In 1974, Marcia Drut-Davis appeared on TV news show 60 Minutes, explaining to her in-laws and the American public watching that she’d decided not to have children. The backlash was swift and severe: Marcia lost her job as a teacher, had her life threatened (and her dog’s!) and faced judgment from pro-natalists and even some in the childfree community. For 46 years, she’s been fighting to show the world, and childfree people ourselves, that we are valuable, that our choices are valid, and that can be as loving and nurturing as any mother. It was a privilege to look back on a life well-lived with a true childfree icon who blazed a trail for the rest of us.
Follow Marcia on Instagram @childfree_guru, join her Facebook group Confessions of Childfree People, and read her books Confessions of a Childfree Woman (2013) and What?! You Don’t Want Children? (2020).
Read the book that started it all for Marcia, The Baby Trap (1971) by Ellen Peck.
Watch part of Marcia’s 60 Minutes interview on the wonderful documentary To Kid Or Not To Kid (2018) And support another doco, currently in development and also featuring Marcia, My So-Called Selfish Life.
Marcia: It’s a life worth living. It’s a life well-lived. That’s everything. When you come to that part of your life, when it’s over – that feeling of, “It’s been good. I’ve done what I want to do. I’ve been where I want to go. I’ve helped how I want to help. I’ve lived what I need”. That is the biggest joy of this thing called life. And if it’s a child that you’ve had, and you’ve given your love, and you’ve enjoyed that, more power to you – we’re not against that. We’re against defining us as less, barren, unloving, hedonistic, selfish, godless. No, no regrets.
Zoë: Welcome to We are Childfree, a podcast about childfree women and the lives we lead. I’m your host, Zoë, and each episode I’ll speak with another incredible woman about her decision not to have children, and what it’s meant for her life. The voice which opened the show belongs to a living legend, Marcia Drut-Davis. In 1974, Marcia appeared on TV news show 60 Minutes, explaining to her in-laws and the American public watching that she’d decided not to have children. The backlash was horrific: she lost her job as a teacher, received death threats, and faced judgment from pro-natalists – and even some in the childfree community. For 46 years, Marcia has been fighting to show the world, and childfree people ourselves, that we are valuable, that our choices are valid, and that we are as loving and nurturing as any mother. At 78, she looks back on a life well-lived, and doesn’t regret a minute of it. It was an absolute honour to spend some time with a true childfree icon who blazed a trail for the rest of us. Meet: Marcia Drut-Davis.
Marcia: I am not the first. She’s the first: Ellen Peck. This is the book that set me free. Just the way I hope my book set other people free. This woman who we lost in her fifties to cancer, she started this. I became friendly with her and then learned from her and then reached out. This is the beginning.
Zoë: Okay, I’m going to check that out. I’m going to have to read that book. I mean, this is what we need. We need more women sharing their stories. And you know, when you see that someone else is going through this, it helps you process your feelings so much more. You know, when I discovered there were childfree women out there, it just helped me realise that I’m not alone. And yeah, we need more of our stories out in the world.
Marcia: And people like myself who are now old. Oh god, I can’t stand. I can’t stand it. But we can look back, and we can say, “I’ve made no mistakes. I have loved this lifestyle. I continue to love this lifestyle.” Yeah, the older ones can help the younger ones.
Zoë: So the first thing that I wanted to ask you really was, when did you decide that you didn’t want children? Was it something that you’ve always known about? Did it come to you later? Tell me about how you came to this decision.
Marcia: It’s pretty funny. I think the very first time was when my mommy explained to me where babies come from. And when she told me that they came out of a vagina, and that the vagina gets bigger and bigger and bigger, and then the baby is pushed out, I was like, “What???” “Oh, but it’s worth it. It’s so worth it”. I think that was the beginning of my questioning. But I was a kid. You know, it didn’t really hit me until I was married the first time. Neither of us had ever said a word about kids – it was expected that I would have children. There was a pregnancy scare, and my husband was like a proud peacock: “We’re gonna have a baby”. And I was like, “Uhh”. Until I found out that I thank goodness wasn’t pregnant. But then that marriage was so short lived. It wasn’t an issue, you know, because then I was divorced so fast from him.
Zoë: I’ve read the first book about, you know, that history with him? And, I mean, it sounds scary to me, like, the pressure that women were under back then to just not even think about if they had a decision –
Marcia: They still are, they still are.
Zoë: Yeah, absolutely.
Marcia: But the second marriage, with Warren, My second marriage, we never talked about it, never said a word. I was a little older, and we had money problems, and we kept making excuses. And then I read The Baby Trap. When I read this book, I just handed it to him. I said, “We need to talk”. And both of us were like, “Phew, no, we don’t want to have children”. He had written me a song. He played the guitar. And he had written me a song picturing me on the back porch with a baby in my arms. And it was a beautiful folky kind of song, singing to me on his guitar. And I said, “I guess that song has to be thrown out”.
Zoë: Oh no…
Marcia: But we were not yet “out”. I mean, it’s the same as anybody who is in a closet. We had not come out and said, “This is our choice. We’re happy with it. Be happy for us”. And it wasn’t until when I was asked to be on 60 Minutes that the shit hit the fan.
Zoë: Yeah, it kicked off. So that was the first time that you’d actually openly said that you wanted to live childfree. Is that right?
Marcia: Yes, it was in 1974. I was on 60 Minutes. And Warren and I were interviewed for the first time telling his parents we were not going to have children. And it was a two hour ordeal that was edited to 20 minutes, making me look like a bitch. And you can visually see me, I believe it’s To Kid Or Not To Kid – part of it is on there. I have the whole thing that I show on my cruises, but you can see me looking like I’m the one that’s talking and Warren is just going like this – not one word in 20 minutes. You can hear him say one little thing to his father. And that’s it. So I’m the bitch, it’s me. Oh, manip – I didn’t know what pronatalism was, I didn’t know what editing was. I didn’t know anything until that show. And then when Mike Wallace ended that show, with his famous last line, “Pardon our perversion for airing this on Mother’s Day. Good night, everyone”. I was a perverse person. I was a perverse teacher. I had death threats. I lost my job for 15 years as a teacher. I mean, I can’t make this up.
Zoë: No, no, it’s shocking. It’s shocking.
Marcia: You talk about… “What?” And it took me a long time to get over that because you don’t know what it’s like to get a death threat. You don’t know what it’s like to have your dog – somebody said, “Watch your dog, I’d be careful with your dog. You don’t deserve to have a dog to care for”. I mean, I lived in terror. And then I began to talk and then I had to be taken across picketing lines of women – “Godless bitch, godless bitch” – and the police had to take me across. Because I spoke in high school seniors telling them they had a choice, because the pregnancy rate on Long Island was outrageous. And there was, I never say, “Don’t be a parent”. Never, no. If you want to be a parent and you want that job, wow, what a job. I don’t want it, but go for it, be a good parent.
Zoë: I mean, the backlash is crazy.
Zoë: It’s – seeing what you went through, I’m not surprised it took a while to get over that. I mean, losing your job that you loved, and were really really amazing at – that hurts.
Marcia: Passionate. I loved it.
Zoë: Yeah. And this whole assumption that childfree women hate kids or are terrible with kids is so false. It’s bullshit. It’s all fake. You know, it’s the media swirling up these lies to make people really hate childfree people because they just want women to keep having kids. And you know, that must have hurt so much.
Marcia: It still does. It still does. I have a neighbour who still screams at me, “Child hater, child hater!” Every time I see her in the driveway, “Child hater!”.
Marcia: Yes! Now!
Zoë: What is wrong with people?
Marcia: I have to live with a whack attack next door. Because she heard about my book, and, you know, I’m getting – it’s funny how now, after all these years, suddenly, I’m a diva. You’re just like “What?” She heard about it, told the neighbourhood about it, and, when I walk down the street, I have people that turn their back on me. That’s what I’m living with now.
Zoë: Oh, my god, why? Where does this come from? Where does – this hate for women who don’t want to have children – where does it come from?
Marcia: I don’t know. I think it’s very threatening to some. I think they really think that we hate children. And by the way, there are people that do not like children. Would we want them to have children?
Zoë: No, exactly. Let’s let people who want kids have them and those who don’t want them not have them. It’s quite simple.
Marcia: But let them be prepared.
Marcia: They’re not prepared to have kids. There’s not one course in any school that says, “Are you parent material? This is what it’s like to parent, day to day, year to year” – not one. You have to pass a course to work in the post office, drive a bus.
Zoë: It’s kind of crazy, right? I mean, to me, this is the most important job in the world. And yet we let anyone do it without any help, guidance, giving them any kind of support, skills, whatever. We just go, “Go for it. It doesn’t matter what you do, just go for it”. Which – it blows my mind. It really does. You know, so how was your family when they watched that 60 Minutes? How were the friends and family, the people who knew you and loved you? How did they react?
Marcia: Mixed. My mother was very quiet. My mother-in-law that night wrote a poem, and the last was, I think something about, “To whom will you leave all your worldly goods? To the robbers, the junkies, just the plain hood. But this is how our story, and our children, though married, are really just friends.”
Zoë: Wow, okay… So not so happy.
Marcia: And she cried, she cried. You have to understand – Warren is a Jewish man, I’m a Jewish woman. And we have been taught to replace the lost souls of the Holocaust. It’s a shonda – a shame – if you do not carry a child, if you do not bring back a soul to this planet, in the Jewish tradition. For them, it was horrible. My mom was very quiet. My mom has always been my, she was my biggest supporter of my life. She had always wanted children. And I think she was disappointed. But she never said anything, you know, that was detrimental to me. Never. Luckily, my sister gave her two grandchildren. So that helped.
Zoë: Okay, that’s good. Yeah, it took the pressure off a little bit. Yeah. But obviously now, in, you know, in my time here, I have much more choice to make this decision. And yes, we face backlash, absolutely. But I am so in awe of women like yourself who, you know – back then you lost your job because of this.
Marcia: 15 years. 15 years, no pension.
Zoë: I mean, it’s shocking that that’s what you went through. But you were so strong in your reserve that this is important to you, which is incredible. You know, what is it about this that is so important to you? Why, why is this so passionate for you?
Marcia: Well, I think when you’ve been this affected by a choice, and you know how unfair the perception is of you as a human being, it becomes – I think for me, it becomes bigger than life. It was my passion, what I could wrap my heart and brains around. And when I wrote the first book, and that was 15 year – I was scared to do anything for a while. It was to reach one person. People have said, “Oh, she’s just trying to make money”. If I had written a book that said, “50 shades of a 78 year old in a sexual revolution”, I’d be running to the bank. This is not the kind of book where you go running to the bank, trust me on that. And the second book, I mean, those two books were thousands of dollars with editors and publishers and book designers and – thousands. So it was just that, for me, it was my passion, something that gave me a reason to be alive. And reaching your heart, reaching other hearts, reaching the hearts of people who say to me, “This has changed my life”… Because I know what that feels like from Ellen – Ellen changed my life. And even if it’s not child-freedom, if you can change the life of one person, there’s no gift greater than that. Nothing, nothing.
Zoë: Absolutely, yeah. I mean, starting this project, and receiving messages from women who say they finally feel seen, there’s something so incredible about being part of that community, that basically society has ousted us and said, we are abnormal, and we are broken. And then you know, being able to connect with women all over the world who feel like you do, and we know there’s nothing wrong with us. There’s nothing, we’re not broken. We just, we have different priorities, we have different preferences, there’s nothing abnormal about us.
Marcia: We also have more time, and we have to do what we want to do. Many of us love the planet, many of us are involved with animals. Many of us have what I call “daughter friends”, and some friends and people who have not had connection to their parents, and we reach out to them. Many of us are terrific aunts, or uncles, or teachers or doctors or lawyers, or just people who are gardening and creating beauty on this planet. Creating that child is a phenomenal, phenomenal thing, but not creating a child and nurturing in another way, what’s wrong with that? What’s wrong with that?
Zoë: Hear hear. So do you then regret doing the 60 Minutes interview? Or did it push you into this amazing direction where you thought, “I’m going to do this”?
Marcia: I do not regret that experience. There were no failures, there were only lessons. That lesson was profound. Because now if a reporter asked me a question, and I know what that question is, and then I repeat it the way I want to hear it, and I repeat what I just said the way I want them to hear it, and I repeat what I just said. Go try to edit that – I know what a broken record is in a response. And it brought me to you – look at that, it brought me to you. And you will reach thousands, or, you already have. I mean, I don’t know what you’re doing. Whoa, it’s great.
Zoë: Well, I mean, this is something that I’m so passionate about. It’s something I can do with my camera – I can do this. And, like you said, just being able to change even one person’s life so that then they know that they are not alone, that feels incredible. And it makes you want to keep doing it and doing it. And, you know, we need to find all of the women out there who are like us, to show them that this is a completely valid way of living, and we can live fulfilling lives. I am not missing anything in my life through not having children. I would love to know – because regret is one of the biggest things I was pushed on, you know, we’ll regret this when we’re older. Have you ever regretted not having children?
Marcia: No, but there were moments that I call pronatalist verse. And I’ve been faulted for this, taken out of context. In my first book, I mentioned there were times when I was younger, when I would visit one of my friends who just gave birth, and they were holding this little baby to their breast and everybody was ooh-ing and aah-ing and it looks so sweet and so precious. And I went, “Oh, baby, baby, baby”. And then I continued to write, and this was taken out of context. That was it. “Oh, she really wanted to have a child, she’s such a fake and a liar”. But what I say is, what happened before that moment? What will happen after that moment, what we call a Hallmark – or Kodak in the old days of film – moments. And those are the moments where I stopped for a second because of pronatalism, because of brainwashing. But now at 78, I think about dying. And I think about my family tree withering. It looks kind of sad, my limb – it’s like this lost limb., But then I say to myself, “Wait a minute, I touched your heart, you’re gonna live on with me”. I have four what I call daughter-friends, who are actively in our lives. One of them has a son, he calls me “Marma”, “Marcia-grandma”. And I talk to her every night when she’s coming home from work. I speak to another woman at least twice a week. And I have one here, of those students who never disconnected. And I have a young lady here who moved from Costa Rica – her mother threw her away, this young woman on her own, has her own home, had an education. When the COVID hit, she bought the food to us, because she lives here. I mean, you can have those nurturing moments if that’s what you miss. But in the second book, when I talked about cancer, and how I faced death, with cancer, and I was sitting there with chemo, and I was looking around, and I’m trying to see who’s there, who’s there with all these people. And I wondered, there was somebody there, it was a younger person, was that their son or daughter? Maybe it was a neighbour? I don’t know. And then there were other people who had nobody. Maybe they had five kids, and none of them come. Maybe one had died. Maybe one lived in another country. Maybe one was estranged. Maybe one couldn’t care less. I mean, there’s so many – and I realized at that moment, that that was not what I was missing. Because I had the most wonderful nurses and doctors. And I had a husband, and I had friends who made soup for me and took me to radiation and, and cared. And that’s the thing that counts, creating that circle of friendship. That’s everything.
Zoë: Absolutely. Absolutely. We can leave a legacy. We don’t need to leave just a genetic legacy. Right? We can leave a legacy through so many other ways. As a public figure, in the childfree world, have you seen attitudes change towards childfree women in general? Is it getting better, is it getting worse? What do you think?
Marcia: I’m asked that question all the time, all the time. And the answer is yes and no. Depending on where you live. If you’re in a city, there’s more chances that you’ll be more accepted. If you’re in a suburb, not a chance in hell, because everything is home and hearth, or church, which is of course, they want more people – or temples, they want more people. So, again, depending on where you live, depending on city or suburb, there’s a small, starting – 46 years later – of acceptance. But still, most people that get on your site, or my site, or Instagram or Facebook, there’s thousands, maybe millions at this point, that hunger to feel acknowledged, supported, validated. That still may think, “What’s wrong with me? How come I don’t have this instinct?” So yes and no? Sadly, sadly, it’s still no.
Zoë: Yeah, it’s difficult, isn’t it? I hope the younger generations are embracing this. I mean, we know the birth rates are dropping. So it’s interesting, what will you know, younger women, what are they going to do? Can they even afford to have kids?, The world has changed so much, and I can’t imagine how difficult it is to even want to raise a child, right now.
Marcia: But the other question I have, look what’s happening on this planet. With a pandemic, and climate change, and I – it’s hard for me to wrap my brain around. Why would you put a child right now on this planet? Or more than one and have two and three and four? What?!
Zoë: Yeah, it’s pretty, it’s intense. It is an interesting question I asked as well. I think people like to put their heads in the sand, and not ask too many questions. Just follow what everyone else is doing. Life is easier that way. If you want to go against the grain, it’s gonna be more difficult. But I absolutely am happy to do that. I’d rather be true to myself, like you, and face that backlash and show people that there is nothing wrong with the decision that we’ve made. And stay true to myself. So I hope that we can inspire other women to follow that and be authentic to themselves.
Marcia: Yes. And I think one of the other things that’s so important is they don’t have to prove themselves. They don’t have to have a career. They don’t have to be, as you and I are, you know, trailblazers. They can just live their own life. They can sleep late in the morning and read a book or go to their jobs and come home and take a bath, have a glass of wine, enjoy who they are. They don’t have to be married. I don’t want childfree women to think that if they’re not something, or if they haven’t accomplished something, great, then they’re less than – they’re not. They’re just not. Not all of them have what you and I have that – that advocate need – and that’s okay. And we’re all not wealthy.
Zoë: Sadly, no!
Marcia: Do you know how many times I get, “Oh, you’re just hungry for money”?
Marcia: I don’t know if you can see my chair, the thing is coming apart. I mean, I’m not wealthy.
Zoë: And even if you were wealthy, why is what you do not even a legitimate way to earn money? If people support what you do. And ultimately, that’s all we want – to help people. And if someone wanted to support you by buying your book, which you put your time, effort, and passion into writing, what’s wrong with that? Nothing, you know, but people like to bring other people down.
Marcia: You’re not gonna believe this. There is a movement within our movement, I call them the purists, who have attacked me on Reddit, attacked me as a review on my first book, Confessions of a Childfree Woman, where they feel because I was a dedicated teacher, because I was involved with children, because I still am heart-connected, because I once took the title of step-mother… I’m a sham. I’m a fake. I’m a phony. All I want is money from my book, money from my cruises – which I’m telling you the amount of money that I get doesn’t come near what I do for those cruises – and that I’m to be abhorred, reviled and kept away from. I cannot begin to tell you the shock when I realised that, I literally almost passed out the first time I heard somebody say that. And there’s another site that was not allowed to have me on it. I’ve been banned from certain sites. Me. It’s like, “What?!”
Zoë: I mean. So this is something that – I mean, when I started this project and I was looking at the childfree movement in general, what I noticed is that, yes, there can be lots of negativity inside of the movement in general and purists like you say… I don’t understand this. Because, ultimately, aren’t we just here to empower women? Isn’t that our goal? To empower women to live their lives. And if you have, if any childfree person has a stepchild, so what? We are trying to tell the world that we can still love a child, we can still be around children, we can still nurture. So what on earth is wrong with being a step parent? I have no idea. So that is ridiculous. Whoever is doing that needs to get a life.
Marcia: And the sad thing is, it remains as a review of my book, with a picture of that one paragraph, where I talked about having a child at my breast, but negating what I wrote after that. It was a pronatalist, brainwashed moment.
Zoë: That’s ridiculous. Because, that moment in your book, I remember reading that thinking, “That is so true”. Because I have a nephew, and I love him. And when I saw my nephew with my sister, and you have those seconds of pure joy and love that you feel, and you’re like, “Wow, yeah”. And, at that moment, you can have a pang of like, “That’s amazing. And I won’t get that. But I understand that – “
Marcia: It is, yeah –
Zoë: Yeah, it is amazing. And there’s nothing wrong with feeling that, because no path is 100% right or wrong, being childfree or being a parent. There is no perfect path in life. So we will miss some things. We will gain other things. Parents have things and then there’s other things. So I really appreciated that part in your book. I think ignore the haters, Marcia, ignore the haters. They obviously, you know, they just want to bring you down, and they need to get a life.
Marcia: Any kind of hate is about the hater. It’s not about you. It’s their choice of thoughts, their misperception. In the second book, which is all about rejection, I write about that a lot. Because I had to live that to learn it. I still have to learn it. When she screams at me, “Child hater!”
Zoë: I mean, yeah, that’s the thing – we put ourselves out there. Sadly, there’s going to be people who don’t want to hear what we have to say, and they will always be negative. But you know, because we’re passionate about this, it’s important. And we have to just keep going, keep going. So I, yeah, I urge you to just ignore those articles.
Marcia: Well, you know, what really is pretty funny. I used to live in New York, on Long Island. And when I did get back into teaching 15 years later, I had a master’s degree in another field, teaching English as a second language. And, because I remarried – don’t judge me. I’ve been married three times –
Zoë: Not from me, I’m not judging.
Marcia: Believe me, it was worth it, getting Jim. When I finally had my name change, they didn’t know who I was, I was immediately hired. I was nominated by my peers for Walt Disney’s American Teacher Award in East Meadow – by my peers. If I hated kids, I could never have that nomination. I didn’t win, but it was so uplifting.
Zoë: That’s amazing.
Marcia: 600 teachers at East Meadow. So it was a great feeling.
Zoë: That’s amazing. So what do you think it’s going to take for women to be able to make this decision without facing a backlash?
Marcia: More of you. More of me. Being seen, heard, experienced. More of the Facebook sites, the Instagram sites and the feeling of pride. We need to be able to stand up with as much joy and say we’re not going to have a child and even have a shower for that. I mean, why not? They do baby showers. Why not “having no kids” shower? What do you bring to it? Maybe condoms. I don’t know. I actually sometimes bring condoms to baby showers and that doesn’t go down well. But the pride – not the defence, not the push-pull dance of dysfunction, cha cha cha, you’re gonna lose. And if they’re at the point where they’re religious, and they’re gonna say, “God’s gonna punish you”, you leave them alone. Yeah, you will never win them over. But you gotta win over yourself. Feel that joy, that freedom that says, “I am me. This is for me, it’s not for you. That’s okay. I like what you’re doing if you like what you’re doing, but I’m not going to defend it. I’m not going to be afraid of it. I’m going to speak it with passion, like any parent seems to do.”
Zoë: Here, here.
Marcia: Now, I wasn’t like that at first. I was a defiant fighter. It doesn’t do any good.
Zoë: No. So you would kind of go, you would try and justify your reasons and say –
Marcia: Yes. “I’m not that way. I’m not that way. I’m not that way”. I did this. I just know, I don’t need to do that. I don’t need to do that. They don’t need to do that! And yet when we say to them, “Well, why did you have a kid?” “Well, I want -” Isn’t that selfish? And you’re calling me selfish? “Well, I want -” well, that’s selfish. I used to do that all the time.
Zoë: Yeah. I mean, those words that people throw out, that childfree women are selfish – I don’t understand at all. Because how can it be selfish to just choose yourself, to live a life that you will be happy? How is that selfish? I do not understand.
Marcia: I love that word. I want to be selfish, in a positive way. I want to take care of myself. And I take care of me. I have to take care of me. Now you may deem that to be, “You’re selfish”. That’s your problem. You’re choosing the wrong thought. I know who I am. I know what I do. I know what I feel. I know what my life is – don’t categorise me. But usually, this time of my life, I would tell people, if they start in, you just smile to yourself. Know what your lifestyle is like, you wish them well. You send them love and say, “I’m done talking”.
Zoë: I love that.
Marcia: Sometimes you have to leave people. Sometimes it’s so toxic, so depleting of your joy. You have to cut that tie. And families are not necessarily forever. I mean, I write in my second book, I have no relationship with my niece and my nephew anymore. They have thrown me away –
Zoë: Because of this?
Marcia: Partly. With one of them, partly because I’m a writer and I wrote a journal for both of them. And I included things that my niece felt was not to be included. And she took my nephew’s journal, read it and then just threw me under the bus. And they were things I should not have written. And I apologise for that. Because, you know, I’m a writer, and sometimes writers write too much. I should have journaled it to myself. And I didn’t. I didn’t. And I only meant well, but it came out to be horrible. And then because I wrote this book, and it affected my niece, who said to me, “Well, not everybody thinks the way you do it, Marcia” And when the first book came out, I said, “Why haven’t you shared it with your friends?” She says, “Well, do you think I believe the way you believe? My friends wouldn’t want to read your book”. And that started the whole thing again. Then my sister took their stance and I lost my sister for eight years. She’s just starting to come back to me. But I lost eight years of relationship with my baby sister. So you know, families are not forever. You’re born into a family. Sometimes it’s not the right fit. And just letting go, but sending love in your heart, in your thoughts to heal their heart, not yours. Yeah, just standing to what you need. Embracing the family of friends, people you love as yours. That’s a family.
Zoë: It does surprise me when I hear from the women that I interview, that family members will tell them, “This is not right. You have to have a child – you have to do this”. And I don’t understand why anyone would have a child and then force them to live a life that they were not happy and – I just don’t understand. It’s so depressing to me.
Marcia: I’ve heard about women being left out of a will, because their brother or sister has kids. What an insult. Oh god, yes. I interviewed a woman whose father said to her, “You’re not having any children. Well, let me tell you something – your mother wanted to abort you. And I begged her not to. And now I wish she had”.
Zoë: Oh my gosh, I can’t understand.
Marcia: I was in tears. This woman and I were just… I was interviewing her for the book. Yeah, that happens.
Zoë: That’s so sad. Yeah, that’s the trauma that many people have to live with. Yeah,
Marcia: There’s a doctor in Nigeria. If she dared say that she’s childfree by choice, she’d be considered a man, nobody would go to her. There’s a woman in Greece, she was called soulless, soulless. And children were kept away from her, because they thought the children could be affected by her.
Zoë: No, no. This is the interesting thing, how different countries obviously, especially those with, you know, really religious backgrounds, how much they impact so many women. And I feel like I am one of the lucky ones – I live in a country that I can get by with my decision relatively peacefully. You know, there are still some terrible comments from medical professionals or judgments from strangers – still, I will get that. But I’m very grateful. I’m not in a country where we’re not allowed to have abortions – and women still don’t have autonomy over their own bodies in many, many countries. And this is something that is also important in this whole movement, because really, we just do not have control over our bodies. Still.
Marcia: Can women get sterilised in your country?
Zoë: Very difficult. We can have the conversation with the doctors, but we’re talking years to get. It’s not something that you can just get, you know, until you’re much older, which is shocking to me.
Marcia: Well, we have a young lady who will be talking on our cruise, Nicole. She was 24, when she finally got sterilised, and she is now the person that people run to, for help, to find a doctor who will accept without a written consent from the husband.
Zoë: I’ve heard of this, it blows my mind. 2021 – we still need to get permission from our husband. Yeah, that is shocking to me. Shocking.
Marcia: It’s probably the same issue that Ellen Peck had in so many ways. I mean, I’m sure she didn’t even think about sterilisation in 1974 as an option, but men can get their vasectomies a heck of a lot faster. And it’s much more successful.
Zoë: Yeah, my husband had a vasectomy, and within about three weeks. It was like, “Do you want kids?” “No.” “Okay, I’ll put you in the calendar.” And that was it. My friends who want sterilisation here, some of them have been told it will take you 10 years of multiple doctors, psychiatrists, and even then it’s probably unlikely you’ll get it. And I’m just thinking, this is unreal. How can women be treated so differently by medical professionals? And, because society believes it’s our duty to have children, our body is not our own.
Marcia: I’ve heard people say, “Well, how come you were born with two breasts and a uterus?” And I’ve said, “Well, I’ve also been born with two lungs, but I’m not an opera singer”. Hello? It’s the way I am. And oh, and oh, how about the women facing infertility? What they go through?
Marcia: They’re actually told they’re less. They’re child-less. And then once they reach acceptance, it becomes child-free. It is sad.
Zoë: Yeah. It is. It is. I hope we can… I hope it changes. I hope we can change it quicker as well, you know, hearing from you – obviously, you’ve seen over the decades, you’ve seen how it can change, but it’s still not changed that much. Which is very sad.
Marcia: You know, like I said, you help, you are going to help.
Zoë: I’m going to try, I’m going to try.
Marcia: You’re doing it. If there’s one woman that has heard something, they will go and tell somebody else and that will continue. Just like a pandemic but in a good way. A good way. How we feel about ourselves, trouble, the good trouble.
Zoë: So then, Marcia, what advice would you give to other women out there who are maybe trying to – they’re grappling with this decision? They don’t know. They think they want to be childfree, but they just don’t know whether it’s really for them. What do you tell women who are kind of grappling with this?
Marcia: Oh, I have the answer. I want you to write a journal every day, of what you’ve been doing for about a week. Stupid stuff – breakfast, washing dishes, going shopping, going to work, coming back, sitting on the toilet, not being interrupted. Although if you have a dog, you may be – my dog sits and watches me. Watching the TV, reading a book, whatever it is, every stupid, wonderful little thing, write it down for one week. Then, if possible, spend time with kids, not just babysitting, quality time. If you are an auntie or an uncle, bring that child into your home for more than a few days. Your sister would love it. It’s a break. You’ll get past that moment that you just shared when you went “aww”, because you’ll see the reality, and the time and the commitment and the needs. “I want. I need. What are we doing? I’m bored. What are we going to do? What can I do? Where can I have my friends? Can I have pizza? I don’t like that. I don’t want to eat that.” It’s part of what children are. Yeah. quality – not babysitting. Compare, contrast, decide?
Zoë: I love that.
Marcia: That little journal? Woah.
Zoë: Before everyone has a kid, yeah, if they could just do that. I think it would change a lot of people’s minds if they actually saw the reality. And I’ve heard that from my friend who’s a nanny, that seeing the reality of what having a child entails, it’s a shock. And it absolutely makes you think twice about it. You know, I love, I love that advice.
Marcia: 24 hours a day. And for those who say, “Well, it’s only 18 years and then I’ll have all that freedom” – such nonsense. My mama worried about me to the day she died, til the day she died. You just don’t not have kids in your life unless they are estranged from you. They’re in your life forever. And their issues, and if they have children, the grandchildren. Oh, that’s the other thing. The icing on the cake of grandchildren. That is a myth. That’s beyond belief. Sometimes as a baby, and when maybe as a toddler, they love the grammy, they love the grampy. Then they start growing up, they have lives of their own. My neighbour next door was sick with, the thing that you get when you have that rash all over you – shingles. Yeah, she has two grown grandsons, two grown sons, not one came to help them. We did their shopping. We bought them to the doctor. We got the medication next door to them. So I rest my case.
Zoë: Yeah, no, absolutely. Childfree women, we are a positive force in this world – and men – childfree men and women. We are a positive force in this world. And people need to see that.
Marcia: And I loved it. I loved being there for her.
Zoë: Of course, of course, yeah. So I’m going to ask then one last question just to make sure we cover this, Marcia because we talked about you know, the regret of –
Marcia: You can’t scare me! Anything!
Zoë: I’ll throw anything at you. Okay. I mean, the question about regret is always the thing that is thrown out to childfree women – you will regret this. You know, do you regret not having children?
Marcia: No. Not one minute. Not one nanosecond, not one half of a nanosecond. My life, as it is now, as it’s been in the past, as I see it in the future – I hope – is lovely. It’s filled with what I want. It’s filled with people I care about and who care about me. I think it’s important to wrap your heart around something, that you wake up in the morning, especially as you get older – I do not sit and watch Let’s Make a Deal on TV. I’m out as far as, I’m here, every morning I have Instagram, I have women, I have men, writing to me. It took six years of my life to write the two books that I wrote and then I was a keynote at The NotMom summit, and I’m in two documentaries, one of which you can see right now, To Kid Or Not To Kid –
Zoë: I’ve seen that, yes – incredible.
Marcia: – and My So-Called Selfish Life, which we will screen on that childfree cruise. She, Therese, will be on board screening it. No, not a second, not a minute. Not even when I thought I was dying. Not even then. Because it’s a life worth living. It’s a life well-lived. That’s everything. When you come to that part of your life, when it’s over – that feeling of, “It’s been good. I’ve done what I want to do. I’ve been where I want to go. I’ve helped how I want to help. I’ve lived what I need”. That is the biggest joy of this thing called life. And if it’s a child that you’ve had, and you’ve given your love, and you’ve enjoyed that, more power to you – we’re not against that. We’re against defining us as less, barren, unloving, hedonistic, selfish, godless. No, no regrets.
Zoë: We are Childfree is hosted by me, Zoë Noble, and produced by James Glazebrook. If you liked this episode, please leave a 5-star review on Apple Podcasts, as this really helps other people find us. Head to wearechildfree.com to read more stories from incredible childfree women, and find out how to share your story with me. Speak soon lovelies :)