— What makes you decide that?
This phrase haunts those who choose not to have children throughout their lives. Sometimes, it can be painful; not everyone wants to share the reasons for their decisions. For others, however, talking about it can be painful because they would like children but are unable to have them for various reasons.
DINK stands for dual income, no kids, and it can be either neutral or offensive. Amanda Stewart, 47, has no children and lives with her husband. She often hears, “You have a double income but no children. ” She says, “Sometimes it sounds like an insult because I feel like people judge me just because I want to live this life for myself.”
DINK life has its advantages. For example, such couples have a higher disposable income because they do not have additional children-related expenses. DINK means that both work and have no children.
Another major benefit not commonly discussed is that people without children simply have more time that they don’t have to spend on childcare. That opens gates to finding more time for traveling, enjoying hobbies, or dedicating time to personal growth. J.V. Vallejos told Fortune he has more time, including for his and his wife’s vacations.
What is DINK?
When both couples work but have no children, they have more disposable income because there are no expenses for raising and supporting children. LendingTree, a loan company, estimates that the cost of raising a child increased 19.3% from 2016 to 2021, the most recent year for which complete data was available. Over the 18 years before a child reaches adulthood, these costs will total $237,482. On average, families will spend a substantial amount of money to raise one child in the United States.
This estimate does not consider inflation or other factors, such as the reduced mobility and career prospects faced by those with children.
Contrary to popular misconception, DINKs do not necessarily refer to the rich. People with dual incomes and no children can belong to any social class, regardless of their income. They can be either wealthy or low-income people.
The only thing distinguishing such households is the absence of children and associated costs. These costs are not only in terms of what couples spend on raising a child. But also what people miss out on. For example, according to a poll from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago, conducted in 2021, couples face increased housework. They also face career advancement challenges. These problems were reported by 50% of those surveyed. While the burden is spread unevenly, 47% of women say having a child is a barrier to job security, compared to 36% of men.
Despite public questions and public condemnation, about 50% of couples in the U.S. are now childless, and that number is up 7% since 2012. Yet even though it’s common, Amanda Stewart says, “It’s not perceived by people in that way; society expects that a couple should have children.” She talks about how she often heard the phrases “You’ll change your mind” and “You’ll change your mind in time.” Sometimes, she preferred not to say that not having children was her conscious decision so as not to go into details. “It’s exhausting, you know, explaining your life choices to a person every time, just because they’re wandering,” she said.
According to the Pew Research Center, in 2021, about 44% of childless people don’t plan to have children, an increase of 7% compared to 2018. There is no difference by gender, and men and women are equally likely to say they will not plan to have children. But despite the lack of gender differences, societal pressures can be different. Women are more likely to face stigmatization for not having children. Amanda says: “Society often expects women to be the initiator, especially in conservative societies, so the pressure on women will be higher.”
No kids, less space needed
Derek Mitchell talks about a vital importance that convinced their family not to have children: living space costs. “When you decide to have kids, it’s not just about the expense of food, entertainment, and education; it’s also about the fact that now you need a new home,” he says. The average size of a home in the U.S. is about 2,014 square feet, but that size varies significantly from state to state. The largest homes in Utah are about 2,800 square feet. But the figure in New York or Hawaii is much more modest, around 1,490 square feet and 1,160 square feet, respectively.
For many forced to buy a larger home to live there with their children, the problem becomes the subsequent maintenance or selling it to move to a smaller home. Therefore, those who choose not to have children can choose a smaller home that will meet their needs.
The money they save can be invested or spent on improving your life. For example, buying stocks or bonds, even for a relatively small amount of $20,000, can significantly increase their income.
But that’s not always a choice
Amanda Chandler says that although her family has no children and has made her life better and richer, she faces judgment and inappropriate societal questions. The fact is that she cannot have children. For more than a decade, she and her husband struggled with health problems to have children. Amanda has dreamed of being a mother since childhood and always believed her calling was to create a large family. “The more painful part was finding out I couldn’t have children,” Amanda says, “I spent about 10 years trying to conceive, and when I did, I had a miscarriage.”
Amanda and her husband decided not to adopt a child and instead focus on living for themselves. “After the grief passed, I realized that maybe it was my destiny that I just had to accept,” says Amanda, “It wasn’t an easy decision, but in the end, I accepted it and saw the prospects.” As a result, she made a significant lifestyle change, abandoning life planning in anticipation of future children. Now, Amanda and her husband don’t choose a house based on the school district, and career planning has shifted its focus from good maternity leave arrangements to growth prospects.
“I can’t imagine my life with children now because I’ve done and accomplished so many things that I would not have been able to do without having children. So maybe it’s for the best,” says Amanda.
Katy Seppi, another woman who can’t have children, told Fortune magazine, “Especially as a woman when I meet someone new, 70% of the time I know the first question is going to be, “Do you have kids?” Then you get comments like, “Why don’t you do this?” and “Have you tried this?” and unnecessary advice.” She now runs a Childless Collective, a community for people who are childless, not by choice, and says it’s important not to forget that many DINK couples still suffer from debt incurred from fertility treatments.
Why do people choose not to have children?
Edward Stevenson says he and his wife consciously decided to be child-free: “We want to focus on our lives, not on what we can pass on to future generations. But he says he often chooses not to speak frankly, even when asked. “It sounds even philistine and narcissistic, and there is a risk that we will face public condemnation.” It’s a big problem and a challenge to a traditional culture that still sees the concept of family as something that should include children.
Those who do not follow this concept risk facing social stigma. This affects his career, as colleagues don’t always understand why they don’t have children. For example, Edward says that his coworker did not invite them to a family dinner when he found out that Edward did not have children.
But despite the disadvantages, DINK has advantages, such as increased stability. When you have children, usually both of you have to work, and the loss of a job by one of the couple leads to financial hardship. DINKs are much freer in this respect, as even the loss of a job by one of the couple does not lead to significant losses.
Mark, born and lived in Kyiv, tells us about this. After the war started, he and his wife moved to Germany, and now he is looking for a new job. He says they considered having children but ultimately decided against it. “It has had an impressive outcome because we don’t have the extra commitment.” Now, the couple has given up on the idea of having children and plans to focus on their professional growth.
This impressive benefit is convincing more and more people to give up children. But it’s not just about money; Mark says it’s “about mobility.” People without children are more mobile, can change careers faster, or choose new places to live. This is especially true for couples who are planning to move. Even if they would like to have children, the hassle of moving can make them reluctant. “It’s one thing to emigrate; it’s another to emigrate with children,” says Mark.
Don’t make it all about career
While this is a common benefit that is often talked about when it comes to DINKs, it shouldn’t be all about careers. Amanda Stewart says, “Yes, not having kids is an obvious advantage for career and finances, but it’s not just about that.” When we talk about DINKs solely in terms of personal wealth or career prospects, by doing so, we dismiss a large number of people, making them look like all they want to do is “live richer.”
This is a common misconception that creates a social stigmatization of people without children, especially in more traditional societies where children are an accepted social value. Aleksandra Wojciechowska, who lives in Warsaw, says, “It’s just social pressure when everyone around you, including your family and parents, perceives giving up children as if it’s selfishness.”
There is nothing wrong with reasonable selfishness, but the desire not to have children has nothing to do with it. Often, it’s just about a different way of life that people choose. The reasons may differ: someone wants to travel more, and someone is simply not ready to allocate 18 years of his life to the upbringing and care of a child. Therefore, the viewpoint embedded in the acronym creates a misconception of people who don’t want to have children, making them look like they “don’t want to share”. Edward Stevenson says that he dislikes the acronym DINK itself, which makes him feel as if he has decided to appropriate this “double income” for himself and his family.
“The idea that people like us have decided to enjoy a double income is deceptive. I don’t want to have children not because I want to save money. I don’t want to have children in the first place because I don’t want to.”
A matter of inheritance
One common misconception associated with DINKs tells us that these people “want to live life for themselves.” Amanda Stewart says this approach is offensive: “Sometimes people see it as selfishness when it’s not.” Amanda and her husband have nephews and other relatives who maintain good relationships and help them with money for their needs. “What we have left over, I can pass on to my nephews. Isn’t that the same as passing it on to your children?”.
Not having their own children gives couples more opportunities to spend more time with their in-laws. Many also get more free time to devote to their nephews, which many couples with children don’t have the opportunity to do.
The same goes for empty nests; people with children early and by age are grown and living their own lives. Martha Hamilton says, “I had a baby at 19, and now I’m 43. I don’t want my kids anymore, but I can spend more time on other things, including my sister’s kids. “
- Cattanach, J. (2023, September 11). Annual costs to raise a small child up 19.3%. LendingTree. https://www.lendingtree.com/debt-consolidation/raising-a-child-study/
- How much does raising a child impact your career? men and women disagree on the answer. University of Chicago News. (n.d.). https://news.uchicago.edu/story/how-much-does-raising-child-impact-your-career-men-and-women-disagree-answer
- Coblentz, E. (2023, November 27). What’s a dink? childless couples in US could soon hit 50% and these states rank high for them. USA Today. https://eu.usatoday.com/story/money/2023/11/21/best-states-for-dink-lifestyle-childless-couples/71669125007/
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- Brown, A. (2021, November 19). Growing share of childless adults in U.S. don’t expect to ever have children. Pew Research Center. https://www.pewresearch.org/short-reads/2021/11/19/growing-share-of-childless-adults-in-u-s-dont-expect-to-ever-have-children/