By Chelsey Wren  

At a very young age, I knew I didn’t want to become a mother. An old family video shows five-year-old me declaring that I never wanted to have kids or get pregnant.

Before I even truly understood the ramifications of motherhood, I knew it wouldn’t be the right choice for me. Yet decades later, I’m still questioned by others about this deeply personal decision.

Societal pressure to have children

In my mid-20s, I felt intense societal pressure to become a mother. I was of child-bearing age, in a steady relationship and had a career. My friends were beginning to have babies, and people wanted to know when I was going to start my own family. The words, “I’m not having children” almost always set off a volley of questions. It seemed as if my decision not to have children was somehow insulting to others.

Worse than the questions were the snide remarks or laughter. I was repeatedly told that I would “change my mind” or that I was “making the wrong decision.” Often, these comments came from the most unexpected people. My dental hygienist looked at me in shock and asked, “Really? Never? You’re never having children?!” A new colleague told me I was too young to know what I did or didn’t want. A nail technician was so insistent that I have children that I finally stopped going to her shop. (Her reasoning? I was letting down the entire country by not making new Canadians.)

Creating a space for people like me

Having reached my late 20s without meeting another soul that didn’t want children, I finally went in search of others like me online. I just wanted validation that I wasn’t the only woman in the world who didn’t want to become a mother. But I wasn’t able to find any communities that spoke to me — a young, educated, childfree woman.

So I created that space. I procured a loan through Futurpreneur Canada, and then created a website and online community, naming it Childfree is Not a Dirty Word to describe the way people had reacted to my choice. The community quickly became a haven for other childfree people around the world and is now more than 40,000 members strong.

As a Canadian, I’m lucky to be able to share my story with people from around the world,  especially people living in places that are far less accepting of a childfree or even childless-by-chance life. Here in Canada, I may get quizzical looks or questions about my choice, but ultimately, I’m free to choose the life that’s right for me. In other countries, people talk about losing their jobs, being left by their partners, getting shunned by their families and being cast out of their communities because they don’t have children.

Childfree living is becoming more popular in Canada

According to a report from Statistics Canada, based on results from the 2016 Canadian Census, “proportionally fewer households are composed of a ‘mom, dad and kids’ family,” and more Canadians are living alone or as part of a couple without any children.

“From 2011 to 2016, the number of couples living without children rose faster (+7.2%) than the number of couples with children (+2.3%),” the report adds. “As a result, the share of couples living with at least one child fell from 56.7% in 2001 to 51.1% in 2016.” This is the lowest level on record.

Few opportunities to tell our story in mainstream media

Despite the increasing number of people deciding to forgo parenthood, our lives are still mysteriously absent from mainstream media. A few sitcoms, including The Big Bang Theory, have developed a strong, childfree female character only to have the character change her mind, reinforcing the stereotype that no woman can be truly happy without children. This subliminal messaging, while irritating for the childfree, can be heartbreaking for the childless, people who wanted children but were unable to become parents.

A deeper examination of the childfree choice will be presented to Canadians in To Kid or Not to Kid, a documentary presented by The Passionate Eye. The film follows Maxine Trump, a filmmaker, as she decides whether she wants to have children. To Kid or Not to Kid confronts the notions that living childfree is somehow wrong, strange or selfish, and delves into why this choice is often mischaracterized — or considered too taboo to talk about at all.

Watch To Kid or Not to Kid on The Passionate Eye.