One of the many misconceptions about those who have no children by choice is they don’t like kids. Many people don’t realize that a lot of childfree not only like kids, but have made kids the theme of their vocation. The childfree are teachers, special educators, child care professionals, pediatricians, and social workers who work with kids, just to name a few.
What is their experience of having their professional lives revolve around children and having no children of their own? Here’s a great piece by teacher Theresa Lembke …
First on The Unscripted Life, Lembke writes:
Deliberately choosing childfreedom and being a teacher of ten and eleven-year olds may seem like a contradiction to some. For me, it is simply the best of both worlds.
I remember teaching lessons on a small chalkboard at a young age with great passion. I often taught an imaginary television audience how to complete a variety of household chores, from cleaning a toilet to baking peanut butter cookies. I’m infatuated with the process of teaching and learning. I love to design a lesson, put it into action, and watch the results unfold. The days when a student asks a question or makes a comment and I realize he or she has truly internalized a lesson are the great moments I strive for.
I take great pride in being a positive role model for children who may not get enough of it at home. My job as a fifth grade teacher allows me to wear numerous hats: motivator, coach, teacher, comedian, cheerleader, learner, and disciplinarian. And then I go home. I go home to a happy husband and hungry dogs.
Whether we watch movies on the sofa, go for a bike ride, have a double-date with friends, or have dinner on the deck and watch the world go by, it is up to us. We are not refereeing sibling disputes or assisting with homework…I did that all at work and am satisfied with that.
There are moments in teaching when I think that having children of my own would allow me to understand a child, parent, or situation better. For the most part, however, I feel my childfreedom allows me to be more committed to the children in my classroom. Any absences I have from work are for professional development or my own illness. I don’t leave early to take my own children to dental appointments or use my sick days to stay home and care for a child.
I am able to easily adjust my schedule in order to come to work early or stay late to complete projects. I will not bear children of my own, and thus work to make the most effective use of the time I have with the students. I have a healthy marriage, an active social life, and weekends are strictly for play. This way of living allows me to be rejuvenated, enthusiastic, and committed when each new school week begins.
Prior to volunteering to contribute to Unscripted, I would have said that my childfreedom had no negative ramifications at work. However, as I began to ponder the topic, some concerns surfaced for me. I wondered what would happen if a parent somehow read this article online. Would they think differently of my ability to teach their child?
A student asked me about my lack of biological children just the other day. I gave her my standard at-work response of “Oh, twenty-five of you all day long is enough for me!” Would it be different if parents and colleagues read that I consciously chose this lifestyle? I imagine that a few people would suddenly doubt my ability.
Most who have interacted with me on a professional level, however, would feel similarly to what my principal expressed when I asked for her blessing to write this article under my real name…that I am a committed and caring teacher and that is all that truly matters.
Other childfree out there who have jobs involving kids, what is your experience?
I’m a teacher and the fact that I don’t have kids doesn’t seem to be an issue with parents. If parents do think any weakness on my job is due to me not having kids, they don’t say it to my face! I usually don’t tell parents, “I don’t have kids,” but I guess they eventually figure it out or their kids tell them. I teach preschool, so my students ask me if I have kids, many times of course (because they’re three years old and forget, I suppose). Like the teacher in the article, I’ll tell the kids something like, “I already take care of you guys at school,” and I tell them about my cats. My brighter students say, “Her cats are her kids!” I’m also young, so the fact that I have no kids is probably less of a shocker. When I’m in my mid-thirties and teaching, it might be more “strange.”
Yes, will be interesting to see what questions you are asked as you get into your thirties….~L
Thank you! I enjoyed this article!
I am a childfree 5th grade teacher in my early thirties. The areas where I differ with today’s parents are often areas of conflict–and they chalk it up to me not having my own kids. For example, when we have class parties, I have my students organize and run the entire celebration. If they forget something (i.e. a tablecloth), I do not have a spare. Nope, I figure they will deal with their situation and learn from the natural consequences. By taking ownership they are able to evaluate and then plan/act differently for future parties.
Several parents have now started dropping off “back-up” items (i.e. food, etc) just in case a child forgot their responsibility. This is all against my requests. Their response is always, “Oh, you’ll see once you have your own…” or “being prepared is a part of being a mom, you’ll see”.
I am prepared, I’m just trying to teach their kids responsibility. It has nothing to do with whether or not I have children.
Bravo to you for teaching kids responsibility, and I could not agree more–it does not have to do with whether you have kids!~L
I am a 34 year-old, fourth grade teacher and have been teaching for ten years. I have been fortunate to get to know many of my parents on a personal level and, surprisingly, many of them are relieved when I tell them that I do not plan on having children. I believe that many of them witness the inevitable transformation that happens when a teacher gets pregnant, goes on maternity leave, and returns as a working mother. Many parents witness the (necessary) change in a teacher as s/he because a parent. His/her child becomes the top priority rather than the students in his/her class. The parents of my students are happy that I am able to give their children as much as I can.
Honestly, I do not know how my teacher friends/moms do it. I cannot imagine putting in the amount of time and energy into teaching that I do, and then going home to put in even more time and energy to raise my child. I don’t think it’s humanly possible. From my experience, I see that my working-mom teacher friends put the job on the back-burner. Those who used to be dynamic and energetic teachers become status-quo. They leave work right after the students, take more days off, and are less willing to try new things in the classroom (because they involve more planning and time).
I love being a teacher, but I love sending students back home at the end of the day. I love that when I am finished with work, I can come home to my amazing husband and cat and enjoy our evening in peace.
Kelly, Love your comments as a cf teacher. My childfree brother and sister in law would definitely agree! ~L
I hate to say it but as a parent, and a former teacher- i saw a world of difference between teachers that had their own children to those that didn’t.
I had been a parent for 15 years before I became a teacher at the age of 40. I truly believe that this is what made me successful, in the middle school classroom, pretty early on.
Whereas other new & childless teachers (usually in their 20s) perpetually struggled with trying to “figure out” the students’ behaviors, habits, etc.
Managing pre-teens and teens wasn’t a mystery that i was trying to “figure out” along with developing other teaching skills.
After a few months of teaching i could usually spot right away teachers that were childless.
They were the ones that, among other things, were usually attributing “normal” teen behavior to some sort of psychopathology.
“I need to talk to suzie’s parents about why she is constantly doing that with her hair”
“I have tried everything to get Kevin to read and he just won’t sit still long enough to read out loud the assignment- Little Women. He could benefit from Ritalin”
They were also the ones that had most problems with their lesson plans as they didn’t consider such things as student interests, ability, differentiation, attention spans etc.
When it came to parent teacher conferences-hands down not only did teachers who had children had a much better understanding of where the parent was coming from when it came to certain issues affecting the student, but also had better suggestions/advice.
Though, no where was lack of parenting experience more evident than in our Principal. As a 50 year old, childless by choice, woman- she was UTTERLY CLUELESS on how to handle a whole host of issues. Students didn’t even take her seriously and they knew how to MANIPULATE her to the extent that she would lose control.
It took 12 years and and multiple campus wide failures on state tests to finally replace her.
She had to be “dragged” off campus by Police, all the while yelling how much she HATED KIDS and how BLack/Hispanic students were destined for “loserville” yada yada yada.
Funny thing-I could tell within 15 minutes of meeting this woman that she was childless (in particular when she espoused her unrealistic and ridiculous “philosophy” on child rearing)which most parent-teachers usually laughed off (though not to her face).
At any rate she was replaced by, none other than a male Principal who was himself a parent of teenagers.
The positive difference in campus wide attendance and
disciplinary issues was almost immediate.
Consequently, scores from reading to math skyrocketed that first year and continued at its highest levels under his “command”.
For the record-the reason parents don’t say anything is because they are usually pretty clueless as to what is happening in classrooms today.
On many campuses, this is, by design. Most parents nowadays are blocked from sitting in classrooms to observe under the guise of “too disrupting” and “we can’t have every parent doing that now can we”. And
Kids at the middle school level don’t want their parents there for obvious reasons-too embarrassing for them.
Note-written in a rush feel free to correct spelling/grammar on your time;)
My husband and I are both teachers, so the struggle to decide whether or not to have children is even more of a challenge. We both pour so much into our students that it’s hard to imagine having anymore to give at home. We love our lives together right now and feel fulfilled in every way.
In my inteviews with childfree couples, I can’t tell you how any teachers I talked with that share your sentiments! ~Laura