For years, women who were unmarried and childless were typically looked down upon by society with sympathy. Not having a child wasn’t something that one aspired to, and instead, was seen as nothing less than a tragedy for an aging woman.
But no more.
In this day and age, American women are starting to prove that companionship and happiness can exist outside of the traditional concepts of domestic bliss and child-rearing.
Over the past decade, the fertility rate in the US has steadily declined as more and more couples opt to start a family at a later age. One of the biggest contributors to this decision is the fact that raising a child in America has become more expensive than ever.
With the cost of diapers, formula, childcare, and education — to name just a few of the basic necessities — this figure can go up to more than $30,000 per year.
However, it’s not just this additional financial burden that is the reason more women choose to delay or completely avoid having kids. Many other factors now come into play.
Women who choose to be childless have more savings in their bank accounts than single moms. More importantly, however, they also have the flexibility to live the life they want and enjoy their independence.
New Yorker Ashley Marrero, 43, is one of these women, according to Bloomberg. Her experience has shown that women of today can find happiness in investing in oceanfront real estate or traveling around the world instead of pursuing the traditional life of a wife and mother — who would have thought it?!
Marrero believes that children shouldn’t be the source or sole focus of one’s happiness. Going in this direction and working towards financial freedom can also be ‘enough’ to bring women joy.
Her 41-year-old traveling companion, Anna Dickenson, who doesn’t have any offspring either, is on the same page.
The Stress of Modern-Day Parenting
While being a mother may be an enormously satisfying and rewarding experience, there is no denying the stress that comes with it.
In addition to chronic lack of sleep due to the frequent nighttime awakenings of infants and young children, many moms also tackle the invisible load of parenting and frequently juggle a variety of jobs and obligations, including childcare, domestic duties, employment, and maintaining other relationships.
For working moms today, there is the added stress of finding the right balance between being the perfect employee and ever-present mother. Mothers may worry about the safety, health, and well-being of their children. This ongoing worry can then cause anxiety.
Because raising children may be costly, many moms worry about their finances frequently. Childcare, schooling, and other costs may increase the strain.
To add to the burden, mothers who are the primary caregivers or who have few opportunities for social engagement outside of raising their children also end up feeling socially isolated. Then there’s the added pressure of living up to society’s standards.
Finding time for self-care and relaxation can be difficult for moms, which can cause burnout and elevated stress levels, while physical and psychological difficulties can arise throughout pregnancy, delivery, and postpartum recovery.
Missing the Memo on Maternal Bliss
Some moms feel like they missed the phase of maternal bliss and the promised happiness it should bring. They feel motherhood was not as great as it was made out to be.
For a long time, any opinion other than agreement with the concept of blissful motherhood was considered taboo. However, many mothers have since come forward to share their true outlook.
Social media provides stressed mothers an outlet to share in their struggles, and a Facebook page entitled “I regret having children” has over 69,000 followers to date.
“I have 3 beautiful kids. I love them but I truly wish I didn’t have them. especially the last one. My oldest while a typical annoying kid is actually an absolute angel. My second kid is frustrating as h— but has moments I like her. But my last one. I can not stand! He’s horrible and I spend all day cussing my life due to him,” one anonymous commenter recently shared on the page.
Another person expressed how having a baby was their worst decision. “I hate my life now, more than I did before. I’m so anxious, I can’t handle them by myself… I often think about putting them up for adoption or running away, but I know I can’t do either of those things. I’m just stuck in a life I don’t want and it’s hell. I just want to go back to it being me and my partner.”
Sociologist Orna Donath, author of Regretting Motherhood: A Study, shared that, naturally, women who feel remorse for having a child are labeled “bad moms.” They are seen as “unnatural, greedy, and abusive” or are thought to contributing to the “whining” culture.
Women who speak about regretting motherhood are considered “utterly miserable, cold-hearted and selfish women.” Donath, who did a study on ‘Regretting Parenthood’ by interviewing 23 women, has received criticism and hate for her findings, with one reader demanding that she be set on fire.
Ultimately, having a child means jumping in with both feet. Many women feel motherhood may not be as rewarding as it is made out to be. So, like Ashley and Anna, they would rather be happily single, child-free, and live a life without regrets.
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This article was produced by TPR Teaching.
Caitriona Maria is an education writer and founder of TPR Teaching, crafting inspiring pieces that promote the importance of developing new skills. For 7 years, she has been committed to providing students with the best learning opportunities possible, both domestically and abroad. Dedicated to unlocking students' potential, Caitriona has taught English in several countries and continues to explore new cultures through her travels.