There's a mythical female creature whose sole purpose and meaning in life is derived from her career. She is career hungry! She climbs corporate ladders in a single bound! She tosses people (and babies!) aside as she claws her way to the highest levels of the corporate stratosphere. Her job comes before everything in life. She's like a man in women's clothing - an aggressive, ball-busting, over-achieving, Type A, workaholic. She leaves early in the morning. She stays at work late, burning the midnight oil. Her Blackberry is strapped on like an extra appendage. She gets big promotions and makes big bucks. She drives a BMW and wears designer suits - a true material girl. She is all about getting ahead, so get the hell out of her way! She is the Alpha Female.
She has chosen not to have kids because her job is too important to her. Career comes before everything and while she likes the idea of having a baby, she'd rather have the prestige of a high-level position, an inflated salary, a nice car and clothes. She's worked too hard to get this far and she's not willing to sacrifice or compromise her career, or take a few years out of the workforce to raise children. That would be a big step backwards for her.
The problem with this portrayal of the childfree woman is that it bears little resemblance to reality. Are there childfree women who are intensely career-focused? I am sure there are, just as there are many moms who are intensely career-focused. Are most childfree women Alpha Females whose decision not to have children is purely a refusal to compromise their careers? I don't think so.
In my experience, from my many interactions and interviews with childfree women, the majority have made the decision not to have kids for one or more of the following reasons - most of which have nothing to do with career:
1. She has no maternal instinct or desire to have children, or simply doesn't like kids.
2. She finds the parental lifestyle (and all the burdens associated with it) highly unappealing.
3. She is happy with her life as-is and doesn't want anything coming in and wrecking it.
4. She doesn't want anything to detract from her marriage and other relationships.
5. She has seen what having children has done to her family and friends and wants to spare herself the same awful fate.
6. She enjoys freedom, spontaneity and flexibility in her lifestyle.
7. She has many interests that she does not want to sacrifice.
8. Recreational time is very important to her - time to relax, read, think, dream, vacation, enjoy her time with her partner/spouse and friends.
9. She's done a cost/benefits analysis on having kids and has decided the cost of having kids far outweighs the benefits.
10. She has a low tolerance for stress and chaos.
11. She knows that having children is far too expensive (financially and otherwise).
The idea that all women struggle choosing between motherhood and career (or trying to do both simultaneously) is one that should be put out to pasture.
I am a childfree woman - probably one of the more vocal ones out there - and my decision to be childfree had absolutely nothing to do with career aspirations. Sure, when imagining a life with kids, I contemplated how difficult it would be to balance work and motherhood (since I am not someone who could afford to be a stay-at-home-mom). But that was only one small part of the analysis. Ultimately, my decision to forego the role of mother was about embracing the things in my life that make me truly happy - and relaxed - and fulfilled - and joyful - and spontaneous - and free - and realizing that most (if not all) of those things would go by the wayside the very moment I popped out a child.
In other words, I was simply unwilling to trade a life of:
A happy marriage
A quiet, tranquil household
An abundance of recreation/down time
Positive psychological wellbeing
Full immersion in interests, education and hobbies
Physical and emotional health
A deteriorating marriage
A noisy, stressful, chaotic household
No time to myself
A stressed-out, burned-out psychological state
Loss of friendships
Loss of hobbies, interests, education
Deteriorating physical and emotional health
It's time people stopped assuming that there is only one real reason a woman would opt out of motherhood - that she is a driven, career-starved ladder climber. The truth is, many (if not most) of us have chosen not to have kids for one simple reason:
We believe that parenthood sucks - and we want no part of it.