Dear well-meaning people who see my ring and ask "when are you going to have kids?"

December 3 2015 | Guest post by Brink Powell
Photo by Robyn Icks Photography
"You need to understand that "first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in the baby carriage" is not a universal statement." (Photo by Robyn Icks Photography)

I know when you ask me a form of the following question, "So are you guys going to try to have kids right away?" you don't mean to offend me. However, a more appropriate question would be "So, are you guys going to have kids?"

There is a huge difference to these two statements: The first is an assumption. The second is a genuine question.

I understand that our society has instilled in you that when a couple gets married the next step in their life together is to try to procreate. I understand that my fiancé and I are in the minority when we declare, completely honestly and without any trace of shame, that we do not want children. But you need to understand that "first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in the baby carriage" is not a universal statement.

I have not wanted children since I was a child myself. I do not like children. I do not like being in their company. I do not find them cute, or precious, or sweet, or any of the other adjectives that are generally associated with them. Instead, I find them tiresome and annoying. I do not know how to speak with them or play with them. I do not know how to come down to their level and it makes me uncomfortable to try.

Pregnancy and giving birth terrify me. I cannot help but think of a fetus as a parasite leaching off my body for survival. I have an extremely low tolerance for pain and would never willingly put myself through the agony of childbirth. I have a hard enough time making a dentist appointment.

I like my independence too much to be saddled with a child. I do not want the responsibility of taking care of another human being. I do not want to get up in the middle night to attend to a crying baby. I don't want to have to pack lunches and cook dinners for a child. And I certainly don't want to have to deal with an angst ridden teenager. I want to be able to perform in community theater whenever I am chosen for a role and not have to worry about my rehearsal schedule meshing with a child care schedule. I know myself well enough to know that I would become supremely resentful of a child if I had to give up hobbies I love in order to raise one.

I have medical issues that would make it difficult for me to be a good parent. I have chronic migraine headaches that render me barely capable of walking to the bathroom. There is no way I would be capable of caring for a child in that condition. I have Interstitial Cystitis and am on a low acid diet plus take a daily medication to control it. Enough havoc is wreaked on my bladder in its normal condition without adding a fetus sitting on it into the mix.

My fiance's reasons for not having children are not mine to delve into. Suffice it to say that while he likes children he does not feel the need to bring any of his own into a world and culture that are, in his view, in a downward spiral. On top of that the financial implications of seeing a child through from birth to college are just mind-boggling and quite frankly not something we can afford.

Your comments of "Oh, you'll change your mind" or "You haven't experienced love until you're a parent" or "Well, then why are you getting married?" are as ignorant as they are hurtful. No, I won't change my mind. It has been made up since I was about sixteen years old. Who are you to tell me if I have or have not experienced love? Why is the love between a parent and child any better than the love I feel for my fiance, or my parents, or my friends? Why does that fact that we're not having children make our marriage meaningless? We're getting married because we love each other and do not want to be without each other unless death or zombies intervene. We want to hang out with each other for the rest of our lives. We want to watch movies, and play with our cat, and go to shows, and do whatever the hell else we want.

Your other comment of "But, you won't have anybody when you're older" is also hurtful. Yes, I will most likely outlive my nine years older than me husband. No, I don't have nieces or nephews. But I have friends who are like-minded and don't want children. This comment also makes me wonder if that is actually a factor in some people's decision to have children. Are you really that selfish that you'll bring a new life into this world so that you have caretakers in your old age?

Again, I understand that we live in a world where marriage and children go hand in hand more often than not. I understand that we're in the minority. I also understand that you may not, and probably cannot, understand our choice. But please believe me. Do not fix me with a pitying gaze. Do not try to convince me otherwise. And do not tell me I will regret it. Do me the simple courtesy of treating me like an adult who has made a choice and is perfectly content.

Sincerely, Brink

  1. It probably won't let up except in your own circle where people will learn and be respectful hopefully. There's something about women and children that make people think there is no boundary to ask crazy personal questions. I live with a debilitating disease and we had people telling us NOT to have kids. Oh the rage. They didn't know we weren't going to try for another (I have a daughter from a previous marriage), they just decided to forewarn me off of it. Its infuriating.

    Having said that I liked your article and I like that you know what you want and why you want it. It's valid. Good for you.

    I have a kid. I fucking adore my kid. But its horrendously hard parenting with a chronic debilitating disease and I have an amazing partner. I also utterly despise every last fucking thing about educating them and I resent it to an unhealthy amount. I will be incredibly happy and relieved when I am no long responsible for her education. She's beyond worth it, but I am not fucking doing this again.

    Sorry for the swears! Solidarity. Enjoy the balls out of your wedding 🙂

    • See, I am looking forward to homework time! But soooo not the bathing part. Or anything to do with teeth (getting, losing, braces, etc.)

      And I hope people stay out of your reproductive plans!

    • Oh man, that's frustrating from the opposite end of the spectrum! People need to just cool it with their opinions regarding the reproductive habits of others.

      • At my rehearsal dinner I overheard (they were sitting about 5 feet away from me) grandma-in-law say to father-in-law that she though my husband was ready for kids, but not me. YOUR OPINIONS ON MY UTERUS MEAN NOTHING TO ME.

  2. THANK YOU TIMES TEN! This is so accurate to me that I could have written it.

    I also find it infantalizing when people tell me I'll change my mind, that I don't know true love and you feel sorry for me, that I'll regret it. In what world would it be acceptable to tell new parents that they're pitied and will change their minds about having kids? Why is it any different when someone makes the choice to not have kids?

    • You are welcome times ten!

      I agree, it is very condescending when people say that I'll change my mind. You make a good point, no one would dream of saying that to a person who had a child so why is it okay to say to a person who doesn't?

  3. OHHH, THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!! It is such a pleasure to read these words from someone else! Especially the part where you admit to not liking children and being in their company. Most people will look at you as if you're a monster when you say this. I never liked children at all. At 32 I wanted to have my tubes tied to prevent any accidents. The obstetrician scolded me ("every day I see people who want children so bad and can't have them, and you’re healthy and young…") yeah, I had someone else perform the procedure. It was the best decision I ever made.If more people would think about this more seriously,  instead of getting pregnant because it's expected of them, only to neglect their child later and cause all sorts of emotional damage, the world would be a better place.

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    • What a dickhead. I never understood that reasoning. Like you being young and healthy means you somehow actively deny childless people kids. That's not how it works. At all! Furthermore, it's not like you're guaranteed to be superfertile. Eikel. Sorry you had such a hard time.

      I'm getting my tubes tied next year at 26. Went in for a consultation fully expecting to wage a proverbial war, but my gynaecologist only needed ten minutes before I could schedule my appointment. I think his age (30-35?) does have something to do with it. New generation of doctors, less likely to think *for* you instead of *with* you?

      • It was a woman, even!! And a lot older than I was at the time, so yeah, this is less likely to happen with the new generation,  I suppose. 26 – good for you!

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    • That's terrible! O_o I can't believe a so-called professional would say that! I can see them at least giving you the facts about it being an irreversible decision and asking you if you're sure in a professional manner (I mean, this isn't your Aunt Betty, it's a doctor) but once you are educated and decided it is not their decision! Ugh!

      • Exactly! She finally said: " I hope you don't mind if I won't perform the procedure myself" (implying she could not 'justify' doing that for herself).  I told her with much relief: "No Problem AT ALL, just as long as those tubes get tied properly and irreversibly". Never went back to her again.

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    • … Were you supposed to have babies and give them away to people who can't have them? Or have your reproductive organs removed and implanted into someone else? How would you having kids have helped those people who want them and can't? People are dumb.

    • You're welcome! I have always been very open and honest about not liking children because … well, why not? Even among child free couples something I hear a lot is "I like children, they're just not for me." I don't fall into that category. I DON'T like them and that's the number one reason they're not for me. Why mince words about that? I guess because it's polite and sometimes people take it personally when I say I don't like kids. It's hard to explain, or rather it's hard for people to understand, that it's nothing personal against any child in particular, it's just this inability to connect with them or to find enjoyment in spending time with them.

      I've been considering having my tubes tied. I've been on Depo-P rovera for years now and I've been really happy with it but I'd really rather a permanent solution that I'd only have to pay for once instead of five times per year. Those comments from your doctor were unnecessary and inappropriate and really made no sense. It's like she was saying that anyone who is physical capable of having children should have them … just because they can and some people can't? No sense whatsoever. I'm glad you found a doctor who was willing to perform the procedure and not try to make you feel like shit about it.

      • My husband got a vasectomy and it was the best decision ever, since I was having issues with hormonal bc. It's nice not to have to think about it ever.

        I'm with you in the "don't like children" group, and same – some people take it personally, but that's ok. Sometimes I wish I could talk a little more comfortably with other adults about their kids (especially at work), but it's always effort on my part.

        • Oh I hear you on that! I really do try to take an interest when my co-workers talk about their children / grandchildren but … I sort of just don't care. Occasionally, they'll have a story I think it genuinely funny but for the most part I tend to space out when the topic turns to child antics.
          I think it's especially hard when friends have kids. I get that having a child is an all consuming thing so I understand that maybe they don't HAVE much to talk about other than their child but it can make conversations a bit stunted.

          • Ohhh, that's what bothers me the MOST! when friends/close family start having kids, then you realize 80% of the conversations from here on out will be unrelated to your life and irritating! *too much personal experience on this clearly*

          • What really sucks is a when a friendship either completely ceases to exist or becomes way less close due to one person having kids. I have a friend who I used to talk to daily and hang out with several times a week. She know has two kids under age 4 and I see her once a month for a girls night so she can escape the house. I miss her company as the person she used to be. I still love her and love hanging out with her when we can but since she's a stay at home mother that's kind of what she's limited to talking about. I totally get it and I also feel bad if I jabber on about cool or fun things my husband and I are doing that she and her husband can't. It's a hard road to navigate. I'm lucky in the sense that she gets it and knows I'm not a kid person so she does actively try to not monopolize the conversation with kid anecdotes. I appreciate that because lots of parents don't do that and seem to think that you're dying to know everything about their children.

  4. THANK YOU for this. While I'm not 100% decided yet, I feel SO very close to this article. And I often want to ask those pressing me to have kids (after complaining and complaining about theirs) if they're trying to ensure everyone is as miserable as they are, or if all the crap they're spewing about how wonderful children are is merely an act of convincing themselves they made the right choice.

    • Haha! Complaining about your own children doesn't seem like a great way to convince someone else to have some! Your response is priceless. I do wonder sometimes though … because in my line of work I see a lot of families that are obviously not happy and sometimes it gets me wondering why people choose to have children in the first place. Societal expectation? Familial expectation? Accident? Because that's what the next phase was? Actual desire that then didn't turn out the way they expected?

      No matter what the ultimate decision is I don't think having kids, or not having kids, in a decision to be entered into on a whim. It took me a long time to come to terms with the fact that they're not for me because I felt like there was something wrong with me. Whenever I was around a kid and felt like running away I'd think "That's not how you're supposed to feel! Be normal! Think they're cute! Want to play with them!" But … it never happened and eventually I accepted that there's nothing wrong with me. I'm just different than the majority and different doesn't mean bad or wrong.

    • I've had women I'm not particularly close to complain about being a mother in a really serious way. It was really odd! I think it was just a moment of frustration that bubbled over, and that happens.

      In the less awkward situations, I try to go for the "Well, you made the right choice for you, and I'm just trying to make sure I make the right choice for me!" But that only works for the people who did CHOOSE to become mothers. I'm not really sure what to say to people who ARE mothers but didn't plan or choose to be…

      • I've know some people who, regardless of whether they planned it or it was an accident, regretted having children. Not immediately, but as the years wore on and they considered what their life could have been versus what it was because of having children. I feel for those people because it's a huge decision and even if you're 100% sure about it no one really knows for sure what being a parent is like until they go through it. How awful would that be to have a child and then realize that parenthood wasn't really for you? I'm sure there'd be all sort of guilty feelings, anger, resentment … it would just suck majorly.

  5. Like Elle said above, I could've written this article! I loved reading this, thanks for taking the time to write it and OBH&L, thanks for publishing.

    I'm also one of those no-children people and I hear exactly the same things. I've been together with my fiancé for nearly eight years and we're both committed to expanding our family with furry kids only. His reasons are mainly the state of the world and a lack of fatherly feelings, while I have so many reasons I can't even write them down without this comment turning into a thesis. It's a combination of absent motherly feelings, depression, a fear that the baby will not be healthy due to my health conditions and I also don't want to end up in the rat-race of Western motherhood, taking on a lion's share of the care tasks.

    Often, people will tell me "You'll get so much in return!" (translated from Dutch, so I don't know the best way to phrase this in English). I always have to bite my tongue and ask what they have had to give up when the kids came, but honestly I never do ask because there's no reasoning with those people.

    Thankfully, most of my friends and family have come to accept this about us . I'm now at an age where people are starting to have kids (in The Netherlands, a lot of people have kids first, marry later or not at all) so I get the question on whether I want them all the time. Usually, I just say I don't have and want kids. If they ask for reasons, I tell them it's private. If they immediately start to convince me kids are The Greatest Thing Ever To Happen To Anyone (TM) I'll just walk away or tell them the subject's done. Fuck 'em.
    I hate that question in general though, because what if I wanted them but am unable to conceive? Just not cool.

    • You're welcome. I'm glad you see it resonated with so many people!
      It seems like you and your fiance have super sound reasons for choosing the no child path. I also totally get what you mean about "those people." I don't want to lump all parents together because obviously they're not all overzealous and pushy. But it only takes one bad apple to spoil the bunch, and I get what you mean about those who try to convince you that your life will be a meaningless pit of despair if you don't fill it with children.
      You also raise a really good point about infertility. I really think asking anyone about their reproductive plans is risky because what if the reason a couple doesn't have children is because they physically can't? It's potentially a very hurtful question and I just feel like it shouldn't be asked at all, or at least asked in more general terms. Like, "what are your thoughts about having kids?" instead of "when are you having kids?" Just a slight change in wording can make a huge difference.

  6. I've been getting this more and more. Particularly because I'm currently making a career change – from engineering to teaching. Sooo, career that's assumed to be super unfriendly to having kids to career that's assumed to be rather friendly to having kids. And we've been married for about 1.5 years so…

    Yeah. Pretty much *everyone* assumes that I'm becoming a teacher because we want to have kids. Uhhhh, no. I'm becoming a teacher because I really didn't like working as an engineer and I really missed teaching (I was a TA in grad school) While we're not 100% against kids, we're both heavily leaning towards the "not for us". I'm one of those people who likes kids, and enjoys being around them but just has no real desire to have children of my own. Instead I like dogs. Lots of dogs! We're getting a puppy in about 1.5 months and I'm super excited! I hate that people see me getting a dog as me having a 'trial run' or 'compensating'. No. I just really like dogs, ok!?

    • Congratulations on your puppy! We're cat owners but we both like dogs! We just don't have schedules that would permit owning one at this point in time.
      I really don't get why people assume all teachers will have loads of children of their own. I sort of think the opposite because I'd imagine after spending all day in a classroom with 20+ children maybe you just want a break when you get home!

    • I HATE people who think pets are "practice" for kids, especially the inconsiderate, irresponsible ones who get rid of the animal when they have a baby. No. Pets (whatever the species, even a goldfish – they can live for over a decade) are a major commitment and fulfilling all on their own. There are similarities between them and children (though I know which I prefer 😀 ), but then there are similarities between children and children. If you have one baby and then another a year later, the first baby wasn't "practice" so why would a pet be?!

      • I so get this! Babies and pets cannot be compared. Pets can't even be compared to other pets! Last weekend I dog sat for my parents and there is a hella big difference between caring for my cat and their dog! With the cat we just give her an extra large bowl of food and water, make sure she has clean litter, and we can leave her for up to three days. With the dog I had to be home every five hours to let her out, she eats at certain times, has to be given medicine at certain times, and has to be walked (though I may have skipped that part and just tossed sticks with her for exercise!) I really felt so stifled and tethered to the house. I even had to turn down an invitation to a firework show because it was so far away that I would've gotten there, spent an hour, then had to turn around and go back for the dog!

        So yeah, pets are not practice children. They're not even good practice for other types of pets!

  7. I found this pretty refreshing, in that you acknowledge that it can be appropriate to ask IF a couple is having kids. I feel like a lot of articles like this sort of don't jive with my feelings because they imply that asking about kids at all is always, without exception, inappropriate and nosy. Asking about kids can be legitimate coming from someone with whom the couple has the right kind of relationship. There are, however, good and bad ways to ask about kids, and I like that you touch on this.

    I never explicitly wanted kids, although I've thought for a long time that I could be perfectly happy having kids with the right person. I'd just… also be really content without them. I didn't like kids when I was a kid, I never babysat anyone except my cousins, and I always claimed I didn't want/like kids. In general, it was true, although I've never had a problem with kids I know well. But my partner really wants kids. He'd be a great father. After thinking long and hard about it, I've decided I'd be happy to have kids with him, I think it will be an exciting adventure.

    But I honestly feel kind of bad, like I feel like I'm just rewarding everyone who says "oh, you'll change your mind" and I feel especially bad that, due to unpredictable health problems on his part (he has MS), we'll probably have kids sooner rather than later. This is what we feel is best for us, but I really hate to be reinforcing people's expectations. I know I need to do what's right for me without worrying about silly things, but I can't shake the feeling that I'll be contributing to the expectations that OF COURSE everyone will 1. change their mind about not wanting kids, 2. get pregnant immediately after marriage. 🙁 Maybe when people ask me obnoxious questions, I can answer in a subversive and rebellious way that pushes the point that what's right for me isn't right for everyone?

    • I really don't mind the question being asked if it's asked in the right way. If anyone asked me "So, are you guys thinking about having children?" I would just respond that yes, we've thought about it and decided not to. I have no problem with something like that. It's the "Congratulations, you're married. When's the baby coming?" type questions that set me off because the person asking never considered the possibility that a married couple might choose to remain child free.
      Don't ever feel bad or like you have to justify changing your mind. I went through something similar regarding my name. I had planned through our whole engagement (14 months) to take my husband's last name and use my maiden name as a middle name. When the time came to actually fill out the paperwork I froze, couldn't do it, went through weeks of torment and finally accepted that I had changed my mind and wanted to keep my name. As long as you and your partner feel the decision is right and know why it was made no one else, or their opinions, matter.

    • I definitely have those guilty feelings too, along with resentment towards the "I told you so" kinds of comments. Those make me want to change my mind again and go back to saying I'll never have kids!

  8. Love this! I'm on the childfree boat and I get this kind of question a lot from older relatives. People from the same age class as I am seem to have gotten the memo somehow, and I usually get "so.. do you plan to have kids?" which is much better in my books and vastly refreshing.

    However, I find that if a person asks the rude "so, when are you going to procreate" question, no argument, however valid and relevant to our situation, will make them change their mind that you absolutely HAVE TO reproduce the second you're married. Invariably, this kind of people will tell you that you can get around your debilitating illness/career choices/mental issues/childhood trauma [insert reason not to have kids here] if you want, because them or their friends or their hamsters did it.

    Just because someone managed to have an international reputation in their field and travel around the world and cure their depression while having eighteen kids in the span of three years doesn't mean that I WANT to do the same. Good on the people who can do that. I certainly feel that somebody else's life choices should not be relevant to my own life.

    • "Do you plan to have kids?" is so nice to hear rather than "When are you having kids?" I've heard all the stories about people overcoming their various medical issues, business, careers, etc to have children and I think that's really awesome if you WANT to do that. I think it's equally awesome if you can step back and say … I like my life the way it is and don't want to change it in such a huge and lasting way.

  9. Good for you for knowing what you want and being smart about it–thinking it through instead of going with the flow & ending up in a situation not ideal for parents OR the children they bring into the world.

    I have 2 kids and always knew I wanted them–but we waited quite awhile before taking the plunge and these questions always bothered me too. It's an extremely personal decision and no one else's business. I've also had friends who suffered through several miscarriages and infertility issues who were hounded by coworkers & family to the point of tears because they had no idea how hurtful their prying was or what they were currently going through.

    With that said, let me just add that I was also never "into" kids or babies, and always felt awkward around them & didn't know what to do or how to act. A lot of times I still feel the same way–just not with my own kids. I was surprised at my own natural maternal instincts. For me, it's been the most rewarding thing I've done hands down. And yes you do know true love, and it's not fair for anyone to tell you that you don't… but, it is quite a different kind of love that a parent has for a child. It does NOT diminish any other kind of love, but it is something a person just can't understand unless they experience it. I can see where these comments come from; well-meaning parents who honestly believe parenthood is the best thing ever and are just trying unsuccessfully to describe how incredible it really is. And it is–but it is also very difficult, and challenging, and life-changing and not for everyone. If it was then there would be a whole lot less neglected, abused & abandoned children in the world. If we would all simply accept others' personal choices we'd all be better off.

    • You are so right! I know that I can never understand the love a parent feels for a child, but thank you so much for saying that it doesn't diminish the other love relationships I have in my life. That's what bothers me about some comments I've received. That the people seem to be saying "Well, yeah, you love your husband but that can't POSSIBLY be as fulfilling as loving a child." To me, it can be and it is.

  10. This! So, so much this! (We're on the same page except for the part about not liking children. I like them well enough to hang out for an hour or two, but I'm glad to give them back to their parents after that.) I love it when someone can articulate everything that I'm feeling without me having to do it myself. I want to print this out and just hand it to people when they bother me about it.

    • Reading this, I thought "wait…did I write this? No, I have nieces and nephews, different medical issues, decided to be childfree at 19, and don't mind children over the age of 2 for short periods of time." Then I read Erin's response and thought "oh, I TOTALLY wrote that."

      "I love it when someone can articulate everything that I'm feeling without me having to do it myself." This reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from 1984: “The best books… are those that tell you what you know already.” It's always awesome when someone else had the same thoughts as you, but was able to organize them better and presents them to you in an organized manner.

      • Thank you! That makes me feel so good! I feel the same when I read something that feels like a page out of my own life. 🙂

  11. Why are a woman's family planning decisions one of the few topics that are considered totally open for discussion? I've never understood. 1. People just assume most woman will have children and start asking about it at the wedding. 2. People ask pregnant woman all sorts of inappropriate questions (ex. cervix. why do people ask me about my cervix? wtf). 3. Bring infertility or child loss into it and people really get inappropriate.

    • When I worked in the "customer service sector" I was appalled at how many times I would see complete strangers approach a pregnant woman and start asking questions, touching her belly, etc. I just wanted to yell at them "Let the woman do her damn grocery shopping in peace!"
      I've also had the unfortunate experience of people asking me "So, when are you due?" … I've never been pregnant … I just don't do enough sit ups apparently. That one really kills me! Sometimes I respond with a cold "I'm not pregnant" sometimes with a "Not pregnant, just fat!" and if I'm feeling saucy I utilize my acting skills to tear up and say "I'm not pregnant … I can't be pregnant" People need to think twice before asking ANYTHING regarding pregnancy to anyone.

  12. SO. MUCH. THIS. I like kids, love my nieces and nephews, but really don't want my own. People say "Oh, I'm so disappointed, I know what you're missing out on". It's like "Uh, you have kids, do you know what you're missing out on by NOT?" For example, my mother's whole identity was built around being a mother, and once the last of us left home she had a massive crisis (even though of course she didn't stop being a mother). Me? My identity is built around my own personality, my relationship with my husband, my career, my business, my hobbies, my travel, my pet ownership… all things I can continue with, and that I have control over!
    My Mum even still makes jokes that are really hurtful, even though she knows I don't want kids. Playing with my nieces and nephews she says "It's not the same as having your own, you know." or when I talk to her about my husband's success "Oh, he needs someone to pass all that drive and creativity onto!". I seriously just want to punch anyone in the face who questions my decision to not have children, with a loud "F- OFF".

    Speaking of which, what disturbs me more, is why people don't ask the reasons someone DOES want kids. Surely that's a decision that has a much larger impact on future generations and the world and should be thought about a bit more. Rather, if I said "I want kids", people would say "Oh yea, that's what people do", rather than "Have you thought about how you might raise them? The impact on your marital relationship? The impact on your finances? The impact on your day to day life? The impact on the environment?". UGH.

    • "Speaking of which, what disturbs me more, is why people don't ask the reasons someone DOES want kids."

      THIS. When you go to the gyn, if you say you want kids, it's no big deal. If you say, "Tie my tubes," then they need to discuss whether or not you're old enough to make that decision and whether or not your husband supports it.

    • Agree 1,000x! I honestly sometimes feel bad for women who build their whole identity around being mothers because kids DO grow up. They leave home, they start their own lives, and then what's left? When you've done nothing for 20+ years except raise children how to you get back to being you? I know lots of women make this transition very successfully and start new hobbies and social lives but there's probably an equal amount of women who have a major identity crisis when faced with an empty nest. For me, my identity is built around my work, my involvement with theater, and other hobbies. Some of these hobbies would inevitably have to be given up or put on a back burner if kids came into the picture and I'm just not willing to do that.
      I think a lot of people don't even ever consider WHY they want kids. They just have them because that's what's next. That's incredibly terrifying. Working in a school I see a lot of families where you just have to wonder if the parents ever really wanted the kids or if they're just stuck with them. In those types of situations I just feel awful for the kids because no one ASKS to be born.

      • To be fair though, even if a woman bases her identity on her children, that is HER decision. I saw that my own mother had been a stay-at-home mom, never really worked seriously again even after the kids were grown up, never used the degree she had gotten, and I totally did not want that for myself. But….in a conversation with my mother about my not wanting to have kids, I brought up this argument that I didn't want to lose my own identity. She was immediately hurt and offended (rightfully so!) and pointed out that she herself never felt like she had lost her identity. She had done exactly what she wanted to do and had been happy and content with her life. Somehow it had never occurred to me that just because I felt one way about motherhood/stay-at-home moms, those people themselves obviously would feel differently. I think the conversation was a slap in the face for both of us.

        • Oh absolutely! That's why I said some women make the transition very well. If that's their choice and they're happy with it then more power to them! It's not a choice that I would make for myself but on the other side of that my choice is obviously not the one they would make. Different strokes for different folks!

  13. Oh man, I feel like I could have written most of this too! I feel like I got so lucky when I found a guy who didn't want to have kids either. Thankfully, no one has been bugging us about our reproductive decisions. But when it comes up, I usually say something like, "Do you realize what a small combination of Husband and me would be like? I don't want to raise that."

    • Hahaha, that's great! I never even considered what a small combination of my husband and I would be like …. but now that I have it's slightly terrifying!
      I was equally relieved when I found out that my husband didn't have any interest in having children either. It was like "wait, he's funny, he's good looking, we relate on pretty much every level there is AND he wants to be child free?" SCORE!!!

  14. A friend of mine made a really good point recently that has resonated with me. The "When are you having kids" question could even be offensive to people who might be TRYING to have kids and haven't been able to conceive. It is NONE of anyone's business except yours (and your partner's) whether or not you disclose your decision to have children. At best it's an awkward conversation, and at worst, it could lead to disconnection and mental anguish. Unless you initiate the conversation about your decision, everyone else has no business asking. Period.

    • THIS. My husband and I are dealing with infertility. We are not financially able to adopt or try invitro (and we aren't really on board with either, regardless of finances). I don't get the question that often (a lot of people assume I'm younger than I am or have known me long enough not to ask) but my husband meets new people through his job every day. He gets asked "do/when will you have kids?" every day. We would love to have children, but are at the point where we are enjoying doing the kinds of things we couldn't do if we had a child – starting to travel more, save more $$ for retirement, walk around naked at home… You get the idea 🙂
      We are lucky in that most of our close friends do not have kids, and many of them do not want any. It is such a personal choice, and I'm always surprised when people are intrusive about my child-free life. Um, I'm 30 and married with no kids, isn't it obvious that I either don't want or can't have them? (the same isn't true for everyone, but is true for many of us). Okay, rant over 🙂

  15. I have gotten extremely lucky and found a partner in life who also does not want children. I have had some time to think through how I feel about people asking questions or making comments, and my general feeling is that: family is allowed to be disappointed, but not condemning; friends are allowed to be curious, but not condescending; and acquaintances are not allowed to care.

    My partner's parents have taken our decision especially hard, but it has never even been an issue for mine since I have been asserting since I was 10 that I did not want kids of my own. Like many of the other posters here, it was just something I "always knew." I have 3 permanent rescue animals and 1 foster at the moment, so my hands are plenty full, and I don't think anyone could honestly describe us as "selfish."

    • Your parents sound like mine. They've known for a very long time that they would never be grandparents (only child) and they never seemed disappointed. If they were, they didn't bother me about it. My mother finds it ridiculous when people her age harp on their children about "when am I going to be grandparent" because she says it's not right to view your children as grandchild factories!

      • My parents (I'm an only) did something interesting as soon as I left for college. They started befriending young couples from their church who didn't have nearby parents. So, they've gotten to babysit, watch the older kids while new ones are being born, host young mother & baby groups, etc. They've gotten to be grandparents far earlier than they would even if my partner and I do decide to have children. I think it's really reduced their craving for grandkids, and instead of being asked about kids, I get told what adorable things all of their "honorary grandkids" are doing these days. And all of my old baby toys are getting use!

        • That's really awesome! I don't think my parents really have much of a craving to be around little kids because it's been … well, since I was a child that they were! They both have hobbies (Dad golfs, Mom skis) and they like to take vacations so I'm not worried about them. I do feel like that my in-laws might be disappointed with our choice because they love children and their only grandchildren live far away. My sisters-in-law aren't dating currently so it will probably be awhile before either of them have children, if they ever do.

    • Family expectations are one of my biggest hangups. It's very likely that none of my husband's siblings will have children, and his uncle didn't have kids, so I feel like my father-in-law is counting on us to 'carry on the family name' or something. Hubby and I are still not entirely decided on whether we want children or not, and I'm pretty sure his dad will try to guilt us into it if we decide no kids >.<

      • Uggggggh, that's rough. My husband is the only son in his family and he's a IV. We like to say he's the fourth and the last! However, he does have male cousins so at least he doesn't have the pressure of being the last one with his family name. I am actually the last one in my family with our surname but since I'm a woman I never felt that pressure to carry on the name.

  16. See, I have a kid and I want more. Like, a lot more with my partner. When I was younger, I self-identified as a total complete lesbian. Now, I know that I'm just totally, completely queer.

    My advice is: just do what you want. If you feel this way forever, great. If you change your mind, don't question your past position and do whatever you want. If you get pregnant and don't want it, have an abortion. If you're pregnant for the 4th time and don't want it, have an abortion. Thing is, now a days, having kids is an OPTION. It's not hard work, but it's tremendously demanding. I wouldn't ever wish it on someone who doesn't want that.

    I don't like kids either, but I like mine. I'm around other kids and I have no interest. So…. larvae like and dependant!! What the hell do I do with that? With mine, I just did as I felt was necessary. He's happy and whatnot, I love him, but I can't stand other kids.

    Other thing – you don't need reasons to not have kids. We're 9 billion people, for crying out loud. That is not sustainable. You definitely shouldn't think that you need to justify your decision. This, right now, is plenty. //

    I have a kid, but my life goals remain the same. My kid just becomes a part of it – he's in meetings, in groups, in activities. I figure it's good for him to be social like that. My identity remains me – he depends on me for most things right now, but he's ultimately his own man (or woman, I still don't know what gender "he" identifies with). I am there to help him on his way, not be his everything.

    BTW- the happiest, healthiest couple I've met in their 80s had no kids. She was in a belly dancing group 2 times a week (and SEXY!!), they traveled the world, always did as they wanted. It wasn't because they couldn't, it was because they chose to. I wish you as solid of a relationship as they had.

  17. I'm always super supportive of these child-free posts that go up but I just wish so many of them didn't talk about kids so derisively as they did. I think plenty of us offbeat home readers are familiar enough about child-free motivations to not have to read about what little annoying, time-sucking monsters children are. It just doesn't seem like a fair or kind way to talk about human beings, you know? I don't know, it just bothers me how people can talk about kids, like they aren't even people.

    • To be fair though, that's not really what the post says. It says "I find them" not "They are". And nobody calls them monsters. Of course kids are people, nobody disagrees on that. It's just that there seems to be a generally agreed upon sentiment that kids are Just So Great. Not all people agree with that.
      Yes, kids are people too, and just like you don't have to like me, I have the right not to like kids in general. Doesn't mean I have to be a dick to them, which this post doesn't propose at all.

      IMO, kids do tend to get on my nerves in a more grating way than adults. And they do suck up a lot of time, as should be the case if you are the parent. Why is it so bad to point those things out? There are plenty of articles on how to be an efficient parent, how to get kids to work with you etc. from moms and dads. Why is it okay for those posts to point such things out, but not if a childfree person does the same? Just because we haven't procreated, doesn't mean we can't objectively notice how much time childrearing costs.

      Tl:dr Nobody says that. Of course kids are people. And everybody has the right to dislike other people. Including kids.

      • I have to agree, I want children but there are lots of things kids do that I find annoying, or am willing to admit are annoying (picky eating, sulking, etc though not every kid does that). I think what a lot misconceptions about not wanting/liking children come from is that said person won't interact with children in a civilized manner. My two bosses actually hate kids, don't want to have them, and are frankly probably too old anyways. But when kids come into their store they actually have really positive interactions with them. Sometimes the kid leaves and they said they like THAT kid. As Gwen says, kids are human beings and have their own personalities.

        • "I think what a lot misconceptions about not wanting/liking children come from is that said person won't interact with children in a civilized manner."

          Exactly! I swear, people seem to think I'm going to start snatching candy, breaking crayons, and reducing kids to tears. That's not the case. I prefer to not be around them but if I find myself in a situation where I am I can be polite and play along for as long as I have to. For crying out loud, I work in a school! Granted, I'm in the office wing where contact with children is rare but it does happen occasionally and I'm perfectly able to interact with them when the occasion calls for it.

    • I'm sorry if you took what I said as kid bashing. I really tried not to make it seem that way. I don't think children are evil horrible little monsters. But for me personally I find it very hard to relate to them and I'm very uncomfortable around them.

  18. Aww we smooches Brink!! I am saving this for whenever it comes up in the future… So far my dad is supportive, but my youngest brother is angry that "my kids won't have any cousins." We both have health issues and I may not even be able to have children. I really appreciate you sharing this open letter.

    • You are most welcome! I'm glad you were able to identify with it. I'm also sorry your brother is giving you trouble. I don't understand when people want other people to have children for silly reasons like "my kids won't have cousins." What is that!? A person's reproductive decisions are their own and no one else has any business commenting.

  19. Thank you! This explains it perfectly. I'm 31 I've been with my husband now for 9 1/2 years and neither of us has the desire to have children. I'm still too young to even consider the possibility of tubal ligation according to my GP and my Family Planning Clinic.

    • Oh wow. I'm sorry about that. I've already discussed it with mine and he was okay with it. He said his office does have a waiver you sign if you're doing it as an elective surgery, basically so you can't come back and sue them if someday you change your mind. Have you and your husband discussed a vasectomy instead? It's so unfair but I think it's way easier for men to get "fixed" than women. My husband and I have discussed both options but want to weight the pros, cons, and costs of each before we decide which one of us will have a procedure.

  20. I have 4 biological children, aged 16, 15, 11 and 10. Married, mostly a Stay at Home mom (struggled with that job/concept for awhile) recently employed as a CNA 20 hours a week, as of today anyway…I LOVE your blatantly honest post. I feel like letting you know that I highly respect your choice and do understand your contentment. I thank you for posting and am glad to read your perspective. Thank you for honoring YOU, for maintaining your power and Living on Purpose for You and Hubby. We are NOT all meant for children nor does marriage need have anything to do with procreation of human babies. I appreciate you standing your ground and choosing the directions of your Life journey based on what is to be your highest service to all (yourself first and foremost included), no children needed! Again, Thank you.
    May you be Blessed in all ways and all things.

    Appreciatively,

  21. So many people lack so much tact in this area. Sometimes it's hard to know what's okay to ask and what's not. I think the key is to not make assumptions like you mentioned. When people ask, "when" are you doing something, they've made an underlying assumption that you will do it.

    I have a neighbor who asked me once if we "were planning on expanding our family". I thought it was the most gracious, polite way to ask without making any assumptions. Because even if the answer is yes, I'm planning to, sometimes things get in the way of plans (money, infertility, etc), and expanding a family could mean getting a dog too… I will use it in the future should the conversation come up with someone else.

    • That is a great way to ask the question! It's not assuming you're going go have children and like you pointed out expanding your family doesn't necessarily mean children. If someone were to ask me that I'd say "well, we'd like to have two cats someday, but our current cat doesn't play well with others so it won't be for awhile."

  22. My 1st marriage was dealing with this constantly, it always amazed me because the youngest aunt had fertility issues, and yet the ex MIL would complain about how selfish I was for not having kids. She had very little idea as to what issues we as a couple were going thru, #1 not her or anyone else business, and #2 the pressure from her & her huge family made me resist the idea even more.

    As for my parents, they asked once, I said when we are ready i'll tell you. Thank goodness we never had them, I still think its because something about the whole idea didn't feel quite right. Turns out I was correct, he left me for a something that had 2 boys… apparently an already made family was what he wanted…

    I recently have remarried, he does not want kids, he does not felt he bonds well with children of any age. I like not having that pressure from people who have no reason to be involved in my bedroom.

    Everyone is different, it took a long time after my divorce to realize that my not having kids didn't make selfish (even tho that's what ex MIL still says) or immature, or less of a lady. And I refuse to be told I am missing something because others feel I should be their definition of normal..

    • I have never understood the argument that NOT having children is selfish.
      Something about that argument just doesn't click in my mind. I suppose depriving my parents of the chance to be grandparents could be misconstrued as selfish … but to that I would counter argue that it is very selfish of parents to expect their children to reproduce so they can be grandparents.
      I think my mother put it best when she said "Viewing your children as grandchild making machines is disgusting and wrong. As a parent, you should want your child to be successful and happy in whatever they choose, nothing more."

  23. Great article, it was like reading my own thoughts! The sad thing is you shouldn't even have to give your reasons for not wanting children. It's your choice and your business- no one else's. You'd think people would realise they'd put their foot in it and apologise rather than prying further but they don't. People who have children to look after them in old age shock and repulse me, and yet they're the ones that call US selfish!

    • Right!? The thought of having a child with the intent of them being a future caretaker NEVER crossed my mind until it was brought up by a well meaning but slightly misguided person. My immediate reaction was twofold.
      First, raising a child requires huge sacrifices of time, energy, money, etc and those sacrifices should be made being a parent wants to. Not looked at as an investment into elder care! Second, there is NO guarantee that a person's children will care for them in their old age. NONE! What if my hypothetical born to be a caretaker child despised me for whatever reason?
      What if they moved to a different state or a different country and weren't around to help? What if they were ill or in some other way impaired and literally could NOT help take care of me? Too many ifs involved, not to mention one of the most selfish things I've ever heard of in my whole life.

  24. This article should be required reading for everyone. It covers almost all of the reasons I can think of for why someone would not want to have children. I am 40, married for two years, and since my 20s have had countless "when will you have kids" questions asked of me. I was also told by my sister's mother in law on her wedding day that it is my duty as a woman by God to have children. Well, this agnostic has never had more than an abstract idea of being somebody's mother.
    People also feel that they can push the issue, insisting that I must want children because I am a teacher. Like seriously? I spend all day with kids, why do you think I would want to come home to them? By the end of the day, I have been as polite, patient and modelling of good behaviour as I can be. I have seen lots of bad parenting, and unless I am fully committed to being a parent, which I'm not, I will keep my kids in the classroom.

    • Bravo! I work at a school, secretary not teacher, and I do think that there's a really enormous assumption that of course teachers will want children. They must love them! They spend all day with them! Why wouldn't they want to spend all evening, night, weekend, and summer vacation with them as well? =P

  25. These intrusive questions are so annoying! My husband and I have two children, but we chose to wait 6yrs to get pregnant. We wanted to be able to enjoy our marriage, travel together, and strengthen our bond as a family of two before bringing kids into the picture. The questions were nonstop, and someone even went as far as asking if we were having fertility issues!
    Now, don't think that after you have a baby the questions will stop. Then they want to know when you're having the second, and the third, and the fourth, and when are you going to stop having kids! HA!!!

    • I think that's great that you guys took the time to yourselves before starting to have children. A few couples I've known didn't give themselves anytime at all to just be a two some before bringing in kids and unfortunately a couple of those marriages didn't last long term. I really think more people should take the time to enjoy just being with each other before changing their family dynamic in such a lasting way.
      I can't believe people actually asked if you were having fertility issues!
      That takes nosey to a whole another level! Since the time this was written the questions have calmed down quite a bit but I do have a new co-worker who is firmly in the "You'll change your mind" camp. I sort of can't wait until I'm able to come in and tell her I need a day off to take my husband for his vasectomy. Maybe then she'll believe me!

  26. Thank you! As kidless married adults, my husband and I have had almost 20 years of people providing all sorts of unwanted and needless feedback about our childfree life. I want to add 3 more things to the list that drive me nuts:

    "Whether we want kids or not is irrelevant. We don't have any and I'm not justifying why to you."
    The balls of people to ask us why, why not, what about fertility treatments, won't you miss it, how will you ever really be selfless, or a woman, or an adult? what about your family name, and passing down good genes, etc etc etc? We don't have kids. No one but us gets to know if the reason behind that is because we tried and we couldn't or because we hate them with the very depths of our souls.

    "No, I will not babysit, feed, burp, change a diaper, etc your kid just because i don't have kids and have more free time or need to experience motherhood."
    Happy to volunteer our extra time, money, clean spittle-free shirt to help our family and friends take care of their kids because they need the help. No problem! Definitely not changing a dirty diaper or burping someone just because a parent wants us to have the "parental experience" we're missing out on without kids of our own. Trust me, we don't think we're missing anything. Keep the dirty diaper to yourself.

    "No i don't care more about your kid than I do about my pet."
    Read this again people who think your kid is somehow more important to me than my own pet.
    Our dog > Other little humans.

    In the world of our dog vs other people's kids, our dog comes first in my book. First in a fire, first if there's a car barreling towards us all, first if when a kid tries to pull my dog's tail or ears and she snaps at him to get away, first. In an emergency, if it's my dog or your kid, i'm grabbing my dog first. I'm sorry, that's just how it is because she's part of our family, protecting family is instinct, and your kid is not my family.

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