Personal choices: Taking a closer look at the childfree lifestyle

Life decisions extend beyond what career path you take and what degree you major in as a student. If you are moving toward a serious relationship in your life, it is healthy to consider what you both want in life and that includes children. If you choose not to have any, it doesn’t mean you can’t have a fulfilled life or that you don’t have valid reasons.

For Robin Becker, creative writing instructor, she made no “conscious decision.” Events unfolded into the life she lives now. She was married for 12 years before she and her husband divorced. During that time, she had discovered she had fertility issues when she used no birth control but neither wife nor husband felt compelled to pursue treatments.

“Overall, sometimes I think what my life would have been,” she admitted, then related it to other life paths such as attending college at New Jersey instead of Texas, moving from one place to another, or breaking up with a certain somebody. “I don’t think of it in a regretful way, just in what I would be doing (instead).”

She does believe others should not judge personal motivations, adding that the flipside argument could be made: having children is selfish for issues like overpopulation. A childfree person does not struggle to uncover their purpose in life like others might since their purpose lies at hand with their children. She also pointed out that others have the drive to replicate their genes.

“One could say being childfree is selfless because of the drain in that we’re overpopulated,” Becker said. “It’s actually contributing to the overall wellbeing of the world. There will be plenty of people. Not only that but the resources are finite and if we keep on increasing population, we will deplete it.” However, she clarified that they were not her personal reasons but what she has heard from other childfree people.

She does perceive the tension between mothers and childfree women because while mothers who work may have more flexibility, they do not advance in their job or career positions like childfree women. In whatever choice that women choose in regards to bearing children, Becker believes they should be supported: decent schools, free health for kids, government-sponsored daycare, and women would not be hindered based on the choice of motherhood.

Fortunately, she mentioned that she has had nobody who disrespects her way of living and that she actually has a wonderful mix of married and unmarried friends, with and without children. “Even my family didn’t really urge me to have kids,” she added. She also has an older sister without children. “She actually had the same experience I did!” However, Becker does have a brother who decided to have children.

She also adores the children who do exist in her life. “I love my friends’ kids!” Becker exclaimed, then laughed. “I am not anti-child at all.” Recently she had dinner with a married couple and their children. “I don’t feel there’s a void that needs to be filled and it doesn’t feel I have a lack because I don’t have my own offspring.”

In fact, if her friends need to pick up their children from school, Becker offers her assistance if she is able. She also enjoys babysitting along with pursuing her artistic endeavors especially in music and writing, social activities with her diverse friend groups, and the daily interactions with her college students.

The reasons for Rachael Hanel, assistant Mass Media professor, run a little deeper. She gives two major fears towards the end of her memoir “We’ll be the Last Ones to Let You Down” in which she reflects growing up a gravedigger’s daughter. Growing up around that had a major impact on her.

“Seeing that aspect of grief of people I did know who lost children just—that was always really hard for me to wrap my head around,” Hanel stated, “what that depth of grief must feel like. It was scary to me, to think of going through something like that.”

She also wrote in her book, “I would leave (children) behind in the way dad left me, grief and sadness.” While she understood that’s how it worked out in the real world, Hanel does not want to put children through the same painful experience.

That leads into her other reason, her second and stronger fear. “I might lose a child,” she wrote. “I would be so fearful of something dreadful befalling my child that I would become everything I despise in parents: hovering, smothering, protective…” For her peace of mind, she does not feel at ease with her own children as part of her life. But she also mentioned in her book what she has seen others possibly think based on the reactions she receives.

“It’s really common, culturally, it’s what’s expected,” Hanel added. “You get married, you have children. So people as a whole are kind of uncomfortable when somebody is choosing to do something outside the norm…… and that’s really with anything.”

Because society considers being childfree a strange lifestyle, ‘selfish” is one common reason society uses as an explanation. At the same time

“I think for a lot of people, they don’t understand it,” Hanel said. “We all have a myriad of differences and the best way to understand what others are going through is through a dialogue.’

But first, others must be willing to open their minds and do the research instead of clinging to assumptions. Personal lives and choices often feed into even the political subjects discussed. For instance, Hanel also pointed out that right now society is having those conversations about race and gender. “It’s really all about getting people to come together and explain their personal experiences so I really think that’s what it’s going to take: more education and more people talking about it.”

Like with anything, too, it depends on the people’s curiosity. Hanel’s background in growing up submerged in grief is just one factor. “I remember being in high school and one of my best friends, she loved babies and had nieces and nephews,” Hanel shared as a story. “I remember her saying how she just couldn’t wait to have her own kids. I just thought, ‘I don’t feel that….that this is something that I want to do.’ It didn’t feel important to me.”

With that, both her parents set the standard for good role models for Hanel when it comes to taking care in her career as a professor, in the approach she takes to her work. “I learned a lot from (my dad), in taking care, no matter what you do,’ she said, “even though I’m doing something very different than what they did.”

Hanel’s mom has never put a question to her choice, but has a huge amount of respect and “is awesome!” Hanel then added, ‘I am thankful I never had that kind of pressure.’”

For anyone who has questions themselves about whether to have children someday, Hanel directs them towards research, in online groups like Twitter accounts or through various news articles found online.

She would also assure them with, “It’s okay if someone feels that way,” she said, “It’s a legitimate choice.”

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