T is for Talk: Don’t Be Afraid to Talk About Childlessness


T is for Talk: Couples need to talk about whether or not they want children. Back in my parents’ day, having children was assumed. You got married, you got pregnant, and you made babies. But now there are so many ways to avoid having children. Here in the U.S., birth control is plentiful and easy to obtain, and abortion is legal. People are getting married later in life and putting off parenting until it’s almost too late. Men and women going into second or third marriages often find that at least one of them has already had children and doesn’t want any more.
But when and how do you talk about this stuff? It’s not like you can say on the first date, “Hi, I’m Sue and I want three kids.” Or, “Hi, I’m Peter, my teenagers from my first marriage are bleeding me dry, and I never want to have any more children.” Or, “Hi, I’m Jennifer, and I never really saw myself as a mother. I don’t want to be tied down.” Well, you can, but you might want to start off with a less explosive topic.
As a relationship progresses, when do you bring it up? Before you have sex? Before you move in together? Before the wedding? I don’t have the perfect answer, but I do know it needs to come up sooner rather than later. Day after day, I receive comments here from readers, mostly women, whose partners went along with the baby plans for a while, then dropped the bomb: I don’t want to have kids. Ever.They’re devastated. They don’t know whether to leave and look for someone who wants children or stay and give up their dreams of being parents. It hurts my heart to read these things. And then there are the ones who delayed childbirth for years, only to discover they have fertility problems.
All too often, once that bomb has been dropped, couples stop talking about it. They try to hide their hurt and anger from each other and from the other people in their lives. But it doesn’t go away. Dear friends, you have to talk about it. It will just fester and make you sick if you don’t. Talk with each other. Talk with your friends and family. Talk to your minister, your shrink, or your hairdresser. It is not something to be ashamed of. And don’t assume that your loved ones who have children won’t understand. They love you. They want to help.
It’s okay to talk about the fact that Mother’s Day makes you want to hide in a cave and never come out. It’s okay to say that watching a new mother cuddle her baby makes you want to sob. It’s okay to say, “We don’t have kids and I wish we did.” It’s also okay to say, “We never had children, and I’m happy.”
I feel like I’m giving a sermon here, but I wish I had talked more about it with Fred when I had the chance, instead of just crying in secret.
T is for talk.
We’re heading into the final week of our April A to Z blog challenge. My alphabetical posts are distributed among my Unleashed in Oregon, Childless by Marriage and Writer Aid blogs. Visit Unleashed in Oregon tomorrow to find out what U stands for, and come back here next Wednesday to find out what Z is going to stand for. (Anybody got any ideas?)
Talk to me in the comments.
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5 thoughts on “T is for Talk: Don’t Be Afraid to Talk About Childlessness

  1. Thanks for coming. Certainly talking about it should be a choice, but the couple definitely needs to keep the conversation open. And it does help to have a trusted person outside the marriage to talk to.

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  2. This is so true….but it can also be tricky to anticipate all the “what ifs” that can arise. I ended up committing to a man (who I met later in life, in his 40s when I was in my 30s, etc) who said he was agreeable to my desire to have children — he had none from previous relationships and neither did I. But when it didn't happen naturally for us, he was adamant about not wanting to undergo any fertility treatments nor explore adoption.

    I could understand his reasons, but it has been a difficult topic to discuss that neither of us could have anticipated. I basically ended up with the double whammy of unexplained infertility AND being childless by relationship. Both of which, quite frankly, stink!

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  3. Sue,
    Thank you for saying it is OK to say we don't have kids and wish we did. I struggle with people assuming I don't want or don't like kids, when it is just timing and other circumstances that haven't allowed me to have children. It is such a tough topic to talk about.

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