It’s Fine if You’re Child-Free, but Don’t Expect the World To Be

More adults are choosing not to have kids, but is the growing popularity of child-free zones a sign that we're all just becoming more selfish?

Child in a bad mood at a restaurant, surrounded by adults

Social media has always been a place filled with unnecessary opinions but in the last few years, it has become a haven of hate towards children and their parents. Pregnancy announcements on YouTube have been marred by insensitive trolls brandishing moms-to-be as “selfish” and “inconsiderate” for bringing a baby into the world. A woman on TikTok called for an adult-only suburb to be created, undisturbed by children. Child-free weddings are now being hailed as the new normal. More recently, an airline passenger left his sensibility at the boarding gate when he became enraged about a baby crying on a plane. Ironically, the plane had to be rerouted because of his intense child-like tantrum.

If you take a quick scroll through Twitter, TikTok, or Reddit, you’ll find that children are now synonymous with the words “unpleasant,” “burden,” and “unnecessary” while their parents are labeled “selfish”, “lazy,” and “inconsiderate.” Parents are degraded as “breeders” akin to monsters birthing monsters. “I just don’t like kids” and “I hate children” are trendy phrases casually being flung around and glorified. It seems as though our society has become considerably more intolerant of children, and it all reeks of bad vibes.

There was a time when families were deemed as one of the core building blocks that form society. The idea of family was valued and aspired to, and there was a collective understanding that the role of a family was to nurture and develop their children to become contributing members of society in the future. However, the desirability of the idea of family has diminished, and so too has that of community and social values. While the former isn’t entirely an issue, the latter seems to have resulted in people losing sight of communal compassion and tolerance.

It shouldn’t come as a shock that birthrates have dropped drastically. A recent report by the National Center for Health Statistics revealed that Americans are having fewer babies. The report found that “the number of births declined steadily during 2007–2013, increased slightly in 2014, and decreased again from 2015 to 2019.” Other statistics reveal that in the 20 years prior to the 2008 recession, on average the total fertility rate was 2.02 children per woman but this number fell to 1.66 in 2021. Low birth rates could explain all the hostility towards children. A 1988 study highlighted that a more favorable attitude toward children is likely related to a more favorable attitude toward having and raising children.

There are very clear and logical reasons why birth rates are decreasing, and affordability is a big component. Wages aren’t keeping pace with inflation, housing affordability is a major issue meaning that homeownership is out of reach for many, and broadly speaking, kids are costly—in 2015, the average cost of raising a child was just under $235,000.

Aside from economic insecurity, there’s also a substantial social and cultural perspective to consider. The general thinking among under-35s is that not having kids is contrarian and “quirky.” Then there’s the collective "doomsday" virtue that not having children is inherently good because having them only contributes to climate change and overpopulation. According to research, people are also no longer willing to sacrifice their personal autonomy for a system that relies on a consistent birthrate to function. People simply don’t want responsibilities anymore—even long-term relationships seem to be anxiety-inducing.

While valid, these issues are all synonymous with a lack of desire to have kids, and it appears to be translating into antipathy towards the existence and presence of them in general. This modern outlook on life has also consequently produced an overly critical and significantly more impatient population with an unhealthy phobia of inconveniences, with little regard for others. It doesn’t help that the U.S. has developed a strong individualist and "do it yourself" attitude that draws away from the social collectivism that places value in the reciprocity of responsibility and cooperation. Coexisting is a fading concept and sadly embracing other humans, especially the little ones, is a bare minimum that many adults can no longer muster.

Funnily enough, it’s not just child-free people revealing their disdain for children. There are some parents who are impatient with other people’s children, their empathy waning as they criticize kids in public spaces and judge their parents harshly. There’s an unrealistic expectation for parents to wave a magic wand that will force their children to instantly conform, but in reality, children can’t be programmed into obedience. Instead of placing judgment on parents (who likely already feel bad for their child’s public outbursts and disturbances), exercising thoughtfulness should be normalized. It’s not necessary to make parents feel unwelcome.

And it’s not just the U.S. Take South Korea, for example, where kids are outright being banned from cafes, eateries, and public facilities, as to avoid inconveniencing other patrons. It's gotten so bad that South Korean politician, Yong Hye-in, had to publicly address and criticize the growing exclusionary practice of “no kid zones.” Again, this rising intolerance for children is heavily linked to the country’s incredibly low birth rate.

Blaming parents for “not parenting” and expecting them to remove themselves and their children from public spaces, for your own comfort and pleasure, is nothing short of prejudicial and selfish.

If you don’t want to be kind for the sake of others, be kind for yourself. Acts of kindness can improve your mental health. Patience can be linked to good health whereas people who are impatience and irritable—a characteristic of the Type A personality—tend to have more health complaints. In a nutshell, being kind is good for you and it will cost you nothing.

While you’re perfectly entitled to be child-free, please don’t expect the world to be child-free. Children should be allowed to exist in public and act their age without being chastised. If you struggle to share spaces with those different from you, especially kids (who are the most vulnerable members of our society), this simply reflects poorly on your capacity to function as an adult. Please remember, public spaces don’t belong to you—they’re for everyone. Even the little ones.

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  1. Martinez GM, Daniels K. Fertility of men and women aged 15–49 in the United States: National Survey of Family Growth, 2015–2019. National Health Statistics Reports; no 179. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2023. DOI: 10.15620/cdc:122080

  2. Rowland L, Curry OS. A range of kindness activities boost happiness. J Soc Psychol. 2019;159(3):340-343. doi: 10.1080/00224545.2018.1469461. Epub 2018 May 15. PMID: 29702043.

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