May 29, 2012

living childfree: the scholar's perspective

the "living childfree" series is about learning about the experiences, motivations and opinions of childfree women and couples - whether it is by choice, by circumstance, or still undecided. if you are interested in sharing your thoughts, please contact me at yael.santo(at)

this third installment (see the first and second) comes from a professor who contacted me after seeing a link to my article on a childfree community page on facebook.

photo by r-p-m via flickr creative commons

tell me a little bit about yourself
i am a 32-year old assistant professor at an east coast university. i was born and raised in the midwest. i have been happily married for 7 years.

when did you first know you weren’t interested in having children? what was your reasoning for choosing a childfree life?
as a professor of human sexuality education, i share my choice to be childfree with my students each semester when we cover the topic of choosing whether or not to become a parent. i am an advocate for myself as a childfree woman. students are often surprised or even disappointed when i disclose that my husband and i do not want children. my reasoning has always been the same, “i have known i haven’t wanted children for as long as i’ve been able to conceive them.” due to the young age i was when i made this discovery, my rationale has been formed and reinforced over the years. thus, it’s difficult to recall my initial reasoning, but each day i am justified in my choice. i am fortunate enough to have found a partner who wanted the commitment of marriage, without the addendum of children. a lot of people think the two have to go hand in hand.

what were your family and friends’ reactions like when they first found out? did they take you seriously?
between my husband and i, we have 10 nephews and 1 niece. our siblings are currently in 100% “parent mode”. it’s really difficult to relate when we come home for the holidays. even though my husband and i have our terminal degrees and are successful, responsible professionals, we are often treated like “kids” because we don’t have kids. it’s ok, though, as we get to sit back and enjoy drink (after drink, after drink) while our siblings have to chase after their offspring. 
did you face any other kind of opposition regarding your choice?
nothing monumental. just a comment here or there. at first our family likely was disappointed, but after 7 years of marriage, i don’t think anyone is expecting us to breed.  as an advocate of reproductive rights, i am very open about the importance of contraception. personally i had a difficult time getting the right form of birth control for me. i wanted long term, non-hormonal protection. and since sterilization was out of the question (no physician would ethically perform a tubal ligation or vasectomy on a 28-year old female or male, respectively), the next best choice was the copper iud. it’s great, and i’d recommend it to anyone with similar preferences. now, when friends and/or family members make comments implying we will have children my response is always, “nope. when brandye gets a piece of copper shoved into her uterus, she’s pretty confident she’s not having children.” J

do you see your choice changing at all in the future?
no. my husband and i are far too happy and content to make such a drastic decision. i am well aware i only have a few more fertile years, but i have no desire to procreate “before it’s too late”. i am lucky that a “biological clock” is not ticking inside me. J
childfree women and couples are often described as “missing out” or “being selfish” – do you feel this way?
i am just getting off the ground professionally. i work 60+ hours a week. i am aware of the cliché comment that childfree persons are selfish. i would argue that anyone who works 60+ hours a week would be selfish to bring a child into the world without a parent who is able to dedicate appropriate time to its growth and development. my husband is also a young professional. therefore, we both work exceptionally long hours. any child of ours would be reared in daycare. and that is not fair to any of us involved. having children is voluntary. it’s a choice. therefore, it’s preventable, and can be planned. as a contraceptive scholar (that is my area of research), i dedicate a large part of my professional life educating the public on how to prevent and/or plan pregnancy. having a child is not some honorable circumstance that just happens upon people.

there are many rationalizations parents make for procreating. one reason regards having kids so you will have a caretaker as you get older. in my opinion, this is one of the most selfish beliefs out there. children don’t ask to be brought into this world. how could someone make a life with the hope or assumption that person will take care of you? every time i hear that justification i cringe.

what do you enjoy the most about your childfree life? what do you enjoy the least?
EVERYTHING!!! seriously, everything my husband and i do on a daily basis would be drastically hindered if we had children. and we don’t take it for granted. each day we re-affirm our decision by reflecting on our day, and vocally expressing how much things would “suck” if we had children. age isn’t a number, it’s a state of mind. our childfree lifestyle keeps us young at heart.

for the latter part of this question, i cannot say there is anything in my life negatively affected by the absence of children.

what would you tell someone wanting to live childfree, but under pressure to have children?
i would reference all my above comments. further, i would reinforce the concept that each person is individual. and societal norms (such as the one to procreate) are arbitrary and constructed by us. scientific research has shown people without children report being happier and healthier. having children is a choice – a very life-changing choice. before you put yourself in the situation to conceive, make 100% sure you want to. if not, you can prevent it.

any last thoughts?
thank you for conducting this study!

5 comments: said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator. said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Wow what a very honest and unique post! I'm 34 and don't have children/don't want children. When people mention childless women as being selfish, I turn it back around. I think people who churn out lots of children and expect to be supported by the state are selfish. After all, the planet is getting way too crowded. So well done to all us women who aren't afraid to say I don't want children!

Yael said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates
brandye's answers were definitely very interesting to read! it was great to hear from her.

thanks for stopping by!

Kim Wedlock said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I'm only 21, and I've been with my boyfriend for only two years. We're serious, but anything can happen. I don't truly know his standing on children - he gets on very well with them, that much he's proven with my 2 year old nephew, and children seem to like him too, but I'm not convinced he wants them.
Things obviously change, and they might well change for me too, but as it is, I also am not keen on the idea of children - but at the same time I find it hard to look past pregnancy and giving birth. Plus children don't seem to like me! And I have a hard time understanding them. I get on perfectly with dogs, I always have, I understand them and they like me, but kids are something else. I often find myself talking to my nephew like he's a dog!

On one hand I do think I might miss out if I lived my life without kids, but at the same time, your life does drastically change when you have them - if you've not reached personal goals, then I imagine it's a lot harder when kids come along, you may also be tied down to one location so for someone with wanderlust that would be a pain too. Your money is spoken for, too - no more flash holidays or fancy new camera lenses or pretty clothes.

I'm sure kids have their upsides, I'm not doubting that, and I'm also sure I'll end up changing my mind as I fall into a more serious relationship and my own ideals change too. But for now, I don't see kids in my future, or probably not for another 15 years.

Yael said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

@Kim Wedlock
thanks for sharing your thoughts, kim! the decision to have kids or not is intensely personal... and i'm not surprised that so many people's feelings and opinions on it change throughout their life. in the end, we all (hopefully) make the right decision for us :).

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