Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Rebecca S., Age 36

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 always assumed that I would have kids but never gave it much thought. In fact, I broke up with a guy a few years ago because he was not open to having kids and I couldn't accept that possibility for myself. Over the past five years, however, I have given it a great deal of thought, have had lots of conversations with my sister, a CF friend, and my now-husband, and have decided that I don't want to be a parent. I worry a little about regretting it at some point, but that's not a good enough reason -- and the prospect of regretting *having* kids after the fact is more daunting.

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?

I'd say the three most important factors are anxiety about the kind of parent I would be; a lack of desire to be completely responsible for another human being for many years and still feel responsible for her/him for the rest of her/his/my life; and a desire to share the most intimate/"home" aspects of my life with only my spouse. I haven't run into any bad things about being CF yet, other than wondering if I'll regret it. But as I mentioned above, I'd rather regret not having kids than regret having 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?

My husband and I have not told our families (other than our siblings) about our choice not to have kids, so we haven't had to deal with their reactions yet. When I have mentioned the decision to acquaintances, I've been told that I "have" to have kids, and that I will regret it for the rest of my life if I don't. The friends that I have shared the decision with have mostly been supporting, though one did tell me she is sad for me not to experience what she has experienced as a parent (though what is to guarantee that it would be the same for me as for her?). It seems to me that society in general still assumes that everyone wants kids and that if someone doesn't want kids, they're selfish or immature; so I would say that I don't think society is very accepting of the childfree lifestyle. It does seem to me that at times, CF people do not receive equal treatment or privileges as parents do. Yes, I do feel that there are common misconceptions about CF people and the CF lifestyle -- as I mentioned earlier, the notion that if you don't want to have kids, you're selfish and/or immature.

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?

Since as far as we know, my husband and I are still able to have kids, I don't really think of it as being a decision that I can reflect upon in retrospect -- it's an ongoing thing. I don't think I will change my mind, and don't plan to do so, and I take birth control to avoid pregnancy. To this point, I haven't had any real regrets.

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

I have an aunt and uncle who never had kids together (while my uncle had kids from a previous marriage, he's never been very involved in their lives, as far as I know). I can't say that I ever really thought about them being CF until recently, so I don't really think they've been role models for me.

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'd say that having more time for myself and my spouse, and having more money and flexibility is definitely an advantage that I have over the lives I see my friends with kids leading. It's hard to speak to overall life satisfaction -- who really knows how satisfied someone else is? But I wouldn't accept the notion that they are necessarily more satisfied than I am because they have kids; people derive satisfaction in different ways. I don't want kids, so I don't think my friends' lives would be satisfying to me.

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

Yes, I think that our culture expresses the notion that everyone does -- and should -- want to have kids, and that ifi you don't put kids first in your life, there's something wrong with you.

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

I think the message is narrow-minded, and doesn't recognize that having kids isn't for everyone -- and in fact, society would be better off if some people didn't have kids.

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).

A male coworker of mine overheard me tell a female coworker about a book about being CF that I had bought because that my husband and I were trying to decide whether to have kids. He emailed me a few minutes later saying "For what it's worth," being a parent is really hard. And while he loves his kids, he wishes he could have two lives -- one where he jets around Europe with hot babes and one where he is at home with his wife and kids. He seemed to be trying to communicate that sometimes he, as a parent, wishes things were different for him.

No comments: