Thursday, August 18, 2011

Complete Without Kids

No, I haven't given my children away, I'm just reviewing a really great book that I recommend every parent or non parent to read. Super fascinating insight into the world of living child free. And before you click away from this because it's a book review, I invite you to really read though this as I'll be giving some of my 98 cents throughout.

Complete Without Kids- Ellen L. Walker, Ph.D
Complete Without Kids: An Insider's Guide to Childfree Living by Choice or by Chance
In Complete Without Kids, Licensed Clinical Psychologist Ellen L. Walker examines the often-ignored question of what it means to be child free, by choice or by circumstance, in a family-focused society. Recognizing that there is no one child free adult, the author guides the reader through the positive and negative aspects of child free living, taking into consideration the different issues faced by men or women, couples or singles, whether gay or straight. As a woman who is child free by choice, Walker draws upon her personal experience while also offering the reader numerous interviews with other child free adults, revealing behind-the-scenes factors that influenced their personal journeys. She approaches the tough-decision making process of whether or not to have children from a biological, historical, and societal perspective, offering valuable information on: The unique set of problems that child free adults face simply due to living in a culture that celebrates babies and traditional families; Methods to cope with the pressure to have children from media, family, and friends in a healthy way; How to create balance and approach the leisure time allowed by a child free lifestyle and; Financial, health, and personal benefits associated with child free living. Offering support, guidance, and thought-provoking questions, Complete Without Kids is a productive guide for any reader considering the child free path.

So that's the general synopsis so you know what we're talking about. And before I get started into my review, most of you know that I'm a parent of two children. I had my kids in my early 20's and I've been very honest about not knowing what I was doing. Had I known how much work it was really going to be, how emotionally draining it was going to be, how hard it would be on my marriage, and how much of what makes me... well, me would be sucked away I would most definitely thought twice about having kids. That's not to say I don't love my children.

On page 32 I found a line that struck an immediate chord with me: "Dr. Jeffers emphasizes the difference between loving your children and actually enjoying parenting them." and later in that paragraph, "The thing I regret most is that everyone told me how amazingly fulfilling and fun mothering is, without mentioning the negatives, and especially the fact that once you sign on for the job you cannot quit." Those two lines alone sum up my feelings. I love my children dearly but I would by lying if I said that I haven't had many days where I question what the hell I was thinking when I decided I wanted children. The book also raises a really good question about whether discussing being child free by choice is a valid conversation piece to have with young girls in the same breathe as safe sex and/or abstinence. I know with my children I will talk to them openly about these things including how you don't have to have kids. I don't ever want to be that person that pressures my kids for grandchildren because I know first hand how difficult it is to be a parent. Not everybody is cut out for it, yet you don't really hear that in Sex Ed, do you? I know when birth control was discussed it was always, "take it until you're ready to be a parent" but nothing really beyond that.

What's really great about this book is that it doesn't sway your opinion. I didn't walk away from reading this book feeling strongly about either side, I could really relate to both sides. I also felt like the author did a tremendous job talking to real life people from all types of economic standing and backgrounds to really give you a full perspective as to why some people choose to be child free. And those who would like to have kids but can't for a multitude of reasons, there is adequate perspective from them as well.

What I also really valued about this book was the absolute honesty about what parenting does to a marriage. I know most couples think that because they have started their marriage strong that it only helps them with parenting. While that is true, it's good to have a solid marriage before you bring kids to the mix, it fails to recognize what a huge stressor it is to have kids. I will say that every single marital issue Matt and I have ever had was directly related to the stress of parenting. We are no longer the people we were when we got married- not even close. I would venture to say the high divorce rates would be tied, at least in some way, to society's push for people to have children. It was mentioned in this book that childless couples are frowned upon in most circles, not because it's a bad thing but because it's not the norm. The norm is for people to get married, buy a house, have some kids, and live happily ever after yet that rarely happens. Also mentioned in the book was how couples with children find it hard to stay connected and eventually drift apart; therefore it becomes difficult to co-exist once the children are grown. They no longer have the common threads holding them together- those had been long gone. Sure you can go on date nights but people frown on that too, don't they? Most people, usually other parents themselves, will make a person feel guilty for spending time away from their kids. I would venture to say almost all of the time it's because they have feelings of jealousy because that couple can and they can't.

I have struggled with this myself. It took me almost five years to figure out I need alone time. I need time away from my husband and my kids to make myself not cry every single night and to not feel like driving my car off a bridge just to check out. I need that time away to be the quality parent my children deserve and a good wife that my husband needs. But I'll tell you- when I schedule a weekend away, or I sign up for a class, or I go to dinner with a friend I have some people around me that scoff and try to make me feel guilty. And it's too bad because I wish they would support me trying to be a better person for my kids.

Also in this book it talked about how friendships change when you have a childless friend and the rest are mommies. I have a couple of friends who don't have kids or who choose to not have kids and I feel bad. I can't always do what they want because... I have kids. I sometimes feel like they have a hard time connecting with me because we don't have a lot in common? My days are full with crying, chores, and kid related things and that makes it difficult to relate sometimes. I can only imagine how hard it would be to be child less and have all of your friends have children.

So all in all- the book was fascinating. I really enjoyed reading it and for me, I felt better about how I was feeling as a parent. Society frowns upon those of us who are not loving parenthood and all that comes with it and it's too bad. Just because I don't love to sit and play Barbies doesn't make me a bad mom. It just means I was ill-prepared for what I would really be signing up for. I always tell people I know that are having babies or thinking about it to really look at the reasons they want to have a kid. Is it because you want to be loved? Because that's just a temporary fix. I know I wanted kids because it was just what you did when you got married. I never questioned not having kids, I just knew I would because it's just what you do. Sounds a bit archaic when I think about it but how many young women think that right now?

I highly recommend this read for anyone. It really opened my eyes to a lot of different child free living assumptions that I hadn't considered before, several that I haven't mentioned. This is a superb book, very well researched and well written.

Luckily for you, I have a copy to giveaway!! WOOT! All you have to do is leave a comment on this post telling me why you choose to be a parent or why you are choosing to be child free. I'd love to hear your perspective on this topic.

I'll draw a winner for the giveaway on Monday, August 22. Good luck!


Anonymous said...

ooooo... this is INTERESTING! I'm adding this to my book list, whether I win it or not ;)

My mom has always kinda said "you don't have to have kids" and in a way I've always taken it to mean that she doesn't want me to? I realize it's my decision, but it seems she's really be pro-childless than having grandkids. For a long time I made that decision not to have kids. Frankly, I'm not very good with them and I openly admit, I'm not a fan of kids 4-12 in age. I'm just not. But it depends on the kid too. BUT now I want kids. And it's hard to list all the reasons, but I know that I want kids for the right reasons. I know it'll be work. If I didn't have kids- it really wouldn't be the end of the world. Like you said though- sometimes it can be hard to relate. I do read some mommy blogs and there's one in particular I used to like, but now I skip reading. And then there are some I love! So idk. It's almost comparable to being the single girl admist only friends who are married/engaged/have long term significant others. That gets a little old sometimes too.

I think you have a great balance with everything. I've gotten to hang out with you sans kids quite a bit and when we talk, you're not one of those people who only talk about their kids. Although I do enjoy your kids stories because they're so darn cute ;)

Great post- I'm definitely going to read this!

Priyanka said...

Hi Sara :)
I'm 20 and well, I would be lying if I say that I've given this a lot of thought. Just like you wrote, I felt the same until, marriage, goes in that order..I mean what's to questions? But coming to think of it...going child-free is kind of like depriving yourself of one of life's most thrilling experiences, you know its like you buy your one-day pass to enter this amusement park of life and then decide to skip a few rides because they're too scary (yes i'd compare having children to the battlestar galactica roller coaster here)..and when you leave the park, although you had a nice and "convenient" time you'll always feel you missed something..and you didn't get your time's worth..
So that's what I feel, having kids is a part of this journey, if you have the means to bring another life to this earth and provide for it, then there's no reason you shouldn't :)

Ryan Adair said...

Right now, my almost fiance and I are planning on a child and probably dog free life. One, we are both artist, and we fear losing our flexible schedules to a family. We want to move a lot and travel-- at some point a child probably becomes really affected by moving every year. Two, I am not sure that I like children. I mean.. they are innocent, and sometimes they are pretty cute.. but I am really afraid of being a bad mother. I am so afraid that I will not enjoy raising children-- which in turn will cause me to resent them.. and it wouldn't even be THEIR fault.

It strikes a chord with me because I feel like it is really not NORMAL to not want children.

Truth be told, I really have no interest in my friends children. It makes me feel SO bad-- because I know that makes me a horrible friend. I like to find out about them on Facebook and comment on their pictures, and like I said, I think they are cute.. but I don't want to go to birthday parties, or functions where kids are invited. In fact, one of my biggest fears for my wedding, is someone bringing their baby. Isn't that horrible!?

A lot of the blogs I read are mommy blogs, and I really enjoy them.. but none of them convince me that I am cut out for mother hood.

On one level, it makes me feel like I am kind of free, but on the other level it makes me feel really inadequate as a woman.

Sounds like an amazing book, I definitely want to read it-- won or otherwise.

ryan @

Kattrina said...

I think your comment about talking to youth about whether they want children or not is spot on. Too often we try to tell people how to live their lives and what choices they should make and it's just wrong. Sounds like a great read!

devilishdelish said...

I am 24 and currently child free by choice (single and happy, why add a child?), BUT... I am struggling with the decision of whether or not to have children. Honestly, it is a tough choice. Everyone seems to think that because I am a woman, I should have this insane need to have babies. But really, I don't. Part of me wants them, but part of me knows that I am really, really selfish and that it is probably not a good idea. And am I missing out on an important part of being a woman if I do not have babies?

miss bria - devilishdelish(at)gmail(dot)com

Steff said...

Oh my goodness, I NEED to read this one! It sounds so interesting! I want kids, but I love the psychological aspect of the book.