'Respect our choice': Childfree couples ask for understanding

Family members struggle to understand their decision, as society often promotes the idea that life’s purpose was to study, get a good job, have children and strive for them.

10 Jul 2024 08:30am
Photo for illustration purposes only. - 123RF
Photo for illustration purposes only. - 123RF

SHAH ALAM - Opting for childfree marriage is a personal choice that deserves understanding and respect from others.

A couple who preferred to remain anonymous shared their experiences with the challenges they faced due to their decision to remain childfree in their marriage.

The husband said his family members struggled to understand their decision, as society often promoted the idea that life’s purpose was to study, get a good job, have children and strive for them.

He said initially, he was feisty when responding to relatives’ inquiries about the matter.

However, he has since became calmer in responding to such questions and more accepting of different viewpoints of others.

The 38-year-old man who works in the media industry said his friends were very respectful of their decision not to have children.

"I don’t think there’s an urgent need to connect with other people who have made similar decisions, but it is really great to have some family members and friends who share our views about kids," he said.

He added that none of his close friends have ever made a negative comment about their decision to be childfree, as all of them understood his situation and background.

His wife, who also works in the media industry on the other hand said she felt fortunate that her family was not pressuring her into having children or questioning her about her decision not to have any.

"We're lucky in the sense that my side of the family are not traditional and are relatively open-minded.

"There's the occasional jest from aunts about whether or not I've changed my mind about having children but yes, so far so good,"said the 38-year-old woman.

She also shared about being judged by former colleagues for her choice to not have children, often by those from more privileged backgrounds who did not face similar challenges.

For instance, she said their parents paid for their education and first cars.

She said she also learnt not to take such comments too seriously.

Meanwhile, home baker Rose Farhan, 30, said her siblings, in-laws and friends understood and respected her's and her husband's decision not to have children.

"Everyone can make their own decisions without involving other people's opinions. We are free to choose our future, our dreams for our own happiness especially our mental health.

"Don't ever let people influence or ruin your decision just because they did something good for themselves," she said when contacted.

She added that some people chose not to get married and all they hoped for was happiness.

Rose believed that there was nothing wrong with a childfree marriage in the country, even though some worried about losing a generation if more people did not want children.

She emphasised the importance of tackling pressing issues such as revamping the education system, stabilising the economy, reducing poverty and ensuring every child was loved and received a quality education without disruption.

A preschool teacher who only wanted to be known as Siti, said she was fortunate to have supportive friends and family who respected her decision not to have children.

She said she created her own safe space to have an open conversation about being childfree without being judged.

"Their understanding and acceptance provide a strong foundation for my choices," she said when contacted.

She said she fostered strong relationships with her friends and family and believed in the importance of community, planning to stay active and engaged as she ages.

She viewed legacy as more than just having children, aiming to leave a positive impact through her career and volunteer work.

As a teacher, she said she enjoyed being surrounded by children daily, which allowed her to pursue her professional ambitions without balancing the demands of parenting.

She aspired to become a school curriculum specialist and take advantage of opportunities as they came.

She also tried to avoid social circles with friends and family who have children, such as playdates and family gatherings.

This, she said gave her more control over her work-life balance, allowing her to focus on her career when needed and take time for personal development and relaxation.

"This way, I won't feel pressured to have children. I'm grateful for creating a safe space by surrounding myself with friends who are high achievers, career-driven, travellers and also childfree.

"The people I can relate to," she added.

According to the Department of Statistics Malaysia (DOSM), the estimated number of children under 18 in 2023 is 9.13 million, constituting 27.4 per cent of Malaysia's total population of 33.38 million.

This marks a decline from 9.19 million children under 18, which made up 28.1 per cent of the total population of 32.7 million in 2022.

The report also detailed the gender distribution among children under 18.

In 2023, there were 4.72 million boys and 4.42 million girls, compared to 4.74 million boys and 4.44 million girls in 2022.

Children under 5 years of age numbered 2.35 million in 2023, with 1.21 million boys and 1.14 million girls.