Childfree by choice: ‘There’s a narrative that your life is either Sex and the City glamour or cat lady’

The Women’s Podcast hears about the diverse and varied lives of women who have chosen to remain childfree

Listen | 60:05

For Caroline Magennis, a writer and academic, not having children wasn’t necessarily a decision made outright, it was more of a gradual realisation.

“It strikes me that people who want to have children really want them, they go through painful rounds of IVF. It has a toll on them financially and on their careers… I waited and waited to want that. And yeah, the call never came,” she tells Róisín Ingle on the latest episode of The Irish Times Women’s Podcast.

When that call for motherhood never arrived, Magennis, like many others in her position, just carried on with life. However, she felt increasingly scrutinised by others over her life choices and was often met with the question, ‘when are you having kids?’, or worse, ‘you’ll regret it if you don’t and then it will be too late’.

“Like a lot of childfree people, there’s often a narrative that your life is either some sort of Sex and the City glamour, or it’s cat lady, sad little life…Most people are just getting on with their lives,’ she says.


It is these women getting on with lives that Magennis explores in her brand new book Harpy: A Manifesto for Childfree women. In it, she looks beyond the often divisive conversation around choosing not to have children, and offers an alternative message of hope and celebration. Speaking to more than fifty childfree women, she offers a perspective on the types of rich and varied lives that can be lived without kids.

“I was just getting on with my life and I didn’t intend to, or really mean to write this book… But it just got to the point where I thought people won’t stop mentioning this to me, they have to know that there are so many different experiences that people have with this,” she says.

Speaking alongside Magennis on this episode, is writer Laura Kennedy, who shares her thoughts on the pressure faced by women nearing the end of their fertility window and her own feelings of ambivalence around motherhood. We also hear from Margaret O’Connor, a Limerick-based psychotherapist and presenter of the ‘Are Kids For Me’ Podcast. Through her work as a therapist, O’Connor supports people wondering if they should become parents.

“My clients will be between, say, people who are really, really unsure, and they’re stuck in that ambivalence…and then also people who are, 80, 90, 100% sure that they don’t want kids and are not sure what the next step is,” she explains.

You can listen back to this conversation in the player above or wherever you get your podcasts.

Suzanne Brennan

Suzanne Brennan

Suzanne Brennan is an audio producer at The Irish Times