July 26, 2007 — -- Cristi McCaffrey-Jackson was 24 years old when she told the man who would become her husband that she didn't want to have children.
"He was asking me if I had kids at home, and I said, 'No. It's just not me. If I had a choice in life, I wouldn't have any kids at all,'" Jackson said. "He basically said, 'You're the type of girl I'd like to marry.'"
The Jacksons are part of a growing trend — married couples who are choosing to remain childless.
According to a recent Pew Research Center Survey, the findings are due in large part to the fact that fewer people, across all age groups, consider children to be an important part of a successful marriage.
Only two decades ago the majority of Americans considered children vital to a good marriage. Today, kids fall near the bottom of the list — behind shared household chores, adequate income and housing and a happy sexual relationship.
The study also found that having children is no longer the leading motivation for marriage.
"About 65 percent say that the main purpose is to form a union for personal happiness and fulfillment as opposed to having and raising children," said Cary Funk, a senior researcher at Pew Research Center.
Laura Carroll, author of "Families of Two," explained that many couples are beginning to see marriage as a commitment to their personal connection more than anything else.
"Folks that have children might think the decision is wrong because the bottom line is they do not understand how someone would not have a burning desire to have a child," Carroll said.
Heather and David Smith married in their early 30s. After having difficulty conceiving, they chose a child-free lifestyle.
"Talking to David's dad one day, he said, 'Don't think you have to have them to make your life complete and to make your marriage complete. We were both kind of quiet and we thought, 'Maybe we don't need to have kids,'" Heather said.
The Smiths point out that the couples they know who have children don't seem to have time to focus on each other.
"I think their relationship sometimes seems more strained because there's so much more going on in their lives — their husband might not be the top priority because their kids are their priority. Which is fine, but I like it my husband to be my top priority," she said.
Both the Smiths and the Jacksons said that they love children, but added that it's hard to do it all and that they're not willing to sacrifice their freedom for the sake of having kids.
But the decision to remain child-free comes with its fair share of critics; many people just can't understand the decision.
"I used to feel really persecuted. The thing that really irritates us is everybody thinks we hate kids. And … we don't hate kids. We just chose not to have kids. It's a choice. This is America. We're supposed to have a choice," said Cristi McCaffrey-Jackson.
And it's a choice that child-free couples feel they must defend.
"People with children say, 'They're the biggest joy we have in our lives.' To that I say, that's for you. That's good for you, but I'm fine the way I am. I have no regrets," David Smith said.