Is making the Choice to Remain Childless the "New Path" to Happiness for Women?
Psychology Today contributor Dr. Noam Shpancer expertly explores this question in a recent blog post citing some important research including the research I conducted ahead of writing Two Is Enough: A Couple's Guide to Living Childless by Choice.
Dr. Shpancer wonders why the childfree are labelled "selfish" when "people often choose to have children because they think this will make them feel better about their lives, provide added meaning, confirm their social status as successful adults, and provide aid and comfort in the long term. As a rule, parents don’t have the number of children that is optimal for the country or the world; they have the number they consider optimal for themselves. It’s a fundamentally selfish choice."
He also tackles the "What happens when you get old?" question by reminding us of the harsh realities of growing old with kids: "Having children is not foolproof insurance against the vicissitudes of old age. Sometimes children remain dependent on the parents throughout life. Other times they become disengaged or alienated from parents; they may refuse, or be otherwise unable to, assume the caregiving burden. Moreover, the money, time, and energy spent on raising children may be used instead to acquire sufficient wealth to allow one to purchase competent help in old age."
It now costs around $240,000 to raise a child to eighteen in a middle income household in the U.S. and that doesn't include college costs. If you instead invested that amount over an 18-year term and realized a modest 6% return you would have $685,000 to spend on end-of-life care.
Do parents-to-be make this calculation before having kids. Most don't, particularly those who view the experience of parenthood as "priceless!" Those of us who happily and intentionally forgo the parenthood experience have the time and resources for other "priceless" experiences. They just need to figure out what makes them happiest and get on with it!