With increasing frequency, modern women refuse to give birth. According to results of social and demographic researches by Ptukha Demography Institute, almost half a million of Ukrainians do not want to have children, and only 17% of women do not give birth due to health problems. Others are limited by economic instability or follow personal philosophy. Demographists believe that free choice on reproduction issue and liberalization of this sphere affects the birth rate in Ukraine. One of the most popular trends of our times is deliberate refusal to have children, presented by ideology "childfree".

From history to modern ages

"Childfree" ideology is rooted in the demographic theory of Thomas Malthus, a British scholar, influential in political economy and demography. According to his theory, the population growth rate exceeds the rate of food production, and sooner or later population gets checked by famine and disease. "The power of population is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man," he wrote in his An Essay on the Principle of Population. Among proposed solutions Malthus named postponement of marriage and celibacy, while his followers, neo-Malthusianists, proposed safe contraception and birth control. Followers of the "antinatalism" philosophical position assigns a negative value to birth and assert that antinatalist policies could solve problems such as overpopulation, famine and depletion of non-renewable resources.

The term was coined in the English language late in the 20th century and is used to describe people who have made a personal decision not to have children. The meaning of the term childfree distinguishes it from the more usual term "childless", which is traditionally used to express the idea of having no children, whether by choice or by circumstance. The National Organization for Non-Parents, established by Ellen Peck and Shirley Radl in 1972, was formed to advance the notion that people could choose not to have children--to be childfree. According to its bylaws, the purpose of the National Alliance for Optional Parenthood was to educate the public on non-parenthood as a valid lifestyle option, support those who choose not to have children, promote awareness of the overpopulation problem, and assist other groups that advanced the goals of the organization.

The ideology became especially popular in 1990s, when a school teacher Leslie Lafayette formed a later childfree group, the Childfree Network. The organization does not recognize procreation as an obligation of every woman and fights for legalization of abortions and sterilization.

In 2004 the childfree movement arrived in Russia and Ukraine, which manifested in theme-related internet-communities, forums and blogs. For the moment, Ukrainian followers of the movement do not participate actively in public life, but it is coming. For example, a new expert - childfree consultant, appeared recently in Ukraine. Following special methodology, the consultant helps women to understand whether they should have children.

Western activists of the movement are more active. They demand from the government to abolish social and tax benefits for citizens with children. Moreover, they have already obtained certain privileges for themselves. Thus, there are special hotels where lodgers with children are not allowed. Some museums have special visiting hours for adults only. There are also restaurants, cinemas and even flights where children are not allowed. Some trains have separate cars available for adults only.

People who do not want children have existed since ever. However, childfree families of past epochs were "rich and famous" - writers, philosophers, scientists, actors, while nowadays a typical childfree is an ordinary resident of a big city with average income, who is trying to make career and does not want to spend time on someone else. 

At the same time, two decades ago the society was not welcoming to young families who decided to postpone having children for later and especially to young women who did not fulfill their "duty" before 25 years old. Speaking about ordinary people of past centuries, they never even thought of not having children and maternity was considered a dream of every woman without exceptions. And nobody paid attention to the income level or poor medical assistance.

O tempora! O mores!

ForUm talked to two childfree, who explained their position.

Ivan, 32: "It is not pure ideology, such things happen for historical reasons. First of all, I am a religious man, but secondly, the living standards in our country do not encourage to have children. The matter is not only salary or dwelling, but also education. Children around smoke, drink, have sex at 12 years, abuse drugs. I don't want my children to behave like this. With my ex-partner we wanted to get married and have children, but back then I did not realized that I don't like children. I thought that if you love a woman, children are a natural consequence. My ex-partner had her problems and we separated, and then I realized that she saved me from the burden of parenthood. Then one of my girlfriends once said that the world is terrible and she does not want to bring new life into this world. I thought of her words and understood that it was my position as well. Moreover, I don't want to traumatize a woman - nine months of suffering, then this terrible delivery and gradual wear and tear of woman's body... Anyway, my child will never be mine, but of his generation. He will follow me until certain age and then will start doing what he wants. And what if he starts killing? He will behave freely as our democracy teaches us. If he is a bad child I will teach him what to do and he will hate me, and if he is a good child he will hate the world around. Now the society brings up our children. At three years old they go to kindergarten, and you never know what happens there. Then they start going to school and it is even worse there, let alone university. Intellectual and moral development of a child is not on the table nowadays." 

Angelica, 36: "I don't like children and problems they bring. I don't want to become a mother and change my lifestyle. I've been working so long and so hard to get where I am now. Moreover, I know I would be a bad mother. I tried to bring up my younger sister, but I could not do it without a therapist. My husband wants children sometime later, may be, but for the next 5-10 years we have other plans. We want to move to another country and settle there. Probably we will have to change two or three countries to find the right place. My friends do not have problems with my childfree position. My relatives were concerned at first, but now they have come to terms with it. I welcome western practice regarding hotels or flights for adults only. Firstly, childfree get what they want, which is quietness, and secondly, services for childfree is a new sector for earning money. All sides are happy."

Pleasure for healthy and rich

Someone may consider the childfree philosophy as complete idiocy, while others admit it is not such a bad idea. Why should sick and poor people give birth, deliberately dooming their children to suffering and difficult life? Why would you give birth if you know you will never become a good parent or will give your child to a foster home?

For the past 20 years the population of Ukraine has decreased by seven million people. According to demographists, to improve the situation every Ukrainian woman must give birth to three children minimum. But having three children in our country is mission impossible. According to social researches, the main reasons why Ukrainian families do not want to have children are insufficient material security, dwelling problems, career making, infrastructure problems (not enough kindergartens and schools). Moreover, according to state statistics, women in cities give birth less frequently than in villages. The reasons are obvious - women in cities think first about career, nice house, a husband (preferably with a yacht) and only then about procreation.

In fact, this is the principle difference between the motives of childfree Ukrainians and Europeans. If western childfree families choose to live for entertainment and do not want to take a burden of parenthood, Ukrainian families are simply afraid not to provide decent future for their children.   
Studying the reasons, driving people to become childfree, ForUm asked a psychologist and therapist Mykhailo Frizyuk whether these reasons include mental disorders. 

"Every case is individual and reasons are also individual. One of the main reasons is desire to live one's life in service to one's self. This idea is not new, and it is hardly a mental disorder. Other reasons include fears - fears to have children in general, fears to bring up children, fears to be responsible for someone. Then there is low self-esteem. Such people believe that if they are sick or poorly brought-up, they should not become parents themselves. However, these people choose not the treatment (adaptation and improvement of self-esteem) but childless life in principle. In such cases we can speak about neurotic disorders. Such person wants but cannot, so he makes a conclusion that he does not want."

Fly in the ointment

The main accusation childfree communities face is disrespectful attitude towards families with children. There were cases when users of childfree blogs uploaded ugly photos of children and published rude comments. Last year, for example, a user of "VKontacte" social network Natalia saw a published photo album "We are against giving birth to such degenerates", which contained unfortunate photos of someone's children. She appealed to the Investigative Committee of Russian Federation with a complaint against the childfree and the social network was forced to ban childfree groups.

However, the group was successfully restored some time later. We asked one of the participants of this group, Angelica, to comment on the situation.

"I believe that everyone should do what he or she believes is right. Hating other social groups or communities as well imposing own point of view is not normal for me. Monitoring childfree communities and dialogues between parents and childfree, I've noticed that those with children are the first to insult. Those who call themselves childfree but dare to insult and humiliate other people's choice usually have nothing to do with the movement. True childfree followers are adequate people who have their reasons not to have children. They can logically explain their position and do not impose their point of view. They try to avoid children, but never humiliate families with children. As a rule, childfree people have made successful career, have a good job and a hobby (often an expensive one) and travel a lot."   

Psychologist Mykhailo Frizyuk believes that similar insults are the perversion of the main idea of childfree philosophy.

"Childfree is freedom from children, but it does not mean that children are bad and must be hated and that other people should not have children as well. If childfree people start to impose their ideas on others, we can speak about some disorders connected to anger and soreness. Most probably, such people were traumatized in the past and protect themselves attacking other people, especially children."

Unfortunately, practice proves that any reasonable idea can be inverted, and modern childfree will hardly change the attitude.

By the way, Mykhailo Frizyuk adds that when childfree people meet a good partner, they may change the mind and have children in the future. The more serious problem is when couples want but cannot have children due to various reasons. In such cases, according to the specialist, such communities are really of help.

Anastasia Pika


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