There are few decisions more freely commented on by friends and family than a woman's decision not to have children.
From probing questions like, "Aren't you worried there'll be no one to look after you when you're old?" to comments such as, "You'll change your mind when you meet the right man," something about choosing to be childfree truly confuses people. While having kids remains the cultural norm, researchers say that social pressures to have children have appeared to decline.
A 2010 Pew Research study reported that childlessness has increased across all demographics, with the fertility rate declining nine percent between 2007 and 2011. Compared to the one in 10 women who remained childfree in the 1970s, today one-fifth of American women do not have children. Although the Pew Report didn't specify if the reasons behind these women being childfree, a 2002 National Survey Of Family Growth found that among women between the ages of 40 and 44 there were equal numbers of women who were childfree by choice and those who wanted children but couldn't have them.
Raising children is a lifetime of work, filled with a lot of stress and expenses. And while being a parent is an undeniably wonderful and life-changing experience -- it's not for everyone, and that's OK. From having the freedom to travel to actually putting a substantial chunk of money into a retirement plan, life without kids allows for a multitude of experiences that are much harder to come by when you're raising little humans.
Here are 19 perks of being childfree:
1. You leave a smaller carbon footprint. For every child a woman bears, her lifetime emissions increase 5.7 times. That's a lot of diapers.
2. You can fly on a plane and rest assured no one will give you dirty looks for bringing a crying baby on board.
3. You never have to watch Nickelodeon against your will.
4. You can have nice things. Whether it's a nice necklace, a newly dry-cleaned shirt or even a document as important as your passport, you don't need to worry about a baby ruining it.
5. You can swear as much as you want. F**k it, you don't have kids.
6. You don't have to get up at 6 a.m. on Christmas morning. (Or any morning unless it's for your own professional or personal reasons.)
7. You can go to the bathroom with the door closed and it won't open unless it's the dog.
8. You never have to go into Forever21. Unless you decide you really want that $5.99 freakum dress or sweet statement necklace. But there's no greater hell than being dragged into Forever21 by a teenager who wants new clothing.
9. You are less stressed. A December 2013 study published by Princeton University and Stony Brook University surveyed 1.8 million Americans (including parents between the ages of 34 and 46). While the report found "very little difference" between the life satisfaction of child free people and parents, it did find that parents tend to experience more highs and lows. As co-author of the study Arthur Stone told CNN, "[Parents] have higher highs. They have more joy in their lives, but also they have more stress and negative emotions as well."
10. You have more freedom to pursue professional goals. You don't need to find a babysitter or race to daycare if you have to stay late at the office or go away for a last-minute business trip.
11. You can go to the movies whenever you want. Nothing better than sitting in a dark theatre with a big tub of popcorn on a random Wednesday night.
12. You have no obligation to sit through a four-hour dance recital or play. In the wise words of Louis CK: “There is no more joyful feeling in the human experience than when a child’s play is over. It’s just, nothing feels that good. When you can say, ‘I am not watching that any longer.’ Every second my daughter is on stage I can’t breathe because I’m so proud of her but this is a bad show. They worked really hard and it didn’t make it good."
13. You can decide to go away for the weekend on a Friday morning. No babysitter? No problem.
14. You can spend quality time in the evening binge-watching Scandal instead of putting your child to bed.
15. You have more of a disposable income. The cost of raising a child is around $240,000 these days. Now multiply that by the amount of kids you want and you may stay happily child-free forever.
16. You never have to say "potty." Ever.
17. You never have to go to Disneyland as an adult. Unless, of course, you want to. In that case, more power to you and your time with Mickey.
18. You don't need to bring a 30-pound bag of snacks, toys and iGadgets wherever you go.
19. You get to be the cool aunt/uncle/godparent to your friends' kids. And at the end of the day, when you're done playing with them, you get to give them back.