Get Our FREE Mental Self-Care Cheat Sheet

Get Our FREE Mental Self-Care Cheat Sheet

10 evidence-based tips to improve your mental health instantaneously when you need to take care of yourself!

You are here: Home » How To Be Happy » Happiness Tips

5 Ways to Be Happy Without Having Children (Why It's Important Too!)


The path to happiness looks different for everyone. For some people, that path involves children; for others, it doesn’t. Sometimes this is a choice; other times, it is an infliction. The important thing to recognize is that a life without children can be steeped in happiness.

Have you experienced judgment for not being a parent? Or maybe you are the person doing the judging? The fact is there are many reasons someone may not have children. Yet, society has much to say about reproduction. 

This article is for everyone, the childfree, childless, ambivalence, not-yet parents, and parents. We will outline some of the nuances experienced by people who are not parents. We will also highlight 5 ways people without children can build happy lives.

The nuanced circumstances of non-parents  

Let’s get one thing straight; if you want children, I hope they will bring you happiness.

But if you don’t want children, they will likely not bring you joy. And this is fine.

Then we have the category of people who want children but don’t have them. There is disenfranchised grief in these circumstances. But I promise you can still find happiness. 

The path to happiness looks different for everyone. 

More than 1 in 5 American adults don’t want children! This statistic does not consider those who want children but can’t have them. 

Let’s explore the different parenting and non-parenting statuses—semantics matter. The terms for describing people without children can not be used interchangeably as they have nuanced meanings. 

Childfree refers to people who don’t want children and don’t have children. They do not feel “less than” for not having children.

Childless refers to people who want children, but circumstances, such as infertility, have stopped them from being able to fulfill this wish. They do not necessarily feel “free” from children.

We also have a couple of other categories; some people are “ambivalent” and remain undecided. Lastly, some want children but do not have any yet, so we class them as “not-yet parents” they are not childfree or childless as they may be parents in the future.

Get Our FREE Mental Self-Care Cheat Sheet

10 evidence-based tips to improve your mental health instantaneously when you need to take care of yourself!

What does the science say? 

Society romanticizes parenting. It sells us a filtered and Instagram version of parenting. By the time we realize this, it’s too late. Having children is non-refundable, so we must be sure of our choice. 

Most scientific research outlines that non-parents are happier than parents. However, new research suggests that parents are happier than non-parents … once the children have grown up and left home! 

You won’t be surprised to learn that the level of support for parents, including affordable childcare and similar child-oriented benefits, significantly impacts parents’ happiness.

To clarify, providing adequate support for children can improve parents’ happiness. And, of course, this does not negatively impact the happiness of those without children. 

There’s something peculiar in the science of parents and non-parents. This study found a “parental in-group favoritism.”

By this, we mean that parents express a more profound warmth to other parents than they do to the childfree. Whereas the childfree display the same warmth to parents and the childfree. 

This lack of warmth from (some) parents can be a crippling aspect of the non-parents lived experience. Often we feel othered, invisible, undervalued, isolated, and suppressed. We lose friends when they start having children. And this study has scientifically proven the experiences of many people without children. 

The pervasive and insidious attitudes toward people without children are harmful and hurtful. Parents and non-parents can be great friends, but it takes work from both sides

The ubiquitous pronatalist messages 

Whether we have children or not should not be a big deal. But it is.

We live in societies steeped in pronatalism. The terms pronatalist or pronatalism don’t readily feature in the dictionary. Google defines the noun as: 

“An advocate of the policy or practice of encouraging people to have children.” 

But this does not express the suppression or oppression enough. So let’s play with some definitions. 

When someone is sexist, they are: 

“Suggesting that the members of one sex are less able, intelligent, etc. than the members of the other sex, or referring to that sex’s bodies, behavior, or feelings in a negative way.” 

Based on this definition, when someone is a pronatalist, they are: 

“Suggesting that non-parents are less able, intelligent, etc. than parents, or referring to non-parents in a negative way.” 

We see examples of this in daily life! 

In 2016 Andrea Leadson and Theresa May battled it out for the leadership position of the conservative party in the UK. Andrea Leadson tried to use her parental status as leverage for the campaign with a disgusting pronatalist message: 

Mrs. May possibly has nieces, nephews, lots of people. But I have children who are going to have children who will directly be part of what happens next.

A recent UK article in The Times suggested people without children should be taxed more.

This ludicrous article created a diatribe of slanderous comments suggesting people without children don’t contribute to society! The piece conveniently failed to mention that many people without children pay a substantial amount in taxes (willingly) for services they will never use themselves. 

It seems everyone has an opinion about it. The Pope refers to people choosing not to have children as “selfish” and shames those who don’t have “enough” children. 

Elon Musk is also getting in on the action. Despite the exponential population growth crisis, Musk suggests people are failing if they don’t have (more) children. 

The pressure and shaming of those without children, irrespective of their circumstances, is never-ending. It is exhausting. It only serves to confuse those who don’t want children but are brainwashed into believing children are essential to living a happy and fulfilling life. And it leaves those who can’t have children despairing. 

The pioneering supporters of fewer children 

My choice not to have children should be a cause of celebration. It means more space and resources for other people’s children! 

Luckily for every pronatalist, we have compassionate individuals who revere people without children. 

Sadguru, the Indian yoga, and spiritual leader, suggests we should award women who choose not to have children. 

The renowned naturalist Sir David Attenborough, a patron of Population Matters, says:

The human population can no longer be allowed to grow in the same old uncontrolled way. If we do not take charge of our population size, then nature will do it for us, and it is the poor people of the world who will suffer most.

David Attenborough

There is even a pronatalism and overpopulation graduate course! This course is run by the director of Population Balance, Nandita Bajaj.

Let’s also give it up for the famous people on our radar who are beacons of light in the childfree and childless communities. 

  • Jennifer Anniston.
  • Dolly Parton.
  • Oprah Winfrey.
  • Helen Mirren.
  • Leilani Munter.
  • Ellen DeGeneres.

How can society help non-parents?

Let’s be clear, my choice not to have children is no reflection of someone else’s choice to have children. And yet there is so much vitriol. 

It’s a confusing old world. We give little girls dollies to play with - a perverse preparation for Motherhood. We take them at their word if little girls say they want children. Yet, when a full-blown adult says they don’t want children, we suggest they are too young to make such a claim. 

Society can do several things to help people without children. 

Firstly, stop asking if we have children or when we will have children! If we want to tell you, we will. Not everything is about children! 

Recognize that having children is not the only thing worth celebrating! Let’s celebrate all of life’s achievements. 

  • Finishing college. 
  • Obtaining a Ph.D. 
  • Getting a new job. 
  • Conquering a dream. 
  • Buying the first house. 
  • Adopting a new pet. 
  • Overcoming a fear.

It’s time to tweak the onslaught of child-centric celebrations to include people without children. There’s more to life than pregnancy, baby showers, and first birthdays!

If you want to be an ally to people without children, it’s time to see them. Recognize that they often feel: 

Include them, value them and celebrate them!

Above all, stop with the bingo comments. When someone says, they don’t want or have children. Simply say, “I wish you happiness in whatever way you live your life.”

Certainly do not say:

  • You will change your mind. 
  • You will never know true love. 
  • Your life has no purpose. 
  • Who will look after you when you are old? 
  • Why do you hate children? 
  • You are missing out on the greatest experience of life!
  • You will regret not having children. 
  • You don’t know the meaning of tired. 
  • Oh, that’s so sad, poor you!

Raise young girls to recognize having children is a choice. Use the word “if” about them having children, not “when.” 

And representation matters. We need more people without children on our screens and in our books! 

5 ways people without children find deep happiness 

There is an indoctrinated attitude that children bring happiness, and those without children can’t possibly be happy. Well, I’m here to say that’s a load of codswallop!

Those of us without children find ourselves in this position for different reasons. For some, there is deep grief; for others, it’s a cause for celebration.

No matter how we got here, the important thing is we all know that deep happiness is achievable without children. 

But with the relentless pressure from society and the messages of pronatalism surrounding us, reproduction is part of our culture. Our culture grooms us to be parents. 

It takes courage to stray away from the predestined path voluntarily. And it requires ethereal introspection if circumstances force us off this path involuntarily. 

Here are 5 ways you can find deep happiness without being a parent. 

1. Personal work  

You don’t need to have children to find the best version of yourself; maybe some people should have opted for therapy over procreation. 

Many people are sleep-walking through life. They don’t know what their hearts yearn for. And so they just do as expected: school, marriage, children. 

Most of us don’t realize we have a choice. Remember - we don’t have to go down the same path as everyone else.

When we stop and listen to our yearnings, we give ourselves the time and space to hear what is calling us. We can heal old traumas and embrace personal growth. We can be (almost) anything we want to be. 

When we invest the time and space to do our own personal work, we can see what we want and maybe don’t want in life. This self-exploration frees us up to live as authentically as possible. 

2. Voluntary work

The more we give to others, the more we receive ourselves. As we wrote about earlier, volunteering makes us happier.

Over the years, I’ve held many voluntary roles. Most of the time, the other volunteers didn’t have children either. I understand this; not many parents would have the time to be able to volunteer.

Voluntary work can be a life-enhancing experience. It helps us connect with other people, increasing our social well-being. And, when we do good, we feel good. 

There are many different ways to volunteer. Here are a few ideas: 

  • Help out at a local animal shelter. 
  • Help at a camp for ill children. 
  • Sign up as a befriender. 
  • Work at a local charity shop. 
  • Assist with a group for the elderly. 
  • Set up a sports group. 

3. Eliminate child-associated stress  

The stress associated with children is part of the package if you want them. But if you don’t want children, this would only build resentment.

I am grateful that I don’t have this stress. 

I celebrate my freedom and the ability to leave the house without drama. Recently I realized I am not good with loud noises or screaming and shouting. I like my peace. I would find the energy and chaos of children extremely tiresome. So I appreciate I don’t have this. 

I enjoy spending time with some friends’ children. I’ve even looked after them on occasions and enjoyed it.

But I take great relief and satisfaction from handing them back and returning to my childfree life where children do not dictate my time. 

I like spending time with children in small doses, which is perfectly ok. Not everyone would be a good parent. I derive deep happiness from my quiet and my freedom. 

4. Following personal interests 

Many of my friends who have children complain that they have lost their identity. We live in an era of helicopter parenting and the urge to entertain kids 24/7. It looks exhausting! 

Any hobbies my friends once had are dead and buried. Don’t get me wrong, many parents can maintain their hobbies, but I appreciate it takes effort. 

When you don’t have children, you have the time and space to relentlessly pursue your interests and hobbies. The world is our oyster. You can do what makes you happy and leave it at that.

We can: 

  • Learn a new skill. 
  • Travel. 
  • Go on holiday in the school term. 
  • Stay out late. 
  • Be spontaneous. 
  • Lie in. 
  • Meet friends. 
  • Go to clubs and social events. 
  • Move house and country. 

Ultimately, your time is yours. 

When I reflect on my own life, I recognize many things I wouldn’t have been able to do if I had children: 

  • Take a career break. 
  • Move countries. 
  • Engage with my running as much as I do. 
  • Start several running communities. 
  • Set up a small business. 
  • Attend weekends away with friends. 
  • Learn the guitar. 
  • Volunteer. 
  • Write. 
  • Read as much as I do. 
  • Complete several training courses. 
  • Give my animals the love and attention they deserve. 

5. Building deep human connections  

In his enlightening video, Sadguru says, “what you are looking for is not a child. What you are looking for is involvement.” 

Isn’t it very restrictive when we have the attitude that we can only love and involve with people if we are biologically related to them? 

When you don’t have children, you have the space to build and nurture incredible friendships and connections. These relationships can be with:  

  • Friends. 
  • Children. 
  • People in our community.  

Those of us without children have more headspace to invest in other human connections. We can explore humanity and involve ourselves in other people if we feel a link in our energies. 

There is a whole community of inspiring people who aren’t parents. If you are seeking a tribe, simply type “childfree or childless groups” into Google or your chosen social media platform. 

My human connections bring me an enormous sense of well-being and purpose. 

Get Our FREE Mental Self-Care Cheat Sheet

10 evidence-based tips to improve your mental health instantaneously when you need to take care of yourself!

Wrapping up 

Having children is perfectly natural, but so is not having children. The choice or ability to procreate is personal and no one else’s business. To parents and non-parents everywhere, let’s build bridges of happiness to unite in our similarities and not allow our chasm to divide us. 

I hope you find happiness, no matter what path you choose or are directed in. And remember, you can find deep happiness without children.

How do you find happiness in your childfree or childless life? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!

ali wyllie portrait

Ali Hall

Writer

Kindness is my superpower. Dogs and nature are my oxygen. Psychology with Sports science graduate. Scottish born and bred. I’ve worked and traveled all over the world. Find me running long distances on the hills and trails.

Leave a Comment