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10 Things NOT to Say to Childfree Couples

Hi. My name is Kristen, and I’m childfree by choice (which is why, although I’ve been writing for Fit Bottomed Girls for years and was involved with Fit Bottomed Eats from the get-go, you’ve never seen me over here). But today, I’ve got a few thoughts I’d like to share with all the amazing parents (and wanna-be parents) out there.

My husband and I have been happily married for 10 years. We’ve traveled, we’ve landed jobs we love, and we’re in the process of following one of our big dreams — moving closer to the ocean. We’re both in our thirties, we’re active and healthy, we’re financially stable, we come from loving, solid, supportive families with whom we have wonderful relationships. We’re devoted pet owners, and I like to think we’re the kind of people our friends know they can count on. On paper, we probably look like we should be joining all our friends in posting oodles of first-day-of-school photos right now.

But we don’t have kids. And as of now, we do not plan to.

That wasn’t always necessarily the plan. When we were dating and first married, I was in my early twenties. Having kids didn’t sound like a good idea then, but I assumed my biological clock would start ticking at some point and I’d have babies on the brain by the time I turned 30.

It didn’t. And I don’t.

Now, I’m positively thrilled when a friend announces the pregnancy they’ve been hoping for, but that desire to conceive? It’s totally foreign to me. I’m not a cold person (I cry at sappy commercials on the regular), and no, I don’t hate children. I just really like being able to hand them back to their parents when I’m done. Sure, I will hold your sweet, sleeping baby for a while if you’d like, but there’s zero chance of that making my ovaries flip. (Show me a puppy, though, and I just melt. Go figure.)

There have been a lot of articles about being childfree following the TIME article about why childfree adults are not being selfish, and while I don’t necessarily want to throw yet another log on the fire, I’ve noticed that many focus on what not to say to a childfree woman, rather than to a couple, and I think that can be a somewhat different — and potentially more complex — issue since it’s not just one person’s decision, but (hopefully) a decision they made together.


10 Things NOT to Say to a Childfree Couple (and Why)

1. When are you going to start popping out some kids? Let me be clear: I don’t necessarily see a problem with asking people if they plan to have kids. Although this topic should be approached with caution, I understand the curiosity. My issue is with the “when” part of the question — it means you just assume we’re going to, because that’s what everybody does and it’s normal and not having them is … not normal. It’s a quick way to put your childfree friends on the defensive, even when you probably don’t mean it that way at all.

The other problem with “when”? It makes the assumption that we’re able to. If a couple has not discussed their fertility (or lack thereof) with you, do not assume that they’re simply putting off the baby-makin’. You have no idea what kind of factors are at play here.

2. Doesn’t your spouse want them? Ideally, the couple you’re talking to is totally in sync on this topic and they can easily answer, “Nope!” But in many cases — and mine is one of them — one half of the couple feels much more strongly about it than the other, making this a touchy topic that’s particularly awful to discuss in front of other people. And this is true with every other item on this list — before you speak, please think about the fact that just as infertility and miscarrying and lots of other baby-centric topics are personal and emotional, so is this.

3. Don’t you want to have a family? Aren’t we enough? You might’ve felt like something was missing before you added little ones to your brood, but we feel whole and complete as a family of two. That’s not a slight on you and your choices, but we’re cool as is.

4. You’ll change your mind. No. Just. Effing. NO. Especially if you don’t know us at all. I can’t tell you how many strangers, most of whom have been considerably older than me, have said these exact words to me with a wink and a knowing, smug-as-hell smile. Are you also going to tell me that I’ll change my mind about not eating meat? Writing a novel? Don’t presume to know someone else’s mind on a topic this weighty.

5. Aren’t you worried you’ll regret it? Honestly? Sometimes, yes. I think my husband and I both worry about waking up in 10 or 20 years and feeling like we made a mistake. But that slight concern is far preferable to having a child because we were worried, and then, in 10 or 20 years, feeling like we’ve missed out on all the cool things we really wanted to do, all because we opted to have a baby instead. There are lots of things I worry that I’ll regret later — the new couches we ordered, investments we’ve made, friendships I’ve allowed to lapse — but it all seems to work out in the end.

6. Who’s going to take care of you when you’re old? Whether we were to have kids or not, we wouldn’t plan to put the burden on them.

7. You don’t know what you’re missing. So unfair. Every time someone makes a major life decision, it means they’re missing out on something else. If one moves to live near their family in the Midwest, they’re missing out on a potentially amazing life in France, right? But if you move to France to live the life you’ve dreamed of, you’re missing out on time with your family. All of us have different priorities and interests — let’s respect that in one another’s choices, ‘kay?

(Not to mention, do you know who gets to hear all the complaints about the trials and tribulations of parenthood? The childfree folks. So, yeah, I kind of do know what I’m missing. I hear the good, too, but I hear a lot about what I’m missing on both ends of the spectrum.)

8. Are you just worried about pregnancy and labor? It goes by before you know it. If that were the only hold up, I doubt that would hold most childfree couples back. I’m a triathlete — I don’t really have an issue with prolonged discomfort. It’s more the, uhhh, 18 years or so after labor that holds no appeal.

9. But you’d be such great parents! It might sound cocky, but, we know. We also would be fantastic competitive swing dancers and might have more potential as a tag team in professional wrestling than you’d think, but, alas, not all of our talents can be put to good use. We’ll just use our skills to be fantastic godparents and aunt/uncles to our friends’ children. And please do not insinuate that it’s our responsibility to have children — the world’s population is not going to suffer because of our choice.

10. What if your parents hadn’t had you? Well, then we wouldn’t be here, and we definitely wouldn’t be having kids.

I truly hate feeling like I have to defend this lifestyle choice, and it’s hard for me to understand A) why people feel so insistent that my husband and I have to reproduce, and B) why total strangers and casual acquaintances think it’s an appropriate issue to press. I wouldn’t dream of asking someone I didn’t know well why they chose to have so many kids, and whether they’re afraid they’ll regret it, you know?

I’m open to discussion, though: Have you found yourself saying any of these things to your childfree friends? If so, did any of my points give you pause? Or do you have some notes you’d like to send my way? —Kristen

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  1. Meg says:

    I could’ve written this myself. I know exactly what you’re talking about (except that a shocking number of people have told me I’ll change my mind about eating meat, too. I’ve been a vegetarian for 23 flipping years!). I think most people who push you about your life choices are just looking for a validation of their own choices — they’re insecure and take it personally when you don’t want what they do. Most people are just trying to get to know you when they ask these things, and I answer them openly and honestly, but when I feel someone is crossing the lines of decency, I have no problem lying to them, cooking back “tears,” and saying I can’t have kids. Also can’t adopt because of my terminal illness…

  2. LA says:

    I am glad you wrote this article explaining how it feels to be persistently questioned about your reproductive choices as a couple. I suspect many people do not consider the effect of their questions and comments. Hopefully your article promotes courtesy and acceptance of others’ choices.

    We have found that number of children is another subject that inspires rude commentary. We have one child and, much like you, feel that there is nothing missing from our lives. Though we feel fulfilled and are devoted to our child, friends and strangers alike feel comfortable harassing us about having more and admonishing us for being cruel for not giving our child siblings. I don’t mind when someone asks whether we are planning more children out of curiosity, but I dislike being put on the defensive by thoughtless questions and criticism. I would also like others to remember that such comments are even more ungracious if my child is within hearing range.

  3. Lori R. says:

    This is so spot on, Kristen! One of the best posts I’ve read on the topic. Thanks so much for putting it all into words! I’ve experienced every single one and you explained each so well!

  4. Marie says:

    Thank you so much for writing this.
    I couldn’t agree with you more. I feel like those of us who decide to be childfree often put much more thought into their decision that those who do have children.
    I also love that you wrote this about childfree couples. I find that most article out there are directed to childfree women (as if only single women are childfree) My husband and I have been together for 17years and married for 10. We have never wanted children, though I am like you and feel more strongly about it than him.
    I do worry that I my regret my decision, but I would rather live with that regret that regretting having had a child!

  5. kara says:

    I’d like to add what I consider the most offensive thing people say to me being childfree which is “you don’t want children? Then you definitely shouldn’t have them. People who don’t want kids wouldn’t make good parents”. First of all, huh? Obviously people that don’t want something would not be good owners/caretakers of said thing. But the implication and tone is “you would be a bad mom anyway”. I always think why would not wanting kids make me a bad mom? Aside from the fact that I don’t want them. If I did want them I know I would be a great mom! The maternal instinct didn’t somehow get lost in my makeup…I just know that the day to day reality of having a child does not interest me. I prefer animals…Which is another eye roll I get. Mothers saying “that’s cute, pretending your dog is a baby, but it’s not a REAL baby”. To which I answer “ya, that’s the point!”

  6. Mandi says:

    GREAT effing article. I can’t believe how rude people are to ask these questions so smugly. One that I’ve received that gets under my skin (needs to be prefaced by letting you know I tend to be a bit germaphobic) is when gross bodily things are of the discussion and they say “What are you going to do when you have kids?!” Ummm… Well I don’t have kids so I guess what I’m going to do is anything else BUT be cleaning up after said bodily waste!

  7. Lacey McCarthy says:

    This is exactly true! Especially number 4! Those judgmental asses telling me what MY MIND is going to do!
    All of us happily childfree people need to get together and demand acceptance from all these conformists.
    Just like homosexuality has become acceptable and how people are beginning to understand transgender people, we too should stand up and demand acceptance so that we are no longer treated like stupid apes who have no idea what we are doing with our lives. ‘Missing out on life’ and ‘you will never understand true love until you become a mother’ bullshit.
    Thanks and let’s do this ‘Childfree parade’! We are people too and these conformists need to learn to understand and respect our life choice!

  8. SG says:

    Love love love this article! We’ve been married 6 years and I think the most offensive (bear in mind, I literally NEVER get offended) is the joking comment to my husband that he, ‘can’t get the job done’ Wowza! He can’t get the job done because we’ve chosen not to get the job done! Birth control is my best friend! Ha ha but seriously, I don’t feel like anything is missing. We have our animals and that is more than enough. There could be children in the future, who knows, but it’s going to be when it’s the only thing in the whole world that we want. Not because we’re running out of time, or because we’re pressured into it.

  9. Crystal says:

    Amen!!!! I am 36 and not one day in my life did I think hummmm I want a baby! I didn’t even like kids when I was a kid or play with baby dolls. The hubs feels the same way! We have 4 amazing godchildren that we spoil the crap out of and then hand them back. I get so sick of people saying all of the things you have listed. We have never tried but some people have tried for years. That’s why I had one STRANGER ask me why we didn’t have kids I said “you are going to ask the wrong lady that one day and it’s going to be awful! So mind your business!!

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