Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Helen Q., Age 29

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 was open to having children when it wasn't possible. However once I got married and everyone started assuming the children would follow I changed my mind as I didn't want to lose my identity completely. Parents my age seem to have no life beyond their children and I find these parents incredibly boring so it was easy for me to decide not to be like that.

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?

I love being childfree because I can eat, sleep and travel when I want to. I have money to spend on things that interest me and I don't act like a martyr whining about how hard my life is. Its not all positive though, as being childfree makes you a target for aggressive parents who think that they can live your life better than you can. People who know me don't give me grief, but its amazing how many strangers think they are entitled to accost you and demand that you reproduce for the good of the human race.

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?

My family is incredibly supportive and my husband's family hides their disapointment well. I have lost friends once they become parents as they are no longer interested in anything but their children and I find that incredibly selfish of them. Society as a whole doesn't understand childfreedom. Childfree people are invisible unless they are being attacked. Parents are held up as examples of the best life people can lead. I resent the level of my taxes being set to pay for family benefits but that doesn't mean I will harm children (though the thought has crossed my mind when they won't shut up)

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 don't think I will have regrets. I don't think I will change my mind, but who knows I could suffer a permanent brain injury. Anything is possible.

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

My aunt is childfree. Also the successful women in my life have had to hide the fact they have children to be taken seriously at work.

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?

Freedom is the best part of being childfree. The worst part is that you still have to put up with the tales of misery from parents. I think childfree people are more satisfied with life, and that parents know this and resent it.

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

The assumption that everyone has children or wants children is alive and well. Advertisments use children a lot. A visitor from Mars viewing them could conclude that everyone lived in a happy Kodak family with two parents and two kids. The bad parts of being a parent are not mentioned though the evidence (screaming kids, smell, mess) is everywhere.

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

These messages are completely inaccurate. A lot of parents are miserable.

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).

I think parents view parenthood as a trade off - they have to put up with a lot but they can be smug about how they are perpetuating the human race. I haven't had parents say they are jealous, but I bet they are. I get to sleep at night and none of them seem to.

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