When Rachel Cargle was in her early 30s and trying to figure out whether or not she wanted to have kids someday, she remembers seeing narratives online that were not helpful.
"A lot of what I was seeing online around the conversation of a woman choosing not to have kids felt very anti-child," Cargle told "Good Morning America."
What she didn't see was a positive space, one that differed from the norm and accepted a person's decision not to have kids.
So she set out to change that, and in 2020, Cargle created Rich Auntie Supreme, a website and Instagram platform that bills itself as "a space to celebrate and be in community with those women who choose a journey of being childfree and indulgence in the villages around them."
"I just wanted to create a space that both honored and celebrated my decision to not bear a child myself or become a mother myself," said Cargle, the founder of the Loveland Foundation, an entrepreneur and the author of the new memoir "A Renaissance of Our Own."
The group's name, as Cargle explained, was inspired by a meme featuring a photo of four older women dressed in "fancy clothes" and who looked satisfied with their lives, and her friend, who described the photo as a "Rich Auntie Supreme" meeting. Today, the real-life Rich Auntie Supreme boasts a community of 118,000 Instagram followers, a network that Cargle describes as a "safe space" to feel grounded and celebrate the joy behind the decision not to have kids.
"They whisper to me, 'I'm a rich auntie, too. I decided not to have kids, too.'"
"Creating this group revealed to me that there are so many more people who either have made this decision or are leaning towards making this decision," Cargle said. "One of my favorite things is that when people meet me ... they whisper to me, 'I'm a rich auntie, too. I decided not to have kids, too.'"
The growth of Cargle's "Rich Auntie Supreme" is one example of growing interest and part of a larger trend, data shows. The hashtag #richauntie on TikTok has garnered nearly 102 million views, and the most recent data available from the U.S. Census Bureau and Pew Research Center suggest the number of Americans who choose not to have kids has been growing in recent years. A 2021 Pew survey showed 44% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 49 said "it is not too or not at all likely that they will have children someday," up 7% from a 2018 survey. Meanwhile, a 2021 census report shows more than 15 million older Americans do not have any children based on 2018 survey data.
Laura Belgray, a copywriter and author, said she came to a resolution only after being surrounded by persistent stress.
"Around 2004 when I was in my 30s and feeling the pressure, all around me, the magazines started going crazy for baby bumps," Belgray, 53, recalled to "GMA." "There was a real media frenzy around kids. And there still is. And that added to the pressure. So ... I considered myself on the fence. I didn't say, 'I don't want kids.' When people said, 'Do you want kids?' I'd say, 'Um, I mean, not yet.'"
At the time, Belgray said she was on the lookout for "multiple examples" of older women who didn't regret their decision not to have kids and it wasn't until she was 39 when she and her husband sat down to make a firm decision together.
"[I was] just about to turn 40 and was feeling the panic of, 'Oh God,' like I guess we have to do it if we're going to do it. And I have to decide. It was like a pebble in my shoe all day long," Belgray said.
"I love my life without kids and haven't regretted the decision for a second."
Belgray said she wrote her upcoming memoir "Tough Titties," which discusses her decision not to have children, in part to let readers know they're not alone and that it's not the end of the world if they make a similar decision. She said she herself is "very happy" with her personal choice.
"I want [readers to feel permitted] to live their lives and be themselves the way they want to live, and to be 100% themselves," Belgray said.
"I tell [younger women] that there's no guarantee either way, that either one is the right choice -- and that all I can do is report from the front lines, as someone who's older and probably past their childbearing years, that I have no regrets and I love my life without kids and haven't regretted the decision for a second."
For Eboneé Woodfork and Alexis Caldwell, the co-founders behind the Rich Auntie Energy lifestyle brand, being a "rich auntie" is also more than just about the decision whether or not to have children but one of celebrating women from all walks of life.
"Rich auntie is just a term that's used for us in the Black community. So, it's just always been a colloquial term that we've known about and it's always just been something that's resonated with us, whether it's like an auntie by relation or relationship," Woodfork told "GMA."
Both Caldwell and Woodfork said they're still considering whether kids are in their respective futures.
"I kind of go back and forth. Sometimes, I spend a lot of time with my nieces and nephews and I enjoy spending time with them -- and I also enjoy being able to give them back to their parents. So, I haven't, like, made the decision yet," Caldwell said. "Some days I lean toward it, some days not."
For now, they are both focused on expanding Rich Auntie Energy, which they created in 2020 and has received positive feedback from other women.
"We've had messages from women that are like, 'Thank you for creating this community. I recently found out that I can't have children and I've been feeling worthless. I've been feeling like I'm not good enough or I'm not a woman. And the post that you posted or the quote that you said, it reignited my self esteem,'" Woodfork said.
Another message Woodfork said they've commonly received are ones from other women who also identify with the "rich auntie" term.
"Women that are like, 'Yeah, I'm a rich auntie. I don't want to have kids yet. I don't want to talk about it. I don't know if I do. I don't want that to be the topic of conversation all the time,'" Woodfork recounted.
Woodfork and Caldwell said they hope to continue building a community behind Rich Auntie Energy and creating connections between friends, uplifting and encouraging each other through both social media and in-person events.
Editor's note: This was originally published on May 24, 2023.