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.


terri said...

Thank you!!! I cannot wait to read your book. My husband and I are childless by choice and it IS the best decision we have ever made with the exception of deciding to spend our lives together...just the two of us.

Mrs. Heather B-S said...

I plan on reading your book, as well. I am 28 years old, and at about 16 I decided not to have children. My main reason was that I didn't want them. I have a wonderful mother, and my father was amazing, and I've got two brothers who I adore. When I started more serious dating I ran off guys (not really on purpose) by telling them that I was not going to have children (and that I was hyphenating my name.) I knew when I found a man that agreed with me, he would be worth it...and you know what...I did. My husband and I don't plan on having children, because neither of us want to have them. I don't regret it one bit. I love my friends kids, but at the end of the day it's great to come home to a great husband and a house full of animals (that we rescued!)

I do agree, though, that often times people with kids basically isolate those who don't, but honestly, it's there loss.

nari swan said...

I am childfree. I always knew. I chose my husband in part based on this shared desire. But even we, solid in our desire, relentlessly discuss 'the other side'. I offer this, not choosing to raise children is a huge, life altering choice in the same exact way as choosing to have them. Every single aspect of your entire life reflects the outcome of that one decision. In the end, it's simply a choice. And BOTH choices are both selfish and unselfish. Perhaps there are those out there who are 100% unhappy or 100% happy with their choice 100% of the time, but I doubt it. It certainly won't make the rest of us any more solid if you get the label (childless/childfree) right, or a few negative adjectives (selfish, spoiled) get removed. I bet that even the most loving parents I know have moments where they momentarily second-guess their decision and envy my life, and wonder how their lives might be different, just as I do theirs. But none of that alters the fact that is is simply a choice. But all that said, I am glad I live in a world/country/society/whatever where it is a choice, and not an obligation.

Laura Scott said...

I agree the best thing I ever did was to marry a man who respected me,my dreams, and my choices and wanted to have a life partner, rather than someone who would serve as a good helpmate and mother to his children.
I also agree with nari that parents and nonparents may second guess or wonder "what if..." That is natural once you have made your choice and begin to appreciate the pros and cons in your own life.