Childless by circumstance?

In her book What No Baby?, Australian author Leslie Cannold maintains that many women are “childless by circumstance.” They wanted to have children, but life worked against them. In today’s world, says Cannold, young woman, and also men, are busy getting their educations and building their careers in their most fertile years. They believe that good parents spend time with their children, but if they take that time away from work, they will lose everything they have worked for and never achieve their career goals. Although women are the ones who are usually expected to stay home with the children, men worry about these things, too. In a world where people who work only 40 hours a week are considered slackers, who has time to parent? Although some men are merely selfish, many who decline to become fathers are afraid they won’t be able to bear the financial burdens or that they won’t be good fathers. If the wife quits to become a full-time mom, will the man be able to support the family alone in today’s economy? What if he loses his job? What if they get divorced?

Cannold insists that people who are childless by circumstance, in other words who are not infertile and have not consciously chosen to be childfree, are not childless by choice. She suggests that major changes are needed in society’s attitudes and in the workplace to make it possible for people to work and properly care for families, too. Otherwise, the numbers of people who never have children will continue to increase.

What do you think? Does everyone have a choice? Do you?

9 thoughts on “Childless by circumstance?

  1. I think to some extent we are childless by circumstance. I have to choose between my husband and children, thus far I have chosen my husband. I think others need to figure out how far they are willing to go and if they are open to adoption or fostering if IVF fails for them.


  2. I am 53 years old and am childless by circumstance. My husband is very happy being childless. He said for a brief moment he thought it might be fun to have children. That moment passed. He was infertile and refused to complete any process to either conceive a child or adopt a child. He says that he doesn’t feel like he held a carrot before me . . . but he did. He had surgery . . . but no followup. We were selected as adoptive parents, but he didn’t fill out the home study paperwork.My sister is blessed with 3 grandchildren, she is 2 years older than I.At 40 I thought I was pregnant and was elated . . . my husband wanted me to have an abortion. That was one of the saddest times of my life. I was not pregnant and I grieved alone.The last 2 days my husband has selected movies for us to watch that involve children and how wonderful they are. I’m grieving a new and afresh again.The last year I lost 2 horses and my beloved kitty. I’ve wanted to die myself. I know about not wanting to get out of bed.I do think it gets better . . . when we are in heaven because in heaven there are no more tears.


  3. I was just wondering the other day why there is no recognition of the pain and suffering of infertile women – those who want to have children – of their own and were not able to. My own story is that I was married at 34 and just assumed that my husband and I would have at least 4 children by age 40. It never crossed by mind preparing for my wedding that it was a possiblity that I may not be able to conceive.
    By age 40 I stopped trying, i.e., pills, monitoring ovulations, etc. I did anything and everthing that did not involve invasive surgical procedures. My husband, who was also in his 30's talked so much before our marriage about carrying on his family because he was the only son. He was tested and found not to be at fault. I was told that there could not find a reason for me not getting pregnant. Sometimes it seem its more acceptable to find a reason than not to find a reason at all. When there is a reason, usually there is a solution.
    For some reason, my husband did not want to adopt. I tried for foster children, because I did not want to live my life without children in it, but he never followed through with the entire process. Then in my late 40's I was diagnosed with a chronic illness – which meant that, by this time, the foster care agency would not accept me as a foster parent. My husband never talks about it – he just says it was not God's will.
    The lack of children in my life is a pain that's always there. Just seeing my sisters and neices with their families is painful. My husband's sisters and neices all have many children and always have family get-togethers, family vacations, reunions, etc. We are the only couple on both sides of the family who don't have children and I feel as if we stand out like a sour thumb.
    The holidays are hard to get through. We're in our 60's now and
    our house is so quiet. We should be enjoying our grandchildren now, if we had them. I've often wondered how other couples who don't have children (not by choice) handle their childless life. Do you ever get over it?


  4. I have a wonderful sister-in-law. She is generous with her love and sharing her family with me. Today was her birthday and about eight of us got together to have a family brunch to honor her. Neither of her sons attended. One was out of town, the other didn't bother to show up even though they have an ok relationship. I felt for her and noticed that she put extra energy into staying happy and positive during the brunch but I could tell she was hurt. Though I didn't like that she was hurt, it did make me realize that just because you have children, it doesn't mean that they are going to be there for you. As a geriatric nurse I can't count how many times I have taken care of patients, both at home and in the hospital, who had adult children who didn't recognize important days or holidays, or who let them down by not visiting, etc…So the next time I start feeling melancholy and/or feel like I've been kicked in the gut because I don't have adult children or grandchildren, I will remember that close family relationships aren't guaranteed just because you've procreated. I can make a circle of family/support for myself, a group who WILL be there for me when I need love and emotional support.


  5. My younger sister is childless by circumstance. She was engaged and living with her fiancee for 8 years when suddenly he up and left with their 23 year old employee. My sister at 35 had wanted kids, but her fiancee didn't…
    My sister decided if she met someone, it might still happen, but she wouldn't just grab any man to have kids. She never met a life partner, so remains single.
    She's a busy professional and has moved on in life. He ex married the 23 year old and now has 3 kids…seems she wanted them, so it was the price he had to pay to keep his new partner.
    My sister isn't bitter about the kids, but it must hurt – there was a picture in the local paper recently – her ex and his wife with their 3 kids…I threw it in the bin rather than show it to her. She's a highly successful professional, but I know she wanted kids and if her partner had been hoenst from the start, she might have had them.
    Don't let men mess you around, if you want kids and they don't, leave and find someone else.


  6. I was childless by marriage. Both my husband and I did not plan to have children. We were happy at first but after 3 years the mundane conversation sets in and life is lonely with just the 2 of us. As I grew older, my motherly instinct emerged and I really want to have kids now. He is very adamant on not wanting kids citing it's expensive and he wants to retire by 50. I am 30 and he is 40 now. He said it's all my fault as we agreed not to have one before marriage. I cannot blame him. It's frustrating to see young families. I feel so jealous n left out. I am in a dilemma now. I love him, but I am not truly happy. He said this is a test of how much I love him n if I m willing to sacrifice for him.


  7. I spent my 20s in grad school and got out just as the financial crisis hit. I'm married, but because I work in higher ed, I've been moving from state to state every year on one-year contracts; this is the norm for my field. I'm ambivalent about having children of my own. I'd like to experience being pregnant and raising a child at least one, I think, but my job and finances won't allow it. Even being pregnant would tank my work trajectory, because right now I'm hired to be leave replacement for other professors. If I gave birth, I'd either lose a chunk of time from my teaching responsibilities or be trying to plan a move around a due date. Also, my health insurance changes with every job, and in some instances I've been left uninsured for a few months. I a petrified of the reality of pregnancy and what it would cost me.

    I love my work, and I adore mentoring the undergrads I teach. I am NOT ambivalent about pursuing this career at all. But I didn't realize that I was also signing up for a job that would interfere with my ability to actively choose whether or not I could have a child. Every time a friend has a baby or posts ultrasounds on Facebook, I end up crying. My husband doesn't get it. I'm not even sure I get it; I'm ambivalent about young children and don't enjoy them. And yet, I still feel jealousy and grief because they can afford to be pregnant and give birth, and for me it would imperil my job and wreck our shoestring budget. And then I feel like a horrible person for being unable to feel happiness for my friends. I wish I could force myself to be happy, but the emotions bubble up around the logic.

    Anyhow, that's how it is. I'm not childless by choice, and I'm not unable to conceive (that I'm aware), but economic reality and the pursuit of my dream job came at the cost of my personal life choices. You'd think I'd resent the job and the moving, but instead, it's seeing these glimpses into other women's lives where pregnancy is a happy thing that they can squee about. I hate that it has to be something I dread and ward off with an IUD. Also I'm Catholic, so there's a bunch of religious guilt too.

    Thanks for letting me vent.


  8. 8/12 Anonymous, I think a lot of younger women are in your position these days. It's a real trick to find a way to have the career and enough money and a child, too. I wish you luck in figuring it out.


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