parent opinion

I'm 40 and child-free. So what's the problem?

Listen to this story being read by Adrienne Tam, here.

This International Women’s Day, Mamamia is creating the world we wished we lived in via our website and socials. That’s why today on Mamamia, you’ll see headlines we wish existed. But we cannot write these stories. Instead, the story will reveal the reality of what the world really looks like for women in 2022. You can read more about our pledge to #BreakTheBias this IWD here.

This is the headline we wish we could write on International Women's Day: Child-free woman shares how she's never had her decision scrutinised. 


But this is still the reality for women in 2022: 

Motherhood affects every aspect of my life. Not because I am a mother, but rather because I'm not.

Let me explain. For the past 10 years, a variety of people - family, friends, relatives, acquaintances even - have asked me, in a myriad of ways, when I'm going to become a mum. Sometimes it's a throwaway remark. Sometimes it's much more direct. It depends on the person and the place.

"Are you thinking of having kids?"

"Can't wait too long - time is ticking!"

"Your parents would love to be grandparents, I'm sure."

"Jenny just got married... when are you going to get married and have kids?"

"Your baby would be so cute!"

I'm 40 years old. Between the ages of 30-36, I just rolled my eyes and laughed it off. "One day!" I'd say in answer, as if I owed anyone else notification of what my uterus would be doing in the future.

But between 37-40, it's gotten harder to roll my eyes. Why? Because I'm not sure what my decision is regarding whether or not to have kids, and I'm aware that I have a finite time in which to make that decision. It galls me that the choice to be a mother or not must be made against the ticking of a clock. Why don't men have this issue? Women already have the odds stacked against us; must we have this too?


As a single woman, the avenues to becoming a mother are costly and complex. I know - I've looked into it. I've visited clinics and doctors and hospitals. I've done scans and tests. I've gone to therapy. I've asked myself if I want to be child-free or not.

Will I regret it if I don't have kids?

Will I regret it if I do?

I still don't know the answer.

It certainly doesn't help when people continuously bring up the subject. At a Mother's Day event a year or so ago, a relative was there wishing all the mums a 'Happy Mother's Day'. When he got to me he said, "So when are you going to be a mother?"

My friends, if my eyes were lasers, that man would be a crisp on the ground. Knowing that he was just being an insensitive ignoramus rather than deliberately malicious was the only thing that held me back from delivering a cutting remark. I came very, very close though. He doesn't realise how lucky he is.

That comment cut especially deep because at the time I had just been to the doctor, and while my fertility test results were good, we weren't sure how my fallopian tubes were looking. That's the thing about commenting on someone else's life - you never know what the other person is going through. 


Ironically, mothers themselves can be particularly insensitive to those without children. I've had mums who've told me that their lives now have meaning because they're a parent, that they didn't know they could feel a love as strong as this. Um, hello? Are you telling me that your life before you became a mum is somehow worthless? Because then you're pretty much telling me my life is worthless because I don't have kids. And I disagree with that wholeheartedly.

Being a mum is a big, big deal. I get that. This article is all about that! But you are many other things besides a mother - you're a woman, a colleague, a friend, a sister, a wife or partner. You're a good dresser, a bad dresser, a foodie, a takeaway addict, a skier, a snowboarder, a fast typer, a collector of pens. Sure, your life changes astronomically after you've had a baby, but that doesn't mean you're an entirely new person. That doesn't mean everything that came before is suddenly devalued.

If I decide never to be a mother, I know that my life still has meaning and purpose. No pathway is right or wrong; it just is. And as for love? I have felt deep, unconditional love. For my parents, siblings, and friends. That kind of love still matters.

While my story is my own, it's certainly not the only one of its kind. At Mamamia, we cover parenting in all its forms - and that includes choosing to not be a parent. There's the story of child-free women like Sophie Henrinckx, Nina Jervis, Monique Hutchinson, Sarai Perez, Jane Goldsmith, Mel Thurley, Melissa Browne, Sheena Ireland, Yael Wolfe, and Jess Henry. There are many, many more stories. Some we've told and some we've yet to tell.


As women, we shouldn't have to explain our choice to be child-free, but here I am, explaining. To be frank, it sucks. I mean seriously, what impact does it have on anyone else if I choose to have a child or not? It's no-one else's business, and I really, really wish that people would STOP ASKING ME ABOUT IT.

Mostly though, I am sharing my story because if you're reading this, and you're feeling the same way, then hopefully it's helped. Whether you're child-free by choice or still deciding, maybe knowing someone else is going through the same thing offers you some sanctuary from all the judgement we're constantly barraged with.

This is your story as much as it is mine. You're not alone. 

At Mamamia, every day is International Women’s Day. We fund the education of 300 girls in school every single day with our charity partner Room to Read, and our goal is to increase that number to 1,000. To help support girls’ education in developing countries, you can donate to Room to Read and contribute to a brighter future.