My husband recently told me he definitively doesn’t want children. I knew he’d been leaning that way over the past few years so we’ve been waiting. Silly me, I’d always thought he’d eventually change his mind. If I’m honest my heart is quite broken. I’ve always looked forward to being a parent. How do I move from wanting a child to child-free?
You can talk about kids before getting married until you’re blue in the face, but you just never know how someone will feel later in life, or even just a few years later. My partner and I have talked about our child-free preferences at length to make sure that we’re as informed as we can be, but you still can never be 100% sure. I’m so sorry that it’s coming as more of a surprise for you. I’m actually going to pull some advice from our infertility archives instead of our child-free archives since the mindset here is actually much closer.
The biggest choice to make is whether you’re okay with not having children or if it is a deal-breaker in your relationship. It certainly can be a deal-breaker for some (as seen here, where they even wrote a song about it!). From your question, it seems like you’re planning to power through and make the best of child-free life with your husband. But still, make sure that’s something with which you’re willing to live.
Grieving the loss
Assuming you’re aiming for a happy child-free relationship, you’re first going to be dealing with grief — the loss of the idea of a child. That can be devastating whether it’s by choice or not.
Although not a perfect analogy, this post has some sage advice for dealing with motherhood (and Mother’s Day in particular) while being childless:
I’ve started becoming a recluse on Mother’s Day weekend. I’m of an age where it’s assumed I am a mother and am generally given a cheery “Happy Mother’s Day” by every retail clerk with whom I come into contact (yes, even though there are no children with me). The issue is that I am not and I, in my over-abundant need to be truthful, feel uncomfortable allowing it to slide with a simple “thank you.” But I don’t really want to break into tears and shout that I don’t deserve this particular salutation…
It’s rough, though, because mourning the loss of what isn’t, and will likely never be, is something that’s hard to explain to others, and harder still when it’s been going on for years.
Until I can get to the point where I can appreciate my childlessness or see the Universe’s higher purpose for not giving me children, Mother’s Day will be difficult. In the meantime, I can only hope that I can continue to hold my tongue when some well-intentioned retail worker wishes me a Happy Mother’s Day.
Sometimes knowing that others out there are grieving the same can bring you some solace. Here’s the full post:
This reader shared her story of how she moved on from anticipating children to becoming unwillingly child-free. They examined every aspect of their life and looked for all opportunities for increased happiness. It’s a great view of how things can be turned into opportunities even when they are hard. Here’s a snippet…
We both knew we wanted to stay married and our dog is amazing, but everything else was evaluated with a fine-toothed comb. The question became “What do I need to do to be happy with the life I have now, assuming no children of our own will come?”…
We love kids even though we don’t have any of our own, so we’re making it a point to spend time with the kids in our lives. Between us, we have eight nieces and nephews and two great-nieces. We do our best to go to softball and soccer games, to take them to breakfast, to spoil them (within reason), and do fun things with them when we can…
We want to travel more. We want to spend weekends going to conventions and Renaissance Faires and car shows, which all cost money and which we often avoided because of the cost.
Read more here:
Additionally, you’ll want to start reframing your mindset on what “family” means to you. So many of our readers carry the banner that friends are the family we choose and that a family can be any kind of unit or community. I love that. Here are two posts I definitely recommend reading to get you in the right head space:
Best of all, you can still totally be a fixure in children’s lives! Finding children to mentor or being involved in your family’s children can be super rewarding. Don’t forget that there are so many children who need the kind of attention that you could bring to their lives:
Telling your community
Once you’ve made peace with your life as it is (if you can and want to), you have the option of sharing it with your friends and family. I say option on purpose. I don’t support that idea that you HAVE to tell anyone of your child-having status at all. In my case, I share it only selectively as a self-care measure. Not having children for whatever reason is a touchy issue that you are allowed to avoid talking about if you choose. But if you do decide to share the news, here is some crowd-sourced advice on telling your community about the situation:
I hope that you can find some peace in a life that you can love no matter what decisions you make.
Comments on My husband doesn’t want kids: how do I cope with his choice?
Obviously just my opinion but… I don’t think many marriages can survive the amount of resentment caused by this situation. I firmly child-free, and if my partner changed his mind and decided he wanted them, I know I would be miserable knowing I was holding him back, and knowing that every time he saw a cute kid, he’d be silently resenting me. Obviously you know best whether or not you can handle it without resentment brewing but… it’s a pretty important thing to be on the same page about and it really sucks when someone does an about-face.
“I don’t think many marriages can survive the amount of resentment caused by this situation.”
This is my personal opinion too, though as I said in a comment below, only the original writer can make that decision. I have a friend whose first marriage ended in an awful divorce partly because she wanted children and her now-ex didn’t, though it wasn’t the ultimate deciding factor. It was for the best, though since she is now very happily engaged to be married to her current partner. Sadly, she still mostly likely won’t be able to have children due to battling a chronic and metastatic form of cancer for almost a decade now so her ex has just about robbed her of the opportunity to have children not just during her marriage to him but for probably the rest of her life as well. This is a fact that she has already accepted for a long time now.
Hi, before I got married, me and my husband talked abt. having a kid or two, however he already have a kid from his ex wife and still undergoing child custody battle. I know that this cause him lots of pressure and frustration. Recently, he told me he doesnt want anymore kids due to the issues he is under going. His ex causing so much trouble for their son, late at school, even got a pet which his son is allergic to. He went to the doctor to get his son checked and that he definitely is allergic to cats. I’m not taking my husbands side here, but for his son that gets really red and itchy skin when he picks him up at his ex place. But the mother took him to a different doctor after staying at my husbands place for few days, and got him a medical certificate saying he is not allergic to cats or any hairy pets. Which cause my husbands frustration, anger and he felt so sorry for his kid. Anyways, this are just few things he mentioned that makes him decide he no longer want kids. Its depressing, because I dont want to give up both. I talked to him multiple times, and asked if he would still change his mind and his answer is that, I dont know. Right now I dont want to have one, I’m not sure if that decision will still change or that it might not. He and I are scare that I’m going to resent him in the future. Which I think I’m beginning to do now, however I love him so much that I cant leave him. Can someone give me some advice how to handle this situation? I understand his situation when it comes to things that makes him scared once I got a baby, going through the same path he did with his ex going through divorce and having another child suffer. But I dont really see myself divorcing him except for the reason that he deosnt want a kid :'(
I feel like you have to decide whether this is a dealbreaker for you or not. Your husband told you that he doesn’t want children, but you need to ask yourself some questions before making a final decision. Are you willing to stay with your husband even if that means never having any children? Can you picture yourself living and embracing a childfree lifestyle? Would you still pursue parenthood if it meant sacrificing your marriage and either finding a new partner who shares your desire for children or choosing to raise children by yourself? Only you can decide what is right for you. Just make sure that decision doesn’t result in a life full of sadness, regret, and resentment, especially if you opt to stay with your husband in the end. I don’t think it would be fair for either of you to stay married if y’all’s life goals were to be completely incompatible with each other.
When deciding if this is a deal breaker or not, do consider the possibility that the marriage may not last. If so, would you resent your partner mid-life for having missed the opportunity to have children? Would you regret your decision to stay with him?
I have seen men change their minds with a new younger partner mid-life. They were equally adamant that they were not going to have children. This option is open to men much longer than women.
If you decide that the relationship is important enough to take this risk, try to find a way to accept not having children and eventually being happy with that choice. The articles above are excellent. I have friends that struggled with infertility and have come to accept it and are happy in the lives they’ve made.
My marriage ended six months ago because of this, it was complicated and everyone’s situation is unique so I won’t go into it. I have no idea if it needed to end, if I made the right decision, or what other issues were also contributing, so I’m in no place to give advice about whether to stay or go or how you should move on. Here’s the advice I would give you 6 months out:
-GET A THERAPIST. GO TO THERAPY.
-Relish the love and support of your friends but don’t listen to their advice – everyone’s situation is so unique and none of them really know everything about your marriage
-Do self-care, not just because it’s necessary but as a small practice session of what your live will look like if you a) chose to be child free or b)whether you want to still be in your marriage
-Try and eat, sleep, and exercise – but know it’s okay if you can’t.
-Except sleep, go on sleeping pills if you’re not sleeping
-Let yourself sulk sometimes, weep sometimes, and just grieve. You deserve it.
I hope you come out of this happy, healthy, and where you want to be – wherever that is.
I’m so sorry for you. Hugs.
My best friend was in this situation. After therapy and soul-searching and so much talking about the issue, her husband changed his mind. From what I recall, his not wanting kids stemmed from a desire to be free to travel and life goals, not some horrible childhood trauma. Maybe try to get to the bottom of WHY he holds this position. Does he even know, himself?
(He left her shortly after the birth of their second, so she is now a single mom of two kids under three. So definately listen to his and your deep gut feelings on this. To echo others, it’s the kind of issue that just might be impossible to compromise on, and really breaks your heart.)
I’m trying to be respectful here, but it seems like you’re implying that people who don’t want children haven’t put any consideration into why they don’t want them or that their decision is stemming from something terrible that’s happened to them.
I can only speak for myself, but I also don’t want children, not because of a “childhood trauma”, but because I want to spend my life doing this I enjoy, like traveling.
I only get one life and I don’t want to spend it raising kids because then I won’t be able to do that. This is a life choice that I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about.
Most child free by choice people also have.
I completely agree with you. In fact, I would venture to say that most childfree folks have put more thought into procreation than lots of people that have children.
I have been married 10 years and I suffer from PCOS so I wasn’t going to get pregnant easily anyway. As the first few years of marriage we were both trying to build our careers and I was busy with studies I didn’t realise that when we are finally ready he is going to say no. He was diagnosed with severe clinical depression few years ago and other mental health issues and he firmly says he doesn’t want kids nor he is interested in Sex. He is completely happy going to work and coming home and working more and just staying home and working or reading on weekends. I feel like he is still very ill but at the same time I am 33 and my clock is ticking . I love him very much but I don’t know how long I can survive this marriage . I am so confused 🙁
I just came across this thread and couldn’t believe reading your comment you wrote only 2 days ago. Your comment could have been written by me. Me and my partner have been together for 13 years, he also has depression and we don’t have much sex at all. He has no interest in sex. He doesn’t want children, I’m 34. I don’t know what do do 🙁 🙁 I don’t want to leave him but at the same time I have always put myself second in our relationship and I can’t imagine a childfree life. I also worry that I stay with him and in 10 years time we break I up and I missed my chance to have children because of him. I really don’t know what to do 🙁
Talk first. If his decision is irreversible – Leave and Don’t look back.
I have also very recently found my self in a similar position. My Husband and I have been together 7 years -married almost 4.
We discussed children back at the start and a few times over the years. I have always wanted to be a mother and my Husband wanted children too. We both agreed that we weren’t ready yet, but someday.
Now my husband has changed his mind. Telling me he no longer wants children and can’t see his opinion changing. I just don’t know how to process this. I never imagined my life with out children. Now I have 3 options – go without kids to stay with him. Leave him to have children on my own, or wait and see if he does change his mind. If I do decide to wait how do I decide when enough is enough…..
I am just so lost.
Part of me is so hurt that he would take this away from me, knowing full well that it is the one thing I deeply want in life. Being 30 already, I feel like this is something that needs to be worked out sooner rather than later.
It’s so similar to my situation. It really feels like there is no solution right? I don’t want to leave a relationship that’s otherwise good and a man i love because he doesn’t want children. then I’m single and have no-one, isn’t that worse? That doesn’t guarantee me children either. I just secretely hope he will change his mind but i don’t think this will happen.
Yep, do I sacrifice the man I love for the possibility or children or do I sacrifice the possibility of children for the man I love. Right now I don’t know how to live without either of those things and my heart is breaking.
I couldn’t have said it better. It’s a terrible thing to go through and i feel like I’d grief some sort of loss no matter what decision I’d make. I just hope he might change his mind one day.
I am going through the exact same feeling at the moment. It is the worst ever. What did you both end up doing?
I told him it was a deal breaker and gave him little time to think. I was prepared to leave. He reconsidered and now we are trying for a baby,
It’s a year on and we’re still in the same boat. Still together (14 years now), I’m 35 years old, we love each other and he still doesn’t want children. I’m no wiser but we went to couple’s counselling and it helped in general with our relationship but still no answer for the big baby question. ♀️
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