Are marriages happier without children?

Check out these headlines:

Recent headlines shout that couples without kids have happier marriages. Down in the fine print, they back off a little, but the writers maintain that non-parenting couples pay more attention to each other and have more time and money to date, travel and generally continue the honeymoon indefinitely.
Well, that’s true. I never had children of my own, but I did have a live-in stepson, so I got at least a taste of it. Whatever you do, 24/7, when you’re responsible for a child, you have to consider that child’s needs. She needs new shoes, so you keep wearing your old ones. He’s got the flu, so you stay home from work to take care of him. You have less privacy and more expenses, and you can’t just go off to the beach, a restaurant, a show, or Maui, or even have sex without thinking about the child. Can he go with us? Do we need to get a babysitter? He’s got soccer practice, or his science project is due tomorrow, so we can’t do what we want to do. Spontaneity goes out the window.
That’s how it is with kids. And it does put a strain on marriages. You have wonderful loving moments when you thank God for your family, but you also argue over money, responsibilities, discipline, and priorities, and you don’t have much privacy. You pay less attention to your spouse because you’re focused on the children. These are some of the things that made my husband and perhaps many of your partners and spouses decide they didn’t want to have any more children. Their first marriage failed, and the kids were at least part of the problem. They don’t want the same thing to happen to this marriage.
Sound familiar to any of you? Of course you tell them it will be different this time, but their previous experiences with children tell them otherwise.
The articles in the Huffington Post, Jezebel and the Telegraph don’t tell us whether the couples are childless by choice or by circumstance. I’m guessing it’s by choice. But even if it isn’t, I suppose we can take some comfort in knowing that even if we wanted children and grieve their loss, even if we see a great gaping hole in our lives, our marriages might end up being happier than those of our friends with kids.
I don’t know. What do you think about all this? Do you think childless couples are happier?

8 thoughts on “Are marriages happier without children?

  1. My first marriage was childless in part because he had no sperm due to health issues as a child, and he botched the adoption process – but he was also mildly abusive to me emotionally.I am now in a better relationship, and we both decided we don’t want kids. I have long ago mourned my loss, but also mourned my health because I have in recent years I have been diagnosed with an illness that is progressive and costly. Fortunately Sparrow (my bf, who is wonderful) has two grown daughters who are in university. So I will kind of be a step-mom at 35, and maybe one day a grandma. I appreciate how much I have now, and agree about the spontaneity.


  2. My feelings alternate between being happier with my spouse without children than what I suspect it would be if we had children. Sure, life is more free when you do not have a child. However, for us life is currently rather empty. I think if we had the bustle of a busy household, then we might forget some of our low-lying boredom and gripes we sometimes hold onto. Then again, there are days I'm genuinely happy I don't have to deal with a child.There is always the option of shaking up our lives ourselves, but with money and time being tight at this stretch of our lives we feel we have little choice but to pudge along until we improve the situation. I think it's more about compatibility than anything. I know couples who have a crowded house, and mom and dad are in love, and nothing is going to stop it. Other homes with plenty of money, plenty of space and a more manageable two-child situation seem to be fighting much more than they need to.We are who we are. People and situations affect us (and sometimes situations blow the wind out of our sails) but our happiness counts more on our attitudes towards our life than the happenings of life itself.Anon S


  3. Its a difficult one to unpick. My husband in particular prefers spontaneity and a slower pace of life. He also enjoys the extra money, meals out and ability to get deals on low-cost holidays at non-peak times. I feel life is too slow. I can relate to your comment, Anon, of low-level boredom and rather empty-ness. I can think of things to do to shake things up, but he isn't keen and vice versa.Overall, I think my marriage is better for not having children, as we disagreed on so many aspects of child-rearing when we discussed it. However, the research reported in the Telegraph also found that although they were less happy with their relationships/partners, mothers were the group that were happiest with life overall. And I'd agree that my life is less happy for not having children.


  4. Anon, I also relate to your comment about disagreement on child-rearing. When hubby and I babysit, we argue. He's strict when I feel he should relax more (after all, we're the “fun” babysitters). Example: He will get into a power struggle with kids over finishing their plates to the VERY LAST bite. Other times, he's far too relaxed (letting kids jump off of stuff. I want to be “fun,” but my main goal is to return these children injury free)I assume if we had children we'd eventually find our stride and agree. We grew up in the same hometown with parents who value the same things. But our childhoods were sad enough in different ways. That pain shapes us and we aren't always open-minded enough to consider the other’s viewpoint. I suppose babysitting isn't enough of an experience to make us address these differences. Having children of our own would be different, but I'm not positive that it would be a good different.Anon S


  5. Anon S, I would't assume that having children would mean you would find your stride and agree. We had foster children for quite a while. We did have some parenting ways in common (especially over big issues), but when things got tough, we disagreed over the approach to be taken. Those differences, along with other factors to do with their children and their birth family, ended the placement eventually. Of course if they were birth children we had disagreed over, where would we have ended up? Maybe there would not have been so many issues to disagree over, but possibly we would have ended up with a very unhappy household or possibly divorced. We will never know, but this idea helps me to cope with coming to terms with not having children.


  6. I waited until my late 30's to marry. I cared for ailing grandparents for nearly 13 years till their passing. I felt God would bless me with a large family while proving myself a good caretaker and maturing in ways I felt I lacked in my 20's. I married a man with 2 kids (one adopted) who said he would agree to have children with me. We both agreed to be tested to make sure we could have children safely this late in our age prior to marriage. My physical came back with positive news. He said he was good. After 3.5 years of trying for children, he tells me he was never tested. The trials we endured with my stepchildren I wish on no one. Although I still want children, I see how his lack of fatherhood skills contributed to his children's emotional issues. (I am not permitted to intervene in his children's rearing) In my case, I believe one day, when the last child leaves home, our marriage will be happier without children. But I will still have a sadness/emptiness aside from our marriage, from never having been a mother to my own children.


  7. “I waited until my late 30's to marry. I cared for ailing grandparents for nearly 13 years till their passing. I felt God would bless me with a large family while proving myself a good caretaker and maturing in ways I felt I lacked in my 20's.”I can relate to these feelings. I've spent 10 years in a very difficult (though rewarding) marriage. Somehow I expected some sort of reward for proving my unconditional love. These days my marriage is wonderful (this I suppose is my reward). At a healthy 39 I could still have children. But when people around me who are my age have children in their final years of high school, well, it makes me feel like the ship has sailed.To be honest, I'm not too terribly sad about not being a mother just yet. I've reached some career goals that are important to me. And I'm just starting to really enjoy my marriage. For me, everything happens “a day late, a dollar short” My husband and I joke that we are late bloomers. But I can't say that I'm “okay.” If I were I doubt, I'd be visiting this blog on a regular basis.So adoption could be an option. But my husband has a criminal record. I have no idea how this affects an adoption process. He is 100% on the straight and narrow and has been for awhile. Still, I'm doubtful that anyone would consider us ideal parents.These thoughts leave me with the knowledge that “rewards” and “blessings” are vast and abundant. But we don't get to choose what God or the universe gives us. So we should appreciate what we have, and graciously accept any gifts that are presented to us. Even if we do not realize at the time that they are gifts.I'm so sorry your life didn't unfold the way you expected or wanted. Mine didn't either. But then again – our lives are not over. Who knows what is in store for us?Anon S


  8. Hey Anon S, Thanks for sharing this. You might be interested in today's blog post, coming up in a few minutes.I do think God gives us the life we're supposed to have, but it isn't always easy.


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