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.