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    Sunday, November 27, 2005

    Child-free as a Bird

    Vincent J. Schodolski takes us into the strange world of couples ... without children.

    When Tina Roggenkamp and her husband, Mark, decided to keep their marriage free of children they took a lot of things into account.

    They considered their desire for greater freedom, something that enabled her to get a graduate degree and start a small consulting business. There was also their enjoyment of what she called "smaller things," such as being able to sleep late when they wanted and to dine out whenever the mood struck them.

    There were larger issues too, such as environmental concerns and worries about an overcrowded planet.

    "We worry about global warming," said the 25-year-old who lives in Charlotte. "We worry about what the world will be like in the future. There's so much uncertainty, and I can't see bringing a life into such a world."

    I understand the impulse to use "child-free" as an alternative to "child-less" and, perhaps twenty years ago, such a thing was imperative. But now, I just think it makes people who don't have kids seem like spoiled, snotty brats. I myself don't wish to have children, nor does my partner, but we don't feel the need to go around proclaiming ourselves "child-free" as though children are a burden, even though we sort of think they are.

    When you have good reasons for not having children, I think you should express them like Roggenkamp does here- mix the selfish and the societal. Because no one really believes you when you say it's for population control.

    One good reason for me not to bear children is that I don't think we need any more white people. I don't usually say that, though.

    Don't take my word for it, Mostly Modern Media:

    This is a free country, more or less. So no, I don't care if people decide to adopt the "child-free" lifestyle.

    What bugs me is the "child-free" attitude.

    Here's the thing -- the decision to go without kids wasn't some flash of brilliant insight that you had and we parents didn't. Yes, people who don't have kids have more spare time. They can focus on their careers, their health, their meditation, their personal growth and their sex lives in ways that those of us whose schedule revolves around nap times cannot.

    To which I say this: Duh.

    It's about choice. Those of us who decided to be parents (and were lucky enough to make it work) gave up that time to do something else we find fulfilling. Child-free folks have the freedom to do what they want. So do we. This is what we want.

    If you're child-free (voluntarily, of course), you've made a choice. A valid one. But smarter?

    Now, back to the article.

    Many groups have formed that seek to connect these couples across the country. No Kidding! and The Childfree Ring are among the most active. Some offer bumper stickers. One reads "If I want to hear the pitter-patter of little feet, I'll put shoes on my cat."

    Umm, just like the "child-free" language, this kind of crap doesn't help the "cause", folks.

    Some childless couples report that not everyone is comfortable with this trend. Jennifer Shawne, 32, author of "Baby Not On Board: A Celebration of Life without Kids," said she has been accused of being un-American for making the choice not to opt for motherhood.

    "There is this assumption that all women have a biological clock that one day is going to start ringing, and we're going to become baby maniacs who have to give birth no matter what," Shawne added. "But that's just not true."

    A lot of women today, Shawne said, are realizing that the feminist ideal that you can have it all--kids and a successful career--is not feasible. ...

    Yup. I knew the "feminists" were going to rear their ugly heads in here somewhere. I'm happy for us to take credit for a trend that says, "Hey women! You don't have to do things you don't want to do!" I'm not happy for the fact that we're always blamed for the lack of "feasibility" of having family and career. Not our fault, people. Not our fault. Somehow it's "feasible" for men, so I think it might be a patriarchy thing.

    This is hardly the first generation of people making such a decision. Over history, social changes, technological breakthroughs or economic factors have made it possible or desirable to not have children.

    "Childlessness is not new," said Philip Morgan, a professor of sociology at Duke University.

    "However, childlessness in the past was more closely connected with non-marriage than now. But even in 1910 [in the] U.S. some women were voluntarily childless within marriage," he said.

    During the Depression, he added, many Americans could not afford to have children.

    "Childlessness levels now are not higher than those in the 1930s," he said.

    Really? 'Cause I heard that this was "record-breaking"!

    Some see this issue as a defining one for modern American society, as a line in the sand in the nation's so-called culture wars, a place where science and beliefs clash.

    One such person is Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville. He sees a decision by a married couple to refrain from having children as a violation of God's will.

    "I am trying to look at this from a perspective that begins with God's creation," Mohler said. "God's purpose in creation is being trumped by modern practices.

    "I would argue that it [not having children] ought to be falling short of the glory of God. Deliberate childlessness defies God's will," he said.

    Mohler, who uses the same argument in his opposition to same-sex marriage, said that rather than being concerned about overpopulation he was concerned about underpopulation.

    "We are barely replenishing ourselves," he said. "That is going to cause huge social problems in the future," a reference to demographic shifts that might occur.

    I guess Mr. Mohler doesn't agree with my "we don't need more white people" argument.

    Not all Christians agree with Mohler's views.

    Amy Showalter, 44, and her husband, Randy Boyer, 45, decided not to have children and consider themselves devout and conservative Christians.

    They attend weekly services at the Crossroads Community Church in their hometown of Cincinnati.

    "Nobody has ever told us this is a sin," she said. "It just does not come up."

    Showalter, a consultant, said after 11 years of marriage she and her husband had concluded that they would be bad parents.

    "We didn't feel we would be qualified," she said. "It was not that we wanted to be rich or anything like that."

    Thank God these conservatives don't want to be rich or something like that. Huh?

    I guess it's okay because they'd be bad parents anyway.


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