After "Sharp Objects" star Patricia Clarkson revealed she has "zero regrets" about choosing not to get married or have children, the topic has caused buzz on social media.
Clarkson said on Bruce Bozzi's "Table for Two" podcast, that she loves being an aunt to her sisters' children, "probably more than acting," according to The Independent.
"But I’m telling you, these are gorgeous children, but that doesn’t have to define every woman," she added.
"At the end of the day, I loved working and I grew up with great parents who sacrificed everything for me... And you have to really be committed to having children. You have to be a great parent, and I was afraid I couldn't be."
She then joked, "My mother said: 'Patty, I just don't want you to wake up at 50 and be unhappy.' I woke up at 50 in stilettos and a thong.
"I've had a great sexy-a— life."
Clarkson isn't the only one making this choice — and being unapologetically open about it.
Nova Scotia-born influencer Alicia Mccarvell is 32, married, and doesn't want children.
'Never been drawn to being a mother'
The choice to remain child-free is one McCarvell has been firm on for years, but only recently began posting about her decision on social media. She opened up a wider discussion about the stigma women face when they don't want kids.
"I've never been drawn to being a mother," she said. "I was never drawn to playing the motherly figure."
Mccarvell admitted she and her husband once planned to have children when they both believed it was what they were supposed to do. They discussed how many they'd have and even picked out names.
But when they talked about what their future looked like, they realized neither of them envisioned one that included kids.
"We pictured our life and there was a dog and there was travel, but neither of us had written children into that equation," she said. "And that was when we were like, 'Oh, maybe this is up to us. Maybe we get to decide, and that's not what we're writing into our story.'"
Mccarvell had been open and honest about her choice to be child-free, and yet she said the questions she receives most frequently from her followers is when she plans to have kids. That's why she recently posted content about being childfree more consistently: as a disclaimer, so people would stop asking.
Since then, Mccarvell said she created a space for others who don't want children to be honest about their choices. She's also heard from mothers of daughters who don't want children and are grieving that potential, but still choosing to support their child. Mccarvell said she even heard from mothers who say they wish they knew they had a choice before having children.
But, she has also faced countless assumptions about why she doesn't want kids — along with an alarming amount of hate.
Why is being child-free criticized?
Some assume Mccarvell's decision means she had an exceptionally traumatic childhood or that she hates kids — neither of which are true.
An expert weighed said the controversy stems from traditional expectations from women.
"Women will often describe feeling looked down on or ostracized for not having children," said Caitlin Slavens, a registered psychologist and co-founder of Mama Psychologists in Alberta.
"When looking at why this decision seems so controversial, we need to look at how women have typically been viewed."
Historically, Slavens said, women have been viewed as caregivers, homemakers, and those who are "meant" to raise children.
People often project their own beliefs onto others, Slavens added. Some may believe that a life without children is unfulfilling and unsatisfying, and they assume that will be the case for anyone who chooses to remain child-free.
One Ottawa woman, identified as Mandy to protect her identity, told Yahoo Canada people often assume she doesn't want kids because she had a bad childhood
"That's not at all the case – I had an amazing childhood," the 31-year-old claimed.
Many assume I hate kids – I don’t, I just don't want my own.Mandy, 31
Mandy is extremely close with her family, loves being an aunt, and knows for certain she doesn't want kids. Like Mccarvell, she simply never felt pulled to motherhood. And as she's gotten older, she's come to realize her freedom and ability to live on her terms is what matters the most.
And yet, she constantly faces judgment and disbelief when she voices her choice.
"Most people who know me are surprised, especially since my family is so family-oriented," she said. "Many assume I hate kids – I don’t, I just don't want my own. Many don't take it seriously and assume I will change my mind."
But, she's also had people tell her they wish they had put more thought into having kids before having them. It might be more common than people think.
In fact, when Mccarvell posted an anonymous online survey asking her followers if they'd still choose to have kids in a second life, many responded with uncertainty, she claimed.
"I think that if me choosing to be loud about being child-free allows someone to stand confidently in their decision or understand that it is a choice, everybody involved will be living a much more fulfilled, confident, and loving life," Mccarvell added.
"There's nothing worse than children being brought into the world that aren't wanted."
She said many parents seem to feel attacked by her personal decision not to have kids, but she strongly believes that if someone is confident in their decision to have children, then her decision not to shouldn't impact them at all.
Mccarvell said another misconception is that she's saying her life is better than the lives of those who have kids, but in reality, she is simply saying this choice is better for her specifically.
Setting boundaries and facing pressure
According to other co-founder of Mama Psychologists Chelsea Bodie, setting boundaries with those who aren't understanding is a good way to deal with societal pressures.
Surrounding yourself with like-minded, judgment-free groups or individuals who will accept and support your choices can also help.
She also suggests investing time and energy into discovering what it is that fulfills you, whether that be through relationships, creativity, a career, travel, or something else. This will make it easier to stand firm and proud in your choices, even when facing pressure or judgment.
Mccarvell said it's something she'll keep talking about publicly.
"I plan to continue to have this conversation because I don't think I genuinely realized how stigmatized it really is," she said.
"I want those who are trying to make that decision to know that this is also a fulfilling decision, and that all these things we've been taught aren't real and that you can live a happy life without choosing to be a parent – that decision is also okay."