July 26, 2007

News Just In--Happy Childfree Couples!

This morning, ABC’s Good Morning America aired a segment titled Couples Happy to be Child-free.

The segment featured two couples who made the choice to remain childfree and I was happy to see that the ABC producers chose sound bites during which the couples challenged "the childfree hate kids" assumption.

After the segment, the GMA anchors suggested viewers share their opinions on this topic on the ABC website. In the four hours after this segment aired, over 450 comments were posted, many debating whether or not childfree couples are selfish. Also included in these comments were postings from parents who admitted that if they had it to do over again they would have chosen not to have kids.

Is this news? Not to us. But what is news is the fact that Pew Research Center recently reported a significant decline in the number of Americans who agree "that children are very important to a successful marriage."

The ABC segment quoted Cary Funk, a researcher at Pew, who said (of the survey respondents):

"About 65 percent say that the main purpose [of marriage] is to form a union for personal happiness and fulfillment as opposed to having and raising children."

So it appears that the majority of Americans are motivated to marry in order to achieve personal happiness and fulfillment.

Personal happiness and fulfillment. I suspect that might be what everyone would want for themselves, married or unmarried. Kids or no kids. So, is that a selfish motive?

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AnitaD said...


I will comment later on this posting. But, because my hotmail is not working I thought I'd leave a message here. The buttons and cards arrived today. Thank you for including a few extras. I do hope I can make some Child free friends.

iceberg1 said...

One of the best descriptions I heard of a marriage/partnership was by a character on some British crime TV series - "we choose another to witness our lives". And visa versa. This is why (off topic) the argument that gay marriage is pointless (because there are no 'natural' children) is silly, because partnering up has to do with having the Other proving to you that your life 'happens' (if that makes sense), or otherwise or child-free people would just live alone.

LauraS said...

iceberg1--you've got me thinking about why marriage was so important to me. I guess I wanted the companionship of a true peer partner, I wanted someone to share experiences with.
After 19 years of marriage, I still marvel that two people from different continents found each other and thought this is the person I want to spend the rest of my life with. I liked the idea and the challenge of working out our differences, supporting each other, and growing together as individuals in partnership.
We knew before we were married that we would probably make the choice to remain childfree, so biology or our legacy was not a motive for marriage, for us.

Feh23 said...

I am always confused when childfree people are termed "selfish". What's so selfish about knowing yourself and making decisions based on what you think you can and can not handle? I know that I could not handle child rearing, I am lazy and can barely manage to pick up after myself.
What is so wrong about saying "I can not do the work it takes to raise another human to be a productive member of society" and then not having children? If I didn't want to do that work, and still had children that then became a burden on society, wouldn't that be the more selfish choice?

Anonymous said...

I belong to several other CF communities, and one poster has an avatar of a red-faced screaming child. The text reads "having a baby is like throwing a hand grenade into marriage"
Truer words have never been spoken in my book.

M said...

Another long comment from me (I should just start turning my comments into posts, they're all so long. Perhaps I will post a version of this one on my own blog actually):

In response to one of the comments here, I also want to point out there are many of us childfree people who can raise a child, and quite well I might add (at least in my estimation) but who do not want to. Not because we are lazy, not because we want more free time, more money, or more anything (except maybe contentment), but simply because we lack the desire to have children. Surely that is not so difficult to understand.

Those who have kids almost invariably have them because they feel a desire for them, plain and simple. Most of us who have chosen to not have them simply lack that desire, regardless of what other additional reasons we may have for our decisions. In that sense it isn't even so much a decision as it is a preference like anything else. Some simply feel called to be a parent some don't.

But believe me, people don't have kids for the altruism, not generally at least. Most or even maybe all parents aren't choosing to have children so their kids can make the world a better place or acting under any other such generous motivation (and there's no guarantee their kids will do that anyway, no one knows how their child will turn out).

People have kids because they want them and they think it will enrich their life--nothing wrong with that (unless you believe they are overpopulating the world), but they are doing it for themselves, because they believe they themeselves will benefit.

They are making the decision to create a person just because they want one around or think they will enjoy having one to care for and spend time with--I don't consider that exactly selfless. I mean, how is doing something YOU want that you think YOU will enjoy selfless?

I think there are cases where people choose to not have kids for the greater good, such as when population issues are considered, or the current state of the world, or because they know they don't have the resources to care for a child as well as they'd like, so they do it out of concern for the potential child's welfare. That is selfless.

But I have never heard a parent say they had children because of some charitable reason or for any other reason besides that they simply wanted them. Perhaps there are a few who have children for such reasons, but overall most parents, and I'd bet many of those who call the childfree selfish, had children for no other reason than because they wanted them and expected to enjoy the experience.

Those of us who don't have kids largely because we don't have the desire for them--we are just following our inherent desire or lack thereof, just as the parents who choose to have kids are following their desire to have children. We are not so much different from one another in that regard. Our desires are different, but that we follow our hearts is not different.

Neither choice is really any more selfish than anything else we do because we want to and because we think our lives with be the fuller for it. For some, that means kids; for others, that means a life without kids, a childfree life.

(Though I do have to add that since the choice to have kids does involve other people in a way that the choice not to does not, parenthood can be considered selfish in some cases, if for example in wanting to make the parents' lives fuller, the parents don't also ensure the child's wellbeing as well, or don't ensure to the best of their abilities that their offspring is not having negative repercussions on other people or on the rest of society.)

I believe that those who are up in arms about our lives usually have their own issues that causes them to react that way. Those who understand that we are not all alike nor do we need to be, can, and want to, live in a world where more than one lifestyle and more than one choice can be right, acceptable, and respectable.

I have not chosen to have kids but can see why others do. And I know those who want kids but can see why others don't. Those who need to polarize the issue so much are generally those who do so with every other issue in life as well and who can't abide by anyone living life in a way that differs from theirs.

I'm happy living in a world where people come in all sorts of varieties (well I prefer the varieties that don't harm others, but that's just me).I feel sorry for those who don't feel that way, because despite what they may think or want, that is how the world always has been and always will be. I consider myself lucky for being one of the ones who actually like it that way.

Disclaimer: I haven't seen the segment nor read the referred-to comments. I've just the comments here and of course other writing about this issue in general.

LauraS said...

"Our desires are different, but that we follow our hearts is not different." That's a good point to make.

It is our nature as humans to choose the things that we think will make us happy.

My best friend chose to have a child in her early forties. She really wanted a child. Her child has enhanced her life. I applaud her choice, it was the right choice for her, but it was not altruistic.

If you volunteered to be a surrogate for a friend who could not have a child and your only compensation was reimbursement for medical bills, that would be altruistic.

Anonymous said...

Hey -- I'm happy! Cool.

P.S. I deleted the last comment as I suspected the illegible link to be spam. EEEEk!

DJ said...

We live in a "my business is your business" society and it really annoys me. It seems like everyone wants to control everyone else's personal choices instead of worrying about what really matters. There are more important things to worry about than what someone chooses to do- or not do- with their lives, bodies, etc.

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