Ever heard of the term D.I.N.K.? It's a cutesy acronymn describing childfree people which stands for, "Double Income, No Kids". There's a related label T.H.I.N.K.E.R. which stands for "Two Healthy Incomes, No Kids, Early Retirement". Catchy, but I don't care for either of them. Here's why:
1. DINK reminds me of DORK. It has an insulting ring to it.
2. THINKER sounds better - after all, we pride ourselves on the amount of thought we put into the parenthood decision - and it makes us sound intellectual and all, but...
3. Both these acronyms promote the tired stereotype of childfree folks as selfish, materialistic hedonists.
Think about it. When you hear, "Double Income, No Kids", what do you picture? Two career-hungry jetsetters, clinking their wine glasses together while they pack their suitcases for Bora Bora? Growing investment accounts? Closets full of designer clothing? A Beamer in the driveway and a gardener in the yard?
When you hear "Two Healthy Incomes, No Kids, Early Retirement" what do you picture? Two shallow, miserly yuppies squirelling away all their money and kicking their feet up at age 35?
I realize there's a bit of truth in this stereotype. After all, all other things being equal, the childfree DO have more disposible income than their child-encumbered peers. Parents are faced with a $250,000 price tag to raise each kid to age 18 and that doesn't even include college or weddings! That's a heck a lot of money that we do not have to expend. Our vacations CAN be more exotic and we can travel whatever time of the year we like. And because we are free of the financial burden of raising children, we CAN sock more of our money away for retirement if we choose to. Some of the more fortunate (and smart planners) among us can even retire early.
My problem with the labels D.I.N.K. and T.H.I.N.K.E.R. is that they shout, "I'm childfree and money defines me!" And "I'm richer than you - na na na na na!" And "I don't have kids because I'd rather have money!". For most childfree people having more money is an important and substantial benefit of our lifestyle - but it's not the central motivating factor behind our decision not to have kids.
Ask 100 childfree people why they chose not to have children and most likely, these are the reasons you will hear most frequently:
1. I like my life the way it is and believe having children would spoil it.
2. I enjoy my freedom.
3. The role of parent holds no appeal to me.
4. I don't like children or I like them, but in small doses.
5. I have a happy marriage/relationship and I want to keep it that way.
6. I prefer a calm lifestyle.
While many childfree people will also point out that they are happy not to incur all the expenses of having kids, I doubt many of them would reply, "I decided not to have kids because I'd rather keep my money all to myself!" or "It's more important that I sock all my money away so I can retire early."
Now, are there people for whom money and retirement are central motivating factors in their decision not to reproduce? Most certainly. But D.I.N.K. and T.H.I.N.K.E.R. ignore the many other salient reasons we have opted for our awesome lifestyle and lump the entire childfree point of view into one heaping pile of materialism and greed.
As for hubby and I, not a day goes by that we don't look at our friends and family with kids and breathe a collective sigh of relief that we did not opt for that lifestyle. Among many other things, we see what they spend on groceries, child care, college funds, clothing, medical expenses, utilities, Christmas, and kids' activities and entertainment. We see how strapped they are - how they no longer get to go on nice vacations or even out to dinner very often. While hubby and I certainly have our share of expenses and bills, and we're not exactly rolling in dough, our obligations pale in comparison to our child-burdened peers. We are so grateful that we opted for our childfree lifestyle. Having said this, money was not thee motivating factor. Had we wanted kids, I am sure we would have done what everyone else does and found a way to make it work. We would have sacrified our savings, our retirement funds and hard-earned cash at the altar of parenthood, just as everyone else does. We would have shelled out megabucks to give our children the best, convicing ourselves it's so worth it while we slaved away and worried ourselves sick over whether we would ever be able to afford to retire.
I'm not a big fan of acronyms, but we definitely need a better one than D.I.N.K. and T.H.I.N.K.E.R. - something more all-emcompassing that captures the substance of who the childfree are:
And if you want to throw a word in there that says we're in better financial straights than parents, that's okay too.