Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Denise D., Age 43

Is the idea of having children something that you are open to, or were open to at some point in the past? Is the fact that you don’t have children the result of a deliberate decision or just the way your life happened to work out? If it was a deliberate decision, can you tell me something about how you made this choice, the circumstances, your reasons, whether it was easy, hard, etc.?

I know for a fact that I will not have children, and it is a deliberate decision for several reasons. First of all, I had a pretty unpleasant childhood, and I recognize enough of my own foibles to know that I wouldn't be a good parent. I know I would be unbelievably overprotective, for one thing. And I'm a perfectionist, which would make for a terrible mother, in my opinion. Plus I am very environmentally-conscious: why bring another child into an already over-populated planet? If I were to ever have a desire for children (which I cannot imagine), I would adopt.

What are the three most important factors that influenced your decision to be childfree? Do you enjoy being childfree? If so, why? If not, why not? Are there any bad things about being childfree? If so, what are they?

1) Overpopulation. By not procreating I'm helping the environment. 2) Single/finances. I am single, and could not afford to have a child. I do not believe in having children unless you have the means and the time to raise them properly. 3) Poor childhood. As mentioned above, I recognize aspects of myself that would make for a poor parent. Yes, I very much enjoy being childfree. Being child-free affords me time (besides my full-time job) to do volunteer work, pursue my freelance art business, or take a spontaneous trip somewhere. As far as bad things about being childfree....only that people at work expect you to pick up the "slack" for them when they call in sick because of their kids...or take off early because of their kid's school play....or taking the entire week between Xmas & New Year's off because their kids are off school. They made a conscious decision (most of the time) to have kids, but I often feel penalized because I didn't have kids, because I'm expected to work the holidays, put in the overtime, pick up the slack, etc.

Please describe the kinds of reactions you have received from others in response to your not having children. How supportive and accepting have your friends and family been? How accepting do you feel society as whole is of the voluntarily childless ("childfree") lifestyle? Do you feel childfree individuals suffer from unfairness, prejudice or discrimination in society? Do you feel there are common misconceptions about childfree individuals or the childfree lifestyle?

Reactions have ranged from people assuming I'm gay (I'm not), to people telling me "I'm going against God" and/or "going against Nature", or that I'm "being selfish or conceited" (which really amazes me, because I think of the couples I know who are going to desperate, close-to-bankruptcy lengths to have "biological" children, and to me THAT is what is incredibly selfish & conceited. Like a child isn't worth anything unless it shares their genes, name, and likeness. My friends are very supportive--most of them are childfree as well and plan to stay that way. Co-workers not so much; they may be somewhat accepting, but as I mentioned, some of them expect special dispensation or special treatment because they have kids. My family is very UNsupportive, to the point where I do not have contact with them any more (among other reasons). I do feel that childfree people do suffer from unfairness in society to some extent (such as mentioned above), because the common misconception is that we live these amazing, stress-free lives with loads & loads of free time all to ourselves. (Which I perceive to be envy on the part of those who think that).

In retrospect, how do you feel about your decision to be childfree? Do you still feel the same way as always on this issue? To date have you had any regrets? Do you think you may have regrets later in life? Is there any possibility you may change your mind about having children at some point?

I am very happy with my decision to be childfree. I have never had the "ticking biological clock" feeling, nor overwhelming maternal feelings. Plus I can only stand children in small doses, and go out of my way to avoid places where there may be a lot of them. I have no regrets. I don't believe I'll have regrets later. I do worry about what I'll do when I grow old & infirm without a "safety net" of children (as some people have suggested). But having children is no guarantee they'll take care of you when you're old, and it CERTAINLY isn't reason to have them.

Have you had any childfree role models during your life? Please explain.

My two English teachers in high school were husband & wife and very happily childfree and pretty vocal about it. (I guess it's ironic that they taught high school kids, though).

When you compare your life to the lives of women you know who have children (family, friends, co-workers), how would you evaluate the advantages, disadvantages, and overall life satisfaction associated with each kind of lifestyle?

While I don't doubt for a second that those women love their children, I see how so many of them have NO time for themselves. They are frazzled, running to soccer games or swim meets, to school, to after-school daycare, and trying to work full time. While I'm sure there may be some satisfaction in raising this little person to be a good person and productive member of society, there are no guarantees and you sacrifice a really large portion of your life to that child(ren). I feel that overall life satisfaction has to do with the sort of life one has chosen for oneself. If raising kids is that important to a woman, then I'm sure she gets a lot of life satisfaction. But for me, who has no desire for children, it would be incredibly unsatisfying and unfulfilling. I feel contentment and reward being able to devote a lot of time to my job, my volunteer jobs, and my art.

Do you perceive that there are any dominant messages expressed in our culture about having children? If so, what are they?

It is expected. It's like people are stuck on the same formulaic storyline: you must go to school, go to college, marry, buy a house, have kids, have grandkids, die. And anyone who varies from that formula is "scary" and "weird".

Do you feel these messages are for the most part accurate, inaccurate, misleading or something else? Please explain.

I think they're grossly inaccurate. Above I mentioned that someone told me I was "going against God and Nature by not having kids". This is how I tried to explain it to him: Just because I have the parts, doesn't mean I'm meant to reproduce. It's kind of like saying, "Because you have two hands, you must become a plumber." Well, no, because to become a plumber, you must first have the desire to do it, and you must have some bit of innate skill for it, and are going to have to put a good deal of money into it in order to learn to do a proper job of it. But no one would ever argue, "Well, you have two hands, so you must become a plumber." So why the attitude that because you have the reproductive organs, you must reproduce? I believe you must also have the desire, an innate skill at it, and the financial means to do a proper job.

Have any parents ever spoken to you about the "downside" of having children or told you if they had to go back and do it all over again, they wouldn't have kids? Have any parents expressed that they are jealous of you for being childfree? If so, please describe the conversation(s).

My own mother did. She'd always go on about how "she could have been a great artist...but then you kids came along." The irony is that they ADOPTED us! So we didn't "come along" unexpectedly! But they were unable to conceive children of their own, back in the day before in-vitro & fertility drugs, and since society (even more so back in the 60s) deemed married couples "must" have children, they didn't want to deviate from that aforementioned "formula", so they adopted. And it was something they didn't really desire, had no innate talent for, and certainly didn't have the financial means to care for us properly. Other than that, a few co-workers express jealousy sometimes, when they tell me about how they had to watch "Nemo" while I saw the latest indy movie, or how they spent the entire weekend at a swim meet, while I spent 6 straight hours on a Sunday, just reading. But sometimes that does lead into the misconception that my life doesn't have its own stresses and responsibilities.

No comments: