Childless by Choice

Sep 21, 2017

This show originally aired on March 4, 2016.

Psychotherapist Jeanne Safer found the roots of her 1996 book, Beyond Motherhood: Choosing a Life Without Children, in her own life.

“I became interested because I had to be interested. I really was struggling myself to make this decision. It took me five years to do it. I really worried about it, I thought about it, I didn’t talk to many people about it because I didn’t really know anybody who was going through it.”

But once she started researching the book, she found she wasn’t alone in that struggle.

“It’s a very complicated decision because most people just assume that they want to have children. And when you go against the grain, it takes a lot. About 15% [of people] now, around 10% when I made the decision, were doing something unusual. You were putting yourself outside of the norm, and that is a cause for anxiety.”

Safer says the common thread between those who were childless by choice was the fear they would regret it later. But she asserts that the choice to be a parent is like any other choice—there are trade-offs.

"Any decision you make, whether it's to be a mother or not to be a mother, you're losing certain things and that's normal and healthy. Now, I don't think most mothers have the level of freedom I do and I don't have the intimacy with a child they do. I love the notion of choice because that's what true feminism is."

And while her research focuses on mothers, men face some of the same issues with childlessness. But though Rocky, a caller from Cedar Rapids, says he's also lobbied by his friends and family to have children, the questions circle back to the woman in the relationship.

"One unusual thing about being a guy without kids and deciding not to have kids is that most of the time people think it's the woman who can't have kids, not that I can't have kids."

In this edition of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with Safer and Natalie Fixmer-Oraiz, Assistant Professor of Communication Studies at the University of Iowa, about the reasons behind, and social pressures surrounding, the choice to not have children. Christine Peters, an Iowa City resident who decided not to have children, also joins the conversation.