Monday, August 12, 2013

The Childfree Lifestyle

Maybe you missed it.  I know I almost did until it came up in a recent conversation.  Time magazine (August 12, 2013) did a cover story about the childfree lifestyle, couples (but it really focused on women) who decided not to have children.  Are these people being selfish?  Would they rather spend the estimated $234,900 that it takes to raise a child for the first 18 years on themselves instead? 

The subject struck me as people free to make the choice that best suits them – not a big deal – but apparently, judging from the number of follow-up articles and comments, it is a big deal to some.  Writers are defending the women, insisting they are not being selfish, asking why there isn’t more emphasis on similar choices made by potential fathers, and generally expressing a wide variety of opinions pro and con, including how a childfree lifestyle is “greener.”

I thought the purpose behind the women’s liberation movement back in the Seventies was to allow women to escape the “shoulds” of the post WWII era and move in whatever direction they chose.  Instead they were thrust into a new set of “shoulds” which piled career on top of many traditional roles.  That’s not liberation.  Now, in a society that still believes, according to a silly 60 Minutes/Vanity Fair poll, that the quality “most important in a woman” is being a good mother, the pressure is on, and the childfree choice needs defending.  It seems liberation is out the window.

From a behavioral standpoint I must come down in favor of a free choice to be childfree.  This represents good judgment as well as strong responsibility.  If potential parents believe they don’t have the resources (time, money, patience or interest) in child rearing, it is a wise and responsible decision.  The last thing we need in America is more unwanted or emotionally neglected children.  Accordingly, if being a good mother is most important, one characteristic of a good mother should be not nagging your daughter to “make me a grandmother.”

Instead of pressuring women to have children, a better course would be to develop societal sanctions toward those women on the opposite end of the spectrum, women who decide they want to have children without the means to properly raise them, especially those who judge the man they choose to mate with as a poor prospect for marriage and fatherhood.  They decide to go it alone as a mother, using the government as a surrogate father for financial support, condemning their children to a life with a low likelihood of success.  This is far more selfish.

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