Meet the women choosing not to have children due to climate anxiety: ‘How can we have children? What are we bringing them into?’

Deciding whether or not to have children is a big decision, and now there’s a new factor influencing people’s decisions: climate anxiety.

For some, it’s easy to see a future packed with nappies and playdates. But our choice to start (or not start) a family is inevitably influenced by the world around us. While most of us consider our bank balance or career, there’s been a growing number of people that cite climate change as the biggest influence in their decision not to have children.

Charlotte is all too familiar with climate anxiety. She explains, “I made up my mind that I wouldn’t have children due to climate change in my early twenties. I know we’ve never been able to have too much certainty about our future, but we know that climate change is unlikely to get any better.” 

“Unless the government really put in the necessary efforts to tackle the issue, it’s going to be too late to tackle it. But, we saw at COP26 that governments are really reluctant to make real change and that in itself helped me make this decision.” 

Charlotte isn’t alone. A recent study found that four in ten young people are reluctant to have children due to climate change. And even celebrities are joining in with the conversation with Miley Cyrus telling Elle, “We’re getting handed a piece-of-sh*t planet, and I refuse to hand that down to my child.”

I sat down with the founders of Climate Psychologists, a group of psychologists that specialise in managing anxiety around climate change. They’ve been busier than ever supporting people through eco-anxiety

Dr Patrick Kennedy-Williams explains: “It’s not actually just those who are currently not parents. We’ve discussed this with people who have made the decision not to expand their family or have another child due to climate change. As psychologists, we can never advise a person on what to do, our role is to guide them to the right choice for that person. And, for some, it can be deciding not to have children. But, it’s a tricky decision. It can be tough to explain your decision to your parents or wider family and there’s a lot of guilt that comes with that.” 

Beth* aged 30 is currently living in London with her partner of five years. She told GLAMOUR, “I’ve always been maternal and honestly, we really loved the idea of children. We saved to buy a house with a second bedroom for that very reason. But, looking at the planet, at what’s happening, how can we have a baby? What are we bringing them into?” 

That said, Beth has yet to discuss this with her family. “My partner’s family have been very supportive, but my mum would love grandchildren. I know I need to tell her and my dad, but I know they’ll be devastated.”

Helen, a 32-year-old from Manchester, had a positive experience talking to her family about not wanting children: “My parents really understand that it’s my choice. I’ve been married for five years and my partner and I check in with each other every six months to make sure we’re on the same page about our decision.”