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“More and more women are choosing not to have children. They are no longer a rare breed."

The pointy finger of judgement is often poked in the direction of women, tearing apart their life, looks, and lifestyle. Celebs cop it daily, publicly scrutinised and called out for every bad decision or choice they make. ‘Normal’ people do not escape unscathed, with incidences of trolling and online bullying escalating, out of control.

Tanya Williams, author of A Childfree Happily Ever After, said for the women who choose not to have children, the judgements can be vicious and derisive.

“More and more women are choosing not to have children. They are no longer a rare breed. Yet the comments from family, friends and complete strangers have a sting to it when they weigh into a deeply personal decision,” she said.

“Sadly, the decision comes with consequences and a lot of judgement.

“Society has a hard time wrapping its head around the fact that some women do not want to have children. When faced with this anomaly, it is too hard for people to understand because it doesn’t fit with what we have been raised to accept as normal.”

Tanya said why is it okay to question one woman’s right not to have children but not a women’s right to have children?

“Does a woman’s life only have value if we are having babies and looking after people?” she asked.

Why do we feel the need to judge others, whose lives do not directly impact us, who are not hurting us with their choices?

Psychologist Lisa Johnson, from Engagement Psychologist, said people believe that if you are in a happy, healthy, functional relationship that children are expected.

“Women feel that social pressure and if you are not having children, then many do, so you as being selfish. The social norms say that getting married, having white picket fences and two to three children is what is expected and anything outside this normal box, opens people up to stigma and judgement,” she explained.

“Many of us have set view of the world that they cannot get past. When women don’t want to have children, in a world where typical people have a family, it is uncomfortable and confronting. People feel more comfortable being able to pigeon hole others, if you do not fit that, you are open to being questioned.”

It all comes down to what is ‘normal’. For most people, normal is dictated by their view of the world, honed by their life experiences and upbringing. Women who do not want children challenge this.

Lisa said whether it is sexuality, religion or choosing not to have children, if it does not line up, people are fearful. “Differences are scary. Especially for people who are unhappy with their life and judging others makes it easier for them to justify being horrible to others,” she said.

“I work with many professional women who have chosen to enjoy a professional life and the relationship they are in – and that is and should be valuable.

“Contributing to life and society is more than having children. We can choose to have simpler version of believing a woman having children is the ultimate contribution.”

Lisa said it is okay to have judgement, but it is not okay to publicly express those negative judgements. “It is not fair to judge others, especially when so many are not living a ‘perfect’ life. You can still feel different things about people’s lives but be more tolerant,” she said.

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"Lisa said it is okay to have judgement, but it is not okay to publicly express those negative judgements." Image: Supplied.
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Alicia Young, author of Two Eggs, Two Kids, is child-free. When she made the decision not have children but was meet with dismissal from friends and family. “Our family and friends never said anything awful. Initially they dismissed my/our choice (you'll change your mind), then urged us to reconsider to avoid regret later,” she said.

“My parents injected a bit of a guilt trip, and my mother all but doused me in holy water as I walked through the door (along with prayers), in the hope I would change my mind.

“Parents naturally feel they're being deprived of grandchildren. I understand that, and they want us to experience the joy children bring. I just don't think I need to birth children to enjoy them in my life.”

For Alicia, it was the comments from people she did not know that had the most sting. “A woman in a store line, receptionist at a doctor's office, a man at the door taking a survey. Sometimes it's a dismissive look – from derision to pity. Other times, they say directly or imply that: You're selfish (um, I've volunteered through life, from making breakfast at homeless shelters, helped recent immigrants read English, volunteered for Mother Teresa in India, and given foot tubs to the elderly in nursing homes),” she explains.

“Or that I must be career-driven. Well, a career won't look after you when you're old. Um, no...? And with respect, there's no guarantee your children will look after you in later life “

Sheena Ireland loves being an aunt. “My child-free life allows me to focus attention on the kids around me when I'm with them and it's a wonderful thing. But, like many women who chose to be child-free, I get asked about why I don't like kids (mmm, I love kids), and I get told how I will change my mind (don't you love it when everyone knows you better than you do... apparently),” she said.

“In terms of being selfish, I think not having kids allows me to better support the parents and kids around me, and it helps me, and my partner lead the life we want. It is true that many see this as selfish or even a mistake, but as I've grown older, I've developed thicker skin around this and the confidence to talk about my choice.”

Tanya said the choice is ultimately a woman’s. “We should not be apologising to anyone for making a choice that impacts our life. Choice, with a big, fat capital C. A woman’ choice must fit her needs and desires, not the expectations of family, friends and society,” she said.

“No matter how well meaning the people are who questions our choice not to have children, it is our choice not theirs. Just because someone’s life choice is different doesn’t mean they do not deserve respect and support.”

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