Why being childless/childfree can actually be good for your overall well-being in later life

By Nina Steele 

I was reading an article published in the Guardian about a fundamental change that is taking place within British Asian families, namely the fact that more and more Asian children are breaking with tradition by moving their elderly parents into care homes, as opposed to living with them under the same roof. Busy lifestyles have been cited as the main factor. That this is happening is quite remarkable in a culture that is known for revering its elders.

For the indigenous British population, care homes have been part of life for as far back as most people can remember and as such it is an accepted part of life and so it does not carry the same stigma. Even so, the truth remains that many people with children live with the hope that those children will take care of them in their old age. Of course, not everyone expects their children to take them in, but at least to oversee the care they are likely to receive be it in their own home or in a care home.

Unfortunately, things have changed and as mentioned, busy lifestyles along with globalisation, among other factors, mean that more and more children will end up not living up to their parents’ expectations. As a result, many of those parents are likely to spend their old age mostly alone in their own home or surrounded by care workers in a care home.

This is the reality of the times we live in and it will be wise for the parents of today to make provisions for old age. I suppose it is fair to say that having children tends to give people a false sense of security about what life will be like in old age. there is a tendency particularly for people with more than one child to believe that surely, at least one of the children will have the time and inclination to help his/her elderly parents when the time comes.

So you can imagine the heartbreak and disappointment when many of those parents are left to face old age alone, with no support network. Only the very pragmatic do make provisions for old age even though they have children with the rest keeping their fingers crossed that as they made sacrifices to raise their children, the least the children can do is to repay them when the time comes.

It is the same type of expectations you have when parents start living their own dreams through their children by entering them into talent shows or hoping that they will become successful sport personalities and take care of them so they never have to work again! Indeed, for many people, having children is more than just the fulfilment of a biological urge; they are seen as future carers or a ticket out of poverty.

It is obvious therefore to see why not having children can be an advantage. Indeed, those without children have no choice but to plan for old age, be it in the form of a support network or saving enough money to pay for professional help in later life. I rather like the fact that my husband and I have known for a while that whether we are happy and fulfilled in our old age is mainly up to us. It gives me a certain peace of mind that I am not sure I would have had, had we had children.

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