Why Lots Of Americans Are Not Having Kids

When Having Kids Just Isn’t In The Plan

November 30, 2021 Updated November 29, 2021

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Not having kids was never an option for me. I’ve always wanted to be pregnant — but I became a mother well before I got pregnant when I adopted my son. I was called to be his mother; it was something I felt deep in my soul as necessary to take on, to be responsible for him.

But that’s not the case for more and more Americans. In a recent study conducted by the Pew Research Center, 56% of childless adults aged 18-49 say they will never have kids. Indeed, there are many reasons why Americans are choosing not to have kids — medical and financial reasons top their list. The pandemic has changed many things for the world, including the once ever-increasing birth rate.

Even before the pandemic, in the United States, the birth rate was on a steady decline, and has been since the Great Recession in 2008. In 2019, for people between the ages of 15-44, there were 58.3 births for every 1,000 women — down 1% from the year prior. 

Finances can be tight. Bills can grow. It makes sense to me why people would choose to not have children.

Maya Gottfried, a 49-year-old who lives in New York, told Scary Mommy about why she chooses not to have kids. She says, “I knew when I was pretty young, as a teenager, that I didn’t want to have children. Then while in college I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and started taking medication for that. I couldn’t safely be pregnant while on the medication, and I never had a deep drive to have children. It never made sense to risk mania to have kids when I didn’t have that intense longing to be a mother that so many of my friends had. I had also heard, over and over, people talking about their horrible experiences having a mother with a mental illness. All the stars aligned: the mental illness, the medication, the lack of desire. It just didn’t make sense for me to have children. One of my fallopian tubes was also damaged as a result of cancer surgery. Ultimately, I figured that it was best to let the people who wanted children so badly be the ones to have children. I love children and entertaining children, and that’s why I write children’s books. I just don’t think that I’m the right person to raise my children. I prefer to be the cool aunt.”

For Jess, a 43-year-old lesbian, deciding not to have kids was something she always knew. She shares with Scary Mommy, “I never wanted kids, as long as I can remember. I always wanted to travel and to make some sort of the dramatic change in the world. I did a lot of babysitting as a young teen and it looked to me like parenting was more than a full-time job. It was an identity. These parents were absorbed in being a mom and a dad. While I have always thought that parenting is an amazing job, I also think you have to fully want it. I didn’t see that as in line with my vision for myself.” Jess is 100% right — people can’t be wishy-washy about wanting to be a parent. 

I have three kids, and with my first (and only) pregnancy, I got lucky with twins. But my wife and I weren’t expecting them. We prayed for a healthy baby and God gave us two. Overnight, we went from being responsible for one kid to being responsible for three. And they are costly little beings. n 2015, when our daughters were born, a survey conducted by Consumer Expenditures, reported that a two-parent, middle-income household who made between $57,000 to $107,000 annually would spend almost $13,000 per kid each year.

To add up all of the necessities a kid needs from birth through age 17, ranging from shelter to food to diapers, it would cost over $200,000 per child. That’s a number that even makes me not want to have any more kids (well, that and my hysterectomy).

Kids can also be a strain on one’s marriage or relationship — in an 8-year study, researchers found that the rate of relationship satisfaction declined almost twice as fast for couples with kids. And let’s be honest, not everyone is meant to be a parent. I can appreciate those who can admit that to themselves in the first place. 

Parenthood is a lifelong gig. There are no sick days. There are no do-overs. There is not even a job description or a guidebook. You learn on the job, on days when you’re exhausted, have but a few dollars in the bank, and no dinner prospects on the horizon. 

Whatever the reason anyone chooses to have (or not have) a kid is entirely their business. I respect every single one of them. Jess and Maya are just two examples of when you know, you just know that having kids is not for you. I knew that having kids was what I wanted for my life plan. I also know that others choose differently, and that is perfect for them, whatever the reason.