Have you read the Time’s cover page article “The Childfree Life: When having it all means not having children” by Lauren Sandler? I did, on the plane ride back from Miami, as I sat next to a thirty something dad rocking his not yet toddler to sleep, while he intermittently cried and fought going down. You’ve seen it, right? Right. His wife was on the other side of the isle with their three year old daughter, singing soft lullabies to keep her entertained while she dozed off too. All while Mike and I listened to music, and had a few drinks, while fun-reading our flight away. There was irony in the situation, for sure.
The article quotes different women and couples who have decided not to have kids. These are not people who could not have kids, who tried and for whatever biological reasons couldn’t. These people made a conscious decision to not have kids. They explain in the article, how they love the freedom of doing whatever they want, spend their hard earned money on art, travel, and leisure, sleep in, and just enjoy life. Some even say they knew as early as age 14 that they did not want to have kids. These childless women, also explain though how difficult it is to go about this decision in a society that portrays childbearing as a cultural, or even subcultural, imperative.
Sandler also reports on different research on the matter, and some more commercial books out there analyzing the fact that in the US 1 of every 5 women in her 40s doesn’t have children, and what that means for society. She also offers a list of famous and very successful women who are childless, and posts quotes on what they have to say about it.
In the article, there’s mention of an interesting research study done in the UK, by Satoshi Kanazawa, that asserts that the more intelligent women are, the less likely they are to become mothers. The findings from the analysis of data collected over 50 years, correlates high IQ with adoption of childlessness. Kanazawa found, that an increase of 15 IQ points in women decreased the odds of becoming a mother by 25%.
Other studies report that highly educated white women are leading the childless numbers, but other ethnic groups are rapidly catching up. I particularly liked the woman (Laura Carroll, The Baby Matrix) who explained that she preferred to call herself child-free instead of childless. Childless definitely has a negative connotation, as if women who do not have children are somehow lacking something, are incomplete or less-than those who do.
This all resonates with me, not only because I am exactly the type of woman they are talking about: 40, highly educated, career oriented, and child-free. But because, even though when I was a little girl, different from the women interviewed in the article, I pretend-played house and had tons of dolls and fantasizes with being a mom, I grew up to not be sure if I wanted kids or not, and articles like this, as well as those offering the pro-kid side, are always interesting to me.
I have to say, if you asked me if I want kids, my answer would depend on the day you asked. You see, some days I do, and some I don’t. I like my life. No, let me rephrase that: I absolutely love my life. I have done whatever I wanted to do, and I am truly grateful for that. But I know, the little-girl-me really wanted a baby, so when I think about continuing as is, kid-less, I start to think I might regret it some day, and we all know that regrets are some of the worst things to have. So, I sit on the fence.
Mike says he could do either. He loves his carefree life too, but could also have a kid, if it comes to it. I think he would be a great dad, and I know if it does come to it, we would both be fine (eventually) giving up all we would have to give up for the joys of having a kid.
I love children. I have dedicated my entire adult life to studying kids, writing about kids, working with and for kids. So that’s not the issue. The question is, if I want to have one of my own, with all the responsabilities that that implies. Their lies the conundrum.
The age factor also worries me when I think of having a child. Because no matter what Mike says, that every kid needs a sibling, if we ever decide and are lucky enough to have a child, it’s going to be just the one. Anyway, back to the age factor, it’s an issue. We are on the older side of life, and conceiving naturally might be hard, if not impossible. Once we started to seriously think about this and realizing my biological clock is about to stop ticking in the child-baring way soon, I went to my doctor and had some tests done. Apparently, everything looks good, so, initially there should be no problem if we tried.
The age factor has other drawbacks, aside from fertility. There’s higher risk of having a special needs child once the age starts hacking up, like ours. Also, the fact that when the kid begins college we will be near our 60s (me) and 70s Mike, is a bit daunting. Can you imagine dealing with a teenager in your late 50s? I can clearly envision it, and it looks a little bit like a nightmare.
So the’s the thing. Are we ready for a child in our lives? Are we willing to try? Like I said before, some days I am, and others not so much. I think I’m driving Mike mad with the indecision. Thankfully he seems un-phased by it, or as we say in Venezuela antiparabólico.
Do you have kids? Why did/did not you decide to have them? How did you decide to have them or not? And if you’re interested, read the Time article, it’s a good one.