Women choosing not to have children shouldn’t be a big deal in 2018. After all, we’re living longer, fighting for equality every day and (slowly) smashing through glass ceilings. But somehow, it is. For a woman to 'admit' she never wants to be a mum is still met by shock, despite the constant argument that our bodies are our own to do what we wish with.
Behind every decision is an array of reasons - from career, to environmental and pure lack of maternal instinct. Cosmopolitan UK spoke to four women, each with their own motives for not having children, who told us why the decision feels right for them.
“I didn’t fall pregnant naturally, and didn’t want to have IVF”
Jessica, 30, a writer, photographer and blogger from Derbyshire.
“Looking back the decision had always been made, it was simply a matter of me realising it – which came when things didn’t happen naturally for my husband and I.
“When we were staring down the road of the IVF or adoption route, I knew I didn’t want children badly enough… I realised I didn’t want them at all. I felt relieved it hadn’t happened for us, like a weight had been lifted and I could live the life I really wanted - one without children.
“I’ve always felt like an outsider because of my natural awkwardness around children, the opposite of what women are stereotypically supposed to be.
“Right now it feels like an easy decision, but if you’d asked me five years ago I would’ve said it was incredibly difficult. All my friends were having children and it looked so exciting.
“The expectations and pressures I felt from society are what made my decision so difficult. If I’d listened to myself and how I truly felt from the beginning it would have been much easier. You know when you’ve made the right decision because it sits comfortably in your gut and you feel better.
“The night I told my husband how I felt, he told me he’d been feeling the exact same way. It was so liberating, and the subject hasn’t come up since. He already has two children but nobody ever asks him! Children don’t seem to be on the radar during conversations with men. I don’t think that’s a coincidence.
“Some women have told me they applaud my decision and although they love their children, given the chance again they wouldn’t have any. Some have said they pity me.”
“The planet is overpopulated and I worry about the environmental impact”
Natalia, 30, an intuitive business mentor and founder of Remote Mission from Bristol.
“The older I get, somehow the more conflicted I am. Partly because of societal pressures and partly wondering if I will regret my decision later on in life. But I worry that the planet is overpopulated and we don’t know what will happen if we continue the way we are. I think that we need to change the way we live and take care of our resources.
“There are also millions of children who are without a home or parents, and in many respects it seems selfish to me to want to bring my own children into the world when so many are in need - and for what? Just so I can say they’re mine or to carry on the family line? If I was to choose I wouldn’t have my own kids - if it’s the right time I would like to adopt.
“I believe that people should take their genetics into consideration. Is there a high chance that you could be passing on genes that could lead to increase chance of genetic disease? It’s something that is often on my mind, especially with a family history of cancer.
"It’s also a very scary time, and I don’t know where the world is going. Will it be a world I’d want my children to grow up in? Robots may be ever present, and we rely on data and artificial intelligence to make decisions for us.
"As a woman, I also do have concerns over my health and body - what will it look and be like after having children, especially if I was to have them later on in life? Would there be any health complications?
“We all have choices and decisions to make on where we can take a stand and make positive changes for people and the planet."
“I want to enjoy my life, and the thought of being pregnant is terrifying”
Georgina,29, a marketing manager from Warwickshire.
“It might sound bad initially, but I am too selfish to have children. I enjoy my life as it is, I work hard, and I want to do all the things I enjoy without having to give anything up. I play netball three times a week, I travel a lot, I enjoy eating out at nice restaurants…I don't want that to change.
“I see many of my friends having to reduce their 'me' time for a baby/child and that's not something I want to do. Just because the world thinks you should have children doesn't mean it is right for everyone.
“Plus, the actual thought of being pregnant is quite terrifying… having some kind of alien growing in your body and changing you isn't a pleasant idea to me.
“When I told my family I think there was a bit of disappointment at first - especially from my mum, who really wants grandchildren - but once we explained it everyone they were really accepting.
“Other people aren’t always, though. People always ask questions, and it got worse after we got married - just the assumption we would be 'trying' soon after. My husband is on the same page, but he often gets asked if he has made the decision for me. Of course, that’s not the case at all.”
“I want to focus on my career”
Natalie,34, social media agency founder from Wiltshire
“Life made the decision for me I suppose. I have never really felt overly maternal. It’s just something that as a woman I was being led down a path to believe I wanted because that’s what society says.
“I enjoy going out with friends, I love my holidays and I’ve always been career focused, so they’ve always been higher on my priority list.
"I’ve been able to progress a lot quicker in my career by not having children - as sad as that sounds. Because I don’t have constraints or time commitments I’ve been able to throw myself in to it 100% of the time. My career, and now my business, gets my attention and focus. I feel certain that by not having children the business is growing and flourishing at a much quicker rate than if I did.
“When it comes to telling people abut the decision, I definitely don’t shy away from honesty! I think my family are hoping I will change my mind, and my some of my friends too to an extent.
“My husband is on the same page, but I think his family are hoping I change my mind too.”