Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Kimberly P., Age 45

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.?

The choice was deliberate. I was 15 and they showed us a film of an actual birth. That was enough to make my mind scream 'No Way!' So the gore factor was the first reason. I was raised by a mother that was very obese and unhappy. I remember her telling me and my siblings, and we were very young when this started, that we were the reason she was fat. That her having kids made her fat. I NEVER wanted to be that mean or cruel to anyone. Then in college I took night courses as I worked full-time during the day. My classes were full of divorced women saying that they were there because they wanted to make a better life for them and their children. I never once have felt that my choice was hard. In fact, it seems very matter of fact to me.

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) freedom 2)an easier lifestyle 3)I never found a man worthy of being a parent with. I thoroughly enjoy being childfree. I don't have to drag around kids. I don't have to make dinner if I don't feel like it. I have my own life and sanity! The only thing I can see bad is that I have to endure the judgement of women that feel tied down by their choice to have kids. There's a feeling of resentment, but only from strangers.

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?

I stated at such an early age that I had no plans of having kids that my family left me alone about it. I worked with a guy who asked if I had kids and I replied no. He stepped back and looked me up and down and said 'Why? Are you barren?' I thought that was stupid. Like I wanted to have kids but couldn't; he couldn't fathom it was a CHOICE. I don't feel I suffer from unfairness, etc. from society. In fact, I feel I suffer for having to deal with other people's kids. People bring their babies to the movies and the noise ruins my experience. Same with restaurants. My husband and I rarely have a quiet dinner because parents will bring their kids to what would be considered an adult restaurant; they treat it like Burger King or Red Robin. There is almost always the misconception that a woman without a child doesn't have one because she CAN'T. WON'T doesn't even exist in their reality. I saw a therapist for a totally unrelated reason that this subject. She asked me if I had children and I said no. She asked me if I had regrets. I said no. And I was rather perturbed by that question. At the next session I called her on it and said that if I would have said 'yes' she would NOT have asked if I had any regrets. She tried to tippy-toe out of it but I held her to it. She knew I knew and she did agree. Another misconception is that if you don't have kids you must not like them. This is true for some, but not all.

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 never waivered on my choice. Never once. Considering the type of lifestyle I enjoy and the types of jobs I have held, it is the right choice for me. I wonder sometimes when I'm really old and may need care if there will be anyone around to help me. But my own grandmother lived alone with 2 of her daughters living in the very same town. Grandma fell and probably laid on the floor unable to get up for 3 days since she still had three days worth of medicine not taken when they found her. It wasn't until a neighbor called my aunt that they were worried they hadn't seen her light on. And the 2 daughters where the caregivers of my grandmother. She went to the hospital then to the nursing home and never came home again. She died about 4 months later. My husband was 60 and I was 40 when we married. He has 2 grown kids and 3 grandkids. We have often wondered how it would have been for him and me if we had met say 10 or so years earlier. I think my husband is a wonderful father. I think I could have pushed the 'adoption' button earlier in our marriage but neither one of us wanted to make that change in our lifestyles.

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

Not really to speak of. I had a close friend during then end of the 80's who didn't have kids. However, she said it was because she never found a husband to start a family with.

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 raising children in today's word would really be hard...and expensive! I have lots of financial advantages over those with kids. I also have my own time. Sometimes I think people, particularly women, lie about feeling their kids make their lives worthwhile. They say it because they are 'supposed' to say it and don't want to be looked down on.

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

If we want to judge our culture by our advertisements, you'd think that having kids makes for a happy family. BS! It's a fantasy they are selling, not reality. I think there is a strong message to have babies in the black community because it's seen as the thing to do or have. Why? I don't know, it alludes me.

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

I think the messages are misleading and inaccurate. It's expensive to raise children and a huge responsibility. Most of the parents I know have 'kid' drama in their lives. The parents rarely say what a 'jewel' their kids is. It's that they can hardly wait til they are gone!

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 sister has 2 adult kids. When they were young she would tell me that she wish she would have known it would have been 'that' hard before she had kids. And now that they are grown, she's very happy to be free of them. As I mentioned earlier, I have asked women if they wish they wouldn't have had kids and they'll say 'oh, don't get me wrong; I love my kids! But if I knew then what I know now...(they usually say they would have waited) but a few have said they probably wouldn't have. And when some folks find out that I don't have kids, they will say 'that must be nice!' I tell them it is!!! I'm not faking my happiness. :)

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