No Kidding

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The U.S. Census Bureau indicates that one in six women will probably never have a child, but those numbers are not translating into societal acceptance for married couples without children.

A small but growing movement is beginning to voice the concerns of these families who ignored by policy makers. In the final part of the WKSU series "New Work, New Families: America's Juggling Act," Vincent Duffy introduces us to a couple that prefers to be called "child free" instead of "childless"...

Sean Barnwell and Lorraine Ford are a married couple living in an upscale home just outside of the loop in Chicago. They are in their thirties, college-educated and by all respects seem perfectly normal...but they aren't always treated that way when people discover that the only little feet that can be heard in their home is that of their cats...

Lorraine Ford: I think they are just sort of dumbfounded. They just say, "You got to have kids. You have to have kids."
Sean and Lorraine are the chapter presidents in Chicago of an organization called "No-Kidding", which schedules social events for couples who choose to be childfree. No-kidding had only two chapters five years ago, but there are 47 today. The only Ohio chapter is in Dayton, but organizers there did not wish to be interviewed, fearing they'd be portrayed as selfish and materialistic. Lorraine says that's not uncommon...
Lorraine Ford: It might be selfish to not want to have children, but it's equally selfish to feel that you are so important that you have to replicate yourself. And somehow, that makes you a better person. I think that people have children for the reasons of their own choice. And some reasons are why we don't have children...For our own choice. I don't think one is necessarily fairly more altruistic or better than the other, but it's just a different way of self-expression, in a lot of senses.
The No-Kidding chapter in Chicago boasts 150 couples, and provides an evening out where conversations about children don't dominate the evening, and Sean and Lorraine aren't made to feel guilty about their decision.
Lorraine Ford: If someone says they are going to be there, you pretty much know that they are going to be there because they don't have all the other sorts of things that come up with having kids. It's just an environment where you might meet someone new and you know that they are not going to start grilling you about having kids. It's not like the BBQ's that we used to go to where the all the women were talking about their c-sections and stuff like that.
Childfree couples are also beginning to organize against what they define as a political bias towards families with children in this country. Parents are often excused from work to care for sick children and attend special events; they get preferential scheduling treatment during holidays and are not required to stay after hours. In some businesses it's assumed that workers without children will make up the difference. While these issues don't upset Sean and Lorraine in particular, they do get angry at what they perceive as unfair access to benefits...
Sean: I'm more concerned with the workplace that has unequal utilization of the workplace package due to having children. There is something a little unfair that a person who has chosen to have children is somehow able to make a greater utilization of the company benefit package than those who don't. That is not fair because having children, in my view, is a choice. More importantly, it's a consumptive choice. A choice that is going to result in consuming of they monetary or otherwise, I think that it is a choice a person has made and they should not necessarily feel entitled to a subsidy for it.
They also believe it's unfair to give parents a $500 per child tax credit, and cannot believe Congress is likely to raise that amount to $1000...
Lorraine: Our tax code makes me enraged, honestly. Especially the idea of kicking it up to families that make $200,000 per year. The proposal, if it were really intended to help children, all children--why not target families who do not have a lot of money? So maybe the mothers can work fewer hours and stay at home. Many of these families that make this much money do not need a tax credit. I don't think it is fair. We are subsidizing that with our work and I just don't think that's anything you can say that is for the children. You can't touch it. We should say, "Hey! Wait a minute. Are we really targeting this for the children?" Some of this legislation isn't for the really impoverished children.
Sean and Lorraine want to be clear that they don't dislike children; they have just made a choice not to have any themselves. They enjoy the company of their nieces and nephews, and many of their friend's children...although they do get upset when people who choose to have children don't make the effort to raise them well...
Sean: I guess the main grievance is that I feel that people do not exert the appropriate guidance on their children in many social situations. Whether it's the grocery store, where the kids are allowed to dig into the bulk food bins...they just need supervision. They don't need to be running free. It really brings society down.
Couples without children make up nearly 10 percent of registered voters, which could be significant if they continue to organize around these issues. But what if Sean and Lorraine did get pregnant?
Lorraine: I think...ultimately; I'd have an abortion. It's a harder decision to make and I would have made it lightly if I were 25. But now I feel that I'm older, and I have seen a lot more sadness. I think it takes on a lot more gravity, but that's ultimately what I would choose.

Sean: Yes, I'd support her doing that. I'd hate to see her go through this. I don't feel that we are ready to be parents.

And Sean says he and Lorraine have given that decision a lot more thought than many people give to having children.

I'm Vincent Duffy, 89.7 WKSU.

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