A: I had resigned myself to the fact that I wasn't going to have children. I got involved with a man, who I'm married to now, who had grown children, and it pushed some buttons. I wondered if I had made a mistake. I wondered if others had mixed feelings, too. I decided to do the book, and I interviewed people who had not had children either by choice or because they could not physically have them.
Q: What was most surprising?
A: The thing that surprised me most is how complete and happy people without children tend to be. Studies show that couples without children are happier than parents. On average, people without kids have eight hours more free time per day than those with two kids.
Q: For these couples, what is the key to creating a complete life?
A: Finding avenues to fill in that extra time is key. Some of them have pets or they take on the role of uncle or aunt for nieces, nephews, and their friend's kids. We all have a need to nurture. It's good to know that there are other ways to meet that need.
Q: Did any of them have any regrets?
A: Some have regret, but I feel it's coming from society. You go to the movies or see your friends, and they talk about kids and grandkids. And you feel left out. People say being a parent is the most rewarding aspect of their lives. You have to do a lot of mind juggling to get over the thought that you're missing out. You have to think about your accomplishments.
I still have doubts, especially at the holidays when family is the focus. I received a card from a friend who wrote, "On my way to grandchild heaven," and I thought I will never go to grandchild heaven. I felt a pain in my heart. Then I thought, 'I don't even want to hang out with her because she'll probably spend all her time talking about her grandchild.'
Q: How did these couples go about deciding not to have children?
A: One woman went and spent a long weekend with a girlfriend, who had two young children, so she could be with them 24-seven to see what it was like. People don't often discuss their thoughts about having children before marriage, but they should. Couples need to be on the same page.
Q: How do those who can't physically have kids but wanted them cope?
A: If it's something really important to you, you have to find a way to make it happen. There's adoption, for instance. If you decide [these other options] are not for you, then you have to allow for some grieving time. Next, you have to decide how to spend those extra eight hours. Travel, volunteer, take up art. This way you'll have something to talk about on Monday mornings in the office while the others are discussing their weekends with the kids.
Q: What should others know about these couples?
A: Just because a couple doesn't have children doesn't mean they don't like children. They might not like children, but don't jump to conclusions. Embrace us and invite us into your life.