The Childfree Choice as Self-Care


  • Author Karina Westrick Lpcc
  • Published June 24, 2024
  • Word count 1,004

Self-care is a term that is thrown around a lot in wellness spaces. For me, the term evokes images of leisurely beach strolls and luxurious bubble baths. However, self-care encompasses more than just these indulgent moments; it involves committing to an exercise regimen, crafting a nutritious meal plan, getting plenty of sleep, and engaging in psychotherapy. In essence, it forms the cornerstone of a healthy lifestyle, requiring each of us to make decisions that prioritize our well-being. One such decision is whether to embrace parenthood or remain childfree.


Parenting is a 24 hour, 7 day a week, 18+ year commitment. From breakfast to bedtime, parents are tasked with myriad responsibilities. Of course, these responsibilities evolve across stages of development. You will not have to wipe your offspring’s runny nose forever (hopefully!). As babies become kids, they require less help with bodily functions but still need monitoring and nurturing. Many parents find that even if their kids are in school or with a babysitter, they are still thinking about them- worrying about their wellbeing and anticipating future needs. In other words, parenting takes a lot of brain space.

And that is just the activities of daily physical survival. To truly thrive, babies, kids, and teens need their emotional attachment needs to be met. “Attachment” has become a buzzword in recent times and might have lots of connotations. Simply put, it can be thought of as the quality of a relationship between caregiver and child. Secure attachment results from a parent being attentive to a child’s needs, leading the child to believe the world is fundamentally a safe place where the child is valued. This also looks different over time- warmly responding to a crying baby might change to providing a safe place for a teen to process romantic rejection. One reason attachment has become a household term is that so much research has demonstrated its importance in healthy development. In fact, childhood attachment predicts adult physical and psychological health (Rees, 2007). Read: this puts a lot of pressure on parents to be emotionally available.

It should also be noted that the tasks of parenting fall disproportionately on women. While there has been a recent push to make parenting more egalitarian, research suggests that women still bear most of the burden (Minkin & Horowitz, 2023). And while in the past women were expected to focus only on mothering, now they are expected to balance careers with mothering. This leaves many women with little time for themselves.


There are many reasons why a mental health challenge can make taking care of yourself hard. A common symptom across many mental health disorders is avoidance, which is a lot what it sounds like- avoiding things you need to do or even want to do. Anxiety can make it uncomfortable to complete “simple” tasks, like having conversations or going to the grocery store. Depression zaps your energy and motivation, sometimes making it difficult to get out of bed or take a shower. For people whose symptoms are rooted in trauma, avoidance can be tied to situations associated with the traumatic event, or even just memories of the trauma. Post-traumatic stress disorder may also include dissociation, a symptom where a person becomes out of touch with their body or surroundings. Once someone is in this state, it is impossible for them to engage in day-to-day activities until the symptoms have subsided.

I want to impart hope that it is possible to recover from these conditions. At the same time, there are no magic cures, and getting better takes dedication and perseverance, sometimes over the course of a lifetime. This can look like engaging in therapy, meditation and mindful breathing, building community, exercise, and journaling.

How does this relate to parenting? Since daily tasks can sometimes take more effort for people with mental health challenges, having to engage in double the tasks to take care of yourself and a child can be daunting. Not only do you have to make your salad, but you also have blend baby’s spring peas. Additionally, some people may feel they just need more time in the day than other people to engage in self-care, and they wouldn’t have time for those activities if they had kids. It can be easier to get the sleep you need if you don’t have to wake up early for school drop-off. Even if you are able to care for another person, you might not have time for the things that make you feel your best. Lastly, people with mental health challenges might feel they don’t have the emotional capacity to be fully present and create healthy attachment relationships with kids. If you’re battling existential dread, it might be taxing to stay attuned to your child during a temper tantrum. Of course, I am not saying that people with mental health challenges cannot or should not have kids. Many people with anxiety, depression, trauma, and other concerns have made excellent parents! It’s simply a matter of knowing what kind of lifestyle works best for your unique circumstances.


Given the immense time and emotional investment required for parenthood, it’s understandable why some individuals, especially those with mental health challenges, might opt for a childfree lifestyle. Choosing not to have kids enables you to prioritize your self-care routine and pursue personal passions wholeheartedly. Personally, this is the path I have chosen. I don’t feel like I could balance my therapy practice and motherhood and feel happy all at the same time!

Deciding whether to have children or not is a profound life choice. Therapy can provide invaluable support in clarifying your needs, values, and life purpose, guiding decision making. If you choose to embrace a childfree lifestyle, a therapist can provide support in navigating this unconventional, yet exciting life path.


Minkin, R. & Horowitz, J. (2023, January 24). Parenting in America Today. Pew Research Center.

Rees, C. (2007). Childhood attachment. Br J Gen Pract. 57(544), 920-922. doi: 10.3399/096016407782317955

I am a psychotherapist based in San Francisco, CA. I empower individuals with challenging pasts to create fulfilling, alternative lifestyles. My practice is childfree and LGBTQ+ affirming. To learn more about my work, visit my website I can also be reached by email ( and phone (415-275-2172).

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