Sunday, November 26, 2006

Local Paper Does Story on Glens Falls, New York Childfree

A weighty decision: Children or not

The decision to not have children opens door to other joys for some;
For others, it's impossible to imagine

While some people think those who don't have children are missing out, a group of local residents say they are living life to the fullest without kids. Married for 12 years, Sarah Rishel and Tom Austin live in an immaculate home in Malta, with gleaming countertops, uncluttered floors and a hot tub where they can relax with a glass of wine after work. They have jobs they enjoy and a cat they adore, spend time with family, and have the flexibility to travel or gather for impromptu dinner with friends.

But by some peoples' standards, their life seems incomplete.

When Rishel, 35, and Austin, 38, mention to new acquaintances that they don't have children, they hear the same responses time and again.

"They say, 'You still have time, you're still young enough,' " Rishel said. " 'Oh, you can change your mind and adopt.' "

The thing is, they don't want children, now or ever. But when the standard life course is to grow up, get a job, get married and have kids, this is a decision many people don't seem to understand, believe or respect.
. . .
The decision not to have children is often made on a gut-instinct level, by people who just don't feel compelled to have kids. Some worry that, absent a burning desire to parent, they wouldn't do a good job of it, either.

But the lifestyle can afford benefits such a more time for partners and friends, more disposable income, more flexible schedules. And according to a report by the Pew Research Center, people who don't have children are just as happy as people who do.

. . .
Bowen is a member of a small, informal group that has gathered three times over the past couple of years to discuss the decision they've all made not to have children and, as they put it, "honor those who choose otherwise."

Bonnie Hoag, cofounder of Dionondehowa Wildlife Sanctuary in Shushan, helped organize the group, inspired by the women and men she knew who seem to live their lives in some ways on the periphery of society.

"I think the first time we got together, people just really wanted to tell their stories, and have their stories be told without the judgment of a culture," she said. "Without the social judgment of how can you be a whole woman if you don't have children."
. . .
Many child-free couples cite the world's burgeoning population and the stress that so many people place on the environment as a reason to not reproduce. Some express frustration with what they see as righteousness that some parents show.

"Sometimes I get annoyed with the attention we bring to the propagation of species, and the entitlement that goes along with that," Hoag said.

And in Hoag's opinion, children are no guarantee of happiness, or of a caretaker in retirement. Hoag says she thinks many parents would not make the same decision if they could do it over again. She said it's not infrequent that she hears parents say, "I love my kids, but '€-"

Fertility is finite, and the possibility of regret also looms on the horizon for some child-free couples. But it may never materialize. . .

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