I recently reconnected with Erin and Jeff, one of the couples interviewed in Families of Two. They also appeared on The Early Show with me. At the time Families of Two came out, they had been married for 12 years–so now 22. They are both teachers. I asked them a few questions regarding their childfree status a decade later. Here are their thoughts…
What were your reasons for choosing not to have kids, and how would those reasons be different today, if at all?
When we were deciding whether to have children, we realized we did not have that burning desire to have our own children. We also both get to work with kids all day long, which we enjoy, and after investing so much energy into our students, we didn’t think we’d have enough energy left to parent when we got home.
And, in addition to our students, we have fabulous nieces and nephews that we’ve been able to enjoy as they’ve grown up, so we really don’t feel like we’re “missing out” as much as some might think. Our reasons essentially remain the same today.
Over the last ten years, was there ever a time when you revisited your decision not to have kids?
We never sat down and said “should we change our decision?” We have, however, reaffirmed that this was the right choice for us.
What are the best aspects of being childfree today? Aspects that are the hardest or most challenging?
One of the best aspects of being childfree/childless, for us, is the freedom to make choices to do things we might otherwise not be able to. If we want to go to Plains, Georgia, for the weekend to meet President Carter, we can. We could still do that if we had children, but it would be more complicated, more expensive, and the focus would be different.
Another excellent aspect of not having children is that we can be very focused in our relationship with one another and have, consequently, a very strong relationship. Again, if we had children we could still have a strong relationship, but our energy would be divided.
For a while the aspect that was most challenging was dealing with people who were always curious or judgmental about why we weren’t having kids. This has lessened as we’ve aged and as people have gotten used to the idea. Currently, we’re not feeling like there are any additional challenges due to not having kids.
What advice would you give couples who are trying to decide whether they want to be parents or not?
Be very clear about why you think you want to or why you don’t think you want to have children. Many reasons why people think they don’t want to have kids may be rooted in normal new parent fears, many of which can be overcome.
Many of the reasons people think they do want to have kids may be more related to societal pressure, family pressure, or how cute new babies are rather than the realities of parenting which have their joys but which are also much more challenging than most new parents realize.
We’d also recommend they spend a serious amount of time with children of a variety of ages to see what it might be like. Many people will go into this experience with certain beliefs and come out with some surprising findings.
Some people who think they wouldn’t want to have children will be surprised to find out they really enjoy being around children. Others who are sure they want to have children may decide it really isn’t for them, and others will go in thinking one way and come out having affirmed their decision.
Thanks, Erin and Jeff! Over the course of the year, we’ll hear more from Families of Two couples…
Childfree out there, if you were childfree ten years ago, how would you answer these questions today?
Nothing has changed for us. We made the decision not to have kids two decades ago. We feel exactly the same as we did then. Like Erin & Jeff, being judged seems to have lessened over the years-but not completely. Hopefully, this is only going to improve, for future generations.