My guest this week is historian and author Dr. Rachel Chrastil. She recently wrote a book called How to Be Childless: A History and Philosophy of Life Without Children. We discussed the intersection of her professional and personal interest in this topic—Rachel herself has chosen not to have kids—and several of the myths about a life without children. Her perspective is uplifting, as she emphasizes the joy in living that is available to all, regardless of parenthood status, and the symbiosis that exists between those who do and those who don’t have kids.
Topics we touched on in this episode included:
- How common childlessness is (about 15% in the US for women 45 and older)
- How Rachel’s voluntary childlessness affected her decision to write this book
- The difficulty in clearly distinguishing between voluntary and involuntary childlessness
- Why being childless has gotten a bad rap, while having a kids is seen as wholesome and virtuous
- The gravity that many people feel from being the final link in the chain of life that led to them
- The frequent accusation that women who choose to be childless are “selfish”
- The difficulty in talking about one’s decision not to have kids
- Challenges related to the fear of regret around childlessness
- Research on the association between happiness and parenthood
- Making the most of our choices rather than making perfect choices
- What Rachel loves about her life
- The prospects in old age for parents versus the childless
- The interdependence between parents and the childless
Her book is available on Amazon: How to Be Childless (affiliate link).
Rachel Chrastil, PhD, author of How to Be Childless, is a historian of modern Europe, an award-winning teacher, and a Fulbright Scholar.
She lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, where she is Professor of History and Associate Dean in the College of Arts and Sciences at Xavier University.