Rise in Childfree Gen Xers: Challenging a Rationale

Check out some new data on the childfree: a study conducted by the Center for Work-Life Policy of 3000 Gen X men and women indicates that 43% of college educated Gen X women (ages 33-46) are child-free, “despite about three-quarters of them being in “long-term relationships and living with their partners.”

How do the researchers explain it? Get a load of this. They suggest that the reason many of those in their 30s and 40s are “childless” is because “this generation might have had too much choice.” That their “choices to focus on work has left many of them without a family of their own.”

The researchers seem to believe that women’s focus on their career has led to many of them being “childless.”

I have to challenge the idea that a career focus is the reason Gen X women are choosing not to include motherhood in their adult lives.

Sure, with more education women do realize they do have more choices in life, parenthood being one of them—it’s not a given but an option. However, it is not a matter of “too” many choices, but a realization that one has a choice when it comes to having kids.

Saying they have too many choices seems to reflect a mindset that if they had fewer choices more would choose to have kids, which is what they should be doing. So --what, we should be sending the message to young women they don’t have many choices in life so maybe they will have more kids? Talk about patriarchal thinking.

More people are not having kids by choice as awareness of the choice has grown, and how the number of people acting on that awareness has grown with each generation since the 70s. While getting pressure to have children remains, Gen X may be experiencing lesser amounts than generations before. As one 44 year old childfree woman is quoted in the article-she believes that "I'm part of the first generation of women where there actually wasn't that much pressure to have children."

As the numbers grow and pressure lessens, it is just easier to realize one’s true level of desire to become a parent. More people can look honestly at whether parenthood is something they truly want. I ask these researchers -- Could these numbers just mean that the women have decided it is not something they want? Why isn’t that enough?

Even if a woman doesn’t have kids because she puts her career first, what does this say about her desire to have children? It’s just not that high, or not there at all.

I hope when the whole study is released there will be more accurate thinking about why more Gen Xers are not having children, besides seeing the data through old paternalistic models.

These numbers also make me wonder how they dovetail with recent Pew research that indicates an uptick in educated women 40-44 starting to have children. Is the 43% more women who don’t have them now, but will, say, later in their late 40s, for example? Or does it reflect quite the rise in childfree lifestyle in this generation?

We’ll see. One thing for sure, this article is an example of how there is increased prevalence of the choice, but far from full fledged acceptance.

What do you make of this research?

Laura Carroll

Childfree author of Families of Two

blogging at La Vie Childfree http://lauracarroll.com

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