If you don’t have children, who is your family?

These days, I wince when people talk about family activities. They always seem to have all these people around, a spouse and children and maybe grandchildren, to do things with. Since my husband passed away, I just have a dog.

If you’re teetering at the point of deciding whether or not you can be happy without children, think of this as a cautionary tale. I have been married twice to men who didn’t want to have children with me. Husband number one just didn’t want them. Fred, number two, already had three kids and didn’t want any more. He backed that up with a vasectomy long before we met.

In that second marriage, I gained three stepchildren, so in some respects I was not completely childless, but trust me, for most of us, having stepchildren is nowhere near the same as having your own. There are those lovely families that blend so well the “step” disappears, but they are rare. Like most stepchildren, mine have their own real mother, and now that I’m not linked with their dad, we have no connection at all. No, that’s not true. We’re Facebook friends. But so are lots of other people.

Meanwhile, my real-life friends are busy with their kids and grandkids. Some even have great-grandchildren. Yes, I have some terrific friends, and I have a shrinking family of older relatives and cousins. I won’t be alone on the holidays and I can get a lunch date if I want it, but on a day-to-day basis, it’s not the same. Mostly, I have my work and my dog.

I wince when people talk about families.

If you’re 30-something and have a choice, think hard before you volunteer to give up having children. If you really want children, fight for it.

Sorry for bumming you out, but that’s how I’m feeling today.

6 thoughts on “If you don’t have children, who is your family?

  1. Hi Sue, I do have a husband and two children – but guess what, that is almost my whole family. I have a mother but no other family at all. No cousins, siblings, aunts, uncles etc. so sometimes I feel the same way you do when people talk about family stuff – and “family reunions,” what is that! If I had not met my husband and had children, then I would be all alone in the world, in respect of having no relatives, after my mother went. I find that such a strange thought. Interestingly I now have a colleague who has even less family than myself, which is surprising. She is single without children. Her family is her mother and very elderly grandmother. That is it. Like me, she has no extended family. I sometimes feel like I want to say to her that I understand how she feels – sometimes she hints at being lonely – but to her it probably seems like I have a lot (which I am grateful for). I'm glad to read that you have extended family to spend the holidays with. There are some of us out there that do have very small families! All the best!


  2. Anon, thanks for your comment. I think more and more people are finding themselves with very small families because so many people are not having children or having fewer. In addition, we often live far away from our biological families, making us feel more alone. I suppose in the end we need to make our own families from the people who are around us.


  3. I am currently married with two stepchildren. My daughter died one day before her due date and I have no other children. I do love my stepchildren very much and also realize that when their dad dies they will probably move on. They have a wonderful Mom also. As I get older, I realize we need to create chosen families with people we love and cherish even if they are not related. Sending love and light to all my sisters without children.


  4. Sue, Thank you for being so courageous to post about this. I have a small family too. My husband does not want children, so it's the two of us and the dogs at home. It seems like when events at church or in my community are labeled “family-friendly” it is really code for bring your kids. It's a little bit sad when you don't have them. I do enjoy my friends’ children, though, and spoil them as much as I can. I hope your family is the people you choose to care about, not just the ones you share genetics with.


  5. Sue has advised to think very very carefully about not having a child due to your husband's wishes only. She has lived this. A difficult situation though.


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