Childless by Choice: Why Some Americans Pass on Parenthood

Why some Americans pass on parenthood.

ByABC News
June 18, 2012, 1:47 PM

June 19, 2012— -- Shannon Chamberlain doesn't want kids, but most people think she'll get over it.

"They keep telling me I'll change my mind," said 29-year-old Chamberlain from Alameda, Calif. "Or they assume you're infertile. At least that staves off the questions!"

Chamberlain, who's currently pursuing a PhD in English literature at Berkeley, insists her decision to forgo parenthood is both voluntary and final. And she's not alone. One in seven non-parents of childbearing age is childless by choice, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"I have a great life," said Chamberlain, who enjoys exotic trips and lazy Saturdays with her husband. "Adding something else into the mix could make things worse. I suppose it could also make things better, but that's not really a chance I'm willing to take."

Chamberlain defended her stance on spawn in an essay for Slate magazine, writing, "Having kids is making a decision to live a life with strollers, diaper bags, breast pumps, sleep deprivation, and the withering looks from strangers like me, who wonder why you thought it was a good idea to bring your toddler to a Victorian painting exhibit."

It sounds selfish, Chamberlain admits.

"But I do care about myself, and I know I wouldn't be a good parent if I was unhappy," she said, describing the thought of attachment parenting as her "own personal nightmare."

Birth rates are declining, according to the CDC, as more Americans put parenthood on hold in uncertain economic times. But a relatively stable 6 percent of U.S. adults decide to skip kids for reasons beyond their estimated $234,000 per head price tag.

Heather Gentry, 26, said she chooses to be childless because kids are like parasites.

"To have my body distorted beyond recognition for an alien-looking creature to live there for nine or 10 months and use up my food and energy storage? To have doctors poke and prod at my most private places because that's where it'll be born? Then, to be free of the creature on the inside, but to have to care for it for years and years, while it eats my food, lives in my house, and takes up my energy?" she wrote in her essay for Slate. "No, thank you, I will not have kids/parasites for reasons that will probably insult you."

Gentry, who lives in Summerville, Ga., said she knew her kid-parasite comparison would be controversial.

"It's kind of a hot-button issue. Mamas love their sweet little babies," she said. "I don't have anything against them; I just don't feel like I can do it. I'm kind of glad there are people like them and people like me."

The opposing views provide a necessary balance, Gentry argued in her essay.

"If I can suffer through your alien ultrasound photo on Facebook or grin at your crying kids without vomiting, then you can be grateful that women like me will always be around to organize an occasional girl's night out and to keep the population in check."