'A Wake-Up Call': Aussie Women Are Saying No To Kids

Rebecca* is about to turn 42 and despite always wanting children, she is yet to have her own. Why? Life has gotten in the way.

For decades there has been an expectation that a woman would grow up, get married and if her body would allow it, have kids.

Now that social norm is being increasingly challenged by women who have chosen to carve out their own life plans, instead of sticking with tradition.

As a result, women are often becoming mothers at an older age,  while others are choosing not to go down that path at all.

Projections released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 2015 indicated that by 2029 couple families without children would become the most common family type in the country.

Ten weeks ago, those figures were revised down, projecting that while couples with children are expected to remain the most common family type by 2041, it will be by a slimmer margin (43 percent to 39).

While there are many women across the country who are unable to have children for various reasons, there is also a growing number of others who have chosen not to have kids.

“Sometimes people don't feel maternal or paternal, but mostly it's just that they don't see children being a part of their lives, they feel like they don't want to change their lifestyle, they like their lifestyle as it is without children,” said Dr Bronwyn Harmen from Edith Cowan University’s School of Psychology.

That is the case for Jessica, a Sydney-based journalist.

She told 10daily that children had never been in her life plan.

“I want to do so many things and I don’t want children to get in the way of that,” she said. “It’s not something I yearn for, I don’t feel incomplete”.

"The world isn't going to miss the child I choose not to have," she continued.

For those who do see children being a part of their lives, often time and money are hurdles that feel near-impossible to jump.

At 41, Rebecca is in a steady relationship, has carved out a career and is holding out hope she will have the chance to have her own child, but for now, she is choosing not to go down that path.

"Unfortunately, I feel like we couldn’t offer a stable future and guaranteed roof over the head of a child, let alone ourselves in our current economy," she told 10daily.

"I’d love to just follow my dreams and do it but I’m terrified of my mortgage with 23 years left to go, and the fact that like a lot of homeowners, we are just four paychecks off homelessness," she continued. "It's a lot of pressure."

"I feel lucky though to have helped to raise quite a few kids, either for friends who were struggling with parenting through being overwhelmed with other kids, work pressure, or other issues including tragedy," she explained.

Photo: Getty

Education is also a huge barrier.

Women account for approximately 58 percent of all domestic students enrolled in Australian Universities, according to the University of Melbourne. 

Associate Professor Dan Woodman from the University, said that an increasing number of people women choosing to complete higher-education studies is a game changer.

"We as a country have far more women tertiary educated than men and the return on investment takes some time," he told 10daily. "Women are putting all of this [money] and time into their education, their career and then they hit their 30’s and they are still hustling. The return on investment takes time," he continued.

"The system right now, can’t get it right".

That's the case for newlywed Ellie, who is putting much of her energy into carving out her own career.

“I am so focused on my career and I don’t want a kid to change that,” she told 10daily.

Not wanting to have children is something that she and her husband Tom had discussed before they started dating. For them, having friends and family with children was enough.

“We have plenty of nieces and nephews we love and are happy to look after them anytime, anywhere,” the Sydney couple explained. “It’s easy when it’s a one-off short term thing, you know you can give them back and return to the norm shortly”.

But while it’s a decision that couples or individuals are content with, it’s often met with resistance from family, friends and even strangers

“Generally it’s not well received,” explained Harmen. “There have always been people who haven't had children but because there's such a stigma attached to it, [some couples feel] people look at them like they're monsters or child-eaters or something.”

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Jessica, an only child, admits her decision hasn't gone down well with her family.

She recalled an incident several years ago when her mother was packing up children’s books suggesting she will “keep them for when you have children one day,” knowing that her daughter had no plans to have kids of her own.

“I just remember her giving me a really sad stare,” she said.

Sometimes a puppy is a person needs. Photo: Getty.

But it's not all doom and gloom, the tides appear to be turning, with the stigma very slowly losing its bite.

"Social media has allowed people to be open with their choices," said Woodman. "Instead of it being something they mention to only a couple of close girlfriends or their family, people are beginning to open up about it a lot more."

He explained that normalising a decision not to have children is vital because it’s "inevitable" that it is the future.

"It means our culture has to adjust. It’s a wake-up call to us as a society. You want people to be able to have a choice in things like whether they want kids, but you don’t people making those choices because they are uncertain about the world and here it is heading," he said.

"The world in a way is not running out of people".