Joan Eisenstodt is 32, divorced after, 10 years of marriage and childless by decision.
"I made the decision in marriage and as an individual not to have children," she said."It was an absolute decision -- at the age of 25 i was sterilized. My husband agreed with this.
"I value my life and my freedom," she said, and having children in the house "on a 24-hour basis" would intrude on that freedom. Plus, she said, "I'm interested in social causes," among them the problem of overpopulation.
D'Alton and Dorice Myers decided 54 years ago to remain childfree, and they don't have any regrets.
"Both of us agreed we would lead individual, non,-conformist lives," said D'Alton Myers, 81, a former teacher, government worker and small businessman who lives with his 75-year-old wife in a retirement community in Lubbock, Tex.They were interested in travel, education and community work, "and we did them.
Eisenstodt and the Myerses were among a small group celebrating on Wednesday the seventh annual "NonParents Day," sponsored by the National Alliance for Optinal Parenthood, 2010 Massachusetts Ave. NW.
Eisenstodt, an alliance director who came to Washington a year ago after serving in the organization's Midwest office in Dayton, said she has no regrets either -- well, perhaps "only a teeny one. Pregnancy and childbirth are fascinating; it would have been incredible to go through. But not the result,"
Do the Myerses -- who received the alliance's 1979 "National Non-Parents of the Year" award -- miss not having grandchildren, say, at Christmas, and what about children to help them in their old age?
"We concentrate on friends," said Dorice Myers, who was also a school-teacher and active in volunteer groups such as the League of Women Voters. "We send out Christmas cards and keep in touch. Our friends have children."
"And as for someone to look out for them, their community provides that. "A son and daughter couldn't give us better care."
About their new book, "None's Been Fun," published by Dorrance and Company ($8.95), Dorice Myers says: "If Tom Braden can write about his eight children ("Eight Is Enough"), we decided we could write about our none."
Purpose of the 2,000-member alliance, founded seven years ago, is to give support to what they believe is a growing number of Americans choosing the childfree life style, said executive director Curole Baker, and to promote the idea that it can be a responsible alternative to parenthood.
The alliance wants couples to think about what parenthood means before they have children and not be pressured into it by parents and friends ("Who's going to carry on the family name?" "You mean you're going to deny us grandchildren?") or by our culture, where the happy marriage is most-often viewed as one including children.
Speaking at "Non-Parents Day," Ohio State University assistant sociology proffessor Sharon K. Houseknecht, a non-parent by choice, said her research indicates children are not necessary for a happy marriage. In fact, she said, it shows that "the marriage is more cohesive without them; that couples find other sources of fulfillment" and enjoy better relationships. She became interested in the subject because she saw childlessness being labeled "deviant" behavior.
Baker said that researchers have found that those couples who do have children "have a higher level of satisfaction in their marriage before the children are born or after they have left home." Baker herself has two children
Robert E. Gould, a psychoanalyst and professor of psychiatry at New York Medical College, said parenting "is more difficult and more exacting" than many of the professions that require college training.
"No wonder so many mistakes are made." Parenting, he said, can be as fulfilling as any work, "provided you want that work.
But he cautioned that having a child is one of life's unalterable decisions. You can get divorce or change jobs, but "when you have a kid and it's a mistake, what do you do with the body? You've got a minimum of 20 years."
Parenthood, he said, "should not be gone into as cavalierly as it is now. Kids need parenting when they need it and not when the parent are ready to do it,"
As for what he calls "a myth" -- the idea that a fulfilled life is impossible without children -- Gould said, "There's no such thing as a complete life. You can't do everything. Pick out a life style that works for you and stick with it." Gould's wife has two children for a former marriage, but, he said, they decided not to have more children.
The alliance distributes a pamphlet that asks "Am I Parent Material?" Among the points it suggests couples consider:
What do I want out of life for myself?
Could I handle a child and a job at the same time?
Would I be willing to cut back my social life and spend more time at home.
How would a child interfere with my growth and development?
Do I like doing things with children?
Am I patient enough to deal with the noise and the confusion and the 24- hour-a-day responsibility?
Would I take things out on a child if I lost my temper? CAPTION: Picture, Dorice and D'alton Myers: "individual, non-conformist lives." By Douglas Chevalier- The Washington Post