Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Kathy S., 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.?

During my first marriage there was a short period where we tried to conceive. This was shortly after we had reunited after a very hard breakup. Although I wasn't on birth control I did not get pregnant. We quit actively trying but since I still wasn't using birth contol there was always the possibility that it could happen. Even when we were actively trying I was never really obsessed with getting pregnant. If it happened it happened. My first marriage ended and by the time I remarried again I knew that I never wanted to have children. I have never regretted not having kids although my parents do wish I had.

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?

Probably the most important factor that influenced my decision was the loss of freedom having a child would bring. Second would probably be money. Third would probably be that I remember what I was like as a teenager and I didn't want to go through what I put my parents through, so I guess you would call it the pain of rearing a child. I very much enjoy being childfree. I like the lack of responsibility for another life. I like that freedom of not having a child. I can go where I need to go without having to worry about whose watching the kids. The only bad thing I can think of is that my parents really wanted grandkids and neither myself nor my brother gave them that. Yet. There's still that chance my brother could do it.

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?

Other than my parents very very mild disappointment I really haven't noticed any reaction from anyone about me being childfree. My parents have mentioned that they would have liked to have grandkids. I've never had friends comment on me being childless other than to ask if I wanted them. When I said no, they always dropped the subject. What I have noticed is that among strangers one of the first questions I seemed to be asked is if I have children.

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 have no regrets about not having children. At my age I don't see me changing my mind. I'm very happy with the childless life I have made.

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

Actually I think I'm just about the only childless person I know. Most of my friends and family has children or plans to have children.

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?

I think its really such a personal decision that you can't really compare to someone else. What may be an advantage to being childfree to me may be a disadvantage to someone else. I think if you wanted kids then the advantages would outweigh the disadvantages. For me, the advantages of being childfree far outweigh the disadvantages. For me there is only one disadvantage and thats related to my parents rather than me. I can't really compare life satisfaction of the two lifestyles. I am very very satisfied with the life I have right now. I can't say if I would be as satisfied if I had kids. I probably wouldn't be where I'm at right now but maybe I would be just as happy being in a different place. The one thing I can compare between me and my friends with children is that I have lots more free time. They always seem to be going going going. Running to one event or another related to their kids. Mostly my evenings and weekends are my own and I like that very much.

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

Our culture expects young women to get married and have kids. If you don't have kids it's because you can't, not because you don't want to. If you chose not to have kids then your a hard career driven woman that puts herself above all others. From the time I was in high school it was expected that I would marry and have kids starting in my 20's.

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

I think that for the most part young women will get married and have kids. Or just have kids. Nowadays you certainly don't need a marriage certificate to have a baby. I think the messages can be misleading though. I am proof that a woman can be childfree and be happy. Some women just weren't meant to be mothers and I'm proof of that.

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've never had a parent tell me that wish they could go back and do it all over again. Once they have that child the can't imagine their lives without it. But they can be jealous of the freedom I have. I can't remember any specific conversations but it usually comes up when the parent (usually the mother in my case) is talking about all the activites they have to deal with in relation to the child and then my comment about how I'm sitting home watching a movie or going to dinner.

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