We've all seen the memes ... and even the bumper stickers. Colorful displays proclaiming "I'm a FUNCLE," or celebrating being mom to "fur babies" only. There are countless ways some share that they're enthusiastically certain they are living their best life thanks to being childfree. And once these happy souls, of which, I am one, find a partner, there's another term that comes into play: DINK.
What's a DINK? It's an acronym that stands for "dual income, no kids," and is widely interpreted as two people living together as partners with no children of their own (and no plans to have kids) who are thriving in their careers and personal lives.
The origins of the clever acronym aren't clear and it's not a term frequently mentioned in popular culture, but, like The Goonies, G.I. Joe figurines and the Walkman, the phrase is said to have been coined in the ’80s, particularly during the rise of yuppie (young urban professional) culture.
If you were a fan of the ’90s animated television series, Doug, you may even remember the Funnies' lovable neighbors, Bud and Tippi Dink. Yes, their surname is a reference to that DINK: The series creator, Jim Jinkins, even confirmed it in a 2016 Decider interview.
The stigma placed around one's very personal decision about whether or not to have children is likely why the term floats so far below the radar — but the DINK community is a proud one complete with their very own symbol emblazoned on bumper stickers.
I would know. I'm a proud DINK. My husband and I are both in our late 30s and have chosen the DINK life — and no, we aren't those "married to our career" types. While we both enjoy success in our fields, we enjoy a deep bond that I can't imagine would be possible if I had to give so much of myself to caring for a child. We are not selfish individuals, but instead, selfish with the time we have together for the sake of our relationship.
Don't get me wrong, we love children and have great relationships with our many younger extended family members and the children of close friends. In fact, with the extra time (and money) we have from not having children of our own, we have the ability to forge extra-special bonds with these children in our lives.
My husband and I share a love of travel and are able to explore for a good chunk of the year, including several trips a month and at least one long-term international trip a year — all on our own dime (no trust funds here). With our jobs, we also typically spend a few months a year living in Los Angeles to work on our creative endeavors. Simply put: We love the lives we have proudly designed for ourselves and have a darn good time along the way. Most importantly, we feel fulfilled in every sense of the word.
In recent times, I've discovered that we're not alone. In addition to circles of friends that share this similar mindset, there's an entire online community dedicated to removing the pressures and stigmatism surrounding the subject.
Dania Casellas, a 33-year-old microbiologist and online fitness coach, resides in Florida with her partner. Together, they have created a safe and inspiring space on Instagram for others like them to share the daily humorous (and often reluctant) encounters they face as DINKS.
"I knew in my early 20s that I for sure had no desire to have kids," Casellas tells Yahoo Life. "I don't get excited over babies but I'm good with kids. I have a silly personality and enjoy being around them but taking on the huge responsibility of raising someone just doesn't appeal to me. I was told I was crazy, selfish and that I would regret it. I'm now 33, childfree and living my best life."
That best life she speaks of? Casellas spent years living in New York City on a journey of self discovery and she and her partner now enjoy the spontaneity that DINK life brings, like making last-minute dinner plans, playing in soccer leagues and taking trips to Universal Studios Orlando.
"I think having kids would limit us in the activities we enjoy and the quiet living space we love," Casellas adds. "We hope to be homeowners soon. With the way things are right now, I'm not sure we could afford a home and kids. Adulting is expensive."
As today's society continues to see a growing number of issues on the rise — overall uncertainty, crippling debt, a poor housing and job market and even climate change — financial, cultural and biological issues come into play when considering parenthood.
Still, arriving at the decision to not have children wasn't easy given the social pressures she faced. "I'm basically the only childfree-by-choice person I know outside of social media," Casellas shares. "Friends and family around me were starting families and honestly I almost started to doubt my choice. I needed support so I started listening to books about being childfree by choice." She credits books like A Childfree Happily Ever After: Why More Women are Choosing Not to Have Children by Tanya Williams with making peace with her decisions, as well as the discovery of social media communities.
"When I discovered people sharing their childfree lives on Instagram, I felt like I was going to therapy," she says. "Childfree people absolutely live healthy, fulfilling and purposeful lives. It's an amazing and supportive community to be a part of."
Childfree Millennial is another Instagram-based DINK support system, run by partners Marcela and Michael, ages 26 and 31 respectively, who live in Kansas City, Missouri and prefer to keep their last names anonymous.
"It was about three years ago that I came to the realization and had a light bulb moment that kids weren't a mandatory thing in life," Marcela says. "Crazy, I know — I just didn't grow up being told this or having any examples of people who didn't have kids in their 20s and 30s."
"When I had this epiphany," she continues, "I couldn't contain my excitement because of how relieved I was. I wasn't going to have to do something that I had been dreading my entire teenage and adult years."
Today, Marcella says she wakes up every day with a smile on her face knowing she can confidently accomplish all that she sets out to do. "I find myself investing more in creativity, exploring the world and becoming a better person," she says.
She uses her platform as a way to let others know it's OK. "Three years ago, I wish I had someone to look up to like me in the childfree space," she explains. "Someone who was open in talking about their childfree journey and how amazing and inspiring your life can be, regardless of what others are saying about it."
As many work toward removing the stigma of going childfree, proud DINKS are not shy when it comes to displaying their status. One way of letting the world know where you stand in the child department is the popular trend of displaying a bumper sticker outlining your "family." On a DINK's car, those stick figure children are are depicted as little money bags.
Rachel Wiedmayer is one of the top-rated sellers of DINK bumper stickers on her Etsy store, WiedMakers. "I am half of a DINK couple," Wiedmayer says. "My husband and I do not (and will not ever) have children of the human variety. We have two dogs and a cat. I decided to start selling these decals because I look for designs that align with my views and interests."
And there are obvious financial benefits along the way to not having children. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it is projected that it will cost parents, on average, $233,610 to raise a child born in 2015.
Jay Zigmont is founder of financial planning service Childfree Wealth and author of Portraits of Childfree Wealth. Zigmont focuses his client base almost exclusively on childfree couples, a trend he believes we can expect to see more of since, as the number of childfree families grows, so does the need for financial plans that aren't tailored towards those with children.
"Financial planning for childfree individuals is different," Zigmont explains. "Most financial rules of thumb or general plans assume you have children. With 11% of the U.S. population over age 55 being childfree (and that number growing in younger generations), we as financial planners need to be sure to adjust to this growing need."
It's not all yachts and spontaneous international travels for this growing number of individuals. "Being childfree does not automatically mean you are rich," adds Zigmont. "The difference is that if a childfree person is barely keeping their head above water, if they had a kid they would drown."
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