More women don’t want to be mothers, as the birth rate falls

There are strong opinions on both side of the fence.

There are strong opinions on both side of the fence. Photo: TND/Getty/Instagram

Waking up from a weekday sleep-in, Danni Duncan was handed a coffee by her husband, Alex, to drink while still cozy in bed.

Later, the Christchurch-based content creator went to work with plans to finish the day at the gym, before winding down with a quiet dinner at home.

This will be her day-to-day life for the foreseeable future, and she has no plans for a baby to interrupt it. Ever.

Danni, 34, is one of a growing number of women who have publicly announced they never want to have children, sparking a fierce backlash from critics who say the choice to not procreate is ‘selfish’ and ‘unnatural’ for women.

“I never pictured myself being a mum, but I always thought I would be a mum,” she told The New Daily.

“I just never really considered any other option … it’s the choice that is modelled everywhere, all throughout media and TV and books.”


Alex and Danni Duncan decided not to have children. Photo: Danni Duncan

She started seriously considering whether she wanted children after she turned 30, and it took about three years to be certain that she didn’t want them in her future.

Fortunately, children were never a huge priority for her husband, who now “firmly” doesn’t want children either.

Although Danni loves spending time with children, she said her lifestyle, priorities and personality were not conducive to having her own children.

“I’m somebody that likes spending time independently. My job looks different every day, I don’t really stick to routines … With the cost of living … you’ve definitely got to be mindful of your finances,” she said.

“And I just love working. I know people do both [have children and work], and I admire that.

“But I don’t want to do both. I just want to do one.”

Birth rates plummet

Danni is not alone in her vision for her future. Birth rates are dropping all over the world as women delay, or decide against, having babies.

South Korea is famously one of the most severely-affected countries; the country’s birth rate fell to a record-low 0.72 in 2023, defying billions of dollars spent by a government desperate to drive the figure up.

The replacement rate, which is the number of babies per woman a population needs to replace itself, is 2.1.

In Australia, the birth rate was 1.63 as of 2022, and the Australian Bureau of Statistics noted Australians have been increasingly waiting until later in life to have babies, and are having fewer than before.

As The Demographics Group co-founder Simon Kuestenmacher previously noted for The New Daily, modern reasons for the dropping birth rate include Australians waiting longer to have children, which shortens the length of time they have left to procreate, along with the high cost of living.

Increased workforce participation from women is also linked with smaller families; women face greater career and financial insecurity when they become parents than men.

Pro-natalists consider falling birth rates one of the biggest issues facing the world, and have as many babies as possible.

They claim their actions are based on scientific data.

However, Zoe Krupka, counselling, psychotherapy and psychology lecturer at The Cairnmillar Institute, said they are more likely driven by psychological undercurrents of racism, fear of being taken over by another country, and fantasies that their children will take care of them in old age.

When it comes to the debate over women who choose not to have children, Krupka said the conversation is “very gendered”, with it being considered important that women are eventually put in a “caring” role.

She said while it’s true having a child can be expensive and many mothers lack adequate support, research shows a lot of women are also making the decision based on how “incredibly high” the standards for being a ‘good mother’ are now.

“I had a child 28 years ago; the difference between what I was expected to be as a pregnant woman and as a mother then and now are exponential,” Krupka said.

“I was getting a coffee the other day, and there was a pregnant woman in front of me, and the barista actually said to her, ‘Are you sure you don’t want decaf?'”

“So women are talking about the perfectionism … the weight of, “How much are you using your phone? What are you eating? What are you drinking? How are you responding to your child?’ … those ideals are too high.”

Nothing wrong with child-free women

Gold Coast-based model, actress and Wildlife Warriors ambassador Ellie Gonsalves went viral last year when she released a long list of reasons to remain child-free.

These included everything from having responsibility for your children for the rest of your life to the possibility of chapped, bleeding nipples while breastfeeding.

She told The New Daily her decision to remain child-free “evolved and solidified” over the years as she reflected on her personal goals and lifestyle preferences.


Ellie Gonsalves’ reasons not to have kids sparked heated debate. Photo: Ellie Gonsalves

The 33-year-old received mixed reactions from friends, family, and social media users after she went public with her decision in an effort to de-stigmatise the topic.

“Sometimes people say, ‘Oh, I feel sorry for you,’ but when you know who you are, what you want, and what truly gives you purpose in life, you don’t care for those comments or care to write [or] say them to others about their life decisions,” she said.

“By speaking out, we’re collectively creating a space where it’s acceptable to pursue different paths to happiness and fulfilment, and that’s incredibly rewarding.”

Ellie said her decision stemmed from personal preferences, lifestyle choices, experiences with complicated family dynamics, broader societal concerns and “very honest” testimony of friends and family members who had children.

Among the supportive comments from fellow child-free women and mothers alike, were comments from critics who accused Ellie of being ‘shallow’ and ‘selfish’.

But Krupka said there is nothing inherently wrong with women who don’t want children.

The serious issue lies with children born to parents who don’t want them; she said studies found there are women who regret having children, with many having succumbed to pressure to have them.

“I think it’s really hard for most of us to come to grips with the awareness that we weren’t wanted, even if we understand that our mothers might not have had either a choice at all, or very limited choices.”

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