Tuesday, December 15, 2009

You’d be Such a Great Parent

Two is Enough is the featured book in The Childfree Life (TCFL) goodreads.com book club this month and next. I am joining in the discussions when I can and in one discussion on the chapter on assumptions two women had commented that people always said they would be a good parent. One is a teacher and she wrote "Parent as a noun is common...it is the parent as a verb that is the hard part."

She was a sought-after babysitter when she was young but always though she’d make a better mentor or teacher than a parent.

I really identified with these comments. I wanted to be a teacher when I was a kid and the kids I babysat always requested that I be asked to baby sit again, but I never wanted to be a parent. So I posted this comment:

We get the "You'd be such great parents" or "Oh you guys are they type of people who should have kids" too.

I'm sure we could manage to be successful parents IF WE WANTED TO.

The WANT is what is missing.

Friday, December 4, 2009

A Special Gift From a Friend

I received the following email recently from a woman:
Yeah! A friend of mine recently gave me Two is Enough for my 35th birthday. How wonderful to know that there are other couples (and many of them) like us out there that do not want children. We are not "selfish" "broken" or "wrong" for not having children, we simply just do not have the desire/need to have children in order to lead a fulfilling life. I have had two relationships break up because I did not want kids and been questioned and criticized by friends and family who truly believe I should have kids because they just can't wrap their heads around me not wanting children.
I though, what a nice friend! This friend obviously understood that no one should be made to feel broken or wrong for expressing a desire to remain happily without children. I imagine she saw Jennifer as she was—a good person and friend who needed a bit of support and validation for making a choice that many people around her did not understand.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Optimism Unwarranted for Past President of the National Organization for Non-Parents

Last month I got this email message from Marie Bernardy, who once served as President of NON/NAOP, one of the first childfree groups in the United States:
Hi Laura -

I was just forwarded an AOL article about your book on childfree couples. My husband and I were members of the National Organization for Non-Parents in the 1970s and 1980s; both of us served as president of the organization. Below is a wikipedia reference, in case you haven't run across it, which gives some details on the history of the "childfree movement."


I had my tubes tied at 23; my husband had a vasectomy at 24. We've been married 35 blissful, childfree years. I feel sad that so much of what we worked for so many years ago (education, acceptance, insurance equity, etc.) is still a problem for so many. Physicians are still reluctant to perform sterilizations, families continue to pressure for grandchildren, friends with kids ostracize those without.

Keep up the good work.

Marie was right. People like her have been working for decades to promote understanding and acceptance for the choice to remain childfree, yet not much has changed. She told me that NON/NAOP shut its doors in 1982, because of lack of funding the “thinking that the concept of being childfree was well entrenched” and that other organizations like Planned Parenthood and ETR would continue to provide materials that would invite people to consider the childfree life as a viable option. Marie now says “We were probably more optimistic than was warranted.”

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Dear Prudence Advice Raises Objections

I came across an old article in Slate titled Terrible Twosomes: What's Wrong with the Childless? by Geoffrey Andersen.

This article was a compilation of comments that were posted when Slate’s Dear Prudence advice columnist suggested that a decidedly childfree couple rethink their decision not to have kids. Prudence wrote:
I will join the chorus of people who are driving you crazy. You are about to get married, and as life's circumstances change, it is worth re-examining your goals, especially this one (and yes, I know, I am offending all happy childless people). You're only in your 30s—if you have children now, they'll be grown by the time you reach your late 50s! You say you love children, but as close as you may be to your nieces and nephews, that's no substitute for having your own.
Anderson featured one comment from Lee63 who clearly understood what it was like to be constantly questioned about her decision by those who feel compelled to list all the things she’s missing out on:
I was angry by the response Prudence provided because I know how it feels to have EVERYONE second guess my decision. I don't understand why people think the decision to not have children is this sudden thing that came about with no thought. Sometimes I think I'll scream if I hear one more person tell me I can adopt, or tell me a story about a 45+ women who had a baby. I know what's available out there, but I also know me and having a child is not the right thing for me. When someone goes on and on about why I should have kids, it's the same as coming out and saying "you are wrong" and I find that offensive. I say hats off to all the parents in the world AND to all those who will not have children. There are ups and downs either way.
This comment reflects the frustration many childless by choice people feel when people try to change their mind on parenthood. There is an underlying assumption that you made this decision without much thought, or you made it without complete information, or without an understanding of some of the benefits of parenthood.

But based on my interviews with childfree couples and singles that assumption does not hold true.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Married No Kids Household Likely to Loom Large in 2010 US Census

The American ideal—the married couple, with kids—is no longer the “Average American” household. Some would argue that it hasn’t been for a while. In 2011 we will know for sure where this demographic stands when reports on the 2010 US census will be published. Peter Francese, a demographic tends analyst for Ogilvy & Mather and founder of American Demographics magazine predicts in his white paper titled 2010 America that "The iconic American family -- married couple with children -- will account for a mere 22% of households."

He is talking in census-speak, in terms of households, where “married couples with children” means married couples with children aged 18 and under living in the household. It doesn’t include parents with boomerang kids who return to live with their parents or empty-nesters but still, this is a shockingly low percentage.

So why does it seem that everyone who has a product to sell is marketing to the shrinking married-with-kids demographic? Along with Mr. Francese, I say “Wake up and smell the coffee!” Our world is changing!”

A summary of Francese’s predictions can be found in an article written by Bradley Johnson titled “The ‘Average American’ is Dying Off” where Bradley reports that, according to Francese, the most prevalent type of U.S. household will be the “married couple with no kids, followed by single-person households.”

Perhaps we will see a time, very soon, where the numbers reflecting our current reality speak louder than the marketers.

Flickr photo by Tobyotter CC BY 2.0

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Do Kids Make Women Happier?

This was the title of a segment featured on the TODAY show, which acknowledged that more women are admitting to being unhappy and frustrated because they feel overburdened and overstressed. With or without children, 40 percent of women in the United States are now finding themselves in the breadwinner role. In this economic climate, job security is uncertain. The pressures to fill the coffers and fill multiple roles and juggle multiple tasks are taking their toll on women’s happiness.

What some women thought would bring them happiness—money, the fancy home, and children—fail to deliver. The Today show reported what many studies have shown—that parents report lower levels of happiness than nonparents. The experts featured in this segment confirmed that women’s happiness is not tied directly to having children. It is tied to finding happiness in all aspects of their being. Often that means looking for happiness outside of the confines of the mother role, or asking for help when you need it.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Parent’s Perspective

Most of the emails I get through the Childless by Choice Project website are from childfree by choice folks or those who are still undecided but occasionally I will get a email from a parent. One such email from a woman named Stella really struck me as wise and true and so I asked her if I could share a bit of it with you. Here is what she wrote:

I stumbled by your site and I just wanted to let you know that I was so pleased that there are people out there who can promote positive values regarding parenting. It is right that parenting is not and should not be regarded as an obligation. I have two children even though I had planned never to have any children by myself. I never loved children nor did I hate them but my husband urged me to do so because he could not envisage a marriage without children and he also had to prove to his friends that he is man enough as per our African culture. Now I am divorced and I have them all to myself.

I love them deeply and now I can not imagine what my life would be without them. On the other hand, if my reality was that I did not have children, I would also chart a different course for it based on my circumstances. Bottom line is that if one has strong values about being true to themselves, they need to stand by the choice they make. Those who choose to become parents should devote themselves to the task while those who choose not to should also be understood.

Flickr Photo by mrhayata (cc)

Friday, October 9, 2009

LBC Radio's Jim Davis Quizzes Laura S. Scott on Two is Enough

I spoke with Jim Davis, host of LBC Radio’s Sex in the City, this morning. He wanted to talk to me about the book and the buzz about the Daily Mail article in which some of my quotes and some incidents were made up, as reported in Jezebel.com.

I was happy to grant a radio interview as there is less risk of being creatively edited, and Mr. Davis had some really good questions about motives and the decision making process and we had a good laugh about some of the comments Daily Mail readers made about my choice to remain childfree which reflect just how little they could gather about why I made this choice based on this bogus first person account.

If you are in the London area within range of LBC radio’s signal, you can catch my interview with Jim Davis on the Sex in the City Show tonight (Friday, October 9, 2009)

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Good Friends are Priceless

An email from a very dear friend reminded me how so valuable close friends are. I had sent her a copy of my book and she celebrated with me in a way that only someone who shared a similar path could understand. Not in a superficial way. We are very different. She’s a very intentional parent. I am intentionally childfree. We think differently, we have very different life experiences and very different habits.

But we share joy, and we share laughter, and we share the hard-won wisdom we have gathered along the way.

I met my friend Karen when I was fifteen and we became fast friends. We are separated by borders and busy lives that allow us only a quarterly phone date where we reconnect instantly as if we have never left each others sides.

This kind of friendship reminds me that love, friendship, and respect knows no boundaries and no sense of time.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Not Having Kids is NOT the Best Thing I have Ever Done

I recently granted an interview with Tessa Cunningham, a correspondent of the Daily Mail, a major newspaper in the UK. She had read my book Two Is Enough and wanted to know some of my personal story and what brought me to write this book. All well and good, except for the fact that she failed to tell me that the result of this interview would be first person article ghost written by Ms. Cunningham titled “Friends call me selfish—but not having kids is the best thing I’ve ever done.”

This title sounded like a direct quote but the problem is I did not, and would never say “not having kids is the best thing I’ve ever done.” There were many other things attributed to me that were not said during our interview and the quotes Ms Cunningham lifted from interviews in the book were also paraphrased in ways which could be misleading. Some assumptions were made about interviewees that were frankly wrong. A simple fact check prior to publishing the article might have solved this but I was never contacted for a fact check so these assumptions and misrepresentations were left unchecked and uncorrected.

What really upset me was that the weekend that she documented in this article--where my friend Marie (mother of three children) called me selfish, followed by golf and an Italian meal, never happened. In fact I do not have a friend named Marie. It’s true that I told Ms. Cunningham that couples who choose to remain childless are often considered selfish by friends and others who do not understand the true motives for intentional childlessness, however this article made it appear that we remain childless primarily because we love our careers and our lavish and glamorous lifestyle and we think our lot is better than that of parents. That is not true. I simply told her that one of the most compelling motives for remaining childless by choice is because we like our lives as they are and we don’t believe our lives would be enhanced by the presence of biological children.

I also said that women who remain childless often experience a higher level of marital satisfaction than do mothers of small children (a fact supported by studies other than mine). I did say that I had a career that involved a lot of overnight travel. However, career considerations were not the primary reason for my decision to remain childless. I told her my lack of desire for biological children was the primary motivator for me.

According to my survey, most women do not choose to remain childless primarily because of their careers. Some people really want children and find that children do enhance their life experience, some people do not. There is no good or bad decision here. No one is right or wrong. You make your choices and you live with them. There are downsides to living childless by choice (social isolation and stigma) which I did share with Ms. Cunningham and in my book but these downsides did not make it to the article. What did make it in the article would lead people to believe that the childless by choice think that parenthood is drudgery, and unfulfilling for all, including parents. And that the childless by choice lifestyle is all fun-filled weekends and high-powered careers.

I don’t know if that is your life, but it certainly isn’t mine.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Marie Claire Magazine Challenges Parenthood Myths

A few months a go I spent an hour talking to Abigail Pesta, an editor with Marie Claire Magazine about the things I learned in the course of researching and writing Two Is Enough: A Couple’s Guide to Living Childless by Choice.

The result is a article titled “To Breed or Not to Breed” in the current October issue of Marie Claire Magazine, where we challenge some of the common myths about parenthood.

It is a fun and lighthearted look at the myths that often impact our decision making. Myths like:

• All women have the maternal instinct.
• A baby with strengthen the marriage.
• You’ll regret not having kids.

See page 95 in October’s issue or click on the link above to see how I respond to these. How would you respond?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Feedback from a Participant and Reader

Linda is one of the 171 people who participated in the Childless by Choice Project survey, which is one of the ways I collected comtemporary data for Two is Enough. I ran a book giveaway contest for all my participants and she was one of the winners and one of the first people to read Two is Enough hot of the press.

She emailed me with this kind note:

I received my free copy this past Friday in the mail, and literally read it right away, all the way through. Thanks for getting it out to me so soon.

BTW, I probably took your survey in my late 40s; I'm now almost 53 and still do not regret not having had children. We've been married 30 years, and I get angry with people who say (as someone in your book quoted...actually, YOU and maybe others), "Why get married if you don't want to have kids?" What an inane question!

I really enjoyed the whole book--your writing style, and the way you broke it down into sections/chapters that made sense. Congratulations!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Win a Free Copy of Two Is Enough!

We’re going to be running a contest to give away copies of Two Is Enough to five lucky winners! Starting Monday September 14 we’ll be running a contest on the facebook fan page of Two is Enough! Check in to find out how to win your copy of Two is Enough: A Couple’s Guide to Childless by Choice!

Monday, August 31, 2009

The Environmental Impact of One American Child

A new study out of Oregon State University suggests that limiting the number of children you have is a way more effective action you can take to reduce carbon emmissions than other more conventional actions such as recycling and cutting energy consumption.

In the article, published in Global Environmental Change 19 (2009) researchers Paul A. Murtaugh and Michael G. Schlax had this to say, in summary:

Under current conditions in the United States, for example, each child adds about 9441 metric tons of carbon dioxide to the carbon legacy of an average female, which is 5.7 times her lifetime emissions.

Clearly, an individual’s reproductive choices can have a dramatic effect on the total carbon emissions ultimately attributable to his or her genetic lineage.
Murtaugh and Schlax make a strong case for smaller families, particularly in countries like the United States where one American child born in 2005 will likely produce close to 20 times more carbon emissions per capita than a child born in India.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

An Appeal to Tone Down the Rhetoric

In a recent post on Jezebel.com titled Assholes Without Kids Challenge Assholes With Kids, Sadie remarked on the vitriolic language used by some writers engaged in the Kids or No Kids discourse and urged some measure of restraint. She writes:
Yes, the cult of motherhood is annoying, and no one should, in this day and age, be considered less of a woman for (sic—not?) having children. But biting back in the same key is hardly the way to exact revenge or encourage respect for different choices. Are people going to be defensive when you call pregnancy and childbirth parasitic, disgusting, germ-ridden? Um, yes. I don't have children, but I can see how goes beyond irreverence into insulting something fundamental. I can't comprehend the bond, physical and emotional, that a mother feels for her children - which is why I wouldn't presume to demean it, any more than I'd insult someone who'd chosen not to have children for any reason.
Though I might quibble about her use of “fundamental” in reference to parenthood, I understand Sadie’s concern. I’ve noticed how quickly discourse on the issues faced by stay-at-home moms and working moms degenerated into the Mommy Wars and I wonder if the same thing is happening with parents and non parents.

Do I care how many kids the Duggars have? Not really. I’m hoping the growing number of childless people will balance them out. I would be upset if the children were being neglected or abused in some way. They don’t appear to be—exploited perhaps but not harmed. I’m still trying to figure out how I feel about the Jon and Kate debacle. However I was pleased to learn Nadya Suleman’s recent reality TV deal stipulated fair payment and a trust fund for the kids. I suspect the previous exploitation of Nadya’s infants, and the subsequent outrage from both parents and non parents and California child labor law enforcers, ensured that this TV deal was fairer to the children.

I believe we all have a right to express outrage when we see unfairness, abuse, or exploitation but we can do so by pointing to specific cases and not by disparaging or belittling parents, or nonparents, in general. As the Mommy Wars have shown, not much productive comes out of the vitriolic lobbying back and forth, which is why I question the use of “Assholes” in the title of Sadie’s post.

Flickr photo by BrittneyBush (cc)

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Working Wives, Unemployed Husbands

In the current recession, two things are happening which we need to address politically and individually. One, women are increasingly becoming the breadwinners in their families and two, when the breadwinner loses their job the whole family is at risk of losing their health insurance.

A fascinating and timely article titled Women Breadwinners, Men Unemployed written by Heather Boushey, the Senior Economist at the Center for American Progress examines these current realities and their impact on our lives. Boushey notes:

The reason that more married couples now boast women as the primary breadwinners is because men have experienced greater job losses than women over the course of this recession, losing three-out-of-every-four jobs lost. This puts a real strain on family budgets since women typically earn only 78 cents for every dollar men earn.

What’s equally worrisome is that most families receive health insurance through the employers of their husbands. So when husbands lose their jobs, families are left struggling to find ways to pay for health insurance at the same time they are living on just a third of their prior income.
Worrisome, indeed. Even though my husband and I are married and have been for over twenty years we have a “single + one” health insurance plan through his work that, if he were to lose his job, would be very expensive to replace, even though we are only insuring two relatively healthy people with no life threatening pre-existing conditions.

My income as a writer would not come close to covering this cost. Which is why I’m tempted to contact my representatives in government during their summer break and encourage them to move fast to make sure we pass some kind of health care reform bill.

Families of all incomes and sizes need to be protected, recession-proofed, so that even more people do not become uninsured.

Flickr Photo by keltickelton (cc)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

How old is too old to have kids?

The recent news about the death of Maria del Carmen Bousada, the Spanish woman who gave birth to twins at 66 years old, made me very sad. She lived only a handful of years after she did what many thought was crazy—sold her house to pay for in vitro fertilization and delivered twins at an age when most women are happy to be empty nesters , grandparents, or childfree. She did this as a single woman, after having lied about her age to the doctors at a Los Angeles fertility clinic, where she was not asked for proof of age.

When I read the article about Bousada, written by Associated Press writer Daniel Woolls, I mourned for her and for her two small children who where only two years old at the time of her death and will likely have no memories of their mother, and it brought to mind a conversation I had with my husband when I was in my late twenties and happily childfree.

We talked about how some women hit thirty five and suddenly become desperate to have a child. I told him I was pretty sure that wouldn’t happen to me but he said, “If you decide you do want kids you have to tell me before I turn fifty because I don’t want to be an old dad.”

I took heed and made a mental note of that. He turned sixty last year and I’m forty seven and I have yet to report an incident of baby fever, and even if I did suddenly feel the grip of baby longing I would have to say that now it’s just too late.

I imagine, like Maria del Carmen Bousada did, that I will live into my nineties. But Bousada couldn’t anticipate the stomach cancer diagnosis a year after her twins were born and I can’t imagine chasing a kid around with gimpy knees and brittle bones at seventy. It would be crazy—it wouldn’t be fair to my husband and it wouldn’t be fair to the kid.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Old but Not Alone

Our friends worry about us. What are you going to do when you get old? Who’s going to take care of you?

Most us have some canned answers to these questions, usually staring with “With the money we’ve saved by not having kids, we can…

...afford in-home care” or

…stay at the Marriott Residence assisted living place” or

…buy some long-term health care insurance.”

Or stay at a Green House. I first heard about this new model of residential eldercare when my friend Linda gave me a copy of an article titled “Where to Live as We Age” written by Susan Fine for Parade magazine.

A Green House is the brainchild of geriatrician Dr. Bill Thomas who, with the help of a foundation and a non-profit organization, piloted this new type of residential living for the elderly. The Green House near Albany, NY shelters 12 “elders” and a multi-tasking staff who cook, clean, dispense medication, or organize activities such as dances and Nintendo Wii games.

The residents say the best thing about this model is the homey feel and intimacy and the fact that they can choose their meal times and live with their pets.

Sounds like a great place to be when it comes time…

Flickr Photo by Adwriter


Saturday, June 27, 2009

A Birth Control Shot for Men

I’ve been waiting for the day when some drug company would introduce a new birth control method for men. We’re not there yet but this day is getting closer with a Chinese study designed to test the effectiveness of a new formula birth control shot for guys.

I thought this was pretty exciting stuff so I did a bit of research into this development, a summary of which was published in this month’s edition of Unscripted. Here’s an excerpt:

In a recent study, 1,045 Chinese men between 20 and 45 years of age were given testosterone injections for over two years. All these men had fathered a child within the last two years and their partners did not report any fertility problems. Yet these shots where able to prevent pregnancy 99% of the time, coming close to the success rate of female hormonal contraceptives.

It been know for years that testosterone shots suppress sperm production but in most previous studies men were subjected to weekly shots instead of the monthly shot given to the men in the Chinese study. Previously researchers and marketers had doubted that men would sign up for a weekly shot so the testosterone shot never really got traction as a viable method for male birth control. And, even though the men taking these shots reported very few side effects (acne and higher sex drive are two), there remains some concern about the long-term effects of testosterone on the prostrate gland and heart, and on the behavioral effects of testosterone.

The main benefit of the testosterone shot is, like the birth control pill for women, this method is reversible. So for those guys who want to take responsibility for their own reproductive lives but aren’t ready to be snipped, this could prove to be the answer.

The question is: Are there enough men out there ready and willing to take a monthly shot?

You tell me…
Flickr photo by stevendepolo (cc)

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Looking for the “No Children Guy”

Niaris emailed me from Puerto Rico to share her story. She apologized for her poor english but in fact it was very good—she communicated very genuinely what many women, and men, go through when they tell their partners they don’t want kids, either they are not believed or their partner believes things will change over time. I’ve heard too many stories like hers to believe that you can change someone’s mind on a commitment as huge as parenthood. It rarely works. Here’s a bit of what she had to say:

When I was little girl I dreamt of having a family, but as I grew older that changed. When I looked around me I saw that the responsibility of the children falls to the mother. I think it is not fair to women—it should be an equal responsibility.

My first marriage ended because I did not want any children, although I made it clear from the beginning. He thought he could change my mind.

As I was getting back to dating, one of the characteristics I was looking for was a ‘no children guy.’ I found him. We got married two years ago.
Niaris still gets the “When are you having a baby?” question, and she weathers the reaction “the look on their face when you say ‘never.’ But that does not bother me. My choice is to live without children. I do not hate children; I just don't want the responsibility.”

Niaris brought up a point I think is important. Though many of the men and the women I interviewed weighed the responsibility of parenthood in the course of their decision making, the women did make the assumption that the bulk of the childcare tasks would fall to them, whether they were working full-time or not. I’ve often wondered if this imbalance of responsibility is one of the reasons why these women resist motherhood. What do you think?
Flickr photo by Ruth L (cc)

Friday, June 5, 2009

Two Is Enough: A Couple’s Guide to Living Childless by Choice is Available to Pre-Order!

Finally, the book created out of the Childless by Choice Project is now available as a pre-order on Amazon.com.

If you pre-order on Amazon.com you can save 32 percent off the cover price and the book will automatically be shipped to you as soon as it hits the warehouse.

Just click on the link above or search “Two is Enough Childless by Choice” on amazon.com and pre-order the book and get it for only US$11.53.

This is the terrific discount for a new release, so take advantage!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Is Divorce Different for the Childless?

Despite the fact that studies, including the Childless by Choice Project study, show that childfree couples are motivated to remain without children because of marital satisfaction, the risk of divorce is still present. In fact, childfree couples are just as likely to divorce as are couples with children. Divorce is never easy—with kids or without them—but an article titled Modern Marriage Risks Amplified by Children recently published in Unscripted suggests that the divorce may be much less problematic if the couple has remained childless.

The article’s author, J. Bushnell pointed out that: “nonparent couples don’t have to stick out a bad or abusive relationship for fear of supporting a household or raising children alone. Unlike parents, childfree couples don’t have to worry about how a divorce will impact children; instead, they can split their assets 50/50, move on, and even move away, without concerns about taking a child away from its school district or nonresidential parent.”

Bushnell also pointed out that the risks of divorce are much higher for women than for men if they have children. “As 80% of children live with their mother following a divorce, perhaps women should seriously consider before starting a family whether they are equipped to parent alone one day if their marriage fails. Because single motherhood is clearly a very strong possibility.”

Imagine a drive-through wedding chapel in Las Vegas and the Elvis impersonator/ordained minister who is about to marry you asks “You have a fifty-fifty chance of ending up as single mother, are you still going to say ‘I do’ and have kids with this guy?”

Flickr photo by madmolecule (cc)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Childfree In India

Recently I was interviewed by a reporter who was researching an article about the childfree for The Sunday Indian, a national magazine out of New Delhi.

The resulting article, written by Anu Gulmohar, was published on Mother’s Day, and cited the Childless by Choice Project study and another study of eighteen and older childless persons in India. Turns out urban childless Indians feel pretty much the same way as North Americans in their perceptions of parenthood. The majority (73 percent) of Indians surveyed felt “that having children will curtail their freedom” and 87 percent felt children were “a full-time job.”

Like many North Americans, these childless Indians felt pressured to procreate and they felt that the “the biggest motivator for having kids is not their desire to experience parenthood (12%), or the sheer love for children (10%), but the pressure applied by their society and families!!”

Another assumption that appears to have gone global is the perception of selfishness. A childfree man who was quoted in this article had this to say:

“Tell me one thing that is selfless about wanting to have children,” retorts P Srivastava. “Is there any altruistic sentiment behind it? I feel none. Everything that causes one to procreate is selfish in nature. You want to create your own flesh and blood, you want someone to look after you, you want happiness for your family, you want happiness for yourself. Is not all this selfish?”

Having heard a version of this from my interviews with the childless by choice, I could empathize with this man. Some people do equate parenthood with happiness and they want that for themselves. However, the Indian survey respondents were willing to wait for parenthood, they were choosing to postpone parenthood far beyond the age their parents likely had the first child. The average age at which these young adults saw themselves having children was thirty.
Flickr photo by premasagar (cc)

Saturday, May 2, 2009


Many childless by choice adults embrace their pets as part of the family. Whether you call them fido or fluffy, these pets can seem like child substitutes, adding a lot of love.

It's true your pet will never grow up and take care of you when you get old. In fact, you can count on the fact that you will outlive them, barring great misfortune on your part. Their lives are so brief, and they give so much, even if you don't always have time for them.

I recently lost my beloved cat Vladimir. He was with me for 19 years, spanning half my life, thus far. The better half I might add. I was careful who I told about my grief. I learned from a grief therapist that a new loss can open up all the old ones, and my mourning of this cat's passing ran pretty deep. It actually made me wonder if he didn't really fill the "missing child" niche for me. It made me doubt my choice, for a moment.

Cats and children really do not compare. Cats are way easier. I don't think it is a good idea to have children so they can take care of you when you get older, but I have to admit the possibility that they might is rather appealing. One of the nicest things a friend said to me was, "you are a such a positive, warm person Teri, you will always have people around who will help you."

That's a nice sentiment too. I am hanging on to that thought.

Now we're thinking about getting a dog. Hey, it's a big step for a CF couple.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Why Have Kids?

I was forwarded a link to a fascinating blog post titled “Does Having Kids Ruin Your Life?”

It was written by a 31 year-old childless woman writing under the name kryptogal who was admittedly “indifferent” about children.

One of her major issues around having a child is best summed up in the following quote:

Here’s the way I see it: having a child is like having an arranged marriage with a person you won’t meet until your wedding day. And then you can never get divorced. Your spouse could be tall or short, kind or mean, mentally or physically disabled, funny or humorless, ugly or pretty, lazy or energetic, smart or dull – you won’t know until it’s too late. And you will be 100% responsible for your spouse’s emotional, physical, intellectual, and financial well-being for the rest of your life. If your spouse has problems – say, he/she is an alcoholic or autistic – you will be blamed. You will worry about your spouse and feel guilty about your spouse without cease.

Who in their right mind would sign up for a marriage like that? NO ONE!! Yet that’s exactly what you sign up for when you have a child. You don’t know who your child will be until it’s too late. And you can never, ever, ever un-do it.

So why do 9 out of 10 people seem so gung-ho about this?? Can anyone give me some answers?

Many people did respond to her request for answers. Most were parents and their comments make interesting reading, providing a glimpse into how a parent might respond if asked, “Why have kids?”

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Debate on Paid Family Leave

A recent article on OregonLive.com in which a conservative columnist slammed a proposed paid family leave law sparked some interesting comments, leading me to revisit my own feelings about government-mandated paid family leave.

In recent years, I have come to the conclusion that paid family leave is acceptable only if it is offered to all—not just parents, or caregivers of family members. Paid leave is a benefit, like a health care plan, and should be available to all. It should be treated like paid vacation time. Nobody should be told how to spend their vacation time; likewise nobody should have to “qualify” for paid leave.

In this economy government-mandated paid leave is a hard sell; it’s a luxury during a time when some companies are not able to afford decent health care plans or matching funds for 401k plans. It is unwise for a government to mandate this benefit with no regard as to a companies’ ability to fund it.

Elizabeth Hovde, The Oregonian columnist who wrote “Paid family leave? Let's give it a deserved rest,” agrees:

Paid family leave -- which is typically used for time off with newborns and sometimes used for employees needing to care for ailing family members -- suggests that our personal choices and circumstances are others' burdens to bear.

They aren't. Choosing to start a family or deciding to care for loved ones is something individuals should plan for -- emotionally and financially. While employers and co-workers have every right to be generous with their money and could choose to donate time or pay an employee to take time off for family, the government has no business being so generous with people's hourly wages.
At the center of this debate is the issue of fairness. I believe the only way to be fair is to offer paid family leave as one in a menu of benefits and invite each employee to choose the ones they want, up to a set monetary value; single employees might choose a gym membership, employees with children might choose “paid family leave.” Given that the “household with children” demographic is shrinking, perhaps it is time we drop the “family” from paid family leave. Companies should be free to offer “paid leave” as a quality of life benefit (acknowledging that employees can benefit from time off to care for family members, pets, or themselves) but they shouldn’t be forced to do so.

The incentive to offer this benefit is already evident; companies that do so are more likely to attract employees who, if they value their work and the benefits, will stay longer and companies will save money in training, employee turnover, and unplanned absenteeism.

Everyone can benefit from a paid leave, and everyone should.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Are You Invisible?

Wallflower would not exactly describe me, but for decades I have conveniently blended in to the crowd as a childfree by choice woman of childbearing years. Allowing strangers to make assumptions as to my family status has been easier than a long, intimate conversation with someone I may never meet again. Truthfully, no one is owed an explanation, not even the curious.

Life is different now. I live in a suburban town with rural roots. Because of my volunteer work with a local nonprofit and my husband's five generations of family connections in that same town, I cannot go to the grocery store without recognizing someone I know. I like that, and they will get used to me. I've accepted the fact that I may never fit in, even though I may make a significant, unrecognized contribution to this community before it is my time to leave. As my sister-in-law put it,

"Childless people have more energy to contribute to all of the world's people. They also have the time to treasure good friends."

Outside of our family choices, we childfree folks are as diverse in our reasons as we are in our pursuits, using the time that is not devoted to the upbringing of the next generation.

I have explored the invisible nature of being childfree in a few different contexts--on a personal level in intimate settings (expecially hard when people don't already know, love and accept you); in the blogosphere, where we are often not a large enough a self-identifying group to warrant our own affinity category (marketers cannot sell us something specific as we are too diverse and lack unity), and within society at large via the good ol' U.S. Census (Do We Count?).

On November 15, 2007, I even staged an online event called "Purple Women Count" due to my frustrations in trying to find some way to be unified with others like me and counted in the larger context of the modern woman's experience, not necessarily that of a mother. Sadly, I let the anniversary pass last year, without so much as donning a purple sweater!

Because I administered a blog on the topic of being childfree for two years, I drew the attention of reporters who were looking for an interesting story to sell their editors. I am of the opinion that it is almost impossible for a newspaper reporter to capture the experience of a childless by choice individual and draw parallels. Their job is to find an interesting angle, and "early articulators" have been most often covered, those with regret in their decisions a close second. (See White Picket Fences post 10-09-07). Those content with their choice, may be the least interesting and most invisible among us.

Do you have a story about being invisible?
Flickr photo by pericomart (cc)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Lisa’s Story

Lisa, 46, emailed me to tell me her story. She felt that more needed to be said on the importance of “respecting our spouse’s choice.”

My husband didn't want children from the time we met. Many women ignore their partner’s feelings and manipulate them into getting what they want. Then when the child arrives, they complain their husband isn't involved enough.

I thought about making my husband think that he'll lose me if he doesn't at least consider kids. Instead I asked myself, do I want a child that badly or is it just the next step? Or is it pressure from eager grandparents?

Underneath, I knew I'd really struggle to care for a child. I've had chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia since 1988. After I started caring for my nieces (ages 5 and 7) and my husband was diagnosed with MS, I knew things happen for a reason.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Journey to Me

We all start out child-free and somewhere along the way paths diverge, and mine lead to being childless by choice, even though I had to have a life-altering surgery at the tender, single age of 27, that rendered me incapable of bearing fruit. Fruit of the womb, that is.

It has been a long journey to becoming childfree me. I don't like to have my choice taken away from me. After the surgery, I walked the infertile couple path. We were not rich enough to even consider adoption or in-vitro. I felt trapped by my lack of options and by the horrible, emotional experience of wanting something that you cannot have. Something as complicated as love is never quite this simple, but looking back, I think my infertility was merely a trigger for the collapse of my first marriage. His drive to be childed was simply stronger than mine, though I could not articulate it at the time. I was just misarable. So, I exited stage left to explore this option solo.

A decade later, I thought for sure the conversation with my new boyfriend, the one I was slowing falling in love with, would be heart-wrenching. I knew that I had an obligation to tell him I would not be his "baby-mamma" before we went any further. To my surprise, he had already determined for himself that having children was not high on his list. After we married, I discovered the motivation for his decision was based on a lesson in over-population that he was exposed to as a sophomore in high school. His parents had taken the whole family to the world's fair in Spokane, Washington in 1974. A bell rang every five minutes, indicating that another child was born. This conscious-raising stunt had a profound impact on this thinking young man. He realized that the world did not need more children. Perhaps the message rang a little strong with him since he is one of five children. The product of two large traditionally Catholic families. Now, I love to hear him tell this story to a receptive audience.

My personal journey to childfree included blogging about it exclusively for two years at Purple Women & Friends. I didn't like the terms others applied to my brand of childlessness, so I created my own nomenclature around the subject. At the time, my husband and I found ourselves in the social petrie dish of being an expat in Canada. I was also turning 40 and had lots of time on my hands for life review and the blogosphere was my medium. In my 30s, I was still looking for childfree role models and I interviewed and befriended many. Along the way, I discovered and read several books on the subject, some humorous, some humorous only to some, all enlightening. We can definitely use more thoughtful exploration, both fiction and non-fiction in this arena, and I for one am really looking forward to the book and documentary film being produced by my friend and former PW&F co-contributor, Laura Scott, the owner of this blog.

All the online journaling and the childfree adult friendships I made along the way have made me less susceptible to thoughtless comments made by others about my chosen childless by choice status. But still I was a little unnerved when I was invited to be a panelist and moderator at the 2008 BlogHer Conference in San Francisco at an experimental Childfree Women Bloggers session. During my "purple" years, I created a reputation for being a reasonable voice on this often hot topic and an even-handed moderator of this multiple-voice team blog. I had actively lobbied BlogHer and other social networking sites for inclusion in our own separate category, since mom bloggers seemed to dominate all conversations. There never seemed to be a proper category to fit our uniquely focused blog. It was hard to promote, and our chance to gain more readers and expand the conversation was dampened by this reality. So, to be invited to participate in such a panel was an achievement of sorts, and I simply could not refuse.

Laura joined me on the BlogHer "Childless in the Blogosphere" panel. It was a good experience. The panel was attended by more than 50 women bloggers. At the end of the day, I realized I had become the role model I was seeking. My Purple Women blog is now closed, though the content is all there and searchable by topic, but my journey is far from over and I am happy to join this blog as contributor so I can continue to explore the role and phenomenon of childfree adults in our society.

Next post by Teri: Invisible Citizens - Childless by Choice Adults

(Or, let us know what you'd like to read about!)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Introducing Teri Tith

I've very happy to introduce you to Teri Tith, a new contributor to the Childless by Choice Project Blog. Teri is new to this blog but she is a veteran blogger who has embraced her childless by choice status in the most marvelous way, sharing this experience with others in the blogosphere, and beyond, as you will see in the next post.

Teri introduced me to blogging over two years ago when she invited me to contribute to her blog Purple Women & Friends, and since then I come to appreciate her both as a writer and a friend.

I trust you will too.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

It’s Not Realistic

Back in the 70’s, I had a very brave health teacher who decided to offer her 10th grade class frank and accurate information about sex—both the benefits and the consequences. I recall that my parents had to sign a release form giving me permission to attend this class, which they did, quite happily.

It was in that classroom where I saw my first condom and I learned how men get erections, and learned that women have “little penises” called a clitoris and this tiny bit of anatomy was the key to female orgasm. As I write this I marvel at all the information I was given in this short series of classes. This information later allowed me to challenge much of the schoolyard sexual mythology—such as the “blue ball” myth that guys would practically die if they couldn’t satisfy an erection—and allowed me to protect myself from unplanned pregnancies and act as my own advocate when I was ready to go beyond first base.

I mourn for the generations of men and women who didn’t get this information, or got it too late. I speak not only as a childless by choice woman but also as a mentor of young women. More than once I’ve had to explain to a young woman, as my teacher did, why you can’t use a condom twice, or confirm that it is possible to get STDs from oral sex. Too many go out in a world, where 30 percent of American teens have sex before they are old enough to drive a car, unarmed and misinformed.

This is why I have always resisted the notion of abstinence-only education. I fear that by limiting sex education in schools we rob children of critical knowledge that will keep them safer, and I feel it is grossly na├»ve to think abstinence-only education can reduce premarital sex. Sadly, my fears were confirmed in a recent article titled Abstinence-Only Education: Just As Much Sex, But With Less Condom Use written by Melanie Altar citing a study by Janet Rosenbaum, a researcher at John Hopkins, which found that “teenagers who pledge to remain virgins until their wedding night are just as likely to have premarital sex as those who do not. Moreover, pledgers in the study were less likely to take precautions against STIs and unwanted pregnancies than a peer control group with similar backgrounds who did not make a pledge.”

Rosenbaum’s findings were echoed in Greta Van Susteren’s interview with Sarah Palin’s daughter Bristol, a new teen mom. Although her mother is a proponent of abstinence-only education as Governor of Alaska, Bristol, when asked how she felt about contraception, said, “Everyone should be abstinent or whatever, but it's not realistic at all.”

From the mouths of babes to our ears.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Mom Bloggers Weigh In On The Childfree by Choice

Christine Tarbet, the Web Producer of Momversation (a site that features video from mom-bloggers) emailed me last week giving me a heads up about a new video they had produced titled, "Childfree by Choice." It features some the top mom bloggers and their view of the childfree by choice “movement.”

Apparently one of the mom bloggers spent half a day scanning some the sites and forums, was taken aback by some of the content she saw there, and came away with the impression that the childfree hate kids and by extension their “breeder” parents for hogging all the tax cuts and benefits afforded exclusively to parents in our society.

Let me go on record. I don’t dislike children and I have no problem with parents unless they neglect or abuse their children. I confess I have used the term “ankle biters” in reference to children but so have some of my friends who later became parents. But I have never used the terms “crotch droppings” or “semen demons” (used by some childfree forum users) because I find them offensive and rude. I don’t look at a kid and automatically grimace because I have found some kids to be very cool and fun to be around, others not so. Likewise, some of the childfree just plain don’t like kids and some really enjoy their time with the little munchkins.

Writer Sarah Klein did a pretty good job resolving the question: “Are the childfree a fast-growing, misunderstood movement — or just a bunch of mean ol’ kid haters?” in her 2005 Detroit Metro Times article titled “Oh Baby.”

Klein noted that the Childless by Choice come in all stripes and flavors and quoted Psychologist Debra Mollen: “Many parents get upset because they internalize the criticism, and feel like their choice, the choice to parent, is negated. But most childfree people are simply saying, ‘This is what works for us.’”

In this article Mollen also acknowledged that the parents are afforded privileges not extended to the childless. “Pregnant women get preferential parking, those without children are expected to work longer hours, people with children get tax breaks,” Mollen says. “There’s social sanctioning for having children.”

Maybe that’s why the childfree feel the need to rant. If you look hard enough you are going to find the radicals, the shock jocks, and the righteously pissed-off in any population, whether you’re right wing, left wing, religious or atheist, parents or non-parents.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Warning: Slouching into Parenthood May Result in Marital Discontent

One thing that really impressed me when I started interviewing couples who were childless by choice was how many had discussed their feelings about parenthood with their partners early on in the relationship. Sometimes this happened on the first or second date; sometimes it was discussed prior to marriage. The most important thing is that it was discussed and these couples were in agreement—they wanted to remain childless.

A new study by researchers Philip and Carolyn Cowan cited in a New York Times article titled Till Children Do Us Part written by Stephanie Coontz reinforces the benefits of having what I call the “kid conversation” early on. The Cowan’s findings show that those parents who are not in agreement, or are ambivalent, or have children just to please their spouse are much more likely to experience dissatisfaction with their marriage. Some of this dissatisfaction may also be attributed to the roles men and women adopt after the child arrives.

Coontz explains:

“Some couples plan the conception and discuss how they want to conduct their relationship after the baby is born. Others disagree about whether or when to conceive, with one partner giving in for the sake of the relationship. And sometimes, both partners are ambivalent.

The Cowans found that the average drop in marital satisfaction was almost entirely accounted for by the couples who slid into being parents, disagreed over it or were ambivalent about it. Couples who planned or equally welcomed the conception were likely to maintain or even increase their marital satisfaction after the child was born.

Marital quality also tends to decline when parents backslide into more traditional gender roles. Once a child arrives, lack of paid parental leave often leads the wife to quit her job and the husband to work more. This produces discontent on both sides. The wife resents her husband’s lack of involvement in child care and housework. The husband resents his wife’s ingratitude for the long hours he
works to support the family.”

This study and others show how important it is that both partners are fully on board and have a plan on how they will handle the arrival of a child—or not. Whether you desire a child, or you are planning for a life without children, the strength and happiness of your marriage is dependent on your spouse being a willing participant, whatever you choose.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Hollywood Baby Bust

Marieclaire.com just posted an article on Childfree Celebrities that features a slideshow of twenty one celebs who are saying “No kids, thank you!”—including Eva Mendes, George Clooney, Margaret Cho, and Kim Catrall.

In the midst of the Hollywood baby boom and the tiresome tabloid “Bump alerts” this is so refreshing!

Check it out and comment on your favorite celebrity sans enfant.