When she's not working as an urban analyst, Taylor Schenker teaches an intro design course to grad students. She also has a side gig designing graphics. In her free time, she works out, listens to lectures at local colleges, volunteers at an environmental non-profit, fosters puppies, tries out new recipes, and hikes Kilimanjaro.
It's a sign of economic progress, signaling a rise in individualism and women's autonomy.
It's a life she wouldn't be able to live if she had to care for small children, the Charleston-based 25-year-old told Insider.
"I came to the conclusion that I likely don't want children slowly and then kind of all at once," she said. Having always played the "mom" role in her friend group, she assumed she'd become a real one someday. But over the years she became more passionate about her career and watched mentors struggle to balance work and family.
"It doesn't seem like fun for anyone," she said, adding that the household chores women still bear the brunt of in modern-day society and the emotional labor of managing a family were just as off-putting. "I can't imagine doing that and raising children while maintaining some sense of self."
A growing number of Americans like Schenker have lost interest in becoming a parent. In a November Pew Research Center survey of 3,800-plus Americans, 44% of non-parents said it's not too likely or not likely at all they'll have kids someday — up by 7% percentage points from the 37% of that group who said the same in 2018.
Pew says there's no sole driving force behind the uptick in Americans eschewing childbearing. Childcare costs hitting nearly $10,000 a year, childbearing-aged women growing up in a generation blighted by the economy, and a pandemic might all have something to do with it. Some Pew respondents alluded to these factors as the reason behind their decision. But 56% said they simply "just don't want to have children."
Eight women in their 20s, 30s and 40s spoke to Insider about their decision to be child-free. For many, it was an easy decision that often came down to a gut feeling and the common refrain that they love their life the way it is, having found fulfillment in other pursuits like careers and travel. They want to maintain the freedom that enables them to follow their passions.
Schenker said that even with the best parenting, it's a gamble how kids will turn out. She'd rather focus her quality of life on hard work, travel, and retiring early to pursue her passions. "I have fun enjoying my life," she said.
For some women, a career is their baby
Pew's study came after the much-maligned pandemic baby bust, in which the US birth rate fell by 4% from 2019 to 2020, the sharpest single-year decline in nearly 50 years and the lowest number of births since 1979. The falling birth rate has put the US in line with worldwide trends among high- and middle-income countries like Spain, Norway, and Greece as women postpone having kids until later ages.
It's a sign of economic progress, signaling a rise in individualism and women's autonomy. A new world of opportunities has made millennial women about four times as likely as women from the Silent generation to have a bachelor's degree. The more educated a woman gets, the more likely she is to postpone having a child until her 30s — or to never have a child at all.
That's what Jennifer Mathieu, 40, has known she's wanted since age 11 when she told herself "I will not have children and will live the life that I want," she told Insider.