Your family is ganging up on you about why you don’t have children. “What’s the hangup?” “Don’t you want to have a family?” “Is there something wrong with you?” “Everybody else has them.” “We can’t wait to become grandparents.” Etc.
What do you say? Do you tell them honestly that you don’t have children and may never have children because your spouse or partner doesn’t want them? Do you explain that your mate already has all the children he (or she) needs or that he thinks kids will cramp his style? Or that he believes only a fool would bring children into a world that is going to hell in a handbasket? Do you tell them further that you really do want children and you sit alone in your car and cry about it, but you’re stuck because of your partner?
Is your first response, “Well, sure, I’m going to be honest. I’m going to defend myself. It’s not MY fault.” Wait. Tread carefully here. This is your partner, the person you love, the person to whom you have committed your life. How do you think your family is going to react? Will they just say, “Okay. We understand”? I doubt it. They’re going to hate your partner. And they’re going to think you’re a fool for staying with this person who in every other way is your soul mate. From now on, the relationship between your partner and your family will be tainted. Depending on how your loved ones relate to people, they may jump all over your partner or just quietly seethe and talk trash about him to each other and to you. You will be stuck in the middle.
Has anybody experienced this? Show of hands. Higher. I can’t see you. My family was pretty chill about Fred. They knew he’d been married before, they knew he was older, and I must have told them he’d had a vasectomy. I didn’t have to say he didn’t want any more kids. That was irrelevant. In their eyes, he couldn’t have them.
I didn’t tell the world all the gory details. I’m sure I have mentioned before that my Grandpa Fagalde was especially persistent in asking why we weren’t making babies. Finally, I blurted, “He’s shooting blanks.” Meaning he had no sperm. That stopped the questions forever.
But what if there’s nothing wrong with his sperm or your eggs? To your knowledge, you could get pregnant right now–Excuse us for a half hour. Okay, done. The baby will be ready in nine months–How do you defend the two of you as a unit when the world starts ganging up, demanding answers, demanding action, demanding a baby, especially if that’s what you want, too?
I wish I had the answers to these questions. I don’t. I spent more than 30 years evading the nosy questions. I said, “God had other plans.” “It just didn’t happen.” “We have Fred’s three kids (and a vasectomy).”
I generally believe in honesty, but what happens when that honesty turns your family—or your friends—against your partner and against your decision to stay with that person. You and your partner need to be a team if the relationship is going to last.
Is it possible to get to a place where you can calmly say, holding your loved one’s hand for emphasis, “We have agreed not to have any children, and I hope you will support our decision”? Or maybe, “We already have [Insert names of stepchildren.] I hope you will love them as much as I do.”
It gets a little easier as the years pass and the ability to bear children falls into the past tense. You can say, “We never had any children. Tell me about yours.” Let them think what they will, place the blame wherever they want, but don’t give them time to dwell on it. If you need to elaborate, perhaps just say, “We have had a wonderful life together, just the two of us.”
Time for you to chime in. Have you been put in the position of defending your partner for his/her failure to make you a parent? How have you responded? How have people reacted? Can you support your partner when everyone else seems to be against him/her?What do you suggest childless-by-marriage people say when their love ones insist on answers?
I look forward to some lively comments.
9 thoughts on “How Do You Defend Your No-to-Kids Partner?”
We started saying together that if it happens it happens. We realized not pointing the blame and not divulging our personal lives has been the best solution. Now when I do occasionally have someone that does push, I tend to be blunt about the fact that I had a miscarriage and that tends to shut them up pretty quick.
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To my parents (especially my mother, who talks behind my back), I say nothing because my parents would prefer to speculate instead of asking a caring but direct question. My brother once told me that Mom is afraid to ask me why I don’t have children because “she didn’t want to ask and then have you cry.”
My parents also gave my recovering alcoholic husband gifts of alcohol on Christmas so . . .
To my close friends (or people I believe I will become close to), I’m honest. I tell them that our marriage was very difficult in the beginning and we waited. Then things got much worse and we completely avoided babymaking. Then our marriage got better and we tested the waters. Then our marriage became wonderful, but the “ship has pretty much sailed.” I’m matter-of-fact about how the cookie crumbled. I suppose if someone didn’t care for my husband, they could easily “blame” him. But it’s the truth. I don’t harbor or show any resentment towards my husband, so I don’t expect others to either.
To random people I meet who ask me,”How old are YOUR children,” I say, “Oh, that never happened for us.” I let them speculate, which I am fine with. (vs. having my own parents speculate. lol.) Most people are far too kind to pry.
If someone is a judgmental jerk, I lead them to believe that it’s a tragic medical thing in the hopes they feel a little bit bad for being so nosy (forgive me, Lord). If the person or social situation is making me uncomfortable, I usually revert to, “Oh. No children for us . . . we have dogs.” I don’t like to make dogs the default, but when I get nervous this very easily shifts the conversation and gets me off the hook.
I find that the older I get, the less people ask. It’s those newly married couples who struggle. That’s who I feel for.
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Thank you for sharing this. The varying responses make sense, and I love how you let the “judgmental jerks” think you’re a victim of a medical tragedy. It’s none of their business anyway.
At present, whilst we are in the very early stages of this decision being made, I’ve said to a select few ‘We won’t be having children.’ I find this neither seeks to blame my husband nor does it lie and say we physically can’t. It also doesn’t imply we ‘don’t want’ children, which can be a phrase that triggers a lot of people into telling you all the virtues of being a parent. I do want children, my husband doesn’t but this is a decision we both have to uphold as a team so I don’t want people getting the impression our relationship is divided by this. Our relationship is strong but we differ in our opinions on some things.
Very wise. I applaud your ability to work together on this.
I was at lunch with my mother a few weeks ago. I was telling her all about my SO’s drawing hobby. He’s been working on it for a year and a half now, and he’s gotten quite good. He has a dream of putting together a comic book series. I’m so proud of him. I had told her how my typography and social media marketing experience could help launch his project. My SO and I have a dream of working fewer hours and devoting time to hobbies if we’re so lucky. I would love to spend more time at home. My mothers reply was, “Do you really want to be at home like that and not work with no kids?” It struck me as such an odd question. Everything I had presented was so positive, and it was met with an unrelated question. I value my parents and their opinion, so it hit me quite a bit. Having to defend our choice to not have children is a struggle. At one point in time, my SO had suggested we tell people he’s sterile. While that is true (vasectomy), I feel that it’s almost disrespectful to put that on him. At the end of the day we’re a team and are making decisions together.
It’s good that you’re working as a team. Parents always worry about their kids’ creative dreams that seem risky in their eyes. I guess you could explain that not having kids is exactly why you would be able to do this project.
I haven’t quite come to terms with me not becoming a mother yet, so if the question arises during a difficult time where I’m particularily sensitive, I think it’s very hard to keep a straight face. I feel everybody can see right through me, and every single word from my mouth is detected as lies.
What I want to answer (in an upbeat, non-threatening way) is, “Oh, I’m not going to answer that, that’s private,” but usually I get so startled by it that I don’t have the time to think. So I blurt out with something stupid like:
“He told me on the first date it’s not happening,” “he’s cut the chord,” “‘I’ve never REALLY wanted any, and I’m happy to be a bonus mum to his two wonderful boys,” “I thought about it and decided it’s more important to me to be with him than to have my own,” or “I still have time to consider” (I’m 34).
I can’t even answer it for myself, how can I convince others?!
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Messymind, it’s a tough situation. Maybe it’s best to just change the subject.