Introducing The Shift, our new series that explores modern-day attitudes around parenting
Many women are all too familiar with unsolicited opinions about their bodies—and for those in reproductive age range, being childfree can still prompt insensitive questions and even judgments of being selfish or less of a woman.
Scan the headlines, however, and childfree is rapidly becoming a norm. In Singapore, the fertility rate is 1.2 births per woman, in spite of supportive government policies. Hong Kong hit a 40-year low of 0.87 in 2020, and don’t bet on a quick turnaround; according to a survey by the Hong Kong Women Development Association, more than half of women don’t want kids, citing issues such as financial pressures, long work hours and cramped housing.
Sociologist Sandy To agrees that these are major deterrents in Hong Kong and beyond, but also feels that surveys and news reports miss a key consideration: “they need to take into account women who may not want children.”
So we've done some accounting of our own. We spoke to accomplished women, from age 25 to 65, about what being childfree has meant to them. Their inspiring stories suggest the growing number of paths and alternatives to motherhood. As for the naysayers? Malaysian entrepreneur Raudhah Nazran says, “go forth and ignore.”
“I always wanted a partner in life; children were not the reason for having one”
Pat Dwyer, 41, founder and director, The Purpose Business, Hong Kong
I grew up with a single mom who made me believe that I could do anything; that was how she raised me, a “you and me against the world” type of thing. She wanted a child more than she wanted a partner, but I was the reverse.
For a Filipino, I married late at 31, eleven months after meeting Chris. On our first date, I wasn’t going to waste my time. I told him, if you want a family, that’s not me. I knew what I wanted, and he wasn’t driven by children. I found my match on so many levels.
There’s judgment, though: “how dare you not have kids when you’ve been blessed with so much?” I’ve even heard: “oh, I see you have your own business, that’s understandable, but maybe you should have a real job and then consider.” Wow. You’ve insulted all entrepreneurs and all childfree female entrepreneurs. But there are also conversations that have pleasantly surprised me.
Have I been able to do more of my sustainability work because I am childfree? Maybe, one of my peers is doing it with three kids. Because I don’t have that responsibility, I have the headspace to follow my passions, including working with non-profit Enrich to uplift Filipino women. While I love other people’s children, I’m very happy to go home to a childfree house.