Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Paula L., Age 48

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 never assumed that I would have kids. In fact, I remember when I was 5 that I wanted to go to college and get married- kids were never a thought. I enjoyed playing house and with dolls but a REAL baby??!! Yikes! When I was married to my first husband we (in my mid-twenties) when we were going to have kids and I replied * Oh, in a few years* thinking I would be ready and receptive to it at a later date. When I was in my early thirties, my second DH and I talked about having kids. I spoke with a girlfriend and in our converstaion, I told her *You know, though, I'm really happy with my life as it is* and she replied *Then maybe you shouldn't have kids*. Rationally I knew that but emotionally I was still a bit torn. But not enough to bring a child into this world when I wasn't absolutely positive. It wouldn't have been fair all around- DH, myself and the child. I knew that having a child was a commitment and hard work as I worked with kids and sometimes their parents in our Taekwondo Academy. As much as I enjoyed spending time with them, teaching them, etc I also enjoyed *giving them back* at the end of class! We have dogs and I found that they are my passion instead of kids. So in a way it was easy b/c I think I always knew I was headed down this path. And it was a bit hard sometimes as well b/c I do like kids and wanted to have one that had both myself and DH in him/her.

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?

Yes, I enjoy being Child-Free- BTW, I like the term Free instead of -Less b/c I think it implies I'm lacking or missing something. The 3 factors? 1. Freedom. To pick up and go and do what we want. Sure we have pets but I leave them with our petsitter when we do go out of town. 2. Dealing with child-rearing issues (potty-training, discipline issues, tantrums, the nitty gritty of parenthood- it's not all about about a cute, sweet-smelling bundle of joy!) 3. Seeing other couple who have kids looking tired and not having time for each other. My time with my DH is precious to me and frankly I love having him and his attention all to myself . I enjoy being CF b/c of the freedom and being much less-stressed and sleep deprived it we did have kids. We enjoy walking the nature walk in our neighborhood park with our dogs, we eat out a few times a week whenever we want, we can sleep in, we have more disposable income. The only *bad* thing about being CF is not feeling the hug of a child sometimes. Or interacting with one. But those feelings rarely if ever surface.

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 never asked me about having kids. If I did, fine, if not it was ok. I did have a cousin tell me in response to my answer *We're not having kids* said *Well what's the purpose of getting married if not to have kids?* Gee, I don't know, maybe b/c we love each other and want to spend our lives together...? We've been asked by a few friends and acquaintances but mostly it was *It's just b/c you two would have beautiful kids* or *You two would be excellent parents* (I'm a strong but loving disciplinarian with my students). One parent asked me when we were going to have kids while he was playing with his 2 yo and before I could respond, he said *Oh, I get it, you can't have any*. At first I thought he was jerky but I also believe that b/c that was what made him happy he assumed everyone would feel the same- NOT! I think sometimes people are a bit surprised- I mean isn't that what eveyone aspires to? (shaking) I think it's more accepted now than say when I was in my twenties mostly I think b/c more and more couples are opting to be CF. Whereas twenty years ago it was b/c a couple wasn't biologically capable of having kids. I do think some parents have a superior attitude- we have kids and we and they matter more than you and your dogs and your freedom... I haven't experienced this b/c we have our own business but I've read about other women who are expected to take up the slack at work b/c they don't have kids and so and so has to go to soccer practice, etc. Or they have to work holidays so that others can be with their kids. That is So unfair. Hey, why should we be responsible for your life choice of having kids? I think that some in society feel that CF couples are selfish. But what's more selfish? Me knowing what I want in my life, or you choosing to have kids b/c you want a little being that looks just like you or your SO? Once at Cathe's site, one guy (a man) called every woman who chose not to have kids selfish. Boy did he get an earful for moms and non-moms. What an idiot!

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?

Yes. I enjoy what I have with my husband and I am glad we chose this path. Regrets? I don't know, maybe. But those maybe's arent't enough for me to have kids. I don't think I'll change my mind as I think my body is going to take over in a few years and that point will be moot. But even if I wasn't so close to menopause the answer would still be no.

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

No. Not really. I guess I'm a pioneer. Every adult woman I know has had a child.

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?

With Children: I guess an advantage would be someone to care for them when their old. But that's no guarantee. 2. Their holidays are more *Norman Rockwell*- noisy, full of people. But then again, that's no guarantee either. 3. The joy of raising kids. Parents who do it and do it well and correctly are probably very happy (maybe too those who don't but I attribute it more to happy ignorance that they raised a bunch of brats- I've seen that too in our academy...). CF satisfaction? Freedom, higher disposable income, more energy, just plain happy!! My husband and I enjoy doing other activities together such as golfing, Taekwondo, sitting quietly reading (we enjoy others’ company but we also relish our quiet time- no noisy kids!) or working on the computer and going to activities with other dog owners whose dogs are an important part of their lives and members of their families. I find that quite a few parents can only relate to others with the same lifestyle choice (kids!). That’s not to say we don’t have friends with kids- we do and they seem to have a more balanced view of life (eg their kids aren’t the be-all and end-all to everything.) They respect us and the fact we don’t have kids doesn’t matter to them. We just don’t have too many of this type of friends.

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

Yes, a few. When a celeb is preggers it's all over the place. It's mommy this and mommy that. I know they're excited and good for them but I don't want to see/hear about it ad nauseum. That it's in to be both beautiful, successful and pregnant. I can be the first two w/o the third. Also that real woman have kids and the resulting stretch marks, etc and they are a badge of courage (read that in a pregnancy book when I was thinking of becoming pregnant).

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

I feel these messages are inaccurate. I am a successful, loving, caring and strong woman. I don't need to have kids to prove or demonstrate that, as if the act of giving birth does 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).

No. Not really. The only person I remember reading that she had some regrets was [a member of a discussion board I frequent]. She said she missed spending time with her DH and if had to do it over again, even though she loves her kids, she probably wouldn't have had them. I have had parents joke with me about our freedom, etc but I also sense a bit of longing and jealousy there at times.

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