Why we must teach young people that there is nothing wrong with being childless

By Nina Steele 

Imagine the lives of two women, both in their 60s. One of the women is childless and the other has children. The childless woman has had a successful career until retirement and has paid her fair share of taxes all along. The woman with children on the other hand, has been on benefit her whole adult life and the children she has had, have followed in her footsteps and have never worked either.

This example is to highlight the distorted view that some have about what constitutes contribution to society and a fulfilled life. Living in pro-natalist societies, you can be forgiven for believing that childless people contribute next to nothing to society and live unfulfilled lives. The impact of such a bias view is far reaching and one major issue it creates is that instead of teaching young people that not having children is a valid alternative to being a parent, the message they get is that having children is the pinnacle of every life, and the most important contribution to society.

I was reading an article in the Telegraph the other day and it reminded me of that very view. In it, the author makes a case for young girls to be told earlier on that to avoid childlessness (and in her view a life less fulfilled), they must have children before they reach 30, because their chances will decrease after that and they might end up regretting it.

It is the usual pro-natalist claim that to be truly fulfilled, a person must become a parent. No wonder so many people find it almost impossible to come to terms with not being able to conceive. To tell a young girl that she should have a child as early as possible to avoid disappointment, assumes that if she starts early, she will most certainly have a child. Imagine then the pain, if after having followed your mother’s advice, you still end up childless?

A young girl should know that whether or not she starts trying for a child in her 20s, she may still end up childless if for example she or her partner is infertile, and that if that happens, it will not be the end of the world. This is exactly what happened to us. Although I was fertile, and we started trying for a child in my late 20s, my husband’s infertility means that we ended up not having children.

On this issue at least, parents should cover all the angles because failing to do so, does not equip a young person with the necessary tools to deal with infertility issues, if they arise later on in life. Above all, every young person should know that there is absolutely nothing wrong with being childless, should that ultimately happens to be their path.

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