BUILDING THE DINKlife
By Heide Island
Forget the 47 percent, the 1 percent, 99 percent or any other percentages volleyed between partisan groups. Instead consider this one, 20 percent. That is the number of American, married women (and implicitly men) of reproductive age, who opted out of the baby highway in favor of the childfree-way. As a demographic, dual income and no kids (“DINKS”) represent 1 in 5 adults, as such, they are an enigmatic group, both everywhere and nowhere. Totally unrepresented in politics, with absolutely no lobby rallying to support the largely middleclass, educated, employed numbers, their political niche is a series of checked boxes: pro-choice, pro-human rights (i.e., same-sex marriage), middle class, secular, and so on. Perhaps no one embodies these diverse and dual memberships of the DINK demographic more than Katelyn Watson and Cory Jones, the founders of DINKlife.com, a virtual community center for couples who have either elected to remain childless, who are uncertain about whether they want children, or have simply postponed the parenting decision.
I met the couple for dinner through a DINKlife “Meet-Out” while they were enjoying a vacation in Oregon. Cory, a former college, strong man champion is an intimidating architectural presence, with shoulders that could dangle you and10 of your slight-sized friends. In conversation, Cory’s elocution has a subtle, southern lilt, nodding to a childhood of Texas-style barbecue, chili, and hot sauce. Pair these qualities with a “casual Friday” demeanor and any initial impulse to inventory your pocket for the pepper spray is assuaged. Katelyn is significantly more diminutive in both height and mass than her fiancé; her mild mien and cherubian blond hair are reminiscent of the muses from a Maxfield Parrish painting. Though corporate experience and a candid communication style belie Katelyn’s calm veneer, as Cory is quick to point out during his recollection of their first meeting, “she came by my desk to introduce herself…she is very succinct and very busy, and you could tell she was clever, I still don’t remember exactly what she said; but it was really funny…I thought this is a person I am going to get a long with really well.” Their first meeting was actually at work, it might be clear from the branding, beta testing, and the search fluency of the DINKlife website that Cory and Katelyn share a background in marketing. Both from Texas, they met while working in the Marketing Department for the Dallas corporate office of La Quinta Management, a chain of more than 800 hotels in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. Though both have since moved on, Cory is entirely dedicated to the DINKlife community while Katelyn splits her time between DINKlife and marketing for Shutterfly.
Now over four years into their relationship, engaged, and sharing long-distance custody of an aged Chihuahua with Katelyn’s parents, it might be a surprise to learn that the founders of one of the most ‘Liked’ online sites for those without children, are in fact, unsure about whether they want children of their own (or at least the human kind). Cory notes, “Our families frequently tell us that if we are waiting for the right time to have children, it will never be the right time, you just have to do it.” He chuckles, “but why have children if the time isn’t right?” As their friends began to regress into the background of their own families’ Little League games, PTA meetings and soccer practices, it was this friendship recession that prompted Cory and Katelyn to conceive of the DINKlife, “In your thirties, you end up looking around as we did and seeing that most, if not all, of your friends have kids and therefore have created their own social networks…So couples like us need to make new friends to travel, hangout, and connect with…But as I looked out I didn’t see good resources to help do that. So DINKlife all started with, how do we connect people who are in the same situation that we are? The reality is there are a lot of different resources to fill the needs of a lot of different life stages, there are events, discount deals, and content for parents, for singles, and for seniors but why don’t these same resources exist for couples who either haven’t had children yet or aren’t going to have children? So in 2010, we really started creating a plan [for DINKlife] and by May of 2011, we launched the site…with the hope that it will validate the choice for couples in the United States and everywhere where they [the public] are struggling with this issue.” Ironically, Cory and Katelyn are so busy with updating the format, search links, and researching content for DINKlife, it has become a demanding child in its own right, perhaps not a genetic endowment of their shared efforts but certainly the conception of their shared vision. When I mentioned one of the common characteristics cited in the trade literature about DINKs, the ability to travel more and for longer periods than their parenting peers, he laughed, “we don’t get to travel nearly as much as our DINK friends, in some ways we are so busy building DINKlife that we don’t always get to live the DINK life.”
The extent of Katelyn and Cory’s parental protectiveness of DINKlife and of their online community is evidenced from an experience Cory shared during this interview, “late last year, the Dr. Phil show found us via DINKlife.com, and invited us to partake in an episode covering child-banning, driven by the news stories at the time [a Pennsylvania restaurateur established a minimum patron age of 6 years]. They were interested in featuring couples without kids [who might support] broad-based banning of children in public places such as planes and restaurants. As the leadership behind a community of couples without kids, they expected we would face-off against parents, who they expected would take a strong position against all banning, denouncing it as limiting civil liberties.” Of course in the midst of this staged turmoil would be the chastened pacifier, Dr. Phil, who ironically in 2003 conducted a survey of 20,000 parents and reported that 40 percent stated in hindsight that they would not have had children had they appreciated the difficulties of raising a family. Cory continued, “We had a rare opportunity to leverage this moment to share the positive message of DINKlife on a large stage. However, it was not a positive message, supporting child-bans in a confrontational format would likely serve to give credence to the stereotypical labels [attributed to] DINKs and the childfree. We decided to forgo this opportunity, feeling it was in the best interests of our brand and those we serve.”
Certainly national television coverage would be tempting for any new entrepreneur; and yet their mission-first value is not limited to their work ethic. Classic postponers, Cory and Katelyn maintain frenetic work schedules; but counter to pronatalist assumptions of DINKs as selfish and insular, they also contribute time to several local, nonprofit organizations in their San Francisco community, like for example GLIDE, a Methodist-based church, that Cory notes “accepts everyone into their fold” [Cory and Katelyn are strong supporters of same-sex marriage]. They support their local chapter of Planned Parenthood and know the organization so well that upon prompting, Cory had immediate recall of budgets, services, and resource statistics and even clarified a percentage that I offered concerning unwanted pregnancies. It is through this commitment to service and community that Katelyn and Cory hope to move their DINKlife organization, “There is a place on the website called ‘Job Board,’ where anyone can post employment or community volunteer opportunities, many of the Meet-Outs have already begun to do this.” Certainly considering the current state of the U.S. and global economies, this kind of searchable database is salient and further embodies the mission of the DINKlife founders’ vision for their virtual community center–to connect other DINKs with support, social networking opportunities, or simply a place to go to find similar others.
 Somers, M.D. (1993). A comparison of voluntary childfree adults and parents. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 55, (3), 643-650
 Happily Childfree is also celebrated on FB with several thousand members
 Frazer, B. (2011). No Baby Boom. Details Magazine, April Edition. Retrieved (11-02-11): http://www.details.com/culture-trends/critical-eye/201104/no-baby-boom-non-breeders?printable=true¤tPage=3