Choosing Childlessness?

If you – or someone you know – are childless, by choice or by chance, you may want to check out website which celebrates women living a child free lifestyle and provides information about a notmom conference to be held in Cleveland Ohio this Fall. In Montreal, Canada, 37 year old Magenta Baribeau recently organized Fête des non-parents, or ‘Child-Free Day’ meant to unite people who choose to remain childless, despite incredible pressure from family members and society in general to change their minds.

I’m sure that most married couples, especially those who have been married for a year or more, can attest to well intentioned relatives asking “So, when are you going to start a family?” For some, this may trigger a host of emotions. A couple who have been trying unsuccessfully to conceive may be highly sensitive to this question and couples who have chosen to remain childless may find it intrusive and judgemental considering their personal choice.

Despite being called selfish and coaxed into re considering their position, many couples remain steadfast in their determination to remain a family of two. Some of these couples point to over population as one reason they have chosen not to have children while others honestly state that they have chosen a lifestyle that might be cramped by the responsibility of taking care of children. Yet others may silently choose not to become parents after being raised in a dysfunctional home environment, or by parents who contributed towards making their children feel more like a burden than a pleasure.

Baribeau, who has spent the past six years working on Maman? Non Merci, a documentary about people who are happily childless, feels that more people should be sensitive to the pressure and prejudice that people who have chosen to remain childless feel.

After reading about this on CBC news, talking to The Motts on Newstalk 1010 about it and interviewing Robin Rinaldi, author of The Wild Oats Project for my latest podcast titled: What to do when your partner says no to having a child, I felt compelled to write this article. My interview with Rinaldi offered a whole other dimension to this topic since I’m thinking that it’s one thing for a couple to choose childlessness together, but quite another when a couple is divided or when choice is taken away from either one.

Although Rinaldi’s book has been marketed as one woman’s quest to find sexual passion, I was struck by how much of it was about her yearning for purpose, which included becoming a mother. After her husband chose to have a vasectomy, thereby blatantly cutting off any possibility of becoming parents together, she takes brave and risky steps towards finding other meaning in life.

As I too have seen when working with clients caught in this dilemma, Rinaldi and her husband sought out counsellors over the course of their marriage. One suggested that Scott would come around, which is a common belief when someone says no to having children, but he proves the counsellor wrong and never does.

Learning from her experience, and from what I too have witnessed, I encourage couples to discuss their desire or lack thereof to become parents before they make a long term commitment to one another. Then, to either continue their journey together with this understanding or to end the relationship, if becoming a parent is a deal breaker for either one.