SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX/CNN) - The dream of getting a good job, marrying the love of your life, and having a few kids - the American ideal for generations - is changing as couples are choosing to leave children out of the equation.
"It's just not something I've ever wanted to do," Naomi Jimenez, who is childless by choice, said.
"Many of us who are childless by choice have friends, family and loved ones who do not get it," said author Karen Foster, who wrote "No Way Baby," a book on how to cope in a world where deciding to be child-free is questioned.
"Many of us have chosen not to have children still constantly have to defend ourselves against comments like, 'You'll regret it. Who's gonna take care of you when you get old? It's different when they're your own. You'll never know true love. It's your duty to go forth and multiply,' one of my favorites, 'But I want grandchildren.'"
But despite the pressures, Foster said about four million women in the U.S. have decided not to have kids, and the number is growing.
"In the women's movement in the 70s and 80s our mothers and grandmothers fought for us to have choices and have careers. But now what I see around me are women who are working 60 hours a week and then doing the full-time job of raising a child. And something's gotta give," she said.
For 33-year-old Jimenez, the decision was easy.
"'Cause it's a job, it's a job that you have to do the rest of your life. And if you're not ready, or willing, then there's gonna be some issues there. And the one that's gonna suffer is that child," Jimenez said.
Foster said that despite her decision to not have children, it's not that she doesn't like them.
"That's not the case at all. There are people that are childless by choice that don't like kids. And, I would say good, then don't have any," she said.
Gary and Colleen said they love their nieces and nephews, but don't feel the need to procreate.
"We haven't made this as just an off-the-cuff decisions where we woke up one day and said, 'Yeah, we're not going to have kids.' We did discuss this with each other. We did look at the options, we looked at the pros, we looked at the cons. And we thought this out," Gary said.
"How many people give that much thought to having children? The reality is that 50 percent of the pregnancies in this society are unplanned," Foster said.
She said she's doing society a favor by not having children, especially with the world population expected to hit seven billion this year, and 15 million children in the U.S. alone that are living in poverty.
And yet, child-free adults are often accused of being 'selfish.'
"People who have kids and aren't 100 percent sure that they want them, they're the selfish ones," Jimenez said.
"I find the scenarios of, 'Oh, I want to see what a little me will look like.' That to me is a little selfish," Colleen said.
Foster said that pointing fingers at each other is useless because everyone, even parents, is selfish.
"I think what it really comes down to is we are all selfish. Because we are all pursuing the life path that we think is going to make us most happy."