Myths and Facts About Living Childfree
by Jackie Gutmann, M.D.
RMA of Philadelphia
Myth: Remaining childfree means remaining just as miserable as we are right now.
Fact: Only part of your current pain is from actual lack of a child. Some of it is part of a grief process you’re in the midst of. Another part is the maddening uncertainty of whether or not you will ever get to be a parent.
Myth: A Childfree life is an empty life.
Fact: Living childfree is empty for the couples who do not find new interests. Childfree people fill their lives with work, hobbies, artistic endeavors, political causes and they also fill them with children! Children involved in organizations such as Big Brothers and Big Sisters, Scouts, etc.,
Myth: Childfree living is never a choice if you are infertile.
Fact: Certainly for many people, alternatives such as adoption, donor insemination, and in vitro fertilization are preferable. For those couples, childfree living would be the end of the road. For some couples however, those who are forced to re-examine their values, remaining childfree is a good decision. For them it is the next best thing, right after biological parenthood.
Myth: If I remain childfree, I’ll feel emotionally wounded every time I see a child.
Fact: Once they have grieved and made a definite decision to remain childfree, couples tend to feel occasional twinges of sadness, but no more stabbing pain.
Myth: Aren’t people who remain childfree selfish and immature? Aren’t their marriages unhappy?
Fact: Extensive psychosocial studies have found childfree couples to be just as happy as couples with children. And contrary to the stereotype of selfishness, a high percentage of childfree people are teachers, social workers, or people who spend their weekends doing volunteer work with children or for a social cause. It’s far more common for selfish, immature people to have children for selfish, immature reasons.
Myth: If we remain childfree, I’ll be unhappy in old age.
Fact: Children are no insurance policy against loneliness in old age. You can’t be sure what old age will be like. You can’t be sure children would live near you, get along with you or be a comfort.
Myth: We’ll feel like fools if we decide to remain childfree after all of that trying.
Fact: No one else can decide for you whether adoption or childfree living is right for you. It’s your life. You have the right to decide what to do with it. Deciding not to have a child does not take away the meaning of those years of trying. The two of you shared something important together, and if you’re like most couples, you’re coming out the other end more skilled at talking to each other, more aware of your values, and more appreciative of each other. You have the right to shift gears.
Myth: If we remain childfree, we’ll be sorry later
Fact: Of course there will be days when you wonder if you would have been happier if you’d made another choice. Everyone wonders. Remember that infertile couples who adopt or choose donor insemination, etc. will also wonder. The fact that whatever you choose was your second choice after you didn’t get pregnant adds poignancy to the question.