This FOF decided she didn't want kids. Now she's telling the next generation, it's ok to be childfree.
What do you think when you meet a married woman in her 50s or 60s who never had children? Are you curious about why? Do you question her marriage? Her upbringing? Her psychological stability? Her fertility?
FOF Laura Carroll
, 51, is a successful writer and communications consultant. She’s been happily married to her husband since she was 28 years old, and they chose not to have children. In fact, Carroll says, she’s known she didn’t want kids from the time she was quite young. She’s also warm, engaging, close with her parents, psychologically stable, fertile (or at least, she was), and get this . . . she loves the kids in her life.
She’s also a pioneer. With marriage and childbirth rates on the decline in this country, it seems that an increasing number women are choosing to live childless--whether married or single. To whit, Laura is the author of Families of Two, a book on happily married couples who chose not to have kids, and she's about to come out with her second book related to the "childfree choice." She's even started a popular blog called La Vie Childfree where readers can learn about and discuss the decision whether or not to have children.
Here, she talks to us about her decision. Read on, and then tell us, What do you think of the decision to "be childfree?"
When did you decide you didn’t want to have kids?
The signs were there early. I was never really interested in playing ‘mom’ or dolls. In Junior High, I was taking all these occupational inventories . . about things you could grow up to be. I was much more interested in thinking about career than looking into the future about when I would be a mom.
A lot of women may have felt this way, but still chose a more conventional route and had kids because of outside pressures. Why do you think you didn’t?
I had a godmother who influenced me when I was young. She was in her 20s, single and didn’t have children. It was an early model that you could grow up and didn't have to be a mom. Also, I had great parents. They didn’t push parenthood as an expectation. They raised us to create our lives any way we wanted.
How did it effect your dating life? What’s it like to date when you don’t have a biological clock ticking in your brain?
I wasn’t marriage-minded. I dated because it was fun. When I met my husband, I was in my 20s, and he was 10 years older than me. He was neutral about having kids, and that was attractive to me. He had dated a string of women before me, and I think he felt they were looking for a father for their child over and above everything else, which wasn’t attractive to him. I took that expectation or pressure completely out of the equation, and he liked that.
How do you think the decision to get married is different if you don’t want to have kids?
For my husband and myself--and I see this with childless couples of all ages--marriage is more about a committment to each other than about procreation. You’re together as partners in life, for personal growth, and, for us anyway, adventure.
Did you ever contemplate having children?
I didn’t. He thought for a little while that I might change my mind. And we went through a few years of me saying, “No honey, I’m not going to change my mind, I promise.” We waited a little while to close the door with any permanent medical procedures! He wanted to be sure that if I ever changed my mind, he was in a position to have them. He was someone who was probably on the fence. He could have had them if his wife really wanted to, but since I didn’t want them he had no problem with that.
What has not having kids enabled you to do?
It’s allowed me to dedicate myself to my career in a very free way. When you don’t have kids, you could end up in your 70s with 5 careers, because you have more freedom to evolve and grow your work life in the directions that you feel are best--without constraints. It’s also allowed me to have a strong marriage and for my husband and I to support each other in our passions and careers. My husband's career has evolved from working in human resources to working in the highest levels of the Sierra Club and focusing on the environment--something he doesn’t think he would have been able to do if he were a father.
Do you think going childless makes marriage harder, or easier?
I think not having children gives you the ability to tend to the issues in your marriage in a way that couples with children don’t always have. Some of my friends have told me that in way they envy my husband and I, because when there are issues, we don’t have the distraction called “kids” that keep you from dealing with them. So many couples get divorced once they become empty nesters. Often they had issues all along but just didn’t make the time to deal with them. Once the kids aren’t there, they realize their marriage has problems, and some survive and some don’t. I’m not judging that at all--I just realize that it’s challenging to keep your marriage really strong and raise kids.
Has there been any time when this decision has been difficult?
Probably when my friends were young and started having babies. Initially, it was hard finding ways to stay in as much contact with them. But it soon passed, my friends are great--they never assumed that because I didn’t have kids, that I did know anything about it and couldn’t be party to a conversation about it. They also did not lose interest in what I was up to. It’s easy to get hurt and feel defensive on both sides. Don’t take it personally--keep your eye on you love for your friend and your curiosity about her life.
Do you have any regrets?
No. As I get older, I see the great relationships developing between some of my friends and their older children. But I also understand what a huge commitment they made and what it’s taken to get to that place. I know I never would have been willing to do it.
I’ve seen that’s there’s a better role for me to be play. I am much more valuable being a really wonderful godmother and mentor to young women. Through my blog, I help support women young women and their choices. Being a mother is not the only maternal role you can play.
I hope that with the next generation, we make it more of the norm to think hard about why
you want a child. What experience are you looking for? Is being a parent the only way to have that experience?