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Reflections on Complete Without Kids {Book Review}

Thursday, January 13, 2011 16:33
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As a blogger who’s not a “mommy blogger,” I’ve often felt left out. I have nothing to add to breastfeeding and diaper discussions. I wonder if I’m welcome to participate in conferences like “Type-A Mom” or “Mom Media Summit.” Not to mention Mom Spark Media, AT&T Moms, etc. Yet it’s not only online that I feel outcast as a childfree woman. When I read Complete Without Kids, I thought “finally, someone understands!”

Dr. Ellen Walker describes perfectly the awkwardness in social situations when the childfree are asked if we have kids. Being in my 30s, people often ask “are you planning to have some soon?” as a follow up when I say no. I’m often not sure how to respond. I really don’t want to get into the specifics. Yet I don’t want people to assume that I hate children or have something wrong with me, as happens more often than you might think. Even using the word “childfree” is offensive to some with children, but the alternative—childless—only serves to emphasize what is for some a painful reminder that they do not have something they perhaps want very badly.

Complete Without Kids does an excellent job of looking at the childfree lifestyle from many angles, and hopefully will serve as a bridge over the divide between mothers and the childfree, because unfortunately as with many areas of life in America it seems to be deepening, and both sides could use a dose of walking in the other’s shoes.

Here is an overview of the chapters that are included in the book:

The path to childfree

The first chapter in the book talks about the various ways that people end up childfree. For some, it’s a choice; they just never wanted kids in the first place. For others, they were physically unable to have children. For still others, they thought they would have children at some point but just never had the opportunity or met the right person. These categories overlap quite a bit, and make clear that “childfree” is not a one size fits all category.

Childfree decision making: A behind-the-scenes look

Dr. Walker interviews several childfree couples for this book, and talks a bit about their decision making. As you might guess, it is different for everyone but a number of factors seem to come into play. With any major life decision, there is always the question “what might have been,” but how it is handled often depends on the person’s own personality and reveals itself in other areas of the person’s life as well. For example if they tend to rationalize things that happen to them as “for the best,” they are likely to be at peace with the fact they do not have children. If they tend to see themselves as a victim, they will likely see the fact that they don’t have children as one more blow that life dealt them. Dr. Walker also makes an excellent point: while people often wonder at the reasons people DON’T have kids, how many people wonder why people have chosen TO have kids?

Childfree personalities

Complete Without Kids talks honestly about how not having kids impacts people’s personalities. Having children DOES make a difference in how you view the world, and what your obligations are. It’s not necessarily because people who don’t have children all have a personality trait that causes them to NOT have children, but their everyday experiences are different from those who have children.

Childfree days

The author also describes what childfree days are like vs. those with children. Did you know it takes about 7 hours to parent a child EVERY DAY? Holy moly. Of course, it doesn’t mean that childfree are just lounging around; they are often very involved in hobbies and social activities or throw themselves into their work. It’s important to maintain a balance. Another thing that she brings up is that those with children often get to take time off work, whereas those without are penalized and required to work evenings and weekends or pick up the slack when their coworkers have family obligations. It’s a question of equity that should be addressed in the workplace.

Love and friendship

Statistics show that having children takes its toll on marriage; happiness usually increases after children leave the nest. Those who don’t have children have more time to spend with each other and don’t have “for the sake of the children” as a compelling reason to stay together. Of course, if the couple is in disagreement over whether or not to have children, that can cause problems.

Health, finances and future planning

While people with children may assume that they will be taken care of in their old age, Complete Without Kids takes a realistic view. People without children need to make sure they have enough saved and cultivate friendships with others as they will not have their family to fall back on. However, it’s not a reason to have kids because the author also describes many friends of hers who DO have children but who do not come to visit or support their parents in their old age.

Future directions

The author finishes the book by talking about how in future generations, being childfree by choice will be more common. Societal pressure to have children will be reduced as awareness of the environment increases.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading this book. It brought up some great points both pro and con to having children, and helped me be at peace with my own childfree status. I hope that this is just one small step in helping the childfree and the moms understand each other.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary review copy of Complete Without Kids: An Insider’s Guide to Childfree Living by Choice or by Chance (Amazon affiliate link). All opinions are my own.

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  3. Reflections on The Dirty Life

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