by Nina Jervis
“People who do nothing must make people, and the rest of us must fill their lives with happiness and enlightenment.”
I read this quote years ago in a Tolstoy novel. While I don’t believe that people-makers “do nothing,” these words offer a refreshing perspective on the way I’ve chosen to live my life. Usually it’s childfree people who are depicted as doing nothing – or at least, doing nothing to help society. You know – we’re the selfish ones who take long holidays, stay in bed until noon on the weekend, go on expensive shopping sprees, and live only for today, aren’t we?
We also only tend to hear about inspirational childfree people when they’ve done something remarkable. Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron are childfree world leaders. Jane Austen, Hilary Mantel, and the Brontë sisters are all celebrated authors who didn’t have kids.
But what about all those unsung childfree heroes – the ones who commit caring and selfless acts all the time that we don’t hear about?
I spent a year collecting these childfree stories for my light-hearted book that celebrates women who decided not to procreate. In doing this, I met childfree women who care deeply about the future by not wanting to overpopulate a crowded world.
I also met childfree women who care for other people’s children, without (gasp!) any biological attachment to them whatsoever. Some of them taught in schools, while others had stepped in to care for children who, for different reasons, were lacking in parental guidance and support. One worked a police officer who dedicated her working life to protecting abused children. Another worked as the voluntary daily carer for her 99-year-old next-door neighbour.
According to “In Defence of the Childless”, a 2017 leader article published in The Economist, “the mere fact of not having children raises the amount a person leaves to charity by a little over $10,000”. In addition to donating more, the article also indicates that non-parents are more likely to set up charitable foundations than people with children.
Stories and articles like these shine light on the fact that not having children can be as useful for the future and our environment as having them. There are many other ways to leave a lasting, caring legacy than by simply having children.
I’m not criticising parents – far from it – and neither am I trying to promote my lifestyle as the ‘best’ choice (though for me, it is). I just believe that there’s a place in the world for all of us, parents and non-parents alike, and that we should celebrate the everyday achievements of parents and childfree people.
That’s what makes International Childfree Day such a fantastic event. Who are unsung childfree heroes in your life? Celebrate him/her/them (or you!) by nominating for the Childfree Person/Group of the Year!
Nina Jervis is a freelance writer and a non-mother from Essex, England. Her most recent book, I’d Rather Get a Cat and Save the Planet: Conversations with Child-Free Women was published in March 2020.