Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Penny W., Age 38

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 was open to it in the past and seriously weighed the decision not to have children. It was a decision that I still revisit occasionally. Some of the reasons for this choice include that my husband doesn't want children, neither of us had a happy childhood, and that we have a very full life. We don't feel like we need kids to be complete.

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?

Three most important factors: didn't feel I needed children to be "complete", spouse didn't want kids, full life. Yes, I enjoy being child free because my life doesn't have to revolve around a child. Bad things are that you can't totally understand the issues being faced by those with kids.

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?

Friends are very supportive as is most of the family. My mother in law was not supportive at all and pushed constantly for us to have children. The US society isn't very accepting of those who choose to be child free. However, we found this not to be true in England. I do feel that there is discrimination/unfairness for those who are childfree. Often at work, we are expected to pick up the slack because we don't have "family committments." Also, we don't get the benefit of the tax breaks and are financing the healthcare of the families - unless there is a per child charge for insurance (which most companies don't do). I do think there are misconceptions.

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?

Right now I do feel good about the decision. My life is too full. I considered if I would regret not having kids when making the decision (it is one I revisit a few times a year). I think it being a decision reduces the regrets, but they may still be there. I think there may be more later in life. I don't know if I'll change my mind but I doubt it.

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

Not really.

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 both can be satisfying. The advantage of being childfree is not having to revolve around the child/children and their activities. Disadvantages are not having the experience of having a child.

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

Yes - you should have children! You are not complete/fulfilled without children.

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

I don't believe in them and think that they may influence those who may not want children to have children.

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 can't say that this has happened.

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