Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Sara D., 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.?

Not having children has been a deliberate choice on my part. As a teenager/young woman, I discovered that I didn't particularly like being around children or have any interest in or think about a day when I would have my own, even though I dated someone in my early 20s who I knew definitely wanted them. I thought *perhaps* I may change my mind at some point, but as I got older I realized this was something felt very strongly about and would not change my mind about. At first I felt strange about the realization, because our society clearly doesn't embrace this choice, and all around me friends and family were either getting pregnant or expressing the extreme desire to get pregnant as quickly as possible after marriage. I just couldn't relate to this feeling at all.

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?

Not enjoying being around children, finding the right man to share my life with who shares my feelings, and a deep love of travel. I truly enjoy being childfree - my husband and I have a wonderful, rich life and enjoy being together. I love the freedom we have to go away for a weekend spontaneously, or simply stop somewhere for dinner after work. I could not imagine my life with children in it. I would say the only "bad" thing about being childfree is the negative opinions from others you have to endure. However, that's somewhat minor as my husband and I both recognize that our marriage is far stronger and our life much more pleasant than many of the poeple around us who have children.

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?

At first, we got the "oh don't be silly, you'll change your mind" reaction, the knowing looks among each other like we were dummies who would wake up any day now and begin procreating. I've gotten very few outright rude comments, although I suspect now some people at work avoid the topic with me as it makes THEM uncomfortable to think about a smart, well-educated woman not wanting babies. Society as a whole is absolutely not accepting of the CF lifestyle; I'm not sure about misconceptions, but we're definitely discriminated against, particularly in the workplace. My co-worker is automatically excused to rush home for a sick child, but if I wanted to go home to be with a sick pet I'd get flack.

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?

At 38, I'm perfectly comfortable with my decision to be childfree. I can't say that was always the my 20s I thought there was a possibility I'd change my mind, and then there were times in my early 30s that I thought, "Am I making a mistake? Will I wake up at 50 and regret this?" I have never had any regrets, though, and any time we are around children - related to us or not - reinforces that I made the right decision.

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


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?

Because I don't enjoy being around children, I can't see any advantages. The disadvatages...where do I start? As for the people we know best with children - our close friends and family - I don't see an overall satisfaction with their lives to the same degree as my husband and I. Perhaps this is simply because with children comes more responsbility and stress - though we have that in our jobs, too - but in some cases we can clearly see it's because the two parents are not in agreement about something to do with the children, whether it was having them at all, how many, issues with raising them, etc. We see some marriages play out in the most stereotypical way...with the husband finding ways to get out of the house as often as possible. This seems so sad to me.

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

Absolutely! The dominant message in all forms of media is that children are the most perfect and wonderful things imaginable, and everyone wants them.

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

These messages are obviously inaccurate, since there is a (growing) CF community, but I also think it's worse than misleading. The message about children is so pervasive that many who shouldn't have children do have them, for all the wrong reasons (or no reason at all) - it's become almost a mindless thing. At all levels of society, women are having babies they either can't afford or didn't really want, if they thought about it for more than a nanosecond.

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, unfortunately.

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