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Why can't people just accept not everyone wants children?

Tagged as: Big Questions, Family, Pregnancy<< Previous question   Next question >>
Question - (28 October 2015) 9 Answers - (Newest, 3 November 2015)
A female United Kingdom age 36-40, anonymous writes:

My husband and I have been married for 2 years and have no children because we chose not to have any- we are both very happy with our lives and children are not for us.

My cousin who got married 8 months after us has just revealed she is expecting her 1st child with her husband so now everyone is asking when will my husband and I have 1! We have told our families we don't want children but we get told "you'll change your minds!" Well we won't- I'm 34 and my husband is 42- I think we know our own minds by now!

I'm getting so annoyed with nosey people assuming we want children and when we explain we don't they look at us as though we are from another planet!

The comments made to us are "oh, who'll look after you when you are old?" "Won't you be lonely?" "Being a parent is the best thing"

"Not wanting children is seen as selfish!"

I think if my husband and I were serial killers we'd get more compassion!

My husband is quite laid back about when people ask or make the usual comment but it really angers me! I am then blunt with the individual and it causes awkwardness!

Why can't people just accept not everyone wants children? Surely there are more terrible things in the world than to be childless?

Can anyone give me any tips on how to not let it bother me as I swear if 1 more person asks me when I will have 1 or tells me I'll change my mind I will end up in jail for GBH!!!


View related questions: cousin, in jail, want children

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A female reader, haveiafuture Australia +, writes (3 November 2015):

Because society as a whole is conformist! If you deviate from the norm, people view you as weird. The world is full of bigots.

I gave up doing things just to make people happy a long time ago. You should realize that you have the right to live YOUR own life, not live ANOTHER persons life. Be it your parent or friends.

Like you I don't desire children. I just feel they will interfere with they way I wan to live out my life. If i get tired of people asking why, I would just say I hate kids. Might be a good tactic in the future. Though I am would look like some evil step mother from some daytime soap opera.

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A female reader, maverick494 United States +, writes (31 October 2015):

Oh dear, the "who will look after you when you get old" comment is comedic gold to be honest. My reply to that is: "The nursing home. Guess I'll see you there too because if you think your children are going to pick up the slack when you're old, they'll be too busy running their own lives to do so. It's also quite selfish a reason to have kids in the first place."

We live in a individualistic society. Thinking that raising children is some kind of investment for your own future is just naive. Sure, there are some people who have built the kind of bond with their children that the latter will come when needed (and not just for simple stuff) but to manage that takes a lot of effort and frankly good compatibility with your children.

Raising children that don't need therapy to deal with remnants of their childhood is something not many parents accomplish. Hell, many parents are woefully unfit to be them. Ask any person who grew up in a broken home.

I applaud people who have made a conscious decision to stay childless. It means they know what they want and don't want. I do want children eventually, but only if I can make the circumstances good enough for them and for myself to raise them in. That means having a good, loyal partner to raise them. And if that doesn't happen or it happens too late, well, at least I won't be contributing more the the already overpopulated earth.

Good luck and keep your head up.

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A female reader, chigirl Norway + , writes (30 October 2015):

chigirl agony auntPeople say this because meeting someone who made a different choice from them is scary, and they feel an urgent need to reassure themselves that they made the right choice, so as to not feel like fools because they don't trust their own judgment.

When people ask you these things you can choose to be gracious and ignore it, or bit back. I've been practicing the latter, just waiting for the opportunity to raise again, and I am sure it will. Like when I get asked why I don't have children yet, I plan to ask "oh, the same reason you never got an education, I guess". Or, "I didn't feel like getting a baby with the first and best man was the best plan for my future children..."

Im sure these replies will hit home. Because none of the people I know who took their time to find the right partner, got married and got their ducks in row, ever asked me such questions. Only the insecure ones who ended up as single mums, with broken homes and working at the gas station, or flipping burgers, ever asked me these questions. I guess their child is the only good thing they've got going, and feel a need to point it out.

Sorry if I offended anyone here, but I am quite annoyed as well with the "why don't you have children yet" or "when are you going to have children". When are people going to mind their own business? Isn't baby planning, or not, a PRIVATE matter, after all? You don't see me prying about "oh, when are you going to loose that belly?"

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (30 October 2015):

In my last post I meant to say, "it'd" be more selfish than "it's". Just to make sure there are no misunderstandings. It means I think the OP is making the right decision in not letting peoples' rude comments change her mind.

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (30 October 2015):

Actually, I think it's more selfish to have children when you don't want any, just to make others think more highly of you.

Children are not for everyone. I'm married, and don't want children either. I feel I simply have the wrong personality to be a mom. Aside from that, I suffer from depression, and I wouldn't want to pass that on (it's genetic). I have experienced the same remarks from people that you have. It used to bother me, but then I realized people will judge you no matter what you do (or don't do).

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A male reader, Fatherly Advice United States + , writes (29 October 2015):

Fatherly Advice agony auntNot wanting to risk GBH, but I can see your decision. At your ages we were not interested in any more children. Thanks to Aiden for making me feel less selfish in my decision not to have children later in life. I honestly cant imagine being offended if someone told me that children were not in their plans by choice. I've always believed that the decision to have or even adopt children should be a private decision between two adults.

No use getting all upset because someone sees life differently. They really wish you no ill.

My daughters have avoided romantic entanglements. As their parents we want them to be happy. We know that marriage made us happy, but we have to see that there is more than one path to happiness. If they find happiness without husbands, or children, shouldn't we be happy for them? Right now our brothers and sisters are starting to get grandchildren, and there is some jealousy there. That may be part of the source of the push you are feeling. I hope not because it is incredibly selfish to ask some one to raise a child so you can have a grandchild visit for holidays.

I've lived long enough to see couples on all sides of this decision. Where I've seen unhappiness is where parents and extended family interfere with a couples decisions.

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A female reader, So_Very_Confused United States +, writes (29 October 2015):

So_Very_Confused agony auntmy brother is gay. He never wanted to tell our grandparents since they would not understand so every time they asked him "when are you getting married?" he would say "when I meet the right girl" he knew there was no right girl for him so it was NOT a lie.

you could do a similar thing... "when the time is right"

or you could go with the whole "fixed stare" thing as if to say "wow you have some nerve asking such a personal question"

or you could ask them something very personal "when did you last have sex?"

all options work and would depend on which makes you most comfortable with each person who asks.

for a nosy friend I'd go with the sex question, grandparents the first option... strangers... the fixed stare works well...

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A female reader, Honeypie United States + , writes (29 October 2015):

Honeypie agony auntBecause SOME people don't "like" it when other people make choices that are outside the norm.

All you really CAN do is accept that you CAN NOT change those kind of people. And not LET IT get to you. Because it's wasted anger. Some people are JUST dense.

There IS nothing wrong in not wanting kids. There IS nothing wrong in wanting kids.

What IS right though is that BOTH you and your husband are on the same page and want the same things and are happy with the choices you make, together. SCREW what others think.

Someone asks you;" OH so WHEN are you having kids, tell them never, We have decided not to have kids..."

"Oh but you will change your mind, you say no, pretty sure I won't" and then you CHANGE the subject.


"Oh but you will change your mind" say :"I'd rather not discuss it, but thank you for asking." That is done politely but firmly and unless they are TOTAL busybodies and wants to pry that WILL shut them down from asking.

And the MOMENT you say that, you LET it go and smile. THINK to yourself, this poor sap can't comprehend that not everyone want the same things, how sad.

YOU DO NOT (cap letters for emphasis) owe ANYONE an explanation about your choice to have or not have kids.

No need for violence or feeling angry and mean.

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A male reader, no nonsense Aidan United Kingdom +, writes (29 October 2015):

Aha! My favourite question: I wrote an article about it which you can find on my column. I think people simply don’t understand why people make this choice and we instinctively react to what pushes us out of our comfort zone with fear. That discomfort with your choice manifests itself in the kind of smug criticism you describe: I feel better about myself (and minimise any unhappiness with my own circumstances) if by criticising your choices I can somehow discredit the perfectly valid justifications you have for having made them.

It is rare for those who have had children to regret it. That doesn’t just apply to those for whom it fulfilled their deeply-held desire for a child, but also for those who felt ambivalent about becoming a parent. There’s nothing like a convert to be utterly uncompromising. As I heard one woman put it recently: “I’m living my nightmare and I love it!” If everything changed for them in a way they welcome, they think this unexpected joy is something you might be denying yourself.

The other reason is that people erroneously conflate not wanting a child with disliking children. It’s okay to dislike kids, of course, but the reality is that many childless people really do not dislike kids at all: they are wonderful aunts and uncles, for instance, to the kids in their lives.

So where does this leave you? I’m afraid that you can’t stop the criticisms because they’re all too common. What you have to do is learn how to constructively respond in a calm way which at best will open their minds but at least will make them hastily want to change the subject. So, to end, here’s a summary of the responses I think are most effective for the objections you quoted. “You’ll change your minds.” Perhaps, but you might also change your minds and regret your choice to have kids. Does that mean that you made the wrong decision? How can we decide anything in life if we think that we’ll change our minds at some time in the future? “Who’ll look after you when you are old? Won’t you be lonely?” Who’s to say your kids will want to look after you when you’re old, and anyway isn’t this a very selfish reason to have kids? We create a life as some kind of investment for our future? Many parents would be appalled that this is the best you could come up with. Children, I thought, stopped being an economically-productive tool when we stopped sending them to factories and up chimneys. “Being a parent is the best thing.” For you, perhaps, but why does what’s true for you have to be for everyone else to? Plenty of parents walk away and abandon their responsibilities for all kinds of reasons, so it’s not best for everyone. “Not wanting children is seen as selfish.” Whereas further contributing to overpopulation of the planet is not selfish at all? (I don’t actually believe that but it does really annoy the critics, so use it). Also, what makes a person selfish? Ask them to explain how your choice advances your own self-interest at the expense of some-one else’s.

I wish you all the very best.

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