Whatever the personality type, it's fair to say that the non-breeders aren't necessarily forgoing kids because they don't like being around them. Leticia Perez, a 28-year-old fourth-grade teacher near Galveston, Texas, is a classic Early Articulator who says she decided against becoming a mom before she was a teenager—but that choice didn't conflict with her career path. "I see working with them as completely different from having my own child," she says. Her husband, Sam, a tutor who is also 28, concurs. "At the end of the day, you give 'em back."
Johanna Welcher, a 34-year-old middle-school teacher in Berlin, New Jersey, is a Postponer. She says that she and her husband, Bill, who've been married a decade, struggled with the decision for years. "We finally realized how much it would hold back our lives and prevent us from doing the things we wanted to do." Two years ago she got a tubal ligation. But she says she keeps her attitude about motherhood private at school. "I don't think people would necessarily 'get' how I could teach kids but then not have even one kid of my own," she explains.
I had a similar experience during two years as a volunteer basketball coach for 12- and 13-year-olds at the local Y. "Which kid is yours?" parents would ask. When I answered "None of 'em," they usually looked shocked (or suspicious). After all, why would anyone, other than a pedophile, want to spend time with other people's teenagers? For free?
But there are downsides to the easy-going lifestyle of the non-breeder. Once your friends start having kids, you see them less and less, and it doesn't take long for the great buddy who threw you that surprise 21st-birthday party to become someone who wishes you happy birthday on Facebook. Enter the replacement friends, often people who are at very different places in their lives than you are. "It makes you have a lot of friends who are younger," explains Tracie Smith, 35, an engineer in Houston. "A lot of our friends are 22, 25, and just haven't had kids yet. Or we have older friends whose kids are off at college."
Many assume that an eventual feeling of regret is another drawback of the choice to remain childless. What if you reach middle age and begin yearning for the family life you never had? Who's going to care for you when you're old? And yet, of the more than 60 people Laura Scott interviewed for Two Is Enough (some as old as 66), not one expressed qualms about his or her decision. Actually, regret is more common among the breeders. In a 2003 survey of more than 20,000 parents that Dr. Phil conducted for his show, 40 percent reported that they wouldn't have had kids if they'd realized the difficulties of raising a family.
My wife and I have plenty of friends whose complaints seem to corroborate the findings of that survey. "I have no time for myself!" they tell us. "I don't know who I am anymore!" "Thank God! Only 11 more years and he'll be out of the house!" "Only 17 years, 8 months, and 29 days and she'll be out of college! Hey, did my watch stop? 'Cause time's moving really fucking slowly!"
"I guess the point is that we feel that we're fulfilled," proclaims Heather McGhinnis. "There's no void. There's nothing missing. We're happy the way things are." So are my wife and I. As we back out of our driveway, cranking up the music to cover the nine-octave wails emanating from our neighbors' back yard, I think to myself, Maybe Laura Scott needs to add a fifth category for couples like us: Relieved Quitters.
Also on Details.com:
Take the Quiz! 8 Ways to Know if You Should Stay Childless
The Gay Parent Trap
The Gay Baby Boom
Are You Jealous of Your Kid?
Are You Raising a Douchebag Kid?
Would You Let Your Wife Have Another Man's Baby?