This book stemmed out of author Laura Scott's Childless by Choice Project, a research project comprised of several different components. In the Introduction, Scott, herself a woman who choose to marry and yet remain childless (or childfree--she uses these two terms interchangeably) by choice, notes that she wondered whether she was alone in her decision, and if not, how others arrived at the same choice that she made. She further explains that she had two main goals when starting her research project: 1) to determine what people identified as their most compelling motives for remaining childfree, and 2) to better understand the decision-making process which led to someone identifying themselves as childless by choice. Based on these goals, Scott designed a questionnaire which would yield the data she sought; she then recruited a total of 171 childless by choice individuals to respond to her survey. Finally, Scott supplemented her survey results with an additional series of 28 in-depth interviews she conducted with various childfree couples.
The chapters which follow present the main findings of Scott's research. The information includes topics such as "Who Are the Childless by Choice?," the decision-making process that occurs along the path to becoming childless, and a list of the resulting "Eighteen Reasons (and More) Why We Don't Have Kids." The last chapter in particular may surprise some who believe that childfree individuals are "selfish" or "must hate kids"--comments that participants in Scott's interviews had been subjected to in the face of their decisions to remain childless. As it turns out, however, the highest-rated motive statement in Scott's research was "I love our life, our relationship, as it is, and having a child won't enhance it." Rounding out the top three motives were "I value freedom and independence" and "I do not want to take on the responsibility of raising a child." In general, Scott found that the couples she interviewed did not take their decision not to have children lightly; in fact, through her research, Scott discovered that childfree couples often spend significantly more time talking about their decision not to have children than those who actually choose to have children.
The more I continued to read this book, the more I could relate: yes, I myself am childfree by choice. I particularly appreciated the final three chapters. Chapter 6 addresses "The Myths and Realities of Living Childfree." As Scott points out, the number one assumption regarding those who are childfree is that they dislike children. This is definitely not the case for me (I absolutely adore all 11 of nieces and nephews!), but going back to the motives noted above, just because I like kids does not mean that I want the constant responsibility of raising one of my own. In Chapter 7, Scott talks about what it is like for the childless by choice to have to live in a "pronatist" world. I'm sure that those who do have kids never give this a second thought, but American society is definitely extremely biased towards families and children. There is general a lack of understanding for anyone who chooses not to conform to this standard by not having children of their own, which can result in prejudices, stigmas, and even preferential behavior in both social settings and the workplace. I believe this can be a particular challenge for women of child-bearing age--for example, at family gatherings, I often find myself spending time with the men, as the women's talk/behavior tends to center solely around children. Scott's final chapter, "A Place at the Table," offers a view of how those with children and the childfree might co-exist--that is, in a world where the latter is truly seen as a valid, acceptable choice.
In summary, I would highly recommend this book to anyone who has made the decision to live their life childless or childfree by choice. Those in this group are likely to find the results of Scott's research to be extremely validating as well as to gain a great sense of acceptance for their choice thanks to Scott's efforts. Unfortunately, I am less certain that anyone who does have or wants children would be able to understand or even to appreciate this book. But that is okay--as Scott so eloquently demonstrates, those of us who are childfree are not out to convert anyone; we just don't want the parents out there to try to convert us, either.
© 2010 Beth Cholette
Beth Cholette, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist who provides psychotherapy to college students.