Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Lela B., Age 25

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 have personally never wanted children. Even from a very young age, I never expressed any interest in being a mother. My choice was definitely deliberate. The older I get, the more I realize how much I DON'T want children. There are plenty of factors that go into my choice to be childfree. I'll try to touch on the major points here. First and foremost, I have no maternal instinct. To be completely truthful, I find babies repulsive. The 'cuteness' factor doesn't even register on my radar. I also find children irritating, with their lack of communication skills and constant complaints and questions. Child rearing is also a HUGE responsibility. I enjoy having freedom to do what I want, when I want. I don't have to arrange my schedule around feedings, diaper changings, tantrums, school activities, etc... Besides, me and my husband have busy schedules. I want to be able to maximize the time we spend together! For me, this decision was/is a no-brainer. I can't think of a single reason why ANYONE would want to be a parent, much less myself.

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?

The main decision is just a lack of desire to have children. Other major factors are freedom from responsibility and lack of financial hardship. I LOVE being childfree. If there are any negative things about it, I have yet to discover them.

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 have been very lucky. Although I come from an extremely child-friendly family, I have never been bothered by any of my relatives about having children. My immediate family is completely supportive of my decision. My mother is always quick to tell anyone who asks that I do not want kids, sometimes even before I can respond. My friends are the same way. I run with a group of open-minded individuals who respect my decisions and know who I am and what I'm about. It also doesn't hurt that none of my close friends have children, and many of them do not want any, either. Society, on the other hand; is a completely different story. I get rude and intrusive questions from stangers all the time regarding my childfree status. I am also talked down to, being assured that I'll 'change my mind'. It seems that society glorifies breeding to the point of absurdity, and people just accept the status quo. I think that people feel threatened when they encounter a person that thinks outside of the box, and that may be a reason why we're given the third degree. As far as discrimination is concerned, I do see it in the workplace. This applies particularly to parents leaving early or not coming in because of their children and the childfree being left holding the bag. It seems to be a common misconception that if you don't have kids, you must not have a life outside of work or any valid reasons to take time off. Some common misconceptions are that all childfree are selfish, or child-hating. While there are people (like myself) that don't like children AT ALL, this is a rare exception to the rule. Most childfree folks that I know like kids just fine, but don't want any of their own. There are plently of others, but these are the main ones.

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 feel very confident about my decision. My feelings about it have never changed. I definitely DO NOT have any regrets. I am about as likely to change my mind as I am likely to spontaneously combust.

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

Not really any role-models, but I had three old spinster great-aunts on my father's side, so at least I'm not alone!

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?

This is a hard comparison for me to make, because I am generally so far removed from people with children. Aside from co-workers, who seem to always be taking their kids to the doctor or financially strapped single mothers, my usual contact is with childfree people and empty-nesters. In my family, it seems that children have been a major financial hardship. I've also seen my cousins going down undesirable paths, getting in trouble with the law. I have one cousin who just had a baby at 16. I see the negative impact this has had on the parents, and it just reinforces even more that I have made the right choice. In terms of life satisfaction, it's hard for me to accurately say. People with children rarely have the guts to admit that they are less that thrilled with their choice to procreate.

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

Absolutely! It appears that we still haven't progressed past societal gender roles. It still seems to be expected for women to bear children, just because we can. IVF treatments are being touted as 'miracles'. I personally find these to be an abomination, since so many babies produced through these means are born premature or with birth defects. Anyone who considers the birth of a child or pregnancy as anything short of a 'blessing' is considered evil and cruel. Don't even get me started on the baby bump watches, and the women who tote their babies around like fashion accessories! There is no shortage of cultural bias toward breeding, and the glorifying of family life.

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

Completely misleading. People are told 'It's all worth it", "It's different when it's your own", "God will provide", etc, etc. This is a load of tripe. People are encouraged to breed without thinking, that it's all fun and games, and that everything will just magically work out. The truth is, a baby is a human being who needs guidance and proper care. A child is a huge responsibility, and to many (though they may not admit it) a huge burden. I think a lot of people buy into this lie, and ruin their lives. It's a sad thing to see.

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).

Not me personally, but once again, I do not have any friends with children, or any close childed family members.

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