Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Tina D., Age 33

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 made the personal decision not to have children very early. I never seriously considered having children even when I was planning to marry. It is my personal opinion that children do not fit into the lifestyle I pursue. I plan on continuing my education, advancing in my career as an editor and teacher, and traveling. The decision not to become a mother was an easy one for me because of my desired lifestyle but members of my family are disappointed in my choice.

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?

1. Society feels that you must live your life for your children and I disagree.2. Because of our child-centric society, many women who insist on taking time out for themselves are looked down upon because they are viewed as selfish. 3. Because of the sense of entitlement taught to children today, many children will grow to be narcissistic adults and remaining childless would prevent me from having to battle that issue because I would raise my child to earn extras, not to demand and expect them.I very much enjoy being childfree. Because of that choice I have traveled to several European countries and plan to continue. I am currently pursuing a Masters degree on my own terms. I also feel that I have saved more money than could have been possible if I had a child. Other than the constant "reminders" that I will someday regret not having children, there are no other negative consequences.

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?

Society expects women to want to have children and not all women do. While I respect a woman's personal choice to procreate, I find that women are not as understanding when they hear another women claim they don't want children. We are immediately accused of being selfish or we get the backhanded compliment when they say we are obviously doing a service for society by not having children because we are more than likely unfit to raise children. Other times we are regarded as "evil child-hating monsters". It is automatically assumed that because a woman does not want any children of her own that she despises everyone else's child(ren). This is also not the case. Moms might feel that their offspring is the center of the universe, but all others many not agree and that is not to be taken personally. Trying to explain that to some mothers is not the easiest tasks so I find it is best to disengage from the conversation when it is brought up.

In my case, my mother is disappointed in my decision not to have children and she deals with it by dismissing it as a "phase".I do feel there is discrimination in society, however, and it is against fathers and other parental figures. Divorce rates are over 50% and I believe mothers get automatic primary custody over 85% of the time. When this is challenged, fathers are deemed "dead beats" in order to protect the status of the glorified mother. I choose not to adopt this popular opinion and I advocate for shared parenting and equal rights for both parents in every way possible.

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 have never changed my mind about having children nor do I feel I will ever. I hope that I am a good enough person to always have friends to grow old with. These people will stay with me because of my efforts to earn their respect and to do my best to always treat everyone kindly. I am sure that I will never regret having a child for the sole purspose of ensuring that someone will take care of me. I find that reasoning selfish and too demanding on the child.

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

Unfortunately no. Quite the opposite has occurred. More and more friends are having children and have focused their entire attention on their kids which I try to understand, but it only re-enforces my original theory that individuality is sacrificed upon becoming a mom.

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?

Most of the women I know who have children are also divorced and their lives are filled with drama and unpleasant situations. They claim to take extreme pleasure in their children and state that through it all, having children was very worthwhile. I consider it a romantic notion that the children make everything right even in the hardest of times, but utimately, I find their answers somewhat programmed. I do hear the same moms say how lucky I am that I get to sleep in late, take naps, stay home when the weather is awful. These moms claim they "must" get up at the crack of dawn with their kids, they can never sleep in late. They have to take the kids to soccer practice even though it's pouring rain outside. It is my opinion that my lifestyle is the more desirable of the two. However these moms will never come right out and say that. They just keep telling me how "lucky" I am. Often I feel like telling them, I am not lucky, this was a conscience choice to live childfree and for myself.

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

I have found that society has glorified mothers and children to the point of absurdity. It is now popular opinion that because a woman endured the physical act of birthing children, along with that act came this gift of omniscience and higher status. Hence the theory "Mother knows best". Some women use this for a sense of power. These are the types of moms who accuse a qualified teacher of pushing the child too hard when the teacher insists that the child could do better. These mothers insist that they are the only ones who could properly care for their child. The child's father and grandparents are just babysitters and considered sub-par when compared to MOTHER. Women who choose not to have children are deemed selfish, although one could argue that it is a selfish act to produce children as a means of insurance of having someone return love out of obligation.

More popular opinions are : Once the children are born they ought to be spoiled. Give them more than what we had when we were growing up. Become your child's friend, there is so much that you will miss out on if you do not pal around with your child. If the child is failing at school, blame everyone else and never hold the child accountable. The real reason why this is not done is because many mothers consider children as mere extensions of themselves. If they admit their child failed, they feel as if they are admitting they failed themselves.

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

The popular opinions concerning motherhood and children are nothing but fashionable for the times. I believe there will be a cultural awakening and opinion will change. Mothers will no longer be glorified but held accountable and challenged when they should be.

10. 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 never met a parent who wanted to turn back the clock and not have the child.

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