Once, it was commonplace for women to get married and have children and become housewives.
But nowadays, society is shifting, with fewer women than ever choosing to have children, favouring travelling the world alone and pursuing other projects.
New data from an Office for National Statistics (ONS) report found that by 2020, 18 per cent of women were child free.
And 50.1 per cent of women born in 1990 were childless by their 30th birthday.
The statistics revealed the first instance that there have been more childless women than mothers below the age of 30 since records dating back to 1920 began.
It is now most common to have a child at 31, according to ONS estimates based on latest data. Baby boomers born in the late 1940s by comparison had children at 22.
Elsewhere, modern women of all ages are choosing to have smaller families.
MailOnline spoke to women who do not want children. Their reasons why vary, from environmental factors to travelling freely. Read more below…
Georgina Goodrich, 33, from Warwickshire: ‘I hate this idea that you get married and have children, we need to shift the narrative, let’s focus on the incredible achievements of these women, and not when or how many children they have’
Georgina Goodrich, a communications specialist, lives with her husband and two dogs
The 33-year-old explained to MailOnline that she has never wanted children- for several reasons. Georgina said: ‘Firstly, I am selfish- I enjoy doing things I enjoy, and having children can massively impact your ability to do those things. Pictured: Georgina
In my early and mid twenties I would get it all the time ‘you will change your mind’ like I was making a throw away comment about not wanting children
The 33-year-old explained to MailOnline that she has never wanted children- for several reasons.
Georgina said: ‘Firstly, I am selfish- I enjoy doing things I enjoy, and having children can massively impact your ability to do those things.
‘Yes, you can make compromises, but fundamentally knowing I am selfish and choosing not to have children means I don’t have to compromise on hobbies, holidays, work or however else I choose to spend my time.’
The 33-year-old added that another reason she has chosen not to have children is because of the environmental impact.
‘We have a huge overpopulating issue, especially in the western world we need t consider,’ she said.
Georgina, pictured, said she also has no desire to be pregnant and does not want to put her body through it. She explained that the idea of having a ‘tiny human’ growing inside her terrifies her
Georgina said she also has no desire to be pregnant and does not want to put her body through it. She explained that the idea of having a ‘tiny human’ growing inside her terrifies her.
Instead, Georgina enjoys her freedom, and said that she likes the fact she does not have to schedule her life around a child’s timetable or cost implications. She added that her two dogs probably have a better life than any dog could ever dream of.
The 33-year-old recently set up her own business, focusing on marketing and PR for small and medium sized businesses. Although she spends time with her nieces and nephews, she has never considered having children and her husband shares her viewpoint.
Georgina said: ‘In my early and mid twenties I would get it all the time ‘you will change your mind’ like I was making a throw away comment about not wanting children.
‘But now after being married for nearly 6 years and in a relationship with my husband for nearing 16 years most people have come to terms with the fact I am pretty set in my decision.
Even though it has been tough for some of Georgina, pictured, and her husband’s family and friends to understand, she explained that they fundamentally have a supportive family who love them regardless
‘I hate this idea that you get married and have children, we need to shift the narrative, let’s focus on the incredible achievements of these women, and not when or how many children they have – I am not saying this is not an achievement, I am saying we need to focus on more than an outdated idea of family life and a female role in that.’
Even though it has been tough for some of Georgina and her husband’s family and friends to understand, she explained that they fundamentally have a supportive family who love them regardless.
Elsewhere, Georgina enjoys spending time with her close girlfriends and their children, having days out exploring and learning. She told MailOnline: ‘I don’t have to worry if my children are happy or if they will enjoy it.
‘I can give my attention to them and create memories with them. And of course I get a full night’s sleep every night, can play netball whenever I want and enjoy weekends away planned the day before!’
Abbie Hills, 27, from Southampton: ‘I’ve never been interested in having children’
Abbie Hills runs a talent agency which is her own business, managing actors for film, television and theatre. She also works as a freelancer in the industry in varying roles from costume to being an access coordinator.
The 27-year-old told MailOnline that she does not want to have children- partly because of the industry that she works in. Pictured: Abbie
The 27-year-old told MailOnline that she does not want to have children- partly because of the industry that she works in.
I can never imagine myself with children, I don’t love babies to be honest
She explained: ‘I like to be flexible to go on long contracts and I like to travel. But also, as someone with a disability I have always wondered how that would affect my capabilities.
‘Overall, though, for as long as I can remember, it’s never been something I’m interested in.’
Speaking on the societal pressures of having kids, Abbie, pictured, said that she believes things are changing and that it is now less of the ‘right thing to do’ having children in her generation, compared to her mother’s for example
Abbie explained that instead of having kids she is able to move freely, take on various bits of work and travel a lot. She would never want to give any of it up, and she enjoys having no commitments that limit what she does.
The 27-year-old said she is not sure how she would feel if she had children but could not see herself enjoying it.
‘I can never imagine myself with children, I don’t love babies to be honest,’ she added.
Speaking on the societal pressures of having kids, Abbie said that she believes things are changing and that it is now less of the ‘right thing to do’ having children in her generation, compared to her mother’s for example.
However, she explained: ‘I am starting to get to the age now where my friends or people I know are having children and ‘settling down.’
While her family and friends understand she does not want children, Abbie, pictured, said that they are sometimes shocked because it is such a hard and determined no
Abbie said that she thinks some people do not understand why women do not want children.
The 27-year-old said: ‘For pretty much all of history, the role of a woman involves raising a family – so when people choose not to do that its probably a strange adjustment for people who are traditionalists. I think the older generations still struggle to understand why some women nowadays don’t want children.’
While her family and friends understand she does not want children, Abbie said that they are sometimes shocked because it is such a hard and determined no.
‘I think the best thing for me about not having children is that I do have the freedom to do what I want to do, and I’m only responsible for myself,’ she said.
Jane Hawkes, 47, from Gloucester: ‘A friend said she could not speak to me again if I didn’t have kids’
Jane Hawkes, a consumer champion, lives with her husband and two dogs.
The 47-year-old, pictured, said she that when she was younger, she actually did want children, but then changed her mind
The 47-year-old said she that when she was younger, she actually did want children, but then changed her mind.
It was then the practical implications because I did not live near family and my partner at the time, who is now my husband, he was not that bothered about having children
She explained: ‘Everything I did was child-related. I did childcare and development and I babysat. I couldn’t have spent more time with children if I tried. I did primary school teaching as my work experience in Year 10.
‘Everything was children-focused. And then, I went to university and I think my mindset changed. I got to see more of life and I got all these friends.’
Jane that if she had stayed at home in Lancashire, most of the friends she has there stay and have children.
The 47-year-old added that when she was in university, she had a very traditional boyfriend and she realised how much work she would be doing if she became a mother. She split from him and moved to London, becoming cabin crew.
Jane then knew that she could see the world. She explained: ‘It was then the practical implications because I did not live near family and my partner at the time, who is now my husband, he was not that bothered about having children.’
Her family were fine about her not having children and she said that while there was friend support where she lived at the time, it was different. The 47-year-old also has MS and said: ‘It was hard enough during the relapses that I had to look after me, never mind children.
‘I don’t want them to have to look after me and I felt that is what they would be doing. I have total respect for anybody with any kind of illness to have children and that they make it work. But it’s not for everyone.’
Jane explained that one of the school friends she had lived to have children and would be waiting to have another.
‘I said to her one day, I don’t think I’ll be having any and she said “I don’t think I can speak to you again if you don’t’, Jane said.
From that point, the friend did not speak to the 47-year-old again. Instead of having children, Jane and her husband have been able to focus on other projects, including building their house over a seven years.
The 47-year-old, pictured, added that when she was in university, she had a very traditional boyfriend and she realised how much work she would be doing if she became a mother. She split from him and moved to London, becoming cabin crew
In terms of societal expectations and tradition, Jane believes that people should be able to do what they want to do.
‘You should be true to what you want to do and if it loses you friends along the way then so be it’, she told MailOnline.
Jane gets annoyed with feeling less of a person because she’s not a mother.
She said: ‘The smug mum syndrome grates on me a bit because I don’t think it makes you any better a person for being a mum but I don’t think it makes you any less of one for not being one.’
Mangala Holland, 50, from Glastonbury: ‘There’s never been a day where I’ve regretted my decision’
Mangala Holland is a woman’s empowerment and sexuality coach who is currently single.
Mangala Holland, pictured, is a woman’s empowerment and sexuality coach who is currently single. The 50-year-old always knew she did not want children. For most of her 30’s she was working in corporate jobs but also DJ’ing four or five nights a week in bars and nightclubs
The 50-year-old spent most of her 30’s working in corporate jobs but also DJ’ing four or five nights a week in bars and nightclubs. Having children was never on her radar.
‘I felt like I did not want to settle down. I’ve always had quite an adventurous streak. I just knew I was destined for something else, if that makes sense,’ Mangala told MailOnline.
Seeing a lot of people who have kids and look really stressed out all the time and exhausted I thought ‘there’s got to be more to life’
When she got to her late 30’s, she began asking herself what it was that she was destined to do instead. She realised that she wanted to go travelling and have adventures that she did not do when she was younger.
‘Everyone else was settling down and getting married and having kids so I’m going to go travel and explore. I was supposed to have a year out and then go back to my corporate job but it ended up being 12 years overseas,’ Mangala said.
The 50-year-old was able to build her business while she was travelling and realised she had a deep desire to support other people in a way that was meaningful.
Mangala said: ‘That’s been my purpose, I wanted to create a business. I know plenty of people who do both but my business is my baby. It’s been incredibly rewarding and fulfilling.’
Another reason the 50-year-old did not have children was because she did not want to be tied down. She wanted freedom, fun, adventure and flexibility.
Among her friends, the 50-year-old, pictured, describes herself as a bit of a lone wolf, the only one who went off to adventure while everyone else had children but she said they are supportive of her decision
Mangala said: ‘There’s never been a day where I’ve regretted my decision and every day I’m like ‘oh my God I get to sleep nine hours’. I don’t have to spend money on anybody.
‘It’s just so freeing and yeah it’s delightful. And you know, I love my nephews dearly and I love other people’s kids but I just really wanted the freedom.
‘Seeing a lot of people who have kids and look really stressed out all the time and exhausted I thought ‘there’s got to be more to life, that’s not the life I want to lead.’
The 50-year-old said that the societal pressures to have children are very strong and she was told her whole life that she would settle down. But she knew that was not going to be the case for her.
At the same time, she explained that women are expected to hold a lot of the emotional and mental load in relationships and many of her clients are trying to juggle everything.
Another reason the 50-year-old, pictured, did not have children was because she did not want to be tied down. She wanted freedom, fun, adventure and flexibility
Among her friends, the 50-year-old describes herself as a bit of a lone wolf, the only one who went off to adventure while everyone else had children- but she said they are supportive of her decision.
In terms of her family accepting that she did not want children, she explained that it was a slow process for her parents to gradually get used to the idea that she was not going to settle down in the way they expected.
However, her parents have been supportive of her choices and she explained that her parents would have been delighted if she had children but they do not love her any less.
She added that they did not pressure her very much and it became obvious early on that she was headstrong and learnt to do things her own way.
She also spoke against the idea of women being lesser people if they are not mothers, telling MailOnline: ‘I see this a lot. Sometimes it’s religious but I think it’s just so deeply ingrained in society that its a woman’s role to be a mother.
‘And that’s the highest thing you can do to devote your life to bringing another life into the world.
‘And I just think in this day and age, really? We have got so many opportunities for education in the west. We should be having the right to choose.’
In terms of her family accepting that she did not want children, Mangala, pictured, explained that it was a slow process for her parents to gradually get used to the idea that she was not going to settle down in the way they expected
She also spoke of the outdated misconceptions for fathers and how the traditional mindsets can manifest around Christmas.
Mangala said: ‘I really see this around Christmas actually, when I look at who in the family is the one that’s organising all the gifts and the family coming together and the meal and everything else.
‘And in traditional families and straight families, that’s normally the woman that’s doing all of that, as well as working right up till Christmas Eve and kids at school and everything else.’
Mangala said: ‘One thing I would really like people to know is that this is not me being selfish or greedy. I think its important that we have the right to choose and we have to celebrate people’s choices.
‘I would really just like to see more equality and for women to have the pressure taken off them to be this traditional way of being a woman that was from the 1950s or whatever.’
Now hear the expert view on why women are choosing not to have children… Natalie Vigilione, 44, pictured, from Asheville, North Carolina
Now hear an expert view on why women are choosing not to have children…
Natalie Vigilione, 44, from Asheville, North Carolina
Natalie, a life coach, lives with her husband in the ancient mountains.
Why aren’t women having children?
‘Us women are realizing we have choices when it comes to the topics of children and that ‘human babies’ aren’t the only kinds of ‘babies’ that we can have.
‘We’re clearing ancestral trauma. Women for far too long didn’t have a choice… our bodies were ‘owned’ and to a degree in many places still are. A great example is that there have been many ‘kings’ who needed their queen to supply them with a son and this was something that queen was required to do.
‘There are probably women trapped in these kinds of relationship today. But the truth is that those days are gone, and I know that many of us are waking up to the fact that we need to make choices that are for our highest good, and our bodies are not to be ‘owned’ by anyone else.’
Natalie, pictured, said that she and her husband did not want to have children after having a conversation about it
Natalie said: ‘The societal pressure for women to have children by X age or at specific stages is a made-up pressure that has extremely negative effects on women’s mindsets and overall health and well-being. Sure, we have the menopause timer, but we can be healthy and can have children much beyond the perceived perception that is pushed by mainstream sources.
‘Women often feel rushed, and this can often lead them to get into relationships they don’t want or can cause relationships to be strained because people can have kids without actually really wanting them due to feeling rushed.’
Why do you think there is such a stigma about women choosing not to have children?
‘What I know after long bouts of meditation and research is that the patriarchal society that was created long ago has kept women down and has kept consciousness stifled or stuck in patterns that aren’t true (e.g.: women are here to have children and it’s a duty)’, Natalie said.
‘It has carried an energy that tells women we MUST have children or else we’re just not ‘normal.’ It’s the drama we see play out in the U.S. constantly about who owns women’s bodies via political agendas that tell us what we can or can’t do with our bodies. The stigma around a woman not having children is just old energy that hasn’t been dispelled yet; however, we are in a time when women need to reclaim their power and that is a power of choice.
‘We don’t have to do anything that is against our greatest and deepest desires, and for women who, like me, never had that desire to have children, we must know that it’s for a reason and that we have SO many ways to use our amazing innate gifts of ‘mothering’ and nurturing beyond just having kids. We can redefine what ‘birth’ can mean!’
Have you ever thought about having children?
‘I have. I thought a long time ago that’s what I was also ‘supposed to do’ and so I fell into that trap. I had gotten married at a young age and much against my own intuition to do so (we were divorced before I was even 25). Due to that toxic relationship, there were many detrimental things that had happened, but all things were a catalyst that helped me see the truth of who I truly am.
‘When I found my twin flame many years later after being single for quite a long time, I knew the children conversation may come up again. And of course, it did. This is something we talked about early on and then over the years it would come back up occasionally. When we spoke and got really honest with each other, it wasn’t a choice that either of us truly desired.’
How does woman not wanting children affect relationships and how should they approach them?
‘By choosing to go over the topic early on when a relationship gets to that serious point, this brings it up right away and lays it all out on the table. It may be uncomfortable, and it could affect some people’s decision in whether they move forward in the relationship. But we must know that’s OK.
‘Breaking open that topic early on can help the relationship have truth at its core. This goes for many things, not just the topic of having children.
‘Sometimes it’s hard being brutally honest with ourselves, let alone being brutally honest with others. Since this is not a common conversation point, it’s good to open relationships up with some truths and be brutally honest about things like having or not having children.
‘Keeping that point open knowing that it’s a decision that can be discussed later and could also be changed is a healthy way to see it, too. Our choices can evolve as we evolve but setting the tone upfront can help the relationship blossom in a more open and authentic way.’
‘Breaking open that topic early on can help the relationship have truth at its core. This goes for many things, not just the topic of having children’, explained Natalie, pictured
How should people deal with family and friends who are dismissive of them because they do not want children?
‘It’s vital to remember that it’s YOUR life, not theirs. We can’t allow other people’s tunnel vision and the way they live their lives to dictate how we live ours.
‘We need to confidently stand up and look them in the eyes and say, ‘My decision is right and there is no conversation to have on this matter’ so that we can shut it down.
‘Having healthy boundaries with people who constantly belittle our decisions or are rude and dismissive about decisions like this is critical to our well-being. Boundaries can ensure that we surround our lives with people who are open minded if they totally feel the opposite about the ‘having children’ topic.’
What advice would you give women who are considering not having children?
1. Sit in silence and truly feel into your being
If you keep searching around and the answer is ‘no, I just don’t feel a desire to have children’ then you know you’ve done your due diligence within yourself and that you honour that truth. This is how women take our power back.
2. Live your life for yourself
Do not live your life based on what other people expect of us. One of the top regrets that people have on their death bed is ‘I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.’
3. Know women are powerful
‘I’d really like women to know that we are POWERFUL creators, mothers, nurturers, etc.… innately! It’s just who we are, and our wombs can birth so much more into existence should we so desire. Therefore, if the path of having children is not a desire, we can own that truth and stand in that power because we deserve to have the freedom to make that choice!’