Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Phoena G., Age 34

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 wanted children. I remember my first "childfree" thought at age 12. I found out that people can take birth control to not get pregnant, and I felt so relieved. Before that I thought I'd have to either choose not to get married or get married but also have kids, and it was like, "Wow! Now I can get married and NOT have kids!" It wasn't a hard decision. I just always knew I wasn't interested in having babies.

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 three most important factors would be my lack of desire, desire to have freedom, and desire to have a less stressful life. I enjoy being childfree very much. We have such a nice, relaxing life. We do what we want, when we want, no babysitter hassles, no schools calling us about bad behavior, etc. We don't have to try and be good examples for anyone. The worst thing about childfree would be about having a harder time making friends, as most people in our peer group are so kid obsessed. Also, sometimes we can be treated unfairly in the workplace.

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 don't normally mention my childfree status to people unless they bring it up first, and the people who bring it up are usually the ones who want to argue with you about it. That's not really a problem for me, though, as I'm not the kind of person people want to argue with. I can shut them up pretty quickly. Most of my family and friends have been supportive. Certain family members are somewhat rude about it but in passive-aggressive ways; they'll mostly ignore me at family gatherings or say mean things about me behind my back. If that's as bad as they are going to get, I'll take it. That's not bad at all compared to what some people go through. My in-laws have never even broached the subject to me, and I'm on good terms with them. They may have said something to my husband about it, but if so, nothing too harsh or I'm sure he'd have mentioned it. I love that they act like it's a total non-issue! But his family is so large, they are probably glad it's not getting any larger by us! Friends are mostly supportive, but I surround myself by people who are childfree or have older children. As for society, we've found that it's so hard to find other couples to hang out with, as everyone has kids and wants their kids to be included in everything. Politicians always talk about "family friendly" things. Businesses seem to want to bend over backwards to keep parents as employees, which makes no sense, as they cost more and are less productive. I think society is slowly coming around to accepting us, but it's still in the early stages. I do believe we often face prejudice, unfairness and discrimination.

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 no regrets about being childfree. I can't imagine my life any other way! I don't believe I'll have regrets later on about not having children. If anything my regrets will be not having closer relationships with certain people because they shut out any non-parents from their circle. I believe there is a zero percent change I'll change my mind and want children. Every year I seem more grateful about being childfree.

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

No. I didn't even know anyone else who was childfree until I was 21, and I think I was 25 or so before I found out there was a whole childfree network out there. By then I'd already fully made up my mind.

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?

When I imagine their lives, I shudder. They might be thrilled with their lives, but it seems so dreary to me. So much drudgery! I have so much more freedom and alone time with my husband and I'm not pestered as much. I know what they think their advantages are, but they don't sound like advantages to me. "Oh, I'm so happy with my children. They give me big sloppy wet kisses and say, 'I love you, mommy!' and it's so wonderful to watch them grow and become little people!" I don't like big sloppy wet kisses, I have my husband to tell me he loves me, and I can still watch children grow into little people, if I wanted to. I don't, but if I did, I'd do it from afar without getting stuck with all the crap work in the middle.

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

Everything is a dominant message about marriage and having children. Look at practically any movie or TV show that shows someone dealing with an unwanted pregnancy. Almost without fail, they will "consider" having an abortion, usually with the obligatory scene of them in the abortion clinic waiting room, then they decide to "CHOOSE LIFE" and don't have the abortion. There are always movies about people trading lives with a childless person and later realizing how overjoyed they are to have the family life. TV shows always have to have people have kids, or go on to have kids. Women even lie to each other about it. I might be sitting in a room full of women bitching about motherhood and if I say, "Wow, makes me glad I don't have kids," they quickly switch gears and start lying to me about how it's the most wonderful thing in the world and how much joy having kids will bring me and how my life is incomplete without children. Wait, this from the same women who were just bitching about motherhood? On the other hand, I love my husband and my pets, and you will rarely hear me bitch about either. I don't have much to complain about because I'm happy with my home life and family.

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

The messages are grossly inaccurate. Movies and TV shows make having children out to be easy (for the most part). Children are generally well behaved and you can easily reason with them. Even when they make a mistake, there is a loving moment where the parent explains what the kid did wrong, and everyone understands and hugs and that's the end. That's not even moderately realistic. Having children is a lot of hard work, but the movies don't show you that. Talk shows and advice columns refuse to point the blame at parents for anything, even when it is clearly the parent's fault! The women lying to each other about what motherhood is like and pretending it's so glorious are obviously just trying to trap other people into their same fate. Look at the number of kids on (prescription) drugs to control their behavior with ADD and ODD and whatever else. The movies and the other women don't tell you THAT – that you could get stuck with a kid with some undesirable disorder!

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 have some friends who have older or grown children who are honest about how hard it is and how unsatisfying it is at times. I have had friends tell me that if they could do it over, they wouldn't have kids, and I respect their honestly. One friend even tells her daughters that their lives will be better if they don't have children, because women get stuck doing the vast majority of parenting work and it's not fair.

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