Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Valerie B, 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 told myself I was open to it but I've always known I didn't want them. It's been a deliberate decision and it was very easy. I think too many people have kids without thinking of the overwhelming responsibility it is. I was lucky enough to be able to babysit my nieces and nephews when I was younger and always thought watching children was a horrible, hard, thankless job. I personally like order, cleanliness, and peace and quiet and kids are conducive to none of these things.

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) Don't think I would be a good, patient mother 2) Don't enjoy children 3) Don't want the responsibility or expense of children. I absolutely enjoy being childfree. I like to be able to do whatever I want, whenever I want to. I like spending my money on myself and my own interests. The only bad thing is the perceived disappointment of my in-laws.

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 mother and my husband's parents are not happy that we aren't having children but they don't try to pressure us too much. My friends and the rest of my family are absolutely supportive. I think society as a whole is accepting. I have gotten some dirty looks from parents when I ask to be sat elsewhere in restaurants away from them and their loud children but I'm ok with that. I don't like it when parents speak loudly and cutely to their children in public and then seem to want praise and laughs for their kids. I don't find kids to be cute or precious in the least. I once was in a training class at work and was speaking about a trip I had planned to Italy and some woman across the room said something like "I need to get a job in your department." implying that I must make a lot of money to be able to afford a trip to Italy. I replied by asking her if she had kids, she said she had two and I said, "There's your trip to Italy!" No one would ever ask people with kids how they can afford their kids but people without kids are sometimes treated like they're spending money frivolously (of course that's just my biased perception). I also feel like the general consensus is that we'll "come to our senses" one day and want kids or our "biological clock" will kick in in due time and we'll have kids for sure.

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 feelings on the matter. I do wonder if something went horribly wrong in my own childhood to make me dislike kids so intensely. I wonder if there's something "wrong" with me. I do wonder if I'll have regrets but I keep coming back to the fact that I don't want kids at all today and it's not a good enough reason to have them on the basis that I MAY one day regret it.

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

My aunt never married or had kids and one of my older sisters is married without kids. Everyone else in my family has kids and I have a huge family.

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 believe that people with kids do love them and think they're worth it but I've also been lucky enough to have a sister with kids who tells me the unvarnished truth. She loves her kids but she also says if she'd known how tough it would be she might not have had them. She hasn't slept in in over 6 years, doesn't get a moment to herself, doesn't get naps, has to watch cartoons constantly, her house has been completely ruined (carpet, etc.) and she hasn't been out to dinner more than a handful of times since she had her first daughter. All things that are unacceptable to me. Now as the kids are older, diapers and throwing up are being replaced by homework and the stress of relationships at school. Her every weekend is spent at some kid's birthday party or a extracurricular activity. Nothing is about her anymore and it won't be again.

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

Kids are deemed more valuable than other people. There's also a sort of underlying current of "having kids isn't that bad" but I'm not fooled by that.

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

I definitely think it's becoming more and more acceptable to not want or have kids. Encouraging!

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).

Yes, I've heard parents talk of the downsides and say if they could re-do they might not have them. It takes courage to admit such a thing. You can't send kids back after they're here. I've heard parents say, "I hate my life." and they have expressed jealousy over my ability to do what I want. I never envy them for a minute.

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