20 Reasons Not to Have Kids

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There are few decisions more life-changing than having children. Thankfully, today's would-be parents have more time and more relaxed societal expectations in which to consider the many pros and cons of giving birth, but the choice is still far from straightforward. To counteract all the cultural significance and personal fulfillment that's so often tied to the idea of having children, here are the most well-supported reasons to not have kids.
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After having kids, your life is, quite literally, no longer your own. Married mothers today have 5.4 fewer hours of leisure time per week than they did in 1975, according to recent statistics, and new parents can easily find themselves resenting their offspring for the opportunities they must now miss on their behalf.
Exhausted parents asleep on couch next to awake baby and surrounded by toys
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One of the first things parents must sacrifice for their newborns is often their sleep schedule. Parents are 29 percent more likely than non-parents to report less than six hours of sleep per night, and 28 percent more likely to drink coffee everyday without fail, according to a recent "Parental Status" poll by Civic Science. Long-term sleep deprivation can lead to problems including high blood pressure, depression, weight gain, and impaired critical thinking skills.
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Having a child usually means having less time to focus on exercise, eating right, and other key forms of self-care. Non-parents are 38 percent more likely to exercise at the gym once a week or more, acording to the Civic Science poll, and 73 percent more likely to say they "never" eat at fast food restaurants, which often market directly to children. Parents, in contrast, are 54 percent more likely to smoke cigarettes daily and 10 percent more likely to consider themselves overweight.
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A survey of 1,000 parents found that while 69 percent of women and 67 percent of men reported feeling satisfied with their friendships before having kids, the numbers plunged to 54 and 57 percent respectively afterward. The lack of satisfaction is likely linked to the lack of time parents have to spend with friends.
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Ninety-six percent of women say that a year after giving birth they're "less pleased" with their vaginas than before. Pregnancy can take a toll on more than just the female sex organs, however, as women may experience nausea, fatigue, and weight gain.
Man sitting on the edge of his bed looking upset with wife in the background
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The rumors are true -- having kids does lead to less sex between couples. In the first year after birth, sexual activity drops by more than 40 percent on average, with one quarter of all couples partaking just once a month. This is partially because new fathers experience a drop in testosterone of 33 percent or more the year following a child's birth, making them better caregivers while reducing their aggression and sex drive.
Depressed mom on the floor covering her face next to her crying baby
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The stresses of childrearing can trigger postnatal depression in men and women alike, though the effects are often delayed. A study by the Medical Research Council (MRC) found that 13 percent of new mothers became depressed within a year of giving birth, and 39 percent by the time their child reaches age 12. New fathers suffer less by comparison, with 3% becoming depressed in their child's first year and 21 percent by age 12.
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It's not too surprising then that parenthood typically has a negative effect on marital satisfaction, according to a review of previous studies. The decline in marital satisfaction is most pronounced among parents at younger ages, of high socioeconomic status, or with more children.
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An analysis of children-and-marital satisfaction studies found marital satisfaction declining more sharply for each successive generation of parents. The study suggested this might be because, with many becoming parents later in life, they're more aware of what they're giving up when they have a kid.
Pregnant woman holding a stuffed toy next to her belly
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If you're looking to mitigate the stresses of parenthood by any means necessary, you might consider emigrating to Denmark or another nation with a strong welfare system. These countries produce more children and happier parents, and it's easy to speculate why -- managing children becomes easier with allowances like a year of paid maternity leave, state-subsidized childcare, and universal healthcare.
Working mom with her baby at work
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Mothers in the workplace are presented with fewer opportunities and judged by harsher standards than their childless peers. Employers associate motherhood with less competence and commitment to career, a bias that doesn't extend to male parents, who were actually more likely to be called back when their resumes indicated parenthood.
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The workplace prejudice against mothers also affects pay. While fatherhood often results in a wage increase, motherhood results in a wage penalty, and this gap in compensation has only been widening as the broader gender pay gap shrinks. One study found men earn 6 percent more if they have children, while women earn 4 percent less for every child they have. To make matters more unfair, high-income fathers tend to see the biggest bonus and low-income mothers the worst penalty.
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A 2017 study ranked having children as the most environmentally-destructive act humans are capable of doing. Not having children, in contrast, may be the best and easiest way to reduce one's carbon footprint and fight climate change, as one fewer kid can save an average of 58.6 tonnes of CO2-equivalent emissions per year -- equivalent to the impact of 684 teenagers adopting comprehensive recycling practices for the rest of their lives.
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The ecological (and political) state of the world at present doesn't inspire confidence in the future, and there are valid concerns that today's children will spend much of their lives fleeing and recovering from storms and extreme droughts."
Stressed out Dad doing finances holding his daughter
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Even without college, raising a child still costs an average of $234,000 over 17 years. The expenses multiply with each additional child, so many parents of modest income can struggle to save enough money to support their children's well-being, not to mention their own.
Stressed mom on the couch with her two children screaming at her
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Children can be a handful at any age. Whether they're throwing tantrums as a child, defying orders as a teenager, or shirking responsibilities as an adult, your children are guaranteed to disappoint you in some form. These shortcomings can lead to physical and emotional trauma for both parent and child.
Little girl walking to school holding her parent's hand
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Parents face an enormous responsibility to help their children without imparting personal shortcomings or being overprotective. It can be hard to shoulder the self-blame when things don't go according to plan.
Baby and mother at the pediatrician
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The likelihood of children inheriting a genetic disorder or becoming a carrier varies widely depending on the mutation so if your family has a history. Consult a genetic professional to understand the risk factors your future children might face.
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Like pregnancy, the process of adopting can be expensive and time-consuming, taking between a few months to a few years to be completed. Adoptions can also be canceled before they go through. A 2010 study by the University of Minnesota found that between 6 and 11 percent of all adoptions are disrupted before finalization. This can be due to biological parents changing their minds or other problems.
Couple walking with their child swinging by his arms
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Parents cope with more stress than non-parents, but some research counters that they also experience emotional rewards and a greater sense of meaning. Still, it seems like parents under the age of 25 are more unhappy than their childless peers.

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