Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Mel H., Age 42

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've known since I was a child that I never wanted to have children. Even as a child, I preferred the company of adults. Not having children is as much a part of me as having hazel eyes or liking coconut.I've never given it a conscious thought, I just always KNEW I never wanted children and never considered the alternative.

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. I don't like children. That's it really. I can list other reasons why I'm glad I never had and will not have one, but as far as the factors influencing my decision...I don't like children and never have. I enjoy being childfree. I enjoy having my quiet and solitude and not having to deal with children. For me, there are no bad things about being childfree apart from the fact that the society I live in is geared toward children and families.

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 parents are supportive and even have stated that they wouldn't have had kids if they had it to do over again in a different time in our society. No reflection on me personally or my childhood--they just didn't ever consider the alternative of not having kids and are pleased that I am able to do so. The rest of my family thinks that I am a)one of "them"--"them" being homosexual; b)that I am denying my true purpose by not having children and c) that I'll never be truly happy or understand true happiness until I've experienced childbirth and childrearing.

Society as a whole is NOT accepting of people choosing to be childfree. We are discriminated against in the workplace, in IRS tax rules, in politics (if you have no kids and certainly if you admit not liking kids, you can forget running for office in many areas).

Childfree misconceptions that drive me crazy include: You can do all the extra work or work overtime because since you don't have kids, you don't have anything really IMPORTANT that you are doing with your time anyway; They think the childfree can afford anything or go anywhere since they don't have kids that means you don't have other financial obligations (I've been asked by pitch in more than others to a kitty or pool since I don't have kids), that you have all the free time in the world because you don't have kids, that you'll learn to like kids if you just spend enough time around them, that you must be a mean or degenerative person if you don't like kids. It never ends.

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?

No regrets, ever, even for a moment. I asked my doctor for a hysterectomy when I was 13 and he lost it. I asked again at 15, 17, 18, 21, 25 and 30. I finally stopped asking, it just wasn't worth hearing "but you'll change your mind". I will never have regrets and I will never change my mind.

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

No. All of my family breeds like cats in heat constantly. My own mother had 7 miscarriages between my half-brother and me (we're ten years apart). All the women in my family (including my 2nd, 3rd, and 4th cousins) have all had at least one kid by the time they were 17 (whether in or out of wedlock). Most have been on welfare. All end up with at least 4-7 kids. No, no childfree role models.

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 know of no one with children who seems to be a very happy person, individually. I know of families where the family seems somewhat happy, but the individual parents are always complaining about the kids and how much they cost and how they keep them awake and how they have no time to spend doing what they want because of the kids, and on and on and on.....My childfree friends are happier overall, better handle their finances, and seem more at peace with themselves and the world.

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

Absolutely. You are expected to have children and if you don't you are selfish and don't know what you are missing. If you choose not to have children, you are expected to be the automatic relief valve and "aunt" for everybody else's kid and they expect that you of course don't have kids for some other reason than you don't want them, so they constantly try to bring their kids around you, so you won't be "lonely" or because it will "help you understand the joy of raising children". Society gives tax breaks to families--the more kids the better the payout. If you live in an apartment and there is a maintenance issue for both you and a family, the family gets first priority because "they have children". There are children's menus, children's chairs, children run amok with corporate permission even in what should be adult-only venues like museums and formal concerts. After all, "they are just children". And god forbid you comment or complain about a child's behaviour, because everyone will look at you aghast because after all they are "just children". Poor little things.

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

Totally inaccurate but this entire society is brainwashed into believing that they have no power or control over the children in their midst. I have personally corrected many children of all ages even in front of their parents and guess what?! They usually settle right down when confronted by firm adult guidance.

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).

It's funny. Parents bitch constantly about their kids and I'll say "maybe you shouldn't have had kids" and they look aghast and back-peddle "oh, no I LOVE my children. It's just that we're having a hard day/week/month." But once the kids are grown and out of the house, suddenly they come clean: "I would never have had him if I'd known..." "I wish I'd never made that mistake" "I love her but I wish I could go back in time". But they only make these statements once they are "free" of the children. It's like they are afraid to admit the truth while the child is at home and really who can blame them? It's not like you can give them back. You're stuck once you have that kid, that's it. Deal. But yes, once the kids are gone, they all say "I can't believe how nice it is to have my time to myself" and "I understand now why you didn't want to give this up". But only once the kids are out of the house. I've NEVER had any of them come up and say "you know, I'd do it all again". NEVER.

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