by childfree author Nina Jervis
“I honestly don’t know what I did with my days before I had children,” mused a work colleague recently.
“You’re so lucky to have all that extra time,” she continued, eyes gleaming with envy. Once you finish work, that’s it. You get to do whatever you like!”
As a childfree woman, people often make the same basic assumption about my life. I must have an inexhaustible supply of minutes and hours to do nothing with, and the world must be my oyster.
People also often assume that raising children is the only time-consuming commitment on the planet. To them, it wouldn’t matter what I do when I finish work; if it does not involve caring for my own children, then it doesn’t count.
I’m never sure how I should respond to assumptions like these. If I politely list the many adult-sized duties that take up “all that extra time”, I’ll sound like I’m protesting too much. But if I smile and say nothing, am I confirming that childfree women spend our days in a hedonistic, carefree whirl?
In my experience, if you don’t have children, you must work harder to justify how you use your time. Particularly if you chose not having children. From the conversations I’ve had with friends, acquaintances, and even complete strangers on occasion, I find that some people think of being childfree as a selfish decision that involves opting out of ‘normal’ society, not just motherhood. After all, if you don’t want children, why would you care about making the world a better place for anybody else to live, now or in the future?
Happily, a wealth of inspirational global examples clearly show that one can have a childfree life and spend “all that extra time” doing good, often selfless, deeds. I don’t have to look far to find them. One of my close friends manages a children’s day nursery, as well as being the sole carer for her elderly parents, while another spends her weekends volunteering at a local animal shelter.
Plenty of higher-profile women without children, past and present, have lived inspirational lives. Examples include Rosa Parks, the famed civil rights activist (she is often referred to as “the mother of the freedom movement”) and Angela Merkel, the first female chancellor of Germany, and one of the most powerful women in the world. Others in the world of art and literature that left enduring legacies include Jane Austen, Hilary Mantel, and the Brontë sisters, to name but a few.
Recognising and celebrating the many inspiring ways in which childfree people choose to spend “all that extra time” is part of what makes International Childfree Day such an important event.
And you can celebrate the childfree heroes in your life by nominating them for the Childfree Person or Group of the Year!
Nina Jervis is a freelance writer and a non-mother from Essex, England. She is the author of I’d Rather Get a Cat and Save the Planet: Conversations with Child-Free Women (2020). Learn more about Nina and her work here.