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1 in 4 childfree women end up regretting their decision not to have children, according to research

By Victoria Fryer 

Earlier this November, an article appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald detailing some new research indicating that one in four women who chose not to have children eventually regretted that decision.

The article started by detailing the decision of a happy couple (and their two dogs) not to have children. Though the couple was obviously happy with their decision, at least currently, the article then turned to the research of Bronwyn Harman, a researcher from Edith Cowan University.

Of the research results, the article reads, “The majority of the deliberately child free are pleased they never had kids, because of the freedom it gives them.”

There are a couple of things to unpack here, for me. First of all, if the results indicate a majority are satisfied with their life decisions, why is the leading piece of information that some women end up with regret?

And what about comparable research on the parent side? What do they regret? We all make decisions about our lives. Most of us even make some that we live to regret.

Finally, it rankles me a little that we continue to talk about the choice to remain childfree for freedom. Sure, many of us do have freedom as a motivation, but there are many other, more nuanced reasons for deciding not to have children as well.

The couple profiled in the newspaper article are willing to admit that they “could come to regret their decision not to have children.” But again—any of us could regret any one of our major life decisions eventually. Perhaps I’ll regret spending 40-plus years of my life working when I could have just built a cabin in the woods and killed rabbits for food. Just saying.

The article talks about a few of Dr. Harman’s other research findings—and they’re very interesting. I appreciate the growing research attention to the number of women without children.

But I thought it was interesting how the author of the Morning Herald news article chose to frame the story. Though no quotes were included from women who did not regret their decision to remain childfree—again, three out of four of the women interviewed—the article did include this quote from a woman approaching retirement: “‘I anticipate a lonely existence, without children and grandchildren.’”

We cannot anticipate an emotion like regret—that’s what makes it regret. And we can’t live our lives in fear of doing or not doing something just because we may regret it later. All we can do is choose what is right for us now, in this moment.

Victoria Fryer is a writer and content strategist. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two pit bulls. You can find her on Twitter @extoria.

Comments

  1. I’d like to share a conversation I just had with a friend yesterday… (We are both with children and I am divorced.) We discussed how fortunate we were to have positive single role models in our lives. Growing up in extended families meant that we both had childless aunts, uncles, and friends. They were people who gave us time and generally demonstrated ways of having a life purpose without producing children as a legacy. They were people that I admired and respected. As a parent, there have been many occasions when I think of them and envy the freedoms they enjoyed: to travel, study and generally develop as they wished. Of course I can do all those things – but not without sacrifice to my self or my children. I want to promote respect for all child free people. There IS purpose and value to you and when you are older think of all the friends (of all ages) you will have collected along the way!

    • Thanks Pascale. It is great to have the perspective of a mother on these issues. Yes we can all be winners, regardless of our path. Some of the views expressed in the research mentioned in the article are antiquated, and no longer accepted as fact. Most people now realise that judging someone just because they don’t have children is narrow minded to say the least.

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