Things women won't admit they like about remaining childless

Being childless, or as I like to call it, "childfree," is a very personal choice. While becoming a mother may certainly be one of life's greatest treasures (if not the greatest) for some women, it isn't the right choice for everyone. For some, like me, the decision to not have a child may be based on a lot of factors ranging from not wanting to bring a child into the current world climate to wanting the freedom to go off on some random adventure on a whim. There are also women who can't have children, but who are okay with that and have chosen not to adopt or pursue other avenues to have children of their own.

What's funny about this very personal decision is that, for some reason, many people seem to think that what another woman chooses to do or not do when it comes to motherhood is somehow their business. I have family members, friends, and perfect strangers who are so invested in my choice to not have children that you would think they were the ones who were going to be buying diapers, getting up in the middle of the night, and paying for college.

Because of the stigma that exists toward women who make a conscious choice to not have children, we often don't tell people what we really love about it. Frankly, I'm happy with my choice to not have children and I'm not the only one. Here are the things women may not always be so keen to admit that they love about remaining childfree.

Sleeping in

This is a simple one, but it's near and dear to my heart. Some mornings I wake up early, some mornings I sleep in until 8 a.m. On the weekends I sometimes sleep in until 9 (or even later if we've had a late night). If I had kids, I couldn't do that. Does that sound silly to some? Maybe, but I have to admit that I smile to myself every time I see someone post on social media that their child wakes up at 5:30 on Saturday mornings and they just can't understand it. Devon Clement, a friend of mine whose full-time job is to help other women with their babies, but has no kids of her own, agrees with me. "I love sleeping in on weekends and not having to get up and go to soccer games," she told me.

Traveling

The ability to travel was one of the biggest things I heard from other women I spoke to about being childfree and it's one of the biggest things for me too. Not only can I afford more travel because I don't have kids (more on that later), but the travel itself is easier. No car seats for the plane, no stroller, no diaper bag (or backpacks filled with My Little Ponies or Hot Wheels), and no cranky, hungry, sleepy kids to wrangle.

Kara Dockery, who is 29 and told me she's always had an aversion to having kids, agreed. "I love being able to just 'pack up and go'. My partner and I love to travel and see new things, sometimes spur of the moment," she said. "That would be hard to do with little ones in tow. Plus, not everywhere we travel is necessarily 'kid-friendly', so that would be a big change." I can relate to this as well because the only vacation we've taken with our nephews was to Disney World. While it was a fantastic time, it was a place designed for kids, which made it a bit easier. Traveling to, let's say, a foreign country, would probably be a bit more difficult.

Debbie Bain, who is 35 and engaged, told me she isn't a definitive "no" on having kids in the future, but that it isn't a priority for her right now. "I feel like to be a great parent (which I would want to be if I ever chose to be a parent) is putting your kids first," she said, "which would mean all the things my fiance and I love to do (travel to different places, take off for the weekend, go to restaurants and cool hotels) would fall by the wayside." Bain went on to tell me that, so far, she hasn't felt the ticking of her biological clock. "Right now, if someone asked me what I would rather do, go to Italy or have a baby — I'd choose Italy."

Saving money

Speaking of money for travel, money in general is one of the great things about not having kids. I was talking to my childhood friend Megan Hill, who also currently doesn't have plans to have kids, and we couldn't help but wonder how our parents afforded anything when we were young. "I don't know how they did it," she told me, and I agreed. The way they did it was sacrifice. I can't even imagine the things my parents sacrificed so that my brother and I could have clothes for school, food on the table, medicine when we were sick, and everything else that comes with raising a child.

Right now, with all of my student loans, I can't even fathom being able to afford a child. Where I live in Massachusetts, child care can be as expensive as college tuition. My friend Michelle, who is 32 and is still not sure if she wants kids, told me that she really enjoys her current financial freedom. "I love not having to factor in all the additional expenses of having children," she said. "Children are expensive little time-suckers!" She also noted that while she isn't necessarily opposed to having kids or the expenses it would entail, it would mean big changes. "I don't want to be a parent if I'm not prepared to give 110 percent to my child, which means my life will change a lot if I have kids."

No dirty diapers

Cost aside — though we all know that diapers are outrageously expensive and parents go through hundreds upon hundreds (thousands?) of dollars before a child is potty trained — I'm really happy to not deal with dirty diapers all the time. It isn't that I'm opposed to changing a diaper, in fact, I grew up babysitting and looking after many cousins whose diapers needed to be changed, but it's the fact that I'm happy I don't have to do that. I don't have to wake up in the middle of the night to a crying kid, wondering if I'm going to luck out with a simple pee diaper.

Diapers aside, there are other messes I don't have to worry about, like food thrown across the room by a toddler or mud tracked through the house by a 6 year old. We have three guinea pigs, and the mess they make is enough.

Living on a whim

Even if it isn't about travel, there's something about being a childfree adult that feels like freedom. I can live my life on a whim and do whatever necessary to follow my dreams. If I had kids, I might not have taken the risk to quit my job to start freelance writing and editing full-time. It would have been an irresponsible choice with repercussions on their life in addition to mine. If I had kids, my boyfriend and I wouldn't be able to decide at the last minute to stay out after the movies and grab late night cocktails and food. As a childfree adult I can do things like hop on an early morning train out of Boston and spend the day in NYC. My life is completely dictated by my own choices. While I am bound to things like my bills and student loan debt, as long as I get those things paid, the rest of my life can truly be lived on a whim.

My former coworker, Karen Beauregard, is now in her 50s, and she told me that she's known pretty much her whole life she didn't want kids — she knows things would be very different if she had. "The fact that I quit my job at 28 and went back to school to finish my degree, the way that I then decided to become a Pilates instructor and just did it. Now I just got my Real Estate license, because I can," she said. "I can just decide I want a new career and do it. It would have been a lot harder for me to do what I did [if I had kids]. When I decided I didn't like living in New Hampshire, I moved to Boston. Everything would have changed if I had kids."

Hill also agreed with this sentiment. "We can do what we want when we want," she said. "We can sleep in, stay up late… pick up and go camping when we want, or go out of town when we want."

Peace and quiet

If you've never heard a kid's high-pitched squeal, count yourself lucky. Seriously, kids can reach a pitch that seems inhuman, and whether it's because they're angry, sick, or squealing in happiness, it's something that takes some getting used to. One of the things I value about not having kids is the ability to have total silence at home.

It's getting to sit down and read several chapters in a book without interruption. It's seeing a movie in its entirety without a child coming in seven different times to ask me a question, or for help doing something like finding a missing shoe. It's going to the bathroom and not having anyone follow me in there, arguing with a sibling or begging to go to Legoland. I'm so happy for peace and quiet.

Time "off"

Like peace and quiet, something I really value about not having kids is that there are times when I truly have no responsibilities. As long as my bills are paid, I've showered and fed myself, and I've finished work for the day or week, I have true down time.

This is something I realized I personally need when I was working full-time as a trainer (and before that when I was a therapist-in-training and seeing clients all day long). In both of those professions, you're "on" all the time. It was during that time I realized that having kids would mean coming home and still being "on" until it was time to go to sleep. I'm grateful for the time I have off, where my responsibilities take a back seat without any repercussions.

We like our bodies the way they are

This is a big one that you may not hear from many childfree women, but I can guarantee that at least some of them have given it thought. One of the things I love about not having children is the control over my body. After losing 90 pounds and regaining about 40, I realized that I really don't want to put on baby weight… ever. I have a hard time with weight and body image, so putting my body through pregnancy isn't something I choose to do. I'm also glad that I won't have to deal with breast milk-leaking boobs, mastitis, and all of the other complications that can arise during and after pregnancy.

Beauregard echoed this sentiment. "I like my body the way it is," she told me. "I saw what happened to my mother and my sister." My friend Amanda agreed. She told me that even though she never wanted to have kids, she has even more reason now that she knows people who have had kids. "Someday I might consider adopting, but I have no desire to have a baby at all, ever! I've seen what it did to my friends' bodies and I'm just not interested!"

Life control

This is similar to living life on a whim, but there's more to it than that. One of the things I love about being childfree is that it is my decision. I'm so grateful to live in a time when I get to decide whether or not to have kids. Growing up in a small town in the South where everyone had kids, I thought it was something I had to do. I just accepted it as the natural way of things. As I got older and realized that women don't have to have kids and that married couples can be perfectly happy without them, it opened a whole new world to me. I have 100 percent control over my life and whether I choose to have children or not, and that's a really great feeling.

My friend Kate Estrop, who is 34, feels similarly. "I'm happy to be childfree for many reasons, but I think the one that baffles people the most is… I want to be. I don't want to be a parent," she said. "It's a 24/7 responsibility that, to me sounds like another job, and I don't want it. I don't care if it will 'be worth it' — why would I want to take that chance?" Estrop said that she's happy with how her life is now and "quite frankly, the thought of being trapped or coerced into a life I don't want is terrifying."

Having kids is great

One of the biggest things you may not hear often from women who have chosen to remain childfree is that we're really glad you chose to have kids. Having kids is great if that's what you want in life. They can be frustrating and difficult, but they're also sweet, loving, and say the most hilarious things.

As a PANK (Professional Aunt – No Kids), I see the joy that is brought to parents and grandparents alike. Just because I have chosen not to have kids doesn't mean I don't like kids. In fact, I really love spending time with my nieces and nephews. Many of the women I spoke to agreed. "I'm the fun aunt and I like being the fun aunt," Beauregard said, telling me how she was going to visit her niece in college over the weekend. That's a really important point to keep in mind when you're talking to someone who has chosen to not have kids. It doesn't mean we hate kids or don't want to be around yours. We're just really grateful we can send them home with you when you go.

My friend Julia Cain, who is in her mid-30s and works at a university, puts particular emphasis on being a non-parent adults in kids' lives. "The thing that I love the most, and which I think is the most important, is that I think that it's vital for kids to have an adult they trust who is not a parent," she said. "They need someone that they can tell about stuff that they're struggling with, that they're afraid they will get in trouble for, or that their parent will overreact about. I am that adult for several kids, and it is the most beautiful thing you can imagine." Cain said that the kids she's close to are still pretty young and, while their problems are small now, they won't always be. "When their problems get bigger, I know they'll know I can help them, and they can trust me."

Not having them can also be great

I hear all the time that I "just don't know what I'm missing" or that I'll "never really know love without kids" and I have to tell you that it's pretty offensive. While I don't doubt that the love for a child is unlike other forms of love, to say that I can't experience love without kids is not only offensive to the other relationships in my life, it's pretty offensive to the women who can't have kids. Just because we don't have kids of our own doesn't mean we don't have people (even kids) in our lives who we love.

While it may seem selfish to decide not to have kids, it's really about knowing whether we can give 100 percent to them and, if not, choosing not to go that path. Jenna Amara, who chose to delay having kids for a bit after getting married, but who anticipates having them in the future, feels this way too. She told me, talking about her and her husband, "We're both sort of 'all or nothing' people. When we're parents, we want to give up our lives for our children and make our life revolve around them. Right now, we selfishly love our life too much to do that. I can't wait to be a kickass mom when I'm ready, not a mediocre resentful mom because society told me it was time to have kids."

We're a little selfish

Many of the women I spoke to used the word selfish, either to describe themselves that way or because other people have described them that way. It's important to remember that being selfish isn't necessarily a bad thing, especially if it means being true to yourself and not letting someone else dictate your life. My friend Sondra agreed, telling me that she would feel bad about being selfish if she had kids, but because she doesn't, she can do what she wants in life. "I get to be 100 percent selfish and not feel guilty about it all!" For a lot of women, this is what it all boils down to.

My friend Amanda tied it all together. "I love having freedom to do what I want, when I want to. My husband and I can bike commute, we don't have to have a car, and we can live in the city with a small apartment. I love traveling and someday I hope to be a nomad traveling the globe, you can't do that easily with a kid! I love being able to go out with my friends, sleep when I want to, have money to do fun things."

We may change our mind or we may not

I've been told more times than I can count that I'll definitely change my mind about not having kids. These same people have told me I better hurry or it will be too late. I'm told that it's just a phase that I think I don't want kids. Let me put this in no uncertain terms: many women choose (quite happily) not to have kids, and it isn't a phase. I know strong, happy women who are in their 40s, 50s, 60s, and even 70s, who have never had kids, and told me that have no regrets.

That said, some women do end up changing their minds. That's the beauty of being in control of our own lives, we can decide whether or not having kids is the right choice for us. Hill agreed, telling me, "I've always said, 'I'm good if we do and I'm good if we don't.' If two years down the road we decide we want one, that's fine. I don't know why people feel like it's their place to push people into having kids. Mind your own business. If you want to have kids, that's fine, have at it."

Be sensitive

This is probably the most important thing I want you to know, whether you're reading this because you don't personally want kids or because you're trying to understand how a woman could possibly make that decision. Having kids, not wanting to have kids, and not being able to have kids are all very personal. Just as offensive as it is to tell someone that they should want to have kids and that they're selfish for not having them, it's equally offensive to say that having kids is the wrong choice or to assume that someone who doesn't have kids doesn't want them. Frankly, someone's family planning is none of your business unless you're one of the people directly involved. It can be really hurtful to even ask someone if they're planning to have kids, a point my friend Michelle illustrated well.

"I know how tough it is — sometimes I feel the urge to ask [whether people plan to have kids] when talking to acquaintances or casual friends as a means to make small talk, and I have to stop myself," she said. "There are so many reasons why someone may or may not choose to have kids and unless someone brings it up themselves, it's really insensitive and poor manners to ask." She went on to tell me about a particularly difficult situation she saw unfold. "I awkwardly overheard a coworker explain to an acquaintance that he and his wife in fact did want kids but were having reproductive issues. You could tell he felt cornered and did not want to have that conversation with that person, and my heart went out to him."

While you may have the best of intentions in asking someone whether they're planning to or trying to have kids, remember that the answer may not always be easy or straightforward. What's right for one person or one couple isn't necessarily right for another. Whether you choose to and are able to have biological children, choose not to have children at all, or choose to adopt, the choice is entirely up to you.

Don't let someone else make you feel bad or less-than, regardless of your choice.