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Child free and loving it

By Shelly Horton

Women with drive who have children need to carefully manage priorities. While we wouldn’t swap our children for a child-free life, there are times when we wonder what it would be like. One of the women important to the launch of woman with drive is Shelly Horton –  Editor at Large of Life&Style at the Sydney Morning Herald, and she says having no children is fantastic!

In a recently published article titled No Baby on Board, Shelly explained why she does not have children, and why so many people have a problem with that. Here is an excerpt from her article.

No Baby on Board

by Shelly Horton

Are you too selfish to be a mother? Do you hate kids? You’ll change your mind. Won’t you be lonely when you’re older? You just haven’t met the right guy. Are you one of those career-obsessed women? Should you freeze your eggs in case? Don’t you love me enough to have a child with me? Your mother must be so disappointed. Do you love your sleep-ins more than loving a child?

All of the words above have been uttered to me from a variety of people. Some I shrug off, but others are like lemon juice in a paper cut. And people feel they have the right to say these things to me simply because of my choice not to have children. 

A recent study called “Childlessness in Australia”, undertaken by Dr Bronwyn Harman, lecturer in the school of psychology and social science at Perth’s Edith Cowan University, looked at why people choose to not have children. Of the 330 people surveyed, 250 were child-free and 80 childless. Focusing on the child-free, Harman found that the main reason they chose to not have children is that they didn’t feel maternal or paternal. This was followed by thinking that it would ruin their lifestyle or career. Only six per cent actively disliked children.

Celebrities who speak about it are far and few between. Recently, Dame Helen Mirren spoke about being child-free, telling Vogue UK, “Motherhood holds no interest for me. I have no maternal instinct whatsoever.” Australian singer-songwriter Ricki-Lee Coulter told the media recently: “The entertainment industry is not really the climate or environment to raise a kid in. Plus, it’s not something I desire.”

I can hear the tut-tutting now. “Oh my god, she’s so selfish.” No, she’s just made a choice. When a child-free woman is called selfish, it’s the mother of all insults.

“In my research, the one thing I hear more than anything else is that most people judge the child-free and immediately call them selfish,” says Harman, who has three children herself. “I believe some parents are envious of the child-free.”

Wait, what? If they are jealous of our child-free lifestyles, then why are so many hell-bent on convincing us to pop out a littlie? “The reaction from parents is that raising a child is full-time, stressful and hard work,” Harman says. “But it’s rewarding work. No parent said they would change back, but there is a feeling of envy, even if it is fleeting.”

Anne Hollonds is a psychologist and mother of two children. “I’ve always questioned why people who choose not to have children are considered selfish. There’s a large part of having children that is selfish. ‘Because I wanted it for me.’ ‘It was something I had always dreamt about.’ You have to own the fact there is an element of selfishness there.”

Gillian Guthrie, author of the 2012 book Childless, explains the chasm in understanding that can occur between the haves and the have-nots. “The perception is that we’re not tied down, we don’t have real, nurturing feelings, we’re not prepared to make the sacrifices mums and dads have to make … we’re ambitious and self-seeking,” she says. “Now, I might be jealous of my colleague who has kids and who has to leave work early and arrive late when I’m expected to work through.

“It may well be that mothers and fathers find it hard to understand the lives we, the childless/child-free, lead, just as it’s often hard for us to imagine what incessant family life is like. It’s easy to be hostile to what you don’t understand.”
For the full version of Shelly’s article. visit:

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