colin, you are succinctly correct re: people having children to carry on their legacy. Many people also have children as some type of ego gratification. They have children because THEY want to make THEIR mark on the world, their children's concerns are secondary for that matter.

    • profile image

      Colin323 2 years ago

      Many people desire children for legacy related reasons - to leave human reminders of their time in this life and to give a focus for their love whilst they are here. However, I agree that there are other ways this can be achieved and parenting does not come naturally to all people; young children can drive you crackers very quickly - successful childbearing can be very difficult for the quick tempered and introspective, for example.

    • gmwilliams profile image

      Grace Marguerite Williams 2 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

      Great hub. It is so sad that some people want to interfere with other people's lives, telling them how to live it. There are absolutely nothing wrong in being childfree. I feel that those who elect to be childfree are the most unselfish people. They have put a lot of thought as to why they elect not to have children.

      I especially like the second reason-cannot socioeconomically afford to have children. If more people applied this second reason, socioeconomic poverty would be DRASTICALLY reduced with its related pathologies such as crime & other societal ills. It takes a highly, discerning & intelligent & might I add, very secure person to go against the pro-natalist tide.