International Childfree Day and the Rise of the Childfree Lifestyle

July 29, 2019

“So, when are you going to settle down and have kids?”

Increasingly, that question, often asked of newlyweds and older singles, may be shot down with “never.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. fertility rate has been in a decline for more than a decade. The rate hit an all-time low 59 births per 1,000 women last year. When women do decide to raise families, they’re only raising 1.73 children, which is well below the population replacement level of 2.08 births.

Bradley counseling professor Lori Russell-Chapin points to myriad reasons for this trend. She suggests economics could be a factor, as well as family dynamics with two working parents in households and people waiting longer to have children. In addition, she pointed to younger, socially conscious adults who see both the harmful effects of humans on the planet and opportunities to devote themselves to helping the world.

“People who are childfree often choose to give back in big ways,” she said. “They can have healthier lifestyles and devote more time to church, missions, foundations, board and so many other things.”

These issues touch Russell-Chapin, who also is a private practice counselor, at a personal level. As a young adult, she wanted to have children but she and her husband struggled with infertility. They initially decided to be childfree, but eventually decided to adopt two children.

Throughout these decisions, the couple frequently asked themselves “Why?” — and it’s the same question she asks young couples in counseling.

“Why do they want to be parents?” Russell-Chapin said. “If it’s just because they want to pass on their genes, it may not be good enough because parenting is an enormous responsibility that requires selflessness. It has to be a financial, sociological and physical decision that both partners have to make."

In addition to asking tough questions, she encourages childfree couples to develop responses to others’ prying questions about future children.

“If they’re struggling to have a baby or don’t want to have one, have a comeback,” Russell-Chapin said. “They have to come up with a mantra so they’re not put on the spot.”

For childfree couples wanting to celebrate their lifestyle, they can enjoy International Childfree Day August 1. Started in 1973 by the National Alliance for Optional Parenthood, the day honors people taking advantage of their lifestyle choice to be childfree and make a positive difference in their society.