Over the years I have tried different responses to the "children" question and I have found that my favorite way to answer the question of whether I have kids is to reply, "yes, I have 3 boys" and then when they get all excited (as women always do), I quickly add, "cats". That always throws them off for a second and then makes them laugh and diffuses any potential discomfort they might feel in the face of a woman who dares to pass on motherhood.
One of the women, Maria, immediately asked, "so you're not married?" which struck me as both funny and a sad statement at the same time. "Oh yes, I'm married", I replied, " we just have chosen not to have kids." The other woman, Lauren's immediate reaction was "No WONDER you have no wrinkles!" It quickly became clear to me that Lauren was very interested in my choice and wanted to know more. As I told them more about our decision, our lifestyle and our perspectives on parenthood, I could see that Maria was looking at me with a bit of suspicion and Lauren seemed star-struck, nodding her head approvingly at everything I said and asking lots of follow-up questions.
As much as women are thrown for a loop when encountering a voluntarily childless woman, I must admit that I am equally thrown for a loop when I meet women who are mothers who enthusiastically respect and admire me for the lifestyle I have chosen. I'm always ready at a split second to get out the psychological armor to protect myself from the pity, the scorn and the judgement that inevitably comes when people learn of my lifestyle, so it is disarming to meet mothers who not only do not judge me harshly, but respect and admire me.