On Not Having Children

crying-baby

“So, when is there going to be a little one running around?”

There are a million variations on the most annoying question in the world, but if you’re a long-term couple without kids, you’ve most likely heard them all. In fact it doesn’t even stop there! Even if you have a kid, there’s the inevitable, “When’s so-and-so going to have a brother or sister to play with?” It never ends.

I honestly don’t know what the intention is of the people who ask these questions. What do you care whether or not we have kids? I have never in my life felt the need to ask any variation of this question to any of my friends or relatives, but Courtney and I have been asked this over and over and over since we got married in 2003.

Well, we won’t be having kids. I’ll just get that out there right now. I’ll even elaborate on why, but first allow me to give you some reasons why you should never ask this question to anyone ever again:

  1. The couple in question may not have even seriously discussed having children. You bringing it up makes it awkward for them, since they haven’t yet had a chance to come to an agreed upon position. If one of them answers one way and the other differently, you’ve just gone and started something that didn’t even need to happen. This question has even been asked at weddings, and if you do this, you are the worst kind of offender.
  2. The couple may want kids and may be trying to have kids. If this is the situation, what answer do you want? Do you want their sex schedule? Perhaps you’d like them to send you the used pregnancy tests. They certainly don’t know when they’re going to have kids. If they did, they would have told you because the woman would be pregnant. Unless, of course, you’re not a real friend. Then it just gets awkward for you.
  3. The couple may not want kids. In which case, their answer will be, “Never.” This will prompt you to ask why they don’t want kids or to insinuate that sometimes it “just happens,” and then your seemingly perfectly innocent question devolves into a whole thing. They’re going to give you their reasons why they don’t want kids, and you’re going to try and tell them why those reasons are wrong because, if you’re the type of person who asks this question in the first place, you have already outed yourself as holding the position that you think they need to be having kids. Congratulations! You’ve now graduated from merely annoying to truly obnoxious.
  4. If there is one ultimate reason that you should never ask this question of any couple ever again, it is this one: the couple may want kids, but they may not be able to have them. Some people want to have children, but, because of the hand nature dealt them, children are not going to be something they have in their lives. When you come along and ask them this question, you are basically ripping the band-aid off a wound that they want to allow to heal; you are bringing this hole in their lives to the forefront and once again reminding them of something they desperately want that will forever be outside their reach. They are now going to be in emotional pain because of you, because you decided to stick your nose where it didn’t belong. Now you’re not annoying; now you’re an ass. (And before you bring up adoption or IVF, stop and think about how expensive those things are. Those are options outside the viable finances of a very large segment of the population.)

So, if you’re currently the kind of person who asks this question, you’re going to stop and never do it again, right? Good. Moving on.

I honestly think it is the constant barrage of this question from friends, family, and people they barely even know that leads some couples to have kids. Everyone else expects them to have kids, so it must be what they’re supposed to do right? I think this is unfortunate. Children are a massive responsibility as well as a huge long-term financial commitment. The stresses of having children on a couple who haven’t sat down to think it through can bring an otherwise healthy relationship to an end, and this now affects more lives than just the people separating.

So why aren’t Courtney and I having kids? There are many reasons. Allow me to enumerate:

  1. We enjoy our careers. Kids can have a big negative impact on your career, especially if you’re the mother. If both parents are working, someone’s going to have to take time off when the kids are sick, so there’s lost sick/vacation time. That’s if you even make enough money to make it work, and one of you doesn’t have to quit your job outright to stay at home full time because you can’t afford daycare. When we originally got married and were asked when we would be having kids, we would just answer with, “I don’t know. Maybe someday. Courtney is going to graduate school.” But then she finished school, and that answer turned into, “I don’t know. Maybe someday. Courtney wants to utilize the degrees she spent nine years earning.” Now, we’re both just happy in our careers and don’t want to change it.
  2. Children are expensive. It costs a lot of money to raise a kid. The current estimate from the Department of Agriculture sits at around $235,000 from birth to age eighteen for a middle income family. There’s the cost of the pregnancy itself, the childbirth, the clothes, the food, the diapers, the car seat, the nursery, and on and on. And that’s just infancy! Personally, we can think of a lot of things we would rather spend our money on, both now and in the future. We are fortunate enough to both have jobs that pay us well enough to easily afford kids, but a lot of people are not nearly as fortunate. When those couples have children, it can result in having to decide which parent is going to be the one that gets to eat that night.
  3. We enjoy our lifestyle. As mentioned above, it costs a lot of money to raise a kid. That money has to come from somewhere. If we had a kid, we would either have to save less or spend less. Most likely both. That means we’re going to have to give some things up. Right now, we’re very happy with our lives and what we’re able to do. We were able to take a 15 year mortgage out on our house instead of the traditional 30. We are able to put a good chunk of money away for our retirement so that we have enough to care for ourselves in the future. We are able to take vacations each year. We are able to go to the occasional pricey wine pairing dinner. We’re able to donate money to improving children’s education, to Habitat for Humanity, and to our local animal shelter on a regular basis. We also sponsor two kids overseas. We don’t want to give any of these things up to raise a child. We weren’t always able to afford to do these things either. We’ve worked very hard to get to where we are, and we want to enjoy the fruits of our labor and to pass on some of that to those who are not as fortunate as we have been.
  4. There are physical consequences to having kids. This goes without saying for the woman having the baby. The amount of restructuring that goes on in a woman’s body during pregnancy is unbelievable. I don’t understand all of it, but I can tell you one thing for certain: nature is crazy. The woman not only undergoes physical changes, but mental ones as well. The brain chemistry changes. It’s not even over after she has the baby. Then you get to deal with sleep deprivation, your kid getting you sick and vice versa, and the general physical toll that the stress of raising a child will have on your body. Thanks, but no thanks. We enjoy having the time to work out, take care of ourselves, and otherwise maintain a healthy lifestyle.
  5. We don’t want to deal with the mundane. A lot of parents are able to power through the sleepless nights, the dirty diapers, and the screaming in public. More power to them. We just don’t want to deal with that.  We don’t want to be awakened by a hungry baby at 3AM. We don’t want to deal with getting peed on or having our kid shit across the room in the middle of a changing. We have zero desire to wipe the fecal matter off of another creature or the walls. That’s why we have cats. We can deal with moving it from the litter box to the trash, but that’s as far as we’re willing to go.
  6. We don’t want to deal with the truly trying issues. We don’t dislike children; we actually like them. There are kids in our lives that our friends and relatives have that we absolutely adore, and Courtney spoils them with gifts every chance she gets. But we have seen what other parents have had to deal with that we just don’t want to have to handle: children with severe allergies to X that you have to monitor at every turn; children who get older but never really grow up; children who, like my younger sister, suffer a traumatic accident and have to be cared for in perpetuity. Despite the long odds of these things happening, we don’t want to invite even the possibility of any of this into our lives.
  7. Our planet, if not currently overpopulated, is quickly heading in that direction. There are a finite amount of resources on our little planet, and there are already people around the world who are unable to meet their most basic daily needs. Currently, that is simply a matter of logistics, but that is not always going to be the case. In addition, there are people like the Duggar family who have taken having offspring to a completely irresponsible level. We almost feel like we have a duty to offset people like them who have an unreasonable number of children.
  8. We want to focus on each other. When a couple decides to have children, the dynamics in the relationship cease to be about them and become about the child. Sure, you’re able to have the occasional date night or weekend getaway, but it’s never the same as it was. We love each other more than anything, and we want to keep that love as strong as it’s been since the day we were married. Regardless of whether we did or did not have kids, at least one of us would have to work at least eight hours a day to earn the money for our family. We don’t want to have to share the already little time we have left with each other with another person.
  9. We just don’t want kids. This is the part most of the people we’ve tried to explain our position to just don’t get. The two of us just have no innate desire to be parents. We don’t have the mythical “biological clock.” When some people hear a baby cry, their first instinct is to soothe; ours is to leave the room. This is not to say that I think we would be bad parents. We obviously would not just leave our child screaming, but we have no urge to go through the trials and tribulations of raising a kid, despite the inherent rewards of being successful parents. We have no more desire to be parents than we do to be marine biologists. (In fact, we would probably rather be marine biologists.) Being a parent is just something we have no interest in. Zero.

Are there things we’re going to miss out on by not having children? Certainly. Are there things we’ll be able to experience by not having kids? Absolutely. We’ve thought long and hard about what we would lose/gain as a result of having or not having kids, and we believe that the child-free life is the one that suits us best. That’s what I think a lot of people don’t get: having kids is a choice. You don’t have to have them! It doesn’t matter what society or your friends or your family want. It’s what you want. In the end, it should be about what’s best for the couple, and we’ve decided the path that’s best for us.

17 thoughts on “On Not Having Children

  1. Dom

    THANK YOU. My future MIL flat out guilts us on our decision not to have kids. The latest twist is, “Well, family may not be important to *you* but it’s always been important to me…” Not wanting kids doesn’t mean I don’t value family! It just means my family doesn’t involve screaming youngsters. There’s also the whole “this is not a society I want to bring children into” aspect…

  2. kaellinn18 Post author

    You’re quite welcome, and thank you for being the very first comment on my blog!

    The next time your MIL gives you that line, tell her that you and your partner ARE a family. A family is not predicated on the presence of children. If she’s so adamant that her family should be expanded, she’s welcome to adopt her own kid.

  3. Dom

    She also likes to argue that the family name will die out if we don’t have a son. Let’s just say that his last name may as well be Smith.

  4. qbubbles

    I have a kid, and I still totally understand. It took 4 years to make Thing 1, and the whole damn time I had people in my face asking about when we were going to make a kid. Not to mention the horrific blood bath of a miscarriage that occurred at year 2. Thanks for ripping open that sucking chest wound, random person from work! I’m gonna go cry in the bathroom.

    But I completely understand that people just dont want to have kids. They like the way their life is, and really just dont want to screw that up. I totally get you. And I try to advocate for my friends who get this shit from their families, too. Not everyone has to multiply. My husband I have replicated ourselves, and we’re good with that. Done.

    Awesome post.

  5. Tory

    I want to print this out and hand it to the next person who asks.

    Thank you for such a well-written post! My feelings are right in line with yours.

  6. ColonelFitzgerald

    Also, as a female in my early twenties, luckily with quite a few friends in the same mindset, we’re also constantly (condescendingly) being told “you’re so young, you will change your mind! I did the same thing at your age.”

    Well I am me, not anyone else. I may be young but I’m not an idiot. I like kids, but I don’t want my own.

    One thing the author covers but I think needs explicit stating: it is no one else’s business whether or not someone has children, or whether they plan to have them. It is so rude to ask.

    Thank you for articulating these feelings so well!

  7. KNR

    My husband and I said the exact same things, and still would if not for an ‘oops’. I always said parenthood sounds pretty thankless, and I also didn’t want to affect my career. My take was always: IF I EVER have kids it will be an accident, because I’ll need to be dragged kicking and screaming into motherhood. Or, if I feel an overwhelming urge, we’ll adopt from an underprivileged country.

    Well, I’ve only known I’m pregnant for 1 week and I already miss wine along with all the other stuff I’m not supposed to eat… Good bye old life :(

  8. Julia

    The last reason is the only one that really matters (not that the others aren’t perfectly valid, of course). It’s your decision as a couple and you don’t want to have children, simple as that.

  9. Maddie

    To KNR,

    You know, you don’t have to keep the kid, right? Adoption is an option. No one should be dragged kicking and screaming into parenthood.

    Take control of your life.

  10. KNR

    @maddie,

    Thank you for your suggestion. Sarcasm doesn’t come across well on message boards.

    What I meant by that was that ‘planning a baby’ was not in the cards for us – it had to be a natural occurrence that we didn’t try for. We were totally fine with being infertile (which we thought we were since I had to go off birth control for medical reasons 4+ years ago).

    We are a happily married, communicative couple who have been together over 10 years. If we felt that strongly about it, I would have explored other BC options, or used condoms. We instead followed the rhythm method, which led to an ‘Oops’ baby, which we will love and care for as the responsible adults we are. If you are vehemently opposed to children though, IUD or vasectomy is the way to go, for sure.

  11. JP

    I have kids, three of them, and I hate when others try to pressure and hound couples about having kids. Have them if you want them and if you are ready! There is nothing wrong with not wanting kids and having other things you want to focus on. It is your life and your the only one who has to lead it and be happy in it. I always try to slip into those conversations when I see the couple is uncomfortable. I make sure to mention that it isn’t always fun and sunshine because the people who push others to have kids always forget to mention those times. All that matters is that we are all happy with our life at the end of the day.

  12. Lisette

    Thank you for this. One of my uncles basically harassed me on the phone with this question when I called him to inquire his address for our WEDDING INVITATION. I was so angry I snapped and told him “we are inviting you to the wedding, not the operation room.” He felt bad but I was like “wtf?!” That was 5 years ago. We don’t have kids yet, although we want them eventually, but the questions never end. I’m sure once we do get around to TTC the constant prying will push me off a ledge

  13. SisterBenedict

    Thank you so much for writing this. I would like to carry photocopies of it around with me to distribute whenever I am asked these questions. If you get yourself sterilized, however, it allows you to be rude yourself and put the other person in their place. Highly recommended.

  14. Kim McLilith

    I despise the Insinuation that sometimes babies “just happen” – Do we still really need to remind people in 2013 that if you have a uterus abortion is an option for you? (And an extremely common one at that).

  15. Pingback: Why People Aren’t having Babies | kstruggles

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