- Family and Parenting
Things NEVER to Say to a Childless-By-Choice Couple
For almost a year now, I have been taken “off the market,” so to speak, as I walked down the aisle, declared my vows to the man who would momentarily become my lifelong partner, and said “Til death do we part, I do.” Marriage. I enjoy being married. My husband and I are in our mid to late twenties. We both have careers that are taking off rather nicely, me being a writer and my husband as a master mechanic. We travel around the world, a lot. Recently we began thinking about investments for our future, whether that be purchasing property or starting our own business.
Marriage comes with many expectations, most which adhere to the domestic lifestyle. Other than traveling a lot more than the typical newly married couple, we’re satisfying the socially acceptable path that is expected of us. Do they have careers? Check. Do they have a house? Not yet, but they’re thinking about it, so that is satisfactory. Do they have plans for success? Check.
Our friends and families are genuinely excited that we are doing well for ourselves. But, with the first year on its way out and with things having gone well thus far, people are beginning to ask us a question we tend to dread: When are the two of you going to start a family? Logically, it’s the next step in a socially acceptable marriage, as many married couples tend to begin families within the first year of marriage. However, we aren’t your typical freshly married couple who dream of babies. On the contrary. While on paper we may look like your average newly married couple, but the reality is that our goals don’t necessarily fit into what we should be working towards, of which the biggest is the topic of children. To simply be put, we do not want children.
When most people hear this tidbit of information about us, they begin to home in with their opinions, talking in a tone that suggests we’ve just deeply offended them. We don’t like discussing this matter with anyone, because what should be a simple answer to someone’s question turns into a twenty minute lecture on why “we’re wrong.” And I’m not referring to the reactions of just our friends and families, I mean everyone we come across who has been privileged to learn this information.
We do not have children. We do not want children. I know we aren’t alone in this, as there are a plethora of couples out there opting out of the starting-a-family part of the marriage. People who weigh in with their opinions in regards to our childless status, no matter how they think they are coming off as, are generally highly offensive. When you come across any of us childless couples, please refrain from any of these comments:
“Is something wrong with your marriage?” Why does something need to be wrong with our marriage for us to not want children? We are perfectly happy. If you wanted to know the state of our happiness, you can ask without offending us by suggesting that because we don’t want what you want, there must be something wrong.
“That’s so selfish of you. Do you know how many people want children but can’t?” I’m sorry, but when did my wants wants and desires have anything else to do with the wants and desires of others? I want to eat sushi everyday, but I can’t. Does that mean everyone else is supposed to eat sushi everyday if they can? Heck no! I want have have lots of animals, but based on my current situation, that isn’t possible. Does that mean everyone else is supposed to have animals if it’s possible? Not in the least bit. I don’t expect other people to take interest in my interests, I would hope that others would allow me the same respect.
“But children are the greatest thing in the world.” This is your opinion. We, on the other hand, do not feel this way. Our interests include traveling, our pets, exploring, cooking, and eventually our business. These are things that we find fulfillment in. Obviously not everyone is going to find fulfillment out these things, which is fine. If someone told me “I don’t have interests in travel,” I wouldn’t turn to them and say, “But traveling is the greatest thing in the world,” as though trying to tell them that their opinions about traveling is wrong. We expect that same respect in regards to our opinions about having children.
“Who’s going to take care of you when you get older?” You’re right! On a planet with 7 billion people, I bet I won’t find a single person who offers some sort of service to take care of elder people who can’t take care of themselves, I’d better start having babies right now to secure the opportunity to be taken care of in my future (please sense my absolute sarcasm in this statement.). I’m never sure why this is a question that even comes up, because even if I did want to have children, I’m pretty sure this wouldn’t be in the the pile of reasons for children to begin with. Your progeny aren’t the only people out there who can take care of the elderly, and we certainly won’t be the first people who have had to cross that bridge.
“What happens if you accidentally get pregnant?” This is a whole other matter that I most certainly am NOT willing to discuss. If you can’t handle my right to not want kids, you most certainly will not be able to handle what could happen. The reality is that I do not know what would happen if I accidentally and unexpectedly got pregnant, it all depends on the situation, ranging from not having the child, to adoption, to potentially becoming a mother. No matter what your opinions are, the decision will be made by my husband and me, discussed in the privacy of our home, uninfluenced by anyone else’s opinions.
“Do you have something against children? That sounds prejudice.” Pick something you don’t like. Maybe it’s loud college students. Maybe you don’t like to be near people who smoke. Now take the question you just asked me and insert your dislike in place of “children.” The bottom line is that everyone has an opinion about something they like and something they don’t like, and ours happens to be children. Now, my husband smokes and I can get rather goofy after drinking wine, for which certain people don’t want to be around us. We don’t point our fingers at those people and accuse them of being prejudice. If they don’t like it, they don’t like it. That’s fine, we aren’t here to infringe on you.
“Oh, remind me to never bring my kid around you.” Not being “kid people” does not mean we can’t be around kids. We have a niece and a nephew we’re over the moon about. While traveling, we try to find little gifts to send home to them. We love looking at pictures of them. When we’re away, we miss them, anxiously awaiting the day we’ll see them again. When kids are around in social get-togethers, I’ll play games and goof off with them. If some kid smiles and waves at me in public, I’ll smile and wave back. Just because we choose not to be around kids most of the time and just because we choose not to have kids of our does not mean we are monstrous barbarians that you need to shroud your kids away from.
“You’ll change your mind.” Firstly, are you a fortune teller that can read my future? No? Then don’t tell what I will and will not do. Secondly, I find it disgusting that you hold so much disrespect for our opinion to go as far as to tell us that it will be different someday. This would be no different than hearing about something someone else does not like or want, followed up with me saying “You’re wrong, but that’s okay because you’ll change your mind.”
“Why did you bother to get married?” The last time I checked, marriage was a sacred ceremony between a man and woman, signified by their love and commitment towards one another. I could be completely wrong, but mine and my husband’s vows were in regards to our intentions towards one another to always love and honor each other. Clearly I didn’t realize that marriage was between a man, a woman, and their future babies.
“You don’t know what you’re missing out on.” I have no doubt that being a parent is a wonderful and fulfilling experience for you. And you’re right, I don’t know what I’m missing out on. But, to in any way suggest that your experiences are better than my experiences is not cool. I love my life and everything I’m doing in it. The absence of children is not hindering our ability to live what we consider a great life. And quite frankly, our ability to move and travel to other countries on a whim, focus on our careers, and eventually fully dedicate ourselves to property and business management wouldn’t be possible with kids in our life. While your weekends are spent in parks and at mommy-and-me classes, ours is spent lazing on the beach, enjoying drinks with friends, dancing until the sun comes up, camping, hiking, and anything else we feel like doing. While you have to spend all your disposable income on your child, we can choose to spend our disposable income on anything we want. While you need to maintain a job to fund your family, we can decide to quit our jobs at any point or take a week off work simply because we feel like it. The reality is that I could say the same thing to you, that you don’t know what you’re missing out on. But I understand that we each hold different ideals in life, so I’m happy that you have a family and get to do those things that bring joy to you. Now please show me the same respect.
“But you would make such a good Mom.” There are lots of things I’m sure I would be good at, but it doesn’t mean I want to do them. Since when did being good at something mean we were obligated to do it? What happened to following our dreams or doing what makes us feel good? Is that only okay to follow your dreams if at the end of everything there’s a baby? I don’t think so. If someone came up to me and said they wanted children, would it be fair for my reaction to be “Ooh, I don’t think you’d be a good mom” (and let’s face it, there are plenty of people out there who want children and would not make ideal moms.)? Absolutely not, it’s none of my business to tell people what they should and should not want based on what they may or may not be good at.
“Everything changes when you become a parent.” I am well aware that everything changes when entering into parenthood. That is precisely why we have chosen not to have children. We are perfectly content with the life we have and do not wish to welcome change in the form of parenthood.
There are plenty of other things that people have told me in regards to our decision, but these are what we hear the most, as I’m sure all childless couples tend to hear. It’s annoying to say the least, as we sit there and endure disrespectful questions and responses based on closed minded people who cannot fathom the idea of people wanting something out of life that doesn’t align with their ideals for a fulfilling life. If you are curious about why we have made the decision to not have kids, you can ask, but then leave it at that. Don’t assume something is wrong with us and don’t try to sway our decisions because it will not work. Don’t put yourself on a superior pedestal because you feel that your opinions and lifestyle is better than ours. Unless you want to sit there for twenty minutes while we tell you, no rail into you on why your opinion to want kids is wrong (based on our ideals, that is), then do not do the same to us. We respect parents and would never attempt to make families feel alienated for their decisions, we expect the same respect as non-parents.
Everyone is entitled to their own life. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Everyone is granted their own choices. We are exercising our rights to make our own decisions. So the next time you find you do not agree with someone’s decision to not have children, please remember to respect their choices the same way they would respect your choices.