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You Asked: Do I Explain Our Reasons for Not Having Children?

DearSugar --

I am 27 and have been happily married to my 33-year-old husband for 5 years. About 2 years ago my husband and I made the decision to not have children (there's a lot of reason behind this). We're very content with our lives. We have two dogs and a cat which bring us great joy, and we love the idea of being able to get up and go and do what we want.

My problem is this: Every time I tell people we decided not to have children I feel as if everyone is making me out to be this horrible person. There have been a few select people that have said, "Good for you." But I've gotten, "Why? How could you not want to have children?" And "You'll change your mind." And the mother of them all, "I think that's a selfish decision." I've even gotten, "Don't you want someone to take care of you when you're older?"

My question is how do I explain my reasons for my decision without people jumping all over me? -- Cornered Caroline

To see DEARSUGAR's answer

Dear Cornered Caroline --

Like you, I'm always baffled by the intrusion and obsession around the private, reproductive lives of women. Even if people don't understand that it's ill-mannered, it's still ill-mannered. The grand dame of advice columnists herself, Dear Abby, tells us this is nobody's business (and repeat that fact, if you have the opportunity, Caroline!):

Dear Childless And Happy: There are several ways to handle questions that are nobody’s business. One is to deflect the question by asking another: “Why do you ask?” Or, “Why do you think that’s any of your business?” Alternatively, if you really want the person to back down, you can reply, “If it were any of your business, you’d already know the answer to that question. Please don’t ask me again!”

You asked, Caroline, how to explain your reasons without people jumping all over you. You shouldn't explain, and I hope you won't. This is a private decision, between you and your partner, and no one you don't choose should be privy to your reasons. This decision is legitimate, period, and it's not your job to convince anyone of your truth. Besides, everyone everywhere has an opinion about something, you don't want to spend too much energy entertaining people around their unsolicited opinions, and definitely not when it concerns something so private and important to you.

Try to remember, as well, that when most people react or judge your choices, they're revealing something about themselves, their beliefs or anxieties, even if they seem to be speaking about you (or believe they are). While that sort of behavior can effect you, it really and truly is not about you. Once you start to notice this, life can get pretty liberating.

Run, don't walk, to this website. Baby Not on Board is a great community, and they provide news, information, and wit for people who've decided not to have children. I think it would help you to find a tribe of supportive, kindred people, Caroline. That link sends you into the archives; if you scroll down to January 16, 2006, you'll find some hilarious suggestions for handling the baby question. Here's a sample:

Are there any children on your horizon?

Earnest: Not the last time I looked.
Witty: No, but I think I spot a flock of geese.
End of conversation: not since losing my reproductive organs in a gruesome fly-fishing accident.

Aren't you getting to the age when you should be thinking about kids?

Earnest: Gosh, i really don't think that's anybody's business.
Witty: No, but you're getting to the age when you should know better than to ask.
End of conversation: Actually, I'm getting to the age when my ovaries start producing half-wits.

You sound like a genuinely nice woman, Caroline, but don't be afraid to use a little muscle when the situation calls for it. There's a time and a place for everything, and sometimes people need a little help knowing when they've stepped over the line.

Join The Conversation
katie225 katie225 10 years
wow, that was longer than i expected it to be....can't...stop....talking....
katie225 katie225 10 years
the thing is, most people assume that a married couple is going to have children. yeah, i know, maybe people shouldn't make that assumption. but i can see myself being married and waiting for kids someday but not now, and one of my aunts or my grandmother asking, "so hey, any kids in your future?" and i would just say, without being mad or anything, "not now, but definitely someday! we just want to get out of debt first" or something like that. so they asked me the question because they assumed that i wanted to have kids, they're my family members and they are generally interested in my life and whether there will be more family members. i don't think they're being nosy. but imagine i don't want to have kids, and they ask me. some of the people that have commented who don't want to have kids, and some of the people that i know personally who don't want to have kids, all of a sudden really freak out at people for even asking this question. i can understand being like, "hey, it's none of your business" when the person that asks you is not related to you in any way or they're not a close friend. for instance, if you're just meeting someone for the first time and talking about how long you've been married and they ask, then yeah, it's none of their business. but when it's your family or close friends, don't freak out, ladies! i've heard of women i know just giving the worst attitude to their aunts or grandmothers when they ask, and i think that's just so rude. and then saying it's none of their business? i'm sorry, but they are your family members who are honestly interested in your lives and are making the assumption that most women want to have kids and don't find the question nosy at all. don't tell your grandmother it's none of her business. she'll just write you out of the will! be nice and say, "you know, grandma/aunt/cousin/mom/sister, we've decided we're not going to have kids." then if they give you sh*t for your decision, THEN you can be rude. anyone who tries to give you slack for deciding not to have kids is out of their mind. especially if they call you less than a woman or anything like that. if they say, "you'll change your mind when you get older," just say, "no one knows what the future will bring. but for now, and probably for the next few years, i don't want kids. thanks!" i would say that because if the woman is older, like your grandmother or your aunt or something, they might actually know what it feels like. who knows, you might actually change your mind (unlikely, but it could happen), and if you made a big stink about how you'll never change your mind, you'd end up having to deal with the "i told you so"s. anyways, the over-arching message of my comment is that it's really great that people make decisions for themselves about their reproductive lives. i commend you for not contributing to the lot of unwanted children in the world! we have enough. but just be nice when your family asks because they're making assumptions that are generally true, most married couples generally want children. they're just erring on the side that's probable. just be nice and be honest, don't tell them it's none of their business (unless they're mean and gossipy, there's always exceptions to the rules!). there's nothing stranger in the world than asking someone a genuine question and having them blow up in your face about how it's none of your business. sure, it might be none of my business, but i genuinely wanted to know. there's a tactful way of telling people it's none of their business, or that you don't want kids and it's not their decision to make. the reason i'm making this comment is because i have a lot of friends and acquaintances that ended up having strained relationships with their families or close friends because they just gave them attitude for even asking the question. i realize that you get asked the question a lot and it can be tiresome because you start to expect that people will call you names and say bad things about you. but if they do that and you end up having a bad relationship with them, that's all their fault.
rkdub rkdub 10 years
Good for you for not having kids if you don't want that life for yourself.... you know how frustrating it is to consistently see kids that are unwanted and therefore completely OUT OF CONTROL!!!! I don't want kids either, and while thankfully not many people ask (I'm only 22... figure I'll start getting more questions in a few years) I really do NOT like kids...I prefer my dogs, thanks. When they make me mad, I CAN put them in a cage in the basement (only for 15-20 minutes so they calm down...I'm not a bad "mamma") and not end up on CNN.... big advantages to that!
Bonne Bonne 10 years
Realize that they care and they want to share their experiences, but take a step back because it isn't their business. I agree with Sugar, those answers are great.
lms lms 10 years
I have a 7 yr old and I always get the question about when am I having another one. I get the lectures about she needs a companion, etc. I have gotten to the point where I have had to tell some people to get over it that it will never happen. I used to ask them if they planned on taking care of the kid. If they told me no, then I told them never to ask me again. It has worked. It isn't really sweet and sugery but it stopped them from annoying me. Just tell them that your decision is final and thats it!
Marci Marci 10 years
Hate the italic font. I never cease to be amazed at how nosey people are on this subject. Having children is an incredibly personal decision, yet everyone feels so free to talk about it with couples after they've been married awhile. And the topper to that is if a couple has decided against children, people don't want to accept that and DO make you feel like there's something wrong with you. I pity the poor children who are had so that their parents have someone to take care of them when they're older.
cubadog cubadog 10 years
Telling them you have nothing to announce yet leads people to believe you are actually thinkin about having kids then they just keep asking. People just need to butt out. It is a rude question that is no ones business!
lickety-split lickety-split 10 years
maybe not tell them? maybe be more mysterious and say "well we don't have anything to announce right now" and leave it at that.
dreamsugar dreamsugar 10 years
Ah -- I'm not having children and d@mm proud. I'm too selfish & neglectful -- frankly I should get an award for making this decision. It works for me. I think MANY more people should be making the decision to NOT have children -- MANY -- but then don't. I saw girls in high school having children just because they think it's cute (WTF). I just wish the d@mm government would reward those who don't have children instead of making us pay more taxes. (pisses me off) I wish people would understand that there's nothing wrong with NOT having children and trust me -- your hubby (BF/GF) knows that you're all woman!!! ;)
cgmaetc cgmaetc 10 years
i'm kidding, of course... well... only a little :-) -the ceeg
cgmaetc cgmaetc 10 years
Like understands like. Since they are being rude, be rude right back! The next time some ninny pries into your personal business, I give you permission to burst into uncontrollable tears and cry out, "Because I'm barren, you witch, thanks for bringing it up!" -the ceeg
cubadog cubadog 10 years
I also have never had the desire to have any children. I am shocked by the rude remarks that I still receive and I am 36 years old on top of that gasp I am single. I love my life and after telling people that it is none of their business that I flat tell them that I am not fond of children. When your that rude you get my honest answer.
grl-in-the-world grl-in-the-world 10 years
I'll never cease to be astounded by peoples rudeness! I agree with Dear that it is absolutely no ones business but your own, and you shouldn't have to justify it to anyone! People who care about you and your husband should want you to be happy and fulfilled, and if you already are both of those things then they should keep their opinions to themselves. Having children isn't for everyone and you and your husband sound secure in your decision. I like the idea of asking people why they care so much, when it's your life, not theirs.
kendalheart kendalheart 10 years
I personally would find that very offensive if someone told I wasnt a "woman" if i didnt bear my own children! I also think that its not right for someone to be so sure that you will change your mind! Grrr what do they know? I think that Dear had great advice especially when it comes to being none of their business. I get "when are you getting married?" all the time, I want to reply well when i have plans, ill let you know until then shut up about it! A decision to not have children is completly personal and I respect that as other women should too.
boxem180 boxem180 10 years
yeah, i've been told that i'm not a woman if i don't want to bear my own children. i decided a long time ago that if i were going to raise kids, i'd adopt and i tell people that if they ask. i've gotten a lot of different answers, the main one being that i'll change my mind once i grow up a bit more. i'm 26 - i think i know myself, thanks. i may use some of dear's replies next time around. might teach some people better manners. :)
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