Why I’m tired of the mentality that marriage = babies

Guest post by Katie
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Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about when the right time will be for my husband and I to start trying to conceive. We’ve talked it out and have decided that it will be soon, but still not as soon as our loved ones are hoping for. We have decided that we don’t have to be in that perfectly ideal place financially and otherwise to have kids because, let’s be honest, I don’t know when or if we’ll get there. I don’t know if we’ll ever feel completely ready for such a gigantic shift in our lives and our priorities.

Thus far, life hasn’t gone for us how we’d expected, so I think letting go of some of the control of “when” feels freeing. Still, though: when it’s time, it has to feel right for us.

Right for us. Us, just the two. Spouse + Spouse. Potential parent + other potential parent. My friends do not get to decide when. My family does not get to decide when. ESPECIALLY those that are distant except when prying into our lives about such a personal thing.

It doesn’t feel right yet.

I’m not even going to get into the million reasons why it’s incredibly rude and insensitive to bother someone about when they’ll “finally” have kids. That’s not what this is about — that’s a rant for another time.

What I’ve been considering a lot lately, and what has been upsetting me, is that marriage seems to = babies according to common logic. I find myself not just frustrated as a woman that is simply not damn ready to have a baby yet, but also insulted for pretty much any family that has done things differently.

Why is it that as soon as my husband slipped that wedding band on my finger I suddenly became a baby making machine? Why is it that baby making is associated with marriage at all?

Sure, I’ll cut my own friends and family some slack because it’s known that I do want children someday. But what’s with all my Child-Free friends constantly having to deal with pressure to procreate even after they’ve made it clear that kids aren’t in the picture — ever? They should be able to enjoy their sparkly rings and champagne toasts without, “Okay, you’re married, NOW you’ll have kids, RIGHT?!”

Even more than my Child-free friends I think of my friends that have kids and aren’t married. Some of them will get married when they’re ready, some may never get married, some are single, some hadn’t even had the option of marriage until recently (in Washington) or still don’t — the point is THAT marriage had nothing to do with their beautiful children. I believe that each of those children were a result of sex — not marriage. Certainly a child conceived by other means was the result of a desire for that child. Surely love plays a part, but love exists without marriage.

Comments on Why I’m tired of the mentality that marriage = babies

  1. My FIL reversed the theory. He asked if my partner of 5 years and I were contemplating marriage. When we told him perhaps, maybe one day, he went on to ask why we would want to get married if we both don’t want to have kids. I was really hurt, because our marriage would be about our love for each other, not just a means to an end.
    The worst part, two weeks later he announced his impending (third!) marriage and if I remember my Biology 101 lessons correctly, two 60 year olds are not going to have any babies. But the man already has 5 kids, so I’m sure it makes sense in his head.
    Can you tell I’m still pissed off?

    • My mom asked the same thing after my brother and I told her we both didn’t want kids.

      “Then why would you get married?”

      I didn’t have the patience or grace to explain it at that point so I just walked away. ><;;;

  2. Ever since I got married (about 8 months ago now), if I mention that I’m not feeling well someone says “Maybe you’re pregnant!”. I’ve taken to shaking a finger and saying “Don’t you put that voodoo on me!” which either prompts an apology or a sufficiently awkward silence to make them never ask again.

    • Ha! That is an excellent response. I really don’t know how to respond when someone from the office is like, “You know, is a sign of pregnancy…” WINK WINK. Ugh. So far I’ve just been like, “Um, yeah, I hope not”. And soon we may not have the ability to have kids anyway, but how on earth do I bring THAT up? And why should I?? Anyway, I love your response, and will be using it from now on. 🙂

      • I’ve been grateful that Tinman and I work in the same office and even the same department. Our coworkers have seen his brace from his back surgery and have kept their mouths shut as it’s pretty obvious what’s NOT going on behind closed doors, so weird cravings and nausea get chalked up to hormones, bad food, or stomach bugs. I do have a couple of coworkers that are likely to put their foot in it once the brace comes off, but I already know to be on the lookout for them… and I work in IT, which draws the socially inept. Trust me on this, I am one. 😉

    • Hahahah this is great! I may have to use that. I’ve made a point to stop even mentioning weird cravings or nausea or anything else that people assume is related to pregnancy but I like your idea better!

  3. Thanks so much for posting this. I’ve been married for nearly a year (together nearly 10) and get asked constantly.

    What is worse is that we’re trying, and every time someone ‘when we’re having kids’ asks I just want to cry, that or not so politely explain that the contents of my uterus is none of their business. But mostly cry.

  4. My husband and I waited 8 years to have our first and another 8 to have our 2nd. I received pressure from many people during that time. My mom cried as ours are the only grandchildren she will ever have, I was corned by an acquaintence about just how great it was, all of our friends were having there 2nd and 3rd. I however, felt comfortable that we were making the right decision for the time so I was able to brush it all off but with some difficulty. Ironically by the time we had our 2nd I realized that maybe it was a mistake that we waited so long. Here I was, 40 yrs old with a 6 month old. It didn’t help that he had health issues from the start. It’s still hard today. I have a 4 year old now and most of my friends of my age have kids in College already. I think that we did wait too long for the right time to come around, and if I had known then what I know now I may have done some things very differently. Life is what we make of it though, so I keep looking forward and never back.

    • The right time for others may not be the right time for you. If I had started when many of my friends did, I would probably be a divorcee who had never met my tinman. My children would be in middle school or high school and I’d probably be fighting to keep a roof over their heads because their father couldn’t hold down a job.
      Instead, I went to college leaving my high school boyfriend at home. I met my tinman, and we spent the next 13 years as friends before getting married last December. The old high school ex found someone who has managed to get him in line and he has a job he’ll be able to do until retirement(as long as he’s not seriously injured, which is a real concern in construction). He has two kids, the eldest of which is in elementary school and he and I are able to be friends. I was certain when we split for the last time that we would never be able to be friends because he wanted to hang on to the past. Now he lives for the future.
      As long as you wouldn’t want different children, you didn’t wait too long because you could not have guaranteed the same genetic mix at any other time.

  5. We got the reverse of your situation. Over two and a half years ago I found out I was (unexpectedly) pregnant. When we told my partner’s parents, the second sentence they uttered was the question of when we were going to get married. This question hounded us until we told them that we were not planning on getting married before (not for lack of commitment), so why would having a baby change anything?

    I’ve always found it funny that people feel they can ask “when are you going to have babies?” or that people can announce over a family dinner that they are trying. In my mind this is basically like asking “When are you going to have conventionally productive sex” and “we are having a lot of sex.” I know the context is different, but I don’t need or want to know whether people are trying (unless that person is a close friend or family member, and only then if they feel they want to tell me).

    • I had the same issues when I was with my children’s dad. Not a month would go by without someone asking when he was going to make an honest woman out of me. I don’t remember lying about my pregnancies and I don’t really understand why a wedding would suddenly make me honest. Seems like a bigger lie to rush through a wedding and be like “oh yea! Sure! We’ve been married the whole time!”. I didn’t marry my ex because something felt off. My children were not planned. I made enough mistakes in that relationship, glad I didn’t add a messy divorce to it!

    • I used to tell Tinman that if I got pregnant before we got married, I would refuse to get married until after the child was born. This stems from my belief that, if a pregnant woman is not considered in her right mind to sign divorce documents, she shouldn’t be allowed to commit to marriage either. Why is it she’s allowed to make a lifetime commitment, but not end one?

  6. I don’t think it’s crazy to associate marriage with babies. Certainly throughout history, up until two or so generations ago, marriage did equal babies. Women who did not want family life did not get married, they became nuns, or entered some other profession. People also had children because that’s what happened, not out of a desire to fulfill themselves. That line of thinking in itself is not crazy, its how life was/is in many places.

    Even today, marriage is the start of legal recognition for a new family, which is why legalizing gay marriage is so important. For many family = children, not just an adult couple.

    I think the problem comes with the questions about a couple’s intimate life. If you are not close enough to someone to ask how their sex life is unrelated to children, framing the question around children does not all of a sudden make it okay. Not to mention how very, very hurtful it could be to ask someone who could not have children why they don’t have any.

    • I don’t know if I really jive with the “that’s how things used to be” explanation. In my mom’s generation, it was expected that if a woman went to college, it was only to get her MRS. Yet when the time came for me to go to college, everyone knew better than to insinuate that I was interested in anything other than my education. Yes, it wasn’t that long ago that marriage equaled babies, but it’s been long enough. No one expected me to get married right out of high school either, so why are they still clinging to guaranteed and immediate babies?

    • I don’t think it’s crazy to associate marriage with babies either, but I do think it’s unnecessary. I appreciate that you acknowledge how personal a topic it is, but I still think you’ve missed part of my point.

      My point is, quite simply, that things have changed. There are all kinds of families out there.

      I would say that is ONE reason why legalizing gay marriage is so important, but certainly it’s not THE reason why.

      And you’re right, for many, a family does = having children. And I respect that. But I also respect that for EVERYONE your family is what you make it. I don’t think my child-free friends have any less of a family than my friends with three kids. And my husband and I do plan to have children some day, but we still already feel like a family.

      So I do still think the problem is the association. Marriage does not = children.

  7. I remember in my first engagement, before we even set a WEDDING DATE people were asking me “when are you going to have kids?” I really wanted to say “When everyone stops asking me that stupid fucking question.” But I put my game face on, just said “let’s get through the wedding first.” And left it alone. Then we broke up, because he had to have children to feel fulfilled, and I didn’t. I guess the thing that probably irritates me the most is the fact that women aren’t looked down upon (and shouldn’t be!) for having children. So why are those of us that choose not to, looked down upon?

    I especially hated it when I got asked that question from people who didn’t even really know my background or childhood. It could have been worse, but it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. I pretty much took care of my mom, dad, and grandma, until I was about 25. Now I am 28, I am finally finishing up school, and enjoying some well-deserved “selfish” time. But now that I am about to get married, I am afraid people will come out of the wood works asking about children. And I hate the fact that it is seemingly SO terrible to say “we don’t want any/they aren’t for us”. Am I really that much of a monster? Because sometimes that is exactly how I feel.

    • Motherhood is not for everyone, and it does not make you a monster. Keep standing your ground and be proud of yourself for doing what feels right for you. 🙂

    • Monster? NOT A CHANCE.

      Realistic, confident in yourself and the life you want? YES.

      There are a lot of people on this planet. You COULD have kids, but you don’t HAVE to. Some people don’t want to have kids because they think they will be a bad parent. I think there are tons of people who could be good parents, but don’t want to or have to be. Children aren’t the only way you can contribute to your community or your family!

  8. I am bracing myself for this. About a week after my upcoming (1st and only) wedding I will turn 35 years old. I have waited a long long time to meet this amazing wonderful man and we are so excited about spending our life together. I know that even though I am older conception is still potentially possible for me… but its honestly not that important to us as a couple. Our life is fun and fulfilled and happy without having to invite a 3rd and 4th person into it. I want to enjoy our marriage and being husband and wife for awhile. When I got engaged my mother asked (politely, without pressure, because my mom rules) what our plans for children were and I said “MAYBE later” Luckily I haven’t heard anything else about it…yet. I feel guilty, because my parents and FH’s parents would love to be grandparents, but ultimately I know the right thing is to stick to what we know is best for our life together, even if its hard for other people to understand.

    • THIS. I am unconcerned with my fertility or lack thereof. I am married to the man I wanted to marry and, while kids are lovely, I’m quite focused on building this life with him. If my “chance” passes by, so be it. This is where I am right NOW.

  9. I’ve been saying that we are on a “5-year plan” since we got married in 2010. As the years go by, it remains 5 years even though technically it should be T-minus 3 years at this point. Our life is very hectic and we aren’t in the “state” that we need to be in, both literally and figuratively. He’s still a student working 2 jobs and I want to move back to Tennessee to be close to my mom before going down the mom path myself.

    By telling everyone we are on the “5-year plan”, it gives people an answer of sorts and they leave it be. If they ask follow-up questions, I usually respond with saying, “well we could have it sooner if you would financially sponsor the birth and raise the kid until we have the time to do it ourselves.”

  10. Ugh. I must have heard “Grandbabies!!! We want babies!! What’s wrong with you?” at least 200 times over the course of my 21st to 27th years. Well I have made two now so they can shut up. (my husband and I were together for ten years before we decided to make babies so I truly understand how gloriously peaceful the baby wait can be).

    The sad thing is that this sentiment has transferred to my sisters now and one of them has reproductive issues that my mother apparently does not understand. As many times as I take my mom aside and tell her to (politely) knock it off there is no end. Some people seriously are very insensitive and intrusive. 🙁

  11. My mother in law gave me a “sexy” purple and black negligee for Christmas one year. We were staying over and sleeping in their room in a complicated room swapping around manoeuvre that happens every time. It all got a bit creepy when she followed the gift with the “we want grandchildren” conversation before announcing an early night!

  12. I find myself toeing this difficult situation a lot more since I’ve had a kid. It always has irked me that people figure it’s their business of how your sex life is going now that you’re married. But as the first of my friends to have a kid I find myself finding ways to ask other committed couples if/when kids are in the picture simply because I am desperate for another mom friend. I always apologize and stumble all over myself when trying to politely inquire because I know that it’s private and none of my business. Come to the dark side! We have babies!

    • *Hug* I do understand feeling like the odd man out. I was on the opposite side of this situation though. I’m one of the last in my family and among my friends to get married so it’s been rough as friends and family cancel plans last minute because they couldn’t find a baby sitter or one of the kids is sick. Part of me felt bad for them and their kids, but another part was annoyed. It was so much simpler before they had kids! Now my opinions are changing. I’m growing up and realizing what a joy children can be. I babysat for years, but also hated going to a restaurant that had families of screaming kids. Just last week, tinman and I went out for dinner. At the next table was a family with a squealer. I believe it turned out she just wanted to be held. The big change was, aside from covering our ears to protect them from the shrillness of the squeal, we weren’t that irked at the baby. Give your friends time to come around. Try not to pester them.

  13. such questions ARE very rude. I think the best response is ‘I add six months every time someone asks me when we’ll have kids. We`re up to oct 2015.’

    The best response is from two friends of mine who got hitched last year. They are gay and when asked if they`ll have kids they say candidly’ well we practice sometimes for HOURS every night but so far nothing`s happened yet’ Most people are soooo embarassed at that point it shuts them up pretty fast hahaha

  14. What really gets to me is the fact that husband and I have decided not to have biological children for very personal medical reasons. If I break down (as I am often pressured to do) and explain this to someone, they suddenly generate a medical degree and start suggesting all the ways that we could bypass those pesky little problems. The status of my fertility is not fair game, and the assumption that husband and I are “going to get down to work” (thanks, nosy coworker for that one) on bio-kids is like a knife to the gut sometimes. We’re happy with the idea of adoption, but it still stings sometimes that that path is closed off to us, and the judgments don’t help.

  15. Okay, I’m dreading this, and my fiancé and I actually ARE planning on making a baby as soon as possible after getting married. Like I will be getting my IUD out a couple of months beforehand and we’ll switch to condoms until the wedding and then serious immediate trying. It’s what feels right FOR US–not because anybody told us to. We’re getting married right at the beginning of the time period where it will make sense for us to have kids.

    But what if it takes a while? What if it just doesn’t happen? I really don’t want to be having that conversation with everyone I meet.

    He suggested that, when people ask, we should just respond: “Well, we’re f–ing like bunnies!” and walk away. Or I should say something like, “Oh my god, I’m ovulating, I can’t believe that I forgot I need to be having sex right now! Hold on brb!” and run off. And then they’ll feel awkward enough that they’ll shut up.

    • Even if it does go to plan be prepared for a whole different set of dodgy comments from people anyway!

      I got pregnant a few days of our wedding (totally unplanned) and when we finally gave in and announced it on facebook a few months later I was flooded with highly inappropriate public and private messages. Seriously, you’d have thought half our wedding guests had stayed in the bridal suite with us.

  16. Thank you so much for this post. ” Love exists without marriage” – I couldn’t agree more. For me, love and marriage are not at all the same thing. It’s lovely when they coincide, but one does not guarantee the other.
    Just to add a positive note to the stories here – my partner and I have now been together for nearly 10 years. Over the years, I’ve faced a barrage of ‘when are you having kids?’ and ‘you’ll have kids, won’t you? You’ll change your mind’. I always answered it with honesty and sometimes sometimes bluntness: ‘We don’t plan to have kids any time soon. I don’t want to talk about it.’ After we got married, I expected the comments to increase, but honestly, they’ve decreased. Miracles do happen – I think people have gotten the message that it’s none of their business. And as the pressure has faded, we’ve had the space to actually consider the possibility for ourselves, alone, without outside interference.

  17. My fiancé and I will have been together 9 years when we marry in Oct. Marriage has always been important to me, motherhood has not and although fiancé is on the fence, he loves me for me. But even before we got engaged we had comments on both. It’s like you’re meant to follow some predetermined path regardless of your personal feelings on the matter. I’ve been asked ‘when are you marrying?’ (before even engaged), ‘will you just have babies without marrying?’, ‘why are you bothering to get married if you aren’t having children?’, ‘so are you getting married because you want children?’ Then there’s all the comments when I say I like being an aunt and having my dogs and don’t want my own children; ‘but if you like children you will want your own one day’, ‘you’ll change your mind’ etc etc
    They are mostly well meaning but so unintentionally rude! I dread ever changing my mind because of the number of ‘I told you so’s’ I would get! No one should be made to feel like they need to justify or explain what is such a personal life changing decision.

    • I totally get this. My husband and I were together for 5 years before getting engaged, and now we’ve just gotten married and been together a little over 6 years. I got a lot of “when are you getting married questions from nosy relatives, coworkers etc, so rude! Luckily I haven’t been bombarded with the kid thing yet, but like you, I enjoy being an aunt, I have a cat, and I just enjoy focusing on other things right now.

  18. This is my first marriage and my fiancee’s second. He has a beautiful little girl from his first, and I have 2 amazing children from a previous long-term relationship. We have discussed it, our family is the perfect size. And yet, I still get “So, are you going to make one, like, together?” It’s so frustrating. So, the three children we already have aren’t good enough because they are His and Hers, not Ours? Even after trying to explain that we are both happy with what we have and there is no desire to have more, we are pushed. It’s not just for people who want “just us” but apparently it means you have to make a child with every single person you marry, even if you already have a perfect family.

    • Right! My sister in law asked me when I was going to give her brother a child of his own. I was so hurt I started crying. Like is my daughter not good enough for your family? I told her my standard response, “i can’t have kids.” She felt like crap as she very well should have. Of course I “can’t have kids” because of birth control 😀 but when we decide to have another, she’ll be a “miracle”

  19. “Of course it was planned, didn’t you get the email? We sent all our acquaintances a reproduction schedule.”

  20. Ugh, this post speaks to me.

    When I was a “bride,” I felt like I was perceived merely as a body that had to be dressed up and act a certain way.

    And now that I’m a wife, I feel like people think it’s just a matter of time before I’m a mother.

    I LOVE being married and part of a kick-ass partnership, but I miss the days where people seemed to try to get to know me a little before placing me in a category! My close friends knew better than to call me a “bride,” and they recognize that, right now, my dog is my baby.

    My husband and I are capable of making an impact on the world in many ways together, not just by making genetic recombinations of ourselves!

  21. there is one upside to how common this annoying reaction to marriage is: it implies an acceptance of not-marrying in our culture. everyone knows you can “just” live together and do commitment in your own way—including having or not-having kids. but i for one know a lot of people that take the big marriage/legal step at least partly because they’re interested in having kids.

    the question of whether one is going to have kids is a pretty natural thing for others to wonder about, marriage or no, so educating folks that it’s really not cool to ask is going to take decades, generations. it’s kind of like, “You graduated from college! Congratulations! Are you thinking about grad school?” c’mon, let me have a few years off before you pester me with such questions! “We consider it a personal question that is separate from our marrying. We’ll be sure to let you know if we become pregnant.” maybe that would work?

  22. My fiance and I have been together for 9 years. We have chosen not to have children. I was born and raised in Phoenix and he is from Ohio. We moved to Ohio a little over 3 years ago and after moving I realized that people in the midwest think a lot differently about family/children. The amount of times I have been asked when I would have children since moving here is unreal. The comments that really gets to me is “well you just don’t know you want children yet” and “you’ll change your mind.” That is the craziest thing I’ve ever heard. I long for the day that I won’t have to explain why I have chosen to be child-free!

    • I noticed that myself when I was living in the Midwest. One winter break, my then boyfriend, now ex, and I drove to Texas for Christmas with my parents. From there, we went to Arizona to celebrate New Years with one of his old high school buddies. Since I had never been, we stopped by the Grand Canyon on our way north to I 70, and spent a day in Vegas taking in the architecture. We stopped in Colorado because the pass was closed for a snow storm and decided to go skiing the next day… another first for me, as was getting in a fight on the slopes when listening to his advice about skiing caused me to fall.

      Long story short, when his mother heard we’d spent time in Vegas, she gave him a knowing smile and a wink. It took almost half an hour to convince her we hadn’t gone to Vegas to get married and hadn’t gotten married on a whim while we were there. Honestly, that trip was the beginning of the end and a last ditch effort to save a relationship between two completely incompatible people.

  23. 1) I COMPLETELY agree with the assumption that marriage does not equal kids. You can have either without the other.

    2) There may be an explanation for why people ask so many questions about your plans for babies at weddings.
    (I think weddings are weird. I had a hell of a time figuring out what I wanted to do for mine. I wanted it to be meaningful, I wanted to express personal feelings, but I didn’t want to do it in front of so many people. We ended up having a lovely immediate family-only ceremony that I loved. But looking back…weddings are still weird. And I hate going to some other people’s weddings because I feel like I am intruding on a private moment! But this is all probably rooted in my husband and I being introverts and not huge fans of PDA- obviously not everyone feels this way, and they don’t have to!)

    So for me it seems that a wedding makes aspects of your personal life (feelings, desires, promises) a public affair. You invite people to share in your commitment and joy. You invite people to think about your lives as a couple. This is great, but there are unintended consequences. If you have a certain type of ceremony, they mention welcoming kids and how you will raise them DURING the ceremony. If this doesn’t do it, the well-established idea of the “wedding night” does, and your guests are probably imaging you and your spouse getting your freak on. There I said it- that’s what people are thinking about! From there, there isn’t too far of a leap to procreation… and that’s how we arrive at questions about babies ON YOUR WEDDING DAY. GAH.

    I am hoping that since more couples are cohabitating before marriage, this will help decrease these logical jumps from marriage to sex to babies, since we’re shaking up the order. And I loved all the one liners to discourage that line of questioning that commentors provided above- will definitely be using some of those!

  24. I think the reason behind the Marriage=Babies, is that the purpose of Marriage in it’s origin was to have babies, or maybe for a man to be sure that all the babies were his (think how lions will kill a male, then kill all the cubs so the females can have HIS cubs).
    Anyway, the point is the 2 things were one once, and people don’t like to change their traditions

  25. I’ve always said I never wanted kids. Getting married in two months and all of a sudden, from people who very much know we don’t want kids, this:

    “Okay, you’re married, NOW you’ll have kids, RIGHT?!”

    WTF is with that? I get why the broader public associates these things (though they are wrong), but these people know us. Very disappointing/irritating.

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