Marcia Drut-Davis is a pioneer in the childfree movement. She is the author of Confessions of a Childfree Woman, runs the site Childfree Reflections, and can be followed on Facebook here.
As you’ll read below, Marcia put herself ‘out there’ nearly 4 decades ago and paid a price for it. While she may think not much has changed since 1974 we have to respectfully disagree – at least slightly. Because of people like Marcia, people like Amy and me have a much easier time being childfree than we would have otherwise. Marcia…please give yourself some credit for the changes you’ve been a part of!
So read and enjoy, send some love to Marcia for making it just a little more acceptable to live childfree, and (most importantly) pick up her book!
From 1974 to 2013
In 1974, I “came out” telling the world I never wanted to have or raise children. It was the year I felt empowered by “The Baby Trap” by Ellen Peck. That book told me I wasn’t a freak of nature. It changed being “less” to being free of children. It was the year I was interviewed on 60 Minutes and lost my job because of that exposure. It was the first time I heard the word, “pronatalism” and started to understand what it meant.
I never knew how much people felt threatened by those of us who simply never wanted to have or raise children. What business was it of others? Why was it so awful? Who would I hurt by this personal choice except possibly my mom and in-laws who wanted a grandchild.
I spent the next thirty-nine years happily living the childfree lifestyle. Pronatalism had scared me into staying vocal only when I felt safe. Fears lingered due to the awful reaction of that 60 Minute exposure… death threats really terrify! My eyes started to open and kept getting wider every year. I saw pronatalism everywhere: songs, art, advertising, movies, magazine covers of famous people showing off their beautiful babies. I kept hoping things would change. I kept seeing that not much was changing.
When I took a writing course and shared my secret goal of writing my memoir, I didn’t get warm, fuzzy responses of acceptance. As I read my work, it brought out the same old things I had heard so many years before in my writing class:“Isn’t that a selfish choice?” “Weren’t you really immature?” “Did you have a terrible childhood?” “I hope you don’t regret that choice when you’re alone and too old to change your mind!”
My teacher, Justine Tal-Goldberg from writebynight.net, and her fiancé David Duhr, had differing opinions. They encouraged me to write my book saying it was important, even now, when there is supposed to be acceptance about personal choices. (I later learned they are also childfree by choice!)
When I finally had the courage to write my memoir “Confessions of a Childfree Woman” I faced publisher after publisher, agent after agent with comments like, “Great writing! Riveting story. Sorry… but nobody will read this. It’s acceptable not to want kids today.”
I wish I could tell you there’s acceptance. From the responses I get everyday on my blog and Facebook site as well as the numerous support sites now growing like weeds on the Internet, acceptance is not here. (Maybe the word “weed” isn’t good because unlike a weed you want to pick and cast away, these sites give support and insights into the childfree lifestyle.) Families and friends still reject childfree people. Some tell me their parents have taken them off their wills, as they are not going to have grandchildren to carry on the family’s DNA! (I can’t make that up.)
I recently had an NPR local radio interview about my memoir. At the end, when the microphone was turned off, the woman interviewing me said she wouldn’t say where I lived, as she feared what people could do. Her husband is a policeman. She told me there were many crazy people out there who may hate me for saying I never wanted kids.
The one positive thing I’ve noticed is more and more people request childfree restaurants, areas on planes, and resorts. Although businesses are starting to listen they are met with disdain from parents who say they are child-haters! Also, more men are starting to share their important feelings when it used to be only women.
So, it’s up to us. We must keep on keeping on. We must speak our choice with pride and dignity. In my opinion, never get into any push/pull confrontations. Never insist we are “right” by attacking other choices because that’s exactly what we don’t want for choosing our childfree lifestyle. You may say, “You’re happy with your choice? Terrific! I’m happy with mine”. I urge you to walk away if you’re verbally attacked. We’re proud and happy to be childfree-by-choice. If enough of us calmly and happily share why this lifestyle gives us so much pleasure, there may come a time when all these books and childfree cites aren’t necessary. Right now, they are. In my opinion, nothing much has changed since 1974.
2 thoughts on “Childfree from 1974 to Today – Marcia Drut-Davis”
I also read the book The Baby Trap in 1973, right after I graduated from college. I didn’t have any idea what my future would hold at age 22, but I was pretty sure I didn’t want to be a mother. I had been the oldest of nine children. By the age of 12, my parents believed me to be so mature as to become their weekend babysitter while they went out and socialized with friends. I had already been changing diapers and feeding babies for years before actually being forced into child labor baby-sitting gigs. I learned that child care is a much more intense experience than I ever wanted to experience as an adult, let alone as the child I was myself. I knew I wanted a career, and the idea of having strangers take care of any baby I would have didn’t sit right with me. (Child of the 50s, mom at home, dad at work, etc.) Plus, I just have to admit, babies did nothing for me. I was always more excited to meet a new puppy or kitten than a baby. The ironic thing is, after reading the Ellen Peck book, I knew I would have no children, but I was 22. I wondered if I’d regret it when I got older and my chances to reproduce were gone. Well…here I am, turning 70 later this year, and can honestly say I have never for a moment regretted my decision. When I met my husband as a young woman, I told him I wouldn’t have children. He had never even thought of the possibility of remaining childless if married, but he didn’t run away, and eventually found the idea novel, but appealing. He has never regretted not having children either. To people who challenged us about our decision not to procreate, we would ask…What? Do you really think people who don’t enjoy the company of children should have them? We gladly pay our public school taxes and support charities that help children, we just chose not to be parents ourselves. p.s. Three of my parents’ six daughters chose not to reproduce as well.
Wasn’t there a female high-schooler (whose name is currently escaping me) who when she delivered her valedictory graduation address in 1970, right around the time the very 1st Earth Day was celebrated who pledged to be ‘childfree’ by choice for environmental reasons?
It’s bugging me that I can’t remember her name, or where her high school was (California maybe)? but as near as I know she was successful in her bid to not have kids.
Born in 1969 here, so I don’t have strong personal memories of the beginnings of the ‘childfree by choice’ movement (it definitely has ties to feminism & environmentalism) but to me, these women are personal heroines & role models.
I wish I had known them & their life stories sooner, I might have dated more seriously younger but when the 1980s (& beyond) came along, I assumed most boys & guys would pressure me into a choice I knew I could never live with: being a mom.
So I stayed out of the dating pool.
My life has been anything but boring or inadequate, From birth, I was always a little different: Army brat (third culture kids such as military brats are only 5% of the population though it’s a growing segment of global society), only child (I’m sure my mother was stigmatized for her ‘one & done’ motherhood choice, she had her tubes tied at age 30 & even going on birth control to time my conception was literal heresy, she was raised Catholic & so was my Dad, though they raised me to be an agnostic) plus I was a ‘smart kid’ (I still love learning, studying & personal growth, especially of an academic flavor, my self expansion has been my life-long passion).
I had assumed as a younger child & woman, I would have at least married once before now (I’m 51), but in retrospect, I didn’t have a good road map for this part of my life path. Realistically, how was I to approach some good guy & say ‘I’d love to be your life partner, but I want it to be ‘Just The Two Of Us’, forever & always’. Would it have been fair of me to ask that much of him back then? It seemed like such an ‘out there’ request & I was already a pretty unconventional person, would this be the ‘one demand too many’ he couldn’t deal with?
Was it even possible or was it easier to just go it alone?
Up until now I had assumed that the latter was the right thing to do during my fertile years so that’s what I did.
I have to say I absolutely love being in menopause now, it’s so liberating & I’m so glad I’m past the whole potential burden/drama of any unwanted pregnancy or motherhood.
I personally found it difficult to come of age sexually in the 1980s, the Age of AIDS, where the sexual revolutionaries ahead of us had thrown out the centuries old rule books & the anarchy of ‘no rules’ reigned. I wish they had worked a little harder at writing some replacement rules for future generations’ sakes, but for whatever reasons, that didn’t happen.
My generation (Baby Busters / Generation X) muddled our way through the fallout, there are ways to be sexual without risking pregnancy or life-threatening STIs aka ‘safer sex’, but there was a price to pay for this alleged sexual ‘freedom’ namely anxiety & confusion. Who knows what ‘hanging out’ really meant back then or now means (do people still do that?).
Dating / courtship norms seemed to be dead when it was my turn & that wasn’t all a positive thing.
At least there was some reliable fertility control we could turn to & some growing understanding of things like date/marital rape & domestic violence & child abuse & incest, that all these aren’t okay & that people who experienced these needed help & support to heal from them. I’d like to think my generation made some positive strides here, even if the goal of sex for pleasure & partner bonding in your fertile years (with or without parenthood) really wasn’t a thing for all heterosexual women.
Unfortunately I think even younger generations now have it harder than me (I don’t understand ‘friends with benefits’ or ‘hooking up’, etc & swiping on people seems so dehumanizing). To me ‘Love Is A Battlefield’ was a catchy 1980s Pat Benatar song, to them it seems like a sad truism. I’m glad I don’t have to parent anyone through this era.
I’m also a little old school on my ideas about parenting, ideally I’d like kids to have at least 2 reasonably present parents. My parents were married for my entire childhood (their marriage lasted 39 years in total, up until my mother died in a freak car accident at age 64), but given the era & my father’s choice to be a career military officer, my father was much less of a presence in my life than I would have chosen him to be, he did go off to the Vietnam War once before I was born, then once again as a toddler & he consistently worked very long hours when it was ‘peacetime’. By the time my father was professionally free to get to know me better, I was off in college, graduate or law school or living far away building my own career(s). We both lamented the missed opportunities there.
I really really didn’t want to be a single mom *ever*, there were plenty of times growing up when my mother was my *de facto* single parent (my father’s second tour of duty in Vietnam, when he was out on field exercises/maneuvers with his battalion command in West Germany, graduate studies at military war colleges, etc).
That was not the kind of marriage or partnership I wanted *at all*, too much space & distance from your chosen mate, in circumstances where the woman has made almost all the big career, hobby/interest, & social/extended familial contact sacrifices plus she’s assumed much more of the responsibility for their offspring & running the household, especially the drudge-like chores etc. The 1970s weren’t as liberating for my mother as they should have been (some women did better, but my mother never got quite as many benefits as I, my father or she hoped she would).
I couldn’t help but absorb some of my mother’s unspoken but ever-present frustration with how her life choices all turned out for her & no way would I want my own child(ren) or my spouse to go from beloved to resented, even if the resentment could later be cured. At least in the 1980s my mother could resume her career as a high school math teacher, but even there she felt she compromised early, she had changed her college major from mathematics to education, she turned down a job offer from IBM in the 1960s to be a ‘computress’ or early computer programmer (the world may have lost another Ada Lovelace or Admiral Grace Hopper) because she wanted to try to ‘have it all’ as women saw it then in the very early 1960s when few women even completed their college degrees (the majority who attempted it, started their studies, married, then dropped out before graduating to get married & have kids, I celebrate my mother at least made it that far, getting her B.S. despite having grown up in rural Idaho, she & her older sister were the first in my maternal family line to do so).
Having it all then was a husband, child(ren) and paid work outside the home, and most women her age aimed a lot lower on that last goal. My mother’s frustrations with her own career I think shaped my life far more than anyone realizes & I was definitely set off on the ‘enjoy yourself when you’re young, doing exactly what you want to do outside the home then, because once you get married, you have to contract & compromise your life ambitions’ path & I know that world got even smaller for my mother once I came along.
Not something I wanted nor was it what the women who were my elders wanted for me either. I may have not gotten the ‘family’ as they understood it, but I didn’t ever play small in the intellectual, professional or personal growth domains.
Patriarchy is still a thing, it’s still exacting high prices from women (I could write a tome on how inequitable the burdens of elder family care fall on women but I’ll spare you) & less obviously from men, for them, they have to figure out how to get closer to their emotions (when their elder male role models couldn’t teach them how to do this, it’s a price paid by so many generations of men), their children & the women they love & they have to fight stereotypes that make them seem like ‘second class caregivers’ when they’ve not ever had much of a chance to try to grow this dimension of their characters. I can see where men might choose to forego the children so they can get more in touch with their own feelings & those of their mates. And I can see sparing having kids unless & until they can have two fully present & actualized parents. It’s something civilization ought to have, children who have a far easier time of total self-actualization.
Oh well, those are my musings on this very complex subject. To me it’s always made inherent sense that you really can’t have it all, simultaneously. It’s okay to choose less consciously & knowingly rather than just fake it or let others pay the price of someone else’s choices.
We’ve miles to go before we claim victory & sleep a self-actualized sleep.