Spoiler Alert: Yes, childfree couples are both happier and healthier. Let’s peel a few layers off the onion and see why.
Last March, Time magazine ran the following article: Kid Crazy: Why We Exaggerate the Joys of Parenthood. In summary, the article presents the following claims:
Having kids is an economic and emotional drain. It should make those who have kids feel worse. Instead, parents glorify their lives. They believe that the financial and emotional benefits of having children are significantly higher than they really are.
These are very interesting, and revealing, as to the wellness (or lack thereof) of parents. So I decided to research the matter further, exploring medical journals and research results. Here are some of my findings:
There are no gender differences in the association between parenthood and depression
Ranae Evenson, Department of Sociology, Vanderbilt University
Journal of Health and Social Behavior December 2005 vol. 46 no. 4 341-358
Sonja Lyubomirsky or Julia K. Boehm, Department of Psychology, University of California, Riverside
Perspectives on Psychological Science May 2010 vol. 5 no. 3 327-334
Participants reported greater enjoyment of the time they spent with their children and intended to spend more leisure time with their children when only parenting costs were made salient than when the long-term benefits of having children were also made salient.
Richard P. Eibach, Psychology Department, University of Waterloo
Psychological Science February 2011 vol. 22 no. 2 203-208
While searching out potential resources for childfree travel, I could not help be realize how often practice is substituted for policy. For example, consider these excerpts from about.com:
“…sailing a longer itinerary to distant ports at times other than summer and school breaks certainly cuts down on the likelihood you will encounter [children]“
“I’ve spoken with many hoteliers and they tell me the best times to travel are what they call the ‘romance months’ of May and September when kids are in school… Also, immediately before a major holiday, such as the first two weeks in November or in February before spring break is a safe bet.”
I think these illustrate the idea of practice rather than policy very well. As a traveler, following these practices may in fact increase the likelihood of a childfree holiday, but there are no guarantees. This is a long way from childfree policy. Asking you to alter your schedule on a statistical probability is NOT the same as officially declaring an area or time as childfree.
full article on About.com: http://honeymoons.about.com/cs/wordsofwisdom/a/Childfree_Trips.htm
A short while ago, I posted a blog entry about a dining experience I had in a south Florida restaurant owned by the Cheesecake Factory. It was an experience with which I am sure many are familiar: a night out ruined by inconsiderate parents and their screaming, misbehaved children.
Well, I wrote a letter to corporate, politely asking if there are any areas of their restaurant or service times where we might dine childfree. Here is a summary of their response:
…The Cheesecake Factory is family restaurant. We do not separate seating for guests dining with children from those who are not, nor do we deny service to children who do not have adult supervision. Ultimately, we can only hope that all of our guests, regardless of age, conduct themselves in a manner that is mindful of diners around them.
It was a nice letter, well-worded. But alas, if you are expecting a childfree dinner, this may not be the best place for you (or me).
This week Yahoo! Finance shook things up a bit by posting an article describing the plight of parents traveling with kids.
Parents are complaining of airline seating policies that create “baby ghettos” in the back of planes. Even worse, families are increasingly split up, leaving small children in middle seats in the company of strangers unless passengers arrange seat swaps on board.
There are 2 things I love about this article in particular:
- The practice of separating children (and their parents) from childfree adults is on the rise. And it should be, as it is the right thing to do. My desire to be childfree extends far beyond the boundaries of my household. For me, childfree means childfree. Not just at home, but at work, in restaurants and yes, even on airplanes. Unlike a restaurant, on an airplane I can’t simply opt for take-out and leave. I’m stuck in the same tube as everyone else. And for a parent to pollute the cabin with a screaming child is annoying, selfish, and profoundly inconsiderate.
- This issue has angered parents, one of which referred to the child-friendly seating areas of a plane as a “baby ghetto”. The unnamed parent responsible for this quote really hit the nail on the head… “Ghetto”. That’s what poorly behaved children do, they turn otherwise adult-friendly spaces into the most un-desirable real estate in a restaurant, hotel or airplane. A Ghetto. And now parents are angered that they are being sequestered along with the other inconsiderates who travel with children.Well, tough shit.
Contrary to popular opinion, there exists a substantial market segment of childfree adults (by choice or by chance) and subsequently, emerging economic potential of this growing and under-represented group of consumers.
More and more adults are arriving at the decision to be Childfree (or childless as described by the U.S. Census Bureau).
Here are some of the facts:
28 million women aged 15 to 44 are childless, a record number, according to Census Bureau 2008 survey. They represent nearly 46 percent of women in that age group.
“Childlessness has been incresing steadily since 1976 when 35% of women in the childbearing ages were childless.”
Source: Dye, Jane Lawler, Fertility of American Women: June 2008, Current Population Reports,P20-563, U.S. Census Bureau,Washington, DC.
The number of women 15 to 44 forgoing or putting off motherhood has grown nearly 10 percent since 1990, when roughly 24.3 million were in that class.
Source: US Census. Record Number of Women Childless
Yahoo! News | 10/24/2003 | ARMAS
Source: US Census. Fertility Rate of American Women, Fertility Rate of American Men, Maternity Leave and Program Participation, Fertility Rates. http://www.census.gov/hhes/fertility/about/
Researchers have observed childfree couples to be more educated, more likely to be employed in professional and management occupations, more likely for both spouses to earn relatively high incomes, to live in urban areas, to be less religious, to subscribe to less traditional gender roles, and to be less conventional.
Park, K. (2005), Choosing Childlessness: Weber’s Typology of Action and Motives of the Voluntarily Childless. Sociological Inquiry, 75: 372–402. doi: 10.1111/j.1475-682X.2005.00127.xSociological Inquiry
For a complete list of US Census data, here is a link to their reports page for US fertility and Childbirth statistics: http://www.census.gov/hhes/fertility/data/cps/index.html
Your purse is stuffed with juice boxes, crayons and an action figure covered in something sticky. You practically live in a minivan: gymnastics, swimming, soccer, play dates, PTA meetings. While rushing out the door this morning your oldest tells you “I am supposed to bring something for show-and-tell today.” So you scramble and in 5 minutes create an impressive presentation of Christmas ornaments from the 80′s.
And then it happens, an opportunity for a night out. Babysitter included. Perhaps a quiet (dare I say, “romantic”) dinner, and what’s that I see in your hand? A glass of wine? A Vina Robles Petite Sirah? Excellent choice.
Ahhhh. Relax, sit back and be waited on. Tonight, you are the one being served. Tomorrow, it’s back to mommy-duty, but now, just for the next few hours or so, it’s your turn.
Just like everyone else in the world who works as hard as you do, you deserve a break. A quiet break. A peaceful break. Perhaps even just a few hours…. childfree.
You’re feeling guilty just thinking about it aren’t you? I know, your child is the most wonderful thing in your life; fulfilling and meaningful; and you never, ever want to be away. Ever.
C’mon. Talk to me. Is it so bad to take one night off every so often? I mean, you had a life before you were a mommy right? And once the kids are grown, you’ll have a life then too, right?
So why not practice being you every once in a while?
It is really not that hard. All you need is a few hours, a baby sitter and the ability to let go for a short while. And oh yeah, don’t forget the