Recently, a woman asked, "My husband and I are childless. How do you cope with the feelings of rejection and of being a minority in the church community?" Both she and I are unable to have children, and her question brought back memories: the hurt as friends with babies bundled in blankets pulled away, the struggle to fit in at church, and the hurdles of gracefully handling ignorant and hurtful comments.
Childlessness is a growing church issue: The number of women who will never bear children has doubled in the last 30 years from 1 in 10 to almost 1 in 5 (Pew Research). In 1976, the number of childless women ages 40–44 (considered the end of childbearing years) was 580,000; by 2008, it had more than tripled to 1.9 million.
What's causing this rise in childlessness?
First, Americans are delaying marriage until they've achieved educational goals and financial stability. The median age for women's first marriage is now 27, and more than half of women age 25 to 29 have never married, says the 2013 report Knot Yet: The Benefits and Costs of Delayed Marriage in America. Delaying marriage leaves fewer childbearing years in which to find a suitable husband. It also decreases a woman's chance of having a successful pregnancy.
But the bigger reason is that more women are choosing not to have children: Among women ages 40–44, the number of voluntarily childless now equals the number who wanted children but couldn't have them.
In TIME Magazine's recent cover article "None Is Enough," Lauren Sandler cites many reasons for the surge in opting to be child-free. Some non-moms say they don't want the "bone-tired" lifestyle their mothers had "doing it all," or never felt they were "mother material." The financial costs in raising a child are formidable, and leaving the career track for a mommy track can cost "$1 million in lost salary, lost promotions and so on." Women who delay marriage may develop enjoyable lifestyles they're reluctant to give up. Society's portrayal of all it takes to be a great mom seems unrealistic.1