Things not to say to someone when they tell you they don’t want kids

I’m a person that doesn’t want to have children.  Not now, not ever.  There are a lot of different practical and ideological reasons I could give you to justify why I made that decision.  But to be honest, I’ve just never really wanted any.  I can remember from a very young age just thinking, “Nah, that’s not for me.”

I didn’t think that my feelings on this issue were all that unusual.  Some people want kids, some don’t, the end.  When I was in my early 20s, the topic never really seemed to come up in conversation at all.  But now that I’m approaching 30, I get asked more and more about children.  Specifically, how many do I want and when do I plan on having them.

I don’t really mind talking about it, it seems like a reasonable topic of conversation for around the water-cooler.  People like to talk about life, relationships, jobs, money, the state of the world or family.  What I find offensive is how people react, and the things that they feel justified in saying to me upon finding out I want to remain child-free.

So, inspired by this Huff Post Women article, here is my own list of ridiculous things people say to me when I tell them I’m not having kids:

“Oh no…you say that now, but you’ll change your mind when you’re older!”

This one is annoying for two reason.  One is that if I really don’t want kids, and never end up having any, then you’ve just totally invalidated my choice and shut down any kind of interesting conversation we could have had about the topic.

And two, if I do change my mind…then so what?  People change their minds about things all the time.  That’s just what people do.  But we don’t usually have conversations about what we might think and feel about something in ten years.  We talk about how we feel about it now.  So I would kindly ask you not to discount my feelings on a topic that you have just asked me about.

“Really?? I can’t wait to have kids of my own!  I want them for this reason and this reason and this reason…”

That’s great, I’m happy for you.  You do know that you don’t have to justify your decision to have kids to me, right?  My choice is not a criticism of your choice.  If you really want kids, and you have lots of good reasons why, and you’re planning on enjoying them, then go right ahead and good luck to you!

“But who will take care of you in your old age??!!”

Sorry, but if this is your only reason for having kids, then it’s kind of selfish.  Also, life is pretty crazy and unpredictable, and just because you have kids it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to be able to support you later on.  Your retirement is pretty much just an uncertain as someone without children.

“But having children is one of the happiest and most fulfilling experiences you can have in life!”

Actually, did you know that studies show that couples with children are consistently unhappier than those without?

Science aside, I’m sure that raising children is an incredibly fulfilling experience for someone who wants to have them.  And it’s true that there are many meaningful things you can do in life that are also stressful and hard work.  If you find your life’s meaning in having offspring, then I congratulate you.  But for someone who doesn’t want any…I doubt I would feel the same way.

“You know, you would make a great mother.”

Thank you.  I’m sure I would also make a great concert pianist, if I put my mind to it.  It doesn’t mean I want to be one.

“What does your partner think about that???”

Funnily enough, we have talked about the things that we want in life once or twice in the four years we’ve been together.  If he wanted kids and I didn’t I doubt either of us would have stuck around this long.

So what should I say??

Try something like this: “Oh cool, how interesting.  I haven’t met anyone who felt that way before.  Is there any particular reason or you just don’t feel strongly about having them?”

Basically, anything that doesn’t outright judge, compare, or ask someone to justify their choice is fine.  I’m happy to answer questions and engage in a dialogue about my thoughts and feelings on the topic.  Try to show understanding, rather than reacting with shock or discounting someone’s opinion outright.  After all, you did just ask about it.

There is a wealth of diversity in other people’s perspectives and we don’t all want to take the common road.  Personally, I think that makes ua all the more interesting!


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