If You Don’t Want Kids, Just Say It

This morning, I found a card in my files that I wrote 13 years ago: “We are biologically programmed to reproduce. Like every childbearing creature on earth, our whole beings are set up to make babies, to continue the species in an unending chain. If we don’t, we wander, lost, trying to find our way home. It’s as basic as eating, sleeping and excreting.” Ironically, I woke up thinking the same thing this morning as I wondered what to write this week. Maybe it was seeing the pregnant women on TV’s “Bachelor in Paradise” last night.

Before you get mad, think about it. We have all these parts designed to make, carry, deliver, and feed our offspring. Why would we choose not to use them? Why would some people go so far as to surgically disable the baby-making parts? What other animal does that? It seems unnatural. What do you think? I really want to know.

Last week’s post about my friend’s daughter’s fiancé suddenly announcing that he doesn’t want kids sparked a barrage of comments both at the blog and at the Childless by Marriage Facebook page. Some were sympathetic, some quite angry. How dare I suggest that that guy or anybody has to want children? He has a right to change his mind. He might have good reasons for feeling the way he does. I know. It’s all true. And it still sucks. In every situation like this, somebody is going to wind up brokenhearted.

Consider this: For most couples, having children is the default position. Children are assumed until someone challenges that assumption. Four out of five women give birth. The number of childless couples is growing, but those of us without children are still the minority.

When you’re dating someone, I think it’s natural to assume you’re both planning to have children someday—unless someone says something. And that’s the thing. It’s an awkward conversation, could be a date-stopper or a relationship-killer, but someone has to ask the questions. Do you want children? Are you able to have children? How will you feel if I get pregnant? How will you feel if I never do? You both need to honestly say how you feel about it: I really don’t want children. Or I want children so badly that I don’t want to live without them.

If you’re not going with the default position of having children, someone has to say it. And not after the wedding flowers have already been ordered. People can feel the way they want to feel. That’s fine. Just say it before it’s too late. Please.

Yes, folks change their minds. But—and this is the old Catholic lady talking—if you agreed to children before you got married, you can’t break that contract later. That’s just selfish and you shouldn’t hurt someone you love that way.

I expect some difficult comments. My back is in bad shape today, and I hurt too much to be diplomatic. So let the comments fly.

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10 thoughts on “If You Don’t Want Kids, Just Say It

  1. This is a difficult subject, but I appreciate that you are willing to open up a conversation about it. After struggling with infertility for 10 years, my husband told me that he didn’t want to keep trying. It was really difficult because I always thought we would have biological kids of our own. Even though he “changed his mind,” we got through it–by talking, by yelling, by crying… But it was unforeseen circumstances that caused his change of heart, and our marriage was 13 years strong at the time. I’m not sure we would have made it if we hadn’t been willing to talk to each other, though. You have to be willing to have those tough conversations with your partner.

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  2. My partner of 8 years never said he didn’t want children. His standard line was “yes, but not right now”. This went on for years until aged 40 I broke up with him. At 41 after a year a part he won me back over with promises of “we will try for a family”. And then his actions continued to be in the way. Obviously, me being “old” made things harder. At the same time he did not participate in the process 100% (i mean he did not alter his habits of alcohol, smoking, and also reproductive behavior (that is, he was often too tired/stressed/may be later). he was resistant to see a specialist and dragged his feet to attend tests and medical appointments. He postponed plans for IVF. So it never happened for us. And 4 years on from when we got back together I am torn between the grief and sadness of childlessness and anger and resentment towards him. I am angry because he was not honest with me and I feel he kept me there whilst not really having the same view of what the future should hold for us. I was always honest of what I dreamt to achieve in this world (parenthood being a big part of who I want to be in this life). I feel manipulated into a life I did not want. Sometimes I take full responsibility of this outcome and see it as a result of my choices. And sometimes I feel I was cheated. I don’t know how to reconcile this. I love my husband. He is the best thing that ever happened to me. And then, he is also the worst thing that ever happened to me. And I don’t know how to go on from this.

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    • Susie, I’m really sorry to hear about your struggles. My story is a bit different, but ten years into our infertility journey, my husband told me that he didn’t want to keep trying. It was shocking, to say the least. I had to figure out where to go from there…. I’m writing about my journey (both infertility, accepting infertility, and “recovering” from childlessness) on my blog. I really want to help others because I remember the loneliness, sadness, and just not knowing where to go or how to continue. I hope you’ll read some of my story. Maybe it will help you discover how to move forward with your husband.

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    • Susie, I am so sorry this happened to you. For most women, 41 is awfully late to try to get pregnant. And if your partner is reluctant to have children in the usual way, he surely won’t be up for IVF, which is difficult and expensive. You have a right to all of those feelings, but you both need to share the blame. He kept putting it off and you let him. Somehow you need to find a way to accept your life the way it is and go on. You can have a full life without children, I promise.

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  3. Thanks for this post, Sue. I think honesty is the key. I have to take responsibility for the fact that in the early days of my relationship with my husband, I didn’t know how much having a family was going to mean to me and I didn’t want to seem pushy. I always thought we would have kids or at least adopt. I should have stood up for myself and he should have been clear too.

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  4. Thank you for this post. My husband and I had been together for several years before we got married. We talked about and named our children. We were married in Oct 2013. I was in my late 30’s and he was in his late 40’s. You can imagine my surprise and heartbreak when in January 2016 when I asked why we never spoke about it anymore or he changed the subject when it came up, he confessed that he had changed his mind. Not only had he changed his mind and hadn’t told me…he told his boss first (she’s a mutual friend). I know I took vows for better or worse and I’m 40, so the odds of even getting pregnant are slim but I am having such a hard time “getting over it”. The worst part, he won’t acknowledge my sadness. He says that “he doesn’t know what to say.” Please help. Any suggestions to get through this would be helpful, I’m failing on my own.

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