More women than ever are choosing not to have children.
According to the latest population survey from the U.S. Census Bureau, 47.6 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 44 have never had kids— that's the highest number since the bureau started tracking that sort of data in 1976.
What the bureau doesn't track is why women (and men for that matter) are choosing a child-free life.
The are no universal answers, as writer Meghan Daum discovered.
Daum asked a bunch of fellow writers to share their thoughts on the topic for her new book "Selfish, Shallow and Self Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on the Decision Not to have Kids."
"It really ran the gamut," Daum says. "Sometimes people were in situations like Michelle [Huneven]'s where they grew up with difficult parents and either didn't want to repeat the pattern, or were just turned off by childhood as an institution in general. Some people wanted to pursue their creative lives in such a way that they didn't feel parenthood was compatible."
But more than getting at the reasons why people decide not to have children, Daum says she wanted to change the conversation.
"What I wanted to do was invite people to sort of talk about what it means to make certain life choices. And then what it means to be in a culture that is, particularly in this moment, really emphasizing parenthood in a way that can be alienating sometimes for people who are not parents."
Author Michelle Huneven, one of the book's contributors, says that when she was younger she faced some pressure from her peers to have kids, but it was "a friendly kind of pressure, like 'You've never felt the kind of love that you'll feel when you first give birth,' or... 'I can't wait for you to have kids so we can do things together.'"
Daum says she's also had friends tell her that she'll never know the love that she'd feel if she had a child, but she doesn't mind.
Her response: "They're absolutely right. I will never know that sort of love. We all make certain choices and decide not to do some things and to do other things. And by definition, the things you don't do, you will not know what that experience is."
Daum says she just hopes parents and non-parents alike can be more honest about their life decisions.
"There's so much intellectual dishonesty on both sides," Daum says. "Just as the mom who says 'I love being a mom every second of the day, I never once have a thought of what my life would be otherwise,' that person is just as intellectually dishonest as the person like Michelle and myself who've chosen not to have kids who say 'Every second we're so happy we don't have kids!'"
"Nobody can ever be totally sure about anything," Daum says. "We just do the best we can."
To hear the full interview with Meghan Daum and Michelle Huneven, click the link above.