Saturday, August 2, 2014

Childless By Choice

by Dr. Suzana E. Flores

Mike, a 38-year-old, attorney has a Match.com profile where he clearly states that he does not want to have children. Several women he’s dated through this dating site have tried to change his mind by telling him that he would make such a great father if he “weren’t so selfish.”

Christina, a 35-year-old, freelance writer said that she has been marked as the black sheep of her family. She can’t attend one family holiday without someone “casually” mentioning over dinner how women who wait too long to reproduce will surely regret it, because one day they will wake up “with a shriveled up uterus” and will die alone.


Silvia, a married 38-year-old psychologist (and a very dear friend) said, “I certainly lean on the side of not having children." She's "about 98% certain" she doesn't want children, but she still likes having the option available.

I’m 30-years-old (cough, cough), okay add 10 years to that, and I’ve NEVER wanted children. As far as I can remember the thought of having children made me cringe. Despite this, given societal expectations and the biological tick-tock issue, at one time my husband and I figured we should seriously consider this possibility. We both ended up experiencing severe anxiety. The mere thought of losing our freedom, restricting our travel plans, and taking on all the obligations involved in parenthood, made our life appear hectic and (truthfully) quite miserable. We had to admit to ourselves, and each other, that given everything that we’d have to give up – the many things that we love about our life together – having children just seemed so…inconvenient.


As you can imagine, I can’t share thoughts like these with most parents because if I do I’m met with looks that could easily put me 6-feet under. It’s somehow socially acceptable for parents to share the joy they experience with their children but it’s not acceptable for me to express the joy I experience with NOT having children. I've found that some parents take such comments too personally, as if I’m implying that their children are annoying, or that I’m making passive-aggressive jabs at their decision to become parents. And joking about this topic? Forget about it. While most parents understand, and even enjoy, the humor behind how stressful children can be, some parents are too attached to their role as parent to accept any other viewpoint. Even in today’s world, with a more liberal mindset when it comes to women and our choices, women who choose to be childless are met with societal negative attitudes.

When I tell people I'm married, most people follow through by asking if we have children. “My husband and I are childless…BY CHOICE,” I respond. The “by choice” proclamation has to follow with lighting speed otherwise I receive the sympathy stares. Even worse, when I say that I never wanted children, I’m often faced with sneers or judgmental remarks, “Oh, so you’re one of THEM.” Yes, I’m one of “them” – women who love their partners, their careers, their freedom and gosh darn it, we sure do love our sleep too.

Many people feel uncomfortable around those who choose to defy convention. They simply can't understand how a couple can feel ecstatic with not having children, the same way some couples can't understand how single people can feel ecstatic with remaining single.


The August 12, 2013 TIME Magazine cover story: “The Childfree Life: When Having It All Means Not Having Children,” guesses that the decreasing birthrate in America is mostly due to a choice by many modern American women to be childfree. I don’t completely agree with this article. While some women are childfree by choice, some are unable to have children (by biology or circumstances) or are simply waiting to find the right partner. The Time article also reports that childless women are among America's wealthier and more college-educated women. Unfortunately, this data reinforces the myth that we are too self-centered, too career-oriented, and too selfish for motherhood.

People often assume that I do not like children or that I do not respect parenthood. Both assumptions couldn’t be further from the truth. I like little kids – they’re blunt, honest, fun, and very cute. In fact, I think that my friend’s children are the cutest kids I’ve ever seen, but what I love most about children is the way they look at the world with amazement and fascination – something I believe we can all learn from. I like teens as well and I like to be in the company of large families. One of my colleagues once told me, “You have NO idea how hard it is to be a parent.” I responded, “Oh, I DO realize just how tough it is to raise children.” In fact, THAT is precisely why I chose to be childless. I often wonder how parents (especially single parents) do everything that they do for their children and still maintain a sense of sanity. How DO they do it? - - HOW???


Being childless was not an easy choice to make; we know the risk of never becoming parents at all – we’re missing out on a lot of meaningful experiences. But at the same time, we are childfull; we choose to fill our lives with the children we love like our nieces and nephews and friends' children. The way I see it, being childless by choice gives me the best of both worlds: I can enjoy my freedom and still be "the cool aunt," and although I never wanted to have a child, I do have a daughter, albeit a four-legged Diva named Lille…and life for me (and my little family) couldn't be any better.




Dr. Suzana E. Flores is the resident clinical psychologist to Prose & Cons and author of Facehooked: How Facebook Affects our Emotions, Relationships, and Lives due out October, 2014 through Reputation Books.

Dr. Flores frequently presents at universities and organizations, and was recently quoted in Esquire.com, Mashable.com, Everyday Health Magazine, Dame Magazine, The Nation, SheKnows.com, New Parent Magazine, Newlyweds, Upwayve.com and Moms.me.

She can be reached at drsuzanaflores@gmail.com or through her literary agent, Liz Kracht at liz@kimberelycameron.com.

www.drsuzanaflores.com

11 comments :

Leigh Anne Jasheway said...

The best part of being childless by choice is that when you get to be 15 or so years older and people find out you don't have grandchildren (except the 4-legged variety), the questions stop. I guess they just assume I'm a crazy krone!

Holly West said...

My husband and I are also childless by choice. I sometimes worry about that--have I made a huge mistake?--but the thought of raising a child is enough to quash any worry I might have. I think they're great, of course, just not for me.

Dr. Suzana E. Flores said...

I so look forward to the day when people stop asking the questions.

Dr. Suzana E. Flores said...

Same goes for us! We like OTHER PEOPLE'S kids…I just don't want them in my house for 24/7. LOL.

Sue Coletta said...

I have the best of both worlds. My husband had a nineteen year old son when we met, now twenty years later I have a beautiful little granddaughter-- and I didn't have to do any of the heavy lifting! She is precious to me, but I can always give her back when she gets fussy. :)

Eliza Cross said...

Great article! You're a psychologist, so why do you think people meddle when it comes to the topic of having children? When my husband and I were newlyweds, so many people kept asking us when we were going to get busy and have a baby. We really wanted (and needed) some time together as a couple first. What's with all those questions?

Dr. Suzana E. Flores said...

People like to know that they made the right life choice by comparing their life to the lives of others. Once you're married you're "supposed" to have children too because this validates their choice to have children. We understand other people and situations best if they fit into a certain category in our mind. When they don't we feel uncomfortable :)

Dr. Suzana E. Flores said...

Wonderful Sue!

JeriWB said...

My favorite is when I go to a new hair stylist. Inevitably, one of the first questions asked is whether or not I have kids. Some are more persistent than others in their whys and how comes, but mostly my answer of NO really stumps the stylist until... but wait! What? There is LIFE without kids? You must be kidding. Even better, I got married at 22 to my best friend and 15 years later, we're going strong and life is great without a brood that needs tending. But yikes, I don't even like kids all that much, but that's not something most people want to hear in the course of a normal conversation...

Holly West said...

Now that's the way to do it, Sue.

Sue Coletta said...

I owned and operated a hair salon and never once would I ask that question. It's rude, don't you think? Also, I'm childless, so maybe Suzana has a point about others needing validation.