Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Happy to be Childless

I was recently reading an article on Associated Content where a young mother expressed that there are still women in their thirties too selfish to have children. I'd like to know when it became a social pariah to remain childless. I am one of those women who chose long ago not to have children. We get stereotyped just as much as the young mother who chooses to have children at a young age. I can't tell you how many times I've been accused of being selfish, not knowing what I want, being wrong, and once was told I was "weird" for not wanting a child.

In today's society is it necessary to have a child that you don't want, just to satisfy the masses? In a study done at the University of Florida, - "The common belief that remaining childless leads to loneliness or depression in the elderly is contradicted by a new University of Florida study, which instead found similar levels of well-being among parents and people without children in their later years.

At the same time, having children is no guarantee of happiness later in life, said Tanya Koropeckyj-Cox, a UF sociology professor who conducted the study.

"For years we have heard warnings that if you don't have children, you will regret it later," she said. "But beliefs about childlessness leading to a lonely old age are simply not supported by our study."

The findings provide evidence that elderly people who never had children are not necessarily more psychologically vulnerable in older age than those with families, said Koropeckyj-Cox, who also is affiliated with UF's Institute on Aging.

One reason is that some people without children are able to maintain social ties throughout their lives that may substitute for what children would have given them, Koropeckyj-Cox said. They may do this with friends, work relationships or the younger generation, she said.

The survey included more than 3,800 men and women between the ages of 50 and 84 from across the country who were asked how often in the last week they'd felt lonely. The responses of parents were not statistically different than those without children, she said."

Why is it then, that when asked if you have children, you get the "look" when you say that you do not? Don't get me wrong, children are a blessing and "insert any sticky sweet phrase here" but why do I have to have one to prove that I'm important? The path I chose for my life reflects who I want to be and to be honest, I've never had that desire or need to fulfill my life with offspring. When my friends have a new baby, I love going to see it, hold it, buy gifts for it, etc. However, I don't feel a loss from not having my own.

Does it make me selfish to find some kids annoying? Of course not. Children are a reflection of how they're raised and while I have no desire to undertake that task, I also have no desire to have my nice things broken and sticky. I have no desire to childproof my home or to change my way of lifestyle. Does this again, make me selfish? Well, let's take a look at examples of being selfish. If you have a child based on society telling you what to do, and your true feelings are against having children, aren't you being selfish to your child by not being able to give it 100% of your love and devotion? I believe that having a child when one does not want one makes you much more selfish since that resentment will reflect itself on your baby.

In fact, childless couples get less tax breaks and less time off from work. Many people find that they are the ones who have to work holidays so that the people with children can be with their family. I'm sorry but I have a family too and my family is just as important as yours. I'd never deny you the time spent with your children, so why should I have to deny my own family time spent? As far as tax breaks and insurance, I don't get a tax break for having dependents and most insurance companies will not pay for vasectomies or elective tubal ligation.

Childbearing and childlessness are far more pressing issues in the lives of women than men, since they are connected to the way women think of themselves and the way they are seen socially by others. Many childless women report having to explain their childless status. The notion of remaining childless makes people uneasy. In part, that's because our sense of community is based on our sense of family. When you tell people that children aren't for you, they feel you're threatening society as a whole. (Beal)

There are now many groups in place where people who choose not to procreate can socialize and not feel judged on their parental status. One such group is www.nokidding.net

I do think that for some people, perhaps even a majority of people, having a baby is one of the most fulfilling and life-changing events there is. It's just not for me and that, in no way, makes me a selfish person. So, have your babies, love them, take care of them, and show them with pride, but don't expect me to have them just to please you.

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