TikTok content creators and certified beauty girls Bella Madamba and Belle Rodolfo on choosing to be child-free in the Philippines
There are more and more people who are choosing to be child-free. In the pandemic alone, population growth drastically declined. Between rising prices of essential commodities (with a 14-year high inflation rate of 8.7% in the Philippines recorded in January) and the long-term effects of climate change, more Gen Zs and Millennials are deciding against having children.
In 2022, global population growth hit the lowest rate since 1950 amid an economic and health crises, according to reports from the UN. In the Philippines, population growth was recorded as the slowest in 75 years in 2021. First-world countries like Japan face a looming population crisis with the government addressing the problem by providing incentives for couples who heed the call to “go home and multiply.”
Population trends linked to fertility decline are related to many women preferring to pursue careers and have children later, with job opportunities for women improving in quality over time. Some countries have also been getting wealthier, with religiosity in turn declining, a factor that gives rise to smaller family sizes.
With the rise of short-form content platforms like TikTok, creators have been given the opportunity to destigmatize “taboo” topics such as voluntary childlessness (also known as the #childfree movement) through bite-sized content. This may come as a surprise to many, but a lot of people actually agree.
Saipo founder and sunscreen aficionado Bella (30) and her husband Ludwig (27) were married during the pandemic, but they’ve been together since they were in college. At first, she was open to the idea of having children. She recounts, “Being child-free is something we decided early on when we were dating pa. Nung una (At first), I still wanted kids before we graduated [college]. But after I graduated, that’s when I was, like, ‘It’s so expensive. Is this really what I want or is it what people are telling me to want?' I realized, by myself, na better for me to remain child-free.”
Upon graduating, Bella started working to build financial independence and moved out of her parents’ house. “That’s when you feel the weight of the bills and how hard it is to earn enough to support yourself,” she says. “I really realized that I don’t think there will come a time [when] I will regret [choosing to be child-free] because there’s so much more to life for a biological woman than just having kids.” She adds, “There are other people who want to have kids and that’s completely fine also.”
Both Bella and Ludwig decided that they were going to be child-free. “It was almost non-verbal, we just collectively came [to an agreement]. We both felt the weight back then of how difficult it was to support ourselves…It was a simple discussion, no-frills or anything,” she notes.
@sunscreengodmother Replying to @bellerodolfo on IG save this video for when you meet your nosy boomer relatives ☺️ #childfree #childfreephilippines #millennialsoftiktok #millennial #filipino #asian ♬ Anti-Hero – Taylor Swift
When Bella publicized her decision to be child-free on TikTok in 2022 as a young married woman, the comment section ranged from critical thoughts like “[Millennials think] this way. [They’re] mostly self-centered” to those agreeing with her saying, “I am [child-free] together with my husband. [Same] reason: how can we support a child when we can't even support ourselves?”
The original video was reposted on Facebook, which earned the ire of people from older generations commenting thoughts like, “Oh, you’re gonna regret it when you’re older.” Still, the response was mostly positive.
For Bella and Ludwig, choosing voluntarily childlessness is also a way to heal their inner children. “I had to grow up very quickly. I feel like I want to give myself the childhood that I didn’t have. And he feels the same way. Now, he loves buying himself things he couldn’t buy for himself when he was younger. That’s our way of healing our inner [children]. I think everyone should do that because it’s so freeing when you finally have your own financial independence, and you can decide for yourself what to do [with your money],” she notes.
“That’s our way of healing our inner [children]. I think everyone should do that because it’s so freeing when you finally have your own financial independence, and you can decide for yourself what to do [with your money].”
For people who seem to be well-meaning but contradict their choice, Bella chooses to just be firm with her words but no longer feels the need to justify her decision. She just exits the conversation gracefully. “I don’t really feel the need to justify myself anymore kasi I’m firm in my decision. And like what other Gen Z people say, ‘Ikaw ba magbabayad ng tuition? Ikaw ba bibili ng baby formula?’ Hindi, ‘di ba? It’s my choice. Ganun na lang (‘Are you paying for the tuition? Are you paying for the baby formula?’ No, right. It’s my choice. That’s it).”
When you scroll L’Officiel Philippines’ Beauty Editor Belle Rodolfo’s TikTok, you’ll see a video that shares “a day in the life of a double-income, no-kids, queer couple.” Belle (31) and Deng (41) have been together for three years and cohabit while caring for their 12 cats.
Belle has always wanted to be child-free, especially having experienced caring for her younger sister who’s 11 years younger than her. She reveals, “When I was 18, I always said na ‘I don’t think I want kids.’ And people have always told me, ‘You’ll change your mind,’ and I haven’t. I think it’s because my younger sister is 11 years younger than me so parang free trial, char. I was, like, ‘You know, what? I’m good.’”
@bellerodolfo #grwm while i talk about something personal 🤍 #fyp #foryoupage #childfree #childfreemillennial #childfreebychoice #childfreelife #childfreephilippines #childfreewomen #childfreevibes #makeuptok #beautytok #filipinotoxictraits #filipinoculture ♬ original sound – bellerodolfo on IG
From the get-go, Belle and Deng mutually agreed upon being child-free. This was something they established in the first few dates. “You know what, [on] one of our first dates—second date or third date—that’s one of the topics we discussed because we were both looking for the same thing: something serious and stable. We weren’t looking to date around. It was important for both of us, fortunately, to discuss what we want out of a relationship. Luckily, she also doesn’t want kids. And she has been decided on that longer than I have,” she shares.
Belle gets unsolicited comments from people about her choice to be child-free like, “You might regret not having them.” She claps back, “Personally, I think it’s worse to regret having them. I always say that the world doesn’t need more kids anyway.” She further adds, “In this economy, I’m not going to pay for somebody for the rest of my life, their whole life. It’s just not for me. But if it’s for others, fine, it’s their life.”
On her viral TikTok post, she received praise for her openness to destigmatize such a topic but not everyone agreed with her. Belle shares, “There was one lady who had this comment, which other people liked, saying, ‘You remind me of these celebrities who said this before but changed their mind once they found the right person.’ I responded in another video and I said, ‘The right person won’t try to change your mind. The right person will be somebody who is on the same page as you.’ That’s just a cringe take on it, to be honest.”
“The right person won’t try to change your mind. The right person will be somebody who is on the same page as you.”
While plenty of people still believe in a “traditional” family structure (see: a nuclear family), times are changing. More people are choosing to be child-free, especially in the Philippines, where life is already hard as it is making ends meet as a single person. But for others, it’s not just about practicality; it’s a sacred act of healing their inner children.
Art Matthew Ian Fetalver