Writer's note: All interviewees aim to contribute to a conversation where everybody feels respected, and they understand there is a joy in both motherhood and living without children.
There’s a conversation being had, and it’s on the topic of being childfree. With the hashtag rife on social media, there is a new visibility for those sharing their choice not to have children.
In its latest report, Stats NZ found that the total fertility rate in New Zealand is decreasing. Fewer women in their twenties are having babies, and more women in their 30s are becoming mums. Overall, it found women are having fewer children than ever before. But, Stats NZ predicts that by 2038, almost a quarter of a million couples will be living childfree.
Although society is still perpetuated by the narrative of a house and kids, many are now asking how viable raising children is in the present day. Some cannot have children due to chronic illnesses, and others have simply no desire to have them at all.
I opened the conversation with women and men from Aotearoa and beyond who are considering or have decided to be childfree. This article explores their unapologetic ‘why’, and why others seem to have a problem with it.
Jessie Gurunathan is 38. She and her partner live in Hamilton with their dog. Their dog, which they love very much, has its own Posturepedic bed. Their eleven years together has been filled with a lot of travel, both solo and together, and currently, Jessie has been channelling her focus into writing, content creating and launching her own skincare brand. She also has stage four endometriosis.
Endometriosis is a chronic illness that affects 1 in 10 women in New Zealand. Stage four comes with a myriad of complications, and challenges with fertility is included. But for Jessie, children were never quite a part of the conversation. It’s only now that she and her partner are considering it, and even then, Jessie says she doesn’t know.
Preparing her body for potential IVF, Jessie is considering freezing her embryos – “almost as an insurance policy”. But although she says her fertility journey has helped her find endometriosis, when she sees her friends and family having a bad day with the kids, she’s unsure if she wants to start a family. One reason is because of current society.
“How viable is it to have children now? Like, from a practical standpoint, what kind of quality of life will you have? And what kind of quality of life can you offer a child when there’s all these outside circumstances that are making it feel more and more bleak and overwhelming?”
There are still a lot of questions, but one thing Jessie knows for sure is that she has a good life.
“I do like the idea of just having one child, maybe having a mini-me of me and Adam combined. I know we would be good parents, and I see the joy that children bring, and I love being an auntie, I absolutely love it. I’m good with children,” she says. “But I’m also unashamedly selfish and like the things my lifestyle affords me without that responsibility.”
She says her act of defiance is living life unapologetically, but her approach to conversations with parents is creating a space that feels safe for everybody.