Inspiration for childless and childfree women

Thoughts and ideas to inspire, uplift and affirm the childless and childfree, by circumstance and by choice


Are non-mothers more involved with charities and social justice movements than other women? In her book Childfree and Loving It!, Nicki Defago dispels this idea as a myth about childfree people.

“It would be … misleading to suggest that we’re keeping the charitable needs of the world afloat; some do appreciate having the time for community and voluntary activities, but others simply prefer living without children.”

I think Defago is probably right, but while compiling the pinboard of inspiring childless and childfree women it has been  striking to see how many  were real movers and shakers in terms of their courage and devotion to the causes they’ve supported. Even those who gained celebrity in other ways seem often to have contributed a great deal to charities and movements that were important to them.

On the one hand I think focusing on this impressive collection of ‘good works’ is a fantastic way of addressing any stereotype of the non-mother as lacking in generosity or interest in her fellow human being. But on the other hand, I hope the emphasis on charitable works in some of the literature on childlessness and childfreedom doesn’t reflect an idea that non-motherhood-is-only-okay-if-you-prove-that-you-are-as-much-like-an-idealised-mother-as-you-can-possibly-be (i.e. endlessly giving, self-sacrificial etc).

Personally, I am definitely in favour of all people devoting time and resources to helping out their fellow human beings and creatures. I do my best to contribute and I plan to do so all my life.

But I don’t think there should be any special expectation or obligation associated with non-motherhood.

If you’re interested in perceptions of non-mothers, you might like to read about where the books about our lives get shelved or  the problem with regarding choices and circumstances as completely separate forces in the lives of childless and childfree women.

But in the meantime, how about you? Do you think of yourself as a ‘giver’? And do you think there is any connection with being childless or childfree?

[The beautiful image above is featured with permission from
k. watson whose gorgeous work you can find here and here.]


24 comments on “giving

  1. dinkschildfree
    March 30, 2012

    I would not be surprised if there is a correlation between being childfree and donating time and money to charitable organizations. However, I don’t believe it’s because the childfree are more charitable. I think it’s more that we have the time and money to spend and we also have more time to think about the rest of the world because we aren’t so focused on our family who lives in our home. It’s easy to forget that there are so many people and animals out there that need help when you have 2 kids at home, because that becomes your priority.

    • olivia
      March 30, 2012

      That’s such a great point dinkschildfree. I’m sure you’re right about it not being to do with being extra-charitable, but perhaps having something to do with the possibility of a focus that roams more widely than the family unit. Loads of food for thought there…

  2. tiffanylo
    March 30, 2012

    I am naturally a “giver”, due greatly in part to how I was raised–particularly by my magnanimous mother, who worked as a nurse for over 30 years, and remains licensed as a nurse into her 60s. She truly taught me “’tis better to give than to receive”, but not that we have to go without ourselves simply to help others. She has taught me to find a “happy balance” in that realm, for sure, and I live that way gladly. I do think plenty of people expect non-parents to “give back” in other ways, since we are not giving by raising children. However, I don’t think about this too deeply, as I’d want to donate, help out in some way, or raise money whether I had kids or not. I definitely know of so many parenting folk who give through their jobs (nonprofit work, etc.) or donate regularly to a charity/org. of their choice.
    So, I guess I don’t see a connection there at all–at least in terms of the child-free/childless status meaning that one is “naturally” more inclined to give.

    But I, too, simply do not believe that my child-free status “requires” me to give and give until it’s all gone and I have done my “part” in this world. 😉

    Another wonderful post! I am loving your blog. 🙂

    • olivia
      March 30, 2012

      Tiffanylo, I loved reading about the balance you described. It sounds just about perfect, and your mother sounds like a brilliant role model.

      Like you, I can’t make much of a connection personally, partly because most of the charity work I’ve done has been in close collaboration with parent friends and partly because my involvement in social justice issues long pre-date my decisions about non-motherhood…

      But that pinterest board is just so FULL of givers….it’s very puzzling 🙂

      Thank you so much for your thoughts and kind words!

  3. Tory
    March 30, 2012

    I think that I’ll spend a lot of my adult life finding ways to give back as a childfree person, but I also want to be careful to avoid feeling as if I’ve added pressure to be a charitable powerhouse just because I don’t have children, does that make sense? I think so many of us (at least I do) avoid having children because we dislike the feeling of heavy burdens of obligation, and I don’t want to replace that burden of obligation with another one – “Oh, I don’t have children, therefore I must find another way to martyr myself in giving up my time and money.” I want to ensure that the ways I give back still allow me to take good care of myself and bring me joy and fulfillment in and of themselves–not because I think others will be impressed by my level of charity or because I want to somehow mitigate the way others feel about my state of childfree-ness.

    This is a really great post, as it’s something I’ve been thinking about deeply lately!

    • olivia
      March 30, 2012

      Tory, I think you make perfect sense. It sounds as though you and I have been grappling with really similar thoughts lately! I especially like your point about the importance of not replacing one overwhelming set of obligations with another.

      I hope I may be permitted to borrow the expression ‘charitable powerhouse’ 😀

    • rantywoman
      March 30, 2012

      I admit that I am more likely to give when the donation is tied into a fun event– a concert, a dance, a party. That way I can have a bit of socializing and fun while simultaneously giving money to a worthy cause– it’s win win.

      • olivia
        March 30, 2012

        Rantywoman, I think that’s probably the key to a really good fundraiser – one that enables people to do something they really enjoy doing anyway.

        For me (total introvert) suggesting a dance or a party as a fundraiser is a sure way to have me reaching for my cheque book and offering a donation as I have something on that night! Knitting or anything crafty on the other hand….and I’m there 🙂

        • rantywoman
          March 30, 2012

          Yeah it’s nice when the charity can get people together, creating a sense of community and fun (whatever the type of event) in addition to helping out a cause.

  4. Lilly
    March 30, 2012

    When I was younger, I did tons of volunteer work. I still give regularly to charity. I work hard, pay taxes, and show others kindness. (Not trying to pat myself on the back, just sayin’.)

    I really liked this:

    “But I don’t think there should be any special expectation or obligation associated with non-motherhood.”

    Very true. Sometimes it feels like people get a pat on the back from society just for having kids, even if they are not good parents and no matter how they are necessarily raising those kids. The contact I do have with kids is positive and helps them to grow to be better people, even if I do not have kids of my own. I do have to admit that I feel like I add more to the world than some parents. A part of me hates feeling that way as I don’t mean to be judgmental, but the world seems to judge me as not being worth as much and motherhood doesn’t automatically equal selfless and caring human being, as some would believe.

    • olivia
      March 30, 2012

      Hi Lilly – can I pat you on the back? It sounds as though you’ve given a huge amount that is of value!

      I’m guessing that as non-mothers become a bigger proportion of the population (where I live, its estimated that between a quarter and a third of women will never have children, whether by choice or circumstance – that’s a whole lot of women) and as more of us talk and write about our thoughts as you have done here, some of those judgements you’ve described might end up being challenged in some really meaningful ways. I really hope so, anyway.

      Thank you so much for such interesting thoughts!

      • Lilly
        March 31, 2012

        Thank YOU, Olivia!

  5. CiCi
    March 30, 2012

    You already know that I’ve been struggling with this exact same issue. Maybe I put it on myself, maybe not. I’ve always been a giver. It’s just in my nature to serve others. And I thoroughly enjoy doing so. That said, I have to admit that I feel like or felt like, as I’m working through it, that I “should” be giving more of my time in order to fill some whole in the universe that I’ve left open by not raising children. I completely understand that the guilt is a lot of my own doing. I feel like I have to contribute to society in some way. On the other hand…it’s eating me up. I’m no longer enjoying serving in the way that I used to. Primarily because of the obligation part. I have to learn to find balance. And I have to learn to not put all of that on myself in lieu of not having children. I should be free to live my child-less/child-free life how I choose. Even if that means being lazy and never volunteering again (which I would never do). So I guess to answer your question, yes, I think of myself as a giver, always have, and I indeed feel more obligated to give more now that I’m childless.

    • olivia
      March 30, 2012

      CiCi, I love that we were mulling over the same issues on our blogs on different sides of the globe!

      I guess part of finding a balance in anything is tipping over too far in one direction, realising it, then tipping over too far in the other and realising that too. Maybe its a process that we have to go through before we ‘find our feet’ so to speak?

      I think the other huge issue here is that our media is SATURATED with information about how to be a mother – we are surrounded by images and stories and role models and how-to books that show us every kind of mother imaginable! And while I’m not suggesting that representations of motherhood are helpful to women all (or even most) of the time, they do at least give them something to work with. Non-mothers have pretty much been left to their own devices to construct their identities!

      All just to say that I think we should be really patient with ourselves as we figure our balances out x

  6. Kaitlyn
    March 30, 2012

    I’m not much of a giver (because I have neither the time to volunteer nor the resources to donate much, if at all), but I don’t consider myself anymore selfish than most people. People have children do it for their own fulfillment and happiness. My happiness comes from bettering myself for my future, being a devoted fiance, and I’m considered a wonderful friend because I CAN be there for people who need my help. I couldn’t do any of this with children. All of my college buddies tell me that I help them so much and make them feel better when they feel terrible. I guess that’s my way of giving back 🙂

    • olivia
      March 30, 2012

      I think that’s a beautiful and very valid way to give, Kaitlyn. And you’ve been so supportive and encouraging with my own work here that I’m with your college buddies all the way 🙂

  7. Lynn T
    March 30, 2012

    Perhaps childfree people are more likely to consider the many ways they could contribute to society because they are not rushing around like headless chickens for their children without a moment to even consider their own lives and how they would like to spend their time?! Parents are more likely to end up giving in specific ways because of their children i.e. baking for a sale to raise money for a school trip, taking their turn in helping out on school trips, because it is expected of them and they are asked to. Childfree people are perhaps more likely to consider this more deeply and possibly stress about how they will contribute. There are so many good points here in the comments already particularly about getting the balance right and not doing things just to impress other people but doing things for ourselves. All these great blogs and comments on this website are going to be great to refer to in the years to come, to help us celebrate our choices. to remind us that we don’t need to replace the obligation of bringing up kids that we have decided to forego, with yet another obligation, and that we should live our lives as we want to not as we think “other people” would like us to. Kaitlyn’s comment about being there for friends is a great point. When I think of contributing to society, I tend to think of charity work/volunteering but being there for friends and family is just as important, if not more so. Thanks Kaitlyn for bringing this to my attention. Also, without children we have more time to help friends and family with their children, IF/WHEN we decide we want to and then we can just pass them back and go back to our childfree lives. Ah, bliss!

    • olivia
      March 30, 2012

      Lynn, I think it must often be true that non-parents have time to read, reflect, research and consider exactly what is important in terms of how we use our time and resources. It’s such an important point and I think you’re offering a great insight into this trend of ‘good works’ in the lives of the women being pinned on the board.

      And I definitely agree with you about Kaitlyn’s point in relation to being there for friends and family. That kind of ‘giving’ is at least as important as the kind the post emphasised.

      Your final two words made me smile 🙂

  8. Beam_Me_Up_Scotty
    March 30, 2012

    I do consider myself a “giver” – mainly of my time and skills, if not money. I prefer to do crafty things above all else. I don’t go to balls, parties, dinners, mixers, concerts – although I would consider going to an auction.
    This is a terrific post – it makes me want to create a board on Pinterest, of all the charities that I’ve given/contributed to.
    -crocheted hats for the homeless
    -crocheted a Special Olympics scarf
    -cut off 18 inches of my hair and donated to Pantene Beautiful lengths
    -Given money to the Humane Society for Southwest Washington (for the Doggie Dive!)
    -Donated crochet cat blankets to my local shelter
    …among other things. I don’t think I would have a lot of time to crochet if I had kids.

    • olivia
      March 30, 2012

      Beam_Me_Up_Scotty, I am RIGHT with you on crafty methods of raising funds. They are far and away my preferred way of contributing! I hope so much that you make that pinterest board – I’d love to follow it and see the work you’ve done.

      Your list is really inspiring and it makes me think I’d love to do a post some time on this kind of thing. Could I get in touch and ask you some more about it some time?

  9. Dienna
    March 30, 2012

    I found that I did donate to charities frequently (when I had more disposable income) and do volunteer a lot of my time (but I want to ease up on that because I want more “me” time), but I never correlated it to being single and child-free. I can’t imagine things being different if I had a kid, and I can’t imagine myself as a mother.

    • olivia
      March 30, 2012

      Thanks for your thoughts, Dienna. My contributions definitely go up and down depending on time and budget too.

      I wish you all the very best with finding and enjoying some ‘you’ time. Surely everyone needs that, non-mother, mother, single or attached!

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