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Childfree By Choice

Tiffany Ha

Counsellor & Gestalt Psychotherapist
Perth, Western Australia

Childless vs. Childfree

The term 'childless' refers to people who want a child but do not have one. This can include people who are trying to become parents, as well as those who haven't started trying yet. Those who have experienced miscarriage, fertility issues or child loss may also describe themselves as childless.

For some people, whether they are voluntarily or involuntarily childless, the term 'childfree' may be more fitting. Whereas childless implies a sense of lack or incompleteness, childfree denotes some of the positive and empowering aspects of life without children.

The Default Life Script

The biological urge to reproduce can feel powerful and persistent, like a call that cannot be ignored. In addition to this, there are social, political and cultural forces that condition us to have children, so much so that it has become an inevitable act in the 'default life script’. People who did not previously want children may experience the urgency of the ticking 'biological clock’ as they approach the end of their childbearing years. Those who never feel that urge may wonder if there is something wrong with them.

Having children (the 'natural' way) is assumed for able-bodied, heterosexual adults. The outcome of this overarching assumption is that many people become parents without considering what they truly want, whether or not they have the capacity to parent effectively, or what it means to bring a person into this world. Many people feel pressured by others (whether directly or indirectly) to have children, and many childfree people feel stigmatised, criticised and discriminated against for their choices.

Opting Out

An increasing number of people are choosing to be childfree. The reasons for this are varied and personal, but the most common reason is simply a lack of maternal or paternal instinct. Some other reasons include: the absence of a suitable partner, intolerance of children's behaviour, unwillingness to sacrifice freedom, fears about the state of the world, and ethical considerations such as overpopulation and climate change.

People may also choose to be childfree because of mental health concerns, such as fear of pregnancy and/or childbirth, postpartum depression and anxiety, attachment trauma, a history of negative childhood experiences, and concerns about the impact of having a child on their relationship(s).

Ambivalence

Having a child is life-changing and permanent for most people, and making the choice to do so (or not) can be difficult. Many people fall into the category of 'fence-sitter', with a foot in either camp, unsure of which path to take. It is normal to experience ambivalence when considering the multitude of factors involved in starting a family, including fertility, genetic conditions, relationships, housing, work, childcare and finances. You may feel anxious, excited, confused, filled with dread, guilt-ridden, torn between two equally compelling life paths, overwhelmed by all the possible ways in which your future could unfold.

Many people who choose to be childfree experience FOMO (fear of missing out) or a fear of regret later in life. In a culture where having children is expected, it may not be clear what else in life could give us the connection, purpose and satisfaction that many parents speak of.

Finding Clarity

It can be hard to know what you want, especially if what you want changes or goes against the norm. With the help of a counsellor, you can unpack some of the thoughts, feelings and beliefs you have around parenthood. Making an informed decision involves understanding your own experiences with your parents or caregivers, as well as your attachment style, your values, your ability to handle stress, and what a meaningful and fulfilling life might look like for you. A counsellor can help you feel more at ease with your decision, or help you navigate the discomfort of indecision. If any of this has resonated with you, please reach out to Tiffany to make an appointment.

Tiffany Ha
Counsellor
Gestalt Psychotherapist

Phone: 0401 978 003
Email: tiffanyalisonha@gmail.com

Mount Lawley Counselling Centre
13 Alvan Street
Mt Lawley (Perth), WA 6050

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