On the fourth of July, the United States celebrates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, which to date, happened 241 years ago. Two days before, on July 2, 1776, the Congress for the thirteen colonies voted to declare freedom from British rule. And freedom remains a deeply held value to Americans today.
In America and around the world, another specific group of people greatly value the experience of freedom as well. These are people who are childfree – they have no children by choice. Over the years, I’ve surveyed the childfree on many topics, and one in particular asked respondents to get to the core of the reason they are childfree. I asked people to answer this question: If you could sum up the reason you are childfree in one word, what would it be?
Of the nearly 600 respondents, here are the top ten words they gave. Starting with #10, which came in at a tie:
10. spontaneity & money
And the #1 word people gave as the reason they are childfree: freedom.
Freedom to pursue a life that reflects what is most important to them. Freedom to go after their dreams and goals. Freedom to live their lives as they wish. Many, many childfree see the responsibility of raising children as greatly limiting their experience of freedom. And they value it more than any amount of desire they may have for the experience of parenthood.
From interviewing the childfree since the late 1990’s, another word that deserves discussion is “relationship.” Many childfree who are in committed relationships speak of their concern about how having children would change their relationship, and change it forever. Even if the couple has some level of desire to become parents, ultimately they don’t trust that having children would change the relationship in a positive way. To them, their committed relationship is Number One, and many decide that having children is not worth risking what they have right now, which is a great relationship.
For me personally, the two words on the top ten list that resonate most are: disinterest and freedom. Both, however, cluster under a larger word: life. From as far back as my teen years, when I thought about how I wanted to live my life, the experience of parenthood was not something I wanted as part of it. I babysat a lot as a teen, and this experience confirmed these feelings. Over time, I have witnessed loved ones raising their children, and while I see the fulfilling aspects of it, I have never wanted the day-to-day life that parenthood brings or for it to be the central focus of my life.
So, on July 4th, I celebrate what our country’s founders achieved. I celebrate the freedoms we have in our great country, some for which we continue to have to fight. I celebrate the freedom that comes from a life that does not include the raising of children. And I celebrate how this freedom continues to serve as a gateway to learnings, experiences, adventures, and ways of contributing to others and our world that give me a rich sense of fulfillment and purpose in my life.
Happy fourth of July!