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Why (Most) Childfree Women Are Successful

"If you want to be successful in your career, don’t have children."

Female Speaker at Women and Business conference

It’s interesting to note that while women have significantly advanced in their chosen professions, there is still a huge imbalance in the number of women who have made it to the top of their fields. What isn’t so surprising is that the women who do forge successful careers are mostly child-free. Not having children seems to be a plus in the career department.

Nothing gets the pot stirred like a statement that some women do not want to be mothers... ever. They’re not postponing it, they’re bypassing it altogether. And in reality, there are many women who feel that being mothers hampers their careers and their choice of lifestyles.

Believe me when I say that this post is not written as a slur on any woman’s choice to become a mother, nor is it written as an all-out paean to child-free women. It is what it is — the observation that to succeed, you need to focus on what you want without distraction. To do that, you need to put what needs to be done high on your list of priorities. Men have been doing it for years without anyone thinking less of them. Whether in the corporate, financial or even artistic realms, to reach the top in your career requires a single-minded drive, dedication and passion.

Girls are taught that motherhood is a desired natural state; a state which is a normal progression in our lives as females. Even today, the emphasis is on motherhood first, career second, and that is wrong. Motherhood doesn’t define womanhood.

In the book The Barrenness, a fictional work by writer Sonja Lewis, the sensitive topic of a woman’s choice whether or not to have children is wonderfully addressed. Should the thirty-something protagonist put her career on hold and have children or not? It’s a choice many of us face.

Motherhood is draining; you can’t deny it. Yes, motherhood can be a beautiful experience, but only for those who truly want it. Unless you have a strong maternal drive and feel your life would be incomplete without a child, having one is an illogical choice; it doesn’t make sense financially, health-wise (think: sleep deprivation) and can restrict you from living the type of life you want to live — especially if that life includes a high-powered career requiring long hours and travel.

Raising a child is time-consuming. Why is it surprising that some women choose to dedicate that child-rearing time to their careers and adult relationships? And why, if we do that, are we considered selfish? Where is it dictated that we have to give our time, our energy and our lives to another being? Because society or religious views say we should? To me, that argument is insufficient,

Career, personal freedom and finances are some of the top reasons many women choose not to have children. They value the time and effort it takes to become secure in a career and they are enjoying the intellectual and monetary perks it provides. Choosing other pathways to personal satisfaction, it seems, can be equally — and for some, more gratifying — than mothering.

In the Psychology Today article, “Choosing to be Childfree in a Changing World,” author Ellen Walker, Ph.D. states that 43 percent of college-educated women between the ages of 33 and 46 are child-free. More and more women are skipping out on what has generally been viewed as a necessary life experience without regrets.

Successful career women from journalist Diane Sawyer to actors Cameron Diaz and Marisa Tomei to media mogul Oprah Winfrey are successful and child-free by choice. Dame Helen Mirren, whose acting career has spanned several decades, has this to say about her choice to be child-free: “I always did — and still do — value my freedom too highly (to become a parent).”

The ‘Great Kate’, Katharine Hepburn, focused on what she wanted in her life and what she wanted was a career and the ability to do as she pleased. When interviewed about her life she said, “Being a housewife and a mother is the biggest job in the world I’m sure, but if it doesn’t interest you, don’t do it — I, personally, would have made a terrible mother.”

I applaud women who are mothers and work full-time outside the home and would never judge their choice to do so. But I also applaud and admire women who have made a bold and non-conventional choice to not be mothers. Being true to yourself and your own needs should be paramount. The truth is that most women who have achieved professional success have chosen not to have children.


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