Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Sharla W., Age 28

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.?

As a young child, I was never interested in baby dolls or Barbies. My Cabbage Patch kid, hard-won by my Grandmother at the peak of their popularity, sat abandoned at the bottom of the toy box. Instead I spent my time writing stories (I learned to write at an early age) and drawing. I am the younger of two children, so I had no experiences with caring for younger siblings or learning to 'share mommy' with them. On my mother's side of the family, all of my cousins are significantly older than me, so I never had any younger cousins to play with as a child. On my father's side of the family, I am the second-oldest cousin (the oldest being my older brother), but younger cousins did not start entering the family until I was well into my teenage years. As a teen, I spent the rare occasion babysitting, but avoided it whenever possible. I recall indicating to my mother that I didn't care for babysitting children, but she told me the classic line, "It's different when it's your own." Being young, I accepted that at face value.

I was not what some childfree refer to as an "early articulator", by openly stating that I would never have children. I simply did not engage in any "motherly" activities such as wanting baby dolls, playing with babies, or as I got older, interacting with children. Back then, I found children much the same as I do now: messy, noisy, and boring while being emotionally and physically draining. I did not like being around them because I find even normal behavior for a child is very annoying. Having children was something that just happened when you grew up - so I would have to say that for much of my early life, I was open to the possibility, since I did not put much thought into it one way or another. I never openly longed for motherhood or dreamed of what I would name my future children; I simply assumed that I would deal with that once the inevitable occurred. All that time, I was open to the possibility. I am no longer open to the possibility, having made a deliberate decision to not have children when I was in my second year of marriage and I was finally faced with what is supposed to come after you get married.

When my husband and I were engaged, we discussed having children without feelings of either dread or anticipation, trying to estimate where they would fit into our timeline of career, energy, and financial stability. Originally, we both decided to put off children until we had enjoyed some initial "married time" together, which seems to be a traditional period of two or three years for many couples. We wanted this initial happy married time to enjoy being together, while getting careers on track and earning enough money to have a stable household. Before the wedding, our vague decisions about children had formulated into the idea that after these initial years, we should have two children spaced fairly close together to get them over with, so that they could be more or less out of the house for when we retired, and our married-person-must-raise-children duty would be finished.

It is important to note that my husband approached the entire "children duty" in the same way I did: as an obligation that didn't really hold much excitement, but generally must be done. The malaise towards childbearing and -raising duty continued into the early stages of marriage, where my husband and I enjoyed our time together very much, and the idea we would "have children someday" began to stretch out indefinitely. Being married did not instill in me any more longing for children than I had before marriage. I had never been particularly interested in children, still had no longing for any of my own, and as the expected time for when we approximated having our own approached, I began to really pay attention to children's behavior in my extended family and in public. I realized, looking back over my life, that I didn't really like children, didn't interact well with them, but had always accepted the adage from my mother, "It's different when it's your own." The problem was, I began to realize I didn't WANT any of my own. I had never had any interest in children over my entire life because I found interacting with them was boring, tiresome, and that children generally annoyed me - the entire time I had been unconsciously avoiding them. I don't find babies cute or appealing, and their cries make me want to escape as opposed to comfort them. Children require constant, unrelenting attention - they are noisy, messy, and behaviorally still learning how to even act human.

My husband and I had just recently gone through financial challenges, what with the expenses of university educations, student loans, and finding our first career-driven jobs. By taking care of these financial challenges, we had just begun to be able to enjoy a better standard of living, such as real food and a nice home versus cupboards full of $1-per-box microwave macaroni and apartments with rotting walls. There is a plethora of information available about the costs of raising children, and after looking into the cost, I became even firmer in my stance that I would rather enjoy some financial comfort than regress to our former lifestyle for the sake of a baby I didn't even want.

Another factor that affected my decision to have children is the fact that I like being surrounded by nice things. I have sizeable collections of DVDs, video games, and books, not to mention new furniture, dishes, and home decor. Let's be honest - children are naturally destructive. Children "explore" and "learn" through destroying things - ripping books, jumping on furniture, dropping breakables, scratching and fingerprinting discs, chewing and drooling on all of the above, not to mention getting any amount of horrific body fluids all over everything. Other adults are not even allowed to handle my possessions, and the thought of children having this natural amount of free rein over my things is unacceptable. I am perfectly within my bounds to enjoy my "things" more than wanting a child. My things give me more happiness than a child ever could, so I have no problem enjoying them while choosing not to have children.

For a long time, I felt as though disliking children to the point of not wanting any was unique to me: I had certainly never met anyone else who felt this way. One day, out of the blue, I searched online to see if there were any other people who did not want children, and to my surprise, I found the support I had lacked my entire life. Brought together by the Internet, finally, were people who shared my same thoughts and experiences, who delivered the message, "It's okay to choose not to have children at all." Finally came to me the revelation that I did not just have to put off having children - I could completely choose to never have any. After hearing the stories of other childfree people on the Internet, I realized that this was me, and this choice was the right one to make. It wasn't difficult to make the choice - the hard part was getting there. I am fortunate in that the person who means the most to me, my husband, fully supports my decision to be childfree and has embraced everything the childfree lifestyle has to offer. I suspect, like me, he never gave the idea much thought until faced with it, and then turned out to be a closet childfree all along. But that's a separate story.This is me - and I am childfree!

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 that influenced my decision to be childfree are:

1) I simply don't like children; I find them irritating, tiresome, and their company boring

2) I enjoy having enough money to live comfortably; having enough to spend on hobbies, interests, and buying nice things for myself in addition to responsibilities such as mortgage, taxes, etc. Now that I am finished school and have paid off student loans, I am able to actually enjoy my money for the first time in my life. I will not go back into financial hardship because I am supporting children.

3) Actual as well as the prospect for more freedom. I am free to eat cereal for supper if I want, go out whenever I want, sleep in whenever I want, or do any fool thing I truly want to in my spare time. Like many other childfree people, I have responsibilities such as paying bills and working, but the prospect for increased freedom is there: I can quit my job to pursue a different career path, go back to school for more education, spontaneously travel should expenses allow it, etc. I may not actually choose to do any of these things, but the freedom IS there if I truly wanted to.

I absolutely enjoy being childfree because I feel as though I can live my life to the fullest and make the most of myself, because I am not cutting my own opportunities short for the sake of raising and being responsible for someone else. I don't have to be something that I'm not to try and keep up social expectations. My life is exactly what I make of it, and I am in control over it.

The company of children is not fulfilling to me: I don't have to answer the same nagging questions; become run-down over keeping constant vigilance over a child's unrestrained, thoughtless actions; restrict my entertainment to be kiddy-friendly; plan around the schedule of a baby, toddler, or schoolchild; child-proof my home or have my beautiful house defiled with "kindercrap"; or lose sleep over a colicky baby or sick child.

My life is packed to the brim with responsibilities such as a career which I enjoy, a mortgage, taxes, family, marriage, and more - I would have to sacrifice some or all of these things to bring another piece of hopefully-average human genetic material into the already overcrowded world. Giving birth or adopting would mean that I would have to give up time at my job and become financially dependant on another person (my husband), which I find absolutely unacceptable. I cannot imagine not contributing financially and sponging off another person, especially because it increases the burden on the breadwinner. My husband and I make enough to live comfortably (note the "comfortably" - childfree people are often stereotyped as "rich" and not willing to make the same sacrifices as childed people). We make enough that we can have a nice home, eat good food, and put some money into retirement savings - I do not have to worry about a child's immediate financial needs or the future expenses of a child's education. I am happy with my husband, my friends, and the chance to pursue any hobbies or interests that spark my fancy. Childed people sometimes argue, "But children change you!". I like who I am and I enjoy my life - why would I want to change anything?

The bad part of being childfree, in my opinion, does not include "missing out" on anything child-related, because personally I would not want to experience what I am "missing out" on in the first place. The bad part is the awkwardness with being a sort of social anomaly that instantly closes you off from other people, especially women. Upon meeting another adult for the first time, almost all people will ask the question, "Do you have any children?", with the expectation that of course you do - it's a pathway to you telling others more about yourself, because "everyone" has kids. It's not so much, "Do you have children?" as "Everyone has children, so tell me more about them" as a socially comfortable pathway to getting to know another adult more personally. When you reply to this question in the negative, you often shut down interaction completely because you defy the other person's expectations, leaving no comfortable middle ground or commonality with which to form a closer bond with another person. You become immediately singled out with a series of stereotypes such as being strange, cold, immature, or selfish, and often parents will more comfortably seek out the company of other parents, as they don't have to come up with something more creative than stories about their kids to share. They will not make the effort for a childfree person, so often social exclusion from peers is one bad side-effect of being childfree, just because as a lifestyle choice it is not widely accepted and vastly misunderstood.Another bad part of being childfree is constantly having to justify your choice to a childed majority. WHY don't we want something that is "normal"? WHY don't we find children cute? WHY would we even question something that is natural? Our choice is put under a microscope and we have to be analyzed as though there is something wrong with us. If we can even communicate our choice and have it believed, it is not accepted. There is generally one response: we will "change our mind". It is rare to express this aspect about ourselves and not have it met with anger or puzzlement, let alone acceptance.

There are a set of stereotypes associated with the childfree person that are absolutely unfounded: that we are irresponsible, rich, selfish, immature, cold-hearted, have an easier life, are not a family, and our commitments are less important. Of course, all of these are untrue, and even if they were true, they are not related to whether one has had a child or not. Any bad parts of being childfree lie not with the individual who has made the choice, but how society perceives the individual who has made the choice.

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?

The reactions I normally get from people with whom I have shared my choice are an immediate dismissal of that choice ("you'll change your mind" or "you're just not ready yet"), disbelief that I can actually be serious, and some thought or remark about a lack of maturity ("you just don't know your own mind yet" or "you'd have them if you could handle some responsibility"). There is also usually hostility mixed in, where the other person gets offended (usually this reaction would come from a childed person), and/or pity because I'm "missing out" on such a common, wonderful experience. Reactions to my childfree choice among family and friends are mixed. My father, who is very liberal-minded and has been open about the fact that having children reduced the time and money he had for interests such as golfing, baseball, and cars, is very accepting and understanding, claming that he's happy if we have them or if we don't. My mother, on the other hand, seems more conflicted. She claims to not care either way, but her actions speak otherwise. She is very uncomfortable whenever I speak of not having children, and usually reminds me to keep my options open, that it's different when it's your own, and that even though she didn't like babysitting, her children are her best friends. My brother, who hasn't raised so much as a houseplant, is openly against the idea. He once commented comfortingly to my mother, "Don't worry. I'll make up for Sharla not having kids for you." My one remaining grandparent, my paternal grandmother, makes snide remarks to me about how wonderful children are and how abnormal I am for not loving them.

I have not discussed my choice with my extended family, such as cousins, as on my mother's side they are all child-burdened, exhausted, full-time zombies of mothers, and on my father's side, they are all children themselves. I can predict what their reactions would be, and they wouldn't be favorable. I have not shared this choice with my husband's side of the family for the same reasons. I have only been open about my childfree choice to very close friends (maybe around 4 people), who are actually much more supportive than most of my family. Many of my acquaintances are or were coworkers at one time and have young children of their own, and I do not offer any information about my personal choice to them at all. Of course, the other member of my immediate family (my husband) has been the most wonderful, fully supportive of my choice and embracing all the advantages that a childfree lifestyle has to offer.

I feel that society as a whole is generally unaccepting of the choice to be childfree. Most people just go under the assumption that children are always a part of an adult's life, so that when it is discovered that someone has voluntarily chosen not to have children, most people just don't know what to make of it. Often, society condemns what it does not understand, and the childfree are viewed with suspicion and distrust: there must be something wrong with us to go against the prescribed norm. People with children are an overwhelming majority, so their voice is the one that is most heard by governments and employers, who skew benefits and policies to be "family friendly" while discriminating against the childfree. Ironically, the childfree often have more time and energy to dedicate to their jobs. Parents feel threatened when offered with an alternative to their lifestyle, sometimes because they did not realize a choice was even there, but just went ahead with life's prescribed plan. As a result, many childed people feel the need to justify their choice and defend themselves against the childfree, perhaps because they are not, in fact, happy with the choice they unthinkingly made. As a result, childfree people do face discrimination and prejudice, whether direct ("You don't have children? How immature and selfish!") or indirect ("Your coworker can have the time off because she has to spend time with her children, not like you."). This is, of course, when we are acknowledged at all - in mass media we are completely invisible.The most common misconception would probably be that childfree people live an inherently selfish lifestyle, because we have chosen not to make the "noble" sacrifices that parents have. Because parents exchange freedom, personal time, interests, opportunities, and finances for having children, they feel as though declaring themselves unselfish for their choice will somehow justify these losses, especially if deep down they feel having a child maybe wasn't worth that much sacrifice. Childfree people are not selfish, but many parents declare them as such when they see how much they have given up in comparison to someone who has made the decision to not have children.

Another common misconception is that childfree people are immature, that we are too irresponsible and childish ourselves to handle the great responsibility of raising children, which explains why an adult wouldn't want kids (because all adults do, right?). Of course, many childfree people sustain marriages, succeed at their careers, pay for mortgages and taxes, raise pets, travel, and volunteer - not exactly a mark of immaturity, especially considering that conceiving a baby involves nothing more than sexual intercourse and is in no way indicative of someone's maturity. If putting some thought into a choice is equated to "maturity", then childfree people may in fact be indicative of more maturity than the average childed person: we have weighed the pros and cons of such a life-changing event, putting much thought into deciding that we do NOT want children, when the average childed person simply sallies forth and children "just happen".

Yet another misconception is that childfree people lead empty, sad, lonely lives; we are missing out on children, and every adult's life should revolve around children. Because parents' lives are so wrapped up in their children (since children require constant time and attention) they feel as though a person whose life is not run by children would just have a big, empty space inside it. Of course, what they do not realize is that that space is filled up with things they have lost: friendships, hobbies, education, personal time, and career. Our lives are not empty; they are filled with the very same things parents give up before their lives become child-centered.

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 am absolutely satisfied with my decision to be childfree; when I came to the realization that it is a possible, valid life choice, deep down I knew it was the right decision for me, and I experienced tremendous relief, as though a burden was lifted from my shoulders. Ever since that time, I have felt more confident about my feelings and increasingly certain that it is undoubtedly the best lifestyle choice for me.

As for whether I feel the same as always about the issue, at best my thoughts about childbearing were ambivalent and bounced between indifference and dread, and my feelings have now moved towards acceptance of who I am. To date I have had no regrets about my choice to be childfree - I am happy with my lifestyle and I now know that I have no reason to change the way I live to someday accommodate children. I know that I can live my life exactly the way I want to, and that there are an exciting plethora of possibilities open to me. I do not think that I will have any regrets about being childfree later on in life - my life is already crammed full of things to do or things that I want to do, I doubt I will ever run out of things to keep me busy, even without children to distract me from my goals. Later on in life I still plan to have a full family life with me and my spouse, as well as having my career, my hobbies and interests, and my friends. I have many independent hobbies as well, so that even when I am alone, I don't feel lonely. After retirement, if possible, I plan to take care of myself and maintain an independent household (as in, me and my husband) as long as possible, and should the time come that I ever need care, I will be able to afford it. Children are not necessary to be happy in old age, so I doubt that I will ever come to regret my decision.

There is no possibility of changing my mind about having children - I know that a life without children is the life I want. Though my husband and I are very careful, if an accidental pregnancy were to occur, I would be ready and willing to abort the fetus. I do not have any desire or drive to raise a child, and there is no place for a child in my busy life. I would find nothing fulfilling about bringing another human being into the world, nor would I find the emotional and physical toll of caregiving satisfying in any way. There are too many opportunities open to me by being unburdened by children to consider changing my mind, even later on in life.

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

Unfortunately, there have not been any childfree role models in my life. Not only is the media intent on pushing the normalcy of nuclear families and selling the idea that parenthood is all hugs and laughs and joy, but Hollywood is obsessed with baby bumps and yummy mommies, so this is no place to turn for role models. Similarly, I come from a Canadian province with (relatively speaking for a nation like Canada) higher-than-average poverty, teenage pregnancy, and family size; and lower-than-average job opportunities, education, and literacy levels. There are no childfree places or organized groups, and I have never met another childfree person in real life. I suspect this is why I never questioned that I would have children someday, even though it was apparent from an early age that I did not like children or babies. It wasn't until I started questioning, "Do I really HAVE to have children? Is there anyone else out there who doesn't like children?" and turned to the Internet for information that I discovered that there are other people out there like me. It was the online childfree community that truly helped me accept who I am and realize that I actually don't have to have children - because it's not wanting them is normal, too! I truly wish that there were some role models living here that could present childfreedom as a valid life choice, so that others here would be exposed to the idea that you don't have to unquestioningly have children. I would be interested in actually meeting another living, breathing childfree person.

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?

These are my opinions on the advantages, disadvantages, and overall life satisfaction associated with each kind of lifestyle. This is viewed through my personal, childfree perspective; I'm sure the opinions of parents would be different.

CHILDFREE - ADVANTAGES: opportunity to be spontaneous, whether it involves education, career, travel, or simple things like evenings out- more time to spend on personal hobbies and interests- can devote time to career and pursuit of job opportunities- can devote time to valued relationships such as parents, spouse, friends, extended family, or anything else- opportunity to earn and enjoy your own money; can put away for retirement instead of child's future education- time to stay up-to-date with current events and other adult topics- can design your home however you want; not responsible for children's mess and junky toys- belongings are treated with respect without danger of being dirtied or destroyed by children- greatly decreased impact on overpopulation and global destruction

CHILDFREE - DISADVANTAGES: being subjected to social stereotyping regarding your lifestyle choice- workplace benefits often skewed towards those with children- tax breaks go to the childed- less likely to "fit in" with closed-minded peers- difficulty maintaining friendships as friends have children- difficulty meeting other childfree people to socialize with.

CHILDED - ADVANTAGES: fitting in with social norms- receiving attention and praise for pregnancy, which isn't a special achievement- built-in excuse for people to quit/take time off work to be a full-time caregiver- many claim to experience feelings of love towards their offspring- many countries offer tax breaks and other financial incentives for breeding- can formulate an identity and purpose around your child if you lacked them before

CHILDED - DISADVANTAGES: constantly having to monitor/entertain children- loss of sleep associated with infants/sick children- loss of job freedom, as one/both parent(s) must be breadwinners to support the needs of their children or must give up work they enjoy to stay home with child- loss of identity; many parents think of themselves as just a "mom" or "dad"- personal growth is stunted while attempting to give your children as many advantages as possible- loss of time for relationship with partner/spouse - this time goes into childcare- finances are strained to accommodate needs of children, whose upbringing costs in the hundreds of thousands even before college/university- (women only) body is permanently disfigured with loose skin, stretch marks, and other side effects of pregnancy- often more time spent with children than other adults, which can lead to intellectual stagnation- lack of privacy- home must be kid-proofed and likely to be in a state of chaos and disorder- must engage in disgusting child-related tasks such as feeding/changing diapers.

I think satisfaction in the childed lifestyle comes from fitting in neatly in society and doing exactly what you are expected to do. You are not being independent, radical, or free-thinking, but instead sliding neatly into the mould of what "nice people" do - have "nice families". Satisfaction in this lifestyle comes from a comfortable societal fit and not having to think too much about choices. That being said, the actual lifestyle of having children would not be a comfortable one, being henpecked, having fewer financial options and less freedom in your career, not to mention having less time to devote to other important people in your life because you must constantly monitor and entertain children. Overall, this lifestyle would be very dissatisfying because of the restrictions placed in independence, freedom, and choice by having children. The sacrifices are too great and the rewards don't make up for enough to call this lifestyle choice satisfying.

The childfree lifestyle offers less social comfort (since you're going against the grain and making independent decisions different from society's expectations) but more personal freedom and satisfaction, since you can live your own life unhindered by the burden of children. Your focus can be on personal growth in your education, your career, and your interests, as well as in your relationships with other people. Of course, this necessitates you actually having goals and then striving for them instead of relying on the "I have children, therefore I am wonderful and contributing to society" tripe, where no real work, effort, or talent is involved. The childfree lifestyle is more challenging and requires more effort, a better sense of who you are, and a willingness to stand up for what you believe in - and it is unbelievably satisfying.

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

I certainly think our culture expresses dominant messages about having children - the biggest of which is that, simply put, everyone has them. There are no alternatives to what a "normal" family is - it's most usually a heterosexual couple, far less often a same-sex couple, but no matter who the adults are, ALL adults want children. Children are an inevitable part of life; there is no alternative to having them because it's just what every adult does. I would argue that childfree people are invisible in the media, couples who don't have children just haven't had them "yet", and anything involving a "family" includes children as an automatic. Having children is seen as the ideal situation and an unquestionably miraculous event, when in reality many people should not have children because they cannot support them, or they are not emotionally or financially prepared to meet the incredible demands of a child.

Another dominant cultural belief is that children are irrevocably tied to womanhood - not only do ALL women want children to the point of irrationality, but you're not a real woman unless you've given birth to a child or somehow nurtured and raised a child. Motherhood itself is marketed as the most sacred of all bonds and "nothing" can compare to the joy and love between mother and child. This is a powerful, influential message because it is tied to women's own identity and sense of self-worth. The woman who cannot or will not conceive is viewed either with pity or as an unnatural monstrosity, respectively. Womanhood and the gendered concept of "femininity" are not, of course, tied in any way to fertility - babies are simply a reproductive function of all sexual animals, and in no way tied to a person's identity, value, or sense of self-worth. Also, all types of love can be very intense - one type of love is that between a mother and child, but this love can't be qualified as any more or less intense than the love felt between spouses, friends, siblings, or people in any other type of caring, close relationship.

A third dominant message is that somehow parents are less (or not) selfish than those who have not had children. By sacrificing personal freedoms, spare time, and interests for the sake of having a child, parents feel as though they become less selfish than people who refrain from having children and maintain these things. What parents don't realize is that they have made a conscious decision to give up these things in exchange for the perceived benefits of having a child. They have purposely exchanged one thing for another. Meeting a child's needs by sacrificing aspects of your own life does not make you somehow less selfish than other people - it is your responsibility as a caregiver to meet those needs, and you are fulfilling needs that were created by your own choice. It is not unselfish to meet a need that was put there by your very own power, it is simply responsibility for your own actions. Childfree people are not selfish for having these personal freedoms, spare time, and interests given up by parents; they have simply made a different conscious decision to not create a need that they must fulfill.

The media promotes to people only one image of "family" - an idyllic image of smiling parents with attractive, healthy, laughing children who all get along and share in life's tenderest moments. People are spoon-fed this image and want its perfection; they are only shown, however, the perceived "best possible moments" of parenthood. The media certainly doesn't show the children's inevitable bad behavior, boredom, fighting with parents, constant craving for attention, demands for toys, yelling, and destruction of property; nor the parents' exhaustion, financial sacrifices, loss of freedom, and meeting of constant demands - certainly a misleading picture if there ever was one.

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

Please see above.

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 not had the experience of a parent directly telling me of the downsides of having children or stating that he/she would have changed his/her mind. However, I have had some indirect experiences. At one holiday event, my older cousins on my mother's side were paying a visit, and they stated to her that they envied her nicely decorated house, because with children they could not enjoy such a thing since their kids would destroy everything. Of course, this was followed up by immediate denial ("But it's all worth it!") and then an indirect bingo to me ("Well, just you wait... your decorated home will come to an end. Just wait till the grandchildren come!"). I didn't waste my breath correcting them. My husband, on the other hand, has had this discussion many times. During his time substitute teaching, many teachers both young and old have asked him if/when he is having children. The reactions fall into two camps, almost divisible by age. The younger ones, who plan to or are in the midst of having children, generally regard him with suspicion and retreat to talk to someone else after hearing his response in the negative. Older teachers, however, who have grown children and have put up with teaching children for over twenty years, generally respond with a "Good for you! I wish I had chosen differently." My husband finds that, surprisingly, among many teachers (particularly teachers who have been teaching for many years) there is a great deal of support for the decision to be childfree - perhaps because teachers work with children every day and they see what the reality is, not just the warm fuzzy picture sold to people by the media.

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