Why more women are deciding not to have kids
Updated 1000 GMT (1800 HKT) August 14, 2021
(CNN)Dyanna Volek was never someone who dreamed of becoming a mother.
From an early age, she knew deep down that she didn't want children. Maybe it stemmed from seeing her mother sacrifice her dream of becoming a flight attendant and work three jobs to raise two kids alone. Or maybe it was that other endeavors interested her more.
"I'm always looking forward to the next thing," said Volek, who works in local government in San Francisco. "Being a parent was never one of them."
Still, the idea of not having children seemed taboo, so she didn't dwell on it much. It wasn't until a few years ago when she started getting serious with her partner that she really reckoned with her feelings. By the time she and her husband got married last November, they had reached a conclusion: They didn't want kids.
Volek is now 37, and doesn't see herself changing her mind.
Not having children gives her a sense of freedom that her friends who are parents don't have. Now that they're vaccinated, she and her husband have been able to eat at restaurants, attend concerts and travel without worrying about risking their child's safety.
They can work toward retiring early, a goal that would be otherwise unattainable in a city as expensive as theirs. And in their day-to-day life, they have plenty of time for themselves.
Volek is one of a growing number of women in the US who are opting not to have children -- part of a trend that has been underway for more than a decade.
Since 2007, the nation's birth rate had been declining about 2% each year on average. Despite early speculation about a pandemic baby boom, the coronavirus crisis accelerated the decline even further, with births falling by 4% last year.
It was the largest annual decline in the number of births since 1973, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Demographers point to a number of factors driving this phenomenon: economic insecurity, political uncertainty, shifting gender norms and a lessening stigma around the choice to remain child-free. Though the pandemic laid bare just how little support families in the US receive from the government when it comes to childcare and other obligations, some women had already made up their minds before then.
Here are some reasons why some women are choosing not to have kids.
They don't want the responsibility
Cecilia Sanders, a 32-year-old project manager in Chicago, was sure early on that she didn't want children. It felt like too great of a responsibility, and the idea of pregnancy scared her.
Still, she says she felt pressured to feel differently, as though she would be disappointing others by not having kids. For about a year, she tried to force herself to change her mind, talking to friends who were parents about their experiences and how they made time for themselves.
As it turns out, her friends often didn't have time for themselves. Their kids, they said, came first.
Sanders realized that sacrificing her own needs to fulfill her duty as a parent would be especially taxing for her. She grapples with anxiety and depression, and when those conditions flare up, even taking care of herself becomes challenging.